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Alton Brown Bread Pudding Mashup

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This is the bread pudding recipe so good that even those claim to hate bread pudding will ask for a second helping.

In his episode The Proof is in the Bread Pudding, Alton Brown makes a spiced pudding in a bread crust, and a second chocolate version with chunks of challah bread in a pyrex dish. If I was going to attempt this whole bread pudding thing I’d want a custard that was rich and flavorful, had a relatively simple recipe and task list (i.e. pyrex over a perfectly carved crust basin), and perfect texture rather than just damp bread. I decided to balance AB’s two recipes, switch a few items, and add chewy Craisins and Ghirardelli chocolate chunks for texture.

Kate’s Mashup of AB’s Bread Puddings

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
15 whole cloves
15 whole peppercorns
1/2 ounce crystallized ginger, chopped
4 cups half-and-half, divided
2 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 ounces spiced rum

1 Challah cubed into 1 inch pieces

1/2 Dark Chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% dark cocoa chips)
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (optional)

Directions

Place the cinnamon, nutmeg, dried orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, and ginger into 3 cups of half-and-half in a microwavable container and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Check the temperature of the mixture and microwave in 30 second increments until it reaches 180 degrees F. Cover and steep 15 minutes.

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Place the eggs and yolks in a blender with an 8-cup carafe. Blend on the lowest speed for 30 seconds. Raise the speed to quarter power and slowly add the sugars and blend until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add the remaining cup of half-and-half. With the machine still running, pour in the spiced half-and-half through a small hand strainer and add the rum. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours.

Butter or non-stick spray a 9 by 13-inch metal pan and place the cubed bread in the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and dried cranberries on top of the bread and slowly pour in the custard. Press down on the mixture with a spatula or the back of a spoon (or your hands) to thoroughly saturate. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours. You can do this the night before if you want.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Bake about 40 – 45 minutes. If you’d like your top extra crispy, set your oven to the high broil setting with the oven door slightly ajar. Remove the bread pudding from the oven. Pour the melted butter into a spray bottle and spritz the top of the bread pudding or brush on melted butter carefully. Return to the middle rack and broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

I served mine with vanilla ice cream and leftovers kept for 3 days in the fridge.

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Austin Gastro Graze: Micklethwait Craft Meats Trailer

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I heard about this little trailer in a recent BBQ write-up featuring numerous places in the Austin area. Opened only right around 9 months, the critic reviewed Micklethwait Craft Meats as “..the next Franklin’s.” And that’s something any self-respecting Austin resident doesn’t ignore.

We headed down to their location near Hillside Farmacy about 11:15 am on a Saturday. They’re located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th. There was little to no parking in their tiny lot, but no line for their food, either. Quite the contrast to Franklin’s just down the street. The yellow painted trailer and impeccable picnic tables were a welcome site, surrounded by trees on a sunny morning. It’s a great little spot for what would turn out to be the best bbq I have ever had within Austin’s limits.

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We ordered a half pound of brisket, 3 pork spare ribs, a side of jalapeno cheddar grits, cole slaw, a pork belly sausage, and a homemade Moon Pie. The total came to just under $30 and was more than enough food for 3 people. They accept both cash and credit cards (yes, their Facebook page says Cash Only; this is incorrect, coming from their people directly). I’m in the mood for BBQ about once a month…maybe once every 6 weeks. I’ve been killing to go back to Micklethwait’s since I first bit into their brisket. And it’s only been 3 days.

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Their meat is sold by the quarter pound. This makes getting ribs a little awkward, I tend to order them by the number, “I’d like 47 pork ribs in my face right now, please”, but their customer service is stellar and they were patient with my less than perfect order style. All meat is about $13 a pound, rather than different prices for different cuts, and they also do plates, but I’m a choosie kind of girl when it comes to my Q and just order by weight. Their sides are $1.50 a piece and their cheesy creamy cheddar jalapeno grits were AMAZING. Perfect texture, not too salty, very flavorful and creamy, and an excellent compliment to their meat. The cole slaw was homemade as well, bright, a little citrusy, but paled in comparison to the grits.

