Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Smoked Pork Chops

Another winner from Cook's Country. This may be my favorite cooking magazine, followed closely by Cook's Illustrated. We've made these pork chops twice now and really like the smoke flavor. The only issue is that the rub becomes a dry crust that is not great. So this time we spritzed some water on the chops during the last few minutes when they go over direct heat. But we're thinking apple cider or apple juice would be better. We had thick cut chops the first time, but they were boneless. They cooked up nicely though. This batch was a more standard cut chop, boneless also. And since I didn't have ground fennel I left it out. Really didn't miss it at all. They were done in about 30 minutes. They were nice and juicy and had a great smoke flavor.

Smoked Double-Thick Pork Chops on a Gas Grill

Ground fennel can be found in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. We prefer blade chops, which have more fat to prevent drying out on the grill, but leaner loin chops will also work. These chops are huge and are best sliced off the bone before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 bone-in blade-cut pork chops (20- to 24- ounces each), about 2 inches thick
2 cups wood chips, preferably hickory

1. Combine sugar, fennel, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, and pepper and rub mixture all over pork chops. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2. Soak wood chips in bowl of water to cover for 15 minutes, seal in foil packet (cutting vent holes in top), and place over primary burner. Turn all burners to high and close lid, keeping grill covered until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean. Turn primary burner to medium and turn all other burners off, adjusting temperature of primary burner as needed to maintain average temperature of 275 degrees. Position chops over cooler part of grill, cover grill.

3. Arrange chops, bone side toward fire, on cooler side of grill. Cover, positioning lid vents directly over meat, and cook until chops register 145 degrees, 50 to 60 minutes (if your chops are less than 2 inches thick, start checking them for temperature after 30 minutes). Slide chops directly over fire and cook, uncovered, until well browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to platter and let rest 20 minutes. Serve.

Creme Brulee

So on Sunday we finally used the ramekins we got oh probably a year ago. We got them to try Alton Brown's Creme Brulee. The creme was wonderful, but we had problem with the brulee. The instructions said to get the dishes out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before caramelizing the sugar. Then we were to use 1/2 cup sugar over 6 ramekins, so 4 tsp. for each. The creme became thin because it was too warm and the caramel layer was too thick. We only used 4 on the first try, so on the remaining 2 we put on the sugar and poured off whatever didn't stick. And we caramelized it straight out of the fridge. Then the creme was cold and thick and the layer of sugar was thin and crisp. The only problem was that the creme layer seemed too thick for the amount of sugar. So next time we'll probably divide the creme into 8 cups so the creme to sugar ratio will be better. Either that or we need oval shaped ramekins.

Creme Brulee
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya

Over the weekend we had some friends over, so JB wanted to make "his" (Emeril's) signature Jambalaya. We found this recipe many years ago and make it every year for Superbowl. This may be the first time we've made it during the rest of the year. And it makes for great leftovers. In this area we do have trouble finding Andouille or Chorizo (the smoked variety), so we have made it with Kielbasa or the fresh ground chorizo that we are seeing more often in the stores. But we did find the Andouille at the World Market. I think the hardest part may be not stirring while the rice is cooking. I always want to mess with it.

Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya
Recipe Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne
1 pound andouille, chorizo, or other smoked sausage cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
1 1/2 pounds boneless white and dark chicken meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 bay leaves
3 cups medium-grain white rice
6 cups water
1 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, 2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne. Stirring often, brown the vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until they are caramelized and dark brown in color. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pt to loosen any browned particles. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often for 10 to 15 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to loosen any browned particles. Season the chicken with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Add the chicken and the bay leaves to the pot. Brown the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, scrapping the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned particles. Add the rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to coat it evenly. Add the water, stir to combine, and cover. Cook over medium heat for 30 to 35 minutes, without stirring, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the green onions and serve.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Caramel Dumplings

So somehow we stumbled across the site for the Hillbilly Housewife. I looked around the recipe to see what as there and came across Caramel Dumplings. JB always talks about his aunt's dumplings so I thought I'd give these a try. I made them with butter instead of margarine, and the turned out really well. We served them with vanilla ice cream and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Caramel Dumplings


