Episode 109 centers around wonton wrappers and the different ways to use them. Wonton comes from the Cantonese term “wahn tan,” which means “cloud swallow.” While it is possible to make your own wonton wrappers at home, Alton was adamant that it is not worth the time and effort to do so. Instead, do yourself a favor and buy the wonton wrappers that are readily available in the produce section of almost any grocery store.

Perfect Potstickers

This episode starts with Alton’s version of potstickers, featuring a pork and vegetable filling. The filling is made by combining in a bowl 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/4 C chopped scallions, 1 beaten egg, 2 T finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1 t light brown sugar, 1/4 t cayenne pepper, 2 t Worcestershire sauce, 2 t ketchup, and 1 t yellow mustard.

Mix the filling thoroughly with gloved hands.

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The mixed potsticker filling.

As you fill your wonton wrappers, be sure to keep the remaining wrappers moist by covering them with a damp paper towel.

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Wonton wrappers.

To form the potstickers, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you. Brush the two edges furthest from you with water and place a melon baller of filling (about 1/2 t) in the center.

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Wonton wrapper with the two far edges brushed with water and a melon baller of filling.

Fold the bottom of the diamond over the filling to form a triangle, pressing the edges together and squeezing to remove any air bubbles.

Make two pleats on each short side of the triangle by folding the wrapper under itself and pressing (see photo).

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Pleats made on each short side of the triangle.

Set the formed potstickers on a sheet pan, covering them with a damp towel until you finish filling the rest of the wrappers. For long-term storage (these will keep for 6+ months in the freezer), freeze the potstickers on a sheet pan and then transfer them to ziplock freezer bags. To cook the potstickers, heat a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. Ideally, you do not want to use a nonstick skillet to cook potstickers, as you want them to stick to the pan. I, however, do not have a large skillet that is not nonstick, so I had to work with what I have. Heat the skillet until water droplets will “dance” across the surface of the pan. When the skillet is hot, brush the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil and place 8-10 potstickers in the pan. Let the potstickers cook for two minutes, resisting the urge to lift or move them.

When the potstickers have begun to stick to the pan, add 1/3 C chicken stock to the pan and quickly put the lid on the pan. Decrease the heat to low and cook the potstickers for two more minutes.

If you need to cook more potstickers, transfer the cooked potstickers to a foil cone and place it in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.

Be sure to deglaze the pan between batches by adding water to the pan and scraping up any stuck bits. Alton recommends serving the potstickers with hoisin sauce (you can buy this in the grocery store) or a mixture of soy sauce and honey. I served my potstickers with a mixture of soy sauce and lemon juice.

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A plate of Alton’s potstickers.

These potstickers are fantastic. They are far superior to the frozen versions you get at any store. The filling is a perfectly balanced mixture of sweetness, spiciness, and tanginess. The wrappers are nearly translucent after cooking, having the texture of an al dente noodle on top and light crispiness on the bottom. I found that soy sauce overpowered the flavor of the filling, so I opted to eat mine with just a small amount of Asian mustard. Yes, it does take a little bit of time to fill and form the potstickers, but they are worth the time. I will absolutely make these again.

Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

Another way to use wonton wrappers is to make steamed dumplings. If you do not have a steamer, Alton has a hack for you. To assemble his steamer, you will need a wide pot with a lid, a few pastry rings or tuna cans with the tops and bottoms removed, and disposable pie plates that you have perforated with scissors or a knife. To assemble the steamer, place 1/2″ water in the bottom of the pot, followed by a pastry ring or can. Top the ring/can with a perforated pie plate. Continue layering rings and pie plates to the top of the pot and put on the lid. You can then steam your dumplings by placing five dumplings in each pie plate layer. We have a bamboo steamer, so I used that. Anyway, back to the recipe. Cut 1/2 pound of tofu in half horizontally and place the layers between paper towels for 20 minutes. It helps to place a plate or pan on top to press out excess liquid.

Once the tofu is ready, cut it into small cubes and place it in a bowl.

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Cubing the tofu.

To the tofu add 1/2 C grated carrot, 1/2 C shredded Napa cabbage, 2 T chopped scallions, 2 T chopped red bell pepper, 2 t minced ginger, 1 T chopped cilantro, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T hoisin sauce (in the Asian section at the grocery store), 2 t sesame oil, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t pepper, and one beaten egg.

Lightly stir the filling, as you do not want to break up the tofu.

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Dumpling filling.

Place your wonton wrappers in damp paper towels to keep them moist as you fill. To fill, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you and place a melon baller (~1/2 t) of filling in the center. Brush all four edges of the wrapper with water and bring opposite corners together.

Press the edges together, squeezing out any air bubbles.

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Folding opposite corners together and pinching the seams.

Place the filled dumplings on a sheet pan and cover them with a damp towel while you fill the remaining wrappers. You can freeze them for later use or cook them immediately.

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Dumplings on sheet pan.

To cook the dumplings, heat water in a steamer until you can see steam. If using Alton’s steamer, spray the pie plates with oil. Place the dumplings in the steamer, put the lid on, and cook the dumplings for 10-12 minutes.

Alton recommends serving these dumplings in a bowl of chicken stock. For vegetarians, you could use vegetable broth. I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so served my dumplings in that.

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Alton’s vegetarian steamed dumplings in chicken stock.

