RSS Feed
  1. The Chopping Block Cooking Lab (Techniques in Cooking Meats, Poultry, Fish and Veggies)

    April 15, 2014 by Barb

    IMG_4717-imp

    Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle?  Do you look at the picture on the box, study the design and think about the pieces?  Or do you just dump the box on the table, find the edges and think of the picture components as you go along?

    I have always been a box dumper and realized that has also been my approach to cooking in the past. I dump my ingredients on the counter, look at my recipe and just go along.  But I think I need to start looking at the whole picture and thinking about my pieces.

    Monday I went to my second class in the 4 part Cooking Lab series at The Chopping Block at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.  Shelley and Mario centered the topic on the theories and parallels in cooking meats, poultry, fish and veggies.  The part of the night that has made my brain do cartwheels is all of the information I just learned on “browning”.

    My past thoughts on browning consisted no more than me knowing that browning makes food yummy.  What I didn’t know was there was some big time science happening in that browning process.  (Those of you who know I have a degree in chemistry are shaking your heads!)

    The Maillard Reaction is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars (when the surface temp is somewhere between 300º F to 500º F) so that food browns and turns up the “yum” factor. (There IS a difference between caramelization and the Maillard reaction.  Caramelization does not need the presence of amino acids; it only needs sugars.)

    The flavor puzzle is starting to make sense.  Think about it…there are 20 different amino acids and tons of different sugar molecules produced in foods.  Toss in varying pH, fat content, cooking times, and temperatures…and you have different flavor forming. (This is why a piece of toast doesn’t taste like a seared scallop.)

    But wait…this puzzle isn’t so easy.  We just came up to one of those weird pieces that might be and edge and might not….water content!

    You need the temps to be up to bringing about the reaction BUT if the food is super wet, the temperature won’t climb above the boiling point of water (212 º F).

    Obviously, this is the part of class that I found the most fascinating.  It made me start to think about the whole picture on my puzzle box.  Think of a poached piece of salmon and a grilled piece of salmon; both pieces of fish may have the same internal temperature but the grilled one’s exterior reached a much higher temperature giving the molecules a chance to “react.”

    I just realized that I stopped writing about the actual class but only about what I learned on Monday.  I think my distraction is because for the first time, cooking is making a lot more sense.  (And this is why Shelley is doing these classes!)

    Looking at protein levels, water levels, cooking temps and even pan to food ratios has made me finally put together an entire puzzle without doing the edges first.  I can see the whole picture.

    Mario made a comment on Monday that hit home….you can’t brown something if you are afraid of burning it.  I realized that have been scared….in the past.  I need to take some of the knowledge I have about food and apply it.

    We need to take some time to learn about how different cuts of meat react to all the different methods of cooking, figure out which veggies need to cook quickly and which ones want to cook slowly and grasp the knowledge of knowing when food is done.  (And not over doing it because we don’t trust our instincts.)

    There are two more classes in Cooking Lab and I can’t wait until next week.  We are going to continue the quest of Distinguishing between Cooking Technique and learn the theories and parallels in Soups and Sauces; Grains, Potatoes, Pasta, Squash, Starch; Dairy, Fat and Eggs.

    Our homework is to utilize our newfound techniques and to continue to build on what we have learned in class.  Dinners will be fun this week because I am going to cook with confidence (and without recipes!)


  2. The Birthday Blog

    April 12, 2014 by Barb

    IMG_3900-imp

    No matter how I look at it…today I am 44.

    When I had my last birthday, I must say I didn’t feel much like celebrating.  We had just lost Shadoe and I didn’t know how I was going to recover from that pain.  I think of it now like a skinned knee with an old Band-Aid on it.  It doesn’t matter how you rip off that Band-Aid, it is going to hurt.  Some people like the slow tear and others like it to go quickly.  I just know that it doesn’t matter how that Band-Aid comes off; the pain of the skinned knee will still be there.

    As I dealt with my “skinned knee,” I was also trying to take care of the tsunami known as Crohn’s disease.  (My Crohn’s was really flaring during 42 so I can’t blame 43 for everything.)  It tried to wipe me out and I am grateful to the awesome doctors/nurses who were able to protect me like a sturdy umbrella.  I will always have good and bad days but I’ve been doing this for 37 years and don’t intend on giving up now.

    Like any bad storm, the clouds started to part and I welcomed some sunshine in my life.  I met 3 of the Brady Kids, had fabulous food experiences and made friends with local wild life.  I took more cooking classes, won a couple of contests and grew my own food. I went to plays, saw Niagara Falls and cross-stitched a picture for an international exhibit.

    Most importantly, I celebrated my 15-year anniversary with my beloved Earl. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to share the good and bad days of my life with someone like him.  He makes me laugh and is the best “spooner” a gal could ask for.  (He’s also pretty good at “forking!”)

