Posts Tagged ‘alton brown’

This January has given 2019 a little bit of a rough start for me. I had a short, nasty stomach bug for the first two days of the year, which was followed up with back pain for several days. After that, I traveled to be with my dad while he had cancer surgery. Two days after I returned home from my trip, I came down with a nasty flu-like bug that knocked me out for 10 days. Whew! Good riddance, January!

Turkey with Stuffing

Although the holidays are long gone, this recipe certainly has a holiday feel to it. While Alton’s other turkey recipes have really featured the turkey itself, this one is all about the stuffing. In the episode, Alton actually goes into very little detail about prepping/cooking the turkey, so I opted to brine my turkey, using the brine recipe from the original Good Eats Thanksgiving special. The premise of this recipe is that Alton can make a well-balanced stuffing that will cook inside the turkey, and that the turkey and stuffing will reach their desired temperatures at nearly the same time. To make the stuffing, chop 1 C each of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

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A cup each of celery, onion, and green bell pepper.

Toss the chopped vegetables with 1 T vegetable oil and 1 T Kosher salt. Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 400.

After 25 minutes, add 3 C cubed Challah bread (I made my own) to the vegetables, give everything a toss, and continue roasting for 10 more minutes.

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My Challah bread, ready to be cubed.

Next, place two ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shiitakes) in a bowl and pour a quart of boiling chicken stock over them. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for about 30 minutes.

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Shiitake mushrooms, soaking in boiling chicken broth.

When the mushrooms have finished their soak, drain them (reserving their liquid), chop them, and place them in a large bowl, along with 4 ounces dried cherries, 2 ounces chopped pecans, 2 beaten eggs, 2 t dry rubbed sage, 2 t dry parsley, the roasted vegetables and bread, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Dried cherries and chopped pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans, along with eggs, rubbed sage, and dry parsley.

Add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to moisten, but not saturate, the mixture; I used about a cup, though Alton was vague about this in the episode and it actually appeared as if he added all of the reserved liquid.

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Challah, vegetables, pepper, and mushroom liquid added to mixture.

Place the stuffing in a cotton produce bag, or use cheesecloth to make one – you can seal it with butcher’s twine. Place the bag of stuffing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for six minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To put the stuffing in the turkey, prop the open end of the turkey up on the side of a bowl and use tongs to plunge the bag of stuffing into the bird. If you have a plastic cutting board, you can form it into a tube shape, insert the tube-shaped cutting board into the cavity, and push the bag through the tube.

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Microwaved stuffing placed inside turkey.

For this recipe, you will ideally want two thermometers – one inserted in the thigh and one inserted into the center of the stuffing; I only have one oven-safe thermometer, so I placed that in the thigh and checked the stuffing periodically with an instant read thermometer. Place the bird in a roasting pan and roast it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. After 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 and cook until both the stuffing and the thigh meat are about 170 degrees. When done cooking, remove the stuffing bag with tongs and place the stuffing in a serving bowl.

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Turkey after cooking to thigh temperature of 170.

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Alton’s stuffing.

Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Okay, so there were some good things about this recipe and some bad things. This stuffing has a wide variety of both flavors and textures, with flavors ranging from sweet/tart to umami, and textures that range from slightly crunchy to moist and soft. I will say that the stuffing would have been too wet, and probably overpowered with mushroom flavor, if I had added all of the mushroom liquid as Alton appeared to do in the show. My biggest problem with this recipe was that it didn’t achieve the goal of having the stuffing and turkey finish cooking at the same time. For me, the stuffing was done cooking long before the turkey was, so I ended up pulling the stuffing out early while I had to continue cooking the bird for a good 20 minutes. In my mind, that makes this recipe a failure. Also, I think the bird could have done with a little less cooking. While I would consider making the stuffing again, I would not attempt to cook it in the bird again. Instead, I would opt for either the original Good Eats roast turkey or the butterflied, dry brined turkey.

Stuffed Squash

Since the tendency with stuffing is to stuff vegetables into meat, Alton decided to formulate a recipe where a meat filling is stuffed into squash. Acorn squash are the squash of choice for this recipe, as they are perfect for individual servings. To make four servings (I only made two), cut the lids off of four acorn squash and scoop out their seeds; be very careful when doing this, as I discovered it is very easy to poke a hole in the bottom of the squash! Be sure to save the lids for later. If your squash will not sit flat, you can also cut off part of the bottoms to make them level.

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My two acorn squash, ready to be prepped.

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Lids off and scooping out seeds.

Set the prepared squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To make the filling, cook 1/2 pound ground pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Transfer the pork to a small bowl and set it aside.

Return the pan to the burner, but decrease the heat slightly. Add 1 T olive oil to the pan, along with 1/4 C chopped carrots, 1/4 C chopped celery, 1/4 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit.

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Celery, onion, and carrot added to hot oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 C white wine and scraping up any browned bits.

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Wine added to deglaze the pan.

