Trevor made some crackers….

Silicone baking mats keep both sides looking even

So as many of you may have heard Trevor is OBSESSED with Blue cheese specifically French roquefort. He has little cheesy daydreams about eating it or finding new ways to eat it. Similar to his obsession with bacon. Well after watching the cracker episode of Good Eats he had to have some homemade crackers for his blue cheese.

They were very easy to make, especially with my new French pin roller! Some of them came out a bit overcooked, but generally speaking these were some the best crackers I’d ever had – thanks not to my amazing cracker skills, but rather to the fact that they were fresh. It’s quite amazing how stale all other crackers taste in comparison.

Melissa has Bread Skills

These are even more tasty than they look

The more time I spend in Europe, the more I crave “good” bread. The bread you find in America is mostly too fluffy, sugary, and tender – what I crave is a good baguette. So Melissa started making bread on a regular basis, refining her skills, and before long she was cranking out some amazingly tasty loafs of fresh baked goodness. I’m totally spoiled, I know.

Sea Scallops with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

When I go to a restaurant, there are certain foods I will always go for. There’s the exotic foods that I don’t get at home, such as sea scallops or Kobe beef, but then there are foods I have such an affinity for it doesn’t matter how much I get of them at home, I just want more – like blue cheese and bacon. I’ve been meaning to bring scallops into that latter category, but for whatever reason Melissa and I have always been intimidated by them.

So today, I finally got a chance to prepare some scallops, and to make the most of them, I used them as a substitution for tilapia in Melissa’s amazing panko-crusted tilapia with mango salsa and coconut rice recipe. It took two trips to the store and lots of trading off cooking and holding children, but at about 9:30pm, our dinner was ready. I was so hungry, I totally forgot to take a picture… Sorry, maybe next time.

I used Alton Brown’s scallop recipe which is very simple, involving oil and butter in a very hot pan where the salted and peppered scallops become seared in just a minute and a half per side. The butter was in my view the most critical part of this process, as it lends itself so nicely to browning while providing a creamy salty addition to the scallops.

Stuffed Burgers and Near Death Experiences

When people let me use their kitchens, I really feel honored. I try my best to respect their things and their space, and I always clean up after myself. But yesterday I failed pretty badly while attempting to make some french fries to go along with what turned out to be quite delicious stuffed burgers.

He is very good at cleaning up after himself even if he is a little slow at it. LOL. After the stuffed burger incident though I think all of our friends will think twice before letting him use their kitchens again.

But anyway – these burgers are totally awesome! We got the recipe from a friend of ours after we had them at her house.

Stuffed Burgers
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/4 pounds ground sirloin
  2. 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  3. 1/4 cups chopped parsley plus 2 Tablespoons
  4. 1/4 cups crumbled blue cheese plus 2 Tablespoon
  5. 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  6. 2 garlic cloves minced
  7. 1/4 tsp. salt
  8. 3 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  9. 3 teaspoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Form patties around the stuffing.
Adapted from From a friend
Adapted from From a friend
She & Him, Cooking http://cooking.parscal.com/
You take the ground beef and form patties around the stuffing.

Not everyone has a patty press – so to improvise take 2 stackable tupperware bowls of the same shape and size and put the hamburger inside one and use the other to press the meat.

I seared them and finished them in the oven much like you would with a steak, as the thickness of the patties tends to inhibit complete cooking without drying out.

But scarily similar

Yeah so a lot of this was Trevor screaming “aaaaahhhhh fire, fire” and running around the kitchen saying “what do I do what do I do.” I smelled the smoke and heard him screaming and ran into the room at the same time as our friend who was about to dump water on the oil fire when I screamed “Nooo! Just smother it! Get a lid or something.” I’ve set a few oil/ grease fires in my lifetime so I’ve learned from experience how to put them out. Remember how I wasn’t allowed to cook when I lived with my parents? Yeah thats why. I burned everything – but we also had an electric stove, so I will just blame it on that.

So, note to self, when working with oil, especially on stove-tops I’m unaccustomed to, always use a thermometer, and be conservative on the heat. I’m a bit gun-shy now, but that’s probably a good thing. I luckily managed not to burn down my friend’s house, so it certainly could have ended much worse, but he did end up with some first degree burns from the hellatious ball of fire that resulted in him allowing oxygen to once again be consumed by the molten oil.

You know, I’m not sure if it really was him allowing the fire to have oxygen or if it was the moisture in the air/ coldness of the air that restarted it. But either way he did have a pink hand and was minus a few arm hairs.

The burgers were very delicious, which softened the blow, but the lingering smell of melted Teflon kept my face red with embarrassment for the rest of the evening. Thankfully they are very forgiving people, and might allow me to come over again – but I doubt they’ll be offering their kitchen to me anytime soon..

Don’t worry babe I told them next time we come over we’ll bring a fire extinguisher with us…

Deep Dish Pizza

In 2006 my wife traveled to Chicago for a week with me on a business trip. While there we experienced, for the first time, a pizza very different from the variety that is so common in California. A couple of days ago I came home from work, excited to see and taste what my wife had described over the phone as Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. I was impressed with how authentic it looked, and delighted with how delicious it was.

