Archive for the ‘Season 9’ Category

Things are crazy around here with a busy toddler! Although I am able to find time to cook at night, it is often tough to find time to sit down and write a blog post. Cycling and running are two of my biggest hobbies, and I try to do a ride or run most days of the week. My favorite little gal is sometimes now only napping for an hour or so during the day, which means I have to carefully choose how I want to spend said free hour! Today, though, the little one is out running errands with her dad, so I have some time to sit down and do some writing.

Seafood is probably the food category I am least confident cooking because I always fear that I will either over or undercook it. Typically, though, I find that my gut is usually fairly trustworthy, if only I’ll allow myself to listen to it. Scallops were recently on the menu in our house, as I prepared Alton’s three scallop recipes for us. While I have cooked scallops a few times, they do not make regular appearances in our house; rather, they are something I occasionally order when we go out to eat. My favorite scallop preparation I remember consuming was a pairing of sea scallops with a huckleberry reduction that my dad and I both ordered as a special at a restaurant.

Seared Scallops

When purchasing fresh scallops, store them in an airtight container over ice, and use them as soon as possible after bringing them home. Frozen scallops can be kept in the freezer for a couple months and should be thawed on ice in the refrigerator. Diver scallops are optimal, as they are the freshest and have been harvested by divers. I did not know that sea scallops (the big ones) can be classified as either wet or dry. Dry scallops tend to have a sticky texture, have an ivory/pink/orange hue, and are not stored in any liquid. Wet scallops, on the other hand, are white in color and have been soaked in a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate, which is a preservative. This preservative causes the scallops to retain water and can impart some odd flavors, so dry scallops are preferable. Oh, and for an odd fact about scallops… did you know they are hermaphrodites?

Alton’s first scallop recipe is a simple and classic seared preparation of sea scallops. If you can find dry scallops, you’ll want to use those; I could not find dry sea scallops where I shopped, so mine were wet. To make four servings of scallops, you’ll need 1 – 1 1/4 pounds of scallops. Rinse your scallops in cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. If your scallops have a small side muscle attached (it looks sort of like a mini scallop attached to the side), pull it off and discard it. Place a large skillet on medium-high heat, adding 2 t olive oil and 2 t butter.

Olive oil and butter in skillet.

Season your scallops with Kosher salt and pepper and, once the butter stops bubbling, add the scallops to the pan, working from the outside of the pan to the inside. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

Serve the scallops immediately over greens with a vinaigrette.

Alton’s seared scallops.

This is an easy and foolproof recipe for cooking scallops. If you cook the scallops as Alton instructs, you will be rewarded with perfectly cooked scallops. This would be an excellent first recipe to try if you have not cooked scallops before, and it is also one of the fastest meals you could ever make!

Scallops on the Half Shell

The second recipe in this episode uses bay, rather than sea, scallops. For four servings, you will need a half pound of bay scallops (side muscles removed), rinsed and patted dry. Preheat the oven to 450 and heat 2 T butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add 1 T minced garlic and a pinch of Kosher salt. After about 30 seconds, add 1 C of crushed club crackers (this is what Alton used in the episode). Stir the cracker mixture until everything is combined and set it aside.

In a small bowl combine two finely chopped ripe medium tomatoes with 1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley and 1/4 t Kosher salt.

Divide the tomato mixture evenly among four small ovenproof dishes. Evenly distribute the scallops on top of the tomatoes and top the scallops with the cracker mixture.

Bake the scallops for 8-10 minutes or until the cracker topping is golden brown.

Alton’s scallops on the half shell after baking.

This was my first time cooking bay scallops and they turned out really well. I personally felt that the ratio of crackers to scallops/tomatoes was a bit too high, which resulted in this being a surprisingly heavy and filling dish. I would probably reduce the crackers by a third. I was worried that the crackers would be soggy, but separating the crackers from the tomatoes kept the crackers nice and crispy. This would make a really nice appetizer for a dinner party, and is another recipe that comes together in a snap.

Scallop Mousse

Scallop mousse is the final recipe for this one. Since there were only two of us eating this recipe and I was planning it to be an appetizer, I only used about 1/4 pound of sea scallops and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. For a full batch of this recipe, you’ll need a pound of wet sea scallops. Begin by preheating your oven to 350. Place your rinsed/patted pound of scallops in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them to a smooth paste – about 5 pulses. Add two egg whites and pulse until the egg whites are no longer visible.

Add 1/4 t nutmeg, 1/4 t white pepper, 1/2 t lemon zest, 1/2 t parsley, and 1 t Kosher salt.

Nutmeg, pepper, lemon zest, parsley, and Kosher salt.

With the machine running, drizzle in 1/4 C of cold heavy cream. Transfer the mousse to a large zip top bag, sealing it well. Use scissors to snip off one bottom corner of the bag, as this will allow you to use the bag like a piping bag. Pipe the mousse into mini phyllo shells (you can find these in the freezer section) placed on a baking sheet.

Mousse, after adding seasoning, being piped into phyllo cups.

Bake the mousse for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.

I have to be honest that I was turned off from this recipe from the get-go. Even as I was watching Alton prepare this mousse, I just found it really unappealing, and that bias was hard to turn off. As I placed the scallops in the food processor and began pureeing them, it was just as unappealing as I had imagined. There is just something really gross about pureed seafood. Then, when you add egg white to the party… well, it just gets worse and starts to resemble something along the lines of foamy snot. Flavorwise, the mousse is very mild, almost to the point of being quite bland, but both Ted and I struggled with the texture. Yep, this one for me, was a straight no-go.

Pad Thai

They say that every Thai cook has his/her own version of Pad Thai, leading to countless recipes and variations. In reading the online reviews of Alton’s Pad Thai recipe, some reviewers are critical of his recipe, questioning its authenticity. I am not personally enough of a Pad Thai expert to evaluate the authenticity of Alton’s version, but I sure can give my opinion on how much I did/did not like it. Many of the ingredients in this recipe are not available in a regular supermarket, so a trip to an Asian grocery store is most likely necessary. 

The night before you plan to eat your Pad Thai, you will want to begin prepping some tofu. To do this, slice 12 ounces of extra firm tofu into four slices. Line a baking pan with a tea towel, placing the tofu slices on top of the towel. Fold the towel over the tofu and place a second baking pan on top. Place a five pound weight on top of the second baking dish and place the tofu in the refrigerator overnight.

The following day, a half hour before you are going to cook, unwrap your tofu and soak it for 30 minutes in a mixture of 1 1/2 C soy sauce with 1 t Chinese five spice powder.

While your tofu marinates, pour 3/4 C boiling water over an ounce of seedless tamarind paste and set it aside; I accidentally got tamarind concentrate instead of tamarind paste (paste is much thicker).

Remove half of the tofu from the marinade and thinly slice it.

Next, to make the sauce, combine in a bowl:  2 T palm sugar, 2 T fish sauce, and 1 T rice wine vinegar. Strain the tamarind paste into this bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all liquid. Discard the solids.

In a separate large bowl, place 4 ounces of fine rice stick noodles and cover them with hot water for 10 minutes.

Fine rice stick noodles soaking in hot water for 10 minutes.

Before cooking you will want to also prep the following ingredients:  2 scallions cut on the bias, 2 t minced garlic, 2 whisked eggs, 2 t salted cabbage (comes in a jar), 1 T chopped dried shrimp, 3 oz bean sprouts, 1/2 C chopped salted peanuts, 6-8 dried red chilies ground to a powder, and 1 lime cut in wedges.

