Posts Tagged ‘good eats’

My dad’s funeral was a year ago yesterday, and I can’t help but imagine what he’d be saying in these crazy times. Hell, if he had died this year, would we even be allowed to have a funeral? If he were here, I would probably be steering him toward Alton’s live YouTube cooking videos he’s been doing alongside his wife. These videos are sort of like the “Pantry Raid” series within Good Eats, as Alton and his wife raid their pantry to assemble a dinner on a particular evening during our quarantine. We have sort of been cooking in a similar manner; for tonight, I decided to feed my sourdough starter, so I’m also making sourdough pizza crust that we’ll top with some frozen sauce and whatever toppings we have on-hand.

If you happen to have meat you need/want to use up, the recipes from the 136th episode of Good Eats could be suitable to make during this time. Both of the recipes in this episode are for meatballs and make enough to serve a family, likely with some leftovers. For the two of us, we were able to get at least two dinners out of both of these recipes.

Baked Meatballs

Alton’s baked meatballs are best mixed one day prior to eating, though you can get by with making them an hour before serving. Place the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:  1/2 pound ground lamb, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 t dried parsley, 1 1/2 t dried basil, 1 t garlic powder, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, 1 egg, 1/4 C bread crumbs, and 5 ounces of frozen spinach that has been thawed/squeezed.

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Ground lamb, ground pork, ground beef, red pepper flakes, dried parsley, dried basil, garlic powder, Kosher salted, grated Parmesan, an egg, thawed frozen spinach, and bread crumbs in mixing bowl.

Using gloved hands, use your fingertips to thoroughly mix all of the ingredients. Refrigerate the meat mixture for 1-24 hours.

After chilling, portion the meat into 1.5 ounce portions, placing them on a parchment-lined sheet pan (Alton used a disher for this, but I just used my hands and my scale). When all of the meat has been portioned, roll the meat into balls with gloved hands.

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Meat portioned into 1.5 ounce portions and shaped into balls.

Place 1/4 C of bread crumbs in a ramekin or small bowl and add a meatball, shaking the ramekin to roll the ball in the crumbs. Place the bread crumb-coated meatball back on the baking sheet and continue this process until all of the meatballs have been coated in crumbs.

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Rolling meatballs in bread crumbs.

Set your oven to preheat to 400 degrees and place the meatballs in miniature muffin tin cups.

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Crumb-coated meatballs placed in mini muffin tins to bake.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes.

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Meatballs after baking.

Alton recommends serving his meatballs alongside pasta that has been tossed with olive oil, fresh herbs, and Parmesan, so that is how we enjoyed our meatballs.

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Alton’s baked meatballs served over pasta with olive oil, fresh herbs, and Parmesan.

These meatballs are excellent. The combination of meats results in meatballs that are extra flavorful and not overly dense; I like the subtle gamey flavor that comes from the lamb. Rolling the meatballs in the breadcrumbs gives the meatballs a little extra crunch, as opposed to just adding the breadcrumbs as a filler. Normally, when cooking meatballs on a baking sheet, they sit in puddles of fat and end up with flat bottoms. Baking the meatballs in the mini muffin tins is genius because the meatballs sit above the fat as it drains away, and the meatballs retain a perfectly round shape. I plan to use mini muffin tins whenever I make baked meatballs in the future. This is one of those simple, classic recipes that Alton has just made better.

Swedish Meatballs

I recall my mom making Swedish meatballs sometimes when my parents would host parties. My parents had an old chafing dish that I’m sure belonged to one of their mothers, and which now resides in our basement. My mom would set out a small dish of toothpicks with those decorative cellophane curls on one end, and guests would stab and nibble to their heart’s content. My mom’s Swedish meatballs were pretty darn delicious, and I’m guessing her recipe may have come from The Joy of Cooking, though I’ll have to ask her to be sure. My brother happened to give me a new copy of The Joy of Cooking for Christmas (I also have my parents’ old versions), so I compared their recipe to that of Alton, and I can attest that they are incredibly similar. In this time of social distancing, why not whip up a batch of these meatballs to enjoy alongside a “quarantini” or three? It is, after all, the weekend.

To make Alton’s Swedish meatballs, tear two pieces of white sandwich bread into chunks and place them in a bowl. Pour 1/4 C of milk over the milk and toss to coat. Set the bread aside to soak.

Sweat 1/2 C of onion in 1 T clarified butter (Alton explained how to clarify butter in his mushroom episode), adding a pinch of Kosher salt.IMG_1616 Next, put 3/4 pound ground chuck in the bowl of a stand mixer, along with 3/4 pound ground pork, the milk-soaked bread from earlier, the onion, two egg yolks, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/4 t allspice.

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Ground chuck, ground pork, soaked bread, sauteed onion, egg yolks, Kosher salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice in bowl of stand mixer.

Using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on medium for two minutes.

Using a scale, portion the meat into one ounce portions, rolling them lightly with gloved hands and placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

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Meat portioned into 1 oz balls.