Follow the wine with 10 ounces of thawed/drained/chopped frozen spinach, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, the cooked pork, and 1/2 C toasted pine nuts.

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Spinach, rice, oregano, pork, and pine nuts added to the skillet.

Stir the filling until it is heated through and add a few grinds of black pepper. Remove the filling from the heat and place 1/2 T butter in the bottom of each prepared squash.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash, avoiding tightly packing the stuffing.

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Filling spooned into prepped squash and lids placed on top.

Place the lids on the squash and cook them for one hour at 400 degrees, or until the squash are just fork tender.

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Alton’s stuffed squash.

We ate these squash as our dinner entrée and were pretty happy with them. Ted really does not care for squash, in general, but he agreed that the sweetness of the squash paired well with the very savory pork filling. This is a an easy meal that really gives you both your protein and veggies in one, and the individual squash “serving dishes” are sort of fun. The squash also did not become mushy, as some squash are wont to do. I could see making the filling ahead of time for these, and on a busy weeknight you would only have to fill the squash and put them in the oven. Super easy!

 

Just like that, the hectic holiday season is behind us and we are into 2019. We spent our Christmas at my brother’s house, so we did not host either Thanksgiving or Christmas in 2018. It always feels odd to me when I do not end up cooking much at the holidays, and my only real contribution to Christmas dinner was a batch of roasted Brussels sprouts. We had great food, though, including a salty Wayco ham.

I always have a long list of things I want to cook/bake that are unrelated to this blog project. I plan to actually sit down and make a list of the top things I want to make this year, so I can physically cross them off as I complete them. I had planned to make my list yesterday since it was the first day of the year, but I spent the day with a fever on the couch instead. Boo.

Savory Polenta

The 115th episode of Good Eats is one that Alton chose to remake in his new show Good Eats:  Reloaded. Savory polenta is the first recipe in this one. So, what is the difference between grits and polenta? According to Alton, grits and polenta are different preparations of the same main ingredient:  cornmeal. Grits are often made from ground hominy, which is white, while polenta is made from ground yellow corn. Either way, when purchasing cornmeal to use in either grits or polenta, always look for stone ground cornmeal; the terms “polenta” and “grits” are often featured together on the label of stone ground cornmeal. To make polenta, place 2 T olive oil in a saucier over medium heat. Add 3/4 C chopped red onion and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and cook the onion until it has softened.

Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for two minutes.

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Garlic added to onion.

Next, add a quart of chicken broth and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.

When the broth is boiling, gradually add 1 C coarse cornmeal, whisking it in. Once all of the cornmeal has been added, place a lid on the pan and place it in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring the polenta every 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir in 3 T butter, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, and 1/4 t pepper.

You can now eat the polenta as it is or you can pour the warm polenta into a parchment-lined 9×13″ pan. Let the polenta cool to room temperature in the pan, and then place it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

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Polenta poured into 9×13 pan.

After chilling, flip the polenta out onto a cutting board and use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds.

Toss the polenta circles in olive oil and you can fry, saute, or grill them; I opted for sautéing. I served my polenta with a homemade tomato sauce and some grated Parmesan.

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Polenta rounds with tomato sauce and Parmesan.

This polenta is easy and delicious. We tasted the polenta after adding the butter, cheese, and pepper, and I would have been content to eat a bowl just like that. I also liked the sautéed version, as there was a slight golden crust on the outside, while the polenta remained tender and buttery on the inside. The garlic and onion flavors were obvious and made the polenta savory with a little kick. This would also be a great vegetarian dinner option if you substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and this seems like a very kid-friendly dinner option too. Don’t bother with that tube of polenta at the grocery store when you can make this version at home!

Cheese Grits

I first remember having grits when I was in the Florida Keys for my cousin’s wedding. We stopped for breakfast at an oceanfront restaurant and grits were one of the side dish options. I instantly became a grits fan. For Alton’s grits, combine 2 C milk, 2 C water, and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt in a saucier and bring the mixture to a boil.

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Milk, water, and Kosher salt in a saucier.

Once boiling, slowly whisk 1 C coarse cornmeal into the liquid.

Place a lid on the pan and cook the grits for 20-25 minutes, stirring every two or three minutes, and keeping the heat as low as possible. I found that my grits were still too thin after 25 minutes, so I cooked them for about 35 minutes.

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Grits after stirring/cooking for ~35 minutes.

Stir in 4 T butter and season with Kosher salt, if needed.

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4 T butter.

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Butter added to grits.

Lastly, slowly stir in 4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese.

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Cheddar, slowly added to grits.

We ate these grits for a pre-run breakfast, alongside purple barley bread and they kept me fueled for 8.5 miles.

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A bowl of cheese grits.