If you want to stir-fry Alton’s way, you’ll want to use your wok on a charcoal grill; you can purchase a wok ring to hold your wok. I don’t have a charcoal grill or a wok ring, so I just went with the good ol’ stovetop. Heat 1 T peanut oil in a wok over high heat and add your sliced marinated tofu. Cook the tofu until it is golden around the edges, and then remove the tofu from the pan.

Add some more peanut oil to the wok, along with 2/3 of the scallions and all of the garlic. Next, pour in your whisked eggs, scrambling them once they start to solidify.

Once the eggs have been scrambled, add your drained rice noodles and the sauce.

Soaked/drained noodles and sauce added to wok.

Add 2/3 of the bean sprouts, 2/3 of the peanuts, all of the cabbage, and all of the shrimp. Toss everything together until heated through.

2/3 of sprouts, 2/3 of peanuts, salted cabbage, and shrimp added to the pan.

To finish, add the tofu back to the pan and toss again until the tofu is heated through.

Transfer the Pad Thai to a large serving plate and garnish it with the remaining sprouts, scallions, and peanuts. Sprinkle the top with the powdered chiles and serve with lime wedges.

Alton’s Pad Thai.

As I said before, I’m not a Pad Thai pro, but I really enjoyed making and eating this dinner. It was fun to utilize some new-to-me ingredients and the method of stir-frying is always kind of fun. I actually prepped this dinner for us two nights in a row since the recipe yields enough marinated tofu to double the recipe; the tofu was really very salty the second day, so I would not marinate the tofu for longer than the recipe states. We also did both find that the dried shrimp overpowered the dish, as they have a very strong seafood-like flavor. Personally, I would decrease or omit the dried shrimp, but that’s just me. Otherwise, it’s easy to see why Pad Thai is such a popular Thai dish because it has such a wide variety of textures and flavors. I will absolutely be making this again, especially now that we have all of the Asian ingredients in our pantry.

I fell behind a little bit in my project, as we went out of town a couple times and our 11-month-old has kept me pretty busy. She is crawling everywhere, standing, and into everything, so I can really only get things done when she is sleeping! Oh, and some days we only take one nap! I also wanted to make some of my favorite summer dishes (gazpacho, caprese, and risotto) before the season is over. Summer has gone by way too quickly for my liking.

This episode, featuring another “flat” food, showcases flounder. Alton claims that flounder is a readily available fish, which is probably true in some areas, but not where I live. I called our local markets and was told that they never have flounder, and that any flounder they would order would be frozen. My only option, it seemed, was to use frozen flounder fillets, so that’s what I did.

Baked Stuffed Flounder

The first flounder recipe is for flounder fillets stuffed with a vegetable filling. This recipe, as written, makes enough for four to six people, so I halved it for us. To make the full recipe, you’ll first want to cook enough rice to yield three cups of cooked rice. You can set the rice aside until later. To start the filling, melt 2 T butter in a skillet over medium-low heat, adding a chopped medium onion and a pinch of Kosher salt.

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Onion and Kosher salt in skillet with melted butter.

While the onion sweats, pour 1 C heavy cream and 1/4 C white wine into a saucier over medium heat, and whisk as you bring the mixture to a simmer.

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Heavy cream and white wine in saucier.

Meanwhile, add 1 minced clove of garlic to the onion and cook for a minute. Once the cream mixture is simmering, slowly whisk in 10 ounces of cheddar cheese, letting each addition of cheese melt before adding more. When all of the cheese is in and the sauce is smooth, remove it from the heat.

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Cheese, ready to add to simmering cream/wine.

To finish the filling, add to the onion pan 10 ounces of chopped frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained, along with the zest of a lemon. Next, add 2 T chopped parsley, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper. Remove the filling from the heat.

Stir the cheese sauce again before placing 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of flounder fillets on a sheet pan. Season the fish liberally with Kosher salt and pepper. Distribute the spinach filling among the fillets, placing a mound at the widest part of each filet.

Roll the fish around the filling, bringing the tail end up over the filling and the head portion down, kind of twisting the fish around the filling. Place the fillets seam side down in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole that has been filled with the 3 C of cooked rice from earlier.

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Fillets rolled around filling and placed on rice.

Pour the cheese sauce over the fish and rice and bake the fish for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let the fish rest for five minutes before serving.

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Cheese sauce poured over fish and rice.

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Fish after baking for 25 minutes.

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Alton’s stuffed flounder.

Okay, so I instantly cringed at the idea of fish and cheese together when I watched Alton prepare this dish. Cheese and seafood? Well, it turned out that the cheese wasn’t so much of the problem as was my fish. Is all flounder fishy? My flounder smelled super fishy when I opened it and maintained a fishy flavor after cooking. The fish also had a somewhat mushy texture, and we both found it really unappealing. In fact, I just ended up eating the rice with the filling and sauce. I would definitely not make this recipe again as it is written. Maybe this would be better with a different type of fish? Still… fish with cheese. Yeah, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Oil Poached Flounder

After making Alton’s first flounder dish, I decided to make the remaining to recipes with a different type of fish that I could get fresh locally – salmon. My flounder was just so bad that I could tell it would not taste good in any recipe. Yes, substituting ingredients (especially the main ingredient) goes against the premise of this project, but I chose to do it here in Alton’s oil poached flounder recipe. To poach fish in oil, heat 3 C of olive oil on the stove over low heat until it reaches 300-310 degrees.

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Olive oil heating to 300-310 degrees.

While the oil heats, heat the oven to 350 degrees and season 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of fish fillets with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Salmon, seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper and cut into fillets.

Thinly slice a lemon and line the bottom of a cast iron skillet with the lemon slices. Top the lemon slices with a few sprigs of fresh parsley.

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A layer of lemon slices and parsley in a cast iron skillet.

Place the fish fillets on top of the parsley and top the fish with another layer of thinly sliced lemon and a few more sprigs of parsley. Make sure your parsley is not wet.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and carefully pour the hot oil over the fish.

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Skillet placed in oven and hot oil poured over.

Let the fish cook for 10 minutes before removing it from the oven. Let the fish rest for five minutes before serving.

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Fish after poaching for 10 minutes in the oven.

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Alton’s oil poached fish.

You can strain and save the oil for later fish cooking. If you plan to make the next recipe, which uses leftovers from this recipe, be sure to save 1/2 C of the cooking oil and two of the lemon slices. My salmon turned out moist and flavorful, yet not greasy. I do think my fish was slightly overcooked, so I would be tempted next time to cut the cooking time by several minutes. I did like this method of cooking fish and I did save the oil, so I think I’ll try this again. I suppose you could always mix up the fresh herbs; since I used salmon, I think dill would pair well.

Flounder Fish Salad

Leftover fish is typically pretty gross, so I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw Alton making a leftover fish salad. To make this salad, whisk together in a bowl:  3 T white wine vinegar, 1 T lime juice, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/8 t pepper, and 8-10 drops of hot sauce.

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White wine vinegar, lime juice, Kosher salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Slowly whisk in 1/2 C of the strained leftover cooking oil from the previous recipe until you have an emulsion.

Fold a pound of leftover cooked fish from the previous recipe into the dressing.

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Leftover poached fish added to vinaigrette.

Finally, add two diced  leftover lemon slices from the previous recipe, 2 T parsley, and 2 T scallions. Serve the fish salad with crackers.

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Diced lemon, parsley, and scallions added to fish.

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Alton’s fish salad on crackers.

