eating

Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

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I can’t eat like I used to. About a year and a half ago I picked up running for some ungodly reason, and damned if it hasn’t had a fantastic effect on my health. So for Christmas Eve I’ve decided to make a wonderful dinner that’s also on the lighter side: Salmon Filets on cedar planks. Of course to aid in people feeling like they’re over-indulging I’ll be adding richness in the form of a fresh hollandaise sauce.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

Ingredients

4 salmon filets (4 – 6 oz each)

2 Cedar planks, roughly 6″ x 12″ or so (Optional)

Marinade

3 gloves garlic, minced

4 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp black pepper

1 ½ tsp salt

 

Hollandaise

4 egg yolks

1 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup unsalted melted butter

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp tarragon

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp white vinegar

Soak your cedar planks, if you’re going that route, for at least 2 hours in lightly salted water. Meanwhile whisk marinade ingredients and pour over salmon filets. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes, turning once.

Heat oven to 400. If not using cedar planks, spray a glass pan or cookie sheet with non-stick spray or cover in aluminum foil, and place salmon skin side down on cookie sheet or plank. Bake salmon uncovered for 12-16 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork. Cook until the internal temp of 130-135 degrees is reached; the more you cook salmon the “fishier” tasting it will become. Me? I like my fish to lack any “fishiness” and aim for just a warm center, about 12-13 minutes of cooking.

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While the salmon is baking, get your hollandaise together. I’m not going to lie: This isn’t fun to make. Is it worth it? Yes. Will your arm whisk those yolks so much that you’ll feel it 12 hours after finishing your meal? Probably.

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Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel or glass bowl until they’ve thickened a bit. Please the bowl over a saucepan containing water that is barely simmering (or a double boiler if you got one); make sure the water level is low enough that it does not touch the bottom of the bowl you’ve placed over it. While whisking the egg yolk mixture, drizzle in the melted butter. Once incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the salt, peppers, and tarragon. If the sauce becomes too thick, whisk in the white vinegar. If the sauce is too thin move it back over the simmering water for another couple of minutes while whisking constantly. It should be thick enough to nicely coat a spoon, but still be drizzled over your yummy target of fish, poached eggs, artichoke, etc.

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Once your salmon is out of the oven drizzle about ¼ TBSP of Hollandaise sauce over every 1 oz of fish. If you’ve got fillets that are roughly 4oz each, I would recommend a mere 1 TBSP of Hollandaise per filet, as you want to TASTE the salmon. Sure, there will be some who want to drown the protein in the Hollandaise, but they really just want the Hollandaise, not the fish. And, besides, if you have some Hollandaise left over, you can store it in tupperware in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat by whisking over the double boiler again, i.e. EGGS BENEDICT FOR BREAKFAST THE NEXT MORNING!! Whoot to the Whizoot.

Serve with rice, a simple salad, or even grilled asparagus with shaves Parmesan.

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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

Austin Gastro Graze 2 UPDATE: MORE Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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*Scroll to bottom for Update and new photos of items.

There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

* 6/23/12 update

Went to the Bake Sale again today with a friend who just had a baby. What better way to get your strength back then to indulge in delicious pastry offerings?! Today was just like the other visits I’ve made to the Bake Sale: Excellent choices, incredible recipes, and cash only. I did notice, however, that after the usual intense burst of early birds, a line that always wraps around the building, the line really wore down to nothing at about 10:45am and there were still plenty offerings left. That being said, they do have a lunch rush so that window of opportunity can be fleeting. I wanted to show the reader, however, exactly what you can get for $20.

Please excuse the bites taken out of a couple of pieces above.

Also, please note that they are not sitting on a regular plate; they are on a platter.

What I purchased this pat Bake Sale was a strawberry cream cheese danish, made with fresh strawberries and it was HUGE, see below. It was more sweet than savory, but because the strawberries were fresh they weren’t too sweet, and the cheese was more tangy than sugary. I’m not normally a fan of “sweet” nor danishes, but this was created in perfect balance. Rather than eating a bit of dessert for breakfast, the freshness of the berries and creamy cheese counter against the flaky and buttery dough.

There’s also a ham & cheddar turnover that was massive and flavorful with thinly sliced ham and a thin spread of mustard on the inside. The turnovers where new and they offered the classic sweet apple as well as the ham. There were also sour cream donuts, that, like the danish, balanced sugar with intense flavors that made it far more in depth than merely sweet.

