Monday, May 18, 2015

First Time Catering a Dinner Party

Kelly and I got our first chance to cater a dinner party last night for a lovely young woman who graduated from college a few days ago.  Her husband and friend asked for some tips and pointers on cooking scallops and shrimp for her special dinner and next thing we knew we had our way into catering most of the dinner.  We were thrilled to give it a shot since we both love to cook, and most of all we love to cook for others!  I have to say we had a blast doing it!  The host, his friend and wife were all great helpers and it ended up running very smooth for our first time out. 
The menu included:

A mixed fruit tray, Bacon Blue Cheese Spinach Dip served with various sweet potato, beet & sweet chips and other chips (the dip was provided by the guest of honor's husband), guacamole deviled eggs, scallops wrapped in bacon (Angels on Horseback) and seared scallops served in a lemon, butter wine sauce for appetizers. 
For the main course a green salad was provided by a family member, vegetables (mushrooms, bell peppers and pearl onions) were marinated in Italian dressing, skewered and bar-b-qued;  half of the shrimp was marinated in our house made teriyaki, skewered and bar-b-qued, the other half of the shrimp was seasoned in Old Bay and drizzled with butter (ghee) and skewered and bar-b-qued.  Finally, New York steaks seasoned with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper and grilled to perfection.  
Dinner was served with organic Chardonnay and a Red House Wine from Pacific Redwoods and Certified Organic Acai Berry Wheat beer, certified organic amber ale, and Raven's Eye Imperial Stout from Eel River Brewery
Dessert was a absolutely heavenly chocolate raspberry torte from Humboldt County's Ramone's Bakery

Kelly and I were invited to enjoy dinner along with all of the guests.  The food turned out perfect and delicious and the dinner guests were very gracious and an absolute pleasure to enjoy this meal with. 

Feast your eyes on the great food we prepared:

Appetizer/ refreshment table
Fruit plate
Guacamole deviled eggs.  I added garlic powder to this recipe and topped with home smoked salmon.
Sea scallops

Wrapping the scallops in softly cooked bacon (to be seared after wrapping)
Searing the scallops

Bacon wrapped scallops (Angels on Horseback) and seared scallops in a white wine sauce

Getting ready to cook the main course - we're fans of charcoal.    
Vegetables prepped and ready for the BBQ
Ghee to the left for brushing half of the shrimp.  To the right is our house made teriyaki.  Some had been used to marinate the other half of the shrimp.  The rest was split up for basting and heated for use as a dip at dinner.

Shrimp with Old Bay to be basted with Ghee (clarified butter)
Teriyaki shrimp with house made teriyaki
Seasoned New York's from Eel River Grass Fed Beef (Can be bought at Eureka Natural Foods) ready for the grill
Shrimp on the barbie
Table set and ready to go.
Food is ready to plate!  We made sure to get the guest of honor up front - we were told she loves a good BBQ.  She was a happy camper!
Dinner is served!  Everyone was so relaxed and jovial.  I'm glad we could make their day special. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Monster Stuffed Meatballs

Several nights ago my husband put together some amazingly good Bacon and Onion Mac and Cheese.  It was so rich and creamy and was the perfect comfort food for a gray Humboldt County day.  But it was way too much for just the two of us.  So, we froze some for Kelly to take with him for dinners on his travel days, kept some for leftovers for lunch for me, and the rest we stuffed into meatballs.  Yes meatballs!  We didn't use just any hamburger for our special mac and cheese.  I headed to Loleta to Pixie's Loleta Meat Market to get some of her fine hamburger.  Two pounds to be exact.  Kelly proceeded to take the meat, pat it into rounds, put a generous scoop of our Bacon and Onion Mac and Cheese onto each round and formed them into balls.
He placed a Silpat on a cookie sheet and placed them into an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Meaty cheesy deliciousness! 