    43 wasn’t always perfect.  This was the year I noticed the aging process.  My skin has started to sag and I am naming my wrinkles.  I have to wear old lady glasses to read and there is this weird back fat thing that has popped out like the timer on a Thanksgiving turkey.  And don’t get me started on the generation gap!

    With all of these changes, I wouldn’t trade them to go back in time.  With aging, comes confidence and wisdom and those qualities are much more valuable than a tight butt!  (Who am I kidding?  A tight butt does have some value!)

    I have to say thank you to all the people who support me.  The fun and success of this past year would not mean anything if I couldn’t share it with you.  My appreciation for the friends and family who keep up with Felt Like a Foodie makes me speechless.  Thank you for understanding how much this food blog means to me and your constant encouragement.

    I keep thinking of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song that is so popular right now.  I am happy and I hope you all can clap along with me.  I can’t wait to see what 44 has in store!IMG_3963-imp


  3. The Chopping Block Cooking Lab (Flavor)

    April 8, 2014 by Barb

    IMG_4588-imp

    I have lost count of how many classes I have taken at The Chopping Block over the years.  Usually the class has a distinct theme (Thai, Julia Child, Pasta) and an exciting experience of cooking and eating fills my evening.

    Last night, I went to my first of four Cooking Lab Classes and I knew I was in for an entirely different experience.  With warm welcomes from owner, Shelley Young, and the one of my favorite chefstructors, Mario, I was perplexed at the table set up.

    The food was a mix between a 6 year old’s birthday party and a bad case of the munchies.  Bowls of brightly colored jellybeans and Sour Patch Kids adorned the table.  Crispy potato chips, nori, wasabi pea, almonds and cheese and crackers sat next to them.  Whaaat? 

    IMG_4583-imp

    But within minutes it all made sense.  This was the perfect assortment of food to learn the role of our taste buds and start our journey of “intuitive” cooking.

    Taste and flavor are the same, aren’t they?  NOPE

    We grabbed a jellybean and plugged our nose.  Why would you plug your nose?  Jelly Beans don’t smell.  With your nose plugged, you allow your taste buds to actually taste if the food is salty, sweet, umami (the savory, pungency in food), sour or bitter.  Just before you swallow your jellybean, unplug your nose.  Now what?  The flavor pops out.  (Yum, cherry.)

    The simplest way of understanding this is to think of your nose almost like a light switch.  When the switch is down (or plugged), you eliminate part of your senses.

    When you switch is up (unplug it), you turn on the olfactory bulb in your brain.  This “light” opens up a new world so you can distinguish different flavors by incorporating more of your senses.

    Being the scientist that I am, I had to try this with multiple jellybeans and sour patch kids.  (Anything to help advance the world of science.)

    The dialogue about emotional reactions to food started to really click with this former picky eater.  Do I not like something because of the taste (bitter, salty, etc.) or is it the actual flavor?  OR do I not like it because the flavor is associated with something unpleasant and have an emotional reaction?  (Gelatin makes me rock in the corner but that is another blog.)

    Our newfound discovery of our taste buds lit up as we really played around with food interactions.  Given a plate of limes (sour), arugula (bitter), pineapple (sweet), Tofu (umami) and salt (um, salty), we would taste one item and then taste it again combined with another taste component.IMG_4590-imp

    The eye-opener for me was learning that I could tame something bitter (the arugula) with a little salt.  The salt calmed down the bitterness and made me taste more of the peppery notes.  Whereas, when I squeezed the lime on the arugula, it tasted bitterer.  (I am now understanding why my salted caramel latte tastes so fabulous…salty, sweet and bitter!)

    In addition, some time was spent discussing how oils (fats) and vinegars (acids) all play a part in flavor balancing. Think of them as your light dimmer since they can brighten flavors or calm them down.  (I added some olive oil to my jalapeno and it softened the heat.)

    Our final discovery was in the land of herbs and spices probably one of the most familiar ways of adding flavor to a dish.  But are you using them correctly?

    Although a lot of home cooks synonymously‎ interchange the words herbs and spices, they react quite differently in cooking.

    Herbs are the leaves of plant.  (And just because it is dried doesn’t make it a spice, it is still an herb.)  Herbs can be Bright (or delicate) like basil, cilantro or mint or they can be Resinous like rosemary, bay leaf or sage.