These grits are cheese, rich, and creamy. Due to their richness, I could only eat a small bowl before I felt pretty full. Alton’s grits are definitely heavier than his version of polenta, but equally tasty.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Lastly, Alton finishes this episode with a sweet pineapple upside-down cake. Although this cake has been around forever, this was my first time making a pineapple upside-down cake. To begin the cake, place 3/4 C whole milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave the milk until it is boiling. Sprinkle 1 C coarse cornmeal over the milk and let it sit.

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Topping ingredients: butter, dark brown sugar, canned pineapple rings, toasted pecans, and maraschino cherries.

Next, place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 4 ounces of unsalted butter in the pan. When the butter has melted, use a pastry brush to brush some of the butter up the sides of the pan. The butter will brown slightly.

Add 1 C dark brown sugar to the pan and stir until melted, which will take about five minutes; watch the sugar carefully, as it can easily burn.

Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and place canned pineapple slices around the perimeter of the pan, and one additional ring in the center.

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Pineapple rings added to caramel.

Put a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice and sprinkle 1/3 C of toasted/chopped pecans over the pineapple.

Drizzle on 3 T of the juice from the canned pineapple and set the skillet aside to cool slightly.

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Pineapple juice drizzled over topping.

While the skillet cools, combine 4 3/4 ounces flour, 2 t baking powder, and 1/2 t salt in a large bowl.

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Flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C canola oil, and the milk-soaked cornmeal from earlier.

When the wet ingredients are combined, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk for a count of six. The final batter will be a little lumpy, but that is okay. Do not over mix.

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Wet mixture added to dry ingredients.

Pour the cornmeal batter over the pineapple in the skillet and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before flipping the cake out of the skillet. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

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Cooled cake flipped onto cake stand.

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Alton’s pineapple upside-down cake.

This cake is fun to make because it looks pretty when you invert it out of the pan. The topping is a delicious mix of dark caramel, crunchy pecans, and juicy pineapple; the best part, in my opinion, is the part by the edges of the pan, as the caramel is thick and slightly chewy there. The batter of this cake has the slight grittiness of cornmeal, and is only slightly sweet. I like the fact that the cake itself is not overly sweet, as the topping is sweet enough. This cake is great for breakfast, dessert, or both!

This chocolate episode came at a good time, allowing me to share some of Alton’s chocolate goodness with friends and relatives at the holidays. There is really no way we could have eaten all of this chocolate without help! It’s really too bad that my mom doesn’t live closer to me because, though she is tiny, she can pretty much eat her weight in chocolate. Somehow, we persevered and the recipes from this episode have been devoured. All of the recipes in this episode are ganache-based, meaning they are composed of a mixture of chocolate and cream. First up is Alton’s:

Ganache Frosting

This ganache is composed of only two ingredients:  chocolate and cream.

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Only two ingredients for this frosting: bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream.

The recipe starts with heating a pint of heavy cream (which is also a pound) in a microwave for 3-4 minutes, or until simmering. Note:  when heating milk products in the microwave, use a vessel twice the original volume of dairy to prevent overflow. While the cream heats, chop a pound of bittersweet chocolate with a serrated knife.

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A chopped pound of chocolate.

Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and pour the warm cream over the chocolate. Let the cream/chocolate sit for two minutes.

When the two minutes are up, pulse the chocolate and cream three times, or until smooth.

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Chocolate and cream after pulsing 3x.

Transfer the ganache to a bowl. You can use the ganache immediately as a pourable cake glaze.

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Ganache transferred to a bowl.

Or, you can let the ganache cool for an hour and whip it in a stand mixer to make a cake frosting.

This ganache will keep for two weeks if kept tightly covered and refrigerated. For later use, bring the ganache to room temperature before whipping with a stand mixer. I first used this ganache frosting to frost a simple sheet cake, which we ate for multiple days.

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A slice of sheet cake with Alton’s ganache frosting.

I actually prefer this frosting cold because I like the dense mouthfeel of the cold chocolate in contrast with soft, light cake. After frosting a 9×13″ sheet cake, I still had enough frosting for two dozen cupcakes, which I frosted for my in-laws’ Christmas party. I will say that the frosting is best aesthetically when used after the first whipping. This frosting is quite rich, so you only need a thin layer of frosting for a good punch of chocolate. This is about the easiest chocolate frosting you could ever make, and it is so much better than anything you could buy in the store.

Chocolate Truffles

When we headed to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, I decided to bring Alton’s truffles to share. I made the truffles two days before turkey day. To make Alton’s truffles, place 10 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and add 3 T of unsalted butter.

Set the chocolate aside while you bring 1/2 C cream and 1 T light corn syrup to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.

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Heavy cream and light corn syrup.

While the cream heats, place the chocolate/butter in the microwave for 30 seconds; stir the mixture and put it in the microwave for another 30 seconds or until the chocolate starts to melt.

Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes.

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Cream poured over chocolate/butter.

After two minutes, stir 1/4 C brandy into the chocolate, stirring until smooth.

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Brandy being stirred into chocolate mixture.