If you have an electric skillet, set the skillet to 250 degrees and add 2 T clarified butter. If you do not have an electric skillet (I don’t), you can use a large skillet over medium heat. Either way, add the meatballs to the pan, turning them often with tongs until they are cooked through, which should take 7-10 minutes; you may need to do this in batches.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to an oven-proof casserole dish. Cover the dish and place it in a warm oven while you make the sauce.

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Cooked meatballs transferred to casserole dish to keep warm in oven.

Sift 1/4 C flour over the juices in the pan and stir it in. Add 3 C beef broth and 1/4 C heavy cream, and increase the heat. Bring the liquid to a simmer and continue to let the sauce simmer until it has thickened, keeping in mind that the sauce will thicken more as it cools.

When the sauce has reached your desired consistency, add the warm meatballs back to the sauce.

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Meatballs added back to sauce.

Place the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish if you plan to serve them over a long period. Of course, if you do not have a chafing dish, Alton has you covered with a method of making your own. First, set down three strips of shelf liner, forming a triangle shape. Next, place a brick on top of each piece of shelf liner, forming a triangle of bricks. Place a fuel can in the center of the brick triangle and place a second layer of bricks on top of the first; the second triangle should face the opposite direction of the first triangle. Light the fuel can and place a water-filled cake pan on top. Place a pie plate full of Swedish meatballs so it nests in the water, and you have a chafing dish. We ate these meatballs as our dinner for a couple nights, eating them with some side dishes.

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Alton’s Swedish meatballs.

While this recipe did remind me a great deal of my mom’s, I wish I had cooked the sauce a little longer, as my sauce was a little thinner than I would have preferred. Still, the sauce was very rich from the pan juices and the cream, and the nutmeg and allspice in the meatballs gave hints of warmth and spice . Swedish meatballs are not the prettiest food, but they are rich little morsels and a great contribution to any potluck… or quarantine happy hour.

Since we are all on lockdown for the Coronavirus, hopefully I’ll have some more time to cook and write. I also threw my back out two days ago, so I guess we may as well try to make the best of it. We are actually supposed to be on a cruise ship as I type, but instead I am perched in our family room. So, what does one eat during the apocalypse? How about waffles?

Basic Waffle

Alton touts the waffle as one of his favorite things, explaining that waffles are essentially a fried food, as the batter is cooked between oiled plates. I had never really thought of waffles as fried, but that explains why I like them so much. I’ll nearly always choose waffles over pancakes. Alton’s basic waffles are made by whisking together in a medium bowl 4 3/4 oz flour, 4 3/4 oz whole wheat flour, 3 T sugar, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t baking soda, and 1 t baking powder.

In a larger bowl, beat three eggs until smooth and whisk in 2 oz melted butter.

Next, whisk in 16 oz of buttermilk at room temperature.

Preheat your waffle iron and add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, folding everything together with a spatula until just combined; the batter will have some lumps, but that is okay.

Let the batter rest for five minutes. Spray the plates of your waffle iron with nonstick spray, which will aid in browning and release of the waffles. Pour about three ounces of batter in the iron and cook until golden and crispy.

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Batter on hot oiled iron.

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Alton’s basic waffle, served here with butter and boiled cider syrup.

You can keep the waffles warm by covering them with foil and placing them in a warm oven. For later use (such as when a pandemic hits), you can freeze the waffles and reheat them in a toaster. I am picky about waffles, as I really don’t care for them when they are at all soggy. I like my waffles to be extra crispy on the outside. This is a really good waffle recipe, resulting in waffles that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I ate my waffles with butter and some homemade boiled apple cider syrup, while Ted enjoyed his with some maple syrup straight from his aunt’s maple trees.

Chocolate Waffle

If plain ol’ waffles are too boring for you, or you’re looking for more of a dessert waffle, Alton has you covered with his chocolate waffle recipe. As with the basic waffle recipe from above, you will need two mixing bowls for this recipe. In the first bowl, whisk together 7 oz flour, 1 3/4 oz sugar, 1 1/2 oz cocoa powder, 1 t salt, 1 t baking powder, and 1/2 t baking soda.

In the second bowl, whisk three eggs until they are smooth and add in 2 oz melted butter. Follow that with 16 oz of room temperature buttermilk and 1 t vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, folding with a spatula to barely combine.

Finally, fold in 4 oz of chocolate chips.

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Chocolate chips to be folded in.

Add about 3 oz of batter to a standard waffle iron that has been preheated and sprayed with nonstick spray. Cook until crispy on the outside.

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Waffle after cooking on a hot iron.

We first ate these waffles for breakfast with butter as a topping. We subsequently had the leftover waffles for dessert with vanilla ice cream.

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Alton’s chocolate waffle, served with butter.

We were pretty surprised with how much we liked these waffles. Ted, in particular, does not really like anything sweet for breakfast, but he said he thoroughly enjoyed these. The waffles are actually not very sweet, as they contain quite a lot of cocoa powder, but you get little pockets of sweetness when you bite a chocolate chip. I personally liked these best served with ice cream, and I think kids would find these super fun for a special breakfast or dessert.