I used my leftover salmon from the previous recipe and thought this turned out to be surprisingly good. We ate this as an appetizer on crackers. The fish didn’t taste fishy and the vinaigrette had a nice pep to it. The leftover diced lemon added both texture and a bit of tart citrus. I found this to be a very summery dish. While I never would have considered eating leftover fish before, I may make this salad again in the future if we have good leftover fish. I can assuredly say that this recipe would have been awful if I had used the frozen flounder that I used in the first recipe, so if you do decide to try this one, be certain that you are using good fish!

Well, it took a while, but I finally completed all of Alton’s recipes for an entire butchered beef tenderloin. In “Tender is the Loin I,”  Alton showed how to butcher a whole tenderloin into cuts to be used in five different recipes. You cut the loin into four filets, a center cut roast, a head roast, a tip portion, and a chain.

In addition to the butchering in that first tenderloin episode, he also demonstrated a recipe for the filets from the tenderloin. As I mentioned before, for some reason, a cocktail episode aired in between the two tenderloin episodes, which was an odd decision. Here are the recipes for the remaining cuts from the beef tenderloin.

Center Cut Tenderloin Roast

The center cut roast from the tenderloin is used first in the second episode. This cut of meat should weigh 1 to 1 1/4 pounds. For this recipe, place 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t pepper, and 1 t cumin in a loaf pan.

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Kosher salt, pepper, and cumin.

Set the roast in the spices and toss it around to coat on all sides. Let the roast sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.

After resting, place a grill pan over high heat for five to seven minutes. Sprinkle the pan with Kosher salt, as this will make it easier to clean later. Sprinkle vegetable oil over the roast and turn it with tongs to coat. Place the roast at the front of the grill pan and gradually roll the roast from the front to the back of the pan, searing for about eight minutes total on all sides.

Transfer the roast from the grill pan to a metal baking pan and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Seared roast placed in metal pan.

While the roast sits, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the roast back on the grill pan place it in the oven with a probe thermometer in its center. Cook the roast until the probe thermometer says 135 degrees.

Remove the roast from the oven, wrap it in foil, and let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing.

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Roast wrapped in foil for 30 minutes.

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Alton’s center cut tenderloin roast.

This roast was so easy and was perfectly cooked. I typically use some sort of sauce with beef, but I found that this roast was flavorful enough on its own. The outside of the roast had a spice-filled crust, while the inside of the roast was juicy and tender. This is a roast you could easily make any day of the week and any meat-eater would certainly enjoy this.

Stuffed Roast

To follow the center cut roast, Alton prepped his recipe for the small head roast (1 to 1.5 lb) portion of the loin. I prepared this for dinner on Father’s Day. To begin, slice open the head roast, creating a pocket. Open the roast and place a few more slices internally, slicing it “like a book.” Brush the inside of the roast with olive oil and season it with Kosher salt and pepper.

Sear the roast on both sides on a hot grill pan that has been sprinkled with Kosher salt. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes after searing.

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Head roast on hot grill pan to sear.

Stuff the roast with three ounces of blue cheese, roll the roast up, and secure it with butcher’s twine.

Place a probe thermometer in the center of the roast and cook the roast in the oven at 450 degrees until the thermometer reaches 125 degrees.

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Head roast in 450 degree oven until reaching 125 in the center.

Remove the roast from the oven, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

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Head roast resting in foil for 15 minutes.

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Head roast, ready to be sliced.

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Alton’s stuffed tenderloin.

This was delicious, especially if you like blue cheese. As Alton said, the idea with this recipe was to put the sauce on the inside of the meat… and it works. The meat came out pink and juicy and the cheese was melting in the center. This is another fantastic roast recipe that requires very little effort and produces great results.

Carpaccio

I love carpaccio. Although the idea of raw meat may scare some people, I encourage you to give it a try. I had previously only had carpaccio in restaurants, and I likely would never have made it at home if were not for this project. To make Alton’s carpaccio, you will need a small tip portion from a beef tenderloin. Wrap the meat in plastic and place it in the freezer for two hours, or until it is quite firm.

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Tenderloin tip wrapped in plastic and heading to freezer for 2 hours.

Leaving the plastic on, slice the meat as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife; I actually removed the plastic for slicing, as I found that the plastic really got in the way.

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Slicing meat after freezing.

Spritz a counter top with water and place a layer of plastic wrap down. Spritz the top of the plastic and add the meat slices, overlapping them slightly to form a “disc of meat.” Spritz the meat again and fold the plastic over the top of the meat, sandwiching the meat between the plastic layers.

Spritz the top layer of plastic one final time. Set a pie tin on top of the plastic and pound it with a mallet until the meat is very thin.

Remove the top layer of plastic and invert a plate on top of the meat. Slide your hand under the meat and invert the meat back onto the top of the plate.

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Inverting meat onto plate.

Peel off the remaining plastic, leaving the meat on the plate. Chill the meat until eating.

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Carpaccio, inverted onto plate.

To serve the carpaccio, dress it with good olive oil, Kosher salt, pepper, lemon juice, shaved Parmesan, and greens. I also added some capers for good measure.

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Alton’s carpaccio.

I served the carpaccio with good crackers. I honestly did not think homemade carpaccio would measure up to what I’ve had in restaurants, but Alton’s carpaccio was just as good as anything I’ve eaten out. Now, of course, this was using high-quality beef. This would make a great appetizer to serve to guests, as it is really quite simple to prepare, but is a restaurant-quality dish. Great recipe!

Chain of Bull Cheese Steaks

The final recipe of the tenderloin recipes uses the “chain” part of the loin to make cheesesteak sandwiches. We ate these sandwiches just last night for dinner. I had frozen my chain and pulled it out to thaw a couple days ago. To make these sandwiches, trim the chain of any excess fat and place it between sheets of plastic wrap that have been spritzed with water.

Pound the meat with a mallet until it is even in thickness for its whole length.

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The chain portion placed in plastic and pounded until thin.

Place the meat in a bowl and add olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper. Toss the meat to coat.

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Chain placed in bowl and seasoned with olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Heat a grill pan until it is hot and sear the meat on all sides for about eight minutes total.

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Seared chain.

Remove the hot meat from the pan and wrap it tightly in foil. Add some additional olive oil to the grill pan and add one julienned onion. Cook the onion until is golden brown and soft.

Finely chop the cooked meat and pack it onto hoagie rolls.

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Chopped chain meat.

Top the meat with shredded Mimolette cheese and the warm onions. I could not find Mimolette cheese locally, so I opted for shredded Cheddar. And, we added a little bit of hot Giardiniera.

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Alton’s cheese steak sandwich.

I know people are picky about their cheesesteak sandwiches, and I am a complete novice. All I can say is that the meat was very tender and the warm onions melted the cheese just enough to kind of bind everything together. I did appreciate the little punch of heat from the Giardiniera, so I would personally opt for that again, though some may view that as sacrilegious. I found this to be a really tasty sandwich. Is it a true Philly-style cheesesteak sandwich? Well, that’s a question for those more experienced than I.

 

I relish in the tradition of cocktail hour. I remember my maternal grandparents having an evening cocktail – Grandma’s drink of choice was a Manhattan. When I was little, my dad would come home from work and indulge in an evening martini, using the little etched martini glasses that were his father’s. I now have two of those glasses, but I save them only for special days.

Our barware also includes two decanters that came from Dad’s side of the family. For Ted’s 40th birthday Dad gave Ted a decanter he had received from his mother when he graduated from medical school, and we typically keep Scotch in there (when we have it). We keep dry vermouth in a teardrop-shaped decanter that Dad’s father got at an estate sale. Three generations of our family have now used that decanter for vermouth.