Pour the chocolate mixture into an 8×8″ baking dish and place it, uncovered, in the refrigerator for one hour.

After an hour of chill time, use a melon baller to portion the ganache into rough balls, transferring them to a parchment-lined sheet pan; do not worry about shaping the truffles at this time. When all of the truffles have been portioned, place them back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

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Portioned ganache.

This is the point of the recipe where things get a little more technical, as Alton used a heating pad to melt eight ounces of bittersweet chocolate, keeping the chocolate between 90 and 94 degrees; it is critical not to go above 94 degrees, as this will change the crystalline structure of the chocolate. I found that I had very uneven heating with my heating pad, so I gradually melted my chocolate in the microwave, stirring and checking the temperature after every 15-20 seconds.

Once your chocolate is melted and between 90 and 94 degrees, roll your truffles into smooth balls with gloved hands. Dip an ice cream scoop into the melted chocolate and place a truffle ball into the scoop, using your gloved fingers to coat the center with melted chocolate.

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Coating a truffle center in melted bittersweet chocolate.

Once coated in chocolate, place the coated truffle into a topping of your choice:  chopped pistachios, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or toasted coconut. It is ideal to let each truffle sit in the topping until the next truffle is done being coated with chocolate.

Transfer the finished truffles to a wax paper-lined airtight container. Store the truffles in the refrigerator, but serve them at room temperature.

I ended up with 32 truffles, and I used toppings of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and chopped pistachios.

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Truffles.

Oh my, these truffles are super rich. If you are able to keep your coating chocolate in the ideal temperature range, your truffles will have a crispy chocolate shell surrounding their dense, rich filling. The filling is creamy, rich, slightly bitter, and intensely full of chocolate. These are absolutely worth the time and effort of making, as well as the calories. They pair fantastically with bourbon or with coffee, depending on the time of day. This is a wonderful recipe.

Good Eats Fudgepops

This episode finishes up with Alton’s version of a fudgecicle.

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Ingredients for fudgepops: bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, heavy cream, and whole milk.

Start by putting 2 T cocoa powder into a medium saucepan, and add 12 ounces of heavy cream and eight ounces of whole milk.

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Cocoa powder combined with milk and cream.

Bring the milk and cocoa to a simmer over medium heat, whisking to combine.

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Cocoa powder combined with milk and cream, and brought to a simmer.

When the dairy is simmering, pour it over eight ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate, letting it sit for two-three minutes.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth and add 2 t vanilla extract.

Using a turkey baster, equally distribute the chocolate mixture among popsicle molds.

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Chocolate distributed among popsicle molds.

Place the fudgepops in the freezer for four hours, or until set.

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Alton’s fudgepop.

Conversely, if you are craving hot chocolate, Alton says you can melt one of his fudgepops in the microwave. I chose to halve this recipe since I was just making the fudgepops for two of us, and I ended up with four fudgepops. These fudgepops are full of rich chocolate flavor and they are pretty creamy. They did have a very slight icy texture, but I thought these were pretty good. They were very hard to get out of the molds, but that may have been more of a function of my popsicle molds than due to the recipe itself. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to make these again, but I’ve also never been the biggest fudgepop fan.

The ground is frosted here and the holidays are just around the corner. Thankfully, we don’t have any snow yet. We are not hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I still highly recommend Alton’s Thanksgiving recipes. His “Countdown to T-Day” special is broken down into a specific schedule that works beautifully and cuts down on hosting stress. The original Good Eats roast turkey is also delicious.

For Thanksgiving this year, Ted is making a cranberry gin and tonic and a cherry pie. I will be making my dad’s blue cornbread and sausage stuffing, along with Alton’s pecan pie from the countdown special. It sounds as if there will be plenty of food!

Parmesan Crisps

We always have a lot of cheese in our house, but the 113th episode of Good Eats gave me a great excuse to consume some more, beginning with Alton’s Parmesan crisps. I’ve mentioned before that I introduced my dad to Good Eats years ago and it became one of his favorite shows. He served us this recipe as an appetizer when we went to his house several years ago, as he had recently watched this episode. To make the crisps, you first need to line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. Next, place tablespoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese on the lined baking sheet, flattening them into discs. Be sure to space the discs adequately, as they will spread.

You can leave the Parmesan plain, or you can sprinkle on some seasoning, such as black pepper or paprika. I made a total of six crisps:  two plain, two with pepper, and two with paprika.

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Two plain crisps, two with paprika, and two with black pepper.

Stick the baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. *These were the baking instructions from the episode, whereas the online recipe tells you to bake the crisps in a 300 degree oven for 5-6 minutes. If you bake the crisps at 375, they will be done in 4-5 minutes.

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Cheese crisps after baking.

When you pull the baking sheet from the oven, you can let the discs cool into flat chips, or you can shape them into little cups by draping them over cups or spice jars until they cool and harden.

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Molding crisps on spice jars.

