Foodie Blog

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Picky's Birthday - chocolate souffle

Choosing Picky's dessert was a bit more difficult than choosing what to make for his special dinner.  I thought about making a cake, but I also wanted to make him a souffle.  So I decided to make both!  I knew the souffle would be smaller and perfect for just me and Picky, so I made that the night of his birthday.  On Friday nights, Picky plays cards with a group of friends and I thought he could celebrate his birthday properly with his friends with a cake.

So on to the souffle!  I have made a cheese souffle before, but never a chocolate one.  The cheese one was fairly simple since I just followed Julia Child's instruction on how to make it.  Since I am in the middle of moving, Julia is currently packed away in a box.  I searched my favorite cooking websites online and then it hit me.  Martha Stewart!  Of course, she will have the perfect chocolate souffle recipe.  Hers was a bit complicated and involved many steps, but egg whites don't scare me.  Cake scares me, as you will see in my next post.  Anyway, on to the recipe!

Chocolate Souffle
Adapted from Martha Stewart

This produced a souffle that reminded me of the most chocolate-y brownie, but without the density.  It was so yummy!  I would probably serve it with whipped cream sweetened with a touch of honey next time.
  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for dish and collar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for dish
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate (about 1/2 cup), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Position rack in center of oven. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a parchment collar about 20 inches long by 6 inches high. Brush the top half of one side with butter. Butter sides only of a 1-quart souffle dish; coat with an even layer of sugar; set aside.
  2. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and milk. Bring to a boil; remove from heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, and egg yolks. Slowly pour the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Transfer milk-and-yolk mixture to saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until mixture thickens, about 40 seconds. Make sure to whisk along side of pan to prevent scorching.
  5. Remove pastry cream from heat, add chopped chocolate, and whisk until melted. Add cocoa powder; whisk until combined. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until frothy. Increase to medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar. Increase mixer speed to high, and whisk until stiff but not dry peaks form.
  7. Whisk chocolate pastry cream to loosen and release steam, add 1/3 of the egg-white mixture, and whisk vigorously until mixture is combined and lightened.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, lightly stir remaining egg-white mixture to loosen; this will keep you from overmixing the souffle. Fold remaining egg whites into lightened chocolate cream.
  9. Transfer souffle mixture to prepared dish, and smooth top with a spatula. Secure parchment collar around dish with kitchen twine so that the collar extends 3 inches above the dish. Or you could do what I did, carefully place the buttered parchment paper inside the souffle dish, making sure it extends up above the souffle dish an then carefully pouring the mixture in.  This worked for me. Place in oven, and bake for 10 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and cook for 20 minutes more for a creamy center or 25 minutes more for a slightly drier center.
  10. If desired, dust souffle with confectioners' sugar; serve immediately.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Picky's birthday dinner - tri tip steak, green beans with pesto, and potato cheese tart

Yesterday was Picky's birthday!  Yay!  I wanted to make him something special, something that he would like, so I didn't get too adventurous.  Picky didn't say anything in particular that he wanted, so I just started throwing out suggestions until he said sure.  Steak, or any kind of meat, is such an obvious choice.  He loves his meat a lot!  But I wanted to make it extra special, so I put my special rub on it.  Plus, at the last minute, I decided to make a red wine sauce.

For the green beans I didn't want to just toss them in olive oil and add salt and pepper like I usually do, so I looked online for some inspiration.  I found a recipe for a green bean, and potato salad with pesto and thought, well that's what I'll do.  Minus the potatoes.

The potato cheese tart was an obvious choice because it was the first thing I ever cooked for Picky and he loved it then.  I made some adjustments to the recipe, because I didn't have all the ingredients, but it turned out just as yummy.

Considering that Picky is currently in a food coma, I would say this dinner was a success!

Stay  tuned for:  Chocolate Souffle!

Note:  I am in the process of moving and will have to post the recipe for the spice rub that I used on the steak at a later date.

Red Wine Sauce for Steak

1/2 bottle of red wine
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of flour
salt to taste

Pour the wine in a sauce pan over medium high heat and then lower to a simmer when it starts to boil.  You will want to reduce it to half.  After it has reduced, turn the heat off.

