Monthly Archives: February 2009

Oscar night

Academy Awards spread at Elle's house

Academy Awards spread at Elle's house

Ah yes, the Oscars. An excuse to drink champagne in the afternoon.

Dom, anyone?

Dom, anyone?

For the Oscar gathering I attended, I brought my shortbread hearts and made something that was a crowd-pleaser last year.

Ina Garten’s curried crab strudel caught my eye as an elegant finger-food for such an event (even though last year’s party went down in flames, resulting in a broken champagne glass). This year, the curry dish also sort of matched the Oscar sweeper, Slumdog Millionaire! See? I think of everything.

But let’s be honest, crab meat is expensive, and cracking it yourself takes forever and is a huge mess. Even if you make your bf do it.

So I substituted chicken for crab – success!

Here’s what you do:

Shred 1 lb. of cooked chicken with the juice of one lime, a handful of chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook three chopped scallions with a couple cloves of garlic in 2 tbsp. of butter. Add 1 tsp. of curry powder when the veggies are soft, then stir it in with the chicken.

Now, get out your thawed philo dough. One piece at a time, brush on melted butter and sprinkle some bread crumbs. Repeat until you have five layers of the dough. Spoon half of the chicken mixture on one end of the dough, then roll up.

Repeat with the remaining 5 pieces of philo and the chicken.

Finally, score the rolls before you bake them. Bake at 400 until slightly brown, around 15 minutes.

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Cut all the way through and enjoy!

Yes, this is kind of a pain thanks to the delicate philo dough. But the crowds love it, trust me. And be ready for your house to smell like curry for a while….

Strudel-icious!

Strudel-icious!

A sucker for shortbread

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I love anything that has a shortbread element. Something about its simplicity, flakiness and structure.

I gave into my craving with Ina Garten’s shortbread hearts, which was unusual for me, because I usually don’t like cookies that require a cookie-cutter.

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The recipe is simple: cream together 3/4 lb. unsalted butter with 1 c. sugar. Then blend in 3.5 c. flour and 1/4 tsp. salt. Chill for 30 min., then roll out and cut.

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Sprinkle each heart with more sugar and bake at 350 until slightly golden at the edges.

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I have to be honest, I thought this recipe was totally going to bomb. As often happens when baking in the High Desert, the dough wasn’t sticky enough. But after chilling the dough, it was better.

Still, I think my texture was a little off. But the taste was good, and that’s most important to me. What is this, Top Chef?

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XOXO

A cup of love...

A cup of love...

The sweetie and I like to stay in for Valentine’s Day, in part because we love to cook, but even more importantly because we like to be cheap.

This year, we paid homage to our Southern family members with a V-day BBQ. My manly man smoked a cigar on the patio while he babied his baby-back ribs (they need to be flipped every 30 minutes!).

Here’s what we did…

I made the perfect potato salad. It started with red potatoes. Shopping tip: baby reds cost $3.99 per pound, whereas the larger red potatoes cost 98 cents per pound and I found no difference in taste or texture. Go big or go home.

Large red potatoes, cheaper than the smaller ones

Large red potatoes, cheaper than the smaller ones

The potatoes are mixed with a vinaigrette that included honey, lemon zest, shallots, whole-seed mustard, parsley, seasoned salt, garlic and olive oil. Then, you mix in crumbled bacon and Gorgonzola cheese. Finish with chopped green onions. Please tell me how this could not be delicious?

Mayo-free potato salad

Mayo-free potato salad

The tater salad normally has chopped boiled egg on top. We instead used our eggs to make deviled eggs…my mom’s recipe that is simply mayo, Dijon mustard, pepper and a couple shakes of vinegar. I finished them with paprika.

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Now, the ribs. Boyfriend got two nice racks of baby-back from the grocery store, which we brined and then coated with a dry rub (black pepper, red pepper, paprika, oregano, brown sugar, salt, etc.)

Rub it in

Rub it in

Once the coals were hot and the mesquite bricks were on, boyfriend placed the ribs over indirect heat. And he checked them every 30 minutes for four whole hours…

Waiting to hit the coals

Waiting to hit the coals

Meanwhile, boyfriend made Cook’s Illustrated’s “simple barbecue sauce.” He mixed molasses with ketchup, pepper, espresso, onion juice, sugar, chipotle sauce, garlic and oil. It seems like BBQ sauce is really just a hodgepodge of whatever you can find in the cupboard. The sauce was thick, sweet, smoky and delicious served alongside the ribs.

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After all that hard work - AMAZING

After all that hard work - AMAZING

For dessert, we had a simple plate of strawberried dipped in chocolate.

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We watched DVDs the rest of the night, I drank red wine and he had the Hop Henge IPA from Deschutes Brewery. It was a good Valentine’s Day.

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Capellini with shrimp and creamy tomato sauce

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I thought this recipe turned out sorta “meh,” but the boyfriend liked it. I guess I just compare every pasta dish with the far-superior pasta puttanesca, against which all things pale.

It’s from Gourmet magazine. I guess I just didn’t like how the shrimp turned out and it wasn’t salty enough. However, the vermouth added a really nice touch.

Here goes:

Boil water for angel hair (capellini) pasta. While that works, heat 3 T of EVOO in a large skillet and sear 1 lb. of large peeled shrimp, seasoned with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 tsp. oregano and 3 or 4 cloves of chopped garlic and cook with the shrimp. After two minutes, stir in 1/2 c. sweet vermouth and one can of diced tomatoes, drained. Add 3/4 c. of heavy cream and briskly simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in juice from half a lemon. Season to taste.

Serve the shrimp mixture over a bed of the capellini and enjoy with buttered sourdough toast. (To jazz it up, add some chopped parsley, if you have it, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and grated parmesan cheese at the end.)

Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine!

Pucker up

Lemony goodness

Lemony goodness

I’ve been craving lemon bars in the worst way. I attempted, and failed, to make the perfect lemon bars earlier this week. So I tried a different recipe last night, after a dinner of chicken devon over rice (another post).

I like my lemon bars so tart that they make my sweetie sweat under the eyes (as he is wont to do). I need the custard light and the crust a perfect shortbread.

I made Gourmet Magazine’s lemon bars, which I printed off The Food Network Web site. It is easy and delicious.

Remember: lemon bars are best chilled COMPLETELY. So don’t even think about cutting in until they are room temperature or chilled (I keep mine in the fridge).

Shortbread crust:

Heat oven at 350. Process 3/4 cup unsalted butter (cut into cubes) with 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Press it into a 13x9x2 inch glass dish (glass bakes best for this) and bake until lightly golden. Take out of the oven and lower the temperature to 300.

Custard:

Whisk 4 eggs with 1.5 cups sugar until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (roughly 2-3 large lemons) and 1/3 cup flour. Pour this over the hot shortbread. Bake at 300 until the custard is set, roughly 30 minutes. Once cooled, dust powdered sugar over the top.

And that’s how I got my lemon bar fix.