This was a fun episode for me to do, as vinegar was the star of the show. For as long as I can remember, I have loved all things vinegar-based. I absolutely loved to arrive at my grandparents’ house in Baltimore because my grandma always had a bag or two of Utz Salt and Vinegar potato chips waiting for me. I was also the weird kid in elementary school whose mom would pack pickled eggs in her lunch. I had discovered pickled eggs at our local Blimpie, and my mom and I would each get two eggs with a basket of pretzels. To this day, I still love pickled eggs, but, as Alton would say, “That’s another blog.”

Grilled Romaine

An interesting grilled romaine salad is first in this episode. The night before you want to serve this salad, place a metal loaf pan in your freezer and add 1/2 C red wine vinegar. Let the vinegar freeze overnight. This will be enough vinegar for four servings. When you are ready to prep the salad, cut the bottom off of two hears of romaine lettuce and slice them in half lengthwise.

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Romaine hearts, halved lengthwise.

You will also need 1 C of finely grated Parmesan, 1 T olive oil, and black pepper. Spray a griddle pan with nonstick spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. Brush the cut sides of the romaine hearts with olive oil and generously grind pepper on top.

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Romaine hearts, halved lengthwise, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with black pepper.

Place the grated Parmesan in a long, shallow baking dish and dip/press the oiled sides of the romaine into the cheese.

Place the romaine hearts, cheese side down, on the preheated griddle and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and crispy.

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Romaine hearts placed cheese side down on lubed pan.

Remove the lettuce from the hot pan. Alton tells you here to place the grilled lettuce (cheese side up) on ice, as you want the lettuce to have a dichotomy of temperatures; I did not find this to be necessary as the non-grilled side of the lettuce was still cool after such a short cooking period. Remove your frozen vinegar from the freezer and scrape it with a fork to “fluff” it up. Sprinkle the frozen vinegar on top of the warm cheese and serve immediately.

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Grilled Romaine topped with flaked frozen vinegar.

Alton recommends picking up the whole salad and eating it like a hot dog. This recipe is good and bad. The recipe is flawed when it comes to the application of the cheese to the lettuce, as the cheese does not adhere well when you apply it to the oiled lettuce, and most of the cheese sticks to the pan when you cook it. Ted suggested making Alton’s Parmesan crisps from episode 113, molding them over the top of the grilled lettuce. Otherwise, you could place the cheesy lettuce under the broiler for a couple minutes. Either way, Alton’s technique in this recipe just really does not work well. That being said, the salad itself was fun to eat, as I really liked the contrasting flavors and temperatures. The frozen vinegar is super intense, packing a real zing of flavor, and its contrast with the warm cheese and lettuce is interesting to the palate. Technique flaws aside, this was just a fun recipe to try out.

Sauerbraten

The Sauerbraten recipe in this episode was the one I was super excited to make. Why? Until a few years ago, my parents lived two hours from me. We visited them regularly and my mom would always make some stellar food. For years she told me she wanted to make Sauerbraten for Ted and me, but she never ended up doing it before she was unable to cook. Although I did not get to eat Sauerbraten with my mom, this was my chance to finally try Sauerbraten, and to talk to my mom about the recipe. Sauerbraten translates to “sour beef,” and this is a recipe that, although simple, requires a few days. First up, combine in a large saucepan:  2 C water, 1 C cider vinegar, 1 C red wine vinegar, 1 chopped medium onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 1 T plus 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 2 bay leaves, 6 whole cloves, 12 juniper berries, and 1 t mustard seed.

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Water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, Kosher salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, and mustard seed in a saucepan.

Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set this liquid aside to cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch.

While the vinegar mixture cools rub a 3 1/2- 4 pound bottom round with 1 T vegetable oil and sprinkle Kosher salt liberally over the meat.

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Bottom round, rubbed with oil and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Sear the meat in a hot pan on all sides, using tongs to flip it. Once all the sides of the meat are browned, place the meat inside the marinade and let it sit at room temperature for an hour. Alton placed his meat directly into his saucepan, but my saucepan was not large enough to accommodate my roast. Instead, I transferred my meat and my marinade to a large plastic container. Regardless of what vessel you use, you want the meat to be as submerged as possible.

Place the meat into the refrigerator and leave it for 3-5 days (preferably five). If your meat is not completely submerged in the marinade, flip the meat over once per day. After five days have passed, remove the meat from the marinade and whisk 1/3 C sugar into the marinade. If your marinade is not already in an oven-safe vessel, transfer it to one now.

Add the meat back to the marinade, place a lid on the pot, and place it in a 325 degree oven for four hours, or until the meat is tender.

After cooking, remove the meat from the liquid, keeping it warm; I tented my meat under foil. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids. At this point, you can add 1/2 C raisins, but I did as Alton did and opted to leave them out. Place the strained liquid over medium-high heat and whisk in five ounces of gingersnap crumbs (a food processor works best for this).

Whisk the sauce until it has thickened and serve it over the sliced beef.

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Alton’s Sauerbraten.

