Archive for the ‘Season 4’ Category

It is hard to believe that this post will mark the end of the 4th season of my Good Eats project. Only 10 seasons to go, plus some special episodes! It is also hard to fathom all that has happened since I started this blog 19 months ago. In addition to moving to a new house, Ted was diagnosed with cancer and underwent 5.5 weeks of chemo/radiation, along with two major operations. Thankfully, he just began (what should be) the final phase of his treatment:  12 rounds of chemo that should finish up at the end of June. One down… 11 to go, and boy are we counting down. This project has served to be a great distraction for me when I have had the opportunity to put time into it. Here’s to hoping that the next several months fly by!


I love spicy food, and thankfully I have a relatively high tolerance for it. The final episode of season four was all about chile peppers and the Scoville unit of measurement for their heat levels. Always remember the general chile heat rules that smaller peppers are hotter than larger peppers, longer peppers are hotter than short ones, and green peppers tend to be hotter than other colors. To demonstrate the variations of heat and flavor among different chile peppers, Alton whipped up a batch of his salsa. To make Alton’s salsa, you will need 6 Roma tomatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 a red onion, 1/2 a red bell pepper, 1 T olive oil, the juice of one lime, chili powder, Kosher salt, black pepper, 4 jalapeno peppers, 1 dried New Mexico chile, and something green (scallions, cilantro, and/or parsley). Note:  the online recipe calls for dried ancho chiles, but Alton used a New Mexico chile in the episode.


Ingredients for Alton’s salsa: red bell pepper, Roma tomatoes, scallions, garlic, jalapenos, red onion, lime, olive oil, chili powder, Kosher salt, and pepper. Not pictured: dried New Mexico chile.

You will need to roast two of your jalapeno peppers. If you have a gas range, you can do this right over the burner, rotating the pepper over the burner until blistered on all sides. Alton placed his jalapenos on a collapsible stainless vegetable steamer to do this. We do not have a gas range, so I roasted my two chiles on a baking sheet under the broiler, turning them until all sides were roasted.


Roasting jalapenos under the broiler.

Whichever method you use, watch your peppers carefully! Once your peppers are roasted, place them in a plastic wrap-covered bowl or in a paper bag for a few minutes; this will steam the peppers, allowing their skin to come off easily. While your peppers steam, place your chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, chopped red onion, diced bell pepper, olive oil, lime juice, and chopped scallions (or parsley/cilantro) in a bowl.

As for the two raw jalapeno peppers, seed them both, as the seeds are not digestible. Finely chop one raw jalapeno, leaving its white membrane in place; the membrane will add more heat. Remove the white membrane from the second raw jalapeno and chop it into slightly larger pieces. The second jalapeno will serve to add more fruity notes to the salsa. Add both jalapenos to the bowl.

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Season the salsa to taste with chili powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.


Salsa seasoned with chili powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Next, cut the end off of your dried New Mexico chile, and shake it to remove the seeds. Using scissors, cut the dried chile into strips, and then fine pieces. Mix the dried chile pieces thoroughly into the salsa. They will initially be chewy, but will hydrate from the liquid in the salsa.


Dried New Mexico chile, snipped into small pieces with scissors.

Finally, remove the skins from your roasted jalapenos by rinsing and rubbing them under running water. At this time, open the peppers up and pull out the seeds. Roughly chop the roasted peppers and add them to the bowl. They will add a sweetness to the salsa.

Taste the salsa again, adjusting the seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before eating, so the flavors can blend and the dried chile can hydrate.


Alton’s finished salsa.

I made this salsa early in the day, and we had it as an appetizer (with tortilla chips, of course). We actually ate it two nights in a row, and it was just as good the second night, though Ted insisted it was less hot the second night.


A perfect bowl of Alton’s salsa with tortilla chips.

We like homemade salsas in general, though we do not make them enough, and this recipe ranked right up there with some of our favorites. Though this salsa has a lot of chiles in it, it really only has a moderate heat level, which really allows all of the varying flavors to shine. While I like really hot salsas, sometimes hot salsa is only that – hot. This salsa is a perfect balance of heat, freshness, and acidity, and really does showcase the ways chile peppers can be used to create different effects. Plus, it’s super colorful. I mean, really, salsa is a cheery food. This one is a keeper.

Spicy Pineapple Sauce

The second, and final, recipe in this episode is for a pineapple sauce with habanero pepper. To make the sauce itself you will only need three things:  a can of pineapple tidbits, a habanero pepper, and 2-3 sprigs of mint, bruised.


Ingredients for Alton’s pineapple sauce: 1 can of pineapple tidbits, fresh mint, and a habanero pepper.

The online recipe calls for pineapple chunks and for you to cut your mint into chiffonade, but I prepared the recipe as done in the episode. Simmer the pineapple, habanero, and mint together in a saucepan for five minutes.

Cool the mixture to room temperature and remove the mint.


The sauce, after removing the mint.

As a serving recommendation, Alton recommends frying some corn tortilla wedges in corn oil, dusting them with sugar while they are still warm; though there is cinnamon in the online recipe, Alton did not use cinnamon in the episode.

Serve the pineapple sauce and warm, sugared tortilla chips with vanilla ice cream.


A fun and tasty dessert.

We ate this two nights in a row for dessert and both thought it was great. The sauce packs a good punch of heat, but is also sweet from pineapple. Honestly, the mint really did not come through much for me. The sauce on its own would be quite hot, but the ice cream really cools it down, and the chips add a completely different textural component. This is a fantastic combo and I think I will make this again. This is a fun, easy, and unusual dessert.


I have been a tea drinker for as long as I can remember, and particularly during the colder months of the year. Like many people, I often reach for a tea bag when making a cup of tea, due to their convenience and simplicity. I have, though, occasionally been known to brew a fresh cup using loose leaf tea. A couple years ago for Christmas, my parents gave me a tea variety basket from Murchie’s Tea, which consisted of numerous types of loose tea and tea bags. Having so much loose tea around the house led me to really appreciate the superior quality and flavor of a cup of tea made with loose leaf tea. A tea bag just truly does not produce a cup of tea that matches that made with loose leaf tea.

Perfect Cup of Tea

To make Alton’s perfect cup of tea, you will really only need a few things. You will need a vessel for boiling water (preferably a kettle), a vessel for brewing your tea (preferably a teapot), fresh water, and loose tea. While loose tea is composed of full tea leaves, tea bags contain leftover dust and fannings, which can produce bitter tea. When making tea, Alton stresses that you should always use fresh water, as it has lots of oxygen in it; our tap water tastes fine, so I just used tap water. Heat your water in a kettle or in the microwave (in a microwave-safe container, of course).


Heating water in a kettle.

