Wednesday, December 21, 2011

another quick and easy savory soup!

    Warm soup on a cold day, an enchanted meadow full of frolicking unicorns, winning $1,000 - all of these things are AWESOME. Literally. I was watching a comedian on comedy central a while back and he was talking about how if things were ACTUALLY awesome that everyone called awesome, everyone would walk around in constant astonishment. I don't think that C that you managed to pull in science is "awesome." I don't think that you running 3 heroic dungeons back to back is really all that "awesome," either. But I digress, SOUP!

    I first made this one for thanksgiving and I thought it was so delicious, I made up a big batch of it the next weekend too and ate it throughout the week. This sweet potato soup with buttered pecans is a fun way to have sweet potatoes on the table without your traditional disgusting can of yams, Grammy's delicious sweet potatoes (see previous post), or putting your whipped sweet potatoes right next to your mashed potatoes. And if nothing else, just make the buttered pecans. Butter really does make EVERYTHING better.

Sweet Potato Soup with Buttered Pecans

turns out i only took one TERRIBLE picture of this soup. Sorry!

time: total, about 1 hours, 30 mins active
makes: 8-10 servings

(for the soup)
3/4 c finely chopped onion
1 c finely chopped leek, WASHED WELL and drained (they pile mud around these to grow them, so don't skip the wash otherwise you'll have gritty leeks)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds (about 3 large) sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
a 1/2 pound russet (baking) potato
5 c chicken stock (plus additional if you want to thin the soup)
3/4 c dry white wine (i used Cupcake chardonnay... never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn't drink! and believe me, what didn't go in the soup went in my belly!)
1 1/2 c water

(for the buttered pecans)
3/4 c pecans (chopped or whole, depends how meaty you like your nuts. <snicker>)
2 tbsp unsalted butter

How to make the soup:

1. In a large stock pot, melt the butter and cook the onion, the leek, the garlic, and the carrots with the bay leaf over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper. Don't be shy about it either - I put about 2 tsp of salt in there because the potato will act as a bit of a salt eraser. The more well seasoned the base of your soup is, the more flavorful the soup will be overall.

2. Add the sweet potatoes, the russet potato, chicken stock, wine, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. 

3. DISCARD THE BAY LEAF. Don't blend that bad boy up. No one wants a bay leaf chunk.

4. Just like in the carrot ginger soup, an immersion blender will make your life so easy here. If you have one, stick it in and get to work. If you don't: In your blender, puree the mixture in batches until it is very smooth, transferring it as it is pureed to a large saucepan. Add the additional broth to thin the soup to your desired consistency, and season it to taste with salt and pepper.

How to make the buttered pecans:

1. In a skillet, cook the pecans in the butter with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until they're golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

SO EASY! When you serve it, put the soup in a bowl and top with buttered pecans. If you'd like a little creamier soup, put a dollop of sour cream in there too and let it work its magic. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

easy holiday recipes!

    It's December! Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or whatever you choose to celebrate or not celebrate during this time of year that may or may not be merry and bright for you.
    I found the most ridiculous list on the internets (they never fail to give you an endless load of things that can really piss you off and shake your faith in humanity) of stores that you NEED TO BOYCOTT because their ads don't say MERRY CHRISTMAS. They seem to find it 'un-American.' Yes, apparently the "american family association" as they call themselves frowns upon anyone who doesn't celebrate christmas. Sorry, Jews, you're not real american families. Any of you pagans that put the tree in your house to have the evergreen represent life through the dead season? You don't count either. Don't even get them started on the gays.

Look! A distraction! I made some awesome anise seed cookies!

    Speaking of poor vision (how do you like that transition there?), I also read an article that my good friend Lauren posted about how 85% of people don't take proper care of their contacts. "A new survey found that people have turned to beer, baby oil, Coke, petroleum jelly, lemonade, fruit juice, and butter as oh-so-wrong alternatives to contact lens solution. That was from an August 2011 survey in the United Kingdom by Bausch + Lomb, a lens solution manufacturer." WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING THAT ANY OF THOSE ARE ACCEPTABLE SOLUTIONS?! Now don't get me wrong, I love butter almost as much as Paula Deen, but DO NOT USE IT AS CONTACT LENS SOLUTION. 

