Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thomas Keller Ad Hoc Brownies

Have you noticed a pattern yet? 

I am not a huge sweets person.  If I had to guess, I'd say about 80 % of my posts consist of savory foods.  Which is so funny because growing up, I LOVED to bake.  Still, I don't mind it but I'd much rather spend my time cooking (which does not often require exact measurements) than baking (which does).  

With that being said, I do love me a good chocolate brownie! Through the years,  I've tried many recipes and much to my dismay, they all turned out not to be the recipe... until I made these. 

Shiran from Pretty. Simple. Sweet. posted this Thomas Keller recipe on her page a few months ago and I just knew that these would be in my future someday... or in my belly!  She is pretty much the master of sweets so any recipe she posts, I trust that it will be amazing.  And boy, did these deliver

Of course her brownies look a lot better than mine.  That is probably because I barely waited 10 minutes for them to cool before cutting.  I knew I had to take pictures before we could devour them with a glass of milk and patience was not on my side.  

On a side note, the final countdown is on.  In almost one week we will be saying our goodbyes to Cleveland and moving down to Arlington.  I am excited, anxious, sad and happy all at one time.  I think we are going to love it, but that doesn't make leaving family and friends any easier.  I'm even getting a little choked up as I write this... 

But it's nothing that a chocolate brownie can't fix ;)  

Thomas Keller Ad Hoc Brownies
3/4 cup flour
1 cup dutch-processed/dark cocoa powder
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small shards
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan. 
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt and then set aside
Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a medium bowl in the microwave in 30 second increments; stirring between each. Add the remaining butter to the melted butter and stir until it melts and gives the butter a creamy consistency. 
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes until it becomes thick, pale and ribbons form.  Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Add the chopped chocolate and mix to combine.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. I like to have my brownies on the "under-baked" side because I don't enjoy crunchy crusts.  
Cool in the pan until the brownie is at room temperature (or at least try to... it's difficult). Run a knife around the edges, and flip the brownie onto a cutting board. Cut into squares and dust the tops with powdered sugar just before serving.
The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, however, they most likely will not last that long.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Croque Monsieur + Madame

So I am a sucker for a good romcom (or romantic comedy for those of you who aren't privy to how the kids are talking).  Nine times out of ten, when I choose a movie to watch, it will either be a book-adapted-to-film or just an ole' feel good romcom.  That being said, It's Complicated is one of my favorite movies.  I know, I cheesy, but I'd watch this over Gone with the Wind or The Godfather any day!  

At one point in the movie, Meryl Streep's character makes a Croque Monsieur.  The first time I saw this, I had no idea what a Croque Monsieur even was.  A quick Google search and you would have thought I was Columbus discovering America.  What a beautiful way to make a ham sandwich! 

There are tons of variations to this French dish, but I like mine with an egg on top, otherwise known as a Croque Madame.  I always serve this decadent sandwich with a light salad on the side to cut through the richness.  So if you have it in you to take a few more steps to make the best sandwich ever, I assure you that this will be one of the best things you taste all week!   

Croque Monsieur
white bread
black forest ham
Dijon mustard
bechamel sauce
shredded gruyere (2 ounces for each sandwich)
fresh grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Make the bechamel sauce (recipe below).  Preheat large skillet over medium heat.  Turn broiler in oven on high.

Spread Dijon mustard on one side of bread and bechamel on the other.  Top with 4-5 slices of ham and thev close up the sandwich.  Melt butter and olive oil in the preheated skillet. Toast sandwiches on both sides until each side is golden brown.

Remove from pan and place the toasted sandwiches on a foil lined sheet pan,  Top each sandwich with more bechamel and then top that with gruyere and some fresh grated Parmesan.  Place pan in oven and broil until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  I served ours with an arugula salad tossed with a lemon-honey-mustard vinaigrette and some shaved Parmesan.

:: note ::
I did not list amounts because it will change depending on how many sandwiches you are making and the size of the bread.  The recipe I listed below will make enough bechamel for about four large sandwiches.  Plan for about two ounces of gruyere for each normal size sandwich.  