Alternatively, you can shred the meat and serve it on Kaiser rolls with the sauce, though this is not a traditional presentation. Sauerbraten is certainly not a pretty dish, but it does have a great deal of flavor. The meat is falling apart by the end of the cooking and has quite a pronounced vinegar flavor, which is interesting. The sauce is pretty rich and is a mixture of sweet and sour flavors. I actually found that the sauce could easily overwhelm the meat, so I used only a little bit of sauce. We ate this for dinner two nights, serving it slice the first night and as sandwiches for the second night, and we liked it both ways. Mom said this recipe was very similar to hers, as her recipe also used gingersnaps to thicken the sauce. This is a very easy German recipe that is fun to make at home, and I’m so glad I finally got to try Sauerbraten

I haven’t really had much time for baking or desserts lately, which are some of my favorite things to make. This episode, though, forced me to take the time to make a few sweet treats for dessert and/or breakfast. Cobblers, crisps, and grunts were made in this episode, and Alton explained that any fruit found in the jam/jelly aisle of the grocery store will work well in these desserts; feel free to mix it up!

Rhubarb Peach Cobbler

A cobbler was made first, which Alton described as a fruit dessert topped with a pie crust-like topping. I really try to avoid making ingredient substitutions in this project, but I had to find a rhubarb alternative, as rhubarb isn’t in season yet and I could not find frozen rhubarb locally. I opted for leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving that we had tucked away in the freezer. Oh, and I used frozen peaches in place of the fresh peaches. To make the dough place 9.5 oz flour, 1 oz sugar, 1 T lime zest, and 1 t Kosher salt in a food processor, pulsing 3-4 times.

Add 4.5 oz cubed unsalted butter and 1.5 oz cubed lard (both fats should be chilled), and pulse until the mixture climbs up the sides of the bowl.

Add 1-3 T ice water until the dough holds together when squeezed between your fingers.

Place the dough in a large Ziplock, pat it into a disc, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can also freeze the dough for up to three months.

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Dough placed in Ziplock bag to chill.

When your dough has chilled, it is time to make the fruit portion of the cobbler. Combine in a bowl:  1 C sugar, 2 T cornstarch, and 1/4 t Kosher salt, whisking to combine. Add 1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces (this is where I subbed my frozen cranberries). Add 1 lb sliced peaches (I used frozen) and 1 T fresh lime juice, and toss the fruit with your hands.

Crumble 1/3 of the cold dough over the bottom of a greased 9×9″ glass pan and top with the fruit. I could tell that my fruit mixture was not going to fit in a 9×9″ pan, so I used a 9×13″ glass dish.

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1/3 of dough crumbled into the bottom of a baking dish.

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Fruit added to the dish.

Roll the rest of the dough within its Ziplock and cut the sides of the bag. Remove the top side of the bag and invert it over your hand so the plastic side is touching your hand.

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Dough rolled out inside Ziplock. Top of bag removed to invert dough directly onto fruit.

Press the dough side onto the top of the fruit and peel off the remaining bag.

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Dough placed on fruit.

Bake the cobbler at 375 degrees for 60 minutes, or until golden. If you use frozen fruit, as I did, you will need to bake the cobbler for 90 minutes. At the end of the baking, place the cobbler under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. Let the cobbler cool for 15-30 minutes before digging in.

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Cobbler after baking.

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Alton’s cobbler.

I was really happy with this cobbler, though I wish I could have made it with the rhubarb. The cranberries contributed a nice tartness in place of the rhubarb, though. I really liked the crispy, flaky texture of the cobbler topping, which is only lightly sweetened. If anything, some people may wish for this cobbler to be a little bit sweeter, but I happened to like its tart flavor. This cobbler is best when eaten the day it is made, as the crust portion loses its crispy, flaky texture over time.

Blackberry Grunt

I can’t say that I honestly knew what a grunt was until I watched Alton prepare his version. Basically, a grunt is a fruity filling topped with dough that is traditionally cooked on the stove; it gets its name from the grunting sound it makes as it cooks. Unlike the dough in the cobbler, the dough in this recipe is not sweetened. Really, the dough in this recipe is like a biscuit. To make the dough, place 9.5 oz of flour in a food processor, along with 2 t baking powder, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t baking soda. Pulse the flour mixture a few times to combine.

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Flour, baking powder, baking soda, and Kosher salt in food processor.

Transfer the flour to a bowl and use your fingers to “cut in” 2 oz of cold, cubed unsalted butter; do this by using your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in 1 C buttermilk. Stir the buttermilk into the flour just until combined loosely.

Dump the dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper, dusting the top of the dough with additional flour. Wrap the parchment up over the dough and place it in the refrigerator to chill.

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Finished dough placed on floured parchment before going into refrigerator.

While the dough chills, combine 1 C sugar, 1/2 t ground ginger, 1 C water, and 1 lb 3 oz fresh or frozen blackberries in a bowl, stirring to combine.

Pour the fruit into a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium heat, bringing the fruit to a simmer. Once simmering, decrease the heat and continue to cook the fruit until it has thickened. It took quite a while for my berries to thicken – I would allow at least 45 minutes for this step.

