Archive for the ‘Season 6’ Category

If last episode of Good Eats was all about cake, I suppose it is only fitting that this episode dealt with icing. Alton made the point that store-bought cake mixes are generally quite good, and, in fact, they are sometimes better than the cakes we can make at home. For this reason, a cake mix was used in this episode, and Alton used it to make two round layers. Once his cakes were baked, it was onto the icing.

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One of my two cake mix layers.

Buttercream

First up, Alton made his version of buttercream. To make this recipe, you will need to have 10 ounces of softened butter, so you will need to set your butter out in advance. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C dark corn syrup, bringing this mixture to a boil over high heat. When your sugar syrup has large bubbles, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside for a few minutes.

While the syrup cools, beat 4 eggs with a whisk attachment until they are thick and have lightened in color.

It is ideal to use a metal turkey baster to add the hot syrup to the eggs, as you can drizzle the syrup into the edge of the mixing bowl, avoiding the whisk (the syrup will solidify upon hitting the whisk). You will, however, want to oil your baster first by drawing vegetable oil into the baster, and then pushing it out again. Using your lubed baster, and with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup into the eggs, trying to get it in the space between the bowl and the whisk.

Continue this process until all of the syrup has been added. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and beat until the side of the bowl is warm, but not hot, to the touch; this should take about two minutes.

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Buttercream after adding all of the syrup.

Next, piece by piece, slowly add your softened butter, only adding a new piece of butter when the previous piece has been completely mixed in. Your resulting buttercream should be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to frost a cake. The key word here is “should.” Mine was not. My buttercream had turned into sort of a broken soup at this point.

I attempted to save my buttercream by first heating it on the stove to get the tiny lumps of butter incorporated.

I then tried beating it again, and it was smoother, but it still was not thickening properly.

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Beating the buttercream again.

I decided to try chilling it and beating it again, which resulted in a slightly thicker consistency, but it still was inadequate. My last hope was to try chilling it even longer, but this still did not solve the problem.

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Beating the buttercream after chilling.

After working on this buttercream for a couple hours, I finally pulled the plug. My buttercream tasted fantastic – rich, buttery, and sweet, but it just was too runny. I did use it for a pseudo crumb coat on my cake, but it just did not work well. Oh, and did I mention that while I was having my buttercream fiasco, my dog decided to sample my cake? Yep, he took a bite right out of the side.

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Using the buttercream for a crumb coat.

I have successfully made buttercream in the past, using a sugar syrup. The recipes I have had success with in the past have all used a candy thermometer and specific temperatures for the syrup. I wonder if my syrup was not hot enough, or if I did not add it quickly enough. I also wonder if my butter was too soft. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I see that I was not the only person to struggle with this particular recipe. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with this recipe again, as I know that there are other buttercream recipes out there that work, while this one did not for me. When all was said and done, I wound up frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream, which is just not the same.

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Giving in and frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream.

Oh, but if you choose to make this buttercream and it works for you, you do also have the option of adding flavor. For chocolate buttercream, melt 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate, letting it cool for a few minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the finished buttercream. For coffee buttercream, dissolve 1 t of instant espresso in 2 t coffee liqueur. Or, you can add any extract or food coloring of your choosing. Store buttercream in an airtight container with an additional layer of plastic wrap. If you make the buttercream in advance, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it before frosting your cake.

Ganache

For his cake, Alton opted to make a ganache to use as a filling between cake layers. To make the ganache, heat 6 ounces of heavy cream with 3 T corn syrup in a small saucepan.

Add 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

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Chopped dark chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 t vanilla extract.

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Ganache after chocolate was melted and smooth. Adding vanilla off the heat.

Let the ganache cool before using. Spread the ganache between cake layers, using a spatula to spread it almost to the cake edge.

Unlike the buttercream, this ganache recipe was super fast and easy, and it tasted great. I typically use a regular frosting between cake layers, rather than a filling, but I really liked the contrast of dark chocolate between layers. And, if you refrigerate your cake, the ganache becomes fudge-like and dense, adding a level of richness. Oh, and my suggestion if you happen to have leftover ganache is to refrigerate it until set. You can form balls with the firm ganache, rolling them in cocoa powder or powdered sugar to form truffles. Or, you can just eat it with a spoon like I did.

Writing Chocolate

A recipe for writing chocolate was last in this episode. For this one, combine 1 C chocolate chips and 2 t canola oil in a microwave-safe container, stirring to coat the chips with the oil.

Microwave the chocolate for one minute on high. Stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. For decorating, transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a plastic bottle.

This recipe also worked very well and was super easy. It is certainly an easy way to add some writing to a cake. It tastes much better than the artificial writing icing you can buy in the store too.

Cake Assembly

Though not a recipe per se, Alton did go over some of his cake assembly/decorating basics.

