Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Discoveries

Fall comes and so does comfort food!  Warm, cozy comfort food! 

My comfort food tends to be mashed potatoes and warm biscuits.  Chowders can do the trick if they're not too complicated in flavors - a good creamy potato chowder can definitely make that slow easy smile come across my face!

With my daughters, Mac n' Cheese tends to be the go-to comfort food.  Bad day at school?  Warm Mac n' Cheese after school brings that slow smile to their faces.  Boyfriend problems?  Mac n' Cheese makes them disappear for just a moment while they smile through the cheesy goodness.  For me, that's not the case.  I could never eat Mac n' Cheese again and be completely content - until now!

I found an alternative that meets all the criteria of comfort food for me (and maybe you too)!

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese (serves 6)
1 recipe French Gnocchi
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp spicy mustard
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375F.  Coat a shallow baking dish with non-stick spray.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and add mustard.  Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Combine Gruyere and Gouda then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful.  Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper.  Arrange gnocchi in prepared baking dish in one layer.  Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle Parmesan over top.  Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

The flavors are subtle and smooth while the texture of the gnocchi gives it a melt-in-your-mouth warm goodness!  Although this may not replace the girls' mac n' cheese fixer-upper, it's definitely been added to the Comfort Food section of the cookbook!

Bucket List

There are a few things in cooking that I feel I have to try before I retire my pans and let someone else do the cooking for me!  I'm not talking about using liquid nitrogen or some weird slimy ingredients, just some foods that look yummy that I haven't made before.

I've always been fascinated by Gnocchi...  I think it's because of the way it's spelled!  It's delicious, creamy texture in soups and other dishes also entices me but I think it mostly that darned spelling.  After all, I make my own pasta so I'm sure it's not the challenge that has Gnocchi on my bucket list, it's that darned double "c" in there!

Time to get that bucket out and take a shovel full of Gnocchi out of it!!  But first, I needed to discover the correct pronunciation so off to Google I went!  I discovered a whole lot of arguments from Italians and French, chefs and experts, men and women!  I came away with the conclusion that I'm left to pronounce it however I want!  Some say gnawkee (kind of like in onion) and some say no-key...  I say "yummy"!

French Gnocchi (makes 6 servings)
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
3-4 eggs

Boil butter, water, milk, salt and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.  Just as mixture begins to boil, stir in flour; beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball around the spoon.  Reduce heat to low, beating dough 1-2 minutes to dry it.  (A film will form on the bottom and sides of the saucepan.)  Rest dough 10 minutes, then with a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, beat cheese, basil and parsley into dough just until combined.  Heat water in a saute pan to 160-175F.  Meanwhile, add first 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition until blended.  Lift dough with spoon to test consistency.  If it drips off the spoon and forms a V shape, it's ready.  If not, beat the remaining egg and add a portion of it to dough, beat, and test again.  Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium straight tip (or freezer bag with corner snipped off).  Pipe dough in batches into steaming water in 1 inch pieces, slicing off at the piping tip with a paring knife or scissors.  The gnocchi fall to bottom of pan but float as they poach.  Poach 3-5 minutes; remove from water with a slotted spoon.  Transfer gnocchi to parchment lined baking sheet; spread into a single layer.  Use gnocchi immediately, or cover and refrigerate.

This was so easy and so rewarding!  As I gazed at all my little gnocchi on the parchment I couldn't help but wonder why I'd waited so long to try something that is so versatile and simple to make.  Now let's try all kinds of new creations with these little doughy dumplings!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tropics in the Fall

I'm back!  It feels so good!

Now it's time to get back in the kitchen and create!  This week will be spent on all the wonderful food and treats for the Dia De Los Muertos Halloween Party but I thought I'd jump on here real quick and jot something down and share a recipe just to get back in the swing of things.

Typically, when I make a meal, everything has the same ethnic or cultural background.  When I saw the idea for a Hungry Hawaiian Burger I knew it was time for a Tropical BBQ, complete with Hawaiian Pasta Salad!  As I glance up outside and see the fall colors and the misty sky, and I feel the coldness on my bare toes, I think it's time, once again, for a Tropical BBQ!

Hungry Hawaiian Burgers
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 pineapple, cored and sliced
1 recipe (below) homemade teriyaki sauce
6 slices Havarti cheese
6 Kings Hawaiian hamburger buns
Romaine lettuce
Salt/Pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper.  The homemade teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple are the flavors here so don't over do the seasonings.  Shape the ground beef into thick patties and set aside at room temperature.  Saute the mushrooms in butter, adding a pinch of salt and pepper while cooking.  Don't overcook them, cook them just until soft.  Remove from heat and set aside.  We'll be grilling the beef patties and pineapple slices until nice grill marks appear and burgers are at the proper temperature as soon as the teriyaki sauce is done!

Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 cup Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Juice of 2 fresh orange wedges
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp water
Dash of ground ginger

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan.  Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously until it starts to reach a boil.  Remove from heat and stir again.  Set aside while you grill the burgers and pineapple slices (I lightly grill the buns too, they look pretty and they stand up to all the dripping just a little bit better).

Assemble the burgers:  Open bun, place burger on the bottom half of the bun, add a slice of the Havarti cheese, a few mushroom slices on that and then a grilled pineapple slice.  Spoon some sweet aromatic teriyaki sauce over that beautiful stack, add some Romaine lettuce and the top of the bun and enjoy!

My mouth is watering!  Time to make the grocery list and include these ingredients.  Oh, by the way, when I was in Hawaii at the Dole Plantation I learned to pick a fresh pineapple - the only way to know if it's perfect on the inside is to look at the eyes on the outside - they must all be the same size.  Don't worry about color and definitely not the smell (too ripe if you can smell it), just go by the size of the eyes.  And also, always rinse the pineapple in cold water before serving or grilling and it won't "burn" your mouth!