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Crispy Potato Bake

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen a while back and couldn’t wait to make it.  It would be the perfect side for pretty much any meal.  The dish was really fast and easy to put together and looks very impressive and pretty.

To make the slices even and to make prep work quick and easy you will want to use either a mandolin or food processor.

About 4 pounds of potatoes

1 small scallion

Fresh thyme

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Red Pepper Flakes

Preheat the oven to 375.

Peel and slice the potatoes into thin strips.  Coat a cast iron skillet with olive oil and generous salt the bottom of the pan.  From the outside in, arrange the slices around the pan.  It will look like a flower blooming.  Thinly slice the shallot and tuck the slices in between potato slices.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and generously salt. Sprinkle the top with red chili pepper flakes.

Put the skillet into the oven for 1 1/4 hours.  If they potatoes start getting too brown (which mine did), cover it with aluminum foil.  After the 1 1/4 hours, remove the foil (if used) and put the fresh thyme on top of the dish.  I drizzled a little more olive oil over the top because they were looking a little dry.  Continue to bake for about 30-35 more minutes.

I thought that the potatoes needed a little more flavor.  Next time I make it I will combine butter and olive oil in the bottom of the pan and use more salt.  I also plan on trying a herbed compound butter that I’ll sprinkle over the dish a few minutes before taking it out of the oven.  Maybe a chive and chili powder butter?  I’ll keep you posted on my next attempt and if that enhances the flavor.

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How to boil a lobster

From time to time, my sister, brother-in-law, and me like to have fancy pants dinner.  Like a couple of weekends ago.  I happened to see that Filet Mignon was on sale at Wholey’s and when I suggested a fancy pants dinner, my sister told me she had just been thinking the same thing because she saw that live lobsters were for sale for $7.98 each at Market District.  That’s right.  $7.98!  You can’t beat the price and it doesn’t get much fancier that surf and turf.  So, to the strip I went to pick up the filets and then to the Market we went to get delicious, fresh, and feisty lobsters.

Cooking lobsters at home is lots of fun, very easy and super economical!  The trick is to have a large enough pot enough to be able to completely submerge the lobsters (especially if you are cooking more than 1 or 2).  The lobsters are fine out of water for quite some time; I actually read you can keep them in the fridge over night wrapped with wet newspaper, but we left it up to the store to keep them fresh.  Whatever you do don’t, I mean DO NOT put them in fresh water for a last little swim in fresh water before their final swim in the boiling water.  If you put them in fresh water, they drown.  They drown and they release a poison into their body.  How do I know that?  Well, since you asked, luckily I know that from second hand experience and did not have to experience the heartbreak of witnessing a few drowning lobsters in the bath tub myself.  My parents lived near Boston for a few years early in their marriage.  Their best friends also had been living there.  One day they decided to have lobsters, and being the kind and humane ladies that they were (are) decided to give their little guys one last hoorah.  Even if you get a deal for $7.98 each, you don’t want that!

To cook the lobsters, you will need a very large stock pot.  Fill about 2/3 with water and slice 2 lemons in half.  Squeeze each half into the water and then add the lemon rind into the pot.  Cut a whole clove of garlic in half and add to the party.  Then add a handful of springs of fresh thyme and a few bay leaves.  We had used plain water several times, and honestly did taste the difference in the lobster by adding the extra flavors.   Bring the water to a boil.  Remove the lobster from their container and carefully clip the rubber bands off of their claws before dropping in (it’s helpful to make this a 2 person job).  Drop the lobster carefully into the water.  Repeat for each lobster you have.  Put the lid on to help bring the water back up.  The lobsters will take about 12-15 minutes to cook.  They will turn a bright red when they are done.  I also read that you can tell when they are done when you can remove one of the feelers easily.

It is a delicious treat!  Serve with lots of melted butter, a cracker and a little lobster fork to help get meat out of the little areas.

We had the lobsters, grilled filet and roasted potato slices (recipes to follow soon!).

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French Onion Soup

I love French Onion soup.  There was a fantastic little restaurant close to my house in my hometown that friends of ours owned.  We were frequent patrons.  Such frequent visitors that we could sit down and the regular bartender/ server would immediately put in an order for 3 French Onion soups (for myself, my mum, and my sister) so they would be at our table minutes after walking through the door.  This French Onion soup was/ is unlike any soup you’ve ever had.  I dream of this soup.  The ownership of the restaurant changed, and I don’t visit my hometown very often anymore, so it has been quite sometime since I’ve been able to enjoy it.  Joe’s French Onion is rich and tangy and has a bit of spice and is just phenomenal.  Luckily, our family friends still own 2 restaurants that I can hopefully get a nice big cheesy bowl of Joe’s French Onion soup soon!

