Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pulled Pork Enchiladas

This morning, I suggested enchiladas for dinner sometime and tonight I came home to the smell of pork slow-cooking in the crock pot. Gail found a nice center-cut pork roast, which pulled apart easily after eight hours of cooking. Just before rolling them into the tortilla shells I got the most delicious nibble.  The recipe is from food.com with very little modification.

Pulled Pork Enchiladas
Makes 12

3 lb boneless pork roast
1 oz dry onion soup mix
1 ½ c salsa
4 oz diced green chilies
½ c sour cream
3 oz sliced black olives
10 oz enchilada sauce, red or green
2 c shredded Mexican blend cheese
12 small whole wheat tortillas
  1. In morning or day before, place pork roast in crock pot. Cover with onion soup mix and ⅔ of salsa; cook on low 8 hr or until meat easily pulls apart with fork. Shred pork with 2 big forks; drain excess liquid, reserving if desired.
  2. Drain chilis, reserving liquid if desired. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. In large bowl mix shredded pork with drained chilis, sour cream, remaining salsa and half of olives.
  4. Using 3 large plates: pour enchilada sauce on one, shredded cheese on another, leaving third empty. For each enchilada: Dip tortilla in sauce to cover one side, place sauce-side-up on empty plate. Fill with meat mixture; top with shredded cheese. Roll; place in baking dish.
  5. Pour remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese over top; bake 1 hr until browned and bubbly.
  6. Garnish with remaining black olives; pass extra salsa and sour cream at table if desired.
  • Add 1 T chili-garlic sauce to meat mix before rolling enchiladas.
  • Garnish with diced green onion.
  • Combine reserved liquid from crock pot and canned chilis; pour over enchiladas before baking.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maine Beer Company Zoe

Hops can add three different elements to beer depending on how long it boils while brewing. Long boiling times add bitterness. Short boiling times add the flowery flavor of the hops. Extra short boiling times add aroma. Typically, brewers add hops at different times to build elements of all three in their beers.

This Zoe ale from the Maine Beer Company is a hop celebration. The tag line just below the cute smiley face on the label reads, "Our Happy, Hoppy, Amber ALE."  There is a fair amount of hoppy bitterness and aroma, but the beer is dominated by the floral notes of the hops.

You can see the thick head in the picture, which telegraphs the almost chewy mouth feel. I would prefer a slightly less sweet finish. Nonetheless, this was a delightful change of pace from the Belgian ales I've been fixated on lately.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Banana-Cranberry Muffins, A Tale of Two Pans

Better late than never, a couple of weeks ago, Gail made these banana-cranberry muffins. Boy were they delicious. But as you can see from the picture, half came out with a golden color on the bottom even though both muffins tasted the same. They went into the oven in two different pans, but went in on the same rack at the same time. The only difference was in the pan.

The lighter muffins were cooked in the aluminum pan pictured to the left. The aluminum pan is made by the Mirro Aluminum Company, which is no longer in business. The golden muffins were cooked in a non-stick, Wilton pan. I'm guessing the darker pan transmitted the heat more effectively resulting in the golden color.

Gail extended her normal muffin mix with bananas and cranberry sauce. The tartness of the cranberries was a good balance to the often cloying sweetness of banana muffins. Gail substituted half the bananas below with cranberry sauce.

Banana Bread or Banana Muffins
Freeze over-ripe bananas as they occur, make banana bread when you have 3.
Makes 1 loaf or 12 regular-sized muffins

1 batch basic muffin recipe (below)
⅓ c sugar
3 mashed ripe bananas (minimum 1½ c mashed)
  1. Make basic muffin recipe, increasing sugar by 1/3 c. Add bananas to completed batter.
  2. For bread, bake in loaf pan until tester comes out clean, about 1 hr. For muffins, bake in muffin tins 20 min.
  • Substitute orange juice for milk.
  • Add nuts, or chocolate or peanut butter chips (and bacon for Elvis bread!).