In a separate sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter.  After it has started to brown, add the flour and whisk.  After the mixture has cooked for a couple minutes, add the reduced wine to the pan and whisk.  Whisk often for about 5 minutes.  Right before you turn off the heat, add the salt to your liking and whisk in.  It is now ready to pour over the meat of your choice.

Green beans with pesto
Please don't feel that you need to follow this recipe to a T.  I tend to wing it, every time I make pesto.
For the pesto:
One big bunch of basil (about two big handfuls) (or you can use spinach or arugula) 
About 1  cup of walnuts  or pine nuts
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or asiago) (optitonal)
Salt to taste

Toss all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil and salt in a food processor or blender.  Start the processor.  While it is processing, start pouring olive oil, slowly, and in a thin stream in the processor or blender.  When it starts to come together, stop pouring and stop the processor.  Put in a container and mix in salt to taste.  If you're not going to use it right away, you can stick it in the freezer.

I used frozen green beans and just followed the directions on the package when I put them in the microwave, except I put it for one minute less.  Then I threw the green beans in a pan with some pesto over low heat and mixed together until the green beans were hot.  Then serve!

Potato Cheese tart
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Gourmet

I didn't follow this recipe exactly.  I didn't have small red potatoes on hand so I used the regular brown potatoes and one white sweet potato since that is what I had.  Plus, I didn't have blue cheese so I used what I had, which was Gruyere and cheddar.  It still came out very tasty!  I would probably not only slice the potatoes 1/4 inch thick, but I would also cut the slices in half to make them smaller.  The herbs that I used were fresh rosemary and fresh thyme (again, this is what I had on hand).  As long as you very finely chop them, it will be really yummy!

1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
1 pound any type of potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices, and then cut in half if using large potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound Gruyere and cheddar, diced very small (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice, such as a mixture of thyme and rosemary
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.
Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.
Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold (I prefer it warm).  The cream/egg mixture will be custardy, so it is best to let it cool a bit so when you cut it, the cream doesn't come flowing out.

Savory Tart Shell
1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
1 large egg
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.
This dough can also be made a food processor, or in a stand mixer, though I’ve only tried it in a food processor.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with a filling of your choice, no parbaking required.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So let me tell you about Easter dinner.

Hello's me Picky.
First just let me say that my "picky" food habits are really a "fear" of trying new, different, and unusual foods that fall outside my tried and true comfort foods. Unfortunately to an adventurous foodie like my own personal chef( and the love of my life), this is looked at as a challenge and not being willing to try something is out of the question. Luckily I know that if something doesn't agree with my super-tasting buds(cilantro and curry), then it will no longer be on the menu.
Getting to Easter dinner. My traditional Easter ham dinner is definitely what can be called comfort food: honey glazed spiral ham, potatoes and corn with bread and butter. But to the adventurous foodie this is way too boring. So goodbye potatoes, corn, bread with butter, and hello zucchini, asparagus, and ham with grape juice and ginger-ale. The ham and asparagus seemed fine, but the zucchini idea made me nervous. Stories my brother told me about how disgusting zuchini was ( my aunt tricked him into eating fried zucchini) were all I could think of. So I went to the driving range so dinner could be prepared (and to prepare my taste buds for zucchini).
As I returned home I was treated to the most delicious appetizer. One I couldn't believe I was eating. Zucchini, prepared as a fritter with feta cheese, and a Greek yogurt with dill for dipping. Absolutely to die for. You gotta try that recipe, you will not be sorry. Another victory for chef foodie( and me and my belly too). The only way to top the fritters was to serve up the juiciest and sweetest ham with a side of asparagus covered in a tomato bacon stew( can't go wrong with bacon). So dinner was a rousing success and I never once wondered where my potatoes,corn or bread were.

Easter, part 3 - ginger ale and grape juice glazed ham

Ham!!!!!  Just saying the word to Picky, I see the drool forming in the corners of his mouth.  During our "What will we eat for Easter dinner" negotiations, Picky was somewhat adamant about having ham.  He said every year he has ham.  Every time I mentioned lamb, I saw an expression on his face that probably saw a lot of action back when he was a toddler.  It was the equivalent of him pouting.  I wish I had taken a picture of it.  Here, let me see if I can draw it:
 Why, no, I don't have a creative bone in my body.  Why do you ask?