I made this soup in the crock pot and did turn out to be quite delicious, but it still wasn’t the same.  But, we did think it was better than some restaurants.

2 medium red onions

1 large sweet yellow onion

1 large white onion

1/2 stick butter

1 – 48 ounce can beef broth (College Inn)

1 – 17 container bold tender beef broth (College Inn)

1/8 cup red wine

1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 TBSP ketchup

1/2 TBSP flour

1/2 TBSP sugar

Splash of apple cider vinegar

Sachet with fresh thyme sprigs, 3 bay leaves, 1 clove fresh crushed garlic clove (a sachet is herbs/ aromatics wrapped in cheesecloth and dropped in while it’s cooking)

1 loaf French or Italian bread cut into 1 inch slices (and depending which type you’re using, cut in half)

Cheese (I used a shredded 6 cheese blend, but slices of mozzarella, provolone, or Fontina or Gruyere would be delicious)

Slice all of the onions.  Melt about 2 TBSP of butter in a large skillet and add the onions.  Let the onions cook down and caramelize.  Add more butter as needed (I probably used another 2 TBSP) to keep the skillet from getting too dry.  While the onions are cooking, make the sachet with 3 bay leaves, fresh thyme and garlic).  Once the onions have cooked down and have a nice golden color, add them to the crock pot.  Stir in a little broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan to get all of the delicious itty bits that are stuck to the pan.  I also added a little red wine to the pan.  The red wine we had on hand was pretty sweet, so I didn’t use much.  If I had a dry red, I would’ve used more with the broth to deepen the flavor.  Add in the rest of the broth.  Add the pan scrapings and broth from the skillet.    Add the vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and sugar.  Drop in the sachet.  Cook on high for about 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.  Once the soup has simmered and slow cooked, toast slices of bread in the oven at 350.  Add some of the soup into your oven proof bowls and then put 1 “crouton” and then add more soup so it’s almost to the top.  Add another piece of bread and top with the cheese.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

Enjoy!!

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“Chocolate Pie Shots” with fresh berries

While I was searching for mini desserts, I came across this recipe on Food Gawker.  It looked right up my alley.  I love chocolate and raspberries together.  The original site said that the recipe was based on the movie “Waitress”, and the story on the blog did make me want to watch it.

The only adjustment I made was to use crushed chocolate cookies instead of chocolate biscotti like the recipe called for.  In the future, I will also adjust the amount of raspberry vodka that I put in in.  I’m all about adding liquor into cooking, but this was pretty strong since it doesn’t have the chance to cook off at all.  I will probably cut that in half next time.

I also doubled the recipe, which made 18 shot glasses.  The amounts listed below however are the original which says it makes 6-8 shots.

 

About 1/2 cup crushed chocolate cookies1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 TBSP light brown sugar

2 TBSP raspberry vodka (I used raspberry Belvedeer)

1 pinch salt

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup fresh blackberries

 

Crush the cookies or biscotti (I used my food processor) and put a layer in each shot glass.

To make the ganache, bring heavy cream, sugar and sal
t to just to a boil in a saucepan.  Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate and vodka.  Whisk until it’s melted and combined.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Then mash the berries together.  I used my pestal and mashed them by hand.  I wanted to still have chunks of berries.  (I did this step the about an hour before serving).

The original recipe also included fresh whipped cream flavored with flavored with raspberry vodka.  I ran out of time, so I didn’t do the whipped cream, but I’m sure it was an amazing addition!

Once the ganache has cooled a bit, carefully spoon it over the “crust”.  Once you have them all filled, put them in the fridge for several hours or over night.  Once they have had a chance to set a bit, spoon the berries on the top.  If you are doing whipped cream, layer that right on top and enjoy!

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Source: http://www.smithbites.com/2011/06/movie-bites-earl-murders-me-because-im-having-an-affair-pie/

 

 

Tres leches soaked almond pound cake

When I was scouring my cookbooks and the internet looking for desserts that could easily be miniaturized, I came across a tres leches cake.  Tres leches just means “three milks”.  I found for a normal tres leches cake, you bake a white or yellow cake (or I guess really any flavor your little heart desires) and then pour a mixture of the milk over top and let it soak over night.  The reviews that I read kept saying how delicious it is, but how rich and sweet it is.  So, it seemed perfect to make as a bite size version!  I used a Tastefully Simple almond pound cake mix for the cake.  It was really very easy to put together and a crowd favorite!