Basic Muffins
Add pretty much anything to these. Best made in small batches and served hot.
Makes 12 muffins

1 egg
3 T butter
1 c milk
2¼ c flour
½ c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
  1. Crack egg into shallow metal bowl to come to room temperature.
  2. Melt butter on stove-top over low heat just until melted. Meanwhile, prepare any fruit or other ingredients that will be mixed in.
  3. Remove melted butter from heat; stir in milk.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 F; grease muffin tin if serving muffins hot, else line with paper baking cups.
  5. Sift dry ingredients together (or pulse a few times in food processor with chopping blade), so liquid ingredients will mix in with minimal stirring.
  6. Beat egg; slowly whisk in milk and butter mixture, whisking constantly.
  7. Stir liquid quickly into dry ingredients just until combined; batter will be lumpy. Prolonged stirring will work up the gluten in the flour, which makes muffins tough.
  8. Add additional ingredients (see below), again minimizing stirring.
  9. Pour batter into prepared tins; bake until tester comes out clean. For bread, bake in loaf pan until tester comes out clean, about 1 hr. For muffins, bake in muffin tins 20 min.
  10. Cool muffins in tins 5 min; transfer to cooling rack. Some people cool muffins upside down, but this can make tops misshapen.
  11. Freeze any leftover muffins within 48 hr, or grill 3-day-old muffins in butter before serving.
Variations to mix in before baking:
  • Substitute applesauce or shaved apple for half of butter only if serving muffins right away, since fat keeps baked goods from drying out.
  • Substitute brown sugar for all or part of white sugar.
  • Substitute honey or molasses for sugar, but use half as much since they have much stronger flavors than sugar.
  • Substitute fruit juice for milk.
  • Add 1 t vanilla or lemon extract and/or 1 t mixture of cinnamon, clove, ginger or nutmeg to batter.
  • Add 1½ c chopped, crushed, diced, grated or mashed fruit (2-3 pieces), very well drained if necessary. If desired, toss fruit with 1 T sugar before mixing into batter. Increase sugar by ⅓c when adding fruit.
  • Add ½ c nuts and/or chocolate chips.
  • Sprinkle 1 T sugar or cinnamon sugar over muffins before baking.
  • For a truly decadent muffin, dip baked muffins in melted butter, then cinnamon sugar.
  • For savory muffins, add crumbled cheese and cooked bacon.

Tom's Mac and Cheese in the Little Truck

Gail and I had mac & cheese tonight from this cute little food truck. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a web page for Tom's Mac & Cheese. We found him at Russell's Garden Center Farmers' Market. Tom said he also goes to the Topsfield Fair.

The man & cheese was delicious and creamy. Tom said he uses Vermont Cheddar and Parmesan he imports himself. He says he can tell the quality of the non-commercial Parmesan because the fats melt so much more smoothly. I appreciated the care he puts into it.

Easter Candy at its Worst

At first glance this seems delightful. Who doesn't love a rubber ducky? A chocolate rubber ducky certainly called my name. But, look closer at how many ways this goes wrong.

"Quax" is a combination of "quack" and the first ingredient "wax." Next, find the word chocolate on the box. Yup, not there! This is "flavored," but not chocolate flavored. It is "Hollow Milk" flavored. What does "Hollow Milk" taste like? I suspect it is a good thing that this ducky is hollow, because nobody wants to eat a solid one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making New Potato Mushrooms

The mushrooms in the picture above are actually new potatoes cut into mushroom shapes. Here are the steps to make them.

Step 1: Make a cut half way into the potato about one-third of the way from one edge, then cut out the wedge from the side.
Step 2: Cut another wedge on the other side.
Step 3: Make a square stem by cutting two similar wedges at 90 degrees from the first two wedges.
Step 4: Round off the stem by cutting a small segment off each corner.
Step 5: Roast or boil your newly created new potato mushrooms.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roasted Chicken Technique

My favorite meal as a kid was roasted chicken parts with mashed potatoes, peas and corn. Yes, that is three starches. For my birthday, Gail made my favorite meal for me. I said I didn't want the peas. She made me homemade stuffing instead. Yes, still three starches.

In the past, I just threw the chicken parts on a rack in the oven. This time, Gail pre-browned the chicken on the stove in butter. It came out particularly brown, crispy and delicious. I had a nice birthday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ritz Crackers for a Cup of Crumbs

Today we needed a cup of Ritz cracker crumbs. Turns out that is about 3 ounces of Ritz crackers.  That's about 25 crackers as of today. But given how companies change sizes to make it look like more, you might not want to count on that. In case you needed to know.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Goodies Cookies at the Russell's Winter Farmers' Market

I had a lovely outing with my bride today, highlighted by the Russell's Winter Farmers' Market. Walking into the warmth of the greenhouses and seeing all the familiar vendors brought summer to mind. It was especially nice to see Susan Callahan from Goodies Homemade. Susan started out making cookie care packages for her daughter when she went off to college. Gail and Susan got chatting one day about how our daughters have also recently gone off to college.