I  purchased a sausage breakfast sandwich, which was kept from being messy, by the ingenious method of cooking the eggs. While the sandwich itself is very, very large, it’s easily sharable, cutting in half does not cause the layers to fall apart and, as a Neat Freak as well as a Foodie, this is something I appreciate. The eggs are light and fluffy, and have been baked almost in a Yorkshire Pudding like way. If you notice above, it’s classic biscuit followed by a richly flavored sausage – I’m not normally a fan of sausage, but this was sweet and savory, absolutely delicious – and then another layer prior to the bottom of the biscuit. That layer is the whipped eggs, keeping the sandwich from sliding around on a round egg top and making sure that the eater gets a bite of white and yolk in each nibble. And, and finally, there’s a gruyere and black pepper pop-over.

The above plate cost $20 exactly. It fed myself, my friend (who has quite the Saturday brunch appetite), and we still have plenty of left overs to get us through brunch today. Though, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t stop eating that danish! I had brought friends to F+D with me on this trip and they, too, were blown away, asking before we left that we make sure to visit F+D regularly from now on.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Prime Rib like Butter

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For Thanksgiving I always do a Prime Rib Roast. Screw turkey; it’s dry and boring and literally puts people to sleep.

Thanksgiving of 2011 I made a roast that I just was not pleased with. It had NO flavor and the cooking method I used was less then desireable. I like my meat medium-rare, which is mostly pink, but warm through. I tried that old method of setting the oven to 500 degrees, cooking for five minutes per pound, and then turning the over off and letting the roast sit in there for 2 hours. Yeah, guess who had to recook her roast two hours later? Not fun. My father uses the Showtime Rotisserie, Ron Popeil’s thing, which Dad just refers to as the “SetItAndForgetIt”, and it does normally do a good job. I, however, do not own one of those. So, last night, on my husband’s 30th birthday, I decided to use a tried and true method: low and slow. Placed in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven, I cooked the roast until it reached 130 degrees. That’s it.

Time here doesn’t matter. You need a meat thermometer, period. Seriously. You want time, though? Fine. If your roast is room temperature it will probably take about 30 minutes per pound at 200. If it’s not completely room temperature, then it might take 35-40 minutes a pound. Personally, I don’t like to screw around with such an expensive piece of meat, so I bought a $10 meat thermometer and never looked back.

This recipe is about appreciating the cut known as the prime rib for what it is, ultra meaty deliciousness that’s meant to be served rare, with sauces or butters, that melts in your mouth and tastes fabulously of cow.

I didn’t get a bone-in roast only because the dinner was just for Chip and I. I found a prime roast that weighed 3.8 lbs, cost $28, and felt it would be good for us. If we wanted to have a couple of friends over for an impromptu dinner, there would be enough, and at the same time it was the right size to allow for a long, slow cooking. An hour before cooking, I took the roast out of the fridge. In hindsight I should have taken the roast out about three hours prior to cooking, but, thanks to my thermometer, it didn’t really matter. After an hour of sitting out, I put my roasting pan on my stove top and over high heat I seared each side of my roast for about four minutes per side.

Once seared, I let the meat cool for about 10 minutes and then I rubbed kosher salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic on all its sides, but especially on the fat on top. Once seasoned, I placed the rack into the roasting pan and placed the Prime Rib into the rack, fat side up. I placed the meat thermometer into the center at a decent angle so it could be read periodically without having to pull the entire roast from the over. As it roasts fat side up in a rack all that salt, pepper, and garlic would mingle with the liquifying juices and pour down through the meat while slowly cooking. A. Mae. Zing.

Once the roast reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I let the Prime Rib rest uncovered on a cutting board for 30 minutes. The roast isn’t going to gain much in terms of heat after cooking so slowly, but those juices will be reabsorbed into the meat. I realize that my old, out-dated thermometer in the picture above states that medium meat has a temperature of 160, but I disagree. America’s Test Kitchen recommends removing a rib roast at 130, many chefs I know remove their beef at 123-127, and all of us agree meat done to the point of 160 is dry and over well, let alone mere medium. 130 degrees is more then enough to kill the bacteria we worry about.

Cooking this for so low a temperature and so long a period meant the juices stayed within the meat and that the proteins had extra time to break down. This was the juiciest, tenderest slice of steak I’d ever eaten. Husband and I were both blown away. We’d had filet mignon that was four times the price that wasn’t nearly has delicate and flavorful as this prime rib.

