Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spicy Sriracha Chicken

This recipe made me a Sriracha evangelist. Sriracha, if you've never tried it, is that fiery red Asian hot sauce that comes in the clear plastic bottle with a rooster on the front. I have to admit I was intimidated by it before making this (a deep seated fear of roosters or Hitchcockian reaction to the color? We'll never know.)

Well thanks to my friend Jenn and her incredible recipe - I finally tried it and promptly fell in love. Sriracha and I are getting married next Tuesday. I've mentioned Jenn's blog - Jenn's Food Journey - before. She is the queen of grilling and marinades and updates more than The Pioneer Woman herself. If you're ever at a loss for something to put on the grill, head over to Jenn's and she'll set you up.

Jenn actually used this as a basting sauce for grilled chicken but I decided to bake mine because it was too hot to go outside and grill. You can add any veggies you like (or omit them) as well as use pretty much any kind of meat (though if I were to marinate steak or pork chops I'd grill them.)

FYI - the movers come in the morning. Next time we speak I'll be in my new home (and back home) in Austin!

Spicy Sriracha Chicken
* Adapted slightly from Jenn's Food Journey

couple dashes garlic powder
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon honey
pinch salt

2-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 large hothouse tomato, cut into thick slices, optional
1 cup sliced mushrooms, optional
olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix the garlic powder, melted butter, Sriracha, lime juice, honey, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl with a whisk or fork until all is dissolved and well blended. Add the marinade to a large sealable plastic bag. Add in the chicken, moving around to make sure every bit is coated. Seal and refrigerate overnight, turning once if you remember.

Preheat the oven to 375 (350 if your oven runs hot) and remove the chicken from the fridge to take the chill off setting aside. Grease a medium glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Carefully transfer the marinade and chicken to the dish, distributing it evenly around. Add in the cut up tomato and sliced mushrooms. Lightly season them with salt and pepper and drizzled with a little olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 min. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes, just until the chicken and veggies are cooked through. Serve with rice.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not food, but a Sweet and Sour Cocktail for the Imagination...

Remember a while back when I was MIA and barely posted anything? It's because I was busy writing and shooting a short film for Absolut Vodka. It involves stolen kittens, a girl named Lemon Drop, and the sensei from the original Karate Kid. The trailer for it is here and I'd dearly love for you to watch it.

We are still editing the longer film and I will post it when it's finished. Thanks y'all!

PS - If you're a Heroes fan you're in for a treat. Ali Larter plays the role of 'Lemon Drop.'

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pour Some Tequila on Me Fajitas

The name says it all. If you were looking for something to grill up for the 4th, I humbly suggest this. This marinade would make roadkill taste good.

Pour Some Tequila on Me Fajitas

Tequila Marinade:
1/2 cup tequila
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
couple pinches fresh cracked pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 jalapano, sliced (seeds and all)
1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced (the tender inner part only - you'll know b/c it's the only 'cuttable' part after peeling)
5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1 teaspoon dried thyme, rubbed between your fingers
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
goat cheese or sharp cheddar
flour tortillas
chopped cilantro, onion, green onion, tomatoes, or any additions you like

Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour it and the steak into a large sealable plastic bag. Marinate for 4-5 hours, removing from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Use a pair of tongs or a fork to remove the steak from the marinade and gently set it on some paper towels flipping over once to remove any excess. Discard any garlic or lemongrass if it's still sticking to it. Season both sides lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a grill pan over medium flame on your stove (of course you can grill them on a proper grill if you like) letting it heat through for a few minutes. Spray with nonstick spray and add the steak, distributing it as evenly as possible (with a long piece of skirt steak, I put it in a 'u' shape to utilize as much surface area as possible.) Cook for about 4 minutes the first side or until you get a nice sear. Flip to the other side and after it's been on for one minute, reduce the heat and let cook about 5-6 minutes for medium well. Remove to a plate or baking sheet and tent with foil to let rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Cut against the grain (skirt steak has those signature striations - go against the flow with your knife) and spoon into warm tortillas along with whatever toppings you like. I have to admit - I never would have thought it - but these are FANTASTIC with goat cheese. It's the tang, y'all. And I loved the flavor of the meat so, so much that's all I wanted on it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Stacks with Whipped Ricotta and Pesto Oil

This is the ironic T shirt of salads. Two slices of the ripest, heaviest heirlooms you can get your hands on sandwiched between ricotta and goat cheese. Top the whole thing off with a little pesto oil and you're done (by the way this salad is kind of like Kathy Lee Gifford - it's prettier in person.)