Anyway, I agreed to the ham, but said I would prepare it how I wanted to prepare it.  I didn't want the sugar encrusted, honey baked, spiral-sliced ham.  I wanted to do something different with it.  And I found a recipe on Steamy Kitchen that intrigued me.  Mostly because it seemed a little off the wall, at least to me.  But what do you know?  Picky loved it!  I loved it!  It still tasted like ham, it was just a better version than what I've had in the past.  However, the smallest ham Picky could find was for an 8 pound ham.  Anyone want to come over and have some leftover ham?

Ginger Ale-Grape Juice glazed Ham 

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Cook Time: 15 minutes per pound

11-12 pound bone-in ham with natural juices
2 1/2 cups grape juice, divided
2 1/2 cups cola, divided ( used ginger ale, but please, don't use diet!)
20-ounce can of sliced pineapple (you'll need both the juice and the pineapple)
2 cups brown sugar
Let the ham stand at room temperature for 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Set the rack at the lowest position. Rinse and pat dry the ham. Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the ham in a criss-cross pattern. Place ham in a roasting pan. Pour just 1 1/2 cups of the cola and 1 1/2 cups of grape juice into the pan and add additional water if necessary to bring the liquid level to 1/2 inch. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil. Roast in oven for 2 3/4 to 3 hours (about 15 minutes per pound) or until the internal temperature of the ham reaches 100 degrees F.
While the ham is cooking, prepare the glaze. Combine the remaining 1 cup grape juice, 1 cup cola, the juice from the pineapple (reserve the pineapple slices for later) and the brown sugar in a small sauce pot and simmer on low for 20 minutes, until it becomes thick and glossy. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use (as the glaze cools, it will thicken up, making it easier to brush on the ham).
Take the ham out of the oven when it reaches the first internal temperature of 100 degrees F. Turn the oven to 425
degrees F. Brush the ham with about 1/4 of the glaze all over. Use toothpicks to stud the ham with the sliced pineapple, if desired. Once the oven comes to temperature, return the ham, uncovered to oven. Bake for 15 minutes until the liquid is bubbly and the ham has turned to a nice, deep golden brown. The internal temperature of the ham should be 140 degrees F.
Remove ham to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes.
Return the remaining glaze to the stove on medium-low heat to warm the glaze up for serving. Carve and slice the ham, drizzle a bit of the cola glaze on each plate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter, part 2 - asparagus and tomato-bacon stew

So, yes, asparagus.  Picky hadn't tried asparagus until he met me.  A few months ago, I made him try it.  He loved it!  He couldn't believe how good it tasted.  I think he just had this kind of mistrust of green vegetables because he assumes they are all going to taste like spinach.  Um, yeah, he now realizes they each have their own unique tastes.

Normally, I like to roast the veggies under the broiler because I feel that roasting brings out a really nice, almost caramelized flavor to the veggies.  Try it sometime!  The great thing about the broiler is that it cooks the veggies very quickly.  Something like asparagus takes only 8 minutes, which is huge because Picky may be patient when it comes to his job, but he is very impatient when it comes to other things, like food that should already be in his belly.

But this preparation of asparagus was something I hadn't tried before.  I have steamed asparagus in water before, but I had never used chicken stock.  And you know, it makes sense that cooking your veggies this way would add some flavor to your veggies.  I'm not sure why I never thought of it before.  I need to try this out on other veggies.

 Asparagus and Tomato-Bacon Stew
Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home

Picky was really expecting some green beans and maybe some sauce, but I switched it up on him!  Thankfully, asparagus and bacon are things that he loves, so I didn't worry about whether he would like it.  He actually loved it, and I loved it too!

3 ounces applewood smoked thick sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch lardons
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
one 14 ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes
Canola oil (optional)
2 1/2 pounds large asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil

Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat.  Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes.  The bacon will color but not become completely crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but 1 to 2 tablespoons fat from the pan, reserving the extra fat.  Set the pan over medium heat, ad the leeks, onion, and garlic to the fat, stir tot coat, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the veggies are soft.  Add the tomatoes, with their juice, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Transfer the whole tomatoes and some of the juice to a food processor, blender, or use a hand blender and puree.  Stir the tomatoes back into the pan, return to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Stir in bacon and reduce the heat to low.