    I seem to have gotten off topic. Christmas dinners! You need something to take, but you don't want to spend too long (or too much money!) but you still want to seem quite fancy. Well, my dear friend, I have 3 different recipes that will make you look like you're an amazing cook with only the smallest amount of effort involved!

#1 - Appetizer
    Courtesy of Anne Burrell and her amazing cookbook "Cook Like a Rock Star."

Figs stuffed with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
    (at this point you may be nervous with the words "fig" and "gorgonzola" used up there, but i've already made this for 3 separate events and they're always a huge hit!)

Takes about 15 minutes. SUPER EASY.

12 fresh Black Mission, Brown Turkish, or (in a pinch) dried figs
    I've always made them with dried Calmyrnia figs because i've never been able to find fresh figs. Best of luck.
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
8 ounces Gorgonzola Dolce, at room temperature
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted for 5 minutes at 350º

1. Preheat the oven to 350º
2. Slice the figs in half lengthwise, place them on a baking sheet, and dig a little hole in the middle with your pinky finger. Drizzle the fig halves with 2 or 3 drops of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt.
3. Fill each fig with Gorgonzola and top with a quarter of a walnut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Fig out!

I love her little notes like "fig out" or "eggs-tradorinary!" throughout her cookbook. Definitely one of the best i've bought this year!

BUT DAN, you're thinking, I NEED TO BRING SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL THAN FINGER FOOD! Ok, ok, but please stop yelling. The next super duper easy recipe is a hearty soup that you will love.

#2 - First Course

Carrot Ginger Soup
Prep: 30 mins
cook time: about an hour
makes about 8 servings

2 tbsp butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped (you can chop pretty coarsely, it's all getting blended later!
6 cups chicken stock
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
sour cram
fresh parsley

1. Put butter and onions in a big stock pot and cook them, stirring often, until onions are limp.
2. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced. (about 30 minutes)
3. If you have an immersion blender, your life is about to be incredibly easy. If you have a blender, it's not as easy, but still not hard. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the soup IN BATCHES to the blender. Don't fill the blender more than halfway. COver the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender HENCE WHY I TOLD YOU TO GET A TOWEL. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. 
4. After it is all blended, return it to the pan and add the heavy cream, stirring it over high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce and season to taste with salt and pepper. I even added about 1/2 tsp of allspice to help bring it together.
5. Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream, and garnish with fresh parsley. 

#3 - Side
    This recipe is courtesy of my Grammy. She's a badass. If she were an animal, she'd be a honey badger. A crazy honey badger that chairs political campaigns and cooks like a champ.

Grammy's Sweet Potatoes
prep: 30 mins
cook: 30 mins
makes 6-8 servings

6 sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup Karo Corn Syrup (there's a "brown sugar" variety that is especially good on these)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if available)

1. Preheat the oven to 325º
2. Boil the sweet potatoes until they're tender. Drain well.
3. Arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer in a 9x13 pan, bake at 325º for 15 minutes
4. In a sauce pan, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, heavy cream, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir frequently and bring to a boil over medium heat.
5. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes and baste frequently until glazed, about 15 more mins in the oven.

And there you go! 3 easy recipes that are inexpensive, easy, and really give you the most bang for your buck! If you make a soup people will already think you're a stud, and once they taste the soup, you may as well be Santa. My Grammy's sweet potatoes have made grown men cry, and figs are just exotic enough that you look classy and it will cost you under $10 and be greatly memorable.

I close with a picture of santa that I snapped a couple of years ago at a Colorado Mammoth lacrosse game. Merry Christmas to all, and to all some delicious food (and drinks!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brandied Peach Pork Chops


Did that get you a little excited? maybe a little scared? I'm sorry for toying with your emotions like this, but you're going to have to flambe for this one. DON'T PANIC. Dry those tears from your eyes and GET READY TO LIGHT SOME SHIT ON FIRE!