  1. He opts for a lazy susan for cake decorating, placing it on top of an upturned cake pan.
  2. To level his cakes, Alton uses two wooden yard pickets, placed on their sides in a V-shape. He places his cake inside the V and slices along the top of the pickets with a bow saw blade.
  3. He also uses the pickets for splitting cake layers, turning them onto their shorter sides. Again, using a bow saw blade, he slices across the top of the pickets, slicing the cake into two layers.
  4. When frosting a cake, place the layers in the following order from base to top:  bottom of cake 1, top of cake 1, top of cake 2, and bottom of cake 2.
  5. When you have the filling between your layers, first frost the cake with a thin crumb coat of icing (about 1/4 of your icing) and refrigerate. This crumb coat will make it easier to apply a smooth layer of icing.
  6. When frosting a cake, apply more icing than you think you need to the top of the cake. Spread the icing, working out to the edges and down the sides. It is always better to remove excess icing than to add more.

Gold Cake

Cake is one of my very favorite desserts, and I would probably choose it over pie most of the time. The star of this episode is a gold cake, which is a relative of the classic pound cake. This recipe uses cake flour because of its low protein content, which results in a cake that is more tender. Alton also explained that he often prefers to use butter-flavored shortening when baking, as he thinks it gives more of a buttery flavor to baked goods than does actual butter. You can swap shortening for butter in any baking recipe, but you will need to make a couple of modifications because shortening is 100% fat, while butter is 20% water. This means that you will need to use 20% less shortening than the amount of butter called for, and you will need to increase the liquid in your recipe by 20%. Now, on to the cake.

Before starting this recipe, weigh the empty bowl of your stand mixer, noting the weight for later. In the stand mixer bowl, beat 140 g of butter-flavored shortening on low for about a minute.

To the beaten shortening, add 300 g sugar and a pinch of Kosher salt, and beat this mixture on medium for at least four or five minutes.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly add 130 g of egg yolks (about 8 yolks).

Once the yolks are incorporated, prepare your remaining wet and dry ingredients. In one vessel, combine 180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla extract.

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180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 350 g of cake flour and 14 g of baking powder.

Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures to the batter by adding half of the flour, half of the milk, the remaining half of the flour, and the last of the milk.

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The final cake batter.

Once you have a smooth batter, again weigh your mixing bowl. Subtract the empty bowl weight you took earlier from the weight of the bowl+batter, and divide this number in half; you now have the weight of batter you should have in each cake pan for baking. Using this number, divide the batter evenly between two greased/floured 9-inch cake pans (my batter weighed 1070 g, so I allotted ~535 g per pan).

Bake the cakes in the top third of a 350-degree oven.

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Cakes in the top 1/3 of a 350-degree oven.

Check the cakes after 12 minutes of baking, rotating them if one cake is browning more than the other. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, which took about 30 minutes for my cakes. Let the cakes cool in their pans (on racks) for 10-15 minutes.

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Cakes after baking until a toothpick came out clean – about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from their pans and let them cool completely.

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Cake removed from pan.

Now, you could eat these cakes plain, or with whipped cream and fruit, but I did what Alton did and frosted them with his cocoa whipped cream (recipe below).

Cocoa Whipped Cream

To go with his gold cake, Alton made this cocoa whipped cream. You will want to make the cream once your cakes are completely cool. While your cakes finish cooling, chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer by placing them in the refrigerator. When the cakes have sufficiently cooled, place 2 T of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 t gelatin over the water’s surface; set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the saucepan over low heat, just until the gelatin has melted.

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Gelatin, heated until just melted.

Meanwhile, in your cold mixing bowl, beat on low 2 C whipping cream, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 C cocoa mix (you could probably use any cocoa mix, but Alton used his Good Eats mix, of which I still had some).

Slowly drizzle the melted gelatin into the cocoa/cream mixture and increase the speed.

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Cocoa mixture after all of the gelatin was added.

Beat the cream until it forms medium peaks.

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The final cocoa cream, beaten until it had medium peaks.

Use the whipped cream to frost Alton’s gold cake, or any other two-layer cake.

We thought Alton’s gold cake and cocoa whipped cream paired nicely together. The cake is a bit of a dry, crumbly cake, but has nice buttery flavor.IMG_6269 The cocoa whipped cream is a nice alternative to traditional frosting, having a light, airy texture and being less sweet than many frostings, but it also necessitates refrigerating your cake.

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A slice of Alton’s gold cake with cocoa whipped cream.

All in all, I would be more likely to make the cocoa whipped cream again over the cake. The cake had good flavor, but was just a bit too dry.

It is always fun in this project when I get to watch an episode of Good Eats that I have not previously seen; episode 80 was one I had definitely not seen before. The premise of this episode is that Alton goes on a local, schlocky morning show to discuss coleslaw. When the other scheduled guest fails to show, Alton becomes the main attraction, continuing on with recipes for other types of slaw. Now, I’ll be honest that I don’t get too overly excited about slaw, but Alton did make some slaws in this episode that looked pretty tasty. So, how did they turn out?