    The Bright herbs shine like a floodlight when added at the very end of cooking.  These delicate babies gleam when used fresh.  They have awesome flavor on their own and don’t really need other herbs.  (Can herbs be introverts?)IMG_4578-imp

    Resinous herbs, on the other hand, are like those energy saving light bulbs that take their time to come alive. Add these woody herbs early on and let some moist heat pull out their flavor.   Think of the herbs you want to cook low and slow with something like a pork roast or turkey….sage, rosemary, thyme.  (Or think of Simon and Garfunkel…whatever works.)IMG_4577-imp

    Mario and Shelley did an awesome experiment of collecting both kinds of herbs in their fresh state and then they poured hot water over them and let the steep.  The smells changed and so did their physical state.  The delicate herbs got kind of mushy whereas the resinous herbs looked brighter.  (I think I am going to steep some of my dry, delicate herbs to see how the water wakes them up!)

    A real eye-opener (or taste bud opener) was in the world of spices.  Spices are seeds, stems, roots and bark.  On their own they are bitter and almost one note of flavor.  A spice’s flavor is elevated when toasted, sautéed or used in foods with a higher fat content.

    Taste mustard.  (Meh.)  Sauté that same mustard in some olive oil.  (Ahhhh.)  It was like a ray of light was shining down on me.  (I think this is why cinnamon toast tastes so good.  The fatty, rich butter pulls out the goodness of the cinnamon.)

    Being that this is the first in a four part series, we were given homework!  We are supposed to start building our vocabulary or as I am going to call it “Flasaurus” (my flavor thesaurus).  I’m not going to inhale my food but be an investi-eater and start intuitively discovering what works.  (And what doesn’t!)

    Next week: Distinguishing Cooking Techniques; Learning the Theories of and Identifying the Parallels in Cooking Meats, Poultry, Fish and Vegetables.  Sounds like I am going to have more light switches flipped on!

    Thank you to The Chopping Block for inviting me to share in this awesome series.  All opinions, phrases and goofy sayings are solely my own but I appreciate you humoring me!


  4. Where Do Chicken Babies Come From?

    April 2, 2014 by Barb

    Deviled Eggs

    It is that time of year….deviled egg season.  When I started to create this year’s variations, I had to admit something to myself.  I don’t know where chicken babies come from.

    One of our friends brought me 2 dozen beautiful, fresh farm eggs.  Talk about authentic…they still had hay and poop on them!  (The poop was kind of gross but it made me feel these eggs were more legit.)

    As I cleaned off my eggs, I started to freak out that I was going to find an underdeveloped chicken in one of them.  How do the farmer’s know what the heck is going on in their coops?  (Or on their free range, uncaged, rogue chicken farm.)

    For all of you who have the same concern, I am here to put your mind at ease. Chickens are kind of like feminists, they don’t need a man to lay an egg.  A chicken can lay all the eggs she wants without some goofy rooster ruffling her feathers.

    You only get a fertilized egg if a rooster comes along and, um, mates with a chicken.  I have sooo many inappropriate idioms I could use here but I am refraining.  (But I will never hear the phrase “Cock a doodle do” without getting a bad case of the giggles!)

    I still have some questions but for now I am just relieved that no frisky rooster got his beak (or other parts) on any of my chickens because I made some awesome deviled egg variations this year.

    Devilled Eggs 2014

    I’ve been asked to make it even easier to make some variations of devilled eggs.  I thought my versions from the previous years (2013 and 2012) were awesome but I did try something new today.

    To help allow you to figure out egg/mayo ratio, I scaled each version down as small as possible.

    For every one hard boiled yolk-Use 1 ½ tsp mayo  (Do I need to state the obvious that you slice the hard cooked egg in half, remove the yolk and fill the whites?)

    Ta-dah.  Season with salt and pepper OR Add some fun things like…

    Chicken Salad

    1 yolk

    1 ½ tsp mayo

    ¼ tsp stone ground mustard

    ½ tsp finely chopped celery

    Mix well and fill the two white egg halves.

    Top with chopped celery leaf

    Broiled Ranch Devilled Egg

    1 yolk

    1 ½ tsp mayo

    ¼ tsp dry ranch dressing

    Mix well and fill the two white egg halves.

    Top with ½ tsp parmesan cheese and ¼ tsp panko

    Broil about 2-3 minutes until it gets lightly brown

    Mediterranean

    1 yolk

    1 ½ TBsp hummus

    drizzle of olive oil

    Mix well and fill the two white egg halves.

    Top with Zatar and slivers of kalamata olives

    Curry  (This was my favorite of this batch)

    1 yolk

    1 ½ tsp mayo

    ½ tsp red curry

    Mix well and fill the two white egg halves.

    Top with Mango Chutney

    Kimchi

    1 yolk

    1 ½ TBsp Kimchi

    Mix well and fill the two white egg halves.

    Top with fried shallots

    Let me know which variations you tried and suggestions for next year.  Or if you see some frisky roosters poking around local coops!