This episode of Good Eats features three types of cocktails, so we tried them for cocktail hour on three different nights. Alton also went over his bar necessities:  old-fashioned and Collins/highball glasses for drinks on the rocks, stemmed cocktail glasses and champagne flutes for drinks not on the rocks, a jigger (1.5 oz)/pony (1 oz) combo, ice, a Boston shaker, and a julep strainer.

Cocktails can have three components:  a base, a mixer, and an accent. A martini, for example, would have gin as a base, vermouth as a mixer, and an olive or lemon twist as an accent. Some cocktails only use two components, such as a rum (base) and coke (mixer). Now, let’s get to Alton’s drink recipes.

AB’s Martini

Alton’s version of a martini is pretty dry, meaning it has little vermouth in it. To make his version, place a cocktail glass in the freezer or fill it with ice to chill.

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Martini glasses filled with ice to chill.

Put 1 C of ice in a cocktail shaker and add 1/2 a pony (1/2 ounce) of dry vermouth. Slosh the vermouth around to coat the ice.

Using a cocktail strainer, pour the vermouth out of the shaker, leaving only the vermouth-coated ice.

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Strainer on shaker to pour out excess vermouth.

Add 2 1/2 ounces of gin (1 pony plus 1 jigger). I believe Alton may have used Gilbey’s London Dry gin, but he had the label covered. Stir the drink thoroughly. Alton prefers stirring because shaking makes the drink too cold, causing it to lose some of its aromatic qualities.

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Gin added to vermouth-coated ice. Stirred, not shaken.

Place a single olive in your chilled martini glass and strain the drink into the glass.

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A lone olive in each glass.

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Alton’s martini.

So, it’s interesting that Alton liked his martini this dry in the past because he has been doing some live cocktail demos on Instagram lately, along with his live YouTube cooking show at his house. On one of the shows, he made a martini, and his current version contains much more vermouth. In fact, he uses a 2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, stirring the ingredients together without pouring anything out. I suppose his preferences must have changed over the years. I typically drink a pretty dry martini because my dad drank them that way – it’s really the only way I’ve known them! In fact, I’ve made my martinis Alton’s original way since I first started making them years ago, so it’s really my go-to method. I happen to think that this makes a really fantastic dry martini. If you prefer your martinis with more vermouth, feel free to add more! I will admit that a wetter martini is more complex. Really, dry and wet martinis are completely different cocktails, so it’s worth it to try both. If you think you dislike gin martinis, give a wet martini a try. You just may find that you dislike super dry martinis, but that you enjoy those with a bit more vermouth. If you like your martinis on the drier side, Alton’s method is a surefire way to make a good one.

Daiquiri

I’m betting that when you think of a daiquiri, you picture a fruity, icy drink with whipped cream on top. Am I right? Well, there’s also a version that is served ice-free. For this drink, you will need to first make some rich simple syrup. Simple syrup is made by heating equal amounts of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Although he doesn’t mention it, Alton actually uses rich simple syrup in this recipe, which means it has more sugar than water. To make the syrup, combine 2 C sugar with 1 C water and heat on the stove until the sugar has completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool before using. You can store extra syrup in the refrigerator.

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Making rich simple syrup by dissolving 2 C sugar in 1 C water.

To make the drink, chill a champagne flute or a martini glass by placing it in the freezer or filling it with ice. Put a pint of ice in a cocktail shaker and add 2 oz of light rum.

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Ice and rum in shaker.

Add 1 oz fresh lime juice and 1/2 oz of the rich simple syrup.

You will want to shake this drink because it has cloudy/viscous ingredients. Shake the drink vigorously and strain it into your chilled glass.

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Chilled glasses.

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Alton’s daiquiri.

We don’t really drink rum very often at all, so this was a little different for us. This is sort of a pretty drink, as its pale green opacity looks appealing in the glass. I find this to be a very balanced drink, as it is simultaneously pleasantly sweet and tart. The alcohol flavor is not super strong, and this is an easy-drinking cocktail, which could be a potentially dangerous combo. This is a simple and delicious cocktail to add to your repertoire.

Mint Julep

The third cocktail in this episode is the bourbon-based mint julep. I have made mint juleps once or twice in the past (on Derby Day, of course), and they have been pretty underwhelming. I wondered how Alton’s recipe would make me feel about this drink. To make one mint julep, place 10 mint leaves (I used mint from our garden) in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and add 1 1/2 t superfine sugar; you can make superfine sugar at home by blending sugar in a food processor.

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Mint and superfine sugar in a glass.

Muddle the mint and sugar together until you have a green paste.

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Mint and superfine sugar after muddling to a paste.

Add a splash of seltzer water to the glass and fill the glass 3/4 full with ice. Add 2 1/2 oz of bourbon and a final splash of seltzer.

Stir the drink, garnish it with a mint leaf or two, and serve.

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Alton’s mint julep after topping off with a final splash of seltzer.

I have never had a mint julep that I haven’t made at home, so I don’t have a large frame of reference, but this was by far my favorite mint julep. The mint was very apparent, but not overpowering, and the drink had just enough sweetness. The little bit of carbonation from the seltzer was a nice touch. Perhaps southerners would disapprove of this rendition of a mint julep, but I can only say that I really enjoyed this for a cocktail hour change of pace.

 

I’ve mentioned previously that my dear dad was a big Good Eats fan also, but he primarily watched for education. He would adopt a lot of Alton’s kitchen hacks along the way, and occasionally an episode would grab his attention enough that he would actually run to the store and try his hand at a recipe or two. Well, the 141st episode is one that got Dad really excited because it involves purchasing a whole beef tenderloin and butchering it at home into several cuts; as a surgeon, Dad was obviously proficient at such things, and he also really enjoyed learning new skills for himself. It’s also cheaper to do the butchering at home.

There is only one recipe in this episode, but prior to doing any cooking, Alton took to his demonstrations of butchering a tenderloin. When purchasing a whole tenderloin from a store such as Costco, you will want to look for a loin that has been peeled of extra fat and has the side muscle on. Apparently, this is called a PSMO (pronounced “pismo”) in the butchery world. It took a couple weeks for us to be able to find a whole tenderloin at Costco, as there was a bit of a meat shortage for a while, and when we did find one it was more expensive than normal.

When ready to begin cutting, rinse the whole tenderloin under water and let it drain in the sink for a few minutes.

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Whole beef tenderloin.

Place the loin on a long cutting board (I had to overlap two boards) with the vertebral/rough side down and the wide end away from you. If there is a large white membrane visible on the top of the meat, tear/peel/cut the membrane away to expose the tenderloin underneath. My tenderloin did not have much of this membrane.

Next, you will notice that the meat is composed of three distinct portions – the long tenderloin in the center and two additional muscles that are attached. The long thin muscle on the side of the tenderloin will come off next; it is easiest to do this by cutting from the thin end to the wide end. Once removed, set this “chain” muscle aside. This meat will be used to make Philly cheesesteak sandwiches in the next tenderloin episode.

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Whole beef tenderloin. You can see the chain muscle running along the top and the small head muscle at the bottom of the wide end of the loin.

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Here, the chain has been removed – to be used later for cheesesteak sandwiches. The head muscle will be cut off next – you can see it starting to separate now.

Flip the tenderloin over and remove any excess fat, shaving it off with a sharp knife running toward you. Your loin will have some silver skin on it, which is the tough, shimmery band of connective tissue that is inedible. If you have a boning knife, insert its tip under the band of silver skin, perpendicular to the loin, and lift the silver skin up. Place your finger under the silver skin and pull it tight as you slide the knife away from you to remove the silver skin. Discard all of the silver skin.