This is another wonderful recipe. In fact, we probably liked these vegetarian dumplings more than the pork potstickers. The filling of the dumplings is spicy and sweet, with occasional punches of fresh ginger and cilantro, and the dumplings look quite pretty when folded in this manner. Serving the dumplings in a bowl of warm stock makes for a delicious meal. Great recipe.

Pear Walnut Wontons

Dessert wontons? Yep, Alton has a recipe for those too. The filling for these wontons starts by combining 1/4 C sugar and 1/4 C water in a saucier. Bring the water and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, or until the sugar has dissolved.

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Sugar and water over medium heat.

Meanwhile, split a vanilla bean and scrape out its seeds.

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Vanilla bean to be scraped.

When the sugar has dissolved in the pan, remove it from the heat and add 1 T orange liqueur and the vanilla bean scrapings. Let the syrup cool.

Next, chop 6 ounces of dried pears and place them in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the pears until they clump together.

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Dried pears pulsed until clumpy.

Add the cooled sugar syrup to the pears and pulse until smooth.

Place 1 1/4 ounces toasted and chopped walnuts in a bowl (I toasted mine in a skillet over low heat) and add the pear mixture, stirring to combine.

Place the filling in the refrigerator for an hour or up to overnight. For these wontons, Alton used a different forming method than for the two previous recipes. For these, he placed a wonton wrapper on top of his fist, pressing the center of the wrapper down into the hole of his fist. He brushed on a little bit of water and filled the little indentation with filling. He then crimped the edges around the ball of filling, pushing out the air and forming a little octopus shape (at least, that’s what it looked like to me).  Okay, so this method of filling just didn’t work for me, though the little octopus-like dumplings were cute in the episode. I found that the filling leaked all over, the wrappers tore, and it was impossible to put much filling into the wrapper with this method. I gave up after throwing away several wrappers, and opted to fold my wontons as in the vegetarian dumpling recipe above.

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Attempting to fold wontons Alton’s way.

So, instead, I placed a wrapper so it was a diamond in front of me and placed a melon baller of filling in the center. I brushed all four edges of the wrapper with water and brought the opposite corners together, pinching the seams and pressing out any air bubbles. As with the other recipes, be sure to keep your empty wonton wrappers in moist paper towels as you fill, and place filled wontons on a baking sheet covered with a damp towel.

I chose to freeze a bunch of these right away since we only planned to eat a few, so I placed the sheet pan of wontons directly in the freezer. These babies get fried; afterall, it is dessert! To fry these wontons, heat 1/2 gallon of vegetable or peanut oil to 360 degrees.

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Oil heating to 360.

Add eight wontons to the hot oil, cooking them for two minutes, or until golden. Transfer the fried wontons to a rack over a sheet pan to drain and cool.

Alton recommends serving these guys with ice cream.

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Fried wontons with ice cream.

We had these for dessert last night, and they were a really fun dessert to have. The wonton wrappers were golden brown and crispy, while the still-warm filling was reminiscent of warm fruit pie filling. The walnuts gave the filling a little bit of texture. The filling is not overly sweet, so these really do pair well with the sweetness of ice cream. I plan to fry up some more of these for dessert over the weekend.

I watched the first episode of Good Eats: Reloaded, which aired Monday. I wasn’t sure what I would think of Alton revamping his classic episodes, as I felt that he might be diminishing the integrity of his original work. That being said, I feel that Alton did a good job of intertwining new techniques/technology with his original content. Plus, he’s only reloading a small number of episodes – those which he feels need to be revisited and improved upon. How can I argue with that when it is his body of work?

Certain Good Eats episodes are about food topics I am super excited to get in the kitchen and make. Episode 108 was all about doughnuts, a food item I had never before made, but that had always been on my list. Once again, this project gave me the incentive to get in the kitchen and scratch another food off my to-do list.

Yeast Doughnuts

Alton’s doughnut recipe is for yeast doughnuts, which are much lighter than their cake counterparts. Yeast doughnuts are obviously leavened with yeast, while cake doughnuts are leavened with baking powder. While yeast doughnuts are light and airy, cake doughnuts tend to be heavier and more dense, and I happen to think both are fantastic. The first step for Alton’s doughnuts is to put 2 1/2 ounces shortening in a bowl and heat 1 1/2 C milk until the milk is just hot enough to melt the shortening (I heated my milk in the microwave). Once hot, pour the milk over the shortening and set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle two packages of instant yeast over 1/3 C warm water and set this aside while you gather the other ingredients.

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Yeast sprinkled in warm water.

You will also need 2 eggs, 1/4 C sugar, 1 t fresh nutmeg, 1 1/2 t salt, 1-1 1/2 gallons vegetable or peanut oil, and 23 ounces flour.

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Ingredients for doughnuts: yeast, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, flour, and milk.

Next, pour the yeast and shortening mixtures into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the eggs, salt, nutmeg, sugar, and half of the flour.

Stir the dough on low speed with the paddle attachment. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly.

Next, add the rest of the flour, mixing at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly again.

Now it is time to knead the dough, so replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Let the hook knead the dough on medium speed until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic, and let it sit for an hour, or until doubled.

When the dough has risen, sprinkle flour liberally on a smooth surface and turn the dough out onto the flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour also.