They were big enough that one was enough per person along with some steamed green beans tossed in butter, salt and pepper.  Once again we had extra's so we saved one for a lunch, shared one with Pixie, just because we thought she deserved one, and have two left to serve with spaghetti and marinara in a couple of days (pictures to come).  This was an easy and excellent way to spread out our food budget a bit, and it can be done with regular boxed macaroni if you want an easy and inexpensive dinner for your family.  Just serve up with some steamed veggies, and/or a tossed salad.  Easy, inexpensive and simple. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Close to the Bone - Anthony Bourdain

A foodie's dream come true!  Eleven days before my birthday I will be seeing Anthony Bourdain live in one of my favorite city's!  To top it off my wonderful niece will be giving my husband and I a nice little food cart tour around downtown Portland Oregon!  I can't wait!  It will be good to see family and hang out and enjoy one of the best food cities on the planet!  And to top it off I get to see Tony live!  Yeah baby!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kelly's Bacon and Onion Mac & Cheese

We've gone from what has felt like a perpetual summer here in Humboldt to cool April days that make you want to curl up with a blanket, a good book, and some comfort food while listening to the rhythm of the rain on the roof.  A welcoming sound in the midst of the long lasting drought here in California.  After a long day of running errands yesterday, Kelly was craving comfort food and decided some ooey gooey warm cheesy and rich homemade Mac & Cheese would be perfect for dinner.  This is what he came up with:


1/2 lb of large size elbow macaroni
6 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp powdered mustard
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups cream
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped
1/2 cup of sweet onion finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp paprika
1 large egg
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup fontina cheese, grated
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup French fried onions.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brown the bacon and onions in a skillet.

Drain and cool on paper towels.  Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. 
While the pasta cooks, in a separate pot, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and mustard.  Keep stirring until it reaches a light to medium brown, just enough to cook the flour.  (About five minutes).  Make sure to keep your roux free of lumps.  Stir in milk, paprika and the bay leaf and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf. 
Love that bubbly sound!
Temper in the egg.
Stir in 3/4 of both cheeses.

Season the cheese sauce with salt and pepper.  Fold in the macaroni, reserved bacon and onions to the cheese roux sauce and pour into a buttered 2 quart casserole dish. 
Top with the French fried onions and remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in the center of the oven.  Bring out and rest for 5 minutes to allow it to set up before serving. 

Have your movie of choice ready to go, a nice glass of wine poured and get ready to dig into the decadent cheesy goodness of Kelly's Bacon and Onion Mac & Cheese.  The rain outside your window will never sound so good. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Time to Corn That Beef - St. Patricks Day is On It's Way!

Yet again I am brining my own corned beef for St. Patrick's Day.  I always seem to do it a little different each year and I tend to post the recipe after the day has passed, which is of little use to anybody wanting to brine their own corned beef for the current years' occasion.  I'm going to try and be a little more on the ball this year and get it posted now just in the nick of time for you to also brine your own corned beef.  It's really very simple, it just requires a little planning ahead.  So if you're going to give it a shot, the best of luck to ya!

So I started with throwing some notes together.

 Last year I stuck strictly to Michael Ruhlman's and Brian Polcyn's recipe from Charcuterie, which is an excellent recipe, but I like to venture out on my own a little bit, so I made a few small changes.  The one thing I did not make a change to was the Pickling Spice recipe, which can be found on page 70 of Charcuterie, because it's so good I see no reason to change it.  Why mess with perfection? (And I made so much last year that I still have more than enough to use this year.) Note:  It is perfectly fine to use store bought pickling spice.  It isn't as sweet as the one from Charcuterie, but it is perfectly acceptable. 

Pickling Spice:
2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
24 bay leaves, crumbled (a money saving hint here - buy your bay leaves from the plastic packages in the Mexican food department - they're perfectly fine and so much cheaper! You can do the same with the cinnamon sticks.)
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

Lightly toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander in a small dry pan.  Remove them and smash them with the side of a knife just to crack them.

Combine the toasted cracked herbs with the other ingredients and mix well.  You can store these in an tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.  This yields about 1 cup of pickling spice. 