You could fill the cups with a small salad or a meatball and serve as a party hors d’oeuvre, or you can stick the flat Parmesan discs into mashed potatoes as a garnish.

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Parmesan cheese crisps.

These cheese crisps are about the easiest snack you could ever make. They bake up crispy with the salty nuttiness of Parmesan, and they are kind of fun to eat – like eating a lacy cheese doily.

Cheese Soup

A couple weeks before I started this episode, we had kind of a chilly weekend, and I made the comment that I was in the mood for hearty soup. Ted found a recipe for beer cheese soup online and I made a batch for lunch that afternoon. Little did I know that I would be making Alton’s cheese soup a couple weeks later! Alton’s cheese soup starts with heating a quart of chicken broth to a simmer on the stove.

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A quart of chicken broth, heating to a simmer.

While the broth warms, melt 2 T butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

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2 T butter in a Dutch oven.

To the melted butter, add 5 ounces diced onion, 5 ounces diced carrot, 5 ounces diced celery, and a big pinch of Kosher salt.

Let the vegetables cook for 5-10 minutes, or until softened. Using a hand sieve, sprinkle 3 T flour evenly over the vegetables. Stir and cook the flour until it is no longer visible.

Increase the heat to high and slowly pour in the warm broth, stirring as you pour.

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Warm broth added to vegetables.

Next, add 1 bay leaf and 1 T garlic, stirring to incorporate. Cover the pot, decrease the heat to low, and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

After the simmer, remove and discard the bay leaf, and pour in 1 C heavy cream. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is smooth.

Now it is time for the cheese, and Alton uses 10 ounces of shredded Fontina for his soup, stirring it in a handful at a time.

Once all of the cheese has melted and the soup is smooth, finish the soup by adding 1 t Marsala, 1 t Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 t hot sauce, and 1/2 t white pepper.

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Alton’s cheese soup.

Alton recommends serving his cheese soup with a good beer. You can keep the soup warm in a thermos if you are not going to serve it right away. To re-heat leftover soup, a double boiler is recommended to prevent curdling. This soup is really delicious, having a velvety, creamy mouthfeel without being overly heavy. The flavor of the soup is rich, cheesy, and perfectly seasoned. I would say this is one of the best cheese soups I have had, and it is excellent for a chilly day.

Fromage Fort

The last recipe in this episode is a great use for any leftover cheese you may have sitting around. You will need a pound of cheese for this recipe, and you can use any blend of cheeses you would like. I used a blend of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, goat cheese, and queso fresco.

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A pound of cheese: cheddar, goat, mozzarella, and queso fresco.

Let the cheeses come to room temperature for an hour before you begin. Remove any hard rinds from the cheese, cutting cheeses into rough 3/4″ cubes. If you are using any super hard cheeses, you will want to grate them. Place your pound of cheese in a food processor, adding 1/4 C dry white wine, 3 T room temperature unsalted butter, 1 clove of garlic, and a small handful of parsley.

Process the cheese mixture for a full two minutes. Serve the cheese spread with crackers.

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Fromage fort.

This was a great way to use up some excess cheese, and it was definitely better than any prepared cheese spreads you can buy in the grocery store. The fun thing about this is that it will be different every time, depending on which cheeses you use. I don’t think I could have identified the cheeses in my spread, other than the cheddar. The garlic was quite prominent, while the wine was pretty subtle. I foresee myself making this again, as we really like to have appetizers and we often (ahem, always) have a variety of cheeses in our refrigerator.

To finish this one off, I’ll share some cheese tips from Alton. To store soft cheese, place it in a lidded container with a slice of apple or a damp paper towel. Store hard cheeses by wrapping them (not tightly) in wax paper, securing them with rubber bands. Always bring cheese to room temperature before eating.

For a cheese tasting, Alton suggests serving three cheeses with a theme, such as three cheeses from the same country, three of the same type of cheese with different lengths of aging, or three cheeses made with the same type of milk. Allow 1/4 pound of cheese per person for a cheese tasting.

And, for those of you who are lactose-intolerant, you can feel pretty safe when eating aged cheeses. Why? Aged cheeses have little to no lactose because the bacteria in the cheese has consumed the lactose. I don’t know about you, but I’m craving some cheese now.

Garden Vegetable Soup

As with the last episode of Good Eats, Alton’s goal in this episode was to develop kid-friendly recipes; this time, though, he tackled soup. The first soup he made was a vegetable soup. This soup starts by heating 4 T olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add to the oil 2 C chopped leeks (be sure to wash them well), 2 T minced garlic, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

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Leeks, garlic, and salt added to hot oil.

Cook the leeks and garlic until they have softened.

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Leeks and garlic after sweating.

Next, add 2 C peeled/chopped carrots, 2 C peeled/diced potatoes, and 2 C green beans, broken into bite-sized pieces.