    So as you've probably noticed by now, I like pork chops. I think that they're delicious and they are so versatile that you can do just about anything with them so I am always on the lookout for delicious new pork recipes. When peaches were plentiful and cheap in the store, I thought to myself "I bet those would taste great with some choppies..." Naturally, I plugged Peach Pork Chops in to google and it turned me to epicurious and a delicious recipe for Brandied Peach Pork Chops. I read through with excitement and trepidation as they called for you to cook the pork chops, then start in on the peaches and ignite the brandy at the end, but apparently it's really easy and the excitement and flare it provides to a simple dinner is over the top. Here's the recipe - try it, enjoy it, and make sure there's nothing within four feet above your pan when you try this one!

Brandied Peach Pork Chops

serves 4
total time - about 40 minutes

4 pork chops
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
12 oz peaches, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp brandy, divided (i recommend E&J X O extra smooth for its tones of caramel and vanilla - it's the best one I could find and it was all of like $10)

The Five Easy Steps!
1. Pat pork drops dry, then sprinkle on both sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper total.
2. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook pork chops, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 10-12 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to let your meat rest.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. Heat the butter in the skillet until the foam subsides then cook shallots with thyme until tenter and golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Add 1/4 cup brandy to skillet and carefully ignite with a kitchen match (Be careful! The flames will shoot up!) then cook over medium heat, scraping bottom of skillet to loosen brown bits. When flames subside, add peaches, preserves, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the peaches are tenter and juicy, about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in remaining tablespoon brandy and then spoon over the pork chops. 

Only five steps? You get to use shallots?? YOU GET TO LIGHT THINGS ON FIRE??? To top it all off, it's also incredibly delicious. Another easy recipe to impress dinner guests (just make sure you get the payoff and that they're there for the fire part. Odds are they'll be so impressed they might start throwing money or jewelry or their underwear at you! It only gets awkward when your dinner guest is your grandmother...) 

What's that? the peaches look so good you want a close up? I hear you, you attractive food lover, you and I shall provide. Happy Cooking!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Slow Cooked Asian Pork Chops

I'm back! ... kind of. School started up, marching band is in full swing, and my turtle is very high maintenance. I'm sure you understand.

Anyhow, with life being so crazy I am all about food that is really easy to make and delicious. I'm just starting to learn how to use my crock pot and let me tell you I am starting to think it may be one of the best inventions ever. With 6 hours, a couple of pork chops, and a few other ingredients you can make THE MOST DELICIOUS PORK CHOPS EVER*.

*may be slightly over exaggerated, but they're damn good.

Slow Cooked Asian Pork Chops
serves 4
prep time: 10 minutes. Even if you've never cooked before and you're doing this in the dark.
cook time: 6 hours
eating time: 20 minutes

4 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper


1. Combine everything but the pork chops in the crock pot. Stir them together, then add the pork chops and cook on LOW for 6-ish hours.


Once they're done, you'll notice there is still quite a bit of that amazing, delicious sauce on the bottom. Cook up some rice and put just a tablespoon or 2 of the sauce in the rice and give it a good stir. CONGRATULATIONS YOU JUST TIED YOUR MEAL TOGETHER. Put some rice on the bottom, put the chops over it, and put a sprig of rosemary or chop a couple of scallions over the top. It's fabulous.

Just for fun, here's a picture of my turtle. HAPPY COOKING! :-D

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hipster Cupcake Friday!

I will be posting some fun food adventures again soon, but until then...

Vanilla Cupcake with Lemon Curd filling!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hipster Cupcake Friday!

Mud Pie cupcake, complete with a worm!

Swedish Saturday, ja!

    Colorado is a very exciting place. You can hike 14,000 ft. mountains, ski, snowboard, go see dinosaur fossils, find sand dunes, alligator farms, and on July 30th we had a delightful new addition to the things to do in Colorado: we got our very first Ikea store.

    If you're from the east coast or Europe, shut up. I know you've had them for a long time already, you're not excited about them because *sigh* they're just everywhere out here and you don't see what the big deal is... I get it. But don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter. DON'T BRING AROUND A CLOUD TO RAIN ON MY PARADE. (+5 bonus points if you know the musical i'm quoting; an extra +5 if you can name the character!)

blue shirt. yellow undershirt. boom.
and yes i have a bright green wall.