I’m not a fan of horseradish, so with this I made a seasoned butter, using have a stick of room temperature unsalted butter, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 clove of crushed garlic, 1 half a minced shallot, and 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley. The steak really didn’t need it, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

Our meal was served with a salad with bleu cheese, sauteed fennel, and fresh bread. No potatoes necessary! I apologize now for the photo, however; I was more then half way through stuffing my face when I realized I didn’t have a picture of the final product, and my husband had gone back for seconds and unceremoniously hacked away at the meat rather than slicing prettily as I had done for his first serving.

Poached Eggs Easy like Sunday Morn’

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Perfect Poached eggs every time are super easy. Granted, they can be a little messy, there’s no longer a reason to fear making an egg to top your sauteed asparagus or to have with Hollendaise. Me? I eat it a little simpler with a piece of toast and slice of proscuitto.

We’re looking at steps here more then a “recipe”.

Take a skillet – that’s right, leave your pot in the cupboard as it has no place in poaching an egg. I used an 8inch pan. I filled it almost to the bring with water, leaving only about a 1/2 inch around the edge. I placed it on the stove, added 4 Tbsp or so of white vinegar. I do this by eye. Any where from a few tablespoons to a quarter cup is fine, but very necessary. It’s not going to alter the taste of your egg…though it may make your house smell slightly pungent. Then crank that burner up and get that water boiling.

While waiting for the water to start rolling, crack your egg into a small handled mug. This makes it easier to slide that little baby into the water without the whites freaking out and flying away.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat. You heard me. Turn. It. Off. Get the lips of the mug with your egg in it as close to the water as safely possible and gently pour the egg into the water. Cover and set your timer for 4 minutes. Once that timer goes off, remove your egg from the water with a slotted spoon and strain on a paper towel or stop the cooking by placing it in an ice bath. Once ready to eat, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little dried parsley.

You can do up to 4 eggs in the pan at once if need be, but remember to adjust your water for displacement. When I remove my egg, I strain it on a paper towel for a minute before making a plate and digging in. You can adjust the doneness of your egg by cooking as little as three minutes to as many as five. You can also halt the cooking by removing your poached egg from the hot water and dropping it into an ice bath, which you can keep in your fridge for future eating for up to 5 days. Whether served on a steak, over sauteed or steamed veggies, or just a la cart like my breakfast, there’s always room for a poached egg. And, just in case you were wondering, a poached egg is a mere two points on Weight Watchers. So go ahead, eat four.

Freakin’ delicious – and classy, too!

Ultra Quiche Lorraine

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The evening’s dinner is brought to you by everything that’s bad and fatty for a human body. And delicious.

Quiche Lorraine is just a name.

Roughly translated it’s “Bacon and Egg Yolks covered in Cheese” Pie.

The first time my husband ate this he wound up having seconds three hours later at 10pm in lieu of dessert. It’s heavy comfort food; a single slice should send you into a food coma second only to your family’s Thanksgiving feast.

So whatcha gonna need?

6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped to about 1 inch pieces. This winds up being just over 1 cup of bacon. You can also use pancetta, which is what I was going to get, but the line was just long at the supermarket today and I hate people, so I didn’t want to wait.

1 1/4 cup 1% milk. Just a note here: classic recipes of quiche call for all cream. Now, I don’t want to die of a coronary two bites in, so I do a milk and 1/2 & 1/2 mix. You, however, can do all cream, some cream, no cream, whatever the hell you want.

1 1/2 cup half & half

4 eggs

1 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, diced into 1/2 inch pieces. I just bought a hunk and cut it up, but you can also ask your deli for a slice or two that’s 1/2 inch thick, which is what I was going to do, but, again, the line, and the hatred of people, etc…

6 wedges Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Cheese. I used original stuff, but use whatever flavor you would like.

1 cup asparagus, sliced into 1 inch long pieces on the diagonal.

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp dried dill

2 deep dish pie crusts. I used the frozen ones and thawed them.

1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese, optional

Preheat your oven to 375. Saute the bacon over medium to medium high heat stirring frequently; render the fat, but keep it soft. Once most of the fat has melted away, move the bacon pieces to a plate with paper towels to absorb any lingering grease. In a sauce pan, scorch the milk  and half & half. Turn the heat on high, let it bubble up to almost boiling over, and remove it from heat to let cool. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the spices, then slowly, slowly temper the eggs with the milk mixture until combined.