If heating your water in the microwave, place a wooden skewer or chopstick in your water; this will give bubbles a place to form, thereby avoiding explosive bubbling when you remove the hot water from the microwave. If you are using a teapot to brew your tea, Alton recommends that you preheat your tea pot with warm water prior to brewing. I do not have a teapot, so I just used a glass Pyrex measuring cup, which is not nearly as sexy as the cute cast iron teapot Alton used in the episode. Depending on the type of loose leaf tea you are brewing, you will want to adjust your water temperature accordingly. Note:  black, green, and Oolong are the three major styles of tea. For black tea, you will want full boiling water. For Oolong tea, your water should be 200 degrees F, while for green tea, your water should ideally be 180 degrees F. I brewed some Darjeeling, which is a black tea.While your water is heating, place your loose tea in your teapot or brewing vessel, allotting a heaping teaspoon (Alton uses a regular teaspoon instead of a measuring teaspoon) per cup of tea.


One heaping teaspoon of tea per 5.5-6 ounce cup of tea.


Since I do not have a teapot, I used a glass measuring cup to brew my tea.

If your teapot has an infusing insert, Alton recommends that you do not use it, as the tea leaves need room to bloom. Now, for the water, you want to use 5 1/2-6 ounces of water per cup of tea, but it is best to add an additional ounce or so of water for the tea leaves to hold onto. When your water is at its ideal temperature, pour the water directly over the tea leaves.


Thirteen ounces of boiling water added to tea leaves. Six ounces of water per cup, plus an additional ounce of water for the leaves to retain.

How long to let the tea brew? Brew black teas for 3-5 minutes, Oolong teas for 4-7 minutes, and green teas for 2-3 minutes. Brewing for too long will result in tea that is bitter. When your brewing time is up, pour your tea through a strainer into a cup.


Strainer to pour tea into mug.

If desired, you may add sugar, honey, or lemon. If adding milk, though, you should always pour the milk in your cup prior to adding the tea. Why? Adding cold milk to hot tea can cause a “skin” to form on top of your cup. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your perfect cup of tea.


A perfect cup of Darjeeling tea.

Prior to watching this episode, I brewed all loose leaf teas the same way – using full boiling water and letting the tea steep for about five minutes. I also have typically used a tea infuser. Is Alton’s method for tea brewing really superior? It’s tough for me to say because I am also using fresher, better tea; how much is the tea and how much is the method? That being said, the tea I made with Alton’s method was excellent.

If you are curious about Alton’s method of tea brewing using tea bags, here you go:

  1. Using a microwave-safe container, tie five tea bags together and place in a quart of fresh water. Top the container with a small plate.
  2. Microwave the tea for eight minutes, or until it starts to simmer.
  3. Remove the tea from the microwave and check its temperature – you want the temperature to be between 180 and 190 degrees F.
  4. Cover the tea again and let steep. For mild tea, let steep for two minutes. Allow three minutes for medium tea, four minutes for strong tea, and five minutes for bitter tea.
  5. Remove tea bags and do not wring them out.


Sweet Tea

In addition to hot tea, I really enjoy iced tea when the weather is warm. My mom always made sun tea by steeping tea bags in a glass jug, allowing the sun to warm the water. Somehow, sun tea always seemed to taste better than typical iced tea.

Alton’s iced tea is really a two-step process; if you prefer your iced tea unsweetened, you can stop after the first step, whereas if you like your iced tea to be sweetened you can carry onto the second step. For the first step, steep an ounce of loose black tea in one quart of boiling water for 4-5 minutes.

It is not necessary to use your best tea for this process, as some flavors get masked when tea is iced. Once your tea is done brewing, strain it into a two quart pitcher.


Strainer ready to strain tea into pitcher.

To your tea, add one quart of lukewarm water; you do not want to use super cold water, as cooling the tea too quickly can result in cloudy tea.


A quart of room temperature water to add to the tea.

Place your tea in the refrigerator and allow it to chill thoroughly. If you do not wish to sweeten your tea, go ahead and enjoy the tea as is.


The finished unsweetened iced tea.

If you prefer to have your tea sweetened, Alton recommends making a simple syrup. Why make a simple syrup, rather than just adding sugar to your iced tea? While granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold liquids, a simple syrup will mix in quite easily. Plus, you can add some additional flavor to your tea, if desired. To make plain simple syrup, in a pan combine 5 C sugar and 3 C cold water. Bring this to a boil over medium heat, cover, and let it cool to room temperature. Seal and refrigerate for up to a month. Alternatively, to add some additional flavor to your simple syrup, add six sliced lemons and a few sprigs of fresh mint to 3 C water and 5 C sugar.

Again, bring to a boil.

Cover the mixture for 10 minutes before straining.

Let cool, refrigerate, and add to iced tea as desired. You will have quite a lot of simple syrup, but you can always freeze any extra. Simple syrup is also great in some cocktail recipes.

Though it really isn’t the season for iced tea, I made Alton’s sweet tea this week. I used some old Lapsang Souchong tea that I had sitting around, which resulted in iced tea that was quite smokey and intense. I would probably use a different type of black tea if I were to make Alton’s iced tea again. I opted to make the lemon-mint simple syrup for my tea. We found that placing 1.5 ounces simple syrup in a pint glass, and filling the glass to the top with iced tea resulted in the perfect level of sweetness.


A perfect glass of Alton’s sweet tea.

The lemon and mint flavors really shine through, and it would be quite refreshing on a hot day.


With things finally settling down slightly for Ted’s health in December, I was able to devote a little more time to my Good Eats project. Already skinny, Ted had lost over 30 pounds after his second cancer surgery, bottoming out with only 131 pounds on his 6’1″ frame. Needless to say, weight gain became the goal in our household, and I cooked anything and everything that appealed to him, even remotely. Thankfully, some of the recipes from the last few episodes I was blogging about did have some appeal to Ted. Most recently, the recipes I tackled were all from Alton’s episode on puff pastry.

Puff pastry can be a tricky beast, but its difficult nature can be avoided by following Alton’s puff pastry rules and process.


A box of frozen puff pastry.

Puff pastry is composed of numerous alternating layers of butter and pastry. The first rule of puff pastry is to avoid condensation during the thawing process. To do this, wrap your sheet(s) of puff pastry in a paper towel.


Puff pastry sheet, thawing. Soon to be wrapped in a paper towel to avoid condensation.

Wait 15-20 minutes before gently trying to unfold the pastry sheet; if the sheet offers any resistance, give it more time to thaw. From this point, give the pastry a check every five minutes. Once you can unfold your pastry sheet, gently fold it into a triangle shape, and allow it to thaw for a few more minutes.


Puff pastry, continuing to thaw in a triangle shape.

Once ready to go, unfold the sheet all the way, crimping the seams with your fingers.

Your puff pastry is now ready for use. It is always a good idea to place a sheet pan in the freezer (or outside, if it is cold enough). That way, if your pastry gets too warm, you can quickly cool it down.


Chilling a sheet pan.

If your pastry gets too warm, you will know it, as it will begin to stick and get difficult to work with.

Fruit Tart

Alton’s first puff pastry recipe is for a fruit tart. To make two individual tarts, begin by thawing one sheet of purchased puff pastry as described above. Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once your pastry is ready, sprinkle sugar over both sides, and gently roll the pastry with a rolling pin to flatten the seams. Place two small saucers diagonally on the pastry and cut around them with a pizza cutter.