    To celebrate Swedish Saturday, Julia and I had some very exciting things planned. We both wore the blue of the Swedish flag, we were making a pilgrimage to IKEA, vowed to eat lingonberries, and then went to an ABBA cover band concert. Also we enjoyed SPELLING THINGS WITH CAPITAL LETTERS. Please stop trying to hide that you're jealous of how awesome my life is.
Eating at the cafeteria of the Ikea was a fun experience by itself, even though there were at least six million people there with us and it took  us about 35 minutes to get through the lines, but we decided that it was like a Swedish Taco Bell. (Tåco Bëll?) Swedish Meatballs and Lingonberries, raspberry cheesecake (that we pretended was lingonberry), Lingonberry juice, lay's potato chips, COULD WE GET ANY MORE SWEDISH?! (except for Pickled Herring which was quite a hot item for the swedes when I worked in a Swedish Christian Retirement Home through high school... no joke)

    When I got home, I realized I needed more lingonberries in my life and was trying to think of a recipe I could make that would highlight lingonberries as the star without making them too overpowering. There is a recipe that I made for the first time about 6 months ago with one of my dear friends Kelley that I adapted to successfully include them!

Swedish Pork Chops!
Seared Pork Chops with Apple, Fig, Lingonberries, and Goat Cheese

Time from prep to table: about 35 minutes
Serves: 2-4

2 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 granny smith apples (the firmer apple will hold up better to cooking), peeled and sliced medium thin
6 oz. dried fig (look by the raisins at the grocery store), halved
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 to 1 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp. lingonberry sauce
2 oz. goat cheese
4 oz. butter

1. Pour olive oil enough to make a small layer in the bottom of the pan. If you don't need a full 1/4 cup, don't use it. No one likes oily pork chops. Heat the oil over medium high heat while you're coating the pork chops in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour. Put the chops in the oil (stand back!) and cook them about 5 minutes on each side until they're beautifully golden brown. Once they're done, pull them out of the pan and keep them somewhere warm to let them rest until you're done with the rest of the meal.

2. Drain most of the oil from the bottom of the pan, leaving only enough to coat the bottom. Add the apples and fig and let them cook up and absorb a little of the flavor from the pork and soften. After about 5 minutes, add the chicken stock. Depending on how many you're serving or how many apples you use, you may want to only use 3/4 cup or if you love apple and you sliced up 3 or 4, you should probably use the full cup. Also add the cinnamon and nutmeg now and stir it all together and let it cook.

3. What makes everything better? BUTTER. Take half a stick of butter and just let it melt in to your sauce to give it a gorgeous rich flavor. In fact, this makes the sauce so much better that it gets its own step.

4. Time to plate! Plating entrées is my weakness as I can never make it look great, but I think I did ok with this one. I like to put the cinnamon-nutmeg apples down first, then place the meat on top of it. Add a modest spoonful (about 1 1/2 tbsp. per chop) to the top and crumble goat cheese over the top.

These pork chops are so easy to make and well worth the time to put in to them that it'll have you saying Mamma Mia! These are tasty! You'll feel like Edna Turnblad when she sees a Christmas ham.

Oh, and if you're having a hard time finding Lingonberry sauce, try Whole Foods and look around the jellies. Again, totally worth it.

p.s. I found this picture and I didn't know quite how to incorporate it in, so it's just a treat at the end. Here's ABBA brimming with Swedish pride. Happy cooking!

Monday, August 1, 2011

An open letter to Nutmeg

Dear Nutmeg,

    How can you possibly make everything that you come in contact with somehow better? I think I love you.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hipster Cupcake Friday

Coconut cupcake. I've been calling it a coconut macaroon cupcake but i'm not sure if that's officially what it was supposed to be. Either way, it was one of the best cupcakes i've ever had.

Stay tuned for a recipe in honor of Swedish Saturday (our made up holiday yesterday.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the best noodles i've ever made

    I don't cook a lot of noodles because I find them a little boring. Sure, you can put tasty things on them (like butter) and give them flavor, but on their own they're really not that exciting. There are a few notable exceptions, like the homemade pasta at Pagliacci's downtown, but on the whole if I have a choice between eating a bowl of noodles or something with flavor, i'll choose the latter. This is an incredibly easy and delicious weeknight meal.

   "So Dan," you're thinking, "how did you actually make noodles that are delicious?" That's a great question, and one of the main reasons I like you. You always come up with intelligent questions, not to mention you're quite attractive. Well, I will share that with you right........ now.

chicken and linguine with grape tomatoes and mozzarella

serves 4, prep to table should be about 30ish mins.