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Dough turned out onto floured surface, and liberally dusted with flour.

Fold the dough in quarters a couple times, pressing out any gas bubbles with each fold.

Next, use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 3/8″ thick; the dough will be quite sticky, so you may need to consistently dust it with flour.

Cut the dough into doughnuts using either a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter, or, as Alton prefers, a 2 1/2 inch pastry ring for the outsides and a 7/8″ pastry ring for the centers.

Transfer the doughnuts to a floured sheet pan, cover them with a tea towel, and let them rise for 30 minutes (this is called “bench proofing”).

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Doughnuts transferred to floured baking sheet to proof.

You can set excess dough aside, covered, for an hour and re-roll/cut more doughnuts. I ended up with a total of 25 doughnuts. Once proofed, heat the vegetable or peanut oil in a Dutch oven until it reaches 365 degrees.

Add doughnuts to the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding them. Cook the doughnuts for one minute per side, transferring them to a rack over a sheet pan to drain/cool. Tip:  use chopsticks or skewers to flip and transfer the doughnuts.

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Doughnuts frying for 1 minute per side.

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Alton’s yeast doughnuts.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing with one, or both, of the recipes below. I did have to sample an unglazed doughnut, and I can report that it was lightly crispy on the outside and super airy on the inside. The dough was just lightly sweet with a hint of nutmeg. Now, on to those glazes…

Doughnut Glaze

Alton’s first doughnut glaze recipe is super simple, coming together in just a few minutes. Combine 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

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Milk and vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

In the episode Alton specified that you want the milk to reach 150 degrees, but I just heated it until it was pretty warm. Once warm, whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar until smooth.

Remove the glaze from the heat and dip the doughnuts into the warm glaze.

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Alton’s glaze.

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Glazed doughnuts.

If you are glazing a lot of doughnuts, you may need keep the glaze warm by setting it over a bowl of warm water, but I did not need to do that. Let the glaze set up for a few minutes before eating. This glaze is great, giving the doughnuts a sweet vanilla flavor and a pretty sheen.

Chocolate Doughnut Glaze

If you happen to be a chocolate fan, Alton has you covered with his chocolate doughnut glaze. The chocolate glaze begins in the same way as the original doughnut glaze, combining 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

Heat the milk until warm and whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar.

Once the sugar is incorporated, add an additional teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 C butter cut in pats, 1 T corn syrup, and 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.

When half of the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the glaze is smooth.

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Glaze stirred until smooth.

Dip the doughnuts into the glaze, allowing it to set before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate glaze.

This glaze is also quite outstanding and results in super pretty doughnuts. The glaze sets up, but is still smooth and creamy. It gives the doughnuts a punch of chocolate flavor, though you can still taste the flavor of the doughnuts themselves.

IMG_9697IMG_9703I really enjoyed this episode, and doughnuts will be made in my kitchen again. They really are quite easy and much better than what you can buy at the store. Personally, I think I liked the vanilla glaze more than the chocolate one, but I really liked both. I gave some doughnuts away and also froze some for later glazing. I think I know what we’ll be eating for breakfast Saturday!

 

Alton Brown fans probably know that he is going to back on our TVs starting Monday. He is going to revisit Good Eats, revamping the old recipes he is unhappy with, and adding new methods, techniques, and information. I am anxious to see which recipes he chooses to alter, as there have certainly been some less than perfect recipes along the way. Of course, there have also been some fantastic recipes that have become mainstays in our house. Now, back to my personal assessments of Alton’s original Good Eats.

Beef Paillard

Alton’s beef paillard calls for a good cut of meat, namely beef tenderloin. To serve four people, he calls for a pound of beef. Since it was just the two of us, I had the butcher cut us a couple steaks from the tenderloin, rather than buying a larger cut of tenderloin. Prior to cooking, place your meat in the freezer for two to three hours, as this will make it easier to cut thin slices. When your meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer and slice it into thin slices; Alton used an electric knife for this, but I used a sharp chef’s knife.

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Beef tenderloin, after freezing for two hours.

Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, spritzing the beef and the plastic with water (this decreases friction and prevents tearing of the meat and plastic). Pound the meat until it is very thin – probably about 1/8-inch thick.

When all of your meat slices have been pounded, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

While the skillet heats, brush both sides of the meat slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with pepper and Kosher salt.

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Paillards of beef tenderloin, brushed with vegetable oil and seasoned with pepper and Kosher salt.

Once the skillet is hot, invert the pan and brush the back of the skillet with vegetable oil. Place the beef paillards on the inverted skillet and they should begin sizzling immediately. Alton said his beef took about 10 seconds per side, but I would say that mine took about 30 seconds per side. I would err on the side of caution here, as you really do not want to overcook the beef.

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Inverted cast iron skillet.

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Paillards added to oiled skillet.

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Paillards, flipped after cooking on one side.

Transfer the beef slices to plates, drizzle them with olive oil, and garnish them with some capers, shaved Parmesan, and greens.

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Alton’s beef paillards with olive oil, capers, greens, and shaved Parmesan.

