Posts Tagged ‘dip’

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.

While my beer was fermenting from last episode, I got busy prepping the four recipes from the 75th episode of Good Eats. The main player in this episode is that famous star of the cocktail party:  dip. Alton raises the question in this episode of what, exactly, constitutes a dip. Is salsa a dip? Alton concludes that salsa is not, in fact, a dip. Why? It does not meet Alton’s dip criterion, which is that a dip must be able to travel from its vessel to your mouth without going “splat” on the floor. Sour cream and onions do, however, make a suitable dip, which is the first one up in in this episode.

Onion Dip from Scratch

Sour cream and onion dip, also known as “California Dip,” was apparently very popular in the 60s, and Alton’s take on it begins with a bowl containing 1 1/2 C sour cream and 3/4 C mayonnaise (I used homemade mayo).

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Sour cream and mayo (homemade) make the dip base.

The next step is to heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat, adding 2 T olive oil, 1 1/2 C diced onions, and a pinch of Kosher salt. The onions should be cooked until they are caramelized and golden, which will take about 20 minutes.

Once the onions are golden brown, set them aside to cool a bit. Finally, add the onions, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t white pepper, and 1/4 t garlic powder to the sour cream/mayo bowl, stirring to combine.

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Caramelized onions added to dip base, along with Kosher salt, white pepper, and garlic powder.

This dip came together super easily and was quite addictive, and I served it with good bread, baby carrots, and bell pepper.

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Alton’s onion dip with veggies and bread.

The sweet caramelized onion flavor is just right with the tangy sour cream and creamy mayo, and it is easy to see how this would be a crowd favorite.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Back when I did Alton’s episode on artichokes, I seriously questioned his judgement in not including a recipe for spinach/artichoke dip. Alas, I guess this dip episode explains why he did not. Spinach and artichoke dip is definitely one of my favorites, so I was excited to make Alton’s version. Alton has a newer version of this recipe on his web site, which I actually made for our neighborhood New Year’s Eve party this year. The big difference between the Good Eats recipe and the new recipe is that there is a higher ratio of cream cheese to spinach.

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Ingredients for artichoke/spinach dip: mayo, sour cream, frozen spinach, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, Kosher salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan.

For the original recipe, begin by combining 1/4 C mayo (I again used homemade), 1/4 C sour cream, and 6 ounces of cream cheese, warmed in the microwave.

Heat 1 C of chopped frozen spinach and 1 1/2 C frozen artichoke hearts  in a cup of boiling water until warmed through; I had to use canned artichoke hearts, so I did not heat them. Be sure to thoroughly drain the spinach, squeezing out any excess water.

To the mayo/cream cheese mixture, add the spinach and artichoke hearts, along with 1/3 C grated Parmesan, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/4 t garlic powder, and 1/4 t Kosher salt.

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Spinach, artichoke hearts, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and Kosher salt added to dip base.

This dip is, of course, best served warm. You can keep the dip warm by putting about an inch of water into a Crockpot, setting the bowl of dip into the water. Set the Crockpot to low and it will keep the dip warm for serving.

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Spinach and artichoke dip, kept warm in a Crockpot.

We ate Alton’s artichoke dip with bread, crackers, and veggies.This dip creamy, tangy, has a touch of heat, and has a variety of textures.

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Spinach and artichoke dip.

I do have to say that I prefer Alton’s updated version of this dip over the original, as I like a greater ratio of dip base to artichokes/spinach. We also really appreciated the heat from the red pepper flakes in this recipe. This is one I will make again, albeit the updated recipe.

Guacamole

A dip episode would not be complete without a recipe for guacamole. We make guacamole pretty frequently, usually just tossing together some avocados, lime juice, Kosher salt, garlic, and sometimes some salsa. If I want to put more time into it, I go to a recipe my mom created that uses roasted tomatillos. To make Alton’s version, squeeze the juice of a lime into a bowl and add the flesh of three avocados, tossing the avocados to coat them thoroughly and prevent browning.

Drain the lime juice from the avocados, reserving it for later.

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Lime juice drained off of avocados and set aside for later.

To the avocados add 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t cumin, and 1/4 t cayenne pepper. Mash the avocados with the seasonings, using a potato masher.

Once you have your desired consistency, add 1/2 an onion, chopped. Next, add 1 T cilantro, 1/2 of a seeded jalapeno, 1 clove of garlic, 1 T of the reserved lime juice, and 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped.

Mix everything together, press plastic wrap onto the surface, and let the dip sit in a cool place for two hours before serving.

