food

Pig & Fig – Quick, Easy, & Fancy – Paleo Friendly!

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A friend of mine has a neighbor with a wealth they don’t appreciate. Or, at least, more bounty than they can eat. Two huge fig trees, lime trees, and peach trees over-flow around the edges of their yard. Recently this friend of mine had the balls to ask that we have permission to pick at their harvest, and they graciously said “Yes”.

I love figs. I grew up with fig trees, in Connecticut of all places, and the sweet and delicate fruit was always a staple as the last course of dinner. My family did not, however, cook with this rich purple marvel. Now, however, with so many figs at our disposal or, rather, on our table, I’ve been forcing myself to come up with some new uses for this favorite fruit of mine.

Pork was an obvious place to turn. What compliments pig better than sweet? So I started with an easy, quick, flavorful, high protein, and – best of all – portable pig & fig recipe.

Ham cups are easy. If you have ham or prosciutto and a muffin/cupcake tin, you can make ham cups. For the filling, I decided on making a quiche like concoction to keep everything light and fluffy. This recipe makes eight cups; I recommend 2 or 3 for breakfast and they are easy to make on Sunday to be stored in tupperware for quick breakfasts throughout the week.

You’ll need:

8 slices deli ham or Prosciutto. I used black forest sliced on 1, though I would have used prosciutto if I wasn’t so lazy and didn’t want to wait in line.

2 eggs + 1 egg white. To make this fluffier you can use 1 egg + 2 egg whites.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped figs

1/2 TBSP Gorgonzola. I used just under a TBSP of Gorgonzola crumbles, but I like this flavor with the fig and ham. If you’re a fan use a little more than 1/2 TBSP, if not, use less.

3 TBSP plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray and lightly press a slice of ham into each muffin cup. It’s okay if your ham breaks or cracks: the egg will still setup just fine. Whisk together the eggs, figs, Gorgonzola, yogurt, parsley, salt, and pepper until blended and slightly frothy. Pour into ham cups until about 1/2-2/3 full.

Bake the cups for about 12 minutes. I baked mine for 11 only because they were cooked enough to dig into, but also so that when I reheat them later they won’t get horribly chewy and over cooked. Once finished the egg will have puffed a bit and, if slightly under cooking as I did, the very centers may jiggle slightly. Remove from oven and let sit 5 -8 minutes.

I served my cups with a trio of silver dollar honey pancakes, a recipe also on this site, and sliced figs. I topped the cups with just a little finely grated sharp cheddar, a bit more parsley, and I drizzled the figs with a little honey to bring everything together. The sweetness of the honeyed figs with the ham, creamy eggs, and bright Gorgonzola makes a great quick and easy breakfast to start the day with – and it’s healthy, too!

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

Austin Gastro Graze 3: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop & Hillside Farmacy

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Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

Heading to a dinner party and don’t know what to bring? Want something special for an appetizer, but don’t know what to plate up? Or maybe you’re just a lover of cheese, like me and want something exciting.

If any of those are sound familiar, and you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. This little place down on Duval, just north of the campus, is a great shop to try something new, get something impressive for the table, and really bring an evening of courses together.

If you need a very specific cheese for a recipe, you can bet that not only will Antonelli’s carry it, they’ll probably offer a number of variations. Overwhelmed shoppers need not fear, either, as the staff at this cheese emporium are incredibly nice and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable. Merely mention what flavors you do like or what you’re serving for dinner, and they’ll share tips and let you taste alternatives you may not know existed. And to bring everything together in perfect harmony, Antonelli’s also offers complimenting wines, honeys, meats, and baguettes. My friends and I have always said that if we were to win the lottery one of the first thing we’d do is have a dinner of a multitude of different cheeses, and Antonelli’s would be the only shop we’d need to make our purchases.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, Antonelli’s offers classes a couple of times a month for nerdy foodies in the need to know. Tickets are $35 and sell out pretty quick, so be sure to plan ahead. On top of all that, when you check out at Antonelli’s you have the option of giving them your email and name. They then will put you in their system so that you always know what you’ve ordered in the past and they can make recommendations on your next purchases that will delve you further into the world of cheese. We’re looking forward to having a Fromage Fest in fall, inviting each friend to bring a different kind of cheese, putting out pickles, breads, crackers, and wine and gouging until the sun comes up. When you have plans like that, suddenly Autumn feels very far away. Good thing I’ll have time to squeeze in a couple of classes before then!