Increase the heat under the vegetables, cooking them for 4-5 minutes. Pour in 2 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth; Alton says he is fine with using purchased broth here. Of course, homemade would always be better, though!

Once the broth is in the pot, increase the heat to high, bringing the broth to a simmer. When simmering, add 4 C peeled/seeded/chopped tomatoes, 2 ears of corn kernels, and a few grinds of black pepper.

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Corn, tomatoes, and pepper added to the soup.

Turn the heat to low, place a lid on the pot, and simmer the soup for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.

To finish the soup, stir in 1/4 C parsley and 1-2 t fresh lemon juice.

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Lemon juice and parsley stirred in.

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A bowl of Alton’s vegetable soup.

This is a pretty basic vegetable soup recipe, and I have to admit that I assumed it would be quite bland. I also was unsure of whether Ted would like it, as he is not a huge tomato fan. Ted and I, however, were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of flavor in this soup! The individual vegetables maintained their textures and vibrant colors, and the soup had a bright, fresh vegetable flavor. The lemon gave the soup a perfect pop of much-needed acidity. The only thing you may need to adjust is the amount of salt, depending on how much you sprinkle in when sweating the leeks and garlic. This is a super easy, healthy recipe that you easily could make with kids in the kitchen, and it is a great way to eat a bunch of fresh vegetables.

Grape Gazpacho

Now that the weather is cooling off, we really aren’t in gazpacho season anymore. The ingredients needed for Alton’s grape gazpacho, though, are available year-round. Gazpacho is always better if allowed to sit for a few hours before eating, so plan to make this a few hours ahead.

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Tomatillos, cucumber, and Granny Smith apple.

The soup begins with seeding and chopping one cucumber.

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Seeded cucumber.

Place half of the cucumber in a food processor and the other half in a large bowl. Next, peel, seed, and chop a Granny Smith apple, placing half of it in the food processor and the other half in the large bowl.

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Peeled apple.

Chop 1 C husked tomatillos, and do the same as with the cucumber and apple, placing half of the tomatillos in the food processor and half in the large bowl.

Add the following ingredients to the food processor:  1 pound green grapes, 1 C toasted walnuts, 1 C plain yogurt, 1 C white grape juice, 1 t rice wine vinegar, and 6 mint leaves.

Pulse the ingredients in the food processor nine or ten times, until blended but still maintaining some texture.

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Mixture after pulsing 9-10 times.

Pour the mixture from the food processor into the large bowl with the cucumber, apple, and tomatillos, stirring to combine.

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Blended mixture added to bowl of fruit/vegetables.

Cover the soup with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for two-three hours before eating.

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Green grape gazpacho.

As with most cold soups, this one comes together super quickly, and it is super convenient since you can make it ahead of time. This soup was just okay for me, though it did have some interesting flavors. I found that it really called for the addition of some Kosher salt. The soup was certainly light and refreshing, and the walnuts gave it some body. I would definitely prefer this soup in warmer weather, as it has a slightly sweet and tart flavor from the grapes and tomatillos. This is another healthy and easy recipe that kids could certainly aid in making, but this wasn’t a favorite for me.

This episode of Good Eats sees Alton in the kitchen with his “nephew,” striving to whip up some kid-friendly sandwiches. Alton has four rules for making sandwiches:

  1. Soft fillings and spreads pair best with soft breads.
  2. A barrier (mayo, butter, oil, etc.) should be used to keep bread from getting water-logged from wet ingredients.
  3. The order of sandwich ingredients matters – slippery ingredients are not to be placed next to each other.
  4. Quality of bread is crucial, and you should only utilize bread that you would happily consume plain. Pre-sliced bread tends to be loaded with preservatives, so should be avoided.

Pan Bagnat

The first sandwich Alton makes is a pan bagnat, which translates to “wet bread.” What is a pan bagnat? Basically, it is a French version of a sub sandwich, consisting of several layers of ingredients. This sandwich is designed to be made a couple hours before consumption, as it is best to let the flavors mingle. This sandwich starts with a vinaigrette made by placing 1/2 t Dijon mustard in a bowl, and whisking in 1 T red wine vinegar, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and several grinds of pepper. While continuing to whisk, drizzle in 3 T olive oil to form an emulsion. Set the dressing aside while you build the sandwich.

This sandwich serves four people, and I only needed enough for two, so I cut the recipe in half. Bread-wise, for four servings, you want to get a 16-inch baguette. Slice the loaf in half horizontally and use your fingers to dig out trenches in the center of each half of bread, as if you are creating bread canoes. You can discard the removed bread, or use it to make bread crumbs.

Fill the trench in the bottom half of bread with 12 ounces of drained tuna fish (you can use either oil or water-packed tuna).

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Bottom bread trench filled with tuna fish.

Next, add a layer of 1/3-inch thick green bell pepper slices, followed by a layer of 1/3-inch thick red onion slices.

Next, add two hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced.

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Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, and hard boiled eggs.