When the fruit is ready, use a 1-ounce disher or two dinner spoons to place dumplings of dough on top of the berries, working from the outside to the inside.

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Biscuit dough placed on top of berries.

Bake the grunt in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Grunt after baking.

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Alton’s blackberry grunt served with vanilla ice cream.

The dough in this recipe yielded a topping with the texture and flavor of a biscuit, which contrasted nicely with the fairly sweet fruit. I should have cooked my fruit a little longer, but impatience got the better of me and I ended up with a slightly soupy grunt. Still, though, the flavor was really good and the leftovers made for a nice breakfast.

Individual Berry Crisps

A crisp is last in this episode and this recipe is the fastest one to prepare. For the crisp topping, combine:  5 oz flour, 2/3 C sugar, 1 1/2 C chopped nuts,  and 1 1/2 C crushed gingersnaps, crackers, or cereal.

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Flour, sugar, nuts, and crushed gingersnaps.

Cut in 4 oz of cold unsalted butter, cubed.

In a second bowl combine 12 oz frozen berries, 1/4 C sugar, 2 t cornstarch, and 1/2 C of your prepared crisp topping. Stir the fruit mixture well and divide it among four ramekins that are 7-8 ounces. I actually used our French onion soup bowls.

Top each crisp with 1/2 C of the crisp topping. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and bake them for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Crisp topping placed on top of fruit.

Let the crisps cool for at least 15 minutes before eating.

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Alton’s individual berry crisps.

This was my favorite recipe of this episode. Not only was this super easy and fast to make, but it was also really delicious. I used crushed gingersnaps in my crisps and I highly recommend doing so – they add great crunch and gingery flavor. If you use Alton’s ratio of 1/2 C crisp topping to each crisp, you will have quite a lot of crisp topping left over. I was able to make six crisps with one recipe of crisp topping. This is a really great recipe for any day of the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have had the best intentions with my blog, but somehow it has been two months since I last posted. I guess it’s true what they say – “parenthood is a time warp!” Our little baby is now four months old, which is hard to believe. At her four month check-up yesterday, our pediatrician recommended that we start introducing solid food now, which is something I thought we’d wait a couple more months for. My sister-in-law gave me an awesome baby food cookbook that I can’t wait to try out, as it introduces babies to all sorts of interesting flavors; the goal is to avoid having a picky eater. Before I know it, she’ll be in the kitchen with me, and I can’t wait for that!

The recipes in this post are sushi recipes. With being pregnant, this was the first sushi I had eaten in a good year! Alton recommends the following ingredients and tools to make up a basic home sushi kit:  soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, short grain rice, Nori, a rice spoon, a sushi mat, wasabi, and pickled ginger. With those basic tools and ingredients, you should be set to try making sushi.

Sushi Rice

The first step in making sushi is preparing the rice. Ideally, for sushi rice, you want to use short grain rice. Surprisingly, my grocery store did not have any short grain rice, so I had to settle for medium grain rice. Place 2 C of rice in a sieve and rinse it three times with water, or until the water runs clear.

Place the rice in a medium saucepan with 2 C of water, stirring. Bring the rice to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, place a cover on the pan, decrease the heat to low, and cook the rice for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, let the rice stand for 10 more minutes.

While the rice sits combine 2 T sugar, 1 T Kosher salt, and 2 T rice vinegar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the vinegar mixture for 30-45 seconds or until the salt is mostly dissolved.

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Sugar, Kosher salt, and rice vinegar microwaved until nearly dissolved.

Next, dump the rice into a large wooden or glass bowl (a wide wooden bowl is ideal). Drizzle the vinegar mixture over the rice, and gently mix the vinegar into the rice, using cutting motions with a spatula. Fan the rice with a paper plate as you cut the vinegar into the rice until the rice has cooled.

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Rice, placed in a large wooden bowl and the vinegar mixture being “cut” into the rice as it cools.

Cover the rice with a moist towel until use, but do not refrigerate the rice. I think this rice tastes pretty darn good on its own, as I love its subtle sweet and vinegary flavor. Alton recommends using this rice for any sushi preparation, such as his California roll, which is up next.

California Roll

If you are new to sushi making, as I am, Alton recommends his California roll recipe for a good place to start. For his California roll, you will need your prepared sushi rice from above, sheets of Nori, a bowl of water, sesame seeds, avocado, imitation crab sticks, cucumber, pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi.

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Nori sheets, cut in half.

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Sliced avocado and cucumber matchsticks.

To begin, cover your sushi rolling mat with plastic wrap; I chose to place my mat into a large Ziplock bag. Tear your Nori in half crosswise, and place one half sheet on your pat, with the rough side up.

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A half sheet of Nori placed rough side up on a plastic-covered sushi mat.

Dampen your fingers slightly and evenly distribute rice on the sheet, leaving about 1/4″ uncovered at one long end. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds and flip the whole thing over so the Nori is facing up.

Place 4-5 thin slices of avocado so they overlap down the center of the smooth side of the Nori.