Coleslaw

A classic coleslaw was first in this episode. This recipe requires some forethought because the prep needs to begin a couple hours in advance. Start by combining 1/2 a head of green cabbage, 1/2 a head of red cabbage, and lots of Kosher salt in a colander. Leave the cabbage for a couple hours to drain any excess moisture.

For the dressing, combine 1/2 C buttermilk, 2 fluid oz mayo, 2 fluid oz plain yogurt, and 1 T pickle juice.

Whisk the dressing thoroughly, adding 1 t dry mustard and 1 T chopped chives.

When the cabbage has drained, rinse it very well with cold water and give it a few whirls in a salad spinner.

Add the cabbage to the prepared dressing, along with one sliced carrot, and toss to coat.

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A bowl of Alton’s coleslaw.

This coleslaw was good, but not exciting. I did like how the powdered mustard contributed a slight kick of heat, while the pickle juice added some tang. Otherwise, though, it was really just a classic coleslaw that you could buy in any deli. It would, however, make a nice condiment for a pulled pork sandwich.

Beet Slaw

After watching the episode, I was most excited about Alton’s beet slaw because I love anything with beets… and Asian pears… and goat cheese. Yep, this one appeared to be right up my alley. Before you do anything else in this recipe, you will want to steam a few beets until they are tender (it took about 15 minutes for my beets to be tender).

To make the dressing, combine in a large bowl 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 2 T lemon juice, 2 T honey, 1/4 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

Whisk in 1/4 C olive oil until emulsified.

To the dressing, add 2 C of jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks.

Next, thinly slice 3 C of fennel; this is easiest on a mandolin. Add the fennel to the slaw, along with 1/4 C of grated onion.

Again with the mandolin, if you have one, thinly slice one Asian pear and add it to the mix.

Finally, peel and spiralize your beets until you have 4 C. Add the spiralized beets to the bowl.

Toss all of the vegetables with the dressing and crumble in 6 ounces of goat cheese to finish.

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Goat cheese added to slaw.

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Beet slaw.

I happened to make this slaw when my brother was visiting, and he declared that he really liked this slaw despite not typically liking beets. Ted and I thought this was great also. This recipe is a fantastic marriage of flavors and textures. The jicama, fennel, and Asian pear are light and crispy, while the beets and onion are tender, and the goat cheese adds a lovely creaminess. Flavorwise, the earthy sweetness of the beets was great with the sweet Asian pear, nutty jicama, and spicy onion. The fennel added subtle anise hints. The dressing was tangy with a hint of sweetness, and the goat cheese gave a creamy tartness. All-in-all I was really happy with this one and will make it again. I will say that it is most aesthetically pleasing the day it is made, as the beets turn everything purple as the slaw sits.

Marinated Slaw

I actually started this blog a couple days ago, but am only just now finishing it. As I type, I am sandwiched between our two Coonhounds. Brixie, our beloved little “dogter,” had a rough day today, having a lump removed from her paw that could potentially be malignant. We’re all crossing our fingers and paws that we get a good biopsy report in the next few days. Now, back to the food.

If you are looking for a make-ahead slaw, Alton’s marinated slaw may be the one for you. Essentially, this is a pickled slaw that develops flavor for three days before you eat it. I don’t know about you, but I love anything pickled. For this slaw, grate 1/2 a head of Napa cabbage, and julienne 2 red bell peppers and 2 green bell peppers (I used yellow peppers, instead of green). Alton tells you to drain the vegetables in a colander for two hours, though this is really quite pointless without adding salt to the vegetables, as nothing drains away.

Once your vegetables are prepped, bring to a boil 3/4 C cider vinegar, 1 C sugar, 2 T Kosher salt, 1 t celery seeds, and 1 T mustard seeds; I found that this recipe did not yield enough marinade, so I had to make a second batch of marinade.

Pack your vegetables tightly in a mason jar (as tightly as possible, or they will float to the top), and pour in the hot marinade. Refrigerate the slaw for three days before eating.

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Hot marinade poured over slaw.

I made this slaw before leaving town for a few days, and it was ready just when I returned home.

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Alton’s marinated slaw.

The flavor of this slaw reminds me of bread and butter pickles, as the marinade is both sweet and tangy. The mustard seeds add some great pops of crunch and zest, and the peppers retain a lot of their crispy texture. This is a bright slaw that would be a good addition for a barbecue or picnic, or just as a side dish to dinner.

Asian Slaw

After making a coleslaw, a beet slaw, and a marinated slaw, what other type of slaw could you possibly make? Asian slaw is the final recipe from this episode, and it piqued my interest the most (along with the beet slaw) when I watched the episode. Alton also happened to mention that this Asian slaw is a favorite of his.

