Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Seeing as it is currently 12 degrees outside here, it really isn’t peak melon season. I take the episodes in the order they come, though, so we enjoyed a couple melon recipes in February. Although the melon was not of the greatest quality, these recipes still managed to give us a little taste of summer.

Hot Melon Salad

I have wanted to make this melon salad since I watched this episode with my dad when it originally aired in 2005. I remember that it just sounded so good to me when I first watched this episode. Alton prefers to use a high-powered outdoor gas burner for his wok, which is a setup my dad adopted after watching Good Eats. I do have my dad’s outdoor burner, but it needs a new hose, so I used our flat-bottomed wok on our regular old stove. Whether you are cooking indoors or out, heat your wok on a hot burner until water droplets instantly turn to steam upon hitting the pan. As with any stir fry, be sure to have all of your ingredients ready ahead of time, as the cooking goes very quickly. The ingredients for this dish are 1 1/2 T olive oil, a thinly sliced red onion, 8 ounces of cubed honeydew melon, 8 ounces of cubed cantaloupe, 1 T basil chiffonade, Kosher salt, black pepper, 2 t red wine vinegar, 2 ounces feta cheese, and 1 T toasted pine nuts.

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Ingredients for salad: red onion, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. Not pictured: melon.

Speaking of cantaloupe, did you know that all of the cantaloupes in this country are really muskmelons? Anyway, once the wok is hot, add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

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Oil in hot wok.

Add the sliced red onion and toss until heated through.

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Onion added to hot wok.

Next, add the cubed melon and toss again, cooking until the corners of the melon just start to brown slightly. Add the tablespoon of basil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt and some black pepper.

Drizzle the vinegar into the pan and transfer the salad to a serving dish. Finish the salad by sprinkling on the feta and pine nuts.

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Alton’s hot melon salad.

We had this as a side dish one night and we ate the entire salad. I really like the flavors in this salad and how they compliment each other. The melon becomes sweeter from the heat, yet the red wine vinegar gives just a light touch of acidity. The feta adds some much-needed salt, while the red onion gives some pungency. The crunch of the pine nuts is a nice addition to a salad that is otherwise composed of ingredients with fairly similar textures. To me, this dish would be a perfect summer grilling side dish, and I intend to make it again, just as soon as deck season arrives.

Melon Sorbet

A fresh melon sorbet is the second recipe in this episode, and it is super easy to throw together.

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Sorbet ingredients: watermelon, lemon juice, vodka, and sugar.

Puree a pound plus five ounces of watermelon in a food processor.

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Pureed watermelon.

To the pureed melon, add 3 T fresh lemon juice, 2 T vodka, and 9 ounces of sugar. The vodka serves to lower the freezing point of the sorbet, making the texture softer and less icy.

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Lemon juice, vodka, and sugar added to watermelon puree.

Refrigerate the melon mixture for at least two hours before churning in an ice cream maker.

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Churning sorbet after chilling.

Once churned, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 3-4 hours before eating.

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Watermelon sorbet.

The amounts of watermelon flavor and aroma in this sorbet are amazing, especially considering that I could not get great fruit. The color of the sorbet also seemed more vibrant than the color of the melon itself. As for texture, this sorbet stayed pretty soft and scoopable, and had very few large ice crystals. This sorbet truly is a taste of summer. It is quite sweet, so I have to wonder if a slight decrease in sugar could make this even better, though I suppose that could also alter the final texture of the sorbet. Perhaps I will just have to make two batches of sorbet once melon is in season – one with the original sugar concentration and one with a slightly lower concentration. I also intend to try this with some other types of melon, though I would imagine the sugar would have to be adjusted accordingly for the sugar contents of different melons. This sorbet is super refreshing, easy, and can brighten up even the coldest of winter days.

I was not overly stoked for an entire episode of pudding recipes. I mean, pudding is fine, but it’s not exactly exciting. I did, however, get very happy when I was a kid and my mom would leave pudding in the refrigerator for an after-school snack; chocolate pudding was my brother’s favorite, while I always preferred butterscotch. Speaking of butterscotch pudding, if you have not tried the butterscotch pudding in Alton’s latest book, it is a must-make. Here is my rundown of Alton’s pudding recipes, and I must say that two out of three wowed me.

Indian Rice Pudding

Indian rice pudding is the first recipe in this episode. The ingredients in this recipe are 1 C cooked rice, 1 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, 3/4 C coconut milk, 2 ounces sugar, 1/4 t ground cardamom, 1 1/2 ounces golden raisins, and 1 1/2 ounces chopped unsalted pistachios.

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Rice pudding ingredients: cooked rice, milk, heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, cardamom, golden raisins, and pistachios.

For the pudding, put the milk and rice in a large skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.

Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer the milk/rice until it has thickened slightly, which should take about five minutes; if you run a spatula along the bottom of the pan, the liquid should be thick enough to part and stay parted.

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Rice and milk after coming to a boil and simmering.

When you have achieved this desired consistency, increase the heat to medium and add the cream and coconut milk, followed by the sugar and cardamom (use a whisk to incorporate the cardamom).

When the mixture has reached a boil again, decrease the heat to low and cook for five more minutes.

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Pudding cooked for 5 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins and nuts.

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Raisins and pistachios added to pudding off the heat.

Transfer the pudding to your desired serving vessel(s) and enjoy immediately, or you can chill the pudding overnight, which is how Alton prefers it. If you do opt to chill the pudding, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent formation of a skin.

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Alton’s rice pudding.

I tasted the rice pudding when it was warm, but chose to refrigerate it overnight before eating a full serving. This rice pudding is delicious. The pudding is thick, rich, creamy, and indulgent. The subtle flavor of coconut milk is in the background, while pistachio flavor is predominant. The raisins add little punches of fruit flavor, while the nuts add a little crunch. This is great for dessert or for breakfast, or for both! I fully intend to make this again soon. In fact, I am really wishing I had some right now! Excellent recipe.