Hillside Farmacy

Hillside Farmacy is a bakery and eatery located East 11th, just east of Blue Dahlia. My office chose to go for lunch recently for a coworker’s birthday, and our experience would be rated to 3 out of 5 stars, where as Blue Dahlia would be 5. I’ll review that for you at a later date, but let me just say Blue has Farmacy beat on price and execution.

The interior of Hillside Farmacy is very pretty, great usages of classic and modern. The staff is very “hipster”, but the client base is very, very mixed. A person going for lunch should expect to pay right around $10+ for their sandwich, which isn’t too bad. It’s choosing the right plate that’s a little tougher. Myself and four coworkers each ordered a different sandwich. Tap water was placed in the center of the table for us to serve ourselves, which was quaint, but it is Austin in late June, so having the option of ice, or even chilled water would have been nice (it was room temperature and the jar-glasses were iceless).

The short rib sandwich received excellent reviews from the two coworkers that shared it, and there was not a crumb left by the end of the meal. The grinder, which is similar to an Italian sub was also enjoyed, but at $11 it was much more than similar offerings at other locations. One coworker had the Forager, a brie and mushroom sandwich, which was very tasty (see picture below). I had the Faccia Bedda, and it was rather disappointing. Though the menu states it’s made with smoked mozzerella, it seemed to contain a single slice of deli counter cheese, sliced on the thinnest setting. I had to pull it a part to discover if there was any cheese on it at all and it was completely void of the deep smokey, salty flavor that normally accompanies this kind of mozzerella; it could have been American and made no difference in flavor. The single slice of tomato was awkward and the arugula was served on the side. My final coworker got a single bite into her pate sandwich before she began pick it apart (see below), finally quietly settling on going back to the office to eat other food. She was asked by two staff members why she had stopped eating (as well as why she was declining a box) and she explained very calmly and honestly, but politely as is her style: “The pate was very dry, almost like an over cooked burger patty. The bread is too big, and the strong flavors of the pickles, goat cheese, and mustard are far too much competition for each other.” To Hillside Farmacy’s credit, they took the sandwich off the bill, even though no fuss was made and no complaint; my coworker only explained the issue when pressed. One confusing aspect, however, was that one of the two Farmacy employees mentioned that he himself had had similar feelings about this particular sandwich, had received the same review of it from customers “all the time”….so why leave it on the menu or not change it?

While I always recommend trying new places to eat, Farmacy seems fairly hit or miss as well as being somewhat expensive. While it’s in a very good location, and has a charming interior, their menu needs a bit of work to be listed as a full fledged Foodie Find. It’s certainly worth trying, but be aware that what you get maybe hit or miss, especially for the price.

Austin Gastro Graze 1: Michi Ramen, Moo Bawk Oink, and Krak 2

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I like trying new things. By “things” I mean food.

Living in Austin means I get an ever evolving restaurant scene in which to bask in beautiful tasty goodness.

This past weekend I ventured to the North Austin Trailer Yard, NATY. Some bites were simple meh, but one place was amazing.

This trailer yard is right outside my gym, which is…unfortunate. It makes circuit training much less effective. But that’s mostly due to the good food found within.

On Saturday we ordered a beef Snarky cheese steak from Boo Bawk Oink and a Black and White Donut from Krak 2 which is within the same trailer as Moo Bawk Oink and a bottle of water. The entire tab came to $13, which we considered to be a bit pricey for trailer food. The sandwich was overly bready and the meat what I believe to be pulled brisket, in fact at first I questioned if it was pork, a little dry, but not bad. I prefer the horrible cheesesteak sliced meat, but it was a decent sandwich. The jalapenos are not spicy and the cheese more like white goo sauce. Good enough to try, not sure if I’d go back, especially considering its competition at NATY.