What you need:
4 chicken breasts, seasoned and cooked (if you want my marinade which goes really well i'll put it after the pasta recipe.)
1 package Linguine (or your favorite pasta. Not sure if the capellini would work as well though.)
1 26 oz box of Chicken Stock
8-12 oz grape tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh milk mozzarella (smoked mozzarella or gouda would go well also!)
Salt and Pepper

1. Turn the chicken on about medium low heat and let it cook as you're doing all of this. I'm not going to explain how to cook chicken because you should know that by now.

2. Preheat oven to 400º. Pour a bit of olive oil, approx. 1 tbsp, over the tomatoes in a bowl to evenly coat them. Season them liberally with salt and pepper. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, pour the coated tomatoes and place them in the hot oven for about 12 minutes to roast them until the skin looks like you've been in the bathtub far too long.

the poor, unsuspecting tomatoes.
they're so trusting.

3. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan over medium/med high heat. In a skillet pan put the raw pasta and turn it on medium low to just gently warm the pasta. Once the chicken stock is boiling, pour it about 1 cup at a time over the noodles. Go ahead and turn that pasta pan up to medium now, too. As the pasta starts to soften KEEP STIRRING otherwise it may stick together. When the noodles have almost completely absorbed the first cup of liquid, add another. And once that's all absorbed, guess what? Add the rest and don't stop stirring and it will absorb all of the liquid.

4. Cut the mozzarella in to about 1" cubes and stir in to the pasta. It should start to get deliciously melty about now. Don't add the tomatoes first because they'd just fall apart while you're stirring and getting that cheese worked through the dish. Once you're satisfied with the meltiness (i just made that word up) of your cheese, gently fold in the tomatoes, plate up, top with the chicken breast, and enjoy!

Chicken Marinade, Re di Italia

This chicken marinade may or may not ACTUALLY be the king of Italy, but i'll let you decide. You can do this 15 minutes or 8 hours before, and the longer you let it marinade the more flavor you'll have imbued in to your breasts. Chicken breasts, that is. (Low brow joke #1 of the day.)

What you need:

1 1/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic finely grated
2 tbsp dried Italian Herbs (I used Spice Islands brand blend which I found to be pretty tasty, but just about every brand consists of a mixture of Oregano, Marjoram, Savory, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary, and Sage)
1/4 cup olive oil (this is about the only way I will cook chicken anymore. Most homemade marinades require olive oil and it makes the chicken so moist and flavorful I highly recommend it.)
1 tbsp dijon mustard (sounds weird, but go with it)

Put these all in a zip lock bag and mix it up, add the chicken and let it flavor for as much time as you can afford. It'll take you 5 minutes to put this together and the payoff is tenfold.

With a meal so delicious and beautiful, you'll be able to fool anyone that you spent all day working on it. In fact, I recommend you don't dispel that idea either; they'll feel bad and do all the dishes.

Happy Cooking!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

D Bar desserts

    What's the best part of every meal? Dessert. That's why there are two s's... you always want more. At least that's what my 3rd grade teacher told us to help remember the difference between dessert and the desert. One of the best places to get dessert in all of Denver is definitely Food Network Chef Keegan Gerhard's culinary and pastry sanctuary, D Bar Desserts.

    As the kickoff night of Julia's 25th birthday weekend, we chose this as our destination du jour for a light snack and an incredible dessert. One of their small plate specials this weekend was stuffed squash flowers and they were out of this world good. They took the delicate squash flower, stuffed it with lobster and goat cheese, it was then lightly breaded and fried, and over the top was micro cilantro, chili oil for a little spiciness, and red pepper. Holy flavor, Batman, that's some good stuff, but as Sinatra sang, "the best is yet to come."

light, flavorful, and amazing.


    I love to bake. I've had a lot of successes, but i've definitely had a few failures. Starting with Julia Child's orange spongecake as my first recipe I ever really tried to make (after cookies with my mom... and maybe a spaghetti dinner I tried to make my parents when I was about 12 that has sauce that was more like soup...) and having that turn out well encouraged me to keep it up! My biggest failure to date is probably Soufflé. Even hearing the word makes me nervous. Seeing it on a restaurant's menu makes me freeze up and need a lingering hug.*
    Seeing it on D Bar dessert's menu, however, made me feel calm and excited. Especially seeing that it was paired with beignets. The trio of all stars on one plate: a Grand Marnier Soufflé, passion fruit beigniets, and passion-mango sorbet. I think every bite was better than the one before.