Giada makes something similar with all goat cheese and heavy cream. I prefer the texture and lightness of ricotta, beat around a little with a fork with just a little goat cheese and lemon zest thrown in for interest. The only problem with eating this 'salad' is how much white wine I tend to drink with it. Those two are damn good friends.

Zesty Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Pesto Oil

2 heirloom tomatoes, preferably large and different colors/varietals
3/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons goat cheese
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon prepared pesto (I prefer Cibo brand)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
kosher or sea salt

Set the ricotta and goat cheese out for 20 minutes or so to let soften. Place in a small bowl and stir in the majority of the lemon zest with a fork, leaving a pinch of zest to stir into your oil mixture (don't let it sit too long or it will dry out.) Add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir again and set aside.

In a separate coffee cup or small bowl, combine the pesto, oil, and last bit of lemon zest. Set aside while you cut your tomatoes into thick (about a half inch) slices. Place the widest slice on the bottom of your serving plates. Season oh so lightly with salt and pepper then spoon some of the cheese mixture over the slice. Place a smaller slice (ideally from a different colored tomato) over the cheese, putting a little more (a spoonful) on top. Drizzle with the pesto oil and serve immediately. You can top with a teensy bit more of salt and pepper if desired.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summery Corn Chowder with Coriander

Corn hating makes me sad. Yes it may be partially responsible for the fattening of America (corn syrup) but it's also the most summery vegetable of them all. The two go hand in hand. It's even the color of summer. And in my opinion, a barbecue isn't a barbecue without a cilantro-buttered cob or two.

This soup is further proof that cilantro and corn were meant to be together. It's creamy (yikes! I hate that word! I must need coffee...), slightly sweet, and spicy all at the same time. I could eat it by the bucket full, even at the risk of being described as 'corn fed'.

PS - this soup gets better as it sits in the fridge. I suggest making it the day before a dinner party then reheating it to serve as a first course.

Creamy Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Cayenne
* Can be made vegetarian if you sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
* Yes I used frozen corn instead of fresh b/c I was in a hurry. Feel free to cut the kernels off two fresh cobs as a replacement.

1 tablespoon butter
dash olive oil
1 small/medium Vidalia or Spanish onion, chopped
1 small/medium yellow squash, chopped into smallish dice
pinch salt
pinch white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 large garlic clove, or 2 small minced
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 green onions, rinsed and cut in half

1/3 cup half and half
extra dash of white pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a dutch oven (large, heavy lidded pot) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper, until it's begun to soften. Add in the squash and season with the coriander, cayenne (you can add more if you're a heat addict), and cumin. Saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. At this point, if any of the onions or veg don't look completely soft and cooked through, put the lid on to speed things up leaving it on for a few minutes. Add in the corn, stock and green onions and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for about a minute, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes on low.

Kill the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the green onions and discard, then use an immersion blender to blend everything up and make it smooth. Stir in the half and half and a dash more white pepper and serve garnished with chopped fresh jalapeno and cilantro leaves.

Oh Pioneer Woman - please forgive me.

Remember how I told you I followed the recipes to a "T" for the homemade pizza dough smackdown for the sake of keeping things fair and square? Well I did...up until the baking part for the Pioneer Woman's dough.

For some reason I felt possessed to cook Ree's on a pizza stone versus the baking sheet like she advises in her book. I don't know why I did this. Actually I do know why. I was suffering from a bad case of over confidence since Rebecca's dough had slipped off the peel so easily like an Ambien-infused supermodel. Over confidence does not belong in the kitchen. It can cause house fires, personal injury, and epic spousal eruptions (once after I cut my finger slicing fresh mozzarella I looked at my husband and screamed 'F@*k! I HATE cooking!!' The poor guy hadn't done anything but breathe yet he fell victim to my wrath.)

So there I was the other night assembling a pizza which had rolled out easily enough right onto the peel. Only when I went to move it, there was trouble. That pizza wasn't going anywhere. I put it in the fridge for a few minutes thinking this would help. It did but not much. At this point I should have realized this was bad-idea.com and used the baking sheet. But that would have made too much sense so instead I messily transferred it onto a slip of parchment paper scattered with cornmeal. This will do it, I thought, and even if it doesn't I can just put the parchment right onto the stone. After all parchment is meant for baking. Right?

