Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patricks Day Fail (and Success)

St. Patricks Day is typically spent eating corned beef and some potato dish at my parents home, the past few years we've seriously missed this tradition as they've been in Mexico....this year it returned! Mom asked that I bring a dessert and some bread, well at least one of those two happened :)

The luck of the Irish was not with me this St. Patricks Day as I attempted to make some Guinness bread (re-make coming soon along with a post), the bread stuck to the pan despite mucho Pam being involved and thus broke before it could be eaten. The crumbs were tasty, so much so that I'll be re-making it this weekend. Success was mine however with this delicious dessert:

Apple-Brandy Irish Tart

1 Package Puff Pastry

1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Cup chopped nuts
1/4 Cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp margarine or butter
2 Tbsp Brandy
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 large MacIntosh apple, cored and thinly sliced

2 Tsp margarine or butter, melted
2 Tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple jelly

Heat oven to 425°F. Place rolled crust in bottom and up sides of pan. Trim edges. Do not prick crust. Partially bake crust for 15 minutes. If crust puffs up, gently press back to bottom and sides of pan with back of wooden spoon.

For the filling, combine nuts, flour, sugars and margarine with fork. Stir in brandy. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over bottom of pan. Arrange apple slices over nut mixture alternating red and green apple slices. Bake for 20 minutes.

For glaze, Combine melted margarine, lemon juice and apple jelly; brush over tart just before serving.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Dumb Belle, Or, I'm Perfection

I have been busy reading a book on Texas history (Passionate Nation by James L. Haley for those who are interested), it's a great book but I got a big kick out of an anachronism that I noticed among its pages. Ever notice that lots of old plays have titles like: The Dumb Belle, Or, I'm Perfection ok yes marvel at the absurdity of the title but what I think is funny is the presence of the 'or' in the title. What's the deal with that? Did the playwrite really think there were just two amazing titles for their plan, did the theater add it for some color? The context, for those who care, is that this play The Dumb Belle, Or, I'm Perfection along with Hunchback of Notre Dame were the first two plays that premiered in the newly established Republic of Texas (they debuted in Houston).

Oh well, it inspired me to give this recipe (which is very tasty but kind of pesky to make) and 'or' title.

Chicken in Croute or Chicken Wellington

Adapted from Jamie Oliver - Happy Days with the Naked Chef

6 oz mushrooms
olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely choped
salt and pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 7oz boneless chicken breasts
1 1lb 2oz package puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 heaping tbsp whole-grain mustard
1 lg wineglass of white wine
1/2 plus 2 tbsp heavy cream

1. Preaheat oven to 400F. Chop mushrooms, half rough and half fine.
2. To a hot pan, add a couple of tsp of olive oil and slowly fry the garlic with the musrhooms for about 10 minutes. Season to taste and stir in the chopped parsley. Allow to cool.
3. Pull back the chicken filet on the breast and, keeping it intact, score into the breast and stuff the chicken wiht the cooled musrooms.
4. Using a little dusing of flour and a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to about 18 inches in length, 8 inches wide and just over 1/4 inch thick. Slice into 4 pieces lengthwise, and wrap each piece around each chicken breast. Brushy the pastry with a little egg, and cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
5. While this is cooking, put the msutard and white wine into a hot pan and allo to reduce until you've cooked away the alcohol smell. Add the cream and simmer until the sacue coats the back of a spoon, then remove from heat and season to taste.
6. Slice each chicken breast and serve with sauce.

Roasted Beets with Walnuts
5 small red or golden beets (or mixture of them)
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt & pepper to taste

1. Peel and cube beets. Toss in an oven safe dish with olive oil, leaves from rosemary and salt and pepper.
2. In the same preheated oven (400F) roast beets until tender (appx 30-45 minutes). In last ten minutes toss in walnuts atop beets.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of....Cake?

Along with the cupcake takeover of the dessert section, Austin has seen a cake ball revolution. These are delicious little bite-sized bits of heaven. So after becoming completely addicted to these beauties I had to figure out how to make my own. So simple, the only thing is it takes a little time but is so worth it! The best part about these is they make so many that they are perfect for a party or to take to the office (if you love your co-workers enough to share!) but if you want to save them, the freeze well and can be easily used at a later date.