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Dressing ingredients: soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and peanut butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 T soy sauce, the juice of a lime, 2 T sesame oil, 1/2 C rice wine vinegar, and 1/2 C peanut butter.

With tongs, add the following items to the dressing, tossing to coat:  2 T minced ginger, 2 minced serrano peppers, 1 shaved carrot (use a vegetable peeler), 1 julienned red bell pepper, 1 julienned yellow bell pepper, 2 T chopped mint, 2 T cilantro, 3 chopped green onions, 1 head of shredded Napa cabbage, and 1/2 t pepper.

Toss everything together until well-coated.

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Asian slaw, tossed to coat.

We both liked this slaw a lot, and it had fantastic Asian flavor from the ginger, sesame oil, lime, and peanut butter.

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Alton’s Asian slaw.

We ate this only as a side dish, but I would like to make it again, taking Alton’s suggestion of serving it as an entree; for a vegetarian entree, this slaw could be served with noodles or tofu, while you could serve it with flank steak for meat lovers. Personally, I can totally picture us eating this with steak as a summer entree on the deck.

Alton did a good job in this episode of demonstrating the diversity within the realm of slaw. Most of us probably see the word “slaw” and think of one thing:  coleslaw. For me, the standouts in this episode were the beet slaw and the Asian slaw.

 

I was super stoked to find that I would be making fresh pasta in the 79th episode of Good Eats. Fresh pasta is just plain delicious. Pass the gluten, please! Last year we took a pasta class, in which we made fresh noodles using a pasta machine, so I felt comfortable with the basics of making pasta dough. I had not, however, ever tried making filled pasta. First up?

Ravioli

When making Alton’s fresh pasta, you need to plan ahead a little bit because your dough will need to rest for at least an hour, and you will want to freeze your pasta prior to cooking. For Alton’s ravioli, place a mound of flour (~3 C) on a clean work surface, making a well in the center. Combine in a measuring cup:  2 eggs, 3 T water, 1/2 t salt, and 1 t olive oil.

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Ready to make fresh pasta – a mound of flour and a mixture of eggs, water, salt, and olive oil.

Pour some of the liquid into the well in the flour, and begin stirring the liquid with two fingers, gradually incorporating some of the surrounding flour; use your other hand to support the “walls” of your flour mound. When you have a paste-like consistency, you can gradually add more of the liquid mixture.

Continue the process of adding liquid and stirring in flour until the liquid is all incorporated and you have a thick paste. Using your hands, knead your dough, adding more flour, until you have a smooth, non-tacky, semi-firm dough. You will likely have a fair amount of excess flour still remaining on your counter. Roll your dough into a ball, cover it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least an hour.

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My finished pasta dough.

While your dough rests in the refrigerator, you can make your filling, which is Alton’s Good Eats meatloaf mix plus 3 T grated Parmesan, 1 T balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 t oregano.

Once your dough has sufficiently rested, cut it in half, setting one piece aside, covered in plastic.

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My dough, after resting in the refrigerator.

Shape the piece of dough you are working with into a candy bar-sized rectangle and sprinkle it with flour, passing it through a pasta machine on the widest setting.

Fold the dough in thirds, turn it 90 degrees, and pass it through again. Follow this procedure one more time, adding flour as needed, so you pass the dough through the widest setting a total of three times.

Continue passing the dough through the machine one time at each progressive setting until your dough has gone through setting #7 (If your pasta machine is like Alton’s, it will have 9 settings. My pasta machine has fewer settings, so I stopped at #4 of 6). Regardless of how many settings your pasta machine has, you want to have a final dough that is almost translucent.

Placing your long sheet of dough on a floured surface, use a teaspoon to place rounded balls of meat filling down the center of the dough sheet, spacing them two inches apart; be sure to place the balls slightly closer to one long edge of the dough, so you have enough dough to fold over the balls.

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Balls of meat filling placed on dough sheet.

In a small bowl, combine an egg and a little bit of water, whisking to combine. Brush this egg wash down the center of the dough right next to the meat balls. Next, brush the egg wash down the outside edge of the dough – only on the side closest to the meat. Finally, brush the egg wash between the meat balls.

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Egg wash painted down the center of the dough, along the left edge, and between the meat balls.

Now you are ready to form your ravioli. Using your fingers, pull the longer side of the dough over the meat filling, using your fingertips to press excess air out around each ball of meat. Press all along the edges to ensure a good seal with the egg wash.

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Excess dough folded over filling, and pressed to remove air bubbles.

Using a pizza cutter, cut between the mounds of filling, forming individual ravioli. Carefully press around the edges of each raviolo, ensuring that there are no leaks.

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Ravioli cut with a pizza wheel.