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Avocado placed down center of Nori.

Next, place pieces of imitation crab on top of the avocado, overlapping the pieces to form a solid layer.

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Imitation crab on top of avocado.

Finally, top the crab with cucumber matchsticks (you’ll need about 8 matchsticks).

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Cucumber matchsticks to finish off the roll ingredients.

To finish the roll, use the mat to roll it away from you with even pressure from your hands, trying to roll it as tightly as possible.

Dampen a sharp knife and slice the roll into six pieces, using a sawing motion with your knife. Serve the roll slices with pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi as accompaniments.

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Sliced California rolls.

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A plate of Alton’s California rolls.

Oh, and when taking sushi from a communal platter, it is polite to always use the large ends of your chopsticks. I have to say that my sushi ended up extremely ugly. I obviously need some serious practice on my rolling technique! This roll recipe is a very easy way to practice, as you do not need many ingredients. You also do not have to worry about the freshness of your seafood, as imitation crab is already cooked. Of course, real crab would certainly be superior! I may make this again, just to try my hand at sushi again. I am determined to make prettier rolls, as mine were embarrassing!

In this episode, Alton also described how to make a tuna roll, though there is no link to this recipe online. To do this, place a half sheet of Nori with its rough side up on your plastic-covered sushi mat. Cut fresh tuna into narrow slices against the grain. Place/press prepared sushi rice to within 1/4″ of the edge of the Nori. Next, place wasabi down the center of the rice, followed by the fish slices. Roll the entire thing up and cut into slices.

Quite a lot has transpired since I last posted on the day I was scheduled to be induced for labor. I had a long induction, beginning September 18th and finally resulting in the birth of our daughter on September 21st. My preeclampsia worsened after giving birth, so I ended up in the hospital for an additional four days. In addition, our daughter was small at birth, so she ended up in the NICU for 11 days. We finally were all home together on October 1st, and we began settling into our new life.

Unfortunately, my father-in-law became very sick a couple weeks later, spending some time in the ICU. He eventually died on October 22nd. We were all in shock; actually, I think we still are.

Granola Bars

I really have not been doing much cooking at all since I had my baby, though I have managed to crank out the three recipes from this episode of Good Eats. Thankfully, this episode was composed of easy recipes that are not time-consuming, as I am strictly working on someone else’s unpredictable schedule now. Still, I was able to find time to whip up Alton’s granola bars. Begin by preheating your oven to 350, and spread the following ingredients on a sheet pan:  8 oz old-fashioned oats, 1.5 oz raw (unshelled) sunflower seeds, 3 oz sliced almonds, and 1.5 oz wheat germ.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ on a sheet pan.

Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, stirring the dry ingredients every five minutes. When you remove the sheet pan from the oven, decrease the oven temperature to 300.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ after toasting.

Next it is time to prep the wet ingredients by placing 6 oz honey in a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar, 1 oz unsalted butter, 2 t vanilla, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

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Honey, dark brown sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla, and Kosher salt.

Add the oat mix to the liquid mixture, along with 6.5 oz of chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and cranberries). Toss to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

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Oat mixture and dried fruit added to liquid ingredients.

Place the oat mixture in an oiled 9×9 pan, pressing it down with your hands.

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Granola mixture pressed into square pan.

Bake the bars at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

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Granola mixture after baking.

Let the bars cool completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut the bars into 16 squares.

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Cooled granola bars turned onto a board.

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An Alton granola bar.

The nutrition in each granola bar is:

  • 193 calories
  • 30.5 g carbohydrates
  • 4.5 g protein
  • 6.8 g fat
  • 3.66 g fiber
  • 61.3 mg sodium

My bars crumbled a bit when I cut them, but they tasted really great. They were crunchy and chewy, and had a subtle hint of salt to compliment the sweetness of the fruit. I found myself reaching for these bars as an afternoon snack, and I ate some of the crumbly bits with yogurt for breakfast. This was my favorite recipe of this episode.

Protein Bars

If you’ve ever eaten a protein bar, you know they tend to taste less than stellar. With this recipe, Alton claims to have created the best tasting protein bar you can find anywhere. These bars start with preheating your oven to 350. While the oven heats, combine 4 oz soy protein powder, 2 1/4 oz oat bran, 2 3/4 oz whole wheat flour, 3/4 oz wheat germ, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a bowl. I could not find soy protein powder even at my local health food store, so I finally ended up subbing whey protein powder.

Next, chop 3 oz each of raisins and dried blueberries, along with 2 1/2 oz each dried cherries and dried apricots.

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Raisins, dried blueberries, dried apricots, and dried cherries.

In a second bowl, whisk together a 12.3 oz package of silken tofu, 4 oz dark brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 C unfiltered apple juice, and 2/3 C natural peanut butter. For those who have peanut allergies, you can substitute almond or cashew butter.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, and apple juice.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, apple juice, and peanut butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped dried fruit.

Use your hands to thoroughly mix the batter, and pour/press the finished batter into a 9×13″ pan that has been lined with oiled parchment paper.

