Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Keeper

One of my recent magazine clippings included a recipe for Almond Brown-Butter Cake. It came from the “You Asked For It” column, which tracks down recipes from restaurants for readers. This particular recipe for Almond Brown-Butter Cake comes from Just a Taste, a wine and tapas bar in Ithaca, New York.

While this is not extremely complicated to make, it also is not as simple as it might first appear. But it is worth the effort, and needs no effort when it comes to icing. Son the Butcher paid this dessert the highest compliment by asking that it go on a holiday menu—reserved only for the very best of desserts.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds, toasted
6 T all-purpose flour
7 large egg whites, at room temp
2 cups confectioners sugar
½ tsp salt
9-inch springform pan

You do have to plan ahead a bit with this recipe. Thirty minutes before you begin cooking:
• break your egg whites into a bowl and let them come to room temperature
• toast your almonds
• brown your butter by cooking for 10-15 minutes over a low heat until golden brown (bottom of pan will be covered in brown specks). Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Pulse almonds with flour in a food processor until finely ground. Beat together egg whites, confectioners sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just smooth (but not foamy), then add almond mixture and beat until combined. Add cooled butter in a slow stream while beating, making sure all is combined well. Transfer batter to pan and place in middle position on rack. Bake 40-45 minutes until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on rack for 5 minutes, then remove side and bottom and cool cake completely. Remover parchment and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Could also be served with a crème anglaise, whipped cream, or vanilla or caramel ice cream.

Monday, January 29, 2007

5 minutes/3 bananas/1 loaf of goodness

The brown bananas in the fruit basket kept looking at me forlornly as I walked past them in the kitchen. They knew they were overripe and that not one person in the house would eat them. They knew they were destined for the trash can. But I fooled them.

On a recent trip to visit my godmother, she had bananas that needed tending. I offered to make banana bread, but told her I had lost my recipe. The same recipe I have been using since high school. The same recipe I used to make while living with her in college, that her youngest son used to absolutely love. The same recipe that she managed to miraculously produce! And with that she saved the day, and the bananas, and my cherished recipe.

So I put my bananas to use and turned them from this:

To this:

And the bread was gone within 24 hours. Not surprising. It is moist and delicious, and pairs exceptionally well with walnuts, if you have some in your pantry. So, if you have 5 minutes and 3 bananas, why not give it a whirl?

Banana Bread

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup margarine or butter
3 bananas, mashed (about 1+ cup)
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x5” loaf pan.

In large bowl, mix first 5 ingredients, then ct in the shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course crumbs (a potato masher works well for this, too)/ With fork stir in mashed bananas and beaten eggs, just until blended. Spread batter into a pan.

Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour until toothpick comes out clea. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then remove from pan

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Honeymoon Hiatus

Well, we are not actually on a honeymoon. More of an anniversary trip, although it was originally meant as more of a second honeymoon. Mr. B and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this week. Originally we were supposed to be in a small boutique hotel on Jamaica, washing our cares away with Caribbean waters and rum, but Mr. B’s employer had other ideas – like sending him out to freezing cold Washington DC for a meeting – right in the middle of our vacation plans. So we postponed the warm and did an impromptu trip to Vegas and Palm Springs to celebrate for a week. Brilliant Daughter did the Dan Dan Noodle Post for me, so Eating Suburbia wouldn’t go without. And as a bonus, I thought I would treat you to a written tribute to the wonderful food we have been consuming since our arrival in Sin City.

Two meals stand out at this point, and both involve Hubert Keller. The famous French chef, who trained with the likes of Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge, has made quite a name for himself around the world. Like many renowned chefs, he has brought his name to Las Vegas. In addition to his high-end-restaurant, Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay, he also opened Burger Bar in Mandalay Place, along with Cef Laurenat Pillard. These two bastions of gastronomic greatness have filled my tummy in the last two days.