Since you have now removed the “chain” muscle from the loin, you will notice that you now have the main tenderloin and a small muscle that attaches to the wide end of the loin. Remove this small “head” muscle, setting it aside. This muscle will be used to make a stuffed tenderloin roast in the next tenderloin episode.

To portion the remaining meat, you will want to use a long slicing knife. Alton prefers to use a Granton knife, which has a long dimpled blade. I don’t have a Granton knife, so I used my sharpest chef’s knife. Without sawing through the meat, slice off the tip portion of the narrow end of the loin. Set this piece aside to make beef carpaccio later. Still working from the narrow end of the loin, use a ruler to cut a three-inch portion; this will be a butterflied filet because it is cut from a skinnier part of the tenderloin. To butterfly this piece, cut it almost all the way through at its center and fold it open to bring the sides together – you should now have a filet that is about 1.5 inches thick. The cut sides will now form the flat top of the filet.

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Butterflied filet at the top and other filet below.

Next, cut three more filets, each 1.5 inches thick. We’ll get to cooking the filets soon here.

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Butchered tenderloin. Top left is chain muscle for cheesesteak sandwiches. Below that is a portion that will be used for a stuffed roast. Then there are the four filets (the top one is the butterflied one), and the small piece of meat in the upper right corner is for carpaccio.

You should be left with a remaining center hunk of tenderloin that is about 1-1.5 pounds. This piece will also be used later in the next tenderloin episode to make a center cut tenderloin roast.

At this point, if you plan to use the meat soon, you can double wrap it in plastic and store it in your refrigerator. For longer storage, vacuum seal the meat and stick it in the freezer.

Steak au Poivre

After portioning that entire tenderloin, this episode only provides a recipe for the four filet portions of the loin. The remaining cuts of meat will be used in the second tenderloin episode, which, oddly, is not the next episode. Instead, there is a cocktail episode that separates the two tenderloin episodes. It seems really silly to me that the two tenderloin episodes didn’t air back-to-back since the second episode is a continuation of the first. So, yeah, I froze most of the meat I cut from my tenderloin. The filets, though, I did not freeze, but rather used to make Alton’s steak au poivre. I only cooked two filets, though, instead of four. For four filets, you want to first grind 2 T of black pepper; you want this pepper to be very coarsely ground. If your pepper mill doesn’t do a very coarse grind, place the whole peppercorns in a pie tin, top them with a towel, and crush them with a mallet. Season your four room temperature filets with Kosher salt on both sides.

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Filets (the right filet is the larger butterflied one) seasoned with Kosher salt.

Then, press the filets into the ground pepper on both the top and bottom sides.

Place a 10″ skillet (NOT non-stick) over medium-high heat, adding 1 T butter and 1 t olive oil (not extra virgin).

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Butter and olive oil in pan.

When the fat just starts to color and you see a tiny bit of smoke, add the steaks to the pan, cooking them for four minutes per side for medium rare. I did not do the best job with butterflying my one filet, so it ended up being considerably larger than my other three filets. Since Ted likes his steak a little less cooked than I do, I figured I would cook the larger one for Ted simultaneously with a smaller filet for me, and they would be done around the same time.

Transfer the steaks to a warm plate on a heating pad and cover them with foil.

Pour any remaining fat out of the pan (my pan had none), leaving the solids. Set the pan over high heat.

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Pan after removing steaks.

Turn the burner OFF and add 1/3 C of Cognac to the pan. Use a lighter to carefully ignite the alcohol.

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Cognac added to pan and ignited.

When the flames have dissipated, place the pan back over medium heat and scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan with a whisk. Add 1 C heavy cream, bringing it to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the sauce over low heat until it has thickened to your desired consistency. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning with Kosher salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 to 1 t additional Cognac.

Add the warm steaks back to the pan and turn them to coat with the sauce.

Serve the steaks immediately.

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Alton’s steak au poivre.

I don’t cook steaks often, and I always really worry about overcooking them, especially when they are good cuts of meat. I cooked my steaks for four minutes on each side and they ended up being a bit underdone, unfortunately. I chose to use a pan of my parents’ that I really am not familiar with, so maybe I should have gone with my cast iron instead? I think an extra minute of cooking on each side would probably have worked very well in the pan I used. The pepper crust on the meat was fantastic and the meat almost melted in your mouth. The sauce was rich without being heavy, and the Cognac gave the sauce a little sweetness to contrast with the heat of the black pepper. This really was quite delicious. If only I had cooked my steaks just a tiny bit longer…

Two days ago marked five years since Ted was diagnosed with cancer. It was also his birthday yesterday, so we certainly have some things to celebrate this week! Good eats will absolutely be on our plates the next few days, including the steak au poivre from episode 141 – stay tuned for that. Thank goodness we will be having nice weather too!

I just finished up the recipes from episode 140, which were three vanilla-centered recipes. I had to order some vanilla beans for these recipes; I didn’t get the most expensive ones, but they were fairly plump, moist, and aromatic, so I think they were sufficient. In case you wonder why vanilla beans are so expensive… Did you know that vanilla flowers can only be pollinated on one day every year? They also often have to be pollinated by hand. In addition to that, vanilla pods have to cure after they are harvested, which takes months.

Fruit Salad with Vanilla Dressing

To first showcase vanilla, and specifically vanilla extract, Alton whipped up a fruit salad with a vanilla dressing. To make the salad, place the following items in a large mixing bowl:  1 Granny Smith apple (peeled, cored, and diced), 1 C halved seedless red grapes, 1 pear (peeled, cored, and diced), 10-12 halved medium strawberries, 1 peeled/diced mango, 1 sliced banana, and 1/3 C toasted chopped walnuts. I toasted my walnuts in a small skillet until they were fragrant.

To make the dressing for the salad, whisk together in a small bowl:  1 t vanilla extract, 1 t lemon juice, 1 t honey, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t pepper, 1/2 C plain yogurt, and 1/4 C mayonnaise.

Add the dressing to the fruit, and toss to coat. Season to taste with additional pepper.

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Alton’s vanilla fruit salad.

When I made this fruit salad, I was reminded that I should make fruit salads more often. I liked the combination of flavors and textures that Alton chose, as some of the fruit added tartness and crunch while others were softer and sweeter. The nuts were a nice addition, and I don’t think I’ve ever included them in a fruit salad before. The dressing itself is only very mildly sweet, which is really all you need with all of the sugar from the fruit. The only thing I question with this recipe is whether it truly exhibited the power of vanilla extract. I appreciate that Alton included a vanilla recipe that only used extract, but this recipe was pretty faint in the vanilla department. I would argue that Alton should have perhaps demonstrated how to make homemade vanilla extract, as he could then have used the homemade extract to make a delicious vanilla poundcake. Or, he could have used the homemade extract to flavor a cocktail. Just my two cents.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is Alton’s second vanilla-based recipe, and he uses a whole vanilla bean for this one. To start, use a sharp knife to split a vanilla bean open and use the back of the knife to scrape out the seeds. Bring a quart of heavy cream to a simmer, along with the scraped vanilla bean and its seeds.

Once simmering, remove the pan from the heat and let the vanilla steep in the cream for 15 minutes.

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Cream after steeping.

While the cream is steeping, whisk 6 egg yolks in a large bowl until they have lightened in color and preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Slowly add 1/2 C sugar to the yolks; vanilla sugar is ideal, if you have it. You can make vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla bean in some sugar. In fact, you can make it at this point of this recipe by rinsing the steeped vanilla bean and placing it in some sugar for later use.

Next, slowly add the warm cream to the eggs, whisking in just a little bit at a time until it is all added.