Dr. Pepper Cake Balls

1 warm, freshly baked Dr. Pepper cake
1 (16 ounce) container prepared chocolate frosting
2 (8 ounce) Packages Chocolate bark (chocolate flavored confectioners coating)

1. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions using any of the recommended pan sizes. When cake is done, crumble while warm into a large bowl, and stir in the frosting until well blended.
2. Use a melon baller or small scoop to form balls of the chocolate cake mixture. Chill balls in freezer for 30 minutes.
3. Melt chocolate coating in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Dip the balls in chocolate using a toothpick or fork to hold them. Place on waxed paper to set.

You could very easily substitute homemade frosting for the prepared but there already enough time investment here in my opinion :) I also took the still wet cake balls and dipped some in various other goodies, coconut for some, chopped pecans for others, anything goes so have fun!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Texas my Texas...

Not too long ago my mom sent something my way that I felt was perfect to share today, really I should've posted it yesterday but technically I was too busy celebrating Texas Independence Day. That's right, the great state of Texas celebrates it's independence just like a nation does, so here's to Texas:

Have you ever looked at a map of the world? Look at Texas with me just for a second. That picture, with the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast , and the Red River and the Rio Grande is as much a part of you as anything ever will be. As soon as anyone anywhere in the world looks at it they know what it is.
It's Texas . Pick any kid off the street in Japan and draw him a picture of Texas in the dirt and he'll know what it is. What happens if I show you a picture of any other state? You might get it maybe after a second or two, but who else would? And even if you do, does it ever stir any feelings in you?

In every man, woman and child on this planet, there is a person who wishes just once he could be a real live Texan and get up on a horse or ride off in a pickup. There is a little bit of Texas in everyone.

Texas is the Alamo . Texas is 183 men standing in a church, facing thousands of Mexican nationals, fighting for freedom, who had the chance to walk out and save themselves, but stayed instead to fight and die for the cause of freedom.

We send our kids to schools named William B. Travis and James Bowie and Davy Crockett, and do you know why? Because those men saw a line in the sand and they decided to cross it and be

John Wayne paid to do the movie himself .. That is the Spirit of Texas.

Texas is Sam Houston capturing Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana at San Jacinto.

Texas is huge forests of Piney Woods like the Davy Crockett and Sam Houston National Forests.

Texas is breathtaking mountains in the Big Bend.

Texas is the unparalleled beauty of bluebonnet fields in the Texas Hill Country.
Texas is floating the rivers of the Hill Country on a hot summer day.
Texas is the beautiful, warm beaches of the Gulf Coast of South Texas .

Texas is beaches you can drive on and have many memorable bon-fires with close friends. Texas is that warm feeling you get when someone asks where you're from.

Texas is the shiny skyscrapers in Houston and Dallas.

Texas is world record bass from places like Lake Fork.

Texas is Mexican foods like nowhere else, not even Mexico. Texas is chicken fried steak and world famous Bar-B-Q.

Texas is the Fort Worth Stockyards, Bass Hall, the Ballpark in Arlington and the Astrodome. (guess now the Reliant Stadium too).

Texas is larger-than-life legends like Michael DeBakey, Ann Richards, Denton Cooley, Willie Nelson, Buddy Holly, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, Tommy Lee Jones, Waylon Jennings, Farrah Fawcet, Janis Joplin, Sandra Bullock, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Landry, Eva Longoria, Darrell Royal, ZZ Top, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, Sam Rayburn, Howard Hughes, George H.. W. Bush, Lyndon B. Johnson, George W. Bush, and let's not forget George Strait, Pantera, the Big Bopper, Tex Ritter, George Jones, Clay Walker, Mark Chestnut, Norris Mobbs, to name only a few.

Texas is great companies like Dell Computer, Texas Instruments, EDS and Compaq, Whataburger, Southwest Airlines , Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin Aerospace, Home of the F-16 Jet Fighter and the JSF Fighter, Valero.