With this recipe, my biggest concern was that I would overcook my beef, but it turned out perfectly. The meat was amazingly tender and seemed to melt in your mouth. And, Alton’s garnishes of olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and greens were spot-on, complimenting the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. The salty nuttiness of the Parmesan, along with the tang of the capers was just perfect with the fruitiness of the olive oil. The best part of this recipe is that it is worthy of a special occasion, yet you can put it together in a very short period of time. This is a recipe that, in my opinion, needs no revamping.

Turkey Piccata

While I had previously eaten chicken piccata (piccata means “sharp”), I had never before had a version with turkey. Alton’s recipe calls for a whole turkey breast, which, surprisingly, was just impossible for me to find. I had to settle for some pre-sliced turkey breast, as that was all I could find after going to numerous stores. If you are able to find a whole turkey breast, slice it into half-inch slices. Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap, spritz them with water, and pound them until they are twice their original size.

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Slice of turkey placed between sheets of plastic wrap.

Season the top sides of your pounded slices of turkey with Kosher salt and pepper, and place them, seasoned sides down, in a pie plate of flour. Season the second sides of your slices of turkey and coat them also with flour, shaking off any excess.

Next, heat 4 T unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

When the butter has melted, add the floured turkey slices to the pan, cooking them until golden (about two minutes per side).

Move the cooked turkey slices to a foil packet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.

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Cooked turkey transferred to foil packet.

To the pan in which you cooked your turkey, add 2 T chopped shallots, cooking for about a minute.

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Shallots added to the pan.

Add 1/2 C white wine and 1/3 C fresh lemon juice to the pan, allowing it to simmer for two to three minutes.

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Wine and lemon juice added to the pan.

Finally, whisk 2 T butter into the sauce.

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Butter, stirred into the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the warm turkey slices, garnishing with parsley, capers, and peppercorns, if desired.

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Capers added to finish the sauce.

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Turkey piccata.

I had mixed feelings about this recipe because I found the sauce to be tangy and delightful, but my turkey was tough. I see that Alton tells you to cook the turkey for only one minute per side in the online recipe, but he cooked his turkey for two minutes per side in the episode, which seemed to be too long. I also think my turkey piccata would likely have been better if I could have found a whole turkey breast and sliced it just prior to cooking. I’m tempted to give this one another try because the sauce was smooth, buttery, and full of lemon tang. I would recommend opting for chicken if a whole turkey breast is unavailable.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is something I remember my mom making once or twice. She viewed it as a special occasion dish, as her mother served it to her father’s business clients who came to dinner. Chicken Kiev is actually of French, rather than Russian, origin, but was brought to Russia by the French in the 18th century. I remember my mom sometimes being frustrated with her Chicken Kiev because the filling would leak out during cooking. Having never made it before, I was hoping Alton’s recipe would keep my filling intact. This is a recipe that you will want to start at least two hours prior to serving, or even the night prior. The first step of this recipe is making a compound butter by combining a stick of softened unsalted butter, 1 t dried parsley (I used fresh, so I used twice as much), 1 t dried tarragon, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper in a stand mixer.

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Butter, parsley, dried tarragon, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Place the compound butter on wax paper, roll it into a log, and place it in the refrigerator to firm.

After the butter has firmed up, place a chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap, spritzing the chicken and plastic with water.

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Chicken breast in spritzed plastic.

Pound the chicken until it is thin enough to roll. Chicken breasts are fairly thick, so it is tedious to get the chicken thin. Place a couple slices of compound butter in the center of the pounded chicken, along with 1 T panko bread crumbs.

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Pounded chicken topped with compound butter and panko bread crumbs.

Roll the chicken over the butter and bread crumbs by folding the longest edge of chicken over the filling and then folding in the ends. Continue rolling the chicken, using the plastic to help you roll and keeping the ends tucked inside. Wrap the rolled chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

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Rolled chicken.

When ready to cook your chicken, roll the chicken in a pie plate containing two eggs beaten with 1 t water.

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Chilled chicken being rolled in egg wash.

Next, roll the chicken in a plate of panko bread crumbs.

Put a half-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it to 375 degrees. Once hot, add the breaded chicken rolls to the pan, cooking for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a rack, letting it rest for five minutes.

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Chicken resting after cooking.

I found that my chicken took considerably longer than 10 minutes to reach 165 degrees inside. You do get some carryover cooking, so I think it is best to pull the chicken from the oil when the internal temperature hits 158-160. Otherwise, your chicken may be slightly overcooked by the time you cut into it.

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Alton’s Chicken Kiev.

We were pretty happy with Alton’s Chicken Kiev. His method for rolling the chicken worked well, and kept the filling intact for the most part (my one roll split a little bit). It is easier to roll the chicken if you get it really thin, so try to get it as thin as possible before filling/rolling. Also, don’t skimp on the chilling time for the rolled chicken, as the chicken really needs that time to maintain its shape. The panko bread crumbs gave Alton’s chicken a really great crispy crust, and the filling of the chicken had lots of anise-like flavor from the tarragon. I do wish that the compound butter would have melted a bit more, though. I just wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way to 165, as my chicken was just a tad overcooked. My mom can’t really cook anymore because of her Parkinson’s, but I think she likely would have adopted Alton’s Chicken Kiev recipe as her go-to.

For one of my parents’ first dates, my dad took my mom out to dinner. My dad ordered oysters on the half shell as an appetizer for the two Marylanders to share. It turned out that my mom had never before eaten a raw oyster, but, wanting to impress her date, she feigned experience and got them down. If you think about it, perhaps, in a small way, oysters contributed to my very existence.