On top of the eggs, sprinkle on 1 C of pitted/chopped Kalamata olives.

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Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, hard boiled egg, and Kalamata olives.

Top the olives with 4-5 slices of very ripe tomato and drizzle on the red wine vinaigrette, letting the dressing drizzle down between the ingredient layers.

Place the top bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap the sandwich very tightly in plastic wrap; you will need to overlap sheets of plastic to have a sheet wide enough for the length of the sandwich. Once wrapped, let the sandwich sit at room temperature for two hours before slicing and eating.

I made this sandwich last Friday, as we were taking a short road trip out of town. The sandwich sat in the car for the duration of our drive, and was then ready to eat for dinner when we arrived at our vacation rental.

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Alton’s pan bagnat. Excuse the poor lighting in this photo, as our vacation rental had horrible lighting.

Personally, I really liked this sandwich, but Ted doesn’t like canned tuna, so he was not a huge fan. He did, however, say that he would really like this sandwich if it were made with a different protein. Basically, if you’ve ever had a niçoise salad, this sandwich is that salad in sandwich form. Alton did not follow his second sandwich rule of using a moisture barrier with this recipe, so I wondered if the sandwich would end up soggy from the tuna, tomato, olives, and dressing, but it really was not soggy at all. What I liked most about this sandwich were its contrasting flavors, colors, and textures. The veggies gave the sandwich a crunch, the tomato and dressing kept the sandwich from being dry, and the eggs gave a slight creamy texture. Flavor-wise, the vinaigrette and olives were tangy, bright and salty, while the red onions gave a bit of spice/heat. The tomato added fruitiness and the tuna contributed a slight fishy flavor. It was also convenient to be able to make this sandwich ahead. I will definitely make a version of this sandwich again, though I likely will substitute something else (chicken salad?) for the tuna unless I am the only one eating it.

Cuban Sandwich

The second sandwich recipe in this episode is for Alton’s take on the classic Cuban sandwich. To make Cuban sandwiches, slice hoagie rolls in half horizontally and liberally spread yellow mustard on both halves of the rolls.

Top the mustard with a thin layer of baked ham, followed by a thin layer of roast pork (I made a small pork roast for these sandwiches).

Top the pork with two slices of provolone or Swiss cheese (I used Swiss) and two long, thin slices of Kosher dill pickle.

You can wrap the sandwiches in plastic and save them for later, or you can cook them right away. To cook the sandwiches, brush/spread them with butter and press them in a panini press for about 10 minutes.

If you do not have a panini press, you can still press the sandwiches by wrapping three fireplace bricks in foil. Place the bricks on a sheet pan. Place three more bricks (they do not need to be wrapped in foil) on a second sheet pan. Place the two sheet pans of bricks in a 500-degree oven for an hour. Remove the sheet pans from the oven and brush the foil-covered bricks with butter. Place the sandwiches on the foil-covered bricks and brush the sandwich tops with butter. Place the sheet pan of unwrapped bricks on top of the sandwiches and let the sandwiches press between the bricks for about 10 minutes.

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Alton’s Cuban sandwich.

I really enjoy Cuban sandwiches because I love their zesty flavor, and I thought this was a great, fast version to make at home. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of roasting pork for this recipe, you could always substitute sliced turkey, or at least that is what Alton says. I’m sure some Cuban sandwich classicists would pooh-pooh Alton’s version with provolone and turkey, but if it tastes good (and it does), who cares?

Roasted Vegetable Spread

The last recipe in this episode is for a vegetarian spread that you could use on any sandwich, or just on crackers or bread. Preheat your oven to 400. While the oven heats, toss the following vegetables with 1-2 T olive oil:  1 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced (into rings) red bell pepper, 1 sliced (into rings) onion, and 4-5 crushed cloves of garlic.

Spread the veggies on a foil-lined sheet pan and sprinkle them with Kosher salt. Roast the vegetables for 45 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

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Zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic tossed with olive oil, spread on a sheet pan, and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and let them cool to room temperature.

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Vegetables after roasting for 45 minutes.

Place the veggies in a food processor, along with eight ounces of cream cheese, and pulse to combine.

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Roasted vegetables in the food processor with cream cheese.

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Alton’s vegetable spread, served with bread slices.

Alton recommends serving his spread on soft bread (see sandwich rule number 1 above). This spread has a sweet veggie flavor from the caramelized vegetables. While I would not be able to identify zucchini in this spread, the flavors of red bell pepper, onion, and garlic are easily identifiable. I did feel that the spread could use a bit more Kosher salt, though. We enjoyed this as an appetizer on sliced bread, though I can attest it is also good on crackers. This is a recipe that would be great to keep in mind for when you are cleaning out your produce drawer, as you could roast a variety of leftover vegetables and have a different spread each time. I plan to make this again the next time we have leftover veggies.