     

     

     


  5. Are You Gonna Quiche Me Or Not?

    March 29, 2014 by Barb

    Quiche-Felt Like a Foodie

    It is funny how things change over time.  Behavior that is normal in one decade may be deemed abnormal the next.  My grandparent’s generation had very definite roles for men and women.  Women were the caregivers and men were bringing home the bacon.

    My parents generation started to change the roles with women fighting for equal rights as men in the work place and men learning that it was not unmanly to help out around the home and with the kids.  (Or was it my parents generation where the men learned they can go play golf after work because they knew that their spouse would take care of everything else?)

    As for my generation, most women contribute to the household finances in some way and there are a lot of men who take on the “domestic” roles.  (My hubby is only a little domesticated but I like my man feral!)  Men have started to accept the fact that women can dominate everywhere from the workplace to the bedroom.  (I’m not talking about anything freaky here.  It is just nice not to wait for a guy to make the first move anymore!)

    I started thinking about this when I made a quiche the other day.  In the 1980’s there was a book called “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.”  It was sort of the man equivalent of the song “I am woman hear me roar.”  (The men would have written a song too but nothing rhymes with quiche.)

    The book discussed the blurring of man rules with things that are effeminate.

    Today’s generation of men like to cook, dress better and can relate their feelings.  They don’t order dinner for you; they cook it. Women don’t have to rely on girlfriends for shopping trips because boys want to look at clothes just as much as we do.  And don’t get me started on guys at the beauty spa.  (Seriously, I don’t want to think of what you are getting waxed.)

    I would love to hear the author’s, Bruce Feirstein, thoughts on today’s man.  There really aren’t defined roles any more.  Mr. Feirstein’s humorous take on what and what wasn’t acceptable for the average man in the 1980′s would be a different story today.  Because I know one thing for sure….real men not only eat the quiche but they cook it and plate it on their prettiest china!

    A Real Man’s Quiche

    Ingredients

    ½ pound ground pork sausage

    6 large sage leaves, chopped

    1 pint of roasted grape tomatoes (roast the tomatoes in a tbsp. of olive oil for 20 minutes at 400 degrees)

    3 large eggs

    1 ½ cups cheddar cheese

    Salt and pepper

    One 9-inch unbaked frozen pie shells (set it out to thaw while preparing the other ingredients) (I used my extra duck fat pie crust I had from cooking March’s BA cover.)

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    In a large skillet, cook the sausage and fresh sage until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.

    Then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix tomatoes and eggs together gently. Add the cooked sausage and the cheese to the egg mixture and stir together with a large spoon. Add salt and pepper and add mixture to unbaked pie shell. Bake until the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    I think as the roles change we can look at the things we still would like to change and maybe a few we would like to change back.


  6. A Writer’s Bacon Block

    March 24, 2014 by Barb

    Bacon Eggs Maki Baconfest

    I’ve got writer’s block.  I keep sitting at my computer and I type a few paragraphs, reread it and then delete.  It seems relevant as I type but then I hear a little singsong voice in my head going “booooring.”  (I really hate that voice.) 

    I think the reason I’m mentally obstructed is that I am really distracted with other events going on right now.  Could this be spring fever?  Could I be twitterpating?  Nope, it is much bigger than that.  I made it to the finals in the 2014 Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats Baconfest Chicago Amateur Cook-Off!!!!!  (Woot.  Woot.)

    Bacon and Eggs Maki Made the Finals

    My Entry:  Bacon and Eggs Maki

    This was my third year that I made it to the semi-finals and I REALLY wanted to make it to the finals.  Voting was done via Facebook poll and I must say it made me a little bonkers.  I was able to see the results so I knew when I was behind and I knew the moments I was ahead.

    Most of my FB friends/family were really responsive and jumped on the voting bandwagon.  The contestants needed to be in the top five to make it to the finals.

    There were some early leaders a Baconized Poutine, Habanero Candied Bacon Smoked Salmon Ceviche, Pork Belly BLT on Bacon Cheddar Waffle and Pig Mix.  But my dish (Bacon and Eggs Maki) was just flopping around 5th, 6th or 7th place.  It was maddening.

    I had made peace with the fact that I may not make it ANOTHER year but it didn’t stop my yearning to be part of this exclusive crowd.  On the last day of voting mere hours before the contest ended, I received a panicked phone call from my husband.

    “Barb, you are not going to make it.  It’s almost over.  I’ll try to help save you but I don’t know if I can.”  At first, I thought I missed something and was dying but then I realized what he was talking about…the contest.

    I tried to convince him that I would be fine if I didn’t get into the finals but then some competitive switch flipped in my brain.  I got on my computer and begged shamelessly for my friends to get on their computers and vote if they hadn’t done so already.

    Little did I know that at the same moment, my husband had started his own campaign to get me into the finals.  He hustled home from work and started to solicit at my neighbor’s houses for votes.  (He was smart and went directly to the house that loves me the most!)