Prick the bottom of the pie crusts. Sprinkle the bacon into the bottom of each. Then add the Swiss cubes. Break, or smoosh, the Laughing Cow cheese as best you can and drop bits of it in each crust. Place the 2 pies onto a cookie sheet and put on the middle rack of your oven. While the it’s still pulled out a bit, pour the custard mixture slowly and evenly into each. Then bake for 20 minutes.

While the quiches are baking, steam the asparagus until just fork tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and dry well. Once the first 20 minutes of baking are up, pull the quiches out, sprinkle the tops with asparagus, and bake for another 15 minutes. You may need to put foil collars around the crusts of the pie crusts if you feel they’re browning too much. I put them on for safety, but it wouldn’t have been horrible without them.

Once those next 15 minutes are up, sprinkle the tops of each quiche with a little of the Manchego cheese if using it. This is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain and adds a beautiful bit of flavor without being as strong as a goat cheese. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.

Cool for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Yep. Let these puppies setup for quite a while. Serve with a salad mixed with sweet berries and a light citrus vinaigrette to accompany the bacony saltiness of the quiche. Maybe a dollop of sour cream, or creme fraiche if you have fancy-schmancy stick up your ass. And have a Leinenkugel’s with a wedge of lemon to balance every thing out. Why the hell not.

Pork Chops in Marinara Sauce

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I like creating something new in my kitchen, but sometimes I figure out a tasty recipe that’s a cinch to make and I just get stuck in a habit of making it regularly. In other words, new excitement has been leading to regularity. I decided to make an old family favorite to reignite the spark in my kitchen.

I’m not a big pork fan. I love a good banh mi, and ribs here or there, but that’s where my interest stops. Growing up, however, we had pork most Sunday’s at family dinner. My grandmother would make her usual marinara sauce (something I can make with my eyes closed and both hands tied behind my back), but she would a sometimes add fatty, bone-in pork chops and let them simmer low and slow for a few hours, cooking in the sauce while the sauce absorbs the delicious porkiness to make the usual Sunday meal a little more special.

I figured I’d give this a shot. Besides, cooking sauce on the weekend is great, because you have it for pasta and pizza for the rest of the week.

3 TBSP olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced or 1/2 cup diced onion

1 very ripe peach, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup wine, your favorite

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 28oz can whole or diced peeled tomatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes

8 large button mushrooms cut into 1/4’s or 1/8’s depending on your own bite preference

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 TBSP fresh chopped basil

1 TBSP parsley

1 TBSP kosher salt

1/2 TBSP black pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp sage

1 TBSP tomato paste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2.5-3 lbs center cut, bone-in loin chops

Juice of 1 lemon

Like most Italian recipes, this one starts with a shit ton of garlic. If you can’t get a shit ton, a butt ton will do. Or five large cloves. Which ever works. In 2 TBSP of the olive oil over medium heat, warm the minced garlic cloves, the shallot or onion, which ever you decide to use, and the peach. You want to sweat the garlic and onions a little, but don’t allow them to brown. After about 5 minutes add the wine (because of the pork I used a white wine I like, but anything that’s good will work), and stir. Add the tomatoes, both canned and cherry, mushrooms, chicken stock, and the spices. Sprinkle in the salt, stir, and incorporate the tomato paste. Once the paste is dissolved into the rest of the mixture, toss in the parm and mix well. Congratulations: you got yourself some marinara.  Also, just as a side note, you can make this as thin (for pizza) or as chunky (for anything else) as you want. Add green bell peppers or chunks of fresh tomato to cook down and swap the crushed canned tomatoes for a second can of whole. If you want a smoother sauce omit the mushrooms and do a second can of crushed.

I like making entrees over baking because baking is exact. Dinner is whatever the hell you want it to be.

Bring the stock pot of tomato magic up to a bubbling simmer. Then turn the heat to low, so the sauce is still very hot, but barely bubbling, and add the pork chops. Cook these on low for about 2-2 1/2 hours. You can sear them before hand, but I chose not to, simply because I was too lazy to dirty another pan. The slower you cook the chops the more juice they will retain.

After about two hours, or when the chops reach an internal temperature of 160-165 remove them from the pot. Add the lemon juice to the tomato sauce. Stir and taste; add any additional salt or pepper. And viola!

I served mine with penne & salad. Classic Italian dinner.