First, the Burger Bar, which is no ordinary diner. It is a high-end spot with rich wood panel interior, long bars, and some surprises on the menu. Yes, you can watch sports on the flat screens, and yes, you can get shakes. But you get so much more than that. When we were here last summer, we had a burger here and were impressed. But there were two items on the menu that intrigued me and this time I took the opportunity (read: indulgence) to try them out. The most expensive item on the menu is the Rossini Burger. Kobe beef, ground and shaped in a hamburger patty with seared foie gras and shaved truffles on top, served with Keller’s famous Madeira sauce. I ordered this with their sweet potato fries. It was glory in my mouth. Great tasting beef, a thick slab of foie gras, and an abundance of dark black truffle slices made for a delectable experience. Not a crumb went to waste and I mopped the sweet potato fries in the leftover sauce, as well. At $60, most people will not order this item, and most feel it won’t be worth it, but at the price of Kobe beef ($24.99/lb at Son the Butcher’s shop), as well as foie gras and truffles, it really isn’t such a high price to pay. My second treat, which apparently came with the $60 burger, was their dessert burger. They have three dessert burgers on the menu. One is a cheesecake burger, which I neglected to read about, as I am not a fan of cheesecake. The second is a PB&J burger, which is a peanut butter mousse with jelly centered in a large round raised donut. The one I chose, at the urging of Brilliant Daughter, was the Chocolate Burger. Again, a whole donut (no hole) sliced in half, with chocolate ganache serving as a burger patty, sliced strawberries as tomatoes, mint leaves as lettuce, and a slice of passion fruit gelee that looked like a piece of cheese. It really did look like a burger. The taste, not so much like a burger, but not great, either. Of course, after the Rossini Burger, not much could compare. The ganache was a bit too hard, and there was not enough of the strawberries or mint to counteract the heaviness of the chocolate. A fun thing to try, but I wouldn’t recommend ordering it. I didn’t have a camera but took some shots with my phone, which I cannot retrieve without some special cord, so those will have to wait (although the resolution and clarity is rather murky).

For our anniversary dinner, Mr. B and I had made reservations weeks ago at Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay. Keller’s main restaurant is always booked and I can see why. A small restaurant, with tables adequately spaced, it has a very elegant feel to it. The 20-foot leaf on the wall, made entirely of baby pink rosebuds was a marvel, as was the wine storage area on the 2nd floor. High ceilings, long, flowing draperies throughout add to the elegance. They offer a 3-course, 4-course- and 5-course meal, with wine pairings, if you so choose, or you can order a la carte. I opted for the 4-course, Mr. B the 3 course, and no wine this time around, as my darling brother had sent us a wonderful bottle of champagne, which we had enjoyed prior to dinner.

The meal starts with an amuse bouche, which consisted of smoked salmon canelle in a fennel cream sauce. Decorated to look like a crustacean, it had antennae and two eyes. The salmon was very tasty, the fennel cream sauce very mild. First course: Oven roasted quail breast with foie gras torchon and frissee salad, two quail legs made to look like corn dogs, a mushroom compote with parmesan crisp and a celery root fondant shaped like a cupcake with quail yolk on top and hazelnuts on the side. The quail was very flavorful, the legs fun to eat, but the celery root fondant lacked any flavor, despite its gorgeous presentation. Mr. B had a chilled Maine lobster salad, with a watermelon granita and small cubes of watermelon, decorate with crème fraiche to look like dice, and a balsamic reduction swirl that added a burst of flavor to the sweet watermelon. Second course: Roasted Main lobster in a carrot puree, topped with pea shoots and mint oil, finished with a curry-orange sauce. The curry-orange sauce was not discernable and the carrot puree may have been too diluted, but the flavor of the dish was very good. The mint oil with the pea shoots added a nice surprise. Third course: I had Colorado lamb loin with lamb shank cannelloni, eggplant caviar, and artichoke barigoule. The lamb was so tender I probably didn’t even need the knife. The cannelloni was coated in a parmesan, but unfortunately that made it a bit too salty for my taste. Mr. B had an aged 12-ounce Prime Steak with red wine reduction, served with braised leeks and rustic potato stew en cocette, finished with truffle oil. The steak was heavenly, served with house-made whole grain mustard, sea salt, Hawaiian sea salt, fresh ground peppercorns, and a shallot butter, to use as you choose. When Mr. B opened the little cast-iron pot with the potatoes and leeks and stirred it, the aroma of truffle oil was a powerful force, and these were probably the best potatoes I have ever had. Ever. Dessert: I had the French Berry Delight, which consisted of fresh berries on a very thin layer of genoise (how do they get it so thin?), pineapple & peach brochette, lime mouse with meringue top, pyramid of chocolate mousse, and a coconut sorbet lollipop sitting in roasted flaked coconut. Each item was 2-3 bites, but I still felt that there was too much going on. The berry genoise was unremarkable, as was the lime mousse. I loved the frozen coconut sorbet on a green candy stick and the chocolate pyramid. The peach and pineapple was a nice palate refresher. Mr. B had the Grand Marnier soufflé with crème anglaise and orange-cardamom ice cream. A huge portion, he could not finish it all. It was light and airy and full of flavor, as was the ice cream. A wonderful way to eat ourselves into oblivion on our anniversary. Each table had a waiter and at least two servers/bussers, who knew each dish by heart and described each as it was delivered. Definitely in the Top 10 meals we have ever had. I can highly recommend Fleur de Lys.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and make some money in the casino!