Note:  you will have some excess pastry to discard. Alton emphasizes that using a sharp tool is critical, as you do not want to damage the delicate layers of pastry. Once you have your two circles of pastry, place them on your already-cold sheet pan and put them in the refrigerator.


My cut-out puff pastry circles.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and quarter a Granny Smith apple.


Granny Smith.

Using a vegetable peeler, make wafer-thin slices of apple. To avoid browning, quickly place the apple slices in a mixture of 1 C water and 1 T lemon juice.


Apple slices in water/lemon juice.

Once your apple is sliced (you will not need a whole apple), pull the pastry circles from the refrigerator and flip them over so the cut side is facing down; this will allow for maximum puff because the healthy edges are facing up. Prick the centers of each circle with a fork, avoiding the edges. “Docking” the center of each pastry circle will allow steam to escape from the centers, which will prevent them from puffing. This will give a nice puffy edge to each tart.


Docked puff pastry circle.

Place a piece of parchment under your pastry circles and sprinkle them with sugar. Decorate the tops of each tart with your thin apple slices, positioning them in an interlocking spiral, and bake your tarts for 15-20 minutes.


Thin apple slices arranged in an interlocking spiral on the puff pastry circle.

You want to bake them until they are golden and their edges are crispy.


Apple tarts after baking – golden and with crispy edges.

While your tarts are still warm, microwave some apricot jam for ~30 seconds, or until just loosened up.


Apricot jam, microwaved just until loose.

With a pastry brush, gently dab the jam all over your tarts, being careful to avoid disrupting your pretty apple slices. Let your tarts cool for at least four hours.


Finished fruit tarts.

Alton prefers his tarts at room temperature, but I warmed ours up. Ted and I each ate a tart for breakfast. One tart was the perfect size for one person. Sure enough the tarts were pretty, not overly sweet, and they perfectly demonstrated the best of puff pastry. The puff pastry was flaky, buttery, crisp, and light. I could definitely see making these again. They were very easy and a great introduction to working with puff pastry, which I have had little experience with. For alternative fruit toppings, Alton recommended trying pears, mangoes, strawberries, or nectarines. I would like to try making these with nectarines in the summer.

Stacked Puff Pastry with Cherries

Next up in Alton’s puff pastry arsenal is his stacked puff pastry. When I watched this episode of Good Eats, this was the recipe I was most intrigued by. For Alton’s recipe, you’ll need two sheets of thawed puff pastry (see how to thaw above), one egg beaten with 2 T water, 1 can of drained pie cherries, and 1/2 C of bread or cake crumbs. You may want to slightly stagger the thawing of your puff pastry sheets, as you will work with one sheet prior to the other. Place your first thawed puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet.


Thawed puff pastry.

Using a ruler as a guide, cut a 1-inch wide strip off of each side of the pastry, reserving them for later; these will be your walls. Use a pizza cutter to cut your walls.


1-inch strips cut from each side.

Dock the center of the remaining center square of pastry with a fork. Since this will be the floor of your pastry, you do not want it to rise. Brush the edges of the square floor with egg wash, but not within 1/4″ of the very edge.


One egg beaten with 2 T water.


Pastry floor, docked with a fork and edges brushed with egg wash, avoiding very edges.

Place two wall strips of pastry on opposing sides of the floor, cut side out. Dab egg wash on the corners and place the other two walls on top. Dab the corners with more egg wash, and fold the tabs over. This will give you a square-shaped floor with raised walls all around.

Place the floor and walls in the refrigerator while you get the second thawed sheet of puff pastry. You will need to cut a “roof” for your floor and walls, which should be approximately 7 x 7 inches. Again, do your cutting on parchment paper to avoid sticking. Fold your roof in half (over a piece of parchment) and use scissors to cut some slats.


Slats cut in roof.

Place the roof in the refrigerator with your assembled floor. While your puff pastry cools off, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add your cake or bread crumbs to your drained can of cherries, and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. The crumbs will absorb the excess moisture from the cherries.


Pie cherries.


Pie cherries and crumbs, sitting for 10 minutes to absorb excess moisture.

You are now ready to complete assembly of your stacked pastry. Spoon the cherry filling onto the pastry floor, avoiding the walls. You want to use more filling than you think you will need. Egg wash the walls, avoiding their very edges.


Cherry filling spooned onto the floor. Use more than you think you need.

Place your roof on top of your floors/wall, cut side down to allow for maximum puff, gently pressing the edges. Egg wash the roof, avoiding the cut edges.


Egg-washed roof.

Bake your pastry for 30 minutes before decreasing the temperature to 350 degrees for an additional 30 minutes. Alton’s stacked cherry pastry looked quite perfect, with a pretty lattice top. Mine looked a lot more like a puff pastry bouncy house.


My stacked puff pastry looked a lot like a bouncy house.

I quickly realized that I had not put enough filling onto my floor, as there was a gap between the roof and the filling. Also, I thought the filling would be better if it were slightly sweeter. I would like to try this again, using cherry pie filling in place of the tart pie cherries, and adding a sprinkle of sugar on top of the egg-washed roof. Though my stacked pastry was far from perfect, I still found it fun to make, so I think I’ll have to give it another go. And, the puffy magic of puff pastry was certainly on display with this one!

Salmon Turnovers

I made the final recipe from this episode on Christmas Eve. Salmon turnovers seemed like a perfect thing to share with my parents, as we began our Christmas celebration. Alton’s recipe calls for 1 C cooked rice, 1/2 C sauteed mushrooms, 1-2 T dill pickle relish, 2-3 scallions, 1 T parsley, Kosher salt and pepper, 1 sheet of puff pastry, 1 egg beaten with 2 T water, and 1 can of boneless/skinless salmon. To make my dinnertime prep easier, I cooked my rice and sauteed some mushrooms early in the day; I sauteed my mushrooms with some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. To make the filling, combine the rice, mushrooms, relish, scallions, parsley, salt, pepper, and salmon in a bowl.

One sheet of puff pastry will yield four turnovers. Since we were having guests, I thawed two sheets. You will have excess filling, even with making eight turnovers.


Two sheets of puff pastry.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Thaw your pastry, as written above, and place it on a piece of parchment. Cut each sheet of pastry into four equal squares.


Puff pastry sheet, cut into four even squares.

Place a generous spoonful of filling on the middle of each square and brush the edges with egg wash. Fold the pastry over the filling, forming a triangle, and use a fork to securely crimp the edges.


Filling scooped in the center of each pastry square.

Use a paring knife to cut two slits in the top of each turnover, and brush the tops with egg wash.


Vents cut in the top of each turnover, and tops brushed with egg wash.

Bake the turnovers for 30 minutes.


I think the turnovers appeal to someone!


The finished turnovers.