I never tried a raw oyster myself until 2015 when we took a trip to New Orleans between Ted’s chemo/radiation and subsequent surgery. We headed to a nice restaurant for happy hour and ordered a dozen oysters to go with our cocktails. Our waitress suggested that we try our first oysters on Saltine crackers, along with some cocktail or mignonette sauce, and her tips led to us ordering an additional dozen.

Horseradish Cream Sauce

Apparently, Alton likes to eat his oysters at home with a horseradish cream sauce. This sauce should be made several hours before you will be eating your oysters.

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Ingredients for horseradish sauce: horseradish root, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, white wine vinegar, pepper, and sour cream.

When serving oysters at home, plan for six large, or eight to ten small, oysters per person as an appetizer. Store oysters flat in the refrigerator with damp cloths between layers, and do not keep them for any longer than a week (preferably only a day or two). Shucking oysters can be a bit tricky, so it’s helpful to watch some videos. Alton’s tips are to hold the round side of the oyster down, insert the knife at the hinge, and give the knife a little twist. Oh, and don’t forget to cut under the oyster once you have the shell open.

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Oysters, ready to be shucked.

Now, back to the sauce. Grate 1/4 C of peeled horseradish root into a bowl, using a microplane. Add 1 t white wine vinegar, 1/4 t pepper, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1 T Dijon mustard, and 1 C sour cream.

Whisk the sauce until combined, and refrigerate until use.

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Horseradish cream sauce.

The sauce will get less intense with time. I served this sauce with some fresh oysters on the half shell, and I really liked its subtle heat.

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Horseradish cream sauce served with shucked oysters.

If you are looking for a horseradish sauce that really burns your nose, this isn’t it. Of course, you could always add some additional horseradish to make it spicier. This sauce would also pair beautifully with red meat, as it would not overpower the flavor of the meat. This is a really well-balanced, delicious sauce.

Baked Oysters Brownefeller

If you are an oyster newbie, you may find a baked preparation like Alton’s version of Oysters Rockefeller to be less intimidating. Still, though, you will need to get some raw oysters and shuck them. The oysters I ended up with were Pacific oysters, I believe, and they were humongous! I would opt for smaller oysters next time. For Alton’s baked oysters, melt 6 T of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-low.

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Unsalted butter in a large skillet.

Once melted, add 3/4 C chopped onion, 3/4 C chopped celery, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Increase the heat to medium and cook the vegetables for about five minutes.

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Celery, onion, and Kosher salt added to butter.

Add 1 T minced garlic and cook for about a minute.

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Garlic mixed in.

Next, add a 14 oz can of artichoke hearts drained/chopped, 1 C Panko breadcrumbs, 2 t lemon zest, 1/2 t pepper, 1 t dry oregano, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir this mixture until the butter has been absorbed by the breadcrumbs, and then cook for another minute.

Spread 4 C of rock salt on a rimmed baking sheet, and nest 24 shucked oysters in the salt (I did fewer oysters since there were only two of us). Evenly distribute the Panko mixture to cover the oysters.

Bake the oysters at 425 for 10-12 minutes, or until the topping is golden.

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Oysters into the oven.

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Oysters Brownefeller.

I wanted to like this more than I did, but I don’t think I can blame all of that on Alton’s recipe. The biggest problem I had with this recipe came down to my oysters themselves. My market ordered oysters for me, and said they would get what was available, which meant I had no choice in what they received. My oysters were honestly just too big, which made them very difficult to eat along with all of the topping. Oysters are supposed to be a one-bite experience, which was just impossible with mine. The flavor of the topping was nice, but the topping did not crisp up as much as I hoped it would. Again, though, I wonder if this was  because my oysters were so large that they contributed a lot of moisture to the topping. I imagine that this recipe could be quite successful with small oysters, so I would encourage oyster lovers to give this a try with better oysters.

Oyster Soup

Alton’s final oyster recipe is for an oyster soup. This recipe is a little easier because you can use pre-shucked oysters in a jar. When buying them, be sure they are in clear liquid, as cloudy liquid can be a red flag.

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Jarred oysters.

There really are only a few ingredients in this simple soup, which begins by draining the liquid from a pint of jarred oysters into a saucepan containing a quart of heavy cream.

Heat the cream and oyster liquor, avoiding bringing it above a simmer. Meanwhile, melt 1 T unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add two ribs of chopped celery and a large pinch of Kosher salt.

Add a chopped onion to the skillet and cook for a few minutes.

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Onion added to the pan.

Next, add the drained oysters to the pan, along with 1 t celery seed and 1 1/2 t hot sauce. Cook the oysters just until they plump up and curl at the edges.

Place the oyster mixture in the carafe of a blender, along with enough of the warm cream to cover the oysters. Blend the oysters until smooth.

Return the remaining cream to medium heat and add the oyster puree, stirring to combine.

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Oyster puree added back to remaining warm cream.

Serve the soup with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley, chives, or chervil.

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Bowl of oyster soup with lemon and parsley.