The donut was actually a square piece of fried dough with a whole in the center, drizzled with icing, hershey’s chocolate sauce, and Cocoa Krispies. According to the prices on Boo Bawk Oink’s website our sandwich and bottled water was $8. There weren’t prices for Krak 2 and aren’t any on their website, but based on our tab the donut was $5. While the fried dough “donut” was tasty – what fried dough isn’t? – it wasn’t worth $5. It was essentially a large beignets. Now, if it came with a scoop of ice cream then I’d dig the $5…

We also ordered a bowl of ramen from Michi Ramen. Michi Ramen is, in a word, AMAZING. Flavor, rich, warm, traditional, the comfort food you never knew your craved. Michi only has the room to create 50 bowls of Ramen for lunch and 50 for dinner, so their twitter is merely a count down of the bowls they have left. At noon on a Saturday, however, Chip and I had no problem scoring a bowl. The line was steady, though, and for good reason: As an American who thinks of ramen as those dried 38cent packets you can get at the grocery store. What Michi serves is incredible, flavorful, and even served with a poached egg if so desired. The broth is cooked for almost TWO DAYS with all natural ingredients (this is their claim, but boy does it taste like it!), pork bones, leaking their delicious marrow and flavors into a rich base for a ultra flavorful lunch/dinner. The standard ramen is served with two slices of Cashu on top, gorgeous, fatty, soy marinated braised pork. It was $9, but in this case it was money well spent. I took home our left over broth, let it coagulate and then sauteed spinach in it with the next night’s dinner of grilled steak and mashed cauliflower.

Yeah. It was awesome.

Yes, under the pork and poached egg and mushrooms there are ramen noodles.

Easy Fire-Free S’Mores

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In Austin we have the very weird problem of summer actually not being the season for S’mores. I love me some s’mores. All gooey, chocolatey, crunchy, sugary, and delicious. The thing is that here it gets entirely too hot to stand outside, have a fire toast a few ‘mallows, and throw together a s’more. Your chocolate will be melted by the heat of the sun, the flies will be all over you, and most of the time there’s a burn ban against fire pits anyway. Yes, we Austinites have 2 days of cooler days a year, Flash Not-Summer, where we can actually toast marshmallows for s’mores. Our seasons are as follows: Pre-Summer (January – February), Summer (March – October), Slightly Lesser Summer (November – December 29th), and, of course, Flash Not-Summer (December 30-31).

So, what to do? You can always microwave yourself one, but the chocolate is still hard as a rock and the graham cracker gets tough.

The simple answer: use your microwave for a simple ganache and make magic by swapping out the marshmallows for Fluff.

On a cookie sheet lined with wax paper I placed 14 graham cracker halves. I like a good amount of fluff, so in the center of each cracker I dropped s heaping tablespoon of the white stuff, allowing it to settle and spreading with a butter knife prayed with non-stick spray where needed. In a microwave-safe bowl I poured the contents of a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips with 5-6 tablespoons of butter.

I microwaved the mixture in spurts for no more than 12 seconds at a time, stirring at each break. Once the chocolate was melted, I dropped a spoonful, about a level tablespoon, onto the fluff. I placed a graham cracker 1/8th onto the top of each so that the eater would have a place to hold with their fingertips without getting all gooey. Then I placed them in the fridge for 30 minutes to setup a bit.

I was tempted to add strawberry slices to a few and peanut butter to a couple. You could really do so many toppings that would stick perfectly to the fluff, even bananas with a little peanut butter on top for an Elvis inspired treat.

More than anything, though, I recommend these for any time you need an easy chocolate fix or a dessert you can make with your kids. You can keep leftovers in tupperware on the counter for about 3 days or in the fridge for about 5 until the graham starts softening.

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.