Bake the bars at 350 for 35 minutes, or until they have an internal temperature of 205 degrees.

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Bars after baking to an internal temperature of 205.

Cool the bars completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut with a pizza wheel into 24 bars.

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Bars, cut into 24 pieces.

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Alton’s protein bars.

These bars can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to three months. These bars are dense and cakey, and I really like the flavor/moisture from the dried fruit. They do have a fairly strong peanut butter flavor, so I’d opt for a different nut butter if you do not care for peanut butter. While I wouldn’t say these are a treat, they are pretty tasty for what they are, and I have grabbed them for a quick snack when I haven’t had time to eat. The nutritional breakdown for these bars is:

  • 154 calories
  • 21.1 g carbohydrates
  • 8.4 g protein
  • 4.8 g fat
  • 2.1 g fiber
  • 91.9 mg sodium
  • 17.7 mg cholesterol

Brown Rice Crispy Bar

The last bar Alton tackles in this episode is his take on the classic Rice Krispies treat. For his bars, Alton brings a pot of water to a bare simmer, placing a large metal mixing bowl over the top (my mixing bowls are insulated, so I used a large pot).

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Ingredients for bars: dried fruit, mini marshmallows, honey, flax seed oil, and puffed brown rice. Not pictured: toasted slivered almonds.

To the bowl he adds 1 T honey, 3 T flax seed oil, and 7 oz miniature marshmallows. He stirs the mixture until it is melted and smooth.

Once melted, he turns the heat off, but keeps the marshmallow mixture over the warm water. To this he adds 3 oz puffed brown rice, 3 oz toasted slivered almonds (I toasted my almonds in a skillet), 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cranberries, 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cherries, and 1 oz dried blueberries.

After stirring everything together, he dumps the mixture into a 9×13″ pan (metal is best) that has been oiled with vegetable or canola oil. With oiled hands (I find that using damp hands works just as well) he presses the mixture down into the pan and allows the pan to cool completely before cutting into 24 bars.

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Bar mixture placed in oiled pan.

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Alton’s rice crispy bars.

I had really high hopes for these bars because I am a fan of Rice Krispies treats, but these were super disappointing to me. My biggest grievance with these bars was their texture, which resembled stale cereal. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I also saw that some people complained of the flax seed flavor, but that didn’t really bother me too much. Honestly, I tried to like these, but just couldn’t get past their unappealing texture. I did, however, like the dried fruit in these, so maybe I’ll add some dried fruit when I next make Rice Krispies treats. Nutrition-wise, these bars have:

  • 93.8 calories
  • 15.1 g carbohydrates
  • 1.16 g protein
  • 3.7 g fat
  • 1 g fiber
  • 4.3 mg sodium

I am partially writing this post to distract me because I am heading to the hospital this evening to be induced for labor. I was actually scheduled to be induced yesterday, exactly at 37 weeks, but they called about 90 minutes before my scheduled time to tell me there was not a single room open in Labor and Delivery. Let’s hope there will be a room open this evening because I’m ready to get off this roller coaster.

While I’ve been pregnant, people always tend to ask me what my primary food cravings are. Honestly, I have not had any cravings beyond foods that I tend to like to eat anyway. The only real thing I have noticed is that my sweet tooth is definitely more noticeable than normal, and one thing that seems to taste particularly good is ice cream. I can, in all actuality, say that I have eaten more ice cream this year than I have ever consumed before, and I have a bowl nearly every evening as dessert. I was, therefore, not disappointed at all to see that a second Good Eats ice cream episode was next in my lineup. Three flavors of ice cream to make? Yes, please.

Vanilla Ice Cream

The first ice cream flavor in this episode is a classic vanilla. The basic formula for all of the recipes in this episode can be remembered by the following sequence of numbers:  9, 8, 3, 2, 1. Nine stands for 9 oz of sugar, eight is for 8 egg yolks, three is for 3 C of half and half, two is for 2 t of vanilla, and one is for 1 C of heavy cream.

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Ingredients for Alton’s ice cream: heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar, and half and half.

For the vanilla ice cream, Alton prefers you to use vanilla sugar, if possible, which can be made by leaving a vanilla pod in the sugar for a week or more. I was ready to make my vanilla ice cream the day I watched the episode, so I made my vanilla ice cream with plain sugar. Alton’s ice cream begins with placing a medium saucepan over medium heat, adding the cup of cream and the three cups of half and half. Bring the dairy to a bare simmer.

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Cream and half and half placed over medium heat, and being brought to a simmer.

While the dairy heats up, whisk the eight egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar to the yolks, whisking as you add. The resulting mixture should be very thick, light yellow, and should fall from the whisk’s tip in a thick ribbon.

When the dairy has begun to simmer, remove it from the heat. It is now time to temper the eggs by very slowly whisking 1/3 of the dairy mixture into the yolks; don’t rush this process or your egg yolks will curdle.

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Ready to temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in the simmered dairy.

Once you have added about a third of the dairy to the yolks, it is safe to add the rest of the dairy all at once.