This soup had subtle briny flavor of the ocean balanced with the richness of cream, and if it had been placed in front of me I probably would have guessed it was a smooth clam chowder. I don’t think I would have ever been able to identify that oysters were the main ingredient in this soup. With the heavy cream base of this soup, I was afraid the soup would be super rich, but it was light enough that I had no trouble eating a whole bowl of it. This is a good recipe for those who like clam chowder but want to try something a little bit different.

This episode of Good Eats is all about sauces and their power to take a dish to new levels. Alton gives some basic tips about thickening sauces and soups, stating that his preferred thickener is arrowroot starch. If you need to thicken a hot soup or sauce, first dissolve arrowroot starch in cold liquid (such as broth), and add the cold liquid to your warm sauce/soup. A good starting amount of starch is one tablespoon of starch per cup of liquid you wish to thicken. I always try to stash these sorts of tips in the library in the back of my brain!

Strip Steak with Pepper Cream Sauce

A pepper cream sauce is first in this episode, and Alton serves this sauce over strip steaks. In the episode he does not show how he cooks the steaks, but it is stated that the steak recipe accompanies the sauce recipe online. I cooked my steaks per the online recipe, and kept them warm in the oven while I made the sauce.

For the sauce, you will need beef broth, cognac, green peppercorns (these come in a brine and can be found near capers in the store), and cream.

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Ingredients for pepper cream sauce: beef broth, green peppercorns, cognac, and cream.

The first step of this sauce is deglazing the pan in which the steaks were cooked, which is done by adding 3/4 C of beef broth to the pan and scraping up any browned bits in the pan.

Let the broth reduce for a few minutes over high heat. Next, add 3 T cognac to the pan (this is about one miniature bottle), along with 1 T green peppercorns, drained and lightly crushed. Follow the peppercorns up with 3/4 C cream.

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Cognac, green peppercorns, and cream stirred into broth.

Let the sauce reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

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Reducing the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over your cooked steaks and enjoy!

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Strip steak with pepper cream sauce.

This is sauce is really quite delicious. It is indulgent without being heavy, and the spice from the green peppercorns is excellent with meat. The cognac gives the sauce a sweet, fruity character and the cream makes the sauce rich and smooth. You could pair this sauce with any meat, really. I would be quite happy to be served this sauce in a high-end steakhouse. The next time you serve steak, whip up a batch of this sauce to kick your steak game up a notch.

Hollandaise

Hollandaise sauce was something my mom made fairly regularly, usually serving it over asparagus or broccoli. While I knew Hollandaise could be a bit finicky, my mom did not solely reserve her Hollandaise efforts for holidays. We are so fortunate to have a mom who was such a good cook, and who served us things like Hollandaise! I have only made Hollandaise a couple of times myself, and making Alton’s recipe made me realize it is something to make more regularly. For Alton’s Hollandaise, you will need a heavy saucepan with about an inch of water, and a mixing bowl that comfortably nests on top of the saucepan. I’m sure a double boiler would also work. Begin by bringing the water in the saucepan to a simmer.

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Simmering water.

While the water heats, place three egg yolks and 1 t water in the bowl and whisk – do this off of the heat. Whisk the yolks until they are lighter in color, which will take a minute or two.

Add 1/4 t sugar to the yolks and whisk for another 30 seconds.

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Sugar added to yolks.

Place the yolks over the simmering water and whisk them continuously for three to five minutes, or until they thicken, lighten in color, and fall from the whisk in a ribbon.

At this point, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in 12 T unsalted butter, one tablespoon at a time; you will need to place the bowl back over the simmering water occasionally to melt the butter.

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Sauce after adding all butter.

When all of the butter has been incorporated, add 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 t lemon juice, and 1/8 t cayenne pepper.

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Kosher salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper added to sauce.

Serve the Hollandaise immediately, or store in a thermos until you are ready to use it. I served my Hollandaise for dinner over Eggs Benedict and steamed asparagus.

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Alton’s Hollandaise, served over asparagus and Eggs Benedict.

First off, we should all eat Eggs Benedict for dinner more often! Alton’s version of Hollandaise seems pretty foolproof to me, and is rich, creamy, and buttery. My only complaint about his Hollandaise is that I prefer my Hollandaise to have a bit more lemon. Otherwise, his Hollandaise hits all the marks of this classic sauce.

My back has been bothering me for the last six days, so I haven’t been able to be as active as I like to be. Though it is a nice, albeit smoky, summer day, I find myself rather confined because of my darn back. Seems like a good time to write a blog post.

Banana Ice Cream

I can honestly say that I like all fruit I have tried. That being said, bananas are definitely lower on my favorite fruits list. Alton, of course, came up with some recipes to showcase bananas, starting with his banana ice cream. You will need 2 1/4 pounds of bananas for this recipe, and you will need to place them in the freezer (still in their peels) overnight.

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2 1/4 pounds of bananas

The online recipe tells you to remove the bananas from the freezer and let them thaw for about an hour. In the episode, however, Alton instructed to let the bananas thaw completely, which took five hours for my bananas.

You freeze and thaw the bananas to get a mushy texture, which is desirable for making this ice cream; basically, the bananas will replace the eggs that are in a custard-based ice cream. Once the bananas are thawed, peel them and place them in a food processor. Add 1 T fresh lemon juice to the bananas and process them; the lemon juice will prevent browning.

Add 3/4 C light corn syrup to the processor, along with either 1/2 t vanilla extract or, preferably, the scrapings from one vanilla bean.

