Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brownie-Bottom Lemon Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of those things that I was always afraid to try to make. Mainly because most of the homemade cheesecakes (made by other people) I had tried in my earlier years were disgusting. But last December I ran across a chocolate cheesecake recipe that looked incredibly easy and it turned out great. Then this past January I made a Baileys Cheesecake for my brother-in-law and that turned out great too! With this latest cheesecake success under my belt (literally) I'm starting to think that cheesecake isn't so hard after all!

This one takes a little bit longer just because of the brownie part but it is WELL worth the effort!
Here's the link to the original recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.



Crust
6 Tb flour
1 ½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray inside of 9-inch-diameter spring form pan with 2 3/4-inch- to 3-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in small bowl; set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl; place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add both sugars to chocolate mixture and whisk until blended. Let cool until mixture is barely lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Whisk egg and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture. Spread brownie batter evenly over bottom of prepared pan.
Bake brownie crust until top looks slightly cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack; cool crust to room temperature, about 30 minutes.



Filling
40 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 Tb all purpose flour
1 Tb finely grated lemon peel
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Place pan with cooled crust on rimmed baking sheet. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, flour, lemon peel, and lemon juice; beat until smooth. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating just until incorporated after each addition. Beat in ½ cup sour cream and whipping cream. Pour filling over brownie crust in pan; smooth top.



Bake cake until puffed, light golden, and set around edges (center will still move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove cake from oven. Maintain oven temperature.



Topping
Spoon 1 cup sour cream in dollops over top of cake, then spread evenly over top. Return cake to oven and bake 5 minutes. Run small sharp knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place pan with cake directly in refrigerator and chill uncovered overnight (cake will sink). Garnish top edge of cake with chocolate curls.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What To Do WIth Spring Radishes



Clean.

Butter.

Salt.

Mouth.

Fergus Henderson...you are the man.

Sausage-go-round

The other day saw another session of turning mediocre pork into something transcendent. How rare for this household.

Here is a short series of photos depicting a great use of an afternoon:



Besides being an interesting photo, this shows the chorizo getting ready to be ground into a dirty bowl that previously held sweet Italian sausage. My point is that you don't always have to worry about keeping all these things separate and super clean. Make some room in the fridge to store everything when it is not in immediate use and you will be good. We get way to crazy about keeping things in order in the kitchen. Get over it. Seriously.



Before wrapping everything up it is essential to try the product. This is the garlic and wine sausage. Mysteriously my children were more than willing to volunteer for tasting duty. In the background is the book you should all steal from your local library...Charcuterie.



This is the portioning part. You've got to work quick to keep the fats from emulsifying (cool word, huh?). I made 4 oz. portions this time as I have run into many situations when I don't want a half pound (my usual division). A scale is essential here...and for many other things in the kitchen. Just go buy one and you will be happy.



All in all I made 5 1/2 lbs of sausage. 2 of both the chorizo and sweet itialian and one and a half of the garlic and wine sausage. This should last us for a while. We don't eat sausage as a snack food (generally), but rather use it like a stellar demi-glace, i.e. it serves as an essential ingredient to make a dish pop.



Here is the trusty grinder at the end of another day of doing its duty to perfection. All in all it took about three hours to make all this, but I was in no kind of rush.

Come over and get some before it is gone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chips cookies

These rock, I got the original recipe on the back of the craisin package and then (of course) tweaked it a little. It's a nice change from chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin.



2/3 c butter, softened
2/3 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ c oats
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ c craisins
1 cup white chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. In medium bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture in several additions mixing well after each addition. Stir in craisins and white chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Real Salad

I'll freely admit to be one of those young white American middle class males taken with Thoreau's idealism when it comes to man and nature. Something about taking nothing but an ax and your will into the forest to make a life for yourself just sounds cool and adventurous.

Growing your own food and eating it minutes after being picked is cool too. It's not much for adventure, but that is what I have kids for.

Here is the progression of my first real salad from our garden. Five kinds of greens, French radish, Fuji apple, touch of salt, dab of pepper, olive oil and some balsamic was all that adorned the plate. It was perfect. Ok, not perfect. I had no Parmigiano-Reggiano...that would have been perfect.

I'll settle for stellar.








The beer is the new delectable clone I made of the classic Belgian golden strong ale Duvel. If your name has anything to do with J. Nizzy (you know who you are) you will be getting a taste soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Almond Cake

This cake is a winner! Every time I make people ask for the recipe. I can't remember where I got the original recipe but I know I tweaked it here and there. It's VERY important that all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start. If they aren't, the butter and almond paste will seize up and the texture will be off. This cake is surprisingly full of flavor and moist.



2 sticks butter, softened, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour (measured after sifting)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
7 oz almond paste, cut in small pieces
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottoms of one 9-inch spring form pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper then butter the paper.

Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, it should take about 3 - 4 minutes to add the paste. You want to do this slowly so that it all gets incorporated and the batter doesn't end up having little balls of almond paste in it. Then leave the mixer on and let it all beat together for 8 minutes.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don't worry.

Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. The middle will fall down, don't worry that is normal.

When you are ready to serve the cake, sift confectioners' sugar on top. You can also decorate it a bit with slices of toasted almonds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Passing of the Bottle Opener



Although not nearly as prestigious as the passing of the Olympic torch, today's event was a big one. I have had my old and faithful aluminum bottle opener since Oktoberfest in Munich. The year was 1997. It has served me well. Opening more bottles of beer (and the most amazing Coke in the world...Nicaragua, I love you) than I can even remember. In recent years however it has lost quite a bit of effectiveness. Its lip faltering under the stress I put on it. Now it will go to the same place all old bottle openers go...a gigantic pool filled with used bottle caps that need not be freed any longer. Together the caps and worn out openers live in harmony forever, both having served their functions admirably.

Bet you didn't know that.

Learn something every day.

My new opener is a thing of beauty. Yes, I have already put it through its paces and warmed it up. Like a young mustang it has taken some coaxing to open bottles just right, but I think he trusts me now. Someone may ask, "why would you ever use an opener from another beer company? Especially one you do not particularly care for?" Two answers come to mind:

1. If it works, use it. That's about as sustainable as it gets. Bite me Prius.

2. I got it for free. My amazing wife has the 'free-stuff-you-get-on-the-internet-for-no-apparent-reason' game down to a science...but that is for another post.

Here is to many more years of faithful service from my new opener. I miss the old one already, but I'll get over it...

Maybe some of you should come over and help me break in the new one some more.

Just a thought.

You are always invited.

Knock before entering.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sal y La Carne

There are some classic duos in the world. Batman and Robin, Abbot and Costello, Peas and Carrots, Lewis and Clark, Maverick and Goose (RIP), Bert and Ernie, The modern age and our collective slide toward idiocy, Wayne and Garth, TV preachers and big hair, Simon and Garfunkel, Romeo and Juliet, Luther and Erasmus, Barbie and Ken, and last but not least, Salt and My Palate.

I love salt.

So should you.

Salt is truly amazing. Want to know why? Look it up. For the purposes of this post lets just say that it is the single most important ingredient in cooking...no joke. Some would argue and say fantastic stock, but they are just wrong.

The American Heart Association says that your daily intake of salt should not exceed one and a half teaspoons...this is ludicrous. Unless you have high blood pressure already forget about it and use salt liberally. It will do amazing things to your cooking. Ever wonder what the difference is between your not so great cooking and chefs who carry around Michelin stars around in their pockets like chump change? Well, a lot honestly, but one of the biggest things is that they really know how to use salt. I'm not even kidding. Next time you are at El Bulli or The Fat Duck ask them. Tell them I sent you too. They wont be impressed, but I will be.

In the spirit of salt I give you what we did with a half decent beef roast and a load of salt.



Preheat the oven to 450.

Above we have a three pound roast (in the saran wrap). It is nothing special. No great marbling of fat or anything to brag about. It's the kind that usually ends up like a chunk of shoe leather passed off as miserable "pot roast" at your co-workers house that you inevitably have to drench in some horrible "gravy" (read: powdered nastiness out of a bag reconstituted with some good ol' H20) just to get down. I mention this in order to evade the thousand of accusations from all two of the readers of this blog that I just got lucky because of a good piece of meat.

In the bowl we have:

- Two cups of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup freshly ground chili powder (New Mexico chilies)
- 6 cloves of diced garlic
- 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly chopped thyme

To this add just enough Canola oil to bring it all together into a dryish paste. It should take about 3/4 cup, but go slow. Too much is a killer.



After trimming up the roast take a sheet pan or roasting pan and line it with tin foil. Lay down a bed of the salt mixture slightly bigger than the roast you have. Then place the roast down and brush with oil. When the roast is covered start packing on the salt. This is the best part. It's like making a sand castle out of pure awesome that makes you so hungry you have to keep yourself from drooling.



Cook in the oven till the little ball of greatness hits 135 in the center. Yes, this is rare. Yes, you should eat it this way. No, if you like your meat well done you would not be my friend.

Some of the salt crust might fall off during the process. This is ok, just let it ride. When done tent it with foil and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Leave the house if you have to. Those juices will get sucked back into the meat and leave you with beef twice as savory.



Above we have a twist on the Argentine classic chimichurri. I had a ton of cilantro sitting around so decided to switch it out for the traditional parsley. Turned out awesome.

Cimichurri Inventado

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
2 minced shallots
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Just blend it and let it sit for a few hours. You'll want to put it on everything, including your face (not recommended), so make some extra.