Place your ravioli on a sheet pan and freeze them for at least three hours.

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Ravioli in the freezer.

Once your ravioli are frozen, you can keep them frozen for later use, or you can cook them. To cook Alton’s ravioli, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, adding a dash of olive oil (to decrease surface area and prevent foaming).

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A pot of salted and oiled water.

Adding about 10 ravioli at a time, cook the pasta packets until they float; since the meat mixture is raw when you fill the ravioli, you may want to test one raviolo to make sure the filling is cooked.

Toss the cooked pasta in oil to prevent them from sticking together. For this pasta, Alton recommends a browned butter sauce with sage.

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Chopped sage for the sauce.

To make this sauce, heat a skillet over medium-high heat, adding a pat of butter.

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A large pat of butter for the sauce.

Let the butter cook until it starts to brown and foam. Add the ravioli, tossing them in the butter until their edges just start to brown.

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Cooked ravioli added to browned butter in skillet.

Finish the sauce by adding some chopped sage and black pepper.

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Sage and pepper added to skillet.

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A bowl of Alton’s meat ravioli with browned butter and sage.

So, how did Alton’s ravioli turn out? I was pretty happy with my first attempt at filled pasta, though my ravioli were certainly not picture perfect. We really enjoyed the tangy meatloaf filling in this pasta, and the texture of the pasta was great – perfectly al dente. When making fresh pasta, I think you really want the pasta to be the star of the show, and Alton’s simple brown butter sauce allowed the ravioli to shine. Making fresh pasta is a fun project and is certainly worth the effort.

Tortellini

Once I had made Alton’s ravioli, it was time to tackle his tortellini. For this recipe, Alton did not use a pasta maker, opting to make the tortellini only by hand, which makes it a bit more time-consuming. The basic dough for Alton’s tortellini is made in the same way as for the ravioli above, using a mound of ~3 C of flour and a mixture of 2 eggs, 3 T water, 1/2 t salt, and 1 t olive oil. The liquid ingredients are gradually added to the flour until a firm paste is achieved, and the resulting dough is kneaded by hand until a smooth, firm dough results.

The dough will need to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour before the tortellini are formed.

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Final dough, to be refrigerated.

While the dough rests, you can make Alton’s cheese filling by combining 1/2 C ricotta cheese, 1/4 C grated Parmesan, 2 T thawed/drained frozen spinach, 1 egg, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

When you are ready to form your pasta, cut your dough into four equal pieces, setting three of the pieces aside while you work with one.

Roll the piece of dough into a long, 1/2-inch thick snake. Using a pastry scraper, cut the snake into inch-long pieces, rolling each piece into a round ball.

Flatten each piece of dough into a disc, dust it with flour, and roll it out with a thin wooden dowel rod (we keep one in our kitchen window track to “lock” the window).

When you have finished rolling your dough, it should be thinner than a nickel. Next, Alton used a biscuit cutter to cut perfect dough circles, but my dough circles were round enough that I did not bother cutting them. The key with tortellini is not to overfill them, so you want to place only 1/4 t of filling in the center of each round.

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Filling placed in the center of the dough.

Brush one side only of each dough round with egg wash (1 egg plus a little bit of water), fold the dough over the filling, and press the edges to seal, forming a half-moon.

To form tortellini, pull the two pointed edges together below the filling, pinching them; if needed, add a little egg wash to keep the ends together.

Freeze the tortellini for three hours before cooking in salted/oiled water until they float.

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Formed tortellini in the freezer.

Alton did not recommend a particular sauce for his tortellini, so I served mine with a delicate tomato cream sauce with fresh basil.

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Alton’s tortellini with a tomato cream sauce.

We thought these were fantastic. The cheesy filling was light, the pasta had a great texture with just a little “bite,” and the light tomato sauce didn’t overwhelm the delicate filling of the pasta. Also, my tortellini were a little more aesthetically pleasing than my ravioli. Plus, hand forming each one of these babies made me appreciate them a little bit more! Both the recipes in this episode worked fantastically for my maiden voyage into fresh stuffed pasta, and I recommend them both highly.

 

Broccoli Casserole

The 78th episode of Good Eats is all about America’s potluck favorite:  the casserole. According to Alton, casseroles are either bound, layered, or scooped. The first casserole in this episode is a broccoli casserole, which is a bound casserole. This recipe begins with boiling a large pot of water and prepping 6 C of broccoli; you can use the florets, along with the stems, which you can peel and quarter.

Add a few pinches of Kosher salt to the boiling water and cook the broccoli for one minute, before placing it in ice water. This blanching process will help to preserve the broccoli’s green color.

Next, heat a large skillet with a pat of butter, adding 12 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they are browned and tender, remove the pan from the heat, and add the cooled broccoli.