Heat a large frying pan that will hold half the asparagus in a single layer over medium-low heat.  Pour a film of the reserved bacon fat or canola oil into the pan.  Arrange half the asparagus in the pan, pour 3 tablespoons of the stock over it, and sprinkle with salt.  Cook until the asparagus is tener but not limp, 6 to 7 minutes.  Season with additional salt to taste and arrange the asparagus on a platter.  Repeat with the remaining asparagus.

Spoon the sauce in a band across the asparagus.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Serves 6.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Dinner , part 1 - Zucchini Fritters

Ah, Easter.  Picky's Easter dinners have consisted of ham, corn, and mashed/boiled potatoes.  Mine have consisted of ham, lamb, and even a cajun theme one adventurous year.  Since I am in charge of most of the cooking around here, I obviously vetoed the normal ham, corn and mashed potato thing.  Not adventurous enough for me.  I kind of told Picky that we would have my version of ham, but that I would go ahead with the potato thing.  Um, I kind of lied.  I had no intention of making potatoes!

It wasn't until I started making the zucchini fritters that Picky had any idea that we would be eating zucchini.  He didn't seem horrified, but he didn't seem enthusiastic either.  Maybe wary.  I know Jon hasn't expressed his desire to try zucchini.  But I didn't care.

So, I turned to my friend, Michael Symon, for a great zucchini fritter recipe.  I've never made any kind of fritter before, mostly because I just try to stay away from frying in general.  But these were worth the effort, and the few burns I received from the splattering oil.  I really miss my splatter screen!!  I need to buy a new one.

Part 2 - Asparagus with bacon tomato stew

Part 3 - Ham with ginger ale and grape soda sauce (I know, just trust me on this)

Zucchini Fritters with Feta and Dill
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live to Cook 

Makes about 8 fritters.

I just have to say, that where it says to put the grated zucchini in a clean dish towel, don't think you'll use a paper towel instead because you're too lazy to find a clean dish towel (like me).  Because then you'll end up digging through  grated zucchini and picking out soggy paper towel.  And then you might miss a piece and up eating me.

2 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill)
1 large scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. feta cheese, coarsely chopped or crumbled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for pan-frying
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Coarse sea salt

Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a grater onto a clean kitchen towel.  Sprinkle with the kosher salt and let it rest while you gather and prep the remaining ingredients.

Wrap the zucchini in the towel and wring as much liquid out of it as possible, discarding the liquid (don't be impatient like me and figure you squeezed enough.  Just keep squeezing!).  In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, mint, dill, scallion, garlic, pepper, feta, and all but 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest.  Stir in the egg and flour and mix until well combined.

Ad the canola oil to a large shallow pan; you want about 1/4 inch or enough so that when all the fritters are in the pan, the oil comes halfway up thieir sides.  Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Form fritters by hand and fry them in the hot oil in batches.  Cook until the fritters are golden brown on each side, 4 to 6 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.

Transfer the fritters to plates and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprinkling of dill, the reserved lemon zest, an some coarse sea salt.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Few Words from Picky

Seeing how this blog is about my finicky eating habits, I thought I should have a little input. Yes I will admit that I have many food phobias. These have now somehow become cooking "rules" to live by, but as you will see my "rules" are being bent and manipulated, albeit in a good way, to satisfy the adventurous needs of my amazing girlfriend. Since each new and delicious recipe looks to debunk my tried and true "rules" that I have lived by for 40 plus years, I hope it will show other picky eaters that there is hope for them as well.
Baked macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes. Made by mom with only the standard ingredients: macaroni and cheddar cheese. A picky eaters delicacy. Well this just wasn't good enough for my girlfriends sense of adventurous eating. Soon there were shallots (just a fancy onion), odd cheeses like Fontina and Gruyere, Panko bread crumbs (not real bread in my eyes), and god forbid Truffle oil( who knew mushrooms had oil). Lets just say that the use of mushrooms is a violation of one of my "food rules", and left me wondering if this version of mac and cheese would leave me making those happy eating noises. Well, wonder no more. This Mac and cheese will be a permanent fixture on my menu. It left me wanting more, even though I had already had 2 servings. The shallots being caramelized in bacon fat and the the truffle oil in the topping were a perfect touch and as is usually the case, caused me to edit my rule about NO MUSHROOMS. Hope you give this delicious recipe a try. See you next recipe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Semi-Fancy Mac and Cheese