Line a roasting pan with a tea towel and place six ramekins inside, dividing the custard among them. Alton filled his ramekins after placing his roasting pan in the oven, but I found it easier to fill the ramekins on my countertop.

Either way, once the filled ramekins are in the roasting pan inside the oven, add hot (not boiling) water to the roasting pan until it comes about half-way up the ramekins.

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Custards in the oven and hot water added to come halfway up the ramekins.

Bake the custard for 40-45 minutes or until it is set, but still jiggly in the center. Okay, so I had enough custard to fill six ramekins plus a larger, shallower dish (see photo above). My shallow custard was very obviously done after about 30-35 minutes, as it had greater surface area.

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Shallow custard after baking.

My ramekins were still very jiggly at 45 minutes, and my intuition told me to cook them longer. I ignored my intuition, however, as I could hear Alton stressing that you do not want to overcook the custard.

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Ramekins after baking – still underdone in the middle.

Yeah, I should have listened to my intuition. My ramekins were still very wobbly in the center after cooling to room temperature. I decided to put them back in the oven again, and I ended up cooking them for at least 20 minutes the second time around. They were a little more golden on top than they should have been, but they ended up setting up just fine. Let the custards cool to room temperature and then refrigerate them until ready to serve.

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Custards after

To brulee the custard, sprinkle an even layer of sugar (again, vanilla sugar is best) over the top of the custard.

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Sugar sprinkled over the custard surface.

Using a torch, heat the sugar until it begins to brown in places. Then, pick the ramekin up and rotate it as you hold the ramekin at a 45 degree angle, letting the molten sugar flow over the surface as you continue to brulee. My sister-in-law gave me a small butane torch years ago, so I used that. Alton prefers to use a high-powered torch from a hardware store.

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Alton’s creme brulee.

This was a delicious dessert, even despite my initial under-baking. The custard was perfectly smooth and rich, and had a deep vanilla flavor. Alton’s brulee method of rotating on an angle worked perfectly, giving a perfect golden, sugary crust every time. This is a wonderful recipe – just be sure to cook the custards until they are just barely wobbly in the center. Oh, and if your ramekins are sized as mine are, you will likely have enough custard for at least eight desserts!

Vanilla Poached Pears

My mom got on a short kick years ago of making poached pears. I recall her making at least three or four types of poached pears over, what seemed to be, just a few short weeks. If I’m being honest, I remember hoping she would finally make something different for dessert! I don’t believe that I had ever made poached pears prior to this recipe of Alton’s that I prepared last week. This recipe starts with pouring a 750 ml bottle of riesling or viognier into a large saucepan.

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A bottle of Riesling.

Add 1 C water, 5 oz sugar (vanilla sugar is best), and 1 vanilla bean that has been split/scraped.

Bring the wine mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the liquid heats, peel and core (from the bottom) four pears, leaving the stems intact; Alton did not specify a certain type of pear in the episode. Oh, and to core his pears, Alton used a spade drill bit, so Ted picked one up for me. The drill bit worked really well!

Place the prepped pears in the almost-boiling liquid and cover the pan.

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Pears added to simmering liquid.

Let the pears cook for 30 minutes or until they are knife tender. Remove the pears from the liquid and let them cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Conversely, I see that the online recipe instructs you to cool the pears in the refrigerator.

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Pears after cooking for about 30 minutes.

While the pears cool, increase the heat under the cooking liquid and reduce the liquid until you have about one cup remaining, which should take 20-25 minutes. I found that it took a little longer than this for my liquid to adequately reduce to a syrup.

Once reduced, serve the pears with the warm syrup.

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Alton’s poached pears.

Vanilla flavor and aroma were very evident in these pears, as the vanilla seemed to have actually permeated the pears themselves, and the syrup also had a lovely vanilla infusion. The syrup was sweet, but not cloyingly so, which I really appreciated. I should have cooked my pears a little longer than I did, so mine were a bit too firm, but that was my error. All in all, this recipe did a great job of showcasing vanilla and is a great way to utilize fruit in a dessert. This would also be an easy dessert to serve for a dinner party, as you could easily double the syrup and cook multiple pears in a large pot.

 

 

 

It’s a super gray and windy day here, which is sort of forcing us all indoors. Last week I made the recipes from this episode, which just didn’t seem seasonally appropriate. Why is it that eggnog is typically only consumed at the holidays? It must be due to our willingness to allow ourselves to indulge more during the holiday season since eggnog is most certainly a rich treat. Seeing as we are not really allowed to indulge ourselves in many ways right now, maybe now is actually the perfect time to drink a little nog.

My dad would make homemade eggnog when my parents would host holiday parties. I’m almost certain that he used the recipe from The Joy of Cooking. There’s a story about my brother as a young teenager at one of my parents’ parties. Apparently, he liked Dad’s eggnog and helped himself to a little too much. I believe he was lying on the floor under the dining table, and he only recalls hearing my dad say to my mom, “he’s crocked!”

Eggnog

Eggnog is basically just like any custard pie filling. Alton’s recipe here is an uncooked version, but he does also provide a cooked version for those who are concerned about Salmonella.

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Ingredients for Alton’s eggnog: eggs, sugar, nutmeg, bourbon, cream, and milk.

For the uncooked version, separate four eggs, placing the whites in one large bowl and the yolks in another.

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Four eggs, separated.

Beat the yolks until they have lightened in color and are thick. Interestingly, the online recipe calls for using a stand mixer to beat the yolks, but Alton explicitly says in the episode that he prefers a hand mixer for this recipe.

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Yolks beaten until light and thick.

With the mixer running, slowly add 1/3 C sugar.

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Sugar beaten into yolks.

Next, add 2 C whole milk and 1 C heavy cream slowly to the yolks.

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Milk and cream added to the yolks.

Using a microplane grater, grate 1t fresh nutmeg; if your microplane has a plastic sleeve, you can place the sleeve on the back side of the grater to “catch” the nutmeg. Stir the nutmeg into the yolk mixture.

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Fresh nutmeg added.

Finally, add 3 oz of bourbon (Alton used Maker’s Mark, which is also what we happened to have), stirring. Place the eggnog in the refrigerator to chill while you tend to the egg whites.

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Bourbon stirred in.

Beat the whites to soft peaks (again, he used a hand mixer here). Once you have soft peaks, slowly add 1 T sugar and continue beating the whites until you have stiff peaks. It’s always fun to invert the bowl over your head to confirm that you have stiff peaks – if no egg white falls on your head, you’re good to go.

Slowly pour the chilled custard into the egg whites, beating on low speed. Chill the finished eggnog thoroughly before consuming.

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Custard added to stiff egg whites.

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Eggnog after chilling. Thick foam on top.

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Alton’s eggnog.

The eggnog will keep in the refrigerator for a couple days, but you may need to re-froth the mixture with a hand mixer or blender. We drank our nog over the course of three days and I actually thought it maintained its froth very well. It’s been years since I had my dad’s eggnog, but I found Alton’s recipe to be very similar. This eggnog is rich, creamy, and has a perfect layer of  fluffy foam that floats on its surface. While the bourbon is apparent, it does not overpower the nutmeg or the dairy. I would certainly make this again. If you haven’t made eggnog before, keep in mind that homemade eggnog is nothing like the stuff you buy in the stores.

A few years ago, Alton posted a recipe on his web site for an eggnog that you can age for months in your refrigerator. Yes, I’ve tried it, and yes, it is delicious. The aged eggnog is more on the boozy side and lacks the foaminess you get from the egg whites in his un-aged version. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either recipe.