Imagine the best thing you've ever eaten.
Now multiply that by 10 and that's what this was like.

    All of this thinking about this food had made me hungry; I think I need a sandwich. Happy eating!

*souffle doesn't make me THAT nervous, but i'll still take that hug.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hipster Cupcake Fridays

Three years ago, I started a tradition of getting a delicious cupcake every Friday night over the summer at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art and enjoying it on their amazing patio overlooking Coors Field. Last year, I started a photo-journal of these, so every Friday will be an installment of--as we like to call them--Hipster Cupcakes.

jack + coke cupcake

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Life is Gouda

    I had to get my cheesy joke out of the way in the title (Get it. Cheesy. That one was like a two for one in the joke department!) otherwise it'd be haunting me throughout this entire posting, begging to be used, insisting I tell you how gouda this meal was and other similar uses, but do not fret, panic, or remain flabbergasted: the joke shall be laid to rest.

doesn't that look gouda?

    The question is already on your mind, "why gouda?" I know these things because this morning I drove by a business running a 'psychic special: $10 readings' so I figured anyone can assert their opinion about things and say they know what's in your mind. That'll be $10 please.


    To answer your burning question, I must tell you about my weekend. This weekend I went to two weddings for two of my dear friends (Congratulations to Yvette and John and also Kirstin and Kurt!!) and while the ceremonies are always lovely and the dresses are breathtaking, my favorite part is naturally the food. What caught my attention most of all was not the meal itself at one of these, it was a simple cheese and cracker appetizer. How wonderfully simple and amazingly delicious. This is where the gouda comes in: if I had my way I would have eaten my weight in this delicious cheese, but the amount of wine I would have had to consume to make this socially acceptable would have been ridiculous thus I decided to forego the aforemetioned plan.

    At home on Monday, I wanted to make a simple yet fabulous dinner that included this food of the gods, so as I racked my brain to figure how I could use gouda as a star ingredient, I had to think of what paired best with it. After a short brainstorming session, I went back to one of my favorite meals as a kid: ham and cheese. I like to think of this as my Grown-up Ham and Gouda Croissant. This meal really was a great dinner but could also easily be used as hors d'oeuvres at any party.  Here's the plan of action:

Grown-up Ham and Gouda Croissant

makes 8 croissants
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes

One roll of Croissants
    (like the Pillsbury pop-open kind in the grocery store next to the dinner rolls)

1/4 lb. of thinly sliced ham, about 6 slices

Gouda cheese, thin slices or chunks

and that's all: 3 ingredients. I'll get to the rest of the meal in a moment (please take note of the fancy tied asparagus bundle with if you can see it through the hollandaise) but for now, the croissants.

Preheat the oven to 375º

1. Put parchment paper on your cookie sheet. If you don't have parchment paper, don't try to substitute anything else. This is one of my favorite kitchen tools because it makes clean up THE EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD. Unroll the croissants so they are long triangles and lay them on the cookie sheet.
parchment paper also hides discolored pans.

2. Slice ham to fit on croissant and put on as much as fits your taste (or budget.) Very few people ever say "Oh my stars! I just can't eat this it's just TOO MEATY." Except of course vegetarians, which of course should do this recipe without the meat, because cheese makes everything better. Even croissants.

3. Lay your pieces of cheese parallel to the butt end of your roll. This makes the process of rolling it much easier.

did anyone else eat Ham and Cheese loaf as a child?
I promise this tastes better than that.

4. Roll them up (but not too tight) going from the fat end to the tip.

ready for the oven!

Throw them in the oven and remove them when the croissants are a beautiful golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.

WASN'T THAT EASY? I did that on a Monday night and it was easy prep and easy clean-up with great flavor.