I can hardly wait to try her new molasses cookies that we brought home.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast in a Muffin Tin

Gail stumbled upon a recipe for making bacon and eggs in a muffin tin. Here is the delicious result on our new Mickey Mouse plates. The recipe comes from this video from RecipeCards.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bon Appétit Comes to the Rescue with Old Recipe for Valentine's Day

Back when Gail and I were newlyweds, we made a special Valentine's dinner that has become a cherished memory based on a Bon Appétit recipe for rose scented duck. This meal was an event for us. Pre-internet, we had to search for rose water, which is an intensely beautiful thing to cook with. We skipped the roses in the recipe. We recall that we also made pink peppercorn pasta with a pink champagne reduction sauce. We had to search for pink peppercorns, too. Other years, we substituted new potatoes cut into mushroom shapes for the pasta.

This is the first meal either of us had cooked with an intense reduction sauce, and we were awed at the technique. It may have been the meal that nurtured our enjoyment of cooking together.

Through the years and a couple of houses, we lost the magazine with the recipe. Gail tried to get it on microfiche at the library, but no luck. So she wrote to Bon Appitit in hopes that they might have it. Today we got this great response from reader services.
Dear Gail,

Thank you for writing to Bon Appétit, and we are happy to help with your Valentine’s Day cooking. The recipe you requested is original from February 1988. It reads as follows:

Rose-Scented Roast Duck
2 Servings

1 4½ lb. duck
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ tsp. ground white pepper
2¼ tsp. rose water
4 small roses

3 T rich chicken stock
3 T well-chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 fresh rose petals

  1. Generously season the duck both inside and out with salt and pepper. Gently slide fingers between duck skin and meat over breasts, legs, and thighs, forming pockets. Rub ½ t white pepper under skin. Rub 1 t rosewater under skin. Sprinkle ½ t into cavity. Rub ½ t over skin.
  2. Rinse roses. Remove petals and reserve centers. Stuff petals under duck skin in a single layer. Fill cavity with remaining petals and flower centers. Truss the duck and chill overnight, wrapped in plastic.
  3. Quarter duck, reserving rose petals. Trim visible fat and excess skin from duck. Pierce skin all over with fork. Season with salt and pepper and allow to rest at room temp for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 450. Arrange duck leg in pieces in baking dish, skin side up. Roast 25 minutes. Turn legs over. Mound reserved rose petals in pan. Top with duck breasts, skin side up. Roast 10 minutes; turn breasts over; roast 5 more minutes for medium-rare.
  5. Remove breast meat from bones in single pieces. Cut each into 9 slices, reserving juices. Fan breasts on plates and arrange leg pieces. Tent with foil to keep warm.
  6. Add duck juices to measuring cup. Add enough stock to equal ¼ C. Pour into heavy small saucepan. Add remaining ¼ t rose water. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Mix in 4 rose petals. Drizzle over duck meat and garnish with remaining rose petals.
Note: use only roses that have been grown without pesticides.

Happy Cooking and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Bon Appétit Reader Services
Thank you Bon Appétit Reader Services. We're so happy to have this recipe again. We will be making it on Valentine's day. We already have the rose water.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The New Burtons Grill in Burlington

Gail and I had a date tonight at the new Burtons Grill in Burlington. We had a really nice time and a very good meal. Burtons (I appear to be spelling it right) fills a niche about mid way between a Capitol Grille and an Outback Steakhouse. This seems like a good niche to fill. The decor is dark wood and leather-ish, but was decorated in the perfect way that only a corporate office can get right. That comes off a bit too sanitized for me.

Our server made a point to highlight that their kitchen cooks from scratch, and was particularly proud that most of their meals can be made gluten free. This doesn't matter to us, but I'm sure it's a huge value for some. Gail and I often share meals and our server seemed a bit excited that he could split our meals for us onto two plates. We realized that we really prefer to share off each other's plates.

We shared a Buffalo Chicken Dip appetizer, which tasted like a mix between nachos and hot wings. Served as a dip with chips, it let us get a good balance of goo on each bite of chip. We were very happy with it. They had a nice wine, cocktail and beer list. I had a lemon drop martini. I liked that it maintained a slight lemon tartness and wasn't too sweet.

For dinner, we shared a steak and crab cake plate and a chicken and mushroom ravioli plate. While the chicken was slightly tough, everything else was remarkably good. The crab cake was chunky and light, almost like we've had in Maryland. The steak was tender and delicious. The ravioli was mixed with sauteed mushrooms and a sauce that was creamy and earthy.

We will have to go back when we have more room for dessert. The creme brulee looked tempting, but we didn't have the room.