Triple Chocolate & Shattered Dreams

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Alright, so “shattered dreams” is a bit over dramatic.

I haven’t been writing lately and I just feel awful. I don’t know what I think. That something will come from all of this? I don’t know. I’m ridiculous. I have been exhausted recently, some weekend  nights sleeping almost 12 hours, getting up in the morning only because I know I have to rouse myself from bed.

I’m not depressed, in fact I have a new job that I like very much. It’s just that said job keeps me very, very busy and by the time I get home I can barely get through the gym and cooking dinner, let alone cooking anything new and interesting.

And it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve been cooking a bit, but mostly making old standards. I’ve been meaning to do Pop Bytes as well, what with the over abundance of movie news for the summer, among other things, but I just…haven’t. Below are some pictures of foods I’ve made recently that I completely had intentions of posting here with recipes, none of which really matter, but keep scrolling and you’ll see the recipe for the triple chocolate cookies I’m baking as we speak. Rock.

Super easy scratch drop cheddar biscuits.

Grilled Pizza with eggplant, mozzarella, and smoked provolone.

Slow roasted Brisket in a red wine reduction with braised & blackened Brussel Sprouts.

Year of the Dragon cupcakes with Lemon-Vanilla center.

And this morning I mastered making poached eggs…

Which I ate with toast, a slice of aged provolone, fresh cherry tomatoes, salt & pepper.

Yum.

So, Triple Chocolate Cookies, yeah?

 This is from the America’s Test Kitchen archives. I was thinking of making chocolate crinkles or crackles or whateverthehell they’re called, but I didn’t like any of the recipes I’ve found. Normally, I have no problem with tweaking a recipe and experimenting, but today I wanted a no brainer.

3 oz. baker’s chocolate

1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) bittersweet chocolate chips. VERY important.

7 TBSPs unsalted butter

2 tsp instant espresso

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

love

Okay, so melt the baker’s chocolate, bittersweet chips, and butter together. Either use a double boiler, also known as a glass bowl over a simmer sauce pot of water, or ye olde microwave. You want it to be smooth and shiny. It’s important that the chips are bittersweet here because the chips have an emulsifier in them that helps them keep their shape, and that emulsifier will work the same magic on our cookies. I fucking love science in food!

Set aside the shiny chocolate. Mix the vanilla & instant espresso together, making instant vanilla espresso extract. It smells amazing, and that’s going to be incorporated through your cookies. Awesome. Now set that aside. In a stand mixer, beat the 3 eggs with the sugar for about 4 minutes on medium-high speed. I stupidly forgot to take a picture of this, but the mixture needs to be thicker, white, and almost creamy. While that’s frothing away, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Ready? Set it aside. Once the 4 minutes are up on the eggs and sugar, turn the mixer down to low, you don’t want to break that froth that you’ve made, and add the extract mixture. Then add the chocolate concoction and continue mixing for another 30 seconds on low, until everything is well blended.

Turn off the mixer and fold in the flour mixture, as well as the semi-sweet chocolate chips. The batter is like brownie batter at this point; set it aside for 30-45 minutes and it will thicken quite a bit. No, you don’t have to refrigerate it. Just set it aside. If it’s July and you live in Austin or Phoenix, then you might want to refrigerate the mixture, but otherwise, the counter is fine.

Once thickened, scoop heaping tablespoons of the chocolate goo on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350. I baked mine for 10 minutes and they probably could’ve used a minute or two more, but my oven normally runs warm. Now here’s the hard part: When you take them out you’re going to think “Those aren’t cooked through!” In fact, a toothpick should come out completely coated in browie-cookieness, if you were to test it. The thing is that these cool forever. Well, it feels like forever. So, take out your so-not-done cookies after about 11-12 minutes, and let sit on the cookie sheets  for ten minutes. Then move them to a cooling rack for an additional 30 minutes. You heard me. Finish baking these cookies and then go out and complete all your shopping, because it seems like an eternity for these to finally cool.