 Obviously, my picture taking skills are horrible!  I promise that the mac and cheese looks much better in person than in pictures.  The pictures do add those dreaded 10 pounds.  Poor mac and cheese!
 Anyway, this give me another opportunity to tell a Picky story.  This one occurred during the creation of this dish.  The mac and cheese was browning in the oven, and I had just finished checking on it.  The following exchange occurred:

Me:  "What are you doing?"
Picky:  *looking at me with the same expression I have seen my cat give me a million times.  It's the one where my cat is about to knock something over, but I catch him before he can commit his mischief, yet he looks at me and then knocks the thing over super fast and runs away.  So yeah, Picky had a piece of cheese in his hand, and looked at me the same way that my cat looks at me*
Me:  "Don't eat that!"
Picky: *he greedily shoves the piece of cheese into his mouth before I can take it away*

Yes, my boyfriend has now turned into my cat.  Now, I am not some cruel cheese mistress, who only lets Picky look at cheese without eating it.  He had already had some cheese on his egg sandwich this morning, plus, I had added 2 cups of shredded cheese to the mac and cheese sauce.  But no, I guess that isn't enough for Picky.  He acts like he has been cheese deprived!

 Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys this recipe.  I have to admit, this is probably one of the most delicious mac and cheese recipes I have ever made.  And the way Picky was attacking not only his serving, but also the entire vessel containing the rest of the mac and cheese, I would have to say he agrees.  But stay tuned for his review.
Semi-Fancy Mac and Cheese
Inspired by various mac and cheese recipes online

I looked at many mac and cheese recipes online.  Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of all the ones that interested me, so I’m just going from the things I saw that seemed like a good idea and combining them in one recipe.  As far as cheese goes, I had Picky select three different cheeses and combined them.  Because of the wine, the sauce will be wine colored, unless you go with a white wine.  Or you could add beer instead, but then it would be only a quarter-fancy.
4 slices of applewood smoked bacon, or more if you really love bacon (reserve the fat for this recipe)
2 very large shallots or 5 smaller ones, sliced thinly
1 package of macaroni, or any tube-like pasta that you prefer

3 tablespoons of a combination of unsalted butter and/or bacon fat
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup red wine
1 cup low fat milk
1 cup half and half
½ cup of fontina cheese
¾ cup of aged cheddar
¾ cup of gruyere
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil(optional)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter or oil a 9 by 7 inch baking dish.
Place the bacon in a skillet on medium high heat until the bacon is crispy, but not burned.  Make sure to turn it halfway through cooking (after 2 or 3 minutes).  Remove to a plate with a paper towel and allow to drain.  Chop when it is cool into quarter inch pieces.
After placing the bacon on paper towels, remove most of the bacon fat except for 1 tablespoon.  Lower the heat to medium, or medium low.  Add the sliced shallots to the pan, and stir occasionally until it is light brown in color, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat (the water will boil faster if you cover the pot).  When it is boiling, make sure to salt the water, then add the macaroni, and boil for the 1 minute less than the package calls for.  The pasta should be a little more than al dente, just slightly.  Since you will put the mac and cheese in the oven, you don’t want the pasta to be too done.  Strain in a colander, but don’t rinse!
After you have started to boil the water, place your butter or bacon fat in a sauce pan over medium heat.  If you are using butter, wait until the butter stops bubbling, add the flour and whisk together.  Cook for a minute or two until the roux (flour and butter) starts to brown.  If you are using bacon fat, let it heat for a minute and then add the flour letting it cook for a minute or two.  Whisk in the wine until combined.  Let this cook for a 2 -3 minutes before you add the low fat milk.  Add a little at a time, alternating between the milk and the half and half, whisking after each addition. Your sauce should be the consistency of alfredo sauce.  If it is a bit thicker than that, add a half a ladle of pasta water to your sauce and wisk.  Add more until it coats a spoon, but isn’t the consistency of gravy.  After all the liquids have been added, add your grated cheeses, one at a time, making sure to whisk after each addition until melted.  Taste your sauce at this point.  You might not need to add salt because of the cheese and the salt contained in the cooked pasta.  Add pepper to taste.  Take the sauce off the heat.  Add the chopped bacon and the shallots.
At this point, combine the sauce and the macaroni in a large bowl and mix together until well combined.  Pour this in your greased baking pan.
Finally, combine the panko, the melted butter and your oil in a small bowl, along with the remaining herbs.  Mix with a fork until well combined.  Spread the combined topping evenly over the mac and cheese and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is browned.  Take out and enjoy with a loved one!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No, I haven't made anything yet...