    I sat on the couch watching the minutes tick off the clock. The person who was directly behind me must have a crazy spouse too because it was like watching a horse race.  Our numbers were so close that I knew that at any second, I could be out.  It was really stressful and my heart was just pounding out of my chest.

    My husband busted in the front door with sweat on his brow and a manic smile on his face.  I didn’t know of all of his antics to get votes so I just thought he was horny.  (I didn’t have 3 minutes to spare so I just ignored him.)

    I kept reclicking on the poll results as the final seconds were inching by.  We did it.  I was in the finals!!!  I did a Brandi Chastain and whipped off my shirt and got on my knees and started screaming, “YES.”  (And no, my earlier assessment of my husband’s mood was not accurate until he saw me whip off my shirt.)

    So that is where my mind has been this last week, I’ve been planning my attack.  The finals take place on the first night of Baconfest, , April 25.  This is where my food will be judged be some expert baconeers.  (Tickets are still available if you want to come join the fun.)

    The competition is really going to be a challenge but I am going to work my hardest to make the best Bacon/Eggs Sushi EVER!!!  (I would go into more detail of my dish but I don’t want to give away any secrets!)

    Thanks to everyone who supported me getting to the finals.  I can’t wait to share the Finals with you…win or lose.  (But I really want to win!!)

    IMG_4276-imp


  7. Luck O’ The Leftovers

    March 17, 2014 by Barb

    Corned Beef Hash-Recipe-Felt Like a Foodie

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Did you get your fill of corned beef and cabbage?  It seems like this year St. Patrick’s “Day” went on for weeks.  People seemed to have started the o’chatter very early.  (See how I added the o’ to make it more Irish?)

    I actually find the holiday really amusing because most folks don’t really know the o’meaning.  (Neither do I but I write a blog so I must be an O’thority on everything.)

    Simply stated it started as a religious day to feast and honor the patron saint of Ireland who died on March 17.  He was technically an evangelist without a TV show on Saturday morning.  He went around trying to convert pagans to Christianity.  (There is so much I am leaving out but think of this as the Cliff Notes Version.)

    His real name was Maewyn Succat.  He must have been thrilled when everyone started calling him Patrick!  (Even saints don’t like to have goofy names.  No offense to all you people named Maewyn!)

    I also read some information about Maewyn and driving the snakes out of Ireland.  If you watch the credits at the end of the movie Snakes on a Plane, one of the names is Maewyn Succat.  Coincidence?  I should say not.  (Okay, I totally made that up and I don’t want you to watch that movie to see if this is true!)

    Anyhow somehow over the years the holiday turned into a day to not only honor St. Patrick but to also spread some Irish cheer.  There are festivals, parades and people wearing green.  (There are also a lot of people who turn green from drinking too many green beers at their local O’Pub.)

    People also use the day (or days) as an excuse to eat a lot.  It is the only day of the year it is o’cool to eat the cereal, Lucky Charms.  (It is a cereal with marshmallows!  You only want it once a year.)

    The one thing that is rarely discussed is what to do with all that leftover-corned beef.  (Maybe this is what happened to the snakes?  They ate too much corned beef.)

    I followed the lead of so many others and decided to make corned beef hash.  I jazzed it up with some poached eggs and an unthickened Sauce Robert.  (I couldn’t find a sauce called Patrick or Maewyn.)

    It must have been my lucky day because dinner was quite delicious. So delicious that someone in my house ate 3 servings and didn’t leave me any extra!!!

    The simple marriage of corned beef, onions, peppers, potatoes and mustard made me feel like I was eating a deli sandwich in a bowl.  (No cabbage for me, I drove it out of the house years ago.)

    Corned Beef Hash with Poached Eggs and Sauce Robert

    Hash Ingredients

    ½ cup diced yellow onion

    ½ cup diced red pepper

    Olive Oil

    2 cups red skinned potatoes (boiled and roughly chopped)

    2 cups leftover corned beef (chopped into a small dice)

    1 ½ tsp Stone Ground Mustard

    ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped

    1 clove garlic, minced

    Salt and Pepper

    2 Tbsp butter

    4 poached eggs

    Optional:  Chives…because they are green and it is St. Patrick’s day.

    Hash Directions

    In a small sauté pan over medium heat, heat a smidge of olive oil.  Add onions and pepper and sauté until they are just getting soft.

    In a large bowl, mix onion/pepper mixture, potatoes, corned beef, mustard, thyme and garlic.  Mix well but don’t completely mash your potatoes.

    Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.

    Heat a large pan over medium heat and add butter.  Add the mixture and mix it about the pan for a couple of minutes.  Mash it down like a pancake and let it cook for another 10 minutes.  (Do take a peek every now and then to make sure your pan isn’t burning it.)