Tapioca Pudding

I do not recall ever having tapioca pudding prior to making this recipe. I asked my parents about tapioca pudding the other day and my mom said she remembers her mother making it, while my dad did not think he had ever had tapioca pudding. Tapioca, by the way, is a starch from the cassava plant. Tapioca is sold in several forms, but this recipe calls for large pearl tapioca. The recipe begins by soaking 3 1/2 ounces of tapioca in a pint of cold water overnight; you can do this at room temperature.

After the soak, drain the pearls and put them in a crock pot, along with 2 1/2 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir the pudding, put the lid on the cooker, and let the pudding cook on high for two hours.

After the two hour cook time, beat one egg yolk with 1/3 sugar in a bowl – this will form a paste.

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Tapioca after cooking for two hours.

Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly whisking 1 – 1 1/2 C of the warm tapioca into the eggs.

Once tempered, add the egg mixture back to the crock pot of tapioca and whisk to combine. Add the zest of a lemon to the cooker, place the lid back on, and let the pudding cook for 15 more minutes.

Transfer the tapioca to an airtight container, pressing plastic wrap directly onto its surface. Let the pudding cool to room temperature before refrigerating until it is thoroughly chilled.

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Pudding after cooking for 15 more minutes.

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Chilled tapioca pudding.

This pudding was good, but not amazing like the rice pudding. Since I am not a tapioca pudding expert I cannot say for sure, but I felt like the texture of this pudding was maybe a little thinner than it should be. I liked the added texture from the slightly chewy tapioca pearls, but the base was a little on the soupy side. As for flavor, it was just sort of creamy with subtle lemon overtones. I may make this again, simply because I have half a bag of tapioca pearls remaining, but I won’t add this one to the permanent recipe vault.

Chocolate Pudding

What pudding episode would be complete without a recipe for chocolate pudding? This is a two-step recipe, in which you first make a dry pudding mix, and then use the mix to make the pudding. To make the dry mix, in a lidded container combine 1 1/2 ounces non-fat dry milk, 2 ounces cornstarch, 1 t salt, 3 ounces Dutch cocoa powder, and 6 ounces powdered sugar. Shake the container to combine the ingredients.

To make the pudding, put 1 3/4 C of the dry pudding mix in a saucier. Whisk 2 C milk and 2 C heavy cream into the dry pudding mix.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer for four minutes, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 t vanilla.

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Adding vanilla off the heat.

Pour the pudding through a sieve and into a serving bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent the formation of a skin, and refrigerate the pudding for at least four hours before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate pudding.

This is the best chocolate pudding I have ever eaten. The pudding is super rich and creamy in both texture and flavor. It is smooth and chock full of chocolate flavor, and a little goes a long way. I am going to whip up another batch of this pudding shortly. It is super good.

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.

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

Perfect Potstickers

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

Mix the filling thoroughly with gloved hands.

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The mixed potsticker filling.

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

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Wonton wrappers.

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

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

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

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

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Pleats made on each short side of the triangle.

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

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

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

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

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A plate of Alton’s potstickers.

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

Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

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

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

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Cubing the tofu.

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

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

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Dumpling filling.

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

Press the edges together, squeezing out any air bubbles.

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Folding opposite corners together and pinching the seams.

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

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Dumplings on sheet pan.

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

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

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Alton’s vegetarian steamed dumplings in chicken stock.

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

Pear Walnut Wontons

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

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Sugar and water over medium heat.

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

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Vanilla bean to be scraped.

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

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

Pulse the pears until they clump together.

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Dried pears pulsed until clumpy.

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

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

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

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Attempting to fold wontons Alton’s way.

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

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

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Oil heating to 360.

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

Alton recommends serving these guys with ice cream.

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Fried wontons with ice cream.

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

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

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

Yeast Doughnuts

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

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

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Yeast sprinkled in warm water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Doughnuts transferred to floured baking sheet to proof.

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

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

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Doughnuts frying for 1 minute per side.

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Alton’s yeast doughnuts.

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

Doughnut Glaze

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

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Milk and vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

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

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

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Alton’s glaze.

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Glazed doughnuts.

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

Chocolate Doughnut Glaze

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

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

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

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

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Glaze stirred until smooth.

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

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Alton’s chocolate glaze.

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

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

 

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

Banana Ice Cream

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

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2 1/4 pounds of bananas

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

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

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

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

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

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Banana ice cream base, ready to be chilled.

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

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

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

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Alton’s banana ice cream.

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

Bananas Foster

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

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

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

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Banana liqueur added to syrup.

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

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Bananas added to the pan.

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

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Bananas flipped after one minute.

Using two forks, transfer the bananas to a plate.

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Bananas, transferred to a plate.

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

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Sauce returning to a simmer.

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

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Rum added to pan and ignited with burner OFF.

Continue to swirl the pan until the flames extinguish.

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Swirling the pan until the flames go out.

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

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Orange zest added to sauce.

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

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Alton’s bananas foster with vanilla ice cream.

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

Fried Plantains

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

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Two plantains.

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

  1. a rack over a sheet pan

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    Rack over sheet pan.

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

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    Oil heated to 325.

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

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    Inverted sheet pan with parchment, and a spatula.

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

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    Bowl of water with Kosher salt and garlic.

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

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    Plantains, peeled and cut into medallions.

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

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

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Plantains transferred to parchment.

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

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Smashed plantains.

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

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Smashed plantains, placed in water.

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

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Soaked plantains drying on paper towels.

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

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Plantains back in hot oil for second frying.

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

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Fried plantains on rack. Seasoned with Kosher salt.

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Fried plantains

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