Dan Dan Noodles Revealed

Post by Brilliant Daughter

Every week I get a recipe via email from []. Chef Todd Wilbur has made it his mission to recreate America’s favorite eats. From 7-Eleven Slurpees to McDonald’s fries to York Peppermint Patties, he will spend days in the kitchen trying to “clone” the popular recipes.

At one time, all of the recipes were free. About two years ago, they tacked on small fees to most of the recipes (much like iTunes does for music). I have found a few gems on this site, including the clone for Chevy’s salsa (to come this summer when it is warm enough to go to the farmers’ markets and use the BBQ!), Red Robin seasoning, and the latest, PF Chang’s Dan Dan Noodles.

I will admit, I have only had PF Chang’s once, and it was takeout. I have never had the Dan Dan Noodles, but I think this recipe is a winner, regardless. I cook the chicken as soon as I get home from work, and let it cool until it is time to start actually making dinner. The recipe says to top the noodles with the sauce, but I usually toss it all together.

Dan-Dan Noodles

2 Skinless chicken breasts, cooked and minced
1 6 oz Package chow mein noodles, cooked
2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Minced garlic
½ tsp Minced fresh ginger
6 Tbsp Soy sauce
½ cup Beef broth
¼ cup Dark brown sugar
1 tsp Chili-garlic sauce
4 tsp Cornstarch
½ cup Water
¼ cup Chopped green onions (green part only)

1. Cook chicken breasts by sautéing them in oil for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through. Let them cool and then mince into small bits with a sharp knife.
2. Prepare chow mein noodles following the directions on the package.
3. Make sauce by heating oil over medium heat in a saucepan or wok. Add garlic and ginger, and sauté for a few seconds, being careful the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the soy sauce, broth, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce. Combine the cornstarch with the water and stir it into the sauce. Simmer for about 2 minutes or until it thickens.
4. Once the sauce is thick, add the chicken and green onions and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Spoon cooked chow mein onto a serving plate and top with sauce.
6. Optional: garnish with bean sprouts.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chicken + Lemons = Heaven

So, I have had this Classic Greek Cooking book by Daphne Metaxas forever. In fact it was published in 1974 and is no longer in print (although you can get it used in a variety of places). My copy is falling apart. The back cover is totally gone and there are stains throughout the book. Simple Greek cooking and many recipes that are easily made.

One recipe I make over and over and over, and is a big family hit, is Chicken Avgolemono. Right now I have a surplus of lemons. My husband picked about 10 pounds yesterday, from which I zested, peeled, and juiced. I also made some lemon vodka for use in lemon drops sometime down the line and a lemon/garlic salad dressing for use this week. But I am not anywhere near using the current crop. Tea got a bagful when she was here a week ago, so she might want a few more. Brilliant daughter loves to make lemon bars, so she can use a few. And I have a dessert to make for a baby shower on Thursday at my hubby’s work, so I can be creative with lemons there. But that won’t take even half of what we have sitting in the kitchen. So I think harder, and remember…this simple stew. I think you will like it.

Chicken – you can use a cut-up fryer, or boneless thighs (with skin on)
2 T olive oil
1 c chicken broth
1 T dry or ¼ c fresh dill weed
salt/pepper to taste
2 diced potatoes or 2 cans whole white baby potatoes, drained
2 eggs
2 lemons, juiced
2 T cornstarch

In large stew pot or Dutch oven, brown chicken in oil. Turn skin side up. Add broth, 1 cup water, dill, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Add potatoes and continue simmering until potatoes are tender.

Mix lemon juice with cornstarch. Beat eggs and mix in with lemon juice. Slowly pour into chicken mixture, stirring as you pour. Cook until thickened. Serve immediately.

This takes about an hour from start to finish. You can make it over the weekend and serve it during the week. It also freezes well so you can make a double batch and freeze half for a rainy day.

Serve with salad or veggie and some bread to mop up the sauce and you are good to go.


Monday, January 08, 2007

A visual taste treat

My nephew, who has been working in restaurant kitchens since the age of 15, left his home in Colorado Springs last June for Germany for his seven-year stint in Europe’s Master Chef Program. Born in Germany, and having lived there for the first decade of his life, he is fortunate to be completely bilingual and very comfortable in his birthplace. He flew over to Germany prior to high school graduation for interviews and internship possibilities. Needless to say, we were all thrilled that he chose this path, the foodie family that we are.

While he was able to make a very quick trip home over the holidays (and almost got stuck in Denver due to the snowstorm), he had to return to Germany to school, internship, and to prepare for the upcoming pastry competition that he will be participating in. His proud parents sent us a few pictures of the dishes he is working on, which made my mouth water. I thought I would share them with you.