    This is a good time to poach your eggs and make your sauce.

    Mix it all up again and cook another 5 minutes or so.

    Serve with poached egg and Sauce Robert.

    Sauce Robert Ingredients

    1 small shallot, minced

    1 Tbsp butter

    ½ cup white wine

    ½ cup veggie broth

    1 tsp stone ground mustard.  (The little mustard seeds are quite tasty!)

    Sauce Robert Directions.

    In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add shallots.  Cook until transparent.

    Add wine and reduce by ½.  Add veggie broth and continue to cook until it is further reduced.  It won’t thicken.  You really just want the shallots to flavor the wine and broth.

    Remove from heat and strain out the shallots.  Add mustard and taste.  A dash of salt and white pepper may be needed.

    Drizzle over top of poached eggs.

    No matter how you celebrate this March, I hope that no matter where you go…may good luck be at your side.


  8. Happy Pi Day: Bon Appétit’s March Cook the Cover

    March 14, 2014 by Barb

    BA Cook the Cover March-Felt Like a Foodie

    Is it irrational for me to celebrate Pi Day this year?  Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14).   Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  (Do you remember this from school?) The approximation to 3 digits is 3.14 hence the reason Pi Day is celebrated on 3-14.  (Now real geeks are wondering why I didn’t wait until next year…3/14/15 at 9:26:53.589…to write a post on Pi.)

    The cool thing about Pi is that it has been calculated to over ONE TRILLION digits beyond its decimal point without ever showing a pattern or any sort of repetition!  (The exclamation point is to make you think this is really cool and get you excited about math.)

    Oh I jest, pi really is exciting.  You can take the circumference of any circle, divide it by the diameter and ALWAYS end up with the same number…Pi!!!  (This is a great party game for your nerdy friends.)

    So when I received the March issue of Bon Appétit, I knew cooking the cover (Savory Short Rib Pot Pie) would be the perfect way to celebrate Pi day. IMG_4325-imp

    The biggest challenge for me in cooking the cover is following the recipe.  I, much like Pi, tend to be irrational.  I look at the recipe and get intimidated even though I KNOW I can do it.

    The big thing that threw me off on this one was making a piecrust.  I am not a pastry kind of gal.  (Unless someone is serving it to me on a cute little plate with a latte.)  I knew after reading the recipe I HAD to make my own piecrust.

    I did make my own crust but I switched one thing…I used duck fat instead of beef lard.  I fell in love with piecrust made with duck fat a couple of years ago.  (Plus, I had some duck fat I wanted to use up.)

    The other different angle I took was that I used chuck instead of short ribs.  Living in a small town, short ribs aren’t available very often and due to ANOTHER winter storm this week, I was unable to get to one of the bigger markets.

    Chuck doesn’t have that rich, unctuous flavor of short ribs but the seasoning of the potpie was really good.  Honestly, give me any slow braised beef and I am a happy camper no matter what Mother Nature has in mind.

    My only other recommendation would be to make the smaller individual pies.  The smaller pies give you more crust and the crust is really awesome in the gravy.

    I used ovenproof soup bowls that had little handles.   The handle helped pull them out of the oven and it was something to hold on to when I was scooping out every last bite of that rich gravy!

    Short Rib Pot Pie

    Adapted/Copied From Bon Appétit’s March 2014 Issue

    INGREDIENTS

    CRUST

    3 cups all-purpose flour

    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

    ½ cup vegetable duck fat

    FILLING AND ASSEMBLY

    3 pounds chuck, cut into 2” pieces

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 10-oz. package frozen pearl onions, thawed (make sure they are REALLY thawed out all the way)

    4 garlic cloves, chopped

    2 tablespoons tomato paste

    2 cups dry red wine

    2 sprigs rosemary

    6 sprigs thyme, plus 2 Tbsp. chopped thyme

    Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

    Heavy cream (for brushing)

    PREPARATION

    CRUST

    • Pulse flour and salt in a food processor; add butter and duck fat and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl and drizzle with ½ cup ice water. Mix with a fork until dough just comes together.
    • Knead dough lightly, adding more water by the tablespoonful if needed, until no dry spots remain (dough will be slightly shaggy but moist). Form into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

    DO AHEAD: Crust can be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled.