To the broccoli/mushroom mixture, add 1/2 C mayo, 1/2 C yogurt, 1/3 C blue cheese dressing, 2 eggs, a rounded 1/2 C of shredded Cheddar cheese, a package of crumbled Ramen noodles, and the flavor packet from a package of Ramen.

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Spray a lidded casserole dish with non-stick spray (you want the smallest dish possible that will hold your casserole) and add your broccoli mixture.

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Broccoli mixture placed in greased casserole dish.

Sprinkle the top of the casserole with black pepper and another rounded 1/2 C of shredded Cheddar.

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Shredded Cheddar and black pepper on top of casserole.

Bake the casserole, covered, at 350 for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the casserole lid and let the casserole continue to cook until the cheese forms a nice crust on top.

Cool the casserole for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Alton’s broccoli casserole.

Of the recipes in this episode, this was the one I was most enthusiastic about because I happen to really love broccoli. We both thought this was good, though not super exciting. Really, though, isn’t that just the way of the casserole? The blue cheese flavor was more apparent than I thought it would be, which paired well with the broccoli. The broccoli maintained its texture and color, and the Ramen noodles bound the casserole together nicely. This is a good weeknight recipe for an easy dinner, and it does leave you with leftovers.

Curry Chicken Pot Pie

Alton’s version of chicken pot pie, a scooped casserole, is next up in the casserole episode, and it starts with sweating 1 C each of sliced celery and chopped onion in canola oil with a pinch of Kosher salt.

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Celery and onion, sweating in canola oil with Kosher salt.

While your vegetables are sweating, roast 4 C of frozen vegetable mix in the oven until golden (I roasted my vegetables at 400 degrees).

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Frozen vegetable blend, to be roasted.

Once the vegetables are softened, move them to the edges of the pan and add 2 T butter, 3 T flour, and 1 t curry powder to the center of the pan.

Cook and stir until the mixture is smooth. Whisk into the pan 1 1/2 C chicken stock and 1/2 C milk that have been heated in the microwave until nearly boiling.

Bring this mixture to a boil and add the roasted vegetables.

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Roasted vegetables added to pan.

Stir in 2 C of cooked shredded chicken.

Place the chicken mixture into a foil-lined terra cotta dish; I used the base of my glazed tagine, so did not bother with lining it.

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Pot pie mixture placed in terra cotta dish.

Place a thawed piece of puff pastry on a floured surface (you can see details of how to thaw puff pastry here), patting its seams. Lightly roll the pastry with a rolling pin to smooth it out, and perforate it with a fork. Using a biscuit cutter, cut 10-12 circles, and place the rounds 1/2″ apart on top of the casserole.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, at 350 for 45 minutes. Cool before serving.

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Alton’s chicken pot pie.

Quite frankly, this pot pie was disappointing. My pastry didn’t puff, which was likely my fault for using older puff pastry. But, more than that, the base of the pot pie was just “meh.” I think this recipe would have been substantially better had Alton used fresh, rather than frozen vegetables, as the vegetables were somewhat rubbery. I would not make this recipe again, as there are surely countless better pot pie recipes available.

Garlic Shrimp Casserole

Last up in this episode is Garlic Shrimp Casserole, which really should be called “Leftover Chinese Food Casserole.” In a saucier, heat 2 C of chicken broth.

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Chicken broth in saucier.

Add a slurry of 2 T cold water with 2 T cornstarch, which will serve to thicken the dish.

Whisk in 1/2 t red pepper flakes and 1/2 C heavy cream.

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Cream and red pepper flakes added to broth.

Pour this mixture over 2 pints of leftover garlic shrimp (or other Chinese leftovers) and a pint of cooked white rice that have been placed in a foil-lined terra cotta dish.

Jiggle the pan and sprinkle the casserole with 3/4 C of toasted Panko breadcrumbs.

Bake, covered, at 350 for 45 minutes. Cool before serving.

I threw this together on a busy weeknight, opting to use leftover Chinese beef, rather than shrimp. Honestly, we really didn’t care for this and I would not recommend this recipe. This was just completely underwhelming, which, frankly, I expected after watching the episode. Boring is the best word to describe this recipe. All in all, this episode of Good Eats has to be one of my least favorites thus far. I would possibly make the broccoli casserole again in a pinch, but I would not make the pot pie or the garlic shrimp casseroles again. Here is to hoping that the next episode is more exciting!

Sweet or Savory Pâte à Choux

When I was in elementary school, a different kid in my class was tasked with bringing snacks for the class each week. No-bake cookies with chocolate and oats were in regular rotation because they were easy to make and most of the kids liked them. My mom usually sent me with cupcakes or other (baked) cookies. One girl’s mother scored massive points with all of the kids (and probably made all the other parents feel like slouches), as she always made homemade cream puffs.