Once they are cool, though, you’re rewarded with a soft, chewy, triple chocolate espresso brownie cookie. Does anyone need these? No. Do you have to have them? Yes.

Rice Croquettes

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This is an old Depression Era throwback. It’s often the things we ate out of necessity that we cling to as comfort food. My grandmother, “Nonni”, would fry up everything if she had oil going. Left over rice never went to waste in the form of rice croquettes.

There’s no major science to this recipe. It’s an excellent excuse to make something fried if you have leftover rice from dinner or you can make it as a great appetizer on a drizzly evening. For this recipe I used:

3 cups over-cooked rice (see below)

3 TBSP finely grated NY sharp cheddar (I don’t believe in orange cheese)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

1 egg

2 TBSP milk

Boil the crap out of the rice. Keep an eye on it, let it absorb all the extra water, and stir, stir, stir. You want the rice very tender. Once the rice has boiled about ten minutes past it’s normal done time, take it off the heat and let it cool for at least 10 – 15 minutes. Mix together all the ingredients in no particular order until everything is well combined, make sure the egg is really blended into the rice mixture.

Bring 1-2 inches of vegetable or peanut oil up to 310-325 degrees in a sauce pan over high heat. While you’re waiting for the oil to reach the proper temperature, form your rice mixture into ovals about inch thick and 2-3 inches long. This mixture should make about 12. Use a small bowl of clean water to help everything from sticking to your hands, though it is a bit of a messy process. The ovals will be delicate; shape them as best you can.

Once the oil is heated carefully drop the rice croquettes into the oil. I am comfortable doing this carefully and slowly with my hands, as practice and experience has taught me how to do this without getting burned. If you’re at all nervous about dropping these delicate bites into the hot oil, place them on a spatula and then gently roll them of that into the oil using a spoon.

Fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes or until they are golden brown on one side. Then gently turn them using two forks for support and brown the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and parsley once they’re out of the pan.

Once you get making them down-pat, you can try stuffing them with hunks of cheese, prosciutto, or hot peppers. Use different spices in the mix based on your mood, anything goes with these really. With this recipe I recommend serving them as is or with a lemony, honey aioli. Hell, even honey mustard works well if a dipping sauce is needed. As a kid I loved them plain or with a little bit of fresh lemon squeezed over them. Delicious, simple comfort food made from leftovers from a time of an almost equally bad economy.

The Most Pointless Post Ever: Cupcake Surgery

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I want everything all at once, all the time, instantly. I keep most of these wants to myself, but when I see an outlet for one to be easily obtained, I go for it. Why the hell not?

I rarely have cupcakes. They’re good. Perhaps too good. They also go straight to my ass. Now, Hey Cupcake is…tasty. They’re a staple of Austin primarily because they’re bright and accessible with food trailers dotted around the city. BUT, if you really want an amazing cupcake, go to Sugar Mama’s on South 1st. Incredible AND they deliver. But Hey Cupcake had a new flavor and I wanted to try it.

The new flavor: John Lemon. It doesn’t taste like any John’s I’ve ever known, but the lemon is certainly noticeable, in a good way. Not too sweet, not fresh lemony, but not sugary, either. A Fresh Lemon&Mint cupcake would be great, but that’s really Sugar Mama’s arena.  The quandary is that I also love Hey Cupcake’s Sweet Berry (and their Double Dose and the Michael Jackson, but let’s stick to the point), so ‘why come they don’t’ have an amalgamation of those two flavors? (See that? I mixed a little Southern colloquialism with intelligence speak.)

I had to take things into my own hands.

“Hey, Honey,” I said turning to my buddy. “Are you getting that new John Lemon?”

“Yep.”

“If I got a Sweet Berry would you trade a bite for a bite?” I was going to trade full halves, but he didn’t have to know that right then.

“Sure.” And just like that I become a surgeon.

The plan was that I’d take my yellow and pink beauties home and simply swap the tops. An amazing idea creating a Strawberry Lemonade cupcake, but one that Hey Cupcake! won’t sell on their own…for some sad, sad reason. Chip didn’t mind because he always gets the majority of mine anyway; I get half way through one and I have to go lie down. And it was simple outpatient/cupcake surgery.