Sure enough, I tried slipping it off the parchment and onto the stone to no avail. That pizza was like an old school breast implant - it wasn't going anywhere without surgery. Moving onto my backup plan (patting myself on the back while doing so) I put the whole kit and kaboodle onto the preheated stone and shut the door.

It took about two seconds for the smoke to begin billowing around inside the oven. It seemed like it took me no less than 45 years to lunge for my oven mitts and rip the door back open to retrieve this inferno-in-waiting. Since it literally had been in there for mere seconds I thought I could use my spatula to get it off the parchment safely onto a baking sheet. Nope. That pizza had already devotedly welded itself onto the paper.

Any normal person would have chucked the whole thing into the garbage but I was out of cheese and I've told you before how I feel about going to my local grocery store (I've actually been screamed at by one of the checkers for asking if the raspberries were on sale. She also threw a pencil across the register at me but that's another story) so I wasn't about to give up now.

I picked it up like it was a wet cat and flipped it over onto the baking sheet. In the process it kind of fell over on itself in a goopy mess - the majority of it thankfully parting ways from the paper. I almost started to cry seeing the carefully hand sliced salami and fresh mozzarella recklessly piled within the gooey mess. And then I realized something. It kind of looked like a calzone (actually more like a pizza cobbler - or even like a half-developed alien embryo...just see above picture.) But if I told Kris I had intended to make a calzone he just might buy it...

But he was onto me.

"What is that?" he asked (rudely I might add) when I pulled it from the oven.

"A calzone..." I said as if it was the most obvious given on earth like rain or grass or babies.

He looked anything but psyched as he tried the first bite. But he ate it then another and another. And so did I. In fact we couldn't stop eating it and as we did, I couldn't help but think something that made just about negative sense. This dough is better than Rebecca's! Even cooked incorrectly and flung around and reshaped and cooked again it had that complex, yeasty flavor I had been looking for. It was delicious. Addictive, even.

Despite all the odds - Ree won the pizza smackdown!

I will say that her dough isn't as easy to work with as Rebecca's - it's wetter and will stick so you can't have it out of the fridge for too long before you're ready to bake it (nor can you use hers on a pizza stone) but if you age it for a couple of days like she says to it's hard to beat. I want some right now.

Well done Pioneer Woman! You wrangled the hell out of that pizza dough!

The Pioneer Woman's Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon or 1/2 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on low speed, drizzle in the olive oil until just incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, gently stir in the yeast/water mixture.
5. And drizzle it into the flour/oil mixture. Mix until the dough forms a ball. (You can also mix by hand until it comes together.)
6. Drizzle a little olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough over in it to coat it in the oil.
7. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel (I used paper towels) and set in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. After the dough has risen, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days (it freezes well too) or proceed to the next step if making right away.
8. To prepare the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
9. Divide the dough in half. Lightly drizzle olive oil on a pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet.
10. Using your hands, stretch the dough to the desired shape, pressing the dough into the pan with your fingers. The thinner the better. The surface of the dough should be lumpy from finger marks (Ree says this holds the toppings better this way.)
11. Pay the desired toppings over the dough and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown.
12. Again If not using all the dough right away, you can freeze it for up to 6 months, thawing in the fridge again before using

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Asparagus in the Sun

This little guy somehow fell off the grill and onto our table one night while grilling. A week later I finally noticed him. Apparently birds don't like asparagus because it was completely untouched but eerily shrunken from its time in the sun. Part of me wishes I'd left it. It could have been the first ever petrified asparagus.

PS - I promise to post an actual recipe tomorrow. Good night.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cilantro, Shrimp, and Goat Cheese Pizza with Rebecca Rather's Crust

Rebecca Rather of the Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe in Fredericksburg, TX is dubbed 'The Pastry Queen' because of her delicious pies, cakes, and cookies. But the funny thing is when I eat at her restaurant, it's the savory items that stick with me. Her chicken salad with field greens and balsamic dressing tastes so much more than the sum of its parts, I feel obligated to rename it something with more oomph (she uses homemade mayo for the chicken salad which is simultaneously lighter and more decadent than other versions.)