Personally, I have never made cream puffs or eclairs… until now. Baking and pastry are definitely two of my favorite things, so I eagerly whipped up a batch of Alton’s Pâte à Choux yesterday. Pâte à Choux is a pastry dough that is designed to make pastries that can be filled; therefore, when you bake the dough, it is supposed to only form one or two large bubbles, as opposed to the numerous bubbles desired in certain breads and such. In order to create these large bubbles in the pastry, steam needs to be created. Bread flour, and especially bread flour for bread machines, is ideal for Pâte à Choux because it has the highest protein content of all flours, which allows it to absorb more liquid; more liquid equals more steam production. To make Alton’s Pâte à Choux, combine a cup of water and 6 T butter in a pan. If you are making savory dough, also add 1 t Kosher salt. Or, if you are making a sweet dough, as Alton did in the episode, add just a pinch of Kosher salt and 1 T sugar.

Bring this water/butter mixture to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, weigh out  5 3/4 ounces of bread flour. I did not have bread flour for bread machines, so just used bread flour.

When the butter has completely melted and your liquid is boiling, add all of the flour, at once, to the pan.

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Flour added to boiling butter/water.

Stir the flour into the liquid with a spatula until a paste forms. Decrease the heat to low and continue to stir the dough until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer sticky. Turn off the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer, setting it aside until it is cool enough to touch.

While the dough cools, place four eggs and two egg whites in a measuring cup; the egg yolks will act as an emulsifier in the dough, while the whites will give the dough structure.

When the dough has sufficiently cooled, slowly add the eggs to the dough, keeping the mixer running. You want to continue adding egg until the dough hangs from the paddle attachment in a ‘V’ shape; for me, this required all of my eggs.

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Dough after adding all of the eggs. A perfect ‘V’ shape off of the paddle.

At this point, you can use your dough immediately, or you can let it rest at room temperature for a couple hours before using. When you are ready to use your dough, prepare a piping bag with a piping tip; Alton did not specify which tip to use, but I used one that was about 3/8″ in diameter and it worked fine. Large Ziploc bags work well for piping too – just snip off one corner, insert the inside part of the coupler, place your desired tip on top, and screw on the coupler ring.

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Ziploc bag turned into piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. If your parchment is sliding around, you can pipe a dollop of dough on each corner of your sheet pan, pressing the parchment down in the dough to keep it from sliding.

To make eclairs, pipe the dough into ‘S’ shapes, with the tail of each ‘S’ facing up toward you. With a wet finger, pat down the tails.

Alternatively, you can make cream puffs by piping the dough in concentric circle patterns, finishing in the center. Again, pat down any points with a wet finger.

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Dough, piped into concentric circles for cream puffs.

Place the eclairs (or cream puffs) in the center of the oven, increasing the temperature to 425 degrees, and setting the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake the eclairs for an additional 10 minutes. As soon as your eclairs/cream puffs are cool enough to handle, pierce them with a sharp paring knife to release excess steam.

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Piercing a hot eclair to release steam.

Cool the pastries completely.

At this point, you can bag and freeze the pastry shells for up to a month, bag and store them at room temperature for a week, or you can fill them with a filling of your choice. To do as Alton did in this episode of Good Eats, make vanilla pudding, using only 3/4 of the recommended liquid.

Then, using a small star tip and a piping bag, poke a hole in each eclair/cream puff, filling them with the pudding until the pudding starts to come out the end. Chill the filled pastries.

To bedazzle your eclairs/cream puffs with chocolate, melt 1 C chocolate chips with 1 t vegetable oil in a double boiler. Dip each pastry into the chocolate mixture. Or, you can pour your chocolate into a squeeze bottle and decorate them that way. I opted for the dipping method.

If you do not plan to eat your eclairs right away, keep them refrigerated. I made a mixture of eclairs and cream puffs, ending up with 17 eclairs and 6 cream puffs. I stuck most of my pastries in the freezer for later use, but filled several yesterday.

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Chocolate dipped eclairs.

I have to say that this is a great recipe. Not only are these delicious, but they are really super easy. My pastries turned out light, airy, and slightly crispy on the outside. The pastry itself was barely sweetened and each pastry had a perfect cavity inside for filling. The vanilla pudding was a super easy filling option, and the chocolate set up into a slightly crispy shell. This one is a keeper. For a different option, you could make ice cream sandwiches with cream puffs, splitting them in half. Or, you could make Alton’s savory Pâte à Choux, filling split puffs with a savory salad.

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A cream puff, cut in half.

Funnel Cake

So, what else can you do with Pâte à Choux? Well, you always opt for funnel cake! To make this classic carnival/fair favorite, heat ~1 inch of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

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Oil, heating to 375 degrees.

Using a #12 piping tip, pipe Pâte à Choux into the hot oil in a circular pattern. Cook the pastry until it is golden brown, flip it over, and cook until the second side is golden.

Remove the pastries to a rack over a sheet pan and dust them liberally with powdered sugar.