We all thought these turnovers were really good, and they would make a nice weeknight meal. The pastry was light and crispy, and the filling had a nice mixture of flavors. You really could use any filling you would like for these. I enjoyed Alton’s salmon concoction. According to the episode, Alton’s favorite turnover filling is a combo of Manwich mix and cheddar cheese. My brother and sister-in-law heated up leftover turnovers in the oven the following day, and said they reheated very nicely. The previous night, I had placed them in a paper bag in the refrigerator to allow the pastry to breathe. Alton’s turnover recipe has inspired me to make turnovers more often. They are so easy and really delicious. Puff pastry is really not difficult to work with if you follow Alton’s basic rules:  1) Keep it cool. 2) Use a sharp tool for cutting. 3) Dock the base. 4) Vent the top. 5) Always put the cut side down. 6) Rest before baking.


While I have adored mustard for as long as I can remember, I have never been a fan of mayonnaise. That is to say, I have never liked store-bought mayonnaise, for I still remember the first time I tasted my dad’s homemade mayonnaise. I was skeptical when Dad insisted I try his mayo, for I had already convinced myself that I would not like it; I could not have been more wrong, for his mayo was completely different from every mayonnaise I had ever had. The problem was that it only further poisoned my taste for store-bought mayo! If you have never had homemade mayonnaise, it is a must-try!


Though I already knew I loved homemade mayonnaise, I had never actually made it before watching Alton’s mayonnaise episode of Good Eats. A little over a week ago, I set out to eliminate my “mayonnaise virgin” status. The ingredients you need for Alton’s mayo are an egg yolk, salt, dry mustard, sugar, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, and safflower or corn oil.


Mayonnaise ingredients: corn oil, salt, egg, sugar, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, and dry mustard.

Mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil in liquid. Lecithin, a phospholipid in egg yolks, allows the emulsion to form because its phosphoric acid end dissolves in water, while its lipid end dissolves in oil; this keeps the oil droplets suspended in their surrounding liquid, rather than allowing them to pool together. Fresh eggs have higher amounts of lecithin, so it is best to use very fresh eggs for mayonnaise making. To begin Alton’s mayo, combine 2 t lemon juice with 1 T champagne vinegar.


Champagne vinegar and lemon juice.

Next, in a glass bowl (do not use an aluminum or iron bowl, as they will turn your mayo gray), combine one egg yolk, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t dry mustard, and 2 pinches sugar.


One egg yolk, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t dry mustard, and 2 pinches of sugar.

Add half of the lemon/vinegar mixture to the bowl and whisk everything until it is frothy.


Half of vinegar/lemon juice added to bowl, and whisked until frothy.

Once frothy, slowly begin adding 1 C corn or safflower oil to the egg mixture a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. A plastic squeeze bottle is ideal for adding the oil slowly.


A squeeze bottle for corn oil.

When about 1/4 of the oil is in the bowl, you can begin adding the remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, still whisking constantly. Once half of the oil is incorporated, add the remaining lemon juice/vinegar.


My mayo after about 1/2 of oil incorporated. Remaining lemon juice and vinegar added.

Finish by adding the rest of the oil, still in a thin stream, whisking steadily until it is all incorporated. Your arm will have to whisk a lot, but it will be worth the effort! It is necessary to add the oil slowly and to whisk quickly to avoid having your emulsion break, or separate. Once your mayonnaise is complete, let it sit at room temperature for 4-8 hours. After that, refrigerate any remaining mayonnaise for up to a week.


The delicious completed mayo.

This mayonnaise is delicious. We ate it primarily on sandwiches and it was gone within a matter of days. The mayo is tangy and has a rich mouthfeel. Aside from the whisking labor, this is easy and definitely worth the effort.

By the way, should your mayo happen to break, all is not lost. To fix a broken mayonnaise, whisk an egg yolk in a bowl until it is frothy. Slowly add the broken mayo to the egg yolk, whisking until incorporated. Ta-da!

Party Mayonnaise

As I type, I am closely monitoring a batch of my dad’s smoked salmon that I am smoking in my Alton Brown cardboard smoker. My dad traditionally serves his salmon with his “Dog Shit Sauce,” which is a fabulous aioli. Seeing as an aioli is essentially a mayonnaise (or at least a close relative), perhaps we will have to sample our freshly smoked salmon this evening with some Alton Party Mayo. Since we plowed through our first Alton mayo really quickly, I was onto making the second recipe from this episode a mere five days later. This recipe for mayonnaise uses a food processor, which I welcomed after making the first mayo by hand.


Ingredients for party mayonnaise: corn oil, eggs, chile oil, salt, dry mustard, lime juice, champagne vinegar, and sugar.

To start Alton’s party mayonnaise, to a food processor add 1 t salt, 1/4 t sugar, 1 t dry mustard, 2 T champagne vinegar, 2 T lime juice, 1 egg, and 1 egg yolk.


Salt, sugar, dry mustard, champagne vinegar, lime juice, one egg, and one egg yolk in food processor.

Pulse the mixture five times.


After five pulses in the food processor.

Next, using the feeding tube, slowly add 2 C corn or safflower oil minus 2-3 T. In addition, add 2-3 T chile oil. I added 3 T.


Oil slowly being incorporated through feeding tube.


Alton’s party mayo.

Again, let the mayonnaise sit at room temperature for a few hours before refrigerating for up to a week. We liked this mayonnaise even more than Alton’s first mayo. This one has the added kick from the chile oil, which just pumps it up a notch. Plus, using the food processor makes this one come together in a snap. It has a slightly pinkish hue from the chile oil, which is kind of nice, along with the tang from the lemon and vinegar.


This mayo is wonderful.

Again, we have used this mayo mostly for sandwiches so far, but I do think we will test some with our smoked salmon this evening. It would also make a great base for a killer tartar sauce. Do not miss making this mayonnaise. It is fantastic.

I love garlic and cannot fathom how some people do not care for it. I have some personal favorite garlic recipes, one of which is my mom’s garlic bread recipe. When I watched Alton’s garlic episode of Good Eats a few days ago, I remembered having seen it years ago when it originally aired. It’s always fun to re-watch the episodes I recall from years ago.

Vlad’s Very Garlicky Greens

Two nights ago for dinner I prepped a homemade pepperoni pizza and Alton’s garlicky greens. Ted has lost a lot of weight over the past couple months, due to his surgeries and complications, so we are working hard to get weight back on him (he had lost over 30 pounds, and had nothing to lose). Needless to say, I fix whatever sounds good to him, and Alton’s garlicky greens were his first foray into greens since surgery. For Alton’s greens, begin by heating a saute pan over high heat. While the pan heats, smash and peel four cloves of garlic. Add olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.


Olive oil heating in pan.

When the oil is hot, add your smashed garlic cloves and stir them until they are lightly browned.


Four cloves of smashed garlic added to olive oil.

Once golden, remove the cloves from the pan and discard; they have done their job of “blessing,” or flavoring, the oil. Immediately add one thinly sliced clove of garlic to the flavored oil and turn the heat off under the pan.


One clove of garlic, thinly sliced, added to pan.

Move the pan continuously, as you do not want the garlic to burn, and sprinkle in some Kosher salt. As soon as the garlic begins to color, add four handfuls of greens to the pan (I used mixed greens), along with some more Kosher salt.


Greens and Kosher salt added to pan.

The residual heat in the pan will cook the greens. Toss the greens and add one more clove of garlic, this time finely chopped.