When I began this project, I had to purchase the first couple seasons of Good Eats through Amazon. Shortly after beginning this blog, I set our DVR to record any and all episodes that were airing, building a stockpile. I currently have 135 episodes recorded. Needless to say, I had a little bit of a panic yesterday morning when I discovered that the clock on our DVR was stuck at 2:41 and it was emitting an odd whirring sound. Oh, and the DVR refused to power off. Thankfully, it rebooted just fine after being unplugged for a few minutes. Whew!

Episode 110 is very seasonally appropriate, as chili, to me, is perfect for fall and winter. I got a kick out of this episode because Alton played the role of a cowboy, and remained in character for the duration of the show; I cannot recall another episode in which he did this.

AB’s Chili Powder

If you want to make good chili, you have to start with great chili powder. Thankfully, Alton has a chili powder recipe that you can whip up easily at home. His chili powder starts with three types of dried chiles:  ancho chiles, cascabel chiles, and arbol chiles. While I had no trouble finding the ancho and arbol chiles at my regular grocery store, I had to take a trip to our local Mexican grocery store to find the dried cascabels. For a batch of chili powder, you will need three of each type of chile.

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Ancho chiles, arbol chiles, and cascabel chiles.

Using scissors, cut the tops off the dried peppers, shaking out the seeds and discarding them; you don’t want the seeds because they add bitterness. Use the scissors to cut the chiles into strips; you can do this straight into a large skillet.

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Chiles cut into strips and placed in skillet.

Add 2 T cumin seeds to the pan, setting the pan over medium-high heat. Roast the peppers and cumin seeds until they are fragrant and the cumin seeds begin to pop.

 

When making this chili powder, your kitchen will smell amazing from the toasted chiles and cumin seeds! Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the chiles/seeds to cool. While the chiles cool, combine 2 T garlic powder, 1 t smoked paprika, and 1 T dried oregano in a blender.

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Garlic powder, smoked paprika, and dried oregano in blender carafe.

Add the cooled chile/cumin mixture to the blender and blend the mixture to a fine powder. Be sure to let the powder settle for a couple minutes before removing the lid of the blender.

 

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Alton’s chili powder.

The finished chili powder is very fragrant and honestly made my mouth water. It has a rich, deep aroma that far surpasses that of store-bought chili powder. Use Alton’s chili powder in any recipe calling for chili powder, such as his chili recipe below.

Pressure Cooker Chili

Alton uses his homemade chili powder to make his version of chili. Yes, Alton uses a pressure cooker to make his chili, but he also gives instructions in the episode for how to adapt this recipe if you do not have a pressure cooker.

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Ingredients for Alton’s chili: beer, tomato paste, tortilla chips, chipotles and adobo sauce, salsa, cumin, and chili powder.

Three pounds of stew meat go into this chili, and Alton prefers a blend of beef, lamb, and pork. I could not find lamb stew meat at my store, so I used half beef and half pork. Heat a pressure cooker over high heat until hot.

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Heating the pressure cooker.

While the pot heats up, put the stew meat in a large bowl with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and toss to coat.

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Three pounds of stew meat being tossed with Kosher salt.

Add 2 t peanut oil to the meat, and toss again to coat.

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Three pounds of stew meat being tossed with Kosher salt and peanut oil.

Brown the meat in the hot pot, removing it after browning; you will want to do this in three batches, so the pan does not get overcrowded.

When all the meat has been browned, put the empty pot back on the heat and add 12 ounces of medium-bodied beer (I used one of Alton’s beers), scraping to deglaze the pan.

Add 1 T tomato paste to the beer, along with 1 T chili powder, 1 t ground cumin, 3 big handfuls of crumbled tortilla chips, 16 ounces salsa, 2 chopped canned chipotles, 1 T adobo sauce from the chipotles, and the 3 pounds of browned meat.

Put the lid on the cooker and bring it up to low pressure. Maintain low pressure for 25 minutes before releasing the pressure and serving.

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Lid put on pressure cooker.

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Chili after cooking for 25 minutes.

Alton thinks this chili is perfect as it stands, requiring no extra toppings, so I served it his way. I served my chili with a slice of cornbread on the side.

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A bowl of Alton’s chili.

Oh, and for those who do not have a pressure cooker, you can make Alton’s chili in a Dutch oven, letting the chili cook, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 6-24 hours. The flavor of Alton’s chili is pretty fantastic, having just the right amount of heat. The flavor from the toasted chiles blends beautifully with the saltiness of the chips, the sweetness of the tomato paste, and the freshness of the salsa. I found that the beef stew meat was more tender than the pork stew meat, which was slightly chewy. Perhaps a little longer cook would tenderize the pork more. I happen to love lamb, so I wish I could have added some of that to my chili. I also happen to really like beans in my chili, so I would probably opt to add them next time, but that’s really a matter of personal preference. This chili is super flavorful, and if you happen to have a pressure cooker, you get the flavor of a long simmer with a very short cook time. The true hero of this recipe, though, is the homemade chili powder.