Here is the finished product. No, the picture is not world class. You are lucky to get anything at all...this was too good to mess around with.

Be sure to save some of the salt mixture, now baked and unique in flavor and texture, for crumbling on the slices of meat after plating. Set out a bowl as well. Be warned however. You will inevitably look like a crazy person in front of whomever sits around your table for the meal due to the fact that you will be unconscious licking fingers and sticking them unapologetically into the bowl to get "just one more taste."

This was served up with a quick cold salad of cucumber and tomato in balsamic with fresh red and yellow pepper jullianed on top.

Now go find yourself a chunk of beef, a box of salt, some kind of fire, and get to it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

S'more?

There is a special bond between dads and their sons...especially when the son is eating his first s'more.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicken Gyros


So I promised my friend Vanessa I would post this recipe. I usually marinate the chicken overnight and make the Tzatziki sauce the day before as well. Then the day of all I have to do is cook the chicken. We usually make our own pita bread also but I'll leave that out for now.

Marinade:
¼ C lemon juice
3 TB olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly diced
1 TB fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp mustard
1 pinch salt (to taste)
1 lb chicken breast or chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces

Whisk together lemon juice through salt and combine with chicken in a zip lock bag. Let it sit all day or overnight. Turn the bag over every once in a while to make sure they all get evenly covered.

Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 cucumber peeled and seeded
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 TB fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients except the yogurt in a blender for a few minutes. GENTLY fold the cucumber mixture into the yogurt and let it sit in the fridge overnight. If you want it to be really thick then let it drain in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl in the fridge overnight.

2 TB olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 TB lemon juice
4 pita bread rounds, heated
lettuce, tomato, olives, red onions to top

Heat 1 Tb oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken with a tiny bit of the marinade; sauté until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add 1 Tb oil to skillet. Add onions; sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Return chicken and any juices to skillet. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Arrange pita rounds on plates. Top pita rounds with chicken mixture. Spoon some yogurt sauce over chicken. Then add lettuce, onions, olives or whatever you like on your gyro.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Goodness


Recently our good friend Ara came to visit from California. While he was here pretty much all we did was eat, drink, and make beer. He and Jeremy made a Duvel clone and a Ported Russian Imperial Stout. What is Ported Russian Imperial Stout? Well, back in January, Jeremy and I made port. When we moved the port over to the secondary stage of fermentation Jeremy saved all the yeast and sludge that was at the bottom of the primary fermentator. Then when he made the Russian Imperial Stout he poured all that port goodness into the secondary and fermented it a second time. Bottom line is - I tried this stuff when it was warm and un-carbonated and you can tell it will be awesome!
SO - here is our current "beer cellar" It's a little bit ridiculous but it's always fun to have a little beer tasting with dinner when we have friends over.
On the far left we have the remnants of beers past, some smoked scotch ale, cranberry celis, meet joe buck, oaked mack suit porter, golden gem and 3 generations of chocolate espresso stout. There are just a few of each and it is sad to say good bye to them :(
The next group is called gris meets gold, its an improvement on the 4 fold gold beer because Jeremy added some wood chips that were soaked in pinot grigio to add depth of flavor.
The next line of beers is call Wee Awesome. Its a wee stout.. and its awesome.
The next line is the Duvel clone that Jeremy and Ara made. We bottled it Sunday night so we have to wait a bit to try that one.
And last we have the Miss P.R.I.S.
That one bottle all the way to the right is the Russian Imperial Stout without any of the port wine in it.
Ara, you've gotta come back to help drink all this!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Prizes in Unusual Places

They say that one mans compost pile is sometimes the same mans accidental repository of tuber goodness. I can't remember how the original saying goes, but I think this gets close.



The above photo is our compost pile as of today. A few weeks ago we got rid of some pretty old baby red potatoes that had lots of eyes. Honestly forgetting about them we went to Nicaragua and left the garden alone for over a week. Imagine the surprise of returning to find that our kitchen scrap pile and straw mixture was now the growing grounds for 8 potato plants.

Besides being awesome, if this does not convince you that sometimes gardening could be done even by blind and crippled mice I don't know what will.

Grow something.

Wash it. (very important)

Eat it.

Enjoy it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Eats

The first thing from the garden that actually goes in your mouth is always amazing. As a side note, eating the new stuff gives one a better idea of the biblical talk of first fruits. Another reason to garden.

Radishes are amazing. Not only are they sweet and spicy at the same time, but they also grow faster than a genetically modified meat chicken (30 days compared to 42 days...yes...full sized chicken in 6 weeks...awesome and gross at the same time).



Here are our french radishes. Still small, but incredibly delicious. Soon we'll be in the midst of a flood of fresh goodness. I can't wait.