Eggnog Ice Cream

I mentioned earlier that Alton also provided a recipe for cooked eggnog in this episode. With the cooked recipe, you have the choice of either drinking it or making it into ice cream. Either way, the recipe begins with placing 1 pint of whole milk in a saucepan, along with 1 C heavy cream and 1 t freshly ground nutmeg.

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Milk, cream, and nutmeg in a saucepan.

Whisk the milk and cream, bringing it to a boil over high heat.

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Milk, cream, and nutmeg being brought to a boil.

While the dairy heats, place a metal bowl on top of the saucepan and add 4 egg yolks. Whisk the yolks until they are light yellow and thick. Slowly add 1/3 C sugar. Remove the bowl from the heat when the yolks fall from your whisk in ribbons. Be careful not to cook the eggs. Note that the online recipe does not even call for heating the yolks.

Once the milk/cream is boiling, remove it from the heat. Temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in the hot dairy.

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Ready to temper the yolks by slowly adding the dairy.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and check its temperature with an instant thermometer – it should be right about 160 degrees. My temperature was quite a bit lower than this, so I continued to heat my custard until it reached 160.

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Temperature after tempering, so back on the stove to reach 160.

Whisk in 3 ounces of bourbon and allow the custard to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the custard until thoroughly chilled.

To drink as eggnog, fold in 4 pasteurized egg whites that have been beaten to stiff peaks and serve. Alternatively, to make ice cream, do not add the egg whites. Rather, just chill the custard overnight and churn it in an ice cream maker. Since I had already made the uncooked recipe for eggnog, I churned my cooked eggnog base in my ice cream machine.

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Churning the custard in an ice cream machine.

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Alton’s eggnog ice cream.

I have to say that I was highly disappointed in this recipe because the resulting ice cream tasted very strongly of bourbon and its texture was very icy (probably because of the alcohol content). When I think of eggnog ice cream, I think of a very smooth, dense, dairy-forward dessert, but this lacked all of those traits. I’d look elsewhere for an eggnog ice cream recipe, but Alton’s eggnog recipes are certainly good for drinking.

My quest appears now be to complete a blog post during nap time. Will it happen this time? I’m guessing not, but we’ll give it a shot. We’re all still in isolation as we wait for this pandemic to be deemed as safely past. Since we can’t go out to eat, we may as well cook, right? We have been trying to support some of our local restaurants by getting takeout here and there, but I’m also cooking as much as I can with a six month old baby. Lately, I’ve been futzing with sourdough, as I have my mom’s old starter and a new one I picked up from a local eatery. This episode has nothing to do with sourdough, though. Instead, it deals with pocket pies. The recipes from this episode are all contained in one link, which is here.

Well, I did not successfully finish a blog post during nap time. In fact, it’s now nap time again two days later! Let’s give this another go.

Alton’s pocket pies have numerous iterations, so you can play with fillings, cooking methods, etc. The online link contains recipes for his pocket pie dough and for two fillings. To make the dough, pulse together in a food processor:  2 t baking powder, 3/4 t Kosher salt, and 9.5 ounces flour; this will “sift” and aerate the flour.

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“Sifting” flour, Kosher salt, and baking powder in the food processor.

Place 2.5 ounces of shortening in ice water to chill for a few minutes. Once chilled, remove the shortening from the water and place it in a large bowl.

Add the flour mixture to the shortening and use your fingertips to work the shortening into the flour. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in 3/4 C milk, stirring well (you want gluten development here).

Turn the dough onto a counter and knead it 10-20 times with your hands.

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Finished dough after kneading.

Roll the dough until it is 1/2″ thick and cut rounds with a 2.5 inch circular cutter. Roll each round until it is a thin disc measuring 5-6 inches in diameter. Place the dough rounds between sheets of wax paper and let them chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before forming pies.

Alton’s favorite fruit filling for hand pies is a curried mango filling. You want this filling to be chilled before you use it, so you’ll want to make it several hours ahead. Peel and dice four mangoes, and place them in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 C brown sugar, 1/2 C cider vinegar, 2 t curry powder, and 1/4 C fresh lime juice to the pan.

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Mangoes, brown sugar, cider vinegar, curry powder, and lime juice in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, place a lid on the pan, and decrease the heat to a simmer. Let the filling simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool the filling at room temperature for an hour, and then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours; a metal bowl will speed up the chilling.

Alternatively, for dessert pies, you can make Alton’s favorite chocolate filling. To do this, put 10 ounces of softened butter in a large ziplock bag. Add 2 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 C + 1 T cocoa powder, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

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Chocolate filling ingredients in a large plastic bag: butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and Kosher salt.

Seal the bag and mash the filling with your hands until it is combined. When you are ready to fill pies, you can simply snip one of the bottom corners off of the bag and pipe the filling directly onto the dough.

Although there are no real recipes for other fillings in this episode, Alton did mention some other filling possibilities. For example, you could use leftover beef stew as a pie filling. Or, you could make mini pizza pies by filling the dough with pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings.

Regardless of which fillings you utilize, to form the pies place a large spoon of filling on one side of each chilled dough circle. Rub the edges of the circle with egg wash (1 egg plus 2 t water). Fold the dough over the filling to form a half moon, and press any air out with your fingers. Press the edges together with your fingers to seal them well, and use a fork to crimp the edges together. Place the sealed pies on a parchment-lined sheet pan and cut three small steam vents in the top of each pie with kitchen shears. Doh! Nap time appears to be over again!

Fast forward to another nap time a day later, and here we are. Now, back to baking the hand pies. Bake the pies at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the pies cool for several minutes before eating. I baked some mango pies and some chocolate pies, and some of them leaked a little bit, especially the chocolate ones.

The crust here was very pie-like, though I think the crust would have been better if it had a little more flakiness to its texture. The mango filling was sweet, but not overly so, so you could easily eat these for breakfast or a snack. I had to use a slotted spoon when I placed the mango filling on the dough, as the filling was pretty thin and seemed to run all over the dough. The curry flavor was definitely evident, but it wasn’t completely overpowering.

Pan frying is another option for cooking hand pies. To do this, heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, adding a pat of butter. Once the butter has melted, place two hand pies in the pan, jiggling the pan to be sure the pies do not stick.

Flip the pies once they are golden brown. I pan fried some chocolate hand pies for dessert and they leaked less than the baked chocolate pies. The pies came out looking a little flat – like pressed sandwiches, but I liked the richness of cooking the pies in butter.

These pies seemed much more indulgent than the baked ones. The chocolate filling was very rich and had a slight grittiness to its mouthfeel from all of the sugar. I’m sure the grittiness could be remedied by making the filling in a mixer, but it’s certainly more fun to mash it together in a plastic bag!

If you want to get super indulgent, you could always try deep frying your hand pies. To do this, heat two quarts of canola oil to 375 degrees in a Dutch oven. For hand pies that will be deep fried, do not cut steam vents in the tops, but rather use a fork to dock the dough a few times. Fry the pies, a few at a time, until they float and are golden brown. Transfer the fried pies to an inverted cooling rack on newspaper, and allow them to cool for at least five minutes before eating. I did not end up deep frying any of my hand pies, as I just ran out of time to try this application. I imagine that these would be the crispiest pies.

You can store cooked fruit or chocolate pies at room temperature for up to a week. Pies with meat fillings can be refrigerated/reheated for up to a week. You can also freeze uncooked pies on a baking sheet, throwing them in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes when you are ready to eat them.

In addition to his baked, pan-fried, and deep-fried pies, Alton also made homemade toaster pastries in this episode. Yep, you can make pop-tarts at home. To make these, make a full batch of dough as for the hand pies above, but divide the dough in half after kneading. Roll each of the two dough pieces into a 12″ x 10″ rectangle, using a knife to trim the edges. Divide each dough rectangle into six 4″ x 5″ rectangles, cutting them with a pizza cutter.