With the machine running, drizzle in 1 1/2 C heavy cream.

Chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator until it reaches 40 degrees.

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Banana ice cream base, ready to be chilled.

Once chilled, process the banana base in an ice cream maker.

Freeze the ice cream, airtight, for 3-6 hours before eating.

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Churned ice cream, heading to the freezer for several hours.

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Alton’s banana ice cream.

This is one of the easiest ice creams you will ever make, as there is no cooking of custard, etc. The texture of this ice cream really does seem similar to that of a custard-based ice cream, as the bananas give quite a smooth, rich mouthfeel. And, if you want banana flavor, this is loaded with it. Being kind of “meh” about bananas, we enjoyed this, but I think true banana lovers would find this amazing. This is a cold and easy summer treat.

Bananas Foster

I remember going to some fancy restaurant as a kid, and my brother and I ordered bananas foster for dessert. Prepared table-side with lots of flair, we were awed by the flames enveloping our dessert. I don’t think I had eaten bananas foster since that time, and Ted had never had it, so it seemed like it would be fun to give it a go at home. I don’t have the greatest track record with flames, such as when my fish and chips caught on fire in episode 22, but I figured I’d give it a whirl. For this recipe, you will need two bananas, 2 T unsalted butter, 1/4 C dark brown sugar, 1/4 t ground allspice, 1/2 t ground nutmeg, 1 T banana liqueur (I got a miniature), 1/2 t orange zest, and 1/4-1/3 C dark rum.

Alton prepared his bananas foster on a table-side burner, but I opted to make mine on the stove. Either way, place a large, heavy skillet on the burner over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, slice two bananas lengthwise in half, leaving their peels on to prevent browning. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the brown sugar and spices.

Stir this mixture into a syrup and add the banana liqueur.

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Banana liqueur added to syrup.

Remove the bananas’ peels and place them, cut side down, in the pan for one minute.

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Bananas added to the pan.

Flip the bananas and cook them for another minute. Some of the bananas may break, but they will still taste great.

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Bananas flipped after one minute.

Using two forks, transfer the bananas to a plate.

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Bananas, transferred to a plate.

Allow the sauce to return to a simmer and then turn off the heat.

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Sauce returning to a simmer.

Add the rum to the pan, swirl it around, and ignite it with a long-handled lighter.

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Rum added to pan and ignited with burner OFF.

Continue to swirl the pan until the flames extinguish.

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Swirling the pan until the flames go out.

Cook the sauce for 30 more seconds and stir in the orange zest.

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Orange zest added to sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the bananas and add some vanilla ice cream. Or, you can serve your bananas foster over waffles

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Alton’s bananas foster with vanilla ice cream.

. I have to admit that this was a really fun one to make, as my flames were at least a foot high! If you were bold enough to try this around kids, they would be super impressed, as I was when I saw it years ago. Yes, there is some alcohol in this dessert, but most of it cooks out (hello, flames!). In addition to the fun flair (or should I say flare?) of this dessert, it is also super tasty. The bananas get tender and caramelized with spices and brown sugar, and then you pour over the warm, buttery, rum-flavored sauce. Add in some cold vanilla ice cream and it’s a pretty fantastic combo.

Fried Plantains

The only plantains I’ve really had have been in chip form from a grocery store, so I was eager to cook with this ingredient for the first time. Our chain grocery store did not have plantains, but a local, smaller market did.

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Two plantains.

To make Alton’s fried plantains, you will need the following items:

  1. a rack over a sheet pan

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    Rack over sheet pan.

  2. a wide skillet with 1 1/2 C vegetable or canola oil at 325 degrees

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    Oil heated to 325.

  3. an inverted sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper on it
  4. a wooden/plastic spatula

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    Inverted sheet pan with parchment, and a spatula.

  5. a medium bowl with 2 C water, 1 t Kosher salt, and 3 crushed cloves of garlic

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    Bowl of water with Kosher salt and garlic.

  6. a tea towel or a pad of paper towels for blotting
  7. 2 plantains, peeled (you may need to score the peels with a knife) and cut into 1-inch medallions

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    Plantains, peeled and cut into medallions.

The first step is to place the plantain medallions into the oil for 1 1/2 minutes. Flip the plantains and cook them for 1 1/2 minutes more. You want the plantains to be golden on both sides.

Decrease the heat under the oil and transfer the plantains to the parchment paper on the inverted sheet pan.

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Plantains transferred to parchment.

Use your spatula to smash each plantain medallion to about half of it’s original height.

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Smashed plantains.

Next, place the smashed plantains in the bowl of water with the garlic and salt for at least a minute. Alton never really specified why you place the plantains in the water, but I’m assuming it is to remove starch and impart flavor.

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Smashed plantains, placed in water.

After their soak, move the plantains to towels to dry.

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Soaked plantains drying on paper towels.

While the plantains dry, increase the heat under the oil, bringing it back up to ~325 degrees. Once at temperature, fry the plantains again for 2-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

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Plantains back in hot oil for second frying.

Transfer the fried plantains to the rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt while they are still hot.

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Fried plantains on rack. Seasoned with Kosher salt.