    FILLING AND ASSEMBLY

    •  Preheat oven to 375°. Season chuck with kosher salt and pepper; toss with ½ cup flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, shake excess flour from meat and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned, 8–10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl.
    • Add onions to same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown; season with kosher salt and pepper and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. (Don’t try to skip a step by leaving these in the pot.  They contain a lot of liquid and will hinder the thickening of your gravy.)
    • Reduce heat to medium; add garlic to pot, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
    • Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened in color, 5–8 minutes. Add wine, rosemary, and thyme sprigs, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 8–10 minutes. Add 6 cups water to pot and bring to a boil.
    • Return chuck to pot; season with kosher salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the beef can be shredded, almost falling apart and liquid is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon, 2½–3 hours.
    • Add onions and chopped thyme to pot and stir to break up short ribs; season filling with kosher salt and pepper. Remove herb sprigs.
    • Transfer filling to 4-6 individual ovenproof dishes.
    •  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about ⅛” thick.
    •  Place over filling and trim, leaving overhang. Tuck edges under and crimp. Cut a few slits in crust. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sea salt. (The salt on top of the crust was awesome!!)
    •  Place dishes on a rimmed baking sheets and bake potpie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, 35–40 minutes for smaller dishes. Let sit 5–10 minutes before serving.

    DO AHEAD: Filling can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat gently before assembling pie.

    So I am 3 for 3 on cooking Bon Appétit’s covers.  I am enjoying the challenge but fear any more pastry!!!  But unlike Pi…I won’t go on and on and on and on……


  9. Time is a Changin’ Mac and Cheese

    March 10, 2014 by Barb

    Mac and Cheese:  Felt Like a Foodie

    Change.  People really have a hard time accepting change.  Adjusting to something out of the ordinary seems to throw most people off balance.  (I say off balance because it is nicer than calling people crazy.)

    The time change this weekend is a big one for a lot of people.  There are certain people in my life that I do not talk to for days after the time change.  It isn’t that I don’t love them but they start to pull me into their head scratching, time warp metamorphosis.

    A typical conversation goes like this:

    Me:  How are you?

    Friend:  I hate time changes.

    Me:  It isn’t so bad.

    Friend:  I’m all screwed up.  My stomach wants to eat lunch at 10 o’clock yesterday’s time and I just finished breakfast at 9 o’clock today’s time. 

    Me:  Oh, you’ll get used to it.

    Friend:  I need to go for a walk but I like to walk at 7 o’clock but that will be 6 o’clock and I don’t like walking at 6 o’clock.  I could pretend I live on the east coast and then it would be 7 o’clock there. 

    Me:  I have to get moving.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Bye.

    Friend:  Bye.  If this was yesterday and you said tomorrow, today would be tomorrow and we would be having this whole conversation again today.

    Click. 

    It isn’t just a time change that makes a person rock in the corner. Try changing a person’s favorite dish.  (You were waiting for one of my smooth food transitions, weren’t you?)

    One of the worst dishes to change up on someone is macaroni and cheese.  Most people of my generation grew up with the blue-boxed stuff.  To a lot of us, mac and cheese is only going to be tasty if it is colored like an Oompa Loompa.

    But over the years, we were missing a lot.  (Now my friend would say that is because we just lost an hour.)

    I’ve started making homemade mac and cheese by making kind of a denser/cheesier version of a Mornay sauce.  (Okay, technically this isn’t a Mornay but it is a béchamel sauce with cheese that is like a Mornay.  Once again, we are learning to adjust to change.)

    I added some leeks too because I love their sweet, oniony but not overpowering taste.

    This was a great dinner on its own but would be an awesome accompaniment to some grilled sausage.  (Or maybe not dinner, maybe it was lunch.  I’m not sure, the time change confused me.)

    Times a Changin’ Mac and Cheese

     (Adapted from a few Internet recipes over the years)

    Ingredients

    ¼ cup butter

    3 cups finely chopped leeks (white and pale green parts)

    ¼ cup flour

    3 cups milk

    16 ounces freshly grated cheese at room temp.  (White cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack)

    1 Tbsp Stone ground mustard

    2 eggs, beaten in a heat proof glass bowl.

    1 pound of your favorite “tubey” pasta  (You want a tube so it holds the sauce so a penne is a great option)

    3 pieces of bacon, finely chopped

    ¼ cup panko

    ¼-shredded cheddar

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 400.

    In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.

    Add leeks and coat with the butter.  Cover pan and cook until leeks are tender.  (It takes about 15 minutes.  You don’t want them caramelized.  You want them tender.  Check on them and stir occasionally.)

    Add flour and cook about 2-3 minutes.  You want to cook off the raw flour taste.

    Slowly add the milk.  It is going to seem like a lumpy mess and won’t completely smooth out because of the leeks.   It is okay.  Just make sure you are breaking up any large flour clumps.

    Add the mustard.

    Start your pasta cooking in a separate large pot of salted water.  Don’t overcook it because it will be going in the oven and to cook some more.  It should be firm, not mushy.

    Bring mixture to a simmer (small bubbles) stirring often so the bottom doesn’t burn.