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Egg mixture (right) after adding about 1/3 of the dairy.

Pour the entire mixture back in the medium saucepan and place it over low heat, stirring as you bring it to 170 degrees.

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Custard back in saucepan and heated over low heat to 170.

Once at 170, remove the custard from the heat – it should be thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. When you run your finger across the back of the spoon, a clear line should remain in the custard; this is called nape.

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Nape: thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and stay parted.

Transfer the custard to a bowl and place it in the freezer until it has cooled to room temperature. Stir in the 2 t of vanilla.

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Vanilla stirred into cooled custard.

Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate it until it is below 40 degrees, which will take several hours. I made my custard a day prior to churning.

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Custard to be chilled overnight.

When your custard has sufficiently chilled, churn it in any ice cream maker you prefer.

Place the finished ice cream in an air-tight container and let it freeze for six to eight hours before serving.

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Alton’s vanilla ice cream.

I was really happy with this basic vanilla ice cream recipe. The custard was rich, creamy, and had a bit of an egg flavor to it, along with a slight yellow hue. Sure, you could improve this recipe by adding some vanilla pulp from a vanilla bean, but this is a great standard recipe for just utilizing vanilla extract.

Mint Chip Ice Cream

Apparently, mint chip ice cream is (or at least was) Alton’s favorite ice cream flavor, so he included a mint chip recipe in this episode. This recipe follows the same 9 (oz of sugar), 8 (egg yolks), 3 (C of 1/2 and 1/2), 2 (t of vanilla), and 1 (C of cream) formula as outlined in the vanilla recipe above.

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Mint chip ice cream ingredients: 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, egg yolks, mint oil, and cream.

Again, begin by pouring the 3 C of 1/2 and 1/2 and the cup of cream into a medium saucepan over medium heat.

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1/2 and 1/2 and cream in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, whisk the eight egg yolks in a bowl until they have lightened. Slowly whisk the nine ounces of sugar into the yolks until you have a thick mixture that falls in a ribbon from your whisk.

When your dairy has reached a bare simmer, remove it from the heat. Slowly temper the cream into the eggs, gradually whisking about a third of the dairy into the eggs. It is then safe to add the remaining dairy all at once.

Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the temperature hits 170 degrees and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a freezer-safe bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Stir in 1 t of mint oil instead of the vanilla extract used for the vanilla ice cream recipe.

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Adding the mint oil to the cooled custard.

Place the custard in the refrigerator to cool until it is below 40 degrees, which will take hours; I always just do this part overnight. The following day, or when you are ready to churn, chop three ounces of Andes mints.

Add the mints right after you begin churning the custard, as Alton says the mints will contribute more flavor if added earlier in the churning process.

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Andes mints added at the beginning of the churn.

Once churned, transfer the ice cream to an air-tight container and place it in the freezer for 6-8 hours before serving.

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Alton’s mint chip ice cream.

IMG_0154(1) This is a really good mint chip ice cream. The addition of Andes mints gives an extra kick of mint, as opposed to just using chopped chocolate. The basic custard is rich and slightly eggy in flavor, and the mint oil manages somehow to make an ice cream that is simultaneously indulgent and refreshing. I’m actually wishing right now that I still had a little bit of this in the freezer right now because it sounds really good. This was probably our favorite ice cream recipe of this episode.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Last in this episode is Alton’s chocolate ice cream. This recipe uses the same formula as in the vanilla and mint chip recipes, but the first step is to place 1.5 ounces of cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process) and 1/2 C of 1/2 and 1/2 in a medium saucepan, whisking until the cocoa powder has dissolved.

Once the cocoa powder has dissolved, the formula continues as in the vanilla ice cream recipe. Add the remaining 2 1/2 C of 1/2 and 1/2 to the pan, along with 1 C cream.

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The remaining 1/2 and 1/2 and a cup of cream added to the chocolate paste.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. While the dairy heats, whisk eight egg yolks until lightened and slowly whisk nine ounces of sugar into the yolks, forming a light, thick mixture.

When the dairy just begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and temper the yolks by slowly whisking about 1/3 of the chocolate/cream into the yolks.

Once 1/3 of the warm dairy has been added, you can add the remaining dairy to the yolks. Place the pan back on low heat and stir until the custard reaches 170 degrees and will coat the back of a spoon.

Transfer the custard to a freezer-safe bowl and let the mixture cool in the freezer until it is about room temperature. Once chilled, stir 2 t of vanilla extract into the chocolate custard and place the custard in the refrigerator to chill overnight, or until it is below 40 degrees. When the custard has chilled, you can churn your ice cream.

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Custard after chilling overnight.

Place the churned ice cream in the freezer for 6-8 hours before serving.

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Alton’s chocolate ice cream.

Alton’s chocolate ice cream is rich and packed with chocolate flavor. If you are a chocolate ice cream lover, this is a quick, easy chocolate ice cream recipe that is sure to satisfy. Chocolate ice cream has never been my absolute favorite flavor, but I sure wouldn’t turn down a bowl of this.