Main Ingredients:
3 and a half pound brisket (Thank you Campton Heights Market for being the only place I could find one and cutting it to the size I wanted!  Be warned, brisket seems to be hard to find this time of year.)
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 teaspoons pink salt (Note: If you can't find this in your area or you're not comfortable with Nitrites you don't have to use this ingredient.  Be aware though, that your corned beef will not come out pink like what you see in the store, it will be grey.  Not to worry, it will still taste better than anything you bought pre-done in the store.  If you plan ahead and want to use pink salt, the source I ordered mine from was Butcher & Packer Supply Co.  located in Madison Heights, MI (800) 521-3188.)

3 cloves of garlic, minced.
2 tablespoons of Pickling Spice (see recipe above, or use store bought)
8 dried juniper berries (can usually be found in the spice section - but can easily be skipped if you can't find them.)

Combine all of the brine ingredients (not the brisket) and bring to a simmer and stir constantly until the salt and the sugar have dissolved.  Remove the brine from the heat and allow to come to room temperature.  Once the brine has reached room temperature place in the refrigerator until chilled.

Once the brine is chilled place the brisket in the brine and weigh it down so that it remains completely submersed in the brine for 5 to 10 days, refrigerated. 

Once the brisket has been in the brine for at least five days remove it from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cool running water. 

As far as the cooking I'm going to list two options, which you can use based on your time constraints.  The first is boiled on the stove top for about 3 hours and the second is in a slow cooker for about 8 hours. 

Method number 1: 
Place brisket, fat side up, in a large pot and cover it most of the way with water.  Pour a 12 oz. beer on top (preferably a stout like Guiness) and make sure the brisket is completely covered in liquid.  Add two more tablespoons of Pickling Spices from the recipe above, or store bought, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  If the water gets below the meat at any time during the three hours replenish with more water.  If you are not cooking your vegetables separate and would like to cook along with the brisket put in potatoes (about 10 baby reds, unpeeled), turnips (two, halved) and carrots (3 or 4 peeled and cut into large pieces) about an hour and a half later. After another 45 minutes add the celery (2 or 3 stalks cut into large pieces), onion (1 quartered) and, of course, cabbage (one head quartered).  In about another 45 minutes the meat and vegetables should all be done. 

Remove the corned beef (you can use the liquid from the corned beef to moisten the meat and vegetables.).  Slice and serve the corned beef warm with the vegetables.  Any leftover meat can be cooled, wrapped, and refrigerated for up to a week. 

Method number 2 Slow Cooker:
Layer the bottom of the slow cooker with peeled and large cut carrots (about 3 to 4), about 10 whole unpeeled baby red potatoes, a quartered onion and a couple of halved turnips.  Place brisket on the vegetables fat side up and mostly cover with water, add two tablespoons of the pickling spice and finish off with a bottle of stout. (Again, preferably Guiness.) Cook for 6 hours on low.  Add the head of cabbage, quartered and a couple stalks of celery cut into large pieces  and continue to cook on low for another 2 hours. 

Remove the corned beef, slice and serve warm with the vegetables. The liquid can be used to moisten the meat and vegetables.  Any left over meat can be cooled, wrapped and refrigerated for up to one week. 

I hope you enjoy brining your own corned beef and may the Luck of the Irish Be With You.  Let me know how it goes for you. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Burger Heaven