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Alton’s guacamole.

Of course, we ate our guac with some tortilla chips. This guacamole was good, but it was nothing outstanding, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to make it again. I did like the additions of the tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno, as they added texture and flavor, but I thought it could use a touch more heat.Mom’s recipe remains my favorite, as those roasted tomatillos take guac to a new level.

Chicken Liver Mousse

Last up in this episode was Alton’s chicken liver mousse, which was to be my foray into cooking with liver. I only made half a batch of this recipe, as it was just for the two of us and the shelf-life of this dip is only a couple days. For a full batch of the dip, heat a large saucier over medium heat and melt 2 T of butter.img_5891 To the melted butter add 2 C chopped onions, 1 chopped Granny Smith apple, 1 t fresh thyme, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt. Cover the pan and let it cook until the contents are golden.

Next, add a pound of cleaned/drained chicken livers to the pan. I found chicken livers near the chicken in my grocery store. Honestly, I find chicken livers hard to stomach when they are raw; they just are not at all appetizing to me, and I may have gagged a little… just a little.

Anyway, stir the livers gently, cooking them until they are gray on the outside, but still pink on the inside; Alton says this will take about three minutes, but it took several minutes longer for my livers to be cooked. Once the livers are cooked, add 1/4 C brandy to the pan and simmer for a minute.

Remove the pan from the heat, letting it cool for five minutes. Once the liver mixture cools, puree it in a food processor until it is smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat a cup of heavy cream until it has soft peaks.

Finally, fold the whipped cream into the liver mixture in two installments.

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Alton’s chicken liver mousse on crispy baguette.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to two days. We thought this was just okay. We have had other chicken liver pâtés that we have really enjoyed (in fact, we had a great one last week at a restaurant), but this one was not our favorite. The color of this mousse was sort of gray and unappealing, and Ted commented that he found the mousse overly sweet. Of the recipes in this episode, this one was our least favorite.

The main star of the 60th episode of Good Eats was none other than eggplant. Eggplant, which is technically a berry, is a food that I have had limited experience with. My mom has an eggplant recipe that she still swears by, which was the only exposure I had to eggplant when I was young; I did not like it. Her version was sliced, breaded, cooked in butter, and coated with Parmesan cheese. A few years ago, I made a batch of Eggplant Parmesan for Ted and me; we did not care for it, opting for frozen pizza, or the like, instead. Still, I figured, if anyone could make me like eggplant, it likely would be Alton Brown.

Baba Ghannouj

First up in Alton’s eggplant repertoire was his take on Baba Ghannouj. For this recipe, you’ll need two eggplants.When selecting eggplants at the store, opt for ones that have a green stem and smooth skin, and that are heavy for their size. Larger eggplants tend to be more bitter than smaller ones. Also, when possible, choose male eggplants instead of females. Who knew there were male and female eggplants? Male eggplants have a small circle on their non-stemmed end, while females have a larger oval shape. Apparently, female eggplants have more seeds and are more bitter (insert bitter female joke here). Oh, and store eggplants on your kitchen counter for 1-2 days, or wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for longer storage. To make this recipe, prick your eggplants a few times with a fork and roast them on a grill over indirect heat for about a half hour, turning them every 7-8 minutes.

Wrap the hot eggplants in plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to touch.

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Hot eggplants wrapped in plastic wrap.

When the eggplants have cooled, keep them in their plastic wrap and cut off their stem ends with kitchen scissors. Squeezing the eggplants like a toothpaste tube, squeeze their flesh into a strainer and discard the skins. Note:  this tip sounded cool when I watched the episode, but it did not work for me at all.

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Cut the stem end off of your eggplants and squeeze out their flesh. Didn’t work for me.

I wound up cutting my eggplants completely open with shears and scraped the flesh out with my hands. You will want to have about 2 C of eggplant for this recipe. Let the eggplant drain for about 30 minutes to get rid of its bitter liquid. I also pressed on the surface of my eggplant with paper towels to absorb any excess liquid.

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My eggplant flesh, draining.

Once your eggplant is ready, combine it in a food processor with 2 cloves of sliced garlic, 3/4 t salt, 5 T lemon juice, and 4 T tahini (Alton used twice as much tahini in the episode as in the online recipe).

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Eggplant combined with garlic, salt, tahini, and lemon juice.

Process the mixture until smooth, and add salt and pepper if needed. If your dip tastes too bitter, add some honey.

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Honey, salt, and pepper added to the mixture.