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The meat. Holy crap, where do I begin? I’m an opportunivore when it comes to love. I’m not biased for men only or women or dinosaurs. If something is worthy of true love, it earns mine – but it must be worthy. And Micklethwait’s brisket is sooooo worthy. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned, flavorful and perfect. They give you a little cup of sauce, but you don’t need it. If someone told me Micklethwait’s brisket was actually Solient Green I wouldn’t love it any less (or, rather, Soylent. Thanks, Dave). It’s THAT GOOD. Their ribs were big and meaty, and so juicy that I took video of the juice dripping out of the pork as I went to take a bite. That’s love right there. Now, I’m not a huge sausage fan. If it’s not a jalapeno cheddar brought out of New Braunfels I probably won’t eat it, but their pork belly sausage was very tasty and a nice change of pace to the usual merely spicy or overly-greasy BBQ joint sausage.

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We ended the meal with one of Micklethwait’s homemade Moon Pies. Flaky, sweet, moist, and creamy, not to mention massive, it was an excellent ending to a fantastic meal. I’m not sure these are the best for a hot summer’s day because the chocolate does get messy, but they come out of a cooler all nice and chilly, and the sweetness cuts through the savory meat flavor, perfectly rounding out a great meal.

Is it better or as good as Franklin’s? Well, them’s fightin’ words and it’s too early in my young years to get into that kind of debate. What I can say, however, is I have no problem skipping the line at Franklin’s and hitting up this joint and I certainly don’t feel I’m missing anything. I no longer have to drive to Lockhart or stand around on hot pavement for three hours to get great brisket and ribs. I can get incredible Q right here in Austin from a food truck and not have to take a half day from work to do it, provided Micklethwait is open. And I believe it will only be a matter of time until they either have to expand or start running out of food early in the day due to popularity. Bottom line is they’re just that good.

UPDATE: I went with coworkers for lunch today. I got a single huge 1/3 pound pork rib, a 1/4 pound of brisket, 2 bottles of water, and a small side of grits. Myself and a male friend split the meal and the entire thing was $11 with tip.

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Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer is open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 3pm and is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday 4:30pm to 8pm. They are located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th street. CASH AND CARDS ACCEPTED

Reverse Reese’s: Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies!

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Okay, life has been so stressful and overwhelming lately, that I’ve gotten away from the fun things. I have only been to the gym twice this week, I’ve barely been eating (let alone eating well), and I’ve allowed what brings me joy to be pushed away by things that already deserve less of my time than I give them.

So today I am reclaiming my life just for me: I went to the gym this morning, had a light and bright brunch, cleaned my house while my hubby did laundry, carved a pumpkin and NOW I’m going to make some peanut butter cookies!

My Jack Skellington Jack-O-Lantern

Chip looooooves peanut butter cookies, but I find them to often be salty and lacking…probably because they don’t have any chocolate in them. Well, I’m changing that today, dammit. This afternoon I’ll be making what I call a Reverse Reese’s, that is I peanut butter cookie stuffed with chocolate. 1. Are these healthy? No. 2. Do I care? See the answer to the first question.

Reverse Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter (Smooth or crunchy. I use smooth, because, like a child, I think crunchy is gross.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour (You want to sift it? What are you, an over-acheiver?)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (Optional. I find there’s enough salt in the peanut butter that this isn’t necessary.)                     1 cup Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Use Jiff peanut butter. Or Peter Pan. Or your local grocery store’s generic brand. I know, I know, these are processed, but it’s much harder to get the correct consistency both before and after cooking if you use something organic that often separates. Also, spritz your measuring cup with a little non-stick spray so your peanut butter doesn’t wind up being obnoxious to get out of there. Whip together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla. Incorporate the egg. Sprinkle in the flour with your mixer on low in 2-3 batches. Add the baking soda and salt if using, and mix for an additional 30 seconds. or until everything is well combined. It will pull cleanly away from the sides of your bowl when complete.