    Temper the eggs with some of the warm milk.  (Temper meaning slowly add some of the milk to the eggs until they reach an equal temperature.  Stir and add more until it well incorporated.  You don’t want the eggs to curdle.)

    Add egg mixture to larger pot of milk and stir.

    Slowly sprinkle in the grated cheese.

    Hopefully your pasta is done, drained and back in its pot.

    Slowly add the cheese sauce and stir to coat.

    In a large 13 x 9 buttered casserole, add the pasta mixture.

    Bake for about 20 minutes (cheese should be bubbly)

    In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining cheese, panko and bacon and sprinkle on top of the pasta.

    Bake another 5-10 minutes.

    Remove from oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes.  (It will be hard to let it sit but trust me, it will be worth it.)

    The first time I made this, I didn’t do the bacon crumbly on top.  But I like how the saltiness pairs with the sweetness of the leeks.

    Change is hard but a necessary part of life.  It opens us up for new opportunities and makes us mix things up a bit.  Now I need to go eat breakfast or is it lunchtime.  I’m really confused.

     

     

     


  10. Curry Worries

    March 5, 2014 by Barb

    IMG_4271-imp

    Do you every get that feeling that you are getting too big for your britches?  (Do you ever really use the word britches in a sentence?)  This winter has made me feel that way literally and figuratively.

    Literally…I am TOO big for my britches and can honestly say my pants are too tight.  Apparently the cure for cabin fever in this house is any kind of food.  And like antibiotics, I’ve developed a resistance and I need more food to make myself feel better.  (I started to type something about my muffin top but that just made me want to go make muffins!)

    Figuratively, I have had a run of good luck with winning Foodies Show Heart at RA Sushi (my roll is on the menu for the month of March), my amazing shopping trip with Jose Garces and most recently a super-flattering article in The BeachCoast!  (The article is a wonderful 3rd anniversary gift for Felt Like a Foodie.)

    So this past week, I have felt like if you give me an ingredient…..I can conquer the world!!!  (Imagine me jumping up on a kitchen chair waving a spatula like a magic wand.)  BUT my kitchen beat me into submission when I decided I should make a curry recipe I found in a magazine.

    The recipe was pretty straightforward and I just started cooking.  I didn’t take into account that some of the author’s ingredients may be different than my own and cooking times may vary.  Without going into the ugliness that occurred in my house when the timer went off, I’ll just say it wasn’t the dish I was looking to create.  (I will admit that I screamed to my husband “Get ready to order a pizza because I’m about to serve you a bowl of ….”)

    For some reason, I overlooked one of the most basic cooking school lessons….use a layering process to showcase the best of your ingredients.  (It is also good to understand how certain spices work in a dish.  Some need time to evolve, some don’t.)  It is better to put some extra time into your dish than to throw it out the window!  (Okay, in another ugly moment I did threaten to pitch my entire pan out the kitchen window and blamed my husband for my failure!)

    After a few more tastes, I was able to salvage my meal and more importantly salvage some humility.  The part of the meal that I loved was the flavor of the meat and the coconut curry sauce.  I would make these two parts again and just serve it over some basmati rice and veggies.

    Beef Biryani (Adaptation)

    Ingredients

    2 tsp curry powder (make sure yours is fresh and not something that has been on your spice rack since you got married 15 years ago)

    1 tsp turmeric

    1 tsp garam masala

    1 tsp sea salt

    1 rib-eye (1 lb) sliced into VERY thin strips

    ½ cup shallots

    1 Tbsp garlic

    1 Tbsp ginger

    1 cup vegetable broth

    1 cup coconut milk

    1 Tbsp curry powder

    1 tsp turmeric

    1 tsp garam masala

    Optional:

    Cooked basmati rice, pickled green beans, sliced hot peppers, cooked red pepper

    Directions

    In a small bowl, mix first 4 ingredients (2tsp curry powder, 1tsp turmeric, 1 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt).  Toss the steak slices and set aside.

    In a large frying pan over medium heat, add some oil.  (I used olive oil but the recipe suggested canola.)

    Add shallots and cook until they are translucent.  Add ginger and garlic cook another minute or so.  (It should be nice and fragrant.)

    Add beef and brown it on all sides.  (This is why you are using a large fry pan so you don’t crowd your meat.)

    Deglaze the pan with the broth.  And add the coconut milk and simmer until the meat is cooked.

    Stir in the remaining spices (1 Tbsp curry powder, 1 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp garam masala)

    Our dish was mixed with the rice, some sweet potatoes (I wouldn’t do that again…too sweet with the coconut milk) and pickled green beans.  I added a couple pieces of cowboy candy too.

    I also want to try this again and just do the beef with the spice rub and make a curried fried rice.

    We learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.  This did knock me down a peg or too but I know my next home curry experience will be much better.  No worries.