Texas is NASA.
Texas is huge herds of cattle, beautiful horses and miles of crops.
Texas is home to the world famous King Ranch.
Texas is home to the most amazing sunsets of gold over an empty field.
Texas is hundreds of deer running around neighborhoods and fields.
Texas is skies blackened with doves and fields full of deer.
Texas is a place where towns and cities shut down to watch the local high school football game on Friday nights and for the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, and for the Night In Old San Antonio River Parade in San Antonio.

To drive across Texas is to drive 1/3 the way across the United States .

Texas is ocean beaches, deserts, lakes and rivers, mountains and prairies, and modern cities

If it isn't already in Texas , you probably don't need it.

No one does anything bigger or better than it's done in Texas
By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. Think about that for a second. You fly the Stars and Stripes at 20 feet in Maryland , California, or Maine , and your state flag, whatever it is, goes at 17 feet. You fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Klein Oak High or anyplace else at 20 feet, the Lone Star flies at the same height - 20 feet. Do you know why? Because it is the only state that was a Republic before it became a state.

Also, being a Texan is as high as being an American down here. Our capitol is the only one in the country that is taller than the capitol building in Washington , DC . And we can divide our state into five states at any time if we wanted to!

We can become a republic again at any time the voters of Texas choose, and we included these things as part of the deal when we came on. That's the best part, right there.

Texas even has its own power grid and live music capitol of the world.

I don't typically pass on (or even read) emails that have the words FWD at the front of them but when this one came to me I couldn't pass it up. I know most of you aren't Texans and no you may not wish you were as the above claims but after reading that email I felt compelled to share it with anyone who might get a kick out of it or have the same feeling of 'Wow, cool that I'm a Texan' too.

Now, to get to the real grit here, how does one celebrate Texas Independence day you ask? With good old fashioned hamburgers! If I'd really had the time I should've BBQ'd a brisket but Tuesdays aren't exactly conducive to spending 8+ hours slowly smoking and cooking a brisket to perfection so that will just have to wait.

Texas Fries & Black 'n Blue Burgers

Texas Fries

1 lb Fingerling Potatoes
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil

Texas Fries

1. Slice Potatoes into thin slices length-wise so they retain their unique shape. Line a large baking pan or deep dish with potatoes and pre-heat oven to 425 F.
2. Generously drizzle potato slices with olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.
3. Let them roast 30-45 minutes, until they are golden and crispy. Serve hot.

Black 'n Blue Burgers

1 lb Ground Sirloin or Ground Bison
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Emeril Steak Seasoning
1/4 Cup - 1/2 Cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
Sliced Tomato, to top burgers
Lettuce, to top burgers
2/3 Cups Caramelized Red Onions
4 Slices Cooked Bacon
4 Ciabatta rolls, halved (toasted if you prefer)

1. Mix ground meat, Worcestershire, black pepper, steak seasoning and blue cheese crumbles together. This is easily accomplished with your hands. Then form the meat into four patties and put them in the refrigerator to chill 30 minutes.
2. After patties have chilled sufficiently, heat up a grill or skillet and cook them to your preferences.
3. Take a halved ciabatta, layer tomato, lettuce, caramelized onions, bacon and patty as well as any preferences you have for mayo, mustard and catsup and enjoy!

In addition to these fine burgers we enjoyed a chocolate-whiskey tart worthy of any fine dining establishment.

Chocolate-Whiskey Tart

1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 3/4 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 Cup Saltine Cracker Crumbs
6 Tbsp Melted Butter
12 oz Dark Chocolate, Chopped
4 Egg Yolks
4 Tbsp Confectioners' Sugar
4 Tbsp Whiskey
4 Tbsp Heavy Cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a 9 inch tart pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Combine sugar, graham cracker crumbs, saltine crumbs and melted butter. Mix and press into prepared tart pan to form a crust. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
3. Slowly melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a double-boiler. Allow it to cool slightly (nearly room temperature) and beat in egg yolk, confectioners' sugar, whiskey and the heavy cream until completely incorporated.
4. Remove tart pan from oven and pour in chocolate mixture. Cover with foil, return to oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
6. Serve with freshly whipped cream or ice cream.

Enjoy Y'all!