"but Dan, the rest of it looks sophisticated and elegant. How do I do side dishes like that?" said the imaginary comment I got in my inbox as I was typing this. I already said this was a Monday night kind of meal, so they weren't hard at all! The only plan-ahead is boiling the damn potatoes. They may say it only takes 20 minutes to get them "fork tender when pierced" but I swear it was closer to 25 or 30... anyway, here's the rest.

Roasted Asparagus with Hollandaise

Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes (WITH THE CROISSANTS! TWO FOR ONE!)

The bottom of the asparagus hard and white, so you always have to discard that part as it's nearly inedible. The best way to figure out where the cut should happen is take a spear that is average sized and bend it to feel where it goes from hard to soft and breaks. Line up the rest of the spears and slice them at the same place. If you still see white on the bottom of one, take it out and cut it a little shorter until all you see is green.

Step 1: put asparagus on baking sheet. I think 6 spears per person is a decent serving size.
Step 2: drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Step 3: put in oven with croissants.

And the hollandaise? People are scared of it but it's super easy and takes just a little over 5 minutes. It's also an easy way to impress guests and trick people in to thinking you're a good cook if you add hollandaise. I told Dustin last night how lucky he is to have a boyfriend that can make a hollandaise and he believed me. Sucker. Here's how easy it is.

2 egg yolks from room temperature eggs. Didn't plan ahead? Just soak them in warm water for 5 minutes like I did.
1 stick of butter, 6tbsp melted, 2 tbsp cold
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cold water
salt and white pepper
a wire whisk

1. Gently heat the yolks until they're smooth but thick AND I MEAN GENTLY. MEDIUM AT THE HIGHEST. If you go too quickly you'll scramble the yolks and then it'll taste like you're having a lemony asparagus omelet. The thought of it made me want to vomit too. That should take about 2 minutes

2. Whisk in 1 tbsp cold butter and let it melt in to the warm yolks. They're absorbing the buttery goodness and holding it in suspension in a delicious way every time you add butter which is why we can't do it too quickly.

3. Add lemon juice and cold water, whisk until combined and let warm as it thickens. The cold ingredients keep it from heating up too fast, so just go with it. And don't stop whisking.

4. In a gentle trickle, add the 6 tbsp of melted butter. You don't have to see each individual drop, but again to help the yolks hold the butter correctly you can't go too quickly. Season it to taste with the salt and white pepper (that just helps it hold its color... you can definitely use black pepper if you like the look of it or just don't have white pepper). If you like it with a little kick like I do, after it's plated put a dash of Cayenne Pepper on the top.

And finally: boil potatoes until they're "fork tender when pierced." drain. in that warm pan you just cooked potatoes in, add 2tbsp of butter and let it melt, add the potatoes back in and generously coat, add  chopped scallions, salt, and pepper and serve!

    This menu was made for 2 people, so you might need more if you're cooking for more (that's enough hollandaise for about 4 people, realistically) but there's an easy Monday night meal. And I still have 3/4 block of gouda, so be prepared for a couple more recipes with it.

Gouda Luck!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let's get it started with BLT pizza.

Hi. My name is Dan.

    Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about bacon. Specifically, bacon festivals. This weekend in Keystone, CO there is a bacon festival happening that was advertised running Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but apparently starting Friday means that a band performs, you call that an "opening reception," and suddenly you can advertise a third day. "That's only cool if the band was wearing bacon outfits, or were bacon themselves," one of my best friends Julia texted after I shared my distaste for their false advertising.

    Which reminds me, I can't write about food without talking about my two best friends in the whole world, Leanna and Julia. Whenever I make something, I love having them in the kitchen to either keep me on track or to help out!

Leanna and Julia, everyone.


    With my distress over the bacon festival rearing its ugly head, something needed to be done to redress the situation so the wonderful Leanna and I decided to have our own bacon festival. Close your eyes for a moment and picture pans upon pans of bacon cooking away, experimenting with all of the different flavors bacon can offer, combining it with different meats, vegetables, even wrapping seafood in it, pouring syrup on it, but not dipping it in chocolate or putting it on any type of cupcake because BACON AND CUPCAKES DON'T BELONG TOGETHER I DON'T CARE HOW TRENDY IT IS RIGHT NOW. 