But today is all about pizza - the first report back to you all on the pizza smack down challenge between Rebecca and Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman.) With Rebecca's dough, I chose to make a cilantro, shrimp and goat cheese pizza and was not disappointed. Although I mentioned in the last post that Rebecca's dough isn't as simple to make as Ree's (more ingredients), the payoff is that it's incredibly reliable and easy to work with.

It rolls easily, not getting too mushy or sticky no matter how long it's on the counter, and slides easily off the peel onto the preheated pizza stone. I would learn later that this is not a given with every dough. In fact Ree's cannot in my experience be cooked on a pizza stone at a high temp (and in fact she doesn't advise you to do so - it's too loosy goosy.)

Rebecca's cooked up at 450 in about 10-12 minutes with a perfectly crispy, thin crust that was still strong enough to support most anything you put on top of it. Was hers as complex in flavor as I had hoped given the semolina and honey? To be honest - no. When I make it again I'm going to 'age' it in the refrigerator for a couple of days and see what this does to it. I have a feeling it will be the bull's eye.

But as for a really good, wonderfully textured and reliable pizza dough that wont' leave half the crust stuck to the inside of your oven after flinging it in with the peel - you can't beat Rebecca's. She is after all, The Pastry Queen.

Rebecca Rather's Pizza Dough
(from the book The Pastry Queen)
*Requires a standing mixer or a handheld mixer and a sturdy large bowl.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (110 to 115 F)
2 (1 oz) packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing on crusts
2 teaspoons honey
4 to 5 cups flour
3 tablespoons semolina flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted them)
1/4 cup cornmeal or grits

Combine the lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil, and honey in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups of the all purpose flour, the semolina flour, and salt. Mix on low speed for about a minute or so until all is just combined. With the machine running (start on low and as it gets thicker you may need to kick up the power to keep from straining your machine) add 1 cup of the all purpose flour to make a soft dough. Mix the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes longer until smooth. At this point, the dough will still be quite sticky and useless, falling over on itself. Therefore, keep adding more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time with the motor running. The dough will start to look like viable dough and hold its shape but then become wet and fall apart again at which point you just add in more flour and keep watching. Finally it will hold and keep its shape, at which point you'll also notice it breeding little pea-sized clumps that stick to the sides of the bowl. This is the signal that your dough is ready to go so stop adding flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 turns using the heel of your palms. Place in a large bowl brushed liberally with olive oil. Cover with a damp cloth or several damp paper towels, cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes (no need to hunt down that illusive 'warm place' in your house!)

Check on the dough which should have doubled by now and look nice and puffed and smooth. If you're not convinced, give it some more time to think about life and other things and check it again a little later.

Turn the dough back out onto a floured surface and use a pastry cutter or knife to divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a ball then place the balls on a baking sheet or tray, cover with a damp towel, and let rest another 10 to 15 minutes longer.

At this point, you can roll out to bake off right away or place in plastic bags and refrigerate for up to 3 days. I'm also trying freezing the dough so I'll report back later on how this works out.

Cilantro, Shrimp, and Goat Cheese Pizza
* Ideally you'd use a pizza stone for this which also requires a pizza 'peel' that lets you slip the dough onto the stone. If you don't have these tools, and/or if the idea of pizza flinging scares you, just bake the pizza on a greased baking sheet sprinkled lightly with cornmeal or grits. You might not get quite as crispy a crust but you'll avoid the panic of realizing your afternoon spent making dough was all for not as you try to clean up wayward dough from the inside of your oven - and this is worth it's weight in gold.

1/4 (one ball) of Rebecca's pizza dough, rolled out onto a floured board or counter top into about an 8x8 inch diameter
additional flour, for rolling

3 oz goat cheese
8 thin slices fresh part skim mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno, deseeded and deveined
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeƱo, (deseeded - optional) minced
1 green onion, minced
Zest of a small lemon
Good pinch (or two) sea salt
Pinch pepper
1 teaspoon or so olive oil
1/4 cup cornmeal or grits, for sprinkling on baking sheet or stone and peel

16 shelled fresh shrimp, with tails on preferably fresh and not previously frozen marinated for ten minutes in:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
good couple cracks black pepper
2 large garlic cloves cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves

After ten minutes, pluck from the marinade shaking vigorously and grill on a hot, oiled grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, just until they've turned opaque and slightly pink.

Preheat the oven to 450 and place a pizza stone inside to let heat through for at least 30 minutes.

