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Archive for February, 2009

 

Mmmm...cinnamon, chocolate and toffee together!

Mmmm...cinnamon, chocolate and toffee together!

Two weeks in a row!

Yeah, that’s right. I baked Tuesdays with Dorie goodies two weeks in a row AND I made the obligatory balls of cookie dough sitting in the freezer for my husband’s dessert. We, um, don’t actually BAKE cookies at our house. Too time consuming! Instead, I freeze the dough into little balls and we eat them frozen. Cause after all, licking the batter from the bowl was always my favorite part (salmonella be damned!)

What possibly caused me to be a TWD overachiever? Well, just the name alone (Caramel Crunch Bars – p.112-113 for those of you who have the book) sucked me in this week. But one look at the recipe and I figured this was right up my alley – few ingrediants, not too many steps, stick it in a pan the size of one that I ACTUALLY OWN (see previous TWD posts),  pop the thing in the oven, slap on some accoutrements and voila! Dessert is served!

And I was right!

Holy cats! So easy and sooo good. I love cinnamon. And chocolate. Together. And add some toffee bits in there too. Oh and some espresso powder for good measure. Yeah, that would be good… But nothing more. That would push it over the edge. Perfect…

Now I just have to stop eating them. I figure I need a week off. This is becoming really bad for my diet…

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Not your typical bbq pulled pork - five spice powder gives these bite sized apps an Asian flair.

Not your typical bbq pulled pork - five spice powder gives these bite sized apps an Asian flair.

Asian Pulled Pork

For Valentine’s day, among the myriad of tapas I was assembling, I wanted to make pulled pork stuffed in wonton cups. I sought out an Asian inspired recipe as I thought it was most appropriate. I was quite surprised at the outcome of this recipe. It was dang tasty but still let the flavor of the pork shine through. I scooped it into the wonton cups and topped with a little diced mango. I meant to make the mango into more of an Asian salsa, but time got away from me. I will say I think this pulled pork is the perfect filling for bite sized wonton cups. I woke up the following morning craving the combo (thankfully, I still had two left).  

What is five-spice powder anyway?

 Five-spice powder is a seasoning in Chinese cuisine. It incorporates the five basic flavors of Chinese cooking – sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and salty. Most commonly, it consists of Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel. I have forgotten how much I love it. When you are sick of making the same old stir fry, try adding a little bit. It definitely livens up the party. I made a Five-spice Chocolate Cake once that was too die for. I think it came out of America’s Test Kitchen Restaurant Recipes, but here’s an online version.

Five spice pulled pork with Asian BBQ sauce, sauteed cabbage and a wonton crisp.

Five spice pulled pork with Asian BBQ sauce, sauteed cabbage and a wonton crisp.

A variation

Later in the week, I still had a lot of pulled pork to use up. I thought it would be nice to pair it with an Asian BBQ sauce. So I sauteed some cabbage with a little ginger and garlic to use as a bed for the pulled pork. Then topped the pork with a little of the bbq sauce and a wonton crisp (cause shoot, I am addicted to the crunch. Now I know to make crispy little crackers out of leftover wontons!). Once again, a fantastic combo.

For a variation on your normal bbq pulled pork, give five spice pork a try. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Five-spice Pulled Pork

Adapted from here. I made this into a slow cooker recipe cause I just couldn’t be bothered to do otherwise.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled 
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (3ish pound) pork shoulder, deboned or 3 lbs boneless country ribs
1/2 cup water

Steps

1. Place the sliced onion in the crockpot.

2. Pulse the ginger, garlic and shallot in a food processor to a fine mince or paste (it will be rubbed into the pork).

3. Mix all the dry spices, salt and the brown sugar together in a medium bowl.

4. Rub the minced ginger, garlic and shallot paste into the meat. Then follow with the dry spice rub.

5.Fold the roast into a compact shape, and put it (or country ribs if using that) in the crockpot on top of the sliced onion. Add the water to the crockpot.

6. Cook in crockpot on high for 4-5 hours. You can alter the cooking time (put on low for longer) to suit your schedule, but I was running out of time and needed this cooked asap. 

7. Remove from crockpot when it is fork tender. Shred pork with 2 forks (or your hands – whatever works best). 

8. Serve

Serving suggestion – put in wonton cups, top with a little Asian BBQ sauce, maybe some mango. Or a variation on any of the above.

Wonton Cups / Crisps

Ingredients:

Wonton wrappers (however many you want to make)
Vegetable cooking spray

Steps:

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place wonton wrappers on work surface; spray lightly with oil.

Flip wonton over and give the second side a spray (Important – remember to spray both sides! Otherwise they bake up extremely sharp – and, um, painful to eat).

Press each wonton wrapper into muffin tin. Or, alternatively, place on baking sheet for flat squares.

Bake until wonton cups/crisps are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Cool completely in tins/baking sheet. (Can be made 3 days ahead).

Remove cups from tins and store airtight at room temperature.

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Porky goodness

Mmmm....porky goodness.

For Valentine’s Day!

We stayed in for Valentine’s. Like New Years, Valentine’s Day seems to be riddled with overpriced options meant to impress, but often fall short. Thank you, I’ll pass on the $80/pp prix fixe sweetheart dinner and obligatory long stemmed rose. This year, I opted to whip up a variety of tapas at home instead.