There are times when I end up having the house all to myself.  My husband travels for work frequently and my girls share time between their dad and me.  Most times my husband is out of town it works out that my girls are here and I make the best of it by using that time to bond with them and we usually end up eating kid/teenager friendly food.  It's kind of a nice indulgence for me, and, fortunately, temporary.  When they're all here I enjoy, most days anyway, feeding them all my various and crazy dishes.  Usually they're happy to be my guinea pigs, and my husband is usually beside me in the kitchen helping to come up with our crazy recipes.  But, on the weeks I'm alone, I really don't feel like cooking.  When I cook, I cook to feed people.  Don't get me wrong, I still love to eat, but my incentive to cook plummets a thousand fold when its just myself I'm feeding.  I tend to commit the terrible crime of frozen pizza's, egg rolls, or take out.  Or if I'm lucky I can afford to go to lunch during my work day and have some leftovers for dinner.  But, every now and then, I feel the urge to feed myself.  Tonight was one of those nights.  My original plan was to eat some frozen shrimp thingies I have in the freezer and have a few glasses of wine after mopping the kitchen and doing some laundry.  But on the way home I got this tremendous craving for a good burger.  To be specific a AA Bar and Grill Burger.  One of the best burgers on the planet!  All the way home I ran ideas through my head on how to talk a group of my friends to meet me on Friday for a burger at AA. (I'm still working on those plans by the way)  By the time I got home I was jonesing hard for a burger.  At this point almost any burger would do.  There was no way I was going to disappoint myself with a Burger King or McDonalds burger.  My favorite diner in town is closed tonight, so that option was out.  So......  Ok, I decided  to actually cook a real meal for myself tonight.  I mean why not?  I deserve it right?  I stopped at the nearest grocery store and picked up some locally raised grass fed hamburger, brioche buns and some pre-sliced crimini mushrooms.  I had everything else I needed at home. 

This is what I came up with:

This is how I built my best burger ever:

I took about 3/4 lb of the burger and mixed in about a half tsp of jarred minced garlic and a tablespoon of crumbled roquefort cheese.  I pressed it into a patty, salted both sides and set aside.  I took a half cup of the sliced crimini mushrooms and sauteed them in a tablespoon and a half of butter, a tsp. of fresh minced garlic a pinch of salt and a splash of white wine.  Just as they released their juices and started to turn brown I removed them and turned up the heat.  I placed the seasoned burger in the hot pan and cooked for about 4 minutes.  While that was cooking I put a slice of white onion in the pan in the same mushroom butter flavoring and browned it.  I flipped the burger over, placed the sauteed mushrooms on top and topped them with a slice of Swiss cheese  In the mean time I removed the onion and put the brioche slices in the same pan to brown.  After getting a nice toast to them I took them out and spread mayo on them and some dijon mustard on one side.  I placed the burger on that slice (it was cooked to just under medium) and topped it with the grilled onion, tomato and lettuce and then I spread my homemade tomato chutney on the other slice of brioche.  (Click on the link for the recipe for the chutney - it's waaaaayyyyyy better than ketchup! )

I sat down at the table and took a big bite and was blown away at how good my burger was, I really don't mean to brag, but it really was outstanding.  I was literally expecting the worst.  I knew I was craving the best burger ever and that I would never meet my taste buds expectations.  I just knew I'd take a bite and be almost choked up with tears of disappointment.  I just never thought I could ever meet my own high expectations.  Wow!  Not only did I meet them, I exceeded them, by far!  My biggest disappointment was that I could only eat half of it.  I was stuffed halfway through.  In fact I ate more than I should have because it was so damn good!  I had to put the other half in the kitchen out of site so that I wouldn't continue to force it all down and make myself miserable.  I'm not kidding! 

I cleaned up the kitchen , but left the prized burger on the counter for just a bit, just in case I just happened to burp or something and make enough room for just one more bite.  I sat down in front of the TV and chatted with my love on the phone for a bit.  When I hung up I could hear a strange whining noise coming from the kitchen.  I walked into the kitchen to find this:

My dog, guarding the burger and doing his best to mentally will it down to him.  Note said burger in upper left hand corner of picture.  Here's a closer look:
Remaining burger (well guarded at this point - heaven forbid a thief come in and try to take it.  They will be taking their life into their own hands between trying to get it away from City Boy or me!) 
And so he remains...... "Please mom!  Just one bite?" (Don't worry, he'll get a little taste, as soon as I can accept the fact that I can't eat it all myself. )