One clove of garlic, finely chopped, added to greens.

Toss the greens with the garlic and season with additional salt, if necessary.


Alton’s garlicky greens.

We both really enjoyed these greens. They had lots of garlic flavor, but it was not overpowering. And, the combination of cooked and raw garlic flavors was nice. I did slightly over-salt my greens. I will make these again. For a quick, easy, delicious vegetable side dish, this is great.

40 Cloves and a Chicken

Due to Ted’s cancer surgeries and complications, he was not up to having a big Thanksgiving with family this year, so we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday at home – just the two of us, and the dogs and cat, of course! We are turkey traditionalists when it comes to Thanksgiving, but a turkey just would have been too much food for us this year. So, as an alternative, I made Alton’s take on chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. The chicken, along with my dad’s cornbread/sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut (a family tradition) made up our mini Thanksgiving feast. The nice thing about Alton’s chicken recipe is that most of the “work” is done in the oven, so it frees you up for making other things. For his chicken, you’ll need a broiler/fryer chicken cut into eight pieces:  breasts, wings, thighs, and legs. I previously wrote about Alton’s method for breaking down a chicken here. Oh, you’ll also need 40 cloves of peeled garlic.


40 cloves of garlic.

Begin Alton’s chicken by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, season both sides of your chicken pieces with Kosher salt and pepper. Sear both sides of the chicken pieces in a large oven-safe skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat.


Seared chicken.

Once the chicken is seared, add 40 cloves of peeled garlic, 1/2 C olive oil, and a healthy bunch of fresh thyme sprigs.


Fresh thyme, olive oil, and garlic added to seared chicken.

Put the lid on the pan and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.


Lid on the pan and into the oven for 1 1/2 hours.


We thought this chicken was absolutely delicious. The meat was moist and falling off of the bones, and the flavors of roasted garlic and fresh thyme permeated the meat. I will definitely make this one again. Oh, and if you choose, you can use the garlic oil in the pan to brush on bread for garlic toast. And, the whole garlic cloves can also be spread on toasted bread. Nothing like a built-in side dish!


Alton’s chicken as part of our mini Thanksgiving feast. The roasted garlic could be used to spread on toast.

Since I last posted, Ted has continued to have a rough time, resulting in a second major surgery on November 2nd and six more days in the hospital. With a grand total of 26 days (divided among three visits) in the hospital, he finally came home November 7th. We are crossing our fingers that we are hopefully on the real road to recovery this time.

Sweet and Sour Dessert Sauce

I prepped the recipes from the 49th episode of Good Eats over the course of a couple weeks. This episode was all about honey, or as Alton referred to it, “bee backwash.” After hearing that quote, I think I shall perhaps never look at honey quite the same again!

The first recipe in this episode is for Alton’s honey dessert sauce. Really it does not get much simpler than this one. To make Alton’s sauce, you will need only honey and sour cream.


Honey and sour cream.

For the honey, Alton recommends a light honey, such as wildflower honey. I will confess that I used the honey I had on hand, which had no specific varietal on the label. To make the sauce, pour 1/4 C honey in a stainless steel bowl and heat it on a burner, just until warm.


Honey, heating slightly on a burner.

Into the honey whisk 1 C sour cream.


Sour cream added to warm honey.


Sour cream and honey, whisked together.

Serve the sauce over fruit, cake, or anything else you can think of. I served the sauce over the orange cake that was also featured in this episode (see below).


Alton’s dessert sauce, served over cake.

The sauce had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness and was pretty thin in consistency. I thought this sauce was just okay; it did not wow me in any way and I probably will not be making this one again.

Honey Mustard Dressing

Growing up, my brother would order honey mustard dressing every time he ordered a salad at a restaurant, so I instantly thought of him when making Alton’s honey mustard dressing. This is another super simple recipe, requiring only three ingredients:  honey (medium-bodied like sourwood), Dijon mustard, and rice wine vinegar.


Rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey.

For this dressing, I used the same honey that I used in my dessert sauce (above). To make Alton’s dressing, whisk together 5 T honey, 3 T smooth Dijon mustard, and 2 T rice wine vinegar.


Honey in a bowl.


Dijon mustard and rice wine vinegar added to honey.


Alton’s honey mustard dressing.

Serve this as either a dressing or dipping sauce. I eat a lot of salads, so I served this over a large entree salad I made for myself.


A salad with Alton’s honey mustard dressing.

I thought this dressing was really quite nice. I have found some honey mustard dressings in the past to be too sweet, but this had a nice balance of sweetness, acidity, and tang. As a bonus, this dressing does not separate in the refrigerator as oil-based dressings do. If you’re a honey mustard fan, this is one to try. I served it to my brother, the honey mustard expert, when he was visiting and he seemed to really enjoy it.

Honey Plums

The third honey recipe Alton made was for honey plums. Again, this is another simple recipe. For this one, you’ll need wildflower honey and under-ripe plums or figs. I could not find plums or figs at my grocery store, so I opted for firm D’Anjou pears.


Honey and pears.

Begin by covering the bottom of a pan with honey and heat over low.


Honey covering the bottom of the pan.

Add your fruit, cut side down, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Increase the heat to high for a minute before removing from the heat.


Pears added to honey in pan.


Pears after cooking in honey for several minutes.

Serve the honeyed fruit over ice cream.


Honeyed pears served over vanilla ice cream.

I liked this and it reminded me of the poached pear phase my mom went through. This was another one that was just okay for me, but I think I’ll have to try this again when plums are back in season.

Aunt Verna’s Orange Cake

Of the recipes featured in this episode, I was most excited about this one. Alton claims that this cake recipe came from his Aunt Verna, but who knows if he really had an Aunt Verna?


Orange cake ingredients: eggs, flour, orange zest, baking powder, butter, baking soda, and orange blossom honey.

For the cake, begin by whisking together 1 C orange blossom honey and 4 eggs.


Eggs and honey.

To this mixture add 1 T orange zest.


Orange zest added to honey/egg mixture.

Sift together 1 1/2 C flour, 1 t baking powder, and a pinch of baking soda, and slowly add the flour mixture to the liquid ingredients.


Flour, baking soda, and baking powder sifted together.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out dry.


Batter poured into the pan.


Alton’s orange cake.

My cake took about 45 minutes to be done. I sliced my cake and served it with Alton’s sweet and sour dessert sauce (above).


Alton’s orange cake, sliced.

I found this cake to be highly disappointing. It did have a lot of orange flavor, but the cake was quite dry and the outside of the cake was a bit darker than I would have liked. For me, this one was a bit of a flop, and I will not be making this one again. In fact, I would say that this episode of Good Eats (and the recipes featured) was one of my least favorites thus far.


I prepared the recipe from the 48th episode of Good Eats several weeks ago, but I am only now sitting down to finally blog about it. Long story short, it’s been a rough go for us ever since Ted’s cancer surgery, with him having several complications. Since his surgery on September 24th, he has spent 20 nights in the hospital, divided between two visits. He is home now, but still battling a partial intestinal obstruction that the doctors hope will eventually resolve itself; if not, more surgery may be necessary. Sigh… We have to turn the corner eventually. Right?