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Half of the dough rolled into a 12″ x 10″ rectangle and cut into six 4″ x 5″ rectangles.

Rub egg wash (1 egg plus 2 t water) all around the edges of six of the 12 smaller rectangles. Spoon a couple tablespoons of your desired filling (Alton used fruit preserves) onto the center of each egg-washed rectangle, spreading it with a spoon.

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Egg wash rubbed around edges and filling spooned onto rectangles.

Use a fork to dock the remaining six dough rectangles and place these rectangles on top of the filled/egg-washed rectangles. Use your fingers to press any air out of the pastries and to seal the edges tightly.

Crimp the edges with a fork and bake the finished pastries for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Crimped pastries placed on parchment-lined sheet pan.

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Toaster pastries after baking for 20 minutes.

Cool the pastries, storing them in plastic for a week or freeze for a month. Reheat the pastries by toasting them in a toaster on the lowest setting.

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One of Alton’s toaster pastries.

These were fun and easy to make, and were my favorites of all of Alton’s hand pies. Kids would really enjoy eating these, and you could fill them with any number of fillings. The resulting dough was crispy at the edges and tender in the center.

I have made many empanadas and hand pies (usually savory) over the years. I do have a dough recipe that I overall prefer over Alton’s, as it is easier to work with and results in a very flaky crust, but Alton’s crust is pretty good too. For dessert, I’d opt for pan-fried chocolate pies and for breakfast I’d certainly make Alton’s toaster pastries. Regardless of how you cook them or which fillings you choose, hand pies are equally fun to make and eat.

 

 

 

The baby is sleeping, Ted just left for a few hours, the dog is attempting to hide from the garbage truck, and we’re still in this period of Coronavirus isolation; seems like the perfect time to write another blog post. Hopefully I’ll make it all the way through before nap time is over.

Flour has been difficult to come by lately, which is super frustrating for people like myself who like to bake on the regular. I’m betting that the vast majority of flour hoarders will barely touch their stash before its shelf life has long passed. In fact, I need flour for the recipes in the next Good Eats episodes, so hopefully I can find some soon. Alas, I digress, as no flour was required for the avocado-based recipes in this episode. Now for a few avocado facts from this episode:  1) It takes 13 months for a seed to become fruit. 2) Avocados will never ripen while they are on the tree, so they can be “stored” on the tree for up to seven months. 3) All Hass avocado trees came from the same mother tree, which had died at the airing of this episode in 2005.

Avocado Compound Butter

You may recall that Alton made compound butter back in episode 35. I honestly don’t think I had made compound butter in the five years (!) since I wrote that post, so it was suitable that this episode led me to make an avocado compound butter. This one comes together in a snap by pulsing the following ingredients together in a food processor:  1 T lemon juice, 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 t cumin, 1 T chopped cilantro, 2 oz softened unsalted butter, and 6 oz of ripe avocado meat.

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Ingredients for compound butter in food processor: lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cilantro, butter, and avocado.

Once combined, season the butter to taste with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Pepper and Kosher salt added to butter.

Transfer the butter to the center of a sheet of parchment paper, folding the paper over the butter. Holding a sheet pan at a 45 degree angle to the counter, press the edge of the sheet pan against the mound of butter, pulling the parchment toward you with your other hand as you simultaneously push away with the sheet pan; this will form the butter into a perfect log shape within the parchment paper. Twist up the ends of the parchment paper and chill the butter until it is firm.

You can serve this butter with chicken, fish, corn, bread, or pretty much anything. We first ate ours with corn on the cob. Although the corn was pretty awful, the butter was fantastic.

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Avocado compound butter on corn.

This butter is like a somewhat melty guacamole that you can serve on anything, and it is delicious. It is rich, yet savory, and has a slight tang from the lemon. The cumin, cilantro, and garlic give it layers of flavors. We often find ourselves with extra avocados when we buy the big bag from Costco, and this is a way I intend to use them in the future.

Avocado Ice Cream

Of the recipes in this episode I was most excited to try the avocado ice cream. To me, avocado ice cream just makes sense. Avocados are high in fat and have a super rich, creamy texture that seems like it would make a delectable ice cream base. Their flavor too is naturally on the sweeter/milder side. To make Alton’s avocado ice cream, place 12 oz of avocado meat in a blender with 1 T lemon juice, 1/2 C sugar, 1 C heavy cream, and 1 1/2 C whole milk. Blend the mixture until it is smooth and place it in the refrigerator until its temperature has dropped below 40 degrees (I chilled mine overnight).

Once suitably chilled, process the ice cream base in an ice cream maker. Alton claimed that this ice cream would only need 5-10 minutes of churning time, but it took a good half hour in my ice cream maker. For a soft-serve texture, you can enjoy the ice cream immediately, or you can place it in the freezer for a firmer texture.

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Finished avocado ice cream.

Ted really didn’t care for this ice cream at all, saying it was too “vegetal” in flavor. I initially wasn’t sure what I thought of it. I’ve actually been eating a scoop of this ice cream as I’ve been writing this post. This ice cream becomes rock hard in the freezer – it’s hard to scoop even after sitting out for 15-20 minutes on the counter. The initial mouthfeel appears to be somewhat icy, but then melts into a rich, smooth consistency that coats the palate. There is no doubt that the flavor of this ice cream is avocado. I’ve been going back and forth on whether I like this ice cream or not, and I think the honest answer is that I really want to love this ice cream, but I don’t. From reading the online reviews of this recipe, this one is quite polarizing, with some true fans and some people who can’t stand it at all. I’m somewhere in the middle, I suppose. In any case, this ice cream is undeniably interesting, which is perhaps just reason enough to try it for yourself.

Avocado Buttercream Frosting

I have to agree with the title of this episode that the recipes therein are definitely experimental. I consider this final recipe for buttercream frosting to be the most experimental of the three. For avocado buttercream, use the whisk attachment of a stand mixer to beat 8 ounces of avocado meat with 2 t lemon juice for two to three minutes on medium speed.

Sift one pound of powdered sugar and slowly add the sugar to the avocado on low speed. The sugar does not incorporate easily, and I found I had to scrape the bowl quite often with a spatula. Once half of the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed and add the remaining sugar. Finally, add 1/2 t lemon extract.

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Lemon extract.

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Avocado frosting after adding powdered sugar.

Refrigerate the frosting for two hours before using to frost a cake. I used my avocado frosting on a vanilla cake that I confess I made from a mix. To make things comical, when I went to frost my cake, I discovered that my cat had licked the top off of a portion of the cake. Yes, we trimmed that portion off.

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My cake, licked by my cat.

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Alton’s avocado buttercream.

This frosting is kind of weird in its consistency, as it is very sticky and a bit glossy. It does not have the rich, buttery flavor and texture that are so typical of buttercream. It is also incredibly sweet. In fact, it is so sweet that it really has very little discernible flavor, other than a hint of citrus. I can’t say that I would know this frosting is made from avocado, especially if I tasted it without seeing the green color. Oh, and the color? Well, it’s different. This frosting could have a place on some type of cake for a little kid’s birthday, such as an alien or Shrek cake. Other than that, though, I thought this was sort of a dinger.

All in all, the recipes in this episode did make for quite the interesting kitchen experiment. I would definitely make the compound butter again. The frosting would be a no for me, unless I desperately needed green slimy frosting for a particular project. The ice cream? Although it wasn’t my favorite, I do think it was a fun one to make and try, and I think some people would really love it.