When ready, brush the rolled out crust with olive oil (use a pastry brush dipped in olive oil and use a lighter hand - you don't want to drown the dough but just lightly glaze it with the oil.)

Sprinkle your pizza peel with cornmeal or grits, then place the rolled pizza dough on top. You can now assemble your pizza (if using a baking sheet go ahead and transfer the dough to the oiled sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or grits and then assemble right on the sheet.) Place the slices of mozzarella evenly around the dough, leaving a good 3/4 inch edge free all the way around. Crumble the goat cheese into small chunks with your fingers and place in any empty spaces around the mozzarella, trying to distribute it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle evenly with the tablespoon of minced jalapeno then with fresh cracked pepper then open the oven and carefully but quickly 'fling' the pizza onto the preheated stone, trying to get it evenly onto the stone and not over the sides (I close my eyes and pray as I do this but you do whatever works for you.)

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are becoming golden brown and the cheese has melted nicely and begun to bubble and brown in places. Meanwhile, blend the cilantro, jalepeno, green onion, lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil up with a fork in a small bowl. As soon as the pizza comes out, sprinkle evenly with the cilantro mixture then top with the cut up shrimp. You can hit the whole thing with another light drizzle of olive oil and teensy pinch of sea salt, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

Homemade Pizza Dough Smack Down

For years I've wanted to make homemade pizza dough. I'd come across a recipe, run out and buy all of the ingredients only to return home, re-read the recipe and get cold feet.

So many steps. Measure. Mix. Let rise. Punch down. Kneed. Let rest. Kneed again.

And what was with storing the dough in a warm place to let it rise? I mean - where is this 'warm place' in one's home? Near the gateway to hell in the basement?

Not to mention the time commitment - a whole afternoon spent pampering a helpless lump so it can become dinner IF all the steps go accordingly? Nope.

Besides I was an early Giada adopter and if she never felt the need to make her own dough then why the hell should I? Well here's why - I finally did and it may be the most rewarding thing I've done all year. Seriously. It's like gestating, delivering, and raising the perfect child in less than 4 hours. And you can eat it.

I'll tell you what finally motivated me. I'm about to have to part ways with my fabulous (rented) Gaggenau oven and I knew my chances of nailing the perfect crust would be greatly increased by using it. That thing is insane. I don't plug products on this 'ole blog of mine but I would try to sell one of those to an armless man. Seriously - it's amazing.

So whose recipes did I try for the cruel and ruthless smack down? Two from some of my favorite southern gals - Rebecca Rather of Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe in Fredericksburg, TX and Ree Drummond of the famed blog and book The Pioneer Woman. And for once in my life I followed the recipes to a 'T' so I could report the results accurately. I even followed Ree's advice of letting the dough sit in the fridge for a few days as she claims it tastes even better that way.

I have to say both recipes were pretty easy to make, coming from someone who doesn't bake much and is dough-phobic. Ree's has a blessedly simple ingredient list (too simple? we shall see...) while Rebecca's has the advantage of being able to dump everything into the mixer and press a button. The downer is of course, you have to own a mixer (Ree says you can mix hers by hand and I have no reason to doubt her.) Ree's was also fairly idiot-proof. You slowly add the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture with the mixer on low, and when it forms a solid mass around the dough hook, you're ready to turn it out into the oiled bowl.

Rebecca's took a little more guesswork, as her measurements vary (an additional 1-2 cups of flour, depending.) Here's what happened when I made hers. The dough would gather around the hook and form a mass at which point I thought I was done. But then it would kind of loosen and fall apart again and I would have to sprinkle in more flour so that it formed a cohesive shape again. I did this a few times until the shape finally held and began to breed little dough ball babies - little clumps about the size of an impressive booger. Instinctively I felt this meant to stop adding dough so I did. And though this wasn't in her instructions it will be in mine.

We tried Rebecca's dough last night and I have to say it was delicious. Maybe not as complex as I thought it would be given the addition of honey and semolina flour, but a perfect, crispy texture that could still hold up under two cheeses and several fat pieces of grilled shrimp.

Ree's is in my fridge and I'll report back to you later in the week with the results and both recipes. Will that time in the fridge work something magical on her dough?

Stay tuned...

PS - I should mention the fact that I found myself talking to the dough while making it. I might have even sang to it. I don't know if this aided its development or not but wanted to be completely honest with you for the sake of science.