1 box Tastefully Simple almond pound cake mix

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

1 can half & half (I didn’t have half & half, but I did have heavy cream and 2% milk so I did half a can of each)

Follow the directions to bake the pound cake (or whatever type of cake you decide to use). Let the cake cool and cut into small bite size squares.

In a bowl, combine the three types of milk.  If you want the mixture to be a little thicker, use a little less of the half & half.  (I will probably do that when I make it next time).

Place the cake cubes in your mini bowls or glasses and pour the tres leches mixture into each bowl or glass.  Let it soak for several hours or up to overnight(covered) in the fridge.

You could definitely do this just as the cake and slice it to serve.  If you do this, poke holes in the cake after it has cooled and then pour the mixture over the cake.  Let it soak overnight (covered) in the fridge.

Enjoy!  My friends really loved this one and drank up every last bit of the milk after eating the cake.

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Complete Magic: AKA Homemade Marshmallow

As I mentioned in my last post, when I opened my professional grade Kitchenaid on Christmas morning all I could think about was making marshmallows!  I had seen many recipes in the past few months, and in pretty much all of them I kept seeing the word “magic”.  You may think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but believe me… it.is.not!  With a few beyond simple ingredients and a few minutes ticking by you watch this clear syrupy stickiness into a thick, fluffy white confection.  It is really amazing.  A couple friends came over to help, and a couple minutes after the mixing started one mentioned how they weren’t going to stand and watch the whole time.  About 30 seconds later, the magic started happening!  And we did basically end up watching it the rest of the time.  The mixture grows in volume and gets thick and white and shiny as the whisk does its job.  The end result is (in my book) so much better than store bought mallows.  These are fluffy and spongy and soft  and airy and all together wonderful.  I used vanilla that was called for it the recipe, but I will definitely be adapting this recipe with different extracts and flavors.  Raspberry.  Hazelnut.  Caramel.  Kahlua.  Do you have suggestions of what else I should try?!

I found the recipe from pintest, but it said it was originally from Martha Stewart.  There is a broad who knows what she’s doing!!!

Cooking spray

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 TBSP plus 1 1/2 tsp)

3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with vegetable spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again.  Sprinkle the parchment paper with confectioner sugar.

In a medium sauce pan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved, cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.

While that is cooking, add the gelatin into your mixing bowl and cover with 3/4 cup cold water.  Let it soften for about 5 minutes.  Next time I will probably let it sit a little longer and/or stir it a few times.  Part of the gelatin clumped a bit and it made me nervous that it was going to throw off the whole process.  Luckily, it didn’t matter.  So, if that happens to you, no worries!

Attach the whisk better to your bowl and begin to mix the gelatin on low speed.  Gradually pour in the hot syrup.  Gradually raise the speed up to high.  Beat until the mixture is very stiff; it will take about 12 minutes.  The mixture will really increase in volume and become white a glossy.  It’s just plain beautiful!  Add in the vanilla and beat again until it is combined.  Pour the fluff into your dish and let sit uncovered.  I topped it with more powdered sugar after about half an hour.  I let the fluff set over night.  Cut the set marshmallows in squares.  It helps to spray your knife with a little bit of cooking spray so that it doesn’t stick.  (I actually didn’t have time to cut them in the morning, so I placed another layer of parchment paper on the top and covered it with the lid.)

Place powdered sugar in a bowl or bag and toss the marshmallow square in the sugar to completely cover.  Store them in an airtight container (though they probably won’t last, too long!

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Hot Chocolate Bar

When I decided to have a party, I knew that I wanted to do something fun and special.  I also knew that it had to make my friends warm and cozy.  What could be better than a hot chocolate bar!?!  If you ask me (and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you are), not much!  I used my crock pot to keep the hot chocolate nice and warm and then had different mixers and toppings.  The mixers included vanilla syrup, caramel syrup, hazelnut syrup, Kahlua, Bailey’s and DiSarrona.  I found the cutest little white pitchers at Home Goods to put the flavors in.  I attached a little label to indicate what was in each pitcher.  The toppings included fresh whipped cream, chopped Andes Candies pieces and marshmallows.  HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS!  Yep, that’s right, homemade!  I had stumbled across a recipe months ago for marshmallows, but thought it would be kind of tough to do with a hand mixer.  You better believe that it was the first thing that popped into my mind to make when I opened my Kitchenaid on Christmas morning!  I also had Pirouline hazelnut wafer sticks on the bar.

Hot Chocolate Recipe

6-7 cups water

2 small cans of sweetened condensed milk

3-4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa

3/4 – 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Mix everything together in a crock pot and stir until everything is combined.  Start the crock pot over medium for 20 minutes or so.  Once it’s nice and warm, I turned the heat down to low to keep it warm.

Enjoy!

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