2 cups water
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt


1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk

You will need a 3 quart saucepan with a good lid in which to cook this dessert. Begin by combining all of the items listed for the syrup inside the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. While it is heating, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in the shortening, until the mixture resembles very coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the sugar over the flour mixture and blend briefly. Stir in the milk, making a soft dough. Pinch off marble sized pieces of the dough and drop them into the gently boiling brown sugar syrup. Fill the entire pan with these small dough balls. When you have used up all of the dough, place the lid on the pot. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, without peaking. The dumplings will steam while they cook, and if you peak they will fall and you will wind up with soggy dumplings instead of fluffy ones. After cooking, serve the dumplings with a large dollop of their cooking syrup and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. These are very inexpensive and absolutely delicious to eat. I recommend serving them with a light supper in the summertime. Because they cook on the stove top instead of in the oven, the kitchen doesn't heat up quite as badly as with baked desserts. This recipe serves 6.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

French Style Yogurt Cake with blueberries

So I had some blueberries that were left from the pancakes over the weekend. I though they would work well in the French Style Yogurt Cake. And it worked pretty well, although I should have backed off on the lemon. I think the zest in the cake was fine, but I should have used milk or water in the glaze instead of lemon juice. I also added a bit of vanilla to the cake and glaze. It was a nice addition. And poking the cake with a fork helped the glaze soak in.

I didn't want the cake to turn purple so I put about half the batter in, sprinkled in some blueberries (I had about 1 cup), poured on the rest of the batter and sprinkled on the remaining blueberries. I didn't need to be so fussy with the blueberries though. The all sank to the bottom of the cake. So note to self, just put the blueberries on top and they will find their way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

French Style Yogurt Cake

Last week we made the French Style Yogurt Cake from alpineberry. It turned out really well. It must have been good because there was none left. I did make it without the poppy seeds though. And I used closer to 1/2 cup powdered sugar in the glaze. It just seemed too thin. I'm thinking of trying a vanilla one and serving it with berries, but that's a task for another day.

French Style Yogurt Cake (with Lemon & Poppy Seeds)
(adapted from Orangette)

3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with a parchment circle and butter the paper.

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, sugar, and lemon zest with a wooden spoon. Mix in eggs (all 3 at once is okay).

Add the flour, baking powder, and poppy seeds. Mix until flour is just incorporated.

Add the oil and mix well. The batter will look curdled at first but it will come together.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until your cake tester is clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Allow cake to cool in pan on a rack for about 15 minutes.

Gently remove cake from the pan and set on a rack to cool completely.

Combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar and spoon it gently over the cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Elvis Gooey Butter Cake

We tried this one out last week after the Chess Cake. It seemed like it should be a similar cake. It turned out really well, but I think I would have liked to have 2 eggs in the cake part instead of the one Paula uses. The cake layer was a bit dry. We enjoyed the moistness in the Chess Cake. But I would try this one again.

Elvis Gooey Butter Cake
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
Mint leaves, for garnish
Whipped cream, for garnish

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 whole banana
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter together and mix well. Pat into a lightly greased glass 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Prepare the filling.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the peanut butter; beat. Add the banana and butter and mix well. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over the cake mixture. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. You want the center to be a little gooey, so do not over bake. Top each cake slice with a mint leaf and dollop of whipped cream.

Beer Brats

So my husband decide to make brats the way a friend had done it. We simmered uncooked brats in beer with some onions for about 1 1/2 hrs. We wanted to make this on the grill so we didn't stink up the house with simmering beer. We we took a disposable foil pan, sliced up an onion into thick slices, laid the brats over the onion, covered with beer, and cooked on a grill on medium low for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. They cooked up nicely. We thought about putting them directly on the grill for a few minutes to give them some nice marks, but skipped that part. They were very good straight out of the beer bath. And they had a pink hue similar to the ring you would see when smoking meats.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

This is an outstanding cheesecake. Not overly rich, but very good. And the sauce over the top is so indulgent. I pretty much followed the recipe on Taste and Tell. But I cooked it in a water bath, as per my usual cheesecake procedure, then let it stand in the oven, turned off, with a wooden spoon handle in the door to keep it open and let it finish setting up for an hour before removing to cool. I tried to make the Dulce de Leche using the procedure I saw on Slashfood. It seemed simple enough, simmer 3 cans sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours. It didn't work as well as I would have liked. Maybe I didn't have the water hot enough, but it simmered for at least 3 hours and didn't look much different than sweetened condensed milk. So I did the microwave method below. It worked pretty well. But I think next time I'll try Alton's method that we just saw on Good Eats.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

1 1/2 c crushed vanilla wafers
4 T melted butter

24 oz cream cheese
1 c sugar
2 T all purpose flour
2 t vanilla
3 eggs
1/3 c milk
1/2 c Dulce de Leche (see recipe below)

For Serving:
Extra Dulce de Leche

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Mix crust ingredients together, and press into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9-inch springform pan. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

3. Reset oven temperature to 325°F.

4. With an electric mixer beat cream cheese, sugar and flour together until well mixed and smooth. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Add milk and mix until well blended.

