Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bacon Donuts with Chocolate Sauce

Yep,  that's what I said: bacon donuts. You're already drooling, aren'tcha? When I read the recipe I got all crazy giddy, too. I vaguely remembered it from the show, but these were done on an early season, so it had been a while since I'd thought about them. I was originally planning to try a different dessert recipe this week, but with my schedule--for the next few weeks I'm busy every night with an out of town theatre production--it worked out best to do this simple and quick recipe. (It's so quick, in fact, that it won the Quickfire Challenge for which it was created!)

Even though I found this in How To Cook Like a Top Chef, it's also available online! So click here to check it out. You'll notice I used an alternate spelling. Artistic license.

So, anyway, if you wanna see all the details of the dish, just click above. I did two things differently than suggested. I used maple bacon instead of applewood smoked and I used regular granulated sugar instead of superfine. Not sure how much of a difference the bacon made because I couldn't really taste it. And I'm not sure if the sugar grain size made a difference, but after rolling the first three donuts in the coating, I realized a little more sugar is just what they needed.

Speaking of the first three donuts, I should have taken a photo of them in my hand compared to the ones that made it into this photograph because they were way too big. I thought I separated them into heaping tablespoonfuls but I was too generous. After being in the oil for 2 minutes, they still weren't done in the very center and were bordering on burning. I ended up resizing them all to be about the size of a donut hole or a teeny bit bigger than a golf ball.

Enough about the mechanics. In regards to the taste, I gotta say...these donuts didn't really live up to my expectations. The pay-off was the chocolate sauce, in my opinion. Will I make these again? Sure! They were fast, easy and are surely a conversation piece. ("Did you say BACON donuts???") And next time I'll attempt the beer sauce that's in my book and serve that up, too.

Besides the sauce, another good thing about these bacon donuts is that they have inspired me to create my own donut recipe. As soon as I try it, you'll be the first to know!

Friday, March 25, 2011


This week has been a bit crazy for me, so this post is going up much later than cooking day. I actually made 2 new recipes this week--one on Monday and the other on Tuesday--both risotto. Why am I suddenly smitten with risotto, you ask? Well, in keeping with this month's Top Chef theme, I decided it was time to learn from one of them first hand. And the one chef happened to be....

...drum roll, please...

DUH! ;^} Chef Fabio Viviani, of course! I know Fabio has pretty much ruled this blog, but seriously--how can you not adore this guy? If you haven't yet, you really need to check out the "Top Chef All Stars" recaps on his blog. That will give you a little hint of why I just can't get enough.

So, risotto. First of all, lemme say that this stuff is simple! So simple, in fact, that I was a little overambitious in my first attempt and decided to create my own recipe. I thought it would be fun to mesh cultures and make a Mexican Risotto. Well my idea was a good one, but the flavors I chose betrayed my ignorance! I'm  embarrassed to share, but I will anyway.

First, I heated about a tablespoon of classic olive oil in a pan. Browned about a quarter of an onion, diced, and then added a Mexican chorizo link. (Johnsonville makes them in hot dog size, I found out.) After the meat cooked, I added about 1ish cup of rice--arborio is the best type, of which my store only had long grain--but as the Maestro put it, "one hand of rice per person." Let the rice cook just a little bit to absorb the flavors in the pan. In classic risotto, the next step was to add white wine. I added it to this version. You should not. White wine + Mexican chorizo = strange. Anyway, after the wine reduced, I added enough vegetable broth to cover the rice. I reduced the broth, then added a little tomato sauce (Because during the class Fabio said that if you wanted to add a tomato sauce, you should add it in place of broth the second time. It'll make sense when you read the next paragraph.) and water, then reduced that, repeating the process once more with broth. After the risotto did "the wave" I knew it was done. I turned off the fire, stirred in some quesadilla queso and served it up. It definitely has potential, so next time I'm taking out the wine and the tomato. I'll let you know how it goes!

I was upset that this recipe didn't go the way I wanted it to, so the next night I tried classic risotto, which uses about 4 ingredients and that's it. Starts the same way, with about a tablespoon of olive oil. This time I used EVOO because I wanted the slightly stronger flavor. Plus, I'm cooking on medium heat this whole time. (EVOO burns at relatively low temperatures, which is why it's mostly used as a finisher and not to cook/fry things.) Fabio adds some butter but since I want to use this recipe for my work newsletter, I did not. After the onions were cooked, I added 2 handfuls of rice and let them cook for just a bit. (BTW, salt and pepper come into play somewhere, but since I'm out of town away from my notes at the moment and days removed from this experience, I can't remember exactly how often they were used.) This time I added white wine--Riesling because Fabio said use something you'd drink!--enough to cover the rice and let it reduce. Then I added in chicken broth and let that reduce, repeating 2 more times. When it was done, I turned off the fire, stirred in some parmesan cheese, a little more salt and voila! Done. And then I ruined it by sauteing mushrooms and putting them on top. (Really, anything should be cooked WITH, not set on top.) But this was muuuuuch better.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fabio's Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

Before you judge me, you need to know: it wasn't my idea!

This month is all about "Top Chef", as you know. I told myself I wasn't going to go so Fabio-heavy on the recipes. I understand that not everyone is as twitterpated with him as I am (pun most definitely intended). But I SWEAR this one wasn't my choice! To make a long story short, Hosea's Bacon-Wrapped Halibut got vetoed, much to my dismay. I mean, serious--anything wrapped in bacon is good, right? *sigh*

The majority ruled in favor of Fabio's chicken. (And why wouldn't they, really?) There are 3 elements to this recipe, which I can't link because it came from How to Cook Like a Top Chef. First, there's the chicken. It's stuffed with a grilled lemon, whole garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs and sage leaves. Under the skin, I rubbed minced rosemary, a couple whole sage leaves and a couple pinches of salt. By the way, I'm learning that I'm afraid of salt. The recipe calls for "a few generous pinches of salt" under the skin, and then more with pepper on the skin. Well, I'm pretty sure my pinch equals about a quarter of Fabio's pinch. In fact, I'm positive. I'll explain how I know in my next blog entry. So the chicken was lacking a little in flavor, but not in juice! It was veeeeeeeery juicy.