Pot Roast

My dad has never been a big fan of pot roast, or as he calls it “wet meat.” Since it was not his favorite thing, we didn’t eat a lot of pot roast growing up, though I do like it. As an adult, I also do not make pot roast regularly, but I was definitely intrigued by Alton’s recipe. Plus, pot roast is a perfect thing to make as we transition fully into Fall.

Ingredients for Alton's pot roast:  2 pound blade chuck roast, Kosher salt, cumin, balsamic vinegar, tomato juice, onion, garlic, green olives, and dark raisins.

Ingredients for Alton’s pot roast: 2 pound blade chuck roast, Kosher salt, cumin, balsamic vinegar, tomato juice, onion, garlic, green olives, and dark raisins.

Alton is pretty specific about the cut of meat you should use for his pot roast. Ideally, you want to get a 2-pound chuck roast that has “blade” in the name. You also want the meat to be cross-cut like a steak, so it is fairly thin, and you should opt for a bone-in cut that has the largest bone possible; the bone will yield a more tender roast. Alas, I could not find the exact cut of meat Alton specified, even after going to a few grocery stores, so I had to settle for a thin boneless chuck roast.

My boneless chuck roast.

My boneless chuck roast.

To make Alton’s roast, begin by chopping an onion and peeling/crushing 6 cloves of garlic with a knife.

Chopped onion and 6 cloves of garlic, crushed.

Chopped onion and 6 cloves of garlic, crushed.

Preheat a large skillet over high heat while you liberally apply cumin and Kosher salt to both sides of the meat.

Meat seasoned with cumin and Kosher salt.

Meat seasoned with cumin and Kosher salt.

When the pan is hot, sear the meat for two minutes on the first side and three minutes on the second. You want the meat to be golden brown on both sides.

Searing the meat for 2 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second.

Searing the meat for 2 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second.

Remove the meat from the pan, flipping it so the hot side is facing up.

The seared meat.

The seared meat.

Add 2 T of canola oil to the skillet, along with the onion and garlic, and decrease the heat to low.

Onion and garlic added to skillet, along with oil.

Onion and garlic added to skillet, along with oil.

Once the onion is translucent, add 1 C tomato juice (I used spicy V8), 1/3 C balsamic vinegar, 1/2 C dark raisins, and 1 C green olives. Be sure to lightly crush the olives with your hand as you add them to the pan.

Tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, raisins, and green olives added to pan.

Tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, raisins, and green olives added to pan.

Simmer this mixture until it has reduced by half.

Olive mixture after reducing by half.

Olive mixture after reducing by half.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees and make a pouch of aluminum foil. Pour half of the olive mixture into the bottom of the pouch, place the meat on top, and pour the remaining olive mixture over the meat.

Half of the olive mixture poured in the foil pouch.

Half of the olive mixture poured in the foil pouch.

Meat placed on olive mixture.

Meat placed on olive mixture.

Remaining olive mixture poured over meat.

Remaining olive mixture poured over meat.

Tightly close the foil around the meat, and wrap the entire bundle with a second layer of foil. Place the roast in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.

The roast packet, sealed in two layers of foil and put in the oven for 3.5 hours.

The roast packet, sealed in two layers of foil and put in the oven for 3.5 hours.

When the cooking time is up, let the meat rest inside the foil for 30 minutes. Next, cut one corner of the foil packet and drain the liquid into a gravy separator.

Liquid drained from foil pouch to separate fat.

Liquid drained from foil pouch to separate fat.

Pour the liquid into a blender, discarding the fat, and add the solids (olives, raisins, etc.) from the foil packet. Puree this mixture to a smooth sauce. Slice the roast and serve it with the sauce.

Roast after cooking. Olives and raisins added to liquid in a blender.

Roast after cooking. Olives and raisins added to liquid in a blender.

Alton's pot roast served with sauce.

Alton’s pot roast served with sauce.

We ate Alton’s pot roast for dinner and we both really liked it. The sauce had fantastic tangy flavor that was delicious with the meat. Traditionalists may poopoo the idea of green olives, raisins, and balsamic vinegar in their pot roast, but I thought the combination was fantastic. I was worried that my meat would not be as tender as I would like, but it turned out super tender and moist. I will absolutely make Alton’s pot roast again, and you should give it a try too.

It seems odd to write a blog post about a recipe I prepared a mere 10 days ago, while it feels like my entire life has changed since then. Ted went under the knife five days ago to have a massive operation to remove the cancer from his body. He still lies in a hospital bed as I type, and likely will be there for at least a few more days. The excellent news is that they got all of the cancer out and there was zero lymph node involvement. The bad news is that he feels quite miserable. Hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon. Until then, I’ll reminisce about Alton’s angel food cake that we ate 10 days ago.

Angel Food Cake

I vaguely remember my mom making angel food cake a few times when I was little, but it was never something we ate regularly. My image of angel food cake has been primarily of the dry, sponge-like, flavorless cakes you can buy in every grocery store bakery in the country. That’s not to say that I dislike those cakes, but just that they don’t wow me. How would Alton’s recipe for angel food cake stack up?

To make Alton’s angel food cake, start by processing 1 3/4 C of sugar in a food processor for two minutes; this will give sugar with finer crystals, yielding between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 C of sugar.

Ingredients for Alton's angel food cake:  cake flour, egg whites, salt, sugar, cream of tartar, and orange extract.

Ingredients for Alton’s angel food cake: cake flour, egg whites, salt, sugar, cream of tartar, and orange extract.

Sugar into food processor.

Sugar into food processor.

Sugar after processing for two minutes.

Sugar after processing for two minutes.

Sift approximately half of this sugar (set the other half aside) with 1/4 t of salt and 1 C of cake flour. A lot of sugar is needed in angel food cake because there is no fat; the sugar acts as a tenderizer. Cake flour is used here because it has no protein, which means no gluten is produced.

Half of the sugar sifted with cake flour and salt.

Half of the sugar sifted with cake flour and salt.

Next, you will need a dozen egg whites at room temperature (room temperature egg whites are more flexible, so they foam better). Alton encourages you to separate your eggs using three containers:  a container over which you separate each white (to make sure no yolk slips in), a container to contain the yolks, and a container for the yolk-free whites. Why is it so critical to avoid having yolk mixed in with your whites? The yolks contain fat, which lubes the bonding points on the proteins in the whites, causing the bubbles to pop. Since angel food cake is a foam, the ultimate goal is bubbles.

Separating yolks and whites.

Separating yolks and whites.

Once your egg whites are at room temperature, add 1/3 C of warm water, 1 t orange extract, and 1 1/2 t cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is a mild acid, made of tartaric acid crystals, that stabilizes foams by adding hydrogen atoms.

Egg whites with warm water, orange extract, and cream of tartar added.

Egg whites with warm water, orange extract, and cream of tartar added.

Use a whisk to froth this egg white mixture. Once frothy, whip the whites with a hand mixer on medium speed.