5. Measure 1/2 cup of the cheesecake batter and pour into a small bowl. Add Dulce de Leche sauce and stir until well combined.

6. Pour plain batter over crust. Top with Dulce de leche batter by placing rounded spoonfuls over the cheesecake batter and gently swirl into plain batter with the tip of knife or spatula.

7. Bake in preheated 325°F (160°C) oven for 45-55 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from oven and gently run metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cheesecake (this helps prevent cracking). Let cool 20-25 minutes before covering and placing in the refrigerator. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight before serving. If desired, serve each slice drizzled with a little bit of dulce de leche sauce, or pass around a bowl of dulce de leche sauce for guest's to help themselves.
Makes 16 servings.

Dulce de Leche

1 can sweetened condensed milk

There are several ways you can do this. I removed the label, poked a couple of holes in the top of the can and put the can in boiling water for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Next time, I would open the can and cook in a double boiler. Mine cooked more at the bottom and not enough at the top, so I ended up microwaving it to get it to the right consistency. With the double boiler, you would be able to stir it, and I think the consistency would be much better. You could also just microwave it from the beginning, cooking on 50% power and stirring every minute or so. You can tell it is ready when it thickens and becomes a tan or light brown color.

Friday, June 1, 2007

About us

So is probably time to fill you all in on our little family here. Jollyboy and I have been married 11 years. I am a stay-at-home Mom to 4 boys. Bubba is 6 and just finishing Kindergarten. Buster is 4 and stretching his boundaries. Kodo and Podo are 7 months and rolling all around. Twins were definitely a new wrinkle to the family, but we're working it out. Finding the new normal, because nothing will ever be normal again. And if it was, we would be bored anyway. And to round out the group, Kyra (Chocolate Lab) is 8.

It's no secret that we like to eat around here. And we like trying new recipes. I subscribe to too many cooking magazines but just when I think about canceling one there is a stellar recipe in it. So I keep them all. (See the link on the side for the magazines I subscribe to.) I really do enjoy cooking, I just wish those pesky dish fairies would come during the night to do their jobs and clean up. But no, it's left for me. I would cook even more if I didn't have to clean up the mess. But I guess it's part of the job.

Penne a la Carbonara

Last night I made Penne a la Carbonara, from Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. I really wasn't expecting the boys to like it at all. They don't think they like eggs and are not really big fans of pasta. I know kids who don't like pasta, weird but true. Anyway, Bubba, the six year old, was through his portion before I had gotten a couple bites myself. He wanted seconds. And he is adamant that he doesn't like eggs. Even after I told him about the eggs he was still digging in. So this one is definitely a keeper.

I do have a problem with this recipe though. I just can't find pancetta at any of the local grocery stores. But probably 10 years ago when we first learned about Spaghetti Carbonara, there was a hint from Biba (sorry I don't remember the last name but she had a cooking show back then) to use regular bacon and blanch it in water to remove some of the smoke flavor of the bacon. And it really works. Although if given the choice, it is probably preferable to use thick cut bacon. But I just used what I had on hand and sliced it 1/2 to 3/4 inch before separating it and blanching. Then I drained it and put it back in the skillet to brown. That's really the only change I made to the recipe and it turned out really well. I was going to use wheat pasta this time but was afraid that the sauce would be to delicate to handle it. But I think next time I'll try it with wheat pasta. The sauce is hearty enough to handle it.

(I made this again today and have a couple edits.  I used evaporated milk today instead of heavy cream and it worked flawlessly.  I also simmer the sauce at the end before serving.  The eggs don't seem to be cooked enough otherwise.  I added a bit of the pasta water while it simmered so the eggs didn't curdle.  Oh, I didn't have fresh parsley so I just left it out.  No one noticed.  11/25/12)

Penne a la Carbonara
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound pancetta, diced into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound dried penne
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat a large saute pan, until hot. Add pancetta and saute until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper and remove pan from heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan, reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish.
In a large pot, boil 6 quarts of salted boiling water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse with water; you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will stick. While the pasta is still hot, return it back to the pot. Add the browned pancetta and mix well. Add the cream mixture and coat the pasta completely. It's important to work quickly while the pasta is still warm so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Add remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.