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Fried plantains

We ate these for lunch one day and they were great. They are reminiscent of french fries, yet with slightly sweeter flavor. They are golden and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You could really pair them with any condiment you like. I ate mine with some hot sauce, which I thought was great with the subtle sweetness of the plantains. I really liked how Alton had you prep everything in advance for this recipe, as it made the frying process super easy. I highly recommend making these, and they’d make a great side for any burger or sandwich.

Unintentionally, I’ve gotten a bit behind on this blog lately. It’s time to get back in the swing of things, and get back to making more of Alton’s good eats. Summer heat has hit us lately, so I have been making lots of light dishes (like gazpacho and summer rolls) that do not require turning on the oven. After episode 104, I will officially have finished cooking my way through seven seasons of Good Eats, which will put me at the half-way point of this project; I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there!

French Toast

Alton’s version of French toast begins the night before you plan to have it for breakfast. Prior to bed, set out eight slices of bread, sliced 1/2″ thick; this will allow the bread to dry out overnight.

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Eight slices of bread, set out overnight.

Before bed you will also make the custard by combining 1 C half-and-half, 2 T warm honey, 1/4 t Kosher salt, and 3 eggs. Set the custard in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 and pour the custard into a pie or cake pan.

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Chilled custard poured into pie plate.

Place two slices of the air-dried bread into the custard, soaking them for 30 seconds on each side.

Transfer the soaked slices of bread to a rack over a sheet pan, letting them sit for at least two minutes; Alton says this step is key, as it allows the custard to fully penetrate the bread, and any excess custard can drip away.

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Soaked bread draining on a rack over a sheet pan.

Next, preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Ideally, you want your skillet to be at 350 degrees for cooking, which I was able to check with an infrared thermometer. If you do not have an infrared thermometer, you can test your skillet with some butter; if it foams when you add it to the skillet, it is ready.

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Skillet preheated to ~350.

Once your skillet is hot, butter the skillet and add your two soaked bread slices, allowing them to cook until golden brown on both sides.

While your toast cooks, repeat the soaking/draining steps with two more slices of bread. Transfer the cooked toast to your rack over a sheet pan. Continue soaking, draining, and cooking until all of your toast has been cooked. Finally, place your rack of toast in the oven for five minutes before serving with butter, fruit, syrup, or whatever floats your boat.

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Toast in the oven for 5 minutes.

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French toast with butter and maple syrup.

In the episode, Alton said that the dual cooking method (skillet and oven) results in French toast that is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, and he was right. His French toast is very lightly sweetened and has a richness without being dense. Prepping the custard and bread the night before makes morning prep pretty easy, and finishing the toast in the oven means you can have everyone’s toast ready at the same time – no eating in shifts! Great French toast recipe!

Bruschetta

According to Alton, bruschetta should really only consist of five ingredients:  bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Alton’s recipe begins with slicing a narrow loaf of Italian or French bread on the bias, and about 3/4″ thick. Toast the bread under a broiler for about two minutes per side, or until golden.

While the toast is hot, rub it with a head of garlic that has been cut in half to expose the cloves.

Brush the toast with some good olive oil, and sprinkle on some pepper and coarse salt.

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Bruschetta with soup.

I enjoyed Alton’s bruschetta as a side to a cauliflower soup. Although Alton’s recipe is incredibly simple, it is quite delicious in its simplicity and makes a great side dish. The key with a recipe like this is to use high-quality ingredients. I will caution that this bruschetta packs a big punch of garlic, but I love garlic, so that’s not a problem for me. When I was 15, my mom and I traveled to Atlanta to spectate at the 1996 Olympics. While there, we stayed with a family who shared with us a version of bruschetta they had eaten while in Italy, and that version is still my favorite. For their recipe, you rubbed toasted bread with a raw garlic clove and dipped the bread into good olive oil, followed by grated Parmesan. After that, you topped the bread with a few leaves of fresh basil, a couple thin slices of campari tomato, salt, and pepper. I just like the added freshness from the basil and tomato.

Welsh Rarebit

Although I had heard of Welsh rarebit, I had never eaten it before making it for this episode. Alton made his rarebit in a camp stove by his fireplace, but I made mine on the stove over low heat. Maybe if I were making this recipe in December… Anyway, regardless of your vessel, begin by melting 2 T butter.

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Melting 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, whisk in 2 T flour.

Next, add 1 t Dijon mustard, 1 t Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

Whisk in 1/2 C good dark beer and 3/4 C heavy cream.

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Dark beer for rarebit.

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Dark beer and cream added to pan.

Once combined, gradually add 6 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese, a handful at a time.

When the cheese is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, season the mixture with a few drops of hot sauce, to your taste.

Spoon the sauce over four slices of toasted bread and enjoy (Alton prefers rye bread, but my bakery did not have any).

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Welsh rarebit.

Since I have no other Welsh rarebits to compare this recipe to, I can only say that we liked it, though it isn’t a “pretty” meal. The type and quality of beer you use does matter, as the beer flavor is quite prominent in this dish, and I would like to experiment with some other beers to see which works best. To me, this really is a cold weather meal, as it is heavier comfort-like food. It seems like it would be a great dinner after a day of skiing or sledding. On that note, this would also be an easy camping meal. This recipe makes enough sauce for at least eight slices of toast, so I refrigerated the leftover sauce and reheated it gently on the stove a couple days later. This is another easy, tasty recipe, and it was fun to try a dish that I had only previously heard of.