If your kitchen is warm or it’s a hot day, stick the dough in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 (F). Use this time to clean up. I gave my KitchenAid mixer a good cleaning, tossed most stuff in the sink and wiped down the counter. My KitchenAid is my dream boat, which I inherited from my grandmother. It’s from the 70’s, just look at the plug on the thing, and it works like a champ! Love. It.

Once your dough is ready, take a heaping tablespoon of the peanut butter goodness and flatten in the palm of your hand. Smoosh (that’s the medical term) 8-10 chocolate chips into the center and fold the dough over and seal. Try and keep the chocolate chips in a cluster in the center if you want a Reverse Reese’s. Worst case scenario is you wind up with chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, so you can’t really mess this up. Place on a cookie sheet (these are oily enough that you don’t need to spray your pan) and gently press to about a half inch thick.

Bake for 13-16 minutes. I like mine soft and chewy, so these came out after 14 minutes. Let rest 3-5 minutes before moving off the cookies sheet because they are very delicate when they first come out.  

Serve with milk and a cool Autumn night. 

Crispy Pork Tacos (Paleo)

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On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.

With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.

Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style

1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops

2 TBSP minced garlic, divided

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp chile oil

2 tsp Sriracha

1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)

Juice of one lemon

1TBSP water

1 TBSP white vinegar

1 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder

1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.

1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)

2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

Topping

Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 red wine vinegar

2 tsp salt

1. 5 tsp black pepper

3 tsp sugar

About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.

Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.

Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.

Austin Gastro Graze 5: Asia Cafe

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I love this place. When I’m reminiscent for New York Chinese food, I have to head to Asia Cafe. I’m still looking for a place with NYC style egg rolls, but they may simply not exist out here. Every thing else delicious that I crave, however, can be found at Asia Cafe. You don’t have to take my word for it, though, as Asia Cafe is a local favorite among people of all walks of life in Austin and surrounding areas as well as extremely deserving of their 95% positive rating on Yelp.

There are two things you can count on at Asia Cafe:

1. Delicious food.

2. A line. (See countable item number 1)

You order at the counter, receive a number, and they call out your order number once it’s ready. Often my husband and I will call in an order. When you call in an order for pick up, they ask you skip the line. March right up to the front and let them know you called in an order for pickup. Yes, it looks and feels rude, BUT your food is sitting back there on the counter and that’s what they ask you to do. I have actually waited in line twice after calling in an order, keeping my food waiting a solid extra 15 – 20 minutes and the woman behind the counter hit my arm – “Come to front!” she berated me. And she’s right. Chip and I normally are craving pieces of home when we go there, which is shameful because there are dozen upon dozens of dishes to try. It’s great to go with friends, grab a table and order family style. It’s affordable, super tasty, and very affordable. Their General Tso’s is the best in town, as are their green beans and eggplant dishes. Their spring rolls are good, but are served with a little container of applesauce; I prefer duck sauce, which they don’t actually offers, but this really doesn’t matter. Every else is so good. Their dumplings are made in house and are an excellent change to the general pre-frozed fare you get at other restaurants. I don’t think I’ve every ordered a dish over $9.95 and the servings are so large that there’s always enough for lunch the next day. If my husband and I order one order of General Tso’s, a vegetable, and an order of dumplings, our bill is well less than $30 and there are always left overs!

I’m already disappointed in this review. Each and everyone of my friends loves Asia Cafe and everyone has a separate favorite dish that I’m definitely going to miss out placing in here. A couple of friends claim Asia Cafe’s spicy fish to be the best they’ve had, as well as excellent garlic pork, baby bok choy, and crispy tofu dishes. Asia Cafe is excellent for both meters and vegetarians.

Sweet potato pancake with a stuffing of black bean curd.

Baby Bok Choy