The second part of this dish is the potatoes. Basically, they're parboiled, tossed in olive oil, smashed garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, then baked. They're supposed to be done when they're "crispy" but they won't be if you don't use enough olive oil. I imagine that's why 30 minutes wasn't long enough. I also didn't use as much rosemary as I was supposed to, because I just don't like it that much. But the garlic was fabulously strong. (And, in fact, still flavoring my hands 2 days later.)
The third and final component is cipollini onions, caramelized in butter and balsamic vinegar. These were actually my favorite part of the dish. I took a photo of the entire meal, but I decided it wasn't very appetizing. This one's better:

I might make this again, only because it was so highly praised. But it was a lot of work, in my opinion! The cooking time had to be increased for the chicken and the potatoes, and the constant checking got on my nerves a little bit. I didn't have to do everything myself, though, which was nice. Mom helped me. If I try it again, I'll see if I can juggle it all on my own, knowing what I know now. Or at least I'll see if I can handle the chicken by myself!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Double Fudge Irish Cream Cookies


Just when you think I'm totally predictable...I lie! Well, okay, so I didn't really lie. I said I wasn't going to cook this week's dish until Saturday. (In case you missed it, a molten hot Pop Tart attacked my dominant hand Tuesday afternoon, and the thought of holding that hand over the stove held zero appeal for me.) And this isn't this week's dish. It doesn't even really count, because it's not a Top Chef recipe.

Anyway! Point is, it's St. Patrick's Day, and the Pioneer Woman blogged about these cookies on the Tasty Kitchen blog, and I just knew I was doomed. AND I used all the right ingredients in the correct quantities! *pats self on back*

I diiiiid do a few steps in my own way, though. I KNOW, I know. Things never turn out quite right unless I make things the way I'm supposed to. In this case, I chilled the dough for 2 hours instead of 3-4. I got impatient; what can I say? The directions also said to roll the dough into balls, but since I didn't chill it long enough, I gave up on the soft dough and just dropped the dough on the pan.

Oh, the pan! For the first batch, I actually used stoneware. The recipe didn't specify the type of pan, so I wanted to experiment. Since it's been so long since I used this pan, I couldn't remember if I needed to adjust baking time/temp. Turns out, I did. I nearly doubled the required back time using the stoneware, and below is how they turned out.

 Not very pretty. They taste fine, but they just look like they're not made very well. So, the second batch were baked on a standard cookie sheet (not dark). And below is how is a better version of these scrumptious treats.

The only thing I regret is not having a green plate on which to display them. Honestly, though, I really should use white for the photographs. But that's just SO not me. :^}

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hubert Keller's Mac and Cheese

Since this is Top Chef month on my blog, I decided to consult my newly acquired--thanks to a Twitter contest--How To Cook Like a Top Chef cookbook for a lunchtime recipe. Most of the entree dishes seem more suitable for dinner, but mac n cheese is good any time. Update since original post date: find this recipe HERE!

To start, I made a few modifications (which are different from "substitutions"). The first thing I did was omit the protein, because this recipe called for shrimp. No one in this house cares very much for shrimp, and I'm not savvy enough to start subbing proteins at will, I decided this recipe was better sans meat. The second change I made was to the cheese. I used Jarlsberg instead of Swiss. The last modification was that I used half an onion instead of a whole and 3 normal-sized carrots instead of 3 large carrots. I also used slightly less mushrooms.

The other ingredients in this version of mac n cheese are elbow pasta--duh--heavy cream, Half n Half, egg yokes and parsley.

About these changes: I shouldn't have skimped on the veggies. They're there for a reason and definitely enhance the dish. And while this dish is great without protein, I think bacon or prosciutto would've been the perfect meat addition, especially since the recipe calls for salt "to taste" and I was a little conservative. 

Overall, this was a success. One noticeable...issue was that the cream-egg yoke mixture didn't bubble at after around 30 minutes in the oven. It browned after 22. So..not sure if my oven is a little hot, or if something just wasn't quite right.

I encourage you to try this recipe. It's good. Two other people agree with me, too. All 3 of us, though, said it needs "something". I'm sure it was the proper amount of vegetables (or maybe the meat), but you should definitely judge for yourself.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cheesy Vegetable Frittata

Talk about a recipeasy! This is a Fabio Viviani breakfast dish was FABulously easy and tasty. SO basic. Here's the rundown: diced squash, zucchini, white onion, red pepper, spinach and mushrooms (which I actually SUBBED for Swiss chard. Because I can.) blanched for 3 minutes in boiling water. After drying them with a towel, put them in a deep square baking dish, then pour a mixture of 5 beaten eggs, cheddar, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder over them. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes. BOOM!

I don't have a lot to say about this dish.It's simple. It's great. I'll definitely do it again when the occasion arises. I did dress mine up with a little avocado and Tapatio hot sauce, but it wasn't necessary. I will say it looks better in the baking dish than on the plate... I took many pics of the individual serving, and I still didn't get a decent one. Oh well! In the end, I'm not so worried about presentation.

By the way, I tried Nutella Biscuits again tonight as well. I used white flour instead of a blend this time, but they still seemed...not right. I will make them ONE more time using 3 tbsp butter instead of 3 tsp. If that doesn't make the difference, then I won't eat them again unless Fabio himself serves one up!