...but I thought a story would help those who are anxious for an update.  Before I go on with my story, I swear, tomorrow, I will have a real recipe for a very rich mac and cheese.  I might even throw in some truffle oil (don't tell Picky).

So, for our second date, I decided to cook for Picky.  During our first date, he ate some fried clams and he didn't mention anything about the many things he will not eat.  So, I thought, "It shouldn't be a problem if I make a rack of lamb, a potato blue cheese tart, and some creme brulee."   Well, I was right about two out of the three items.  It isn't like the menu was a complete surprise to him.  I told him what I was planning to make and he didn't say anything!  So, here I am, all proud of my delicious rack of lamb, which were cooked medium rare, so that he could taste their full flavor.  And he seemed lukewarm about them.  I encouraged him to feel free to pick them up and eat them off the bone so he could get every delicious morsel.  But, he didn't.  Instead, he nibbled at them like a frightened rabbit!  He did seem to really enjoy the potato tart and the creme brulee though.  I thought maybe he was full since there was so much meat left on the bones!  And he didn't want leftovers!  I think I ended up eating more lamb than he did. 

Finally, after we had dated for a few weeks, he finally confessed to me, after much prying, that it was the first time that he had lamb.  And then he listed the food rules I had violated in serving it to him:
            1.  It tasted game-y.
            2.  It was not well done (he has this fear that he will get sick from meat if it isn't cooked well done).
            3.  The most horrible of all, IT WAS STILL ON THE BONE! -  He does not want to eat anything, not even chicken, if the bone is still attached to it.  He will eat ribs, but he will leave the meat that is right next to the bone.

I was horrified that I basically had starved him that night.  And a bit worried that I ended up with someone who is overall, a wonderful human being, but seemed to have the opposite tastes in food.  I mean, this is someone who will never split a roll of sushi with me.  But through trial and error (and possibly blending up veggies and hiding them in his food), I have managed to broaden his food horizons a little at a time.  I mean, it truly is an accomplishment that he now loves asparagus!

I hope this story appeases the masses (heavy sarcasm).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hi and Welcome!!

I've always been someone who followed personal blogs since people keeping a journal of their personal lives for others was just fascinating.  But then I discovered food blogs!  And I have to admit, I was late getting on that bandwagon.  But now, I can't enough of them!

Well, after saying "Someday, I will have my own food blog" (in a very tiny voice), I have finally decided to start one.  And, thanks to Borders and their closing sale, I picked up Thomas Keller's ad hoc at home.  I was tempted to get French Laundry, but after flipping through it, I realized I would only be able to cook two things from it for Picky.  Oh, Picky is my boyfriend.  He doesn't like curry, probably because of coriander.  We figured it was because of the cilantro.  Unfortunately, he is a super taster and can pick up individual flavors in food where others can't.  Plus, he doesn't like seafood or fish because all he can taste is the briny fishy flavor, no matter how well prepared.  Plus he doesn't like game, because it tastes gamey.  So, this puts a bit of a damper on my creativity.

Anyway, I like to cook the complicated, to the not so complicated, healthy meals with lots of veggies, to really decadent desserts and meals.  I'm all over the place.  I hope you enjoy sharing in my cooking adventures!