Finally, add 1/2 a sprig of parsley and pulse a few times.

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Fresh parsley added.

Serve the Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

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My Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

Honestly, neither Ted or I expected to care for this much, but we actually quite liked it. I did have to add a little bit of honey to my dip to cut the bitterness. Sadly, I think the reason I liked this was because it really did not taste like eggplant to me. It had a bright, lemony flavor and hummus-like texture, with only the faintest hint of bitterness. Hmmm… maybe this Alton guy can make me like eggplant afterall?

Eggplant Steaks

I bravely made Alton’s eggplant steaks for dinner one night last week. Afterall, when Alton cooked them on Good Eats they looked rather appetizing. He explained in the show that eggplant is like a sponge, so it is first necessary to get the eggplant to purge its liquid. To do this, slice your eggplant into 1/2″ slices, place the slices on a rack over a sheet pan, and sprinkle the slices liberally with Kosher salt.

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Eggplant slices, sprinkled with Kosher salt and left to purge their liquid.

After 15 minutes, flip the eggplant slices over and sprinkle them with more Kosher salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 1-3 hours. There should be quite a lot of liquid on the sheet pan after the purging period.

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Eggplant after purging for 3 hours.

Thoroughly rinse the salt from your eggplant and wring each slice with your hand, as if wringing a sponge. Finally, wrap your slices in paper towels to dry further. Alton’s eggplant slices magically remained round after he wrung them out with his hand, while mine became ugly, oblong blobs; if you want your slices to be round, I’d suggest skipping the wringing step.

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My eggplant slices after being rinsed and wrung out.

Now that the eggplant has purged, it will no longer absorb liquid, but you can get liquid to stick to its surface. Next, combine with a whisk 1/2 C olive oil, 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce, 1 T cider vinegar, 1/4 C steak sauce, and 2 T honey.

Toss the eggplant slices in the sauce mixture until thoroughly coated, and place them on a rack over a sheet pan.

Broil your eggplant “steaks” for ~3 minutes/side or until they start to char around the edges.

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Eggplant “steaks” after broiling for ~3 minutes/side.

Finally, sprinkle your eggplant slices with shredded hard cheese of your choosing (I used Parmesan) and stick them back under the broiler until the cheese has melted.

I went into this recipe pretty optimistic. It turns out my optimism was unfounded. We really did not care for this recipe at all. The eggplant steaks had a texture that sort of reminded me of mushrooms, and their skin was slightly chewy. And, quite frankly, we just didn’t like the taste of this at all. Perhaps we just don’t like eggplant?

Eggplant Pasta

The third (and final, thank God) recipe of this episode was for eggplant pasta. For this recipe, you will need one medium-large eggplant and you will want to peel it before slicing. As in the recipe above for eggplant steaks, you will need to purge the liquid from your eggplant by slicing the eggplant, sprinkling both sides of the slices with Kosher salt, and allowing them to sit for 1-3 hours.

You will then want to rinse the slices, wring them out, and dry them in paper towels.

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Wrung out eggplant slices.

You can complete this purging process ahead of time and store your eggplant slices in the refrigerator for about a week. If you do that, this recipe comes together in no time. In addition to your eggplant, you will need olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, a small tomato, cream, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

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Ingredients for Alton’s eggplant pasta: red pepper flakes, tomato, Parmesan, garlic, basil, eggplant, bread crumbs, olive oil, and cream.

You will first want to cut your eggplant slices into thin strips. Next, heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add 1/4 t minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

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Garlic and red pepper flakes added to olive oil in skillet.

Add your eggplant to the skillet next, followed by 1 small tomato, seeded and diced.

Stir in 3 T heavy cream and 1 T basil chiffonade.

Finally, stir in 1-2 T shredded Parmesan cheese.

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Shredded Parmesan to top it off.

Serve the eggplant with breadcrumbs, as desired.

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Alton’s eggplant pasta, topped with breadcrumbs. Even the dog is indifferent about eggplant.

I had high hopes for this recipe, but we did not like this one at all. The texture and flavor of the eggplant were completely unappealing. After completing this episode of eggplant recipes, I think it is safe to say that we just do not like eggplant. I would be curious to know what a true eggplant lover would think of the recipes from this episode, as I do not feel that I can fairly judge them. It is safe to say that this has been my least favorite episode thus far. Thank goodness for the Baba Ghannouj recipe, or this entire episode would have been a dislike in our household! On the plus side, we now know not to order eggplant at a restaurant.