Bechamel Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
a touch of fresh grated nutmeg (or a pinch of dry)

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk in until smooth.  Continue to cook for another two minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the flour.  Gradually add 1 cup of milk while whisking to eliminate any lumps.  Increase the heat just a touch to bring sauce to a low boil.  Gradually add the rest of the milk while whisking the entire time.

Once the sauce has come up to a boil, this will thicken the sauce.  Now is the time to add the salt, pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, hot sauce and nutmeg.  Continue whisking and reduce the heat to low. This will be thicker than a normal bechamel because you will need to spread it on the sandwiches.

Croque Madame
Same as above, however, you top the sandwich with a sunny side up egg.  Ever since I read this technique on The Pioneer Woman, I've never made it another way.  This method works like a charm every time!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Chorizo Stuffed Dates with Smokey Tomato Dipping Sauce

For the past few weeks, Matt and I have been on a Tour de Cleveland; eating our way through this great city's amazing restaurants.  Since we are moving, our goal is to hit up each of our favorite spots prior to our departure.  

Throughout this gluttonous journey, we have seen a trend.   Farenheit.  Hodge's.  Tartine.  All of these restaurants have this amazing little appetizer on their menus.    And we can't resist ordering them every time. 

So what is a girl who has a cooking blog to do?  Recreate them of course!  I actually made these over the 4th of July.  Last night, we went to Farenheit with our good friends and got three orders of these.  So it is fair to say that I have had my share of bacon wrapped dates in the past week.  But right now, as I'm writing this, my stomach is growling and mouth is watering for more.  A bacon-wrapped-date monster has been born.  I.  Can't. Stop.  

Sweetness from the dates. Smokiness from the bacon.  Spice from the chorizo.  Creaminess from the cream cheese.  Tang from the tomato sauce.  If eating bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates is wrong, then I don't ever want to be right.  

Bacon Wrapped Chorizo Stuffed Dates
1 cup sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground raw chorizo
1 block (4 ounces) cream cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
8 ounces medjool dates, pitted
2 packages thin cut bacon

Preheat large skillet over medium high heat and add the onions and olive oil.  Cook for 4-6 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add ground chorizo and break up meat with wooden spoon.  Cook onions and chorizo until fully cooked.  Remove from heat and drain grease from pan.  

To the meat mixture, add cream cheese and basil.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Set aside to cool. 

Take pitted dates and slice down one side to open up the date.  Repeat until all dates have been sliced.  Using your hands, pinch about a 1/2 tablespoon's worth of meat mixture and stuff into each date.  Once all dates have been stuffed, it's time to wrap them with bacon. 

Place a wire cooking rack on top of a cookie sheet.  Remove bacon from package and slice each piece in half.  If the bacon slices are really wide, you might also want to slice each half piece of bacon lengthwise.  You don't want the bacon to be too thickly wrapped around the date or it will not cook properly and crisp up. 

Wrap each date with a half a slice of bacon.  Make sure there is only one layer around the entire date so it will cook evenly.  Also be sure to place the seam of the bacon underneath the date on the bottom.  By doing this, you won't have to use pesky toothpicks.  

Place dates into a 425 degree oven and cook for 18-22 minutes or until bacon is cooked and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Serve with a side of the Smokey Tomato Dipping Sauce.  

Smokey Tomato Dipping Sauce
3 heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1 onion, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, raw
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  

Chop up tomatoes and onions the scatter on two sheet pans.  On each pan, drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over each of the veggies as well as 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Toss to coat and then place int he oven. 

Cook for about 25 minutes, tossing about halfway through.  Remove from oven once the vegetables are cooked and caramelized.  

To a blender, add cooked onions and tomatoes (and all the juices), garlic clove, cream and liquid smoke.  Blend for about a minute until smooth.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper.  

Serve as a dipping sauce for dates.   You will have leftover sauce and it can be used to top chicken or toss with pasta.  

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