Whites beaten with a whisk until frothy.

Whites beaten with a whisk until frothy.

While mixing, slowly add the remaining sugar. When your egg whites have soft peaks, decrease the speed on the mixer to avoid overbeating. Stop mixing when you have reached medium peaks.

Whites after reaching medium peaks.

Whites after reaching medium peaks.

Again, sift the flour mixture, but sift it over the top of the batter, just dusting the top.

Dusting the top of the batter with sifted flour mixture.

Dusting the top of the batter with sifted flour mixture.

Use a spatula to gently fold the flour into the whites, just until not visible.

Folding in the flour mixture.

Folding in the flour mixture.

Repeat until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out almost dry. My cake was ready after 35 minutes.

The final batter, spooned into a tube pan.

The final batter, spooned into a tube pan.

Cake after baking 35 minutes.

Cake after baking 35 minutes.

Remove your cake from the oven and invert it on the back of a sheet pan. My cake pan has feet for this purpose. The cake needs to be inverted or it will collapse. Let the cake cool completely.

Cake inverted to cool completely.

Cake inverted to cool completely.

To remove the cake from the pan, you will need to run a knife around the edges, as the cake will be stuck from “climbing” the walls of the pan. While you certainly could serve your cake with accompaniments, we chose to eat ours plain.

Alton's angel food cake.

Alton’s angel food cake.

A slice of angel food cake.

A slice of angel food cake.

I have to say that Alton’s angel food cake is so much better than anything you can buy. It is moist, airy, and sweet, and has just the right hint of orange flavor. You could use any extract you would like to flavor your cake. While I still won’t be making angel food cake regularly, Alton’s version is quite delicious, and should I need an angel food cake in the future, this is the recipe I will use.

I love pig, so I was excited for the 46th episode of Good Eats. I think of ham as something to be consumed for special occasions or holidays. When your husband has cancer, you begin to view every day as a special occasion. So, a random August day seemed like the perfect occasion to prepare a ham.

Country Ham

I love country hams. For several past holidays, my parents have ordered Waco hams. I relish their dry texture and excessive saltiness, leaving me with rings that fit too tightly on my water-retaining fingers. In the episode, Alton is able to easily find a country ham at his local grocery store, but this was not the case for me. A country ham, by the way, is a ham that is dry cured and hung to age. We ended up finding a smoked ham at a local butcher shop, which is not exactly the same thing as a country ham, but it was the best we could do.

My smoked ham.

My smoked ham.

To make Alton’s country ham, you’ll need to prepare a couple of days in advance. To start, if your ham has a hock, you will want to cut it off. My ham did not have a hock. Stick your ham in a cooler, preferably with a drain, and submerge the ham in water. Your ham will soak for two days, and you will want to change the water twice each day.The purpose of the soak is to pull some of the salt out of the ham. I added some ice to my cooler since we had warm weather.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Once your two-day soak is done, stick your ham in a disposable roasting pan on a baking sheet. Fill the roasting pan with Dr. Pepper until the liquid comes 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the pan. Alton said this would only require 3-4 cans of Dr. Pepper, but I needed five 16-ounce bottles to fill my pan.

Dr. Pepper.

Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

In addition, add some sweet pickle juice to the pan; the online recipe calls for 1 cup, but Alton doesn’t measure the juice in the episode.

Sweet pickle juice.

Sweet pickle juice.

Tent the ham with a large piece of foil (two pieces crimped together), and place the ham in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Into the oven

Into the oven

After 30 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 1.5 hours. When the 1.5 hours are up, pull the ham out and flip it over.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Cover the ham again with the foil, insert a probe thermometer, and wait for the ham to reach 140 degrees. My 15-pound ham took about 5 hours to cook. Let the ham rest for a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

The day I cooked the ham, we opted to have ham sandwiches for dinner. The ham was fairly moist and tender. I think it would have been considerably drier in texture if I had used a true country ham. Though the ham had a faint sweetness to it, I would never have guessed that it cooked in Dr. Pepper and sweet pickle juice. My smoked ham was slightly salty before cooking, but I would be curious to see how a super salty country ham would turn out with this preparation. Regardless, this ham was super easy to cook and turned out flawlessly. It was definitely “good eats.” This would be a super easy way to cook a nice holiday meal. After slicing all of the ham, we vacuum sealed it and froze it for later eating.

Country ham sandwich.

Country ham sandwich.

City Ham

A couple of weeks after making the country ham, it was time to make Alton’s city ham. A city ham is partially cured in a brine and cooked to at least 137 degrees. Most hams that you see in the grocery store are city hams. When buying a city ham, choose a bone-in ham that is the shank end, rather than the rump end. Ideally, you also want to choose a ham that says it is in “natural juices,” rather than saying it has “water added.” I purchased an 11 pound ham. When ready to cook your ham, line a roasting pan with an old kitchen towel, and place your ham on top, cut side down.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

Using a utility knife on the 2nd click, score the ham diagonally from the bottom to the top, all the way around. Then, turning the ham in the opposite direction, score the ham again, forming a diamond pattern all over the outside of the ham.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Insert a probe thermometer, tent the ham with foil, and cook the ham at 250 degrees until the thermometer reaches 130 degrees. My ham took 3.5 hours to reach 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Pull the pan from the oven and use tongs to pull the diamonds of skin off of the outside of the ham. I had to use a paring knife to cut some of the skin off.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ingredients for Alton's ham crust:  mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Ingredients for Alton’s ham crust: mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Once the skin is all removed, paint a generous layer of mustard (Alton used Gulden’s in the episode) all over the ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Next, sprinkle/pat dark brown sugar on top of the mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Spritz the ham all over with some bourbon, and finally sprinkle a thick layer of pulverized gingersnap cookies on top of the bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

Stick the ham, uncovered, back in the oven (now at 350 degrees), and wait for the probe thermometer to reach 140 degrees. My ham’s temperature had risen to 140 degrees while I made the coating, so I opted to just put the ham back in the oven for an hour, as Alton had said his ham took about an hour. Let your ham rest for about a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

We had my parents over for dinner when I made the ham, serving it sliced, and with asparagus and sourdough bread.

Sliced city ham.

Sliced city ham.

We also had a wonderful 2004 Woodward Canyon Cabernet with our ham. Everyone thought this ham was just amazing. While we liked the country ham, we thought Alton’s city ham was phenomenal. The ham was moist and perfectly cooked, and the crust was a perfect combination of sweetness and tang. I will absolutely make this ham again. This one is a sure winner. Don’t miss this one!

I have not forgotten about my Good Eats blog project. Rather, I was waiting for Ted to feel good enough, after finishing chemo and radiation, to truly be able to enjoy Alton’s recipe for lobster. Exactly two weeks after completing treatment, he felt up to sitting down to a lobster dinner. This was to be my first time eating lobster… and it was to be prepared by me. Yep, I had waited 34 years to try lobster. How? I don’t know. I had eaten lobster macaroni and cheese, but never had I tried a whole lobster, or even a tail. The opportunity had just never really presented itself.