Best of luck to you, Ryan!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Kitchen Collaboration with Butcher Son

Butcher son and I attempted our first sausage recently. I have never made sausage before and surfed the web and did considerable reading to get a handle on the process and to find an interesting recipe. There are a lot of simple sites out there that help you feel okay about being a novice sausagemaker, which I definitely am. Butcher son works at Schaub’s Meat and Poultry that regularly offers 16 kinds of house-made sausage each day (flavors vary on the season), so he has been involved in the process, and kindly brought home the sausage casings required to produce our proud product.

We did have a bit of a debate on what kind of sausage to make, and how to exactly go about it. Butcher son wanted to make chicken-apple sausage, but I believe that this would have been the more difficult road. Sausage requires fat, and chicken traditionally does not have much fat and can produce a drier sausage. I wanted to stick to a pork-based sausage to begin with, and to ease into the process, and since I was paying, I won out. Then there was the debate on whether I should grind my own pork or use ground pork. Actually, this was more of a debate with myself. I purchased both, since I was sitting on the fence about it. When it came time to making the sausage, I went with the pre-ground pork, as I had already made 3 batches of cinnamon rolls (traditional, orange, and chai) and 40 beef tamales. I was a bit tired, and opted for the easier version this time around. (But the large pork butt, or was it shoulder?, went into the freezer for the next batch.)

I narrowed down the types of sausage to make to three, and finally decided on chaurice. Why the chaurice? Well, first I don’t think I’ve ever had it, so I wouldn’t know if I did it wrong. Secondly, I had all the ingredients. Third, it looked pretty easy. So what is chaurice? Depending on where you look, it is either Cajun or Creole in origin, an old-time recipe dating to the 19th century. Possibly adapted from Spanish settlers in Louisiana to resemble their homeland’s chorizo. They serve it with white or red beans, or for breakfast.

I found several recipes, so I compromised and made up my own version based on what I was reading.


1 pound ground pork
½ T coarse salt
¼ t cayenne
1/8 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
1/3 t thyme
3 ground bay leaves
1 T Creole Seasoning
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 T diced onions
1 T chopped parsley
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup water

Medium hog casings

Take the salt, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, bay leaves, and Creole Seasoning and place in spice or coffee grinder. Pulse to powder consistency. Place meat, spices, and remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix well by hand until thoroughly combined.

Ingredients: All of these ingredients are easy to find.

Ease: Making up the sausage is easy. If you don’t want to stuff it into links, it can be used as patties or fried up and crumbled into some tasty red beans. Stuffing into casings does require 2 people: a stuffer and a casing handler, and some time and patience, as most of us do not have an industrial stuffer which speeds things along.

Special Equipment: To make links, you will need a sausage stuffing mechanism. I have a food grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, for which I bought the sausage stuffing attachment ($9.95).

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. We used 3 pounds of sausage, which yielded 13 good –sized links.

So how did it turn out? The end product held up to the cooking process very well. It retained its shape, had good color, and browned evenly. Overall, we were very pleased. It had a really nice flavor, with a hint of fire. I could definitely tell there was cloves in the batch, even though it was a very small amount. I would be tempted to leave this ingredient out next time. The cayenne and Creole Seasoning gave it some bite. It wasn’t greasy at all, in fact, it was borderline needing more fat. But it’s probably healthier this way, and would vary depending on the type of pork you use and how much fat there was to begin with.

We are considering this a success, which is a miracle for the first time around. Butcher son wants to know what kind of sausage we would be making next time…. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cinnamon Rolls X Three

Why do something once, when you can do it better three times? I know my favorite chef, Michael Mina, likes to do things in threes (and Butcher son got me Mina’s recent cookbook for Christmas to drool over and challenge me in the kitchen). My daughter insists on wall hangings be in threes. I have three children. So, three is good. And three types of cinnamon rolls are even better.

Wait…before you give up reading this post because you think it will be too hard and too involved, please don’t. I have found you a shortcut, so that you, too, can enjoy threes. So have a little patience and a little faith, and your reward will be three-plus dozen cinnamon rolls that will disappear within a 24-hour span!

My mother-in-law showed me this trick years ago and I almost forgot. But perusing the freezer section the other day, I noticed that frozen bread dough was on sale, and it was calling my name. Three loaves of dough nestled into a Styrofoam container, wrapped in plastic, just waiting for me to take it home and have my way with it. (What was I thinking only buying one package?)