    Our makeshift bacon festival was nothing like that, as we're both a little chubby and that much bacon certainly won't help us fix that. We did decide that, to honor our fatty friend Sir Bacon of Hogsmeade, we would make a BLT pizza. Comfort food transformed. Bacon realized for its true potential, cradled in warm melted cheese with a juicy tomato and cool refreshing lettuce over it. Here's what we did:

BLT Pizza

don't discriminate against square pizza

1 pizza dough
    (I prefer to just get it from Whole Foods... seriously it's $2.99 and you get to skip the dough making.
        If you're a purist, however, i'll include my favorite pizza dough recipe after this)
2 large, ripe tomatoes
    (I would say two at minimum. If your best friends are Liza Minelli and a tomato, 3 might be better.)
1 pound of bacon
    (I used thick sliced applewood smoked and it was DELICIOUS)
8oz of grated mozzarella cheese
about 10 large leaves of Romaine lettuce, chopped
olive oil
pecorino romano (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 475º

2. Dice tomatoes and put them in a colander and drain. Sprinkle them liberally with salt and let them sit for about 15 minutes. The salt will help draw out some of the excess moisture (and flavor them!) so that you don't end up with a soggy pizza crust. No one likes a soggy pizza crust.

3. Fry the bacon up in a pan. Medium-medium high heat, flip it once, pretty easy stuff. Once it's cooked, crumble it in to small pieces.

4. Roll out pizza dough. If you've done this before, go to step 5. If you haven't, ask yourself why. Go deep in to your psyche and analyze your childhood. Now add to the comments any angst this makes you feel, specifically if it stirs up feelings about your parents, and i'll include a full Freudian analysis on my next post. Ok, i'm kidding. I don't think my mom ever let my sister or me roll the dough out either because it'd probably end up looking like some sort of lumpy uneven space blob. LET ME GET BACK ON TRACK. If you've never done this before, flour is your best friend. Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Sprinkle your hands with flour. Sprinkle your rolling pin with flour. What's that? You don't have a rolling pin? Don't worry, you can use a wine bottle. I've also found a bottle of Grey Goose works well, too. Roll outwards from the center, then toward you. Rotate the pizza dough, then do it again. BUT DAN, YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO TOSS PIZZA DOUGH IN THE AIR! You can if you want to look cool, but i always end up poking a hole in the dough or getting covered in flour when I throw it in the air. Once it's at the desired shape, go to step 2!

5. Lightly spread olive oil on the surface you're going to be cooking the pizza on. If you have a pizza stone, congratulations on being fancy. I personally use a cookie sheet. Transfer your dough to the surface and let's get to building a pizza.

6. Put the tomatoes on the crust. Yes, just like that, you're doing great. I prefer to go from the outside and work my way in, but you can do it however you'd like. Just make sure you leave room for crust to rise on the outside.

7. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese liberally over the tomatoes. If you have the pecorino on hand, put that on there too. It's one of those things that makes life worth living.


    Learning opportunity to impress your friends at parties: If you are a fan of Italian food (or of cheese, I suppose) one of the best ways to dress up any dish is to put some finely grated Pecorino cheese on it. Pecorino, made from sheep's milk, is a uniquely Italian cheese with a flavor unique to each area. There is Pecorino Romano from Rome, Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and Sicily and Sardinia make their own varieties too. It really takes it up a notch both in flavor and in classiness. Use this if you're trying to impress someone on a date.

8. Remember that crumbled bacon? Put it on top of the cheese.

9. Lightly brush olive oil over the outside crust and season lightly with salt and pepper. Go ahead and put it in the oven now for 15 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown.

Once you put it in, clean up all the flour you probably made a mess with rolling out the dough. This is also a good time to chop your lettuce; this is when Leanna and I picked lettuce out of my garden out back. Wash it, dry it, chop it. Add lettuce once the pizza is out and has cooled for about 5 minutes, slice, and enjoy!

For those who wanted the pizza dough recipe, I didn't forget about you. This is just straight out of The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook which has been one of my bibles in my exploration of food. This is word for word out of their book:

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup semolina flour
1 tbsp salt
3-4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

To make the dough, in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 4 minutes. Add the olive oil, semolina flour, and 1 tbsp salt; mix until creamy. Add the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth but not sticky, about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, put in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough, and knead briefly, cover with the towel again and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

as mentioned earlier, Liza Minnelli and a tomato.