Stuffed Lobster

This past Friday, Fed Ex arrived at our door with two live hard shell lobsters from Maine; our lobsters were 1.5 pounds each. Living in the Inland Northwest, live lobsters are not particularly abundant, so having them shipped to our door was the easiest way to get them. In the episode, Alton explains that you really want to get hard shell lobsters, rather than soft shell lobsters, because they contain more meat and have a firmer texture. Soft shell lobsters have shells that are partially full of water, which you end up paying for. Our lobsters spent the day in the crisper drawer of our spare refrigerator, covered with damp newspaper. I was tempted to name them, but Ted said we shouldn’t name critters that we were later going to consume.

Ingredients for stuffed lobster:  Ritz crackers, onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary, parsley, scallions, and butter.

Ingredients for stuffed lobster: Ritz crackers, onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary, parsley, scallions, and butter.

When you are ready to cook your lobsters, stick them in your freezer for 15-20 minutes. An uncovered roasting pan works fine for containing them.

Live lobsters heading into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Live lobsters heading into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Our live lobsters.

Our live lobsters.

Putting them in the freezer serves to numb them sufficiently before they are cooked. If you feel up to it, the other way to kill your lobsters is to cut their heads in half with a knife. I opted for the less gruesome former method. While the lobsters are numbing in the freezer, fill the bottom of a large, wide, lidded pot with a layer of river rocks and an inch of water.

Pan with rocks and water.

Pan with rocks and water.

I used rocks from the front landscaped area of our yard. Bring this water to a boil over high heat. The rocks help to evenly distribute steam and also can prevent the lobsters tails from curling under. You want your pot to be ready to go when you pull your lobsters from the freezer.

Steaming pan, ready to go.

Steaming pot, ready to go.

When your pot is ready, throw some sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley on the rocks, and carefully/quickly place your lobsters on top.

Numbed lobsters, ready to go in the pot to steam.

Numbed lobsters, ready to go in the pot to steam.

Place the lid on the pot and set your timer for two minutes. Alton says your lobsters will be dead within ten seconds.

Lobsters in the pot.

Lobsters in the pot.

I forgot to throw my fresh herbs in, so I tossed them on top of the lobsters and let them steam for an additional minute. When your two (or three, in my case) minutes are up, place your lobsters immediately in an ice water bath to halt cooking. I used my kitchen sink for this.

Ice bath to halt cooking.

Ice bath to halt cooking.

Par cooked lobster in the ice bath.

Par cooked lobster in the ice bath.

Both lobsters in the ice bath, along with the claws that broke off of the one lobster.

Both lobsters in the ice bath, along with the claws that broke off of the one lobster.

You want to let them sit in the ice water for 10-15 minutes. Essentially, you are par cooking your lobsters, as they are not fully cooked at this point. Somehow, one of my lobsters lost its claws in the steaming pot, but that turned out to be no big deal, and I just threw them in the ice water too. After their chilly dip, it is time for the gross part of the preparation. Placing a lobster on your cutting board, and using a large chef’s knife, you want to cut the lobster in half lengthwise, from the midpoint to the head.

Lobster ready to be cut in half and prepped. This one's claws fell off during steaming.

Lobster ready to be cut in half and prepped. This one’s claws fell off during steaming.

Next, flip the lobster onto its back and cut again from the midpoint to the tail. Use your hands to pull the lobster apart at the midline. The tail portion of the shell will still be intact on the back side of the lobster, so you will sort of have a lobster bowl, with all of the meat exposed in the center. There will be some very obvious organs and such in the cavity that you want to scoop out with your hands and discard. Essentially, the top half of the lobster will be an empty cavity after you remove the organs. Next, pull off the lobster’s legs, and roll over each leg with a rolling pin to push the meat out. I was skeptical of how well this would work, but it worked like a charm. Set the leg meat aside.

Legs pulled off of lobster.

Legs pulled off of lobster.

Meat from legs using a rolling pin.

Meat from legs using a rolling pin.

In a saute pan, melt 1 T butter per lobster and sweat 2 T of onion per lobster. Add 1/4 t lemon zest (I added a bit more) and 1 T scallions.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

Onion, scallions, and lemon zest added to butter.

Onion, scallions, and lemon zest added to butter.

When the onions are translucent, add the lobster leg meat, breaking it up with your hands, and toss the mixture over low heat for about a minute.

Leg meat added to onion mixture.

Leg meat added to onion mixture.

Add some grinds of black pepper and five Ritz crackers, crumbling them with your hands. Turn the heat off and toss this mixture until all of the liquid is absorbed by the crackers and the mixture looks dry. You may need to add more crackers, which I did.

Ritz crackers and pepper added to filling mixture.

Ritz crackers and pepper added to filling mixture.

Set this mixture aside. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and cut the claws off of your lobsters, also cutting the bands off of the claws. Place the claws on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 4 minutes; the claws need a bit of additional cooking time over the rest of the lobster.

Claws into the oven to roast for 4 minutes.

Claws into the oven to roast for 4 minutes.

While your claws are roasting, place your lobsters on a sheet of foil, scrunching it up to make a level platform for them to nest in.

Cleaned lobsters, ready to be stuffed.

Cleaned lobsters, ready to be stuffed.

Loosely spoon the cracker/onion/leg meat mixture into the open cavities of the lobsters, avoiding packing it in, and brush the tail meat with some olive oil.

Stuffed lobsters.

Stuffed lobsters.

Lobsters, ready for the oven. Tails brushed with olive oil.

Lobsters, ready for the oven. Tails brushed with olive oil.

When the four minute head start for your claws is done, add the lobsters to the pan with the claws. Depending on the weight of your lobsters, you will need to adjust the roasting time. For 1.5 lb lobsters, roast them for 14 minutes. In the episode, Alton has a chart of roasting times for respective lobster weights.

Claws after 4 minutes in the oven.

Claws after 4 minutes in the oven.

Lobsters added to claws.

Lobsters added to claws.

When your lobsters are done cooking, remove them from the oven and crack the claws.

Lobsters after 14 minutes in the oven.

Lobsters after 14 minutes in the oven.

You first want to crack the pincher and wiggle it from side to side until you can slide the shell off. Then, crack the other portion of the claw and push the meat out of the joint with your finger. This is easier said than done, but it can be done with some fiddling. Serve your lobsters on a bed of greens with the claw meat placed on top, and melted butter and lemon on the side.

Final stuffed lobster with claw meat on top and lemon on the side.

Final stuffed lobster with claw meat on top and lemon on the side.


So, how was Alton’s stuffed lobster? Ted and I both thought this was delicious. It was rich and sweet, and the meat was cooked perfectly. The buttery flavor of the Ritz crackers paired perfectly with the lobster meat and the lemon zest cut the richness. We had our lobster with a Chardonnay and that pairing worked nicely. I would definitely make this again, and I already have it on my list for potential holiday meals. For lobster purists who like to pick the meat out of the shells yourselves, this preparation is probably not for you. However, if you want to enjoy the flavor of lobster with minimal work at the table, this is the way to go. It is definitely safe to say that I am a lobster fan after this one.