Anyway, the homemade dough recipe that my mother-in-law gave me 25 years ago is still the family favorite, but if they have to make a choice between no cinnamon rolls or rolls with frozen bread dough, they will choose the frozen dough every time. And it works quite well and tastes just fine, so there is no shame in it.

I just thaw the dough, per the package instructions, and get to work. I made traditional cinnamon rolls, orange rolls, and chai-spiced rolls.

You will need:
3 loaves defrosted dough
3 cubes butter (no margarine!)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3-4 T cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each of: ground cardamom, cloves, allspice, ginger
zest of 1 orange
3 T orange juice concentrate, softened

Before beginning:
Melt butter
Combine sugars and cinnamon in one bowl, mixing well to incorporate

(1) Cinnamon Rolls
Flour your counter or pastry board and place one defrosted loaf in the middle, dusting with flour. Roll out with a rolling pin as thin as possible. Brush melted butter over the dough, using about ½ cup. Sprinkle liberally with sugar/cinnamon mixture. (If you want to add chopped walnuts or pecans, or even raisins—yuck—now is the time to do it.) Roll up gently, and cut into 1 – 1 ½-inch lengths. Place in round or square pan, but do now crowd. Press down slightly, cover with tea towel, and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until half again as big.

(2) Orange Rolls
Flour your counter or pastry board and place one defrosted loaf in the middle, dusting with flour. Roll out with a rolling pin as thin as possible. Brush softened orange concentrate on dough, topping with the melted butter, using about 1/3 cup. Sprinkle orange zest over dough, following with with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up gently, and cut into 1 – 1 ½-inch lengths. Place in round or square pan, but do now crowd. Press down slightly, cover with tea towel, and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until half again as big.

(3) Chai-spiced Rolls
Flour your counter or pastry board and place one defrosted loaf in the middle, dusting with flour. Roll out with a rolling pin as thin as possible. Brush melted butter over the dough, using about ½ cup. Add cardamom, cloves, allspice and ginger to remaining sugar mixture. Sprinkle liberally over the dough. Roll up gently, and cut into 1 – 1 ½-inch lengths. Place in round or square pan, but do now crowd. Press down slightly, cover with tea towel, and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until half again as big.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Test by pulling out center piece of dough and making sure it is cooked.

Let cool and indulge!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Easy Appetizer

Brilliant daughter has been making us a wonderful, quickie appetizer that I thought I would share. We had it on New Year’s eve and I was a reminded of what a winner it is. She may have actually gotten the recipe from one of her London flatmates, but since she brought it to us, I will give her all the credit.

Perlini Bruschetta

1 tub of fresh mozzarella perlini (available at Trader Joes)
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup good quality balsamic
2 T olive oil
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Mix all together and let marinate for several hours (if you can stand it). Serve with fresh or toasted baguette slices.

You can add more or less of everything, based on your preferences and tastes. It shouldn’t be too liquidy, but have enough that can seep in and flavor the perlini.

I also find that if I have any leftover, I throw it in at the end of scrambling eggs, which slightly melts the cheese and warms the tomatoes. I also threw it in some mini-frittatas I made, and I imagine it might be quite good tossed in at the end of a creamy risotto. Use your imagination – waste not, want not….

Brilliant daughter eating aforementioned appetizer:

and yes, the fire is real!

Lemons are arriving daily!

Better late than never, I say. Normally, our lemon crop is in much earlier than this, but for some strange reason, we have had a 3-4 week delay this year. I remember last year making limoncello and lemon curd in November, but this year, only daughter got in a batch of lemon curd at the 11th hour. So no lemon holiday presents or food this year. Drats….

The bushes are heavy with lemons, as you can see, and we are picking them at a fast clip, every few days. I have donated some to Tea, who is hooked on some sort of green lemonade that she can’t get enough of, brought some to co-workers, and have been using them in cooking whenever I can. Oh, and I am making the best lemon drops! No, not the hard candies, but the alcoholic drink served in a martini glass. Of course, you want a recipe, but I really don’t have one. Lemons vary in their taste and sweetness, so it can be a bit of a guessing game. But the basics are thus:

Squeeze and strain lemon juice into a pitcher, add sugar and muddle/mix until the sugar is fully incorporated (you can use granulated or powdered). Taste – it should be sweet but still a bit tart. Once you have it adjusted properly, add equal amounts of vodka and some ice. Stir the heck out of it, to chill the liquid. I pop in some of Safeway’s Clear (sugar-free) Lemon Sparkling Water and strain into a martini glass. I, personally, like to rim the martini glass with yellow sugar (the fine granulated kind that you use on cupcakes). I just rub a bit of lemon around the edge of the glass and roll in the sugar.