 

Pork wrapped in…more pork

I started with my favorite bacon wrapped, chorizo stuffed dates (hence the title of this post). I skipped the tomato sauce this time, thinking it was just too much work but I will say, I really missed it.  The sauce just takes the whole dish one step further.

 

Marinated Ciliegine

Then we moved on to marinated Ciliegine (small balls of fresh mozzerella – smaller than bocconcini) with tomatoes, basil and olives. The marinade was a lemony olive oil concoction supplied by the always fabulous Emeril Lagasse.

marinated_bocconcini

Lemon-herb marinated fresh mozzarella with grape tomatoes, olives and basil

 

And then there was…you guessed it…more pork

Following that was a spectacular five spice pulled pork in wonton cups. This turned out great. Oh, I have forgotten how much I love five-spice powder! For reference – it’s a spice blend often used in Chinese cooking usually consisting of Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cloves and cinnamon. Give it a try with your favorite stir-fry for something a little different. I promise it doesn’t disappoint! I’ll give that recipe special attention in it’s own post (cause it was that fabulous).

 

Greens keep it healthy

Since I didn’t want to give my beloved a heartattack, we finished with a salad consisting of baby lettuces (really, I wanted Mache, but my local grocery doesn’t prescribe to that kind of snobbery), wafer thin slices of Asian pear, onion, feta tossed with a Walnut Raspberry Vinaigrette (woohoo! A use for my new Walnut Oil!). More experimentation on salad dressings is needed I think. 

Asian pear, walnut, feta and baby lettuces in a raspberry-walnut vinaigrette.

Asian pear, walnut, feta and baby lettuces in a raspberry-walnut vinaigrette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But not too healthy…

We topped the whole meal off with a slice of Devils Food White Out cake – my first Tuesdays With Dorie truimph! And it truely was a great finish to our Valentine’s meal. 

The Lemon Marinade for Fresh Mozzarella

Emeril’s Marinated Bocconcini
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, Emeril’s Food of Love Productions, 2008

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 inch x 1- inch strip of lemon peel (yellow part only)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound mozzarella bocconcini or ciliegini, drained

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the lemon peel, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool. When cool, pour over the bocconcini and allow to marinate for 2 to 4 hours and up to 1 week before serving.

Yield: 4 small servings

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devilsfoodcakeAnd that means I can eat cake for breakfast if I damn well please!

Today, I cut a thick slice of Dorie Greenspan’s Devil’s Food White Out cake and ate it with my obligatory Diet Coke (oh, excuse me, Diet Dr Pepper is in the house today). Ah, it’s winter. My winter bikini vacation was last week and the summer diet starts next month I figure (and right now, my fat is tanned so I think I still look good).  And it’s not every day we have cake in the house.

So this is my third TWD post. After my last two baking debacles, I was giving this book one more shot before throwing in the towel. Third time’s a charm – the cake turned out great! I can’t say I wasn’t a little concerned after tasting the marshmallow frosting. I thought it was ungodly sweet and tasted a little off. But in combo with the cake, it was fantastic. Still, I would like to see this cake with more of a whipped cream type of frosting. I think that might be nice.

It wouldn’t be TWD without a few minor complications

Of course, I had a few issues while the cake. I’m sure that isn’t shocking. Although, not as many as usual. As always, Dorie asks for a cake pan size that I don’t own (damn you cake pan makers – do you really need to make pans in EVERY single size?? 8 inch, 9inch, 11 inch, 13inch, do you ever give up? We don’t all have Ina Garten’s pocketbook, thank you very much). She wants 8 inch, I have 9. So I just cook for less time, no? Problem solved. The cake didn’t rise up nearly as much as the lovely pictures, but who cares. I was still able to cut it into layers. Oh, BTW, Ms Greenspan, if you hadn’t included the lovely pictures, I wouldn’t have known what exactly I was supposed to do with that top layer. The instructions seem to be sorely lacking. I’m just saying… Then again, I have a short attention span and perhaps I just missed that part. 

My second problem was that, unbeknownst to me, my thermometer doesn’t go up to 242 degrees. In fact, it doesn’t go above 212. Stupid overpriced, second rate Williams Sonoma piece of trash! Have I discussed that I no longer shop there? Yes, I am officially boycotting them and now prefer to buy my overpriced cooking paraphernalia at restaurant supply stores – pretending like I’m a real chef or something. Anyway… Yeah, ok, I was using a meat thermometer not a candy thermometer but as I’ve discussed before, I’m a COOK not a BAKER so candy thermometer is not in my arsenal. Anyway, I kind of guessed at the temperature and at the very least, I know that my sugar/water concoction was over 212 degrees. Hey, it all came together in the end, so I must have guessed right.

Oh and I added regular chocolate chips instead of the minis. And I will say one of my favorite parts of the cake is the big hunk of chocolate chip in each bite – even though crumbling it for the exterior proved to be extremely messy.  

See you next time!

Three cheers for Dorie! And for me. My sorry ass will be sticking around for yet another installment of TWD. Until then…

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