My funnel “cakes” turned out more like funnel “straws,” but they were still quite delicious.IMG_6018 I found that the pastry was too thick for the #12 tip, though I had set my dough aside for a while. Still, my pastries were like eating little fried pillows with powdered sugar. These were definitely tasty, though not as pretty as they should be.

I have never been the biggest fan of pork chops. I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was little, staring down a seemingly gray hunk of pork my mom had cooked for dinner, and dreaming of dessert; looking across the round oak table, my brother’s face mirrored my own. To this day, my mom says she has never understood why neither of her kids liked pork chops. My mom has always been a great cook, so I doubt she cooked pork chops poorly. Still, my impression of pork chops was summed up perfectly by Lorelai Gilmore when she said that eating pork chops is like sucking on a Pottery Barn catalog. I mean, really… tell me that you have never had that exact experience. So, last night for dinner, I set out to see if I could finally find a pork chop I liked.

Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

After watching this episode of Good Eats, I determined that I needed to head to the local butcher shop to get my pork chops. See, according to Alton Brown, all pork chops are not created equal. While all pork chops come from the back of the pig, shoulder and sirloin chops are particularly tough and require wet cooking methods. Center-cut pork chops are the best, and Alton’s favorite center-cut chops are rib cut chops because they are composed of one muscle, making them the best choice for stuffed pork chops. My butcher shop cut two chops for me, making them about two inches thick, which is perfect for Alton’s recipe. For these chops, Alton insists that you make a brine, as pork is inherently dry, and a brine will serve to impart both flavor and moisture. To make the brine, combine in a lidded container 1 C Kosher salt, 1 C dark brown sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, and 1 T dry mustard. Add 2 C of hot cider vinegar and shake the container to dissolve everything.

Set the brine aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors fully develop. Next, add a pound of ice to the brine, and shake the container again until the ice is almost melted.

Now you are ready to place your chops into the brine, ensuring that they are completely covered. Though I only had two pork chops, I needed the full amount of brine to cover my chops, so if you are cooking four large chops, you may need to double the brine. Refrigerate the chops for two hours in the brine.

Toward the end of your brining period, you can make your pork chop stuffing. For four pork chops, combine 1 1/2 C crumbled cornbread, 1/4 C halved dried cherries, 2 T golden raisins, 1/4 C chopped walnuts, 2 t sliced fresh sage, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 C buttermilk.

Set the stuffing aside while you prep your brined chops. The online recipe tells you to rinse your brined chops, but Alton did not do this in the episode. I did pat my chops with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Next it is time to cut stuffing pockets in your pork chops. To do this, Alton placed his pork chops in a bagel slicer, but I just held mine with one hand and cut with the other. Either way, place your chops fat-side up and insert a long, thin knife (preferably a boning knife) straight down until you hit bone. Angle the blade up toward the surface, creating a cavity in one direction. Turn the knife around and cut in the other direction. You can check to see that your cavity is large enough by feeling with your finger. There is a video of Alton cutting his pockets, which you can access from the recipe link above.

In the episode, Alton used a large plastic syringe, with the tip cut off, to fill his pork chop pockets with stuffing. I used a plastic bag that I cut the corner out of, creating a makeshift piping bag. Still, I found that I had to use my fingers to push the filling down into the pocket. I filled my pork chops with as much filling as I could, and I used all of it.

To grill your pork chops, you will want to preheat your grill to high heat for at least 10 minutes. Brush your chops with oil and place them on the middle burner for 2 minutes.

Rotate the chops 90 degrees and leave them for 2 more minutes; this will create nice criss-cross grill marks.

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Pork chops, turned 90 degrees and left for 2 more minutes.

Flip your chops, leaving them for 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, flipped after 4 minutes of cooking. Left to cook 2 more minutes.

Finally, rotate the chops 90 degrees for a final 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, rotated 90 degrees to cook for 2 final minutes.

You want to cook your chops to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If your chops are not done, place them over indirect heat and cook them until they reach 140. My chops took quite a lot (20-30 minutes) of additional grilling to reach 140.

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Pork chop after cooking to internal temperature of 140.

So, how did Alton’s stuffed pork chops taste? These were the best pork chops I had ever had. The pork was tender and moist, and just slightly pink in the middle, and you could taste the seasoning from the brine. The filling was a delicious accompaniment, with tartness from the cherries, sweetness from the raisins, occasional bursts of sage, and crunch from the walnuts.

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Pocket of filling inside pork chop.

This is a must-do recipe, especially if you are a pork fan. I guess I need to call my mom to tell her I finally met a pork chop I liked.

P.S. A bonus tip from Alton:  If you ever need to know how much propane you have in your tank, you can check the level by pouring ~a cup of boiling water down the side of your propane tank. You can tell where the propane level is by feeling where the metal switches from hot to cold.