So, the rest of this pointless post because a picture book.

The Top Swap: Much tastier than Wife Swap

The amazing final product.

NOW GO EAT SOME CUPCAKES!

Chicken Soup Can Go to Hell: What My Soul Needs is Tom Yum Goong

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A while back a few friends had us over for a dinner party. After spending a few weeks in different areas of Indonesia and Thailand, these friends had picked up different local recipes they wanted to try out on their home turf. Delan was kind enough to share one of the recipes on to me, and I’ve finally built up the guts to make it myself.

It’s Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup served with lemon grass and shrimp. From the first bite (or slurp), I realized this soup was what my life had been missing. I had had cravings for the multi-layered flavors in this soup my entire life, yearning for the freshness, the sweet, the nasal clearing spice, and never even realized it until that first moment of taste.

Chicken soup can go to hell. What my soul needs is Tom Yum.

To make this soup even more special, most of the ingredients must be purchased from specialized Asian markets – especially when you live in Texas. Ironically, the closest one to me is a place called MT Market. The first time I heard of the place, I wondered why anyone would name their shop “Empty”.

Here’s the shopping list:

1lb prawns/shrimp cleaned and deveined. I like a larger shrimp, but what ever your preference will work.

7-10oz. stalk mushrooms. When you get enough of these deliciously thin stalk fungi swirling around in the broth, they act just like noodles.

3 stalks lemon grass cut into 2 inch segments.

4 lime leaves, torn.  I couldn’t find these any where, but if you can find it don’t chop these suckers. Just tear them.

1/2 cup galangal in slices. This is from the ginger family and the stuff we get here is usually grown in Hawaii.

1 cup cilantro. The recipe actually calls for a bunch of coriander. Do you know what fresh coriander leaves are? They’re cilantro.

3 TBSP chili oil/paste. Normally I’d use Srirachi, but this particular recipe noted Nam Prik Pow. I couldn’t find that, so I used 2 TBSP of chili oil and 1TBSP of srirachi. And it was spicy. Burn-your-lips spicy. So keep your own heat tolerance in mind when you make this.

1/4 cup lime juice. Limes are cheap – Get your self 4-6 limes and use the fresh stuff!

1/2 TBSP lime zest. I used this because I couldn’t find lime leaves, but the original recipe does not call for it.

5 tsp fish sauce. If you don’t have fish sauce you can use salt, but fish sauce is available everywhere, even Walmart, and it’s flavor in this is worth it.

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 cups water. Austin water is pretty questionable what with the mold and all. I don’t mind using it for pasta, but for this I used bottled stuff.

Put the water on to boil. Once it’s rolling, throw in the galangal, lemon grass, mushrooms, lime leaves (if you found them, other wise use the lime zest), and the fish sauce.

Bring back up to a boil and toss in the shrimp and coconut milk.

Bring to a boil again; this all doesn’t take long at all. Once it reaches a boil again, turn off the heat.

Add the chili oil/paste and the fresh chopped coriander-better-known-as-cilantro. Just before serving, add the lime juice.

The lime juice must be added right before serving to create the fresh and sour flavor.

I love the way the chili oil dances around the edges and top of the soup. You can make it with chicken, but if you follow the directions you simply can’t cook the shrimp wrong and they go so well in this. Make it when you’re sick to perk you up and clear your sinuses. If it’s too spicy for you, drizzle an additional tablespoon or two of coconut milk over your serving and stir to quell that fire right down. Chip actually dumped his rice right into the center of his bowl, making it a bit like a gumbo. And I looooove the mushrooms; they’ve got the perfect texture and are like uber healthy noodles.

This amazing, fresh, sour, and spicy concoction stands beautifully on it’s own or serve it with a bit of sticky rice and a beer on the side to quell the heat.

Also, don’t eat the galangal or lemon grass; I suppose you could, but they’re really just for flavor and quite woody.