The photo doesn’t quite capture the mouthwatering-ness

Previous to traveling to Chicago the only deep dish pizza I had ever had was from Uno’s Bar and Grill which I enjoyed (hope I didn’t just offend pizza snobs everywhere, lol) but after traveling to Chicago and trying the real thing I realized it was not the same. My mother-in-law recently bought a magazine for Trevor and I called Cook’s Illustrated inside were several recipes but also the process through which they came up with them. I knew at once I had to try it out.

Melissa had made two of these pizzas, each of which served about 2 people with healthy appetites. So I called a friend of mine who lives nearby and asked if he was a fan of delicious flavor. He and his wife just had a baby, so we figured they might enjoy having a night without having to cook. My friend later told me the pizza was amazing. This is the thing I think I love most about cooking, sharing it with others, whether it be my family or friends.

Pomelo Extract

My soda gear has arrived, and I’m very excited about making my first soda. I still need to get my CO2 tank filled and am waiting on one more shipment to arrive containing a counter-pressure bottle filler, but I’m already getting started with making my first soda.

I have always been a big fan of fruit based sodas like those made by IZZE and Clearly Canadian, so naturally my first soda experiment would be something along those lines. I’m also very fond of grapefruit but realize that many people are put off by it’s bitter qualities. So I decided on pomelo, a citrus fruit with a sweeter and more mild flavor than it’s close relative the grapefruit.

Extractification in progress

To make an extract from a pomelo, I skinned one with a potato peeler, which left way too much pith on the peels which I then spent a half hour shaving off with a serrated chef’s knife. Meanwhile, melissa walked by and said “why aren’t you using the Microplane grater for that?”

So for the second pomelo I used the Microplane grater, which was not only much easier to use on the fruit than a potato peeler, but it also took only the very thin brightly colored skin right off, leaving behind the bitter white pith. Another win for this method in this case was that the resulting peel was already finely shredded, as opposed to the peels I removed with the potato peeler which needed further processing to get shredded and chopped down small enough to not only fit through the bottle neck but also maximize the surface area of the skin, enhancing the ability of the alcahol to extract flavor from it.

I filled an empty 750ml glass bottle with the now shredded and minced peels and vodka, and then stored it in a cabinet to prevent light exposure. In about a week, I will see how strong of a solution I have, and start experimenting with making some syrups with it.

Cinnamon Buns

What’s the secret to cinnamon buns that are so good they don’t even need frosting? Use high-protein bread flour, have lots of patience while the dough rises, and roll the dough thin enough to create 5 to 7 layers in a 3 to 4 inch roll. Well, at least that’s my opinion.

Estimated lifespan: 2min

I would agree. I shamelessly ate about 3 or 4 in one night. I say “about” because I shared at least one with our 2 year old. However there was a little bit more to it than just bread flour and rolling it really thin.

I didn’t get involved until the rolling phase, but then I got to use my new French pin roller! It worked wonderfully, especially getting the corners to stretch out so the blob of dough turned into a rectangle. Once flat and rectangular, Melissa whipped up some filling, and we rolled it all up tightly. Just as I was about to reach for something sharp to cut the roll into small sections, Melissa tells me to get the dental floss.

I love how he says its “his french pin roller”, too cute lol. I do have to admit that I love the french rolling pin as well for basically the same reasons. In my opinion the secret to these cinnamon buns was the filling. Typically when you make filling for cinnamon rolls you melt butter and brush it on then sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. For these babies I mixed a cube of softened salted butter with 2 cups of brown sugar and spread half of the mixture on one of the rolled out rectangles. Then I sprinkled cinnamon over the top of the butter and sugar mixture. The dental floss idea came from a friend of mine but it should have been a no-brainer because in ceramics they use nylon string wrapped around a dowel to cut clay.

We let the now sectioned rolls rise for about 30 minutes before baking. The house started to smell really good at this point, and by the time the first batch came out, I had become so hungry that I ate 2 of them in about a minute. I thought to myself, “Oh, what about frosting?” But then I realized, these really do not need any.

I also considered frosting these but after more than a few bites laziness won out.

Bar Keeper’s Friend & Soda Making Gear

100% legit

At this point in my life I proceed with cautious optimism on every purchase I make. And even with ample research and analysis leading me to believe this purchase was going to be a satisfactory one, nothing could quite prepare me for the amazing results that Bar Keeper’s Friend had on our pots and pans. Even more amazing, it cost less than $3. I’ve spent hours making and using home-made cleaners and tarnish removers on our copper bottomed stainless steel pots and pans, but the effort needed was great and the results were hardly impressive. But then I tried this stuff, and I must say, it’s amazing. End of testimonial (and no, they did not pay me to say this).

I’ve been very excited about some equipment I have coming next week. I’ve ordered all the equipment I need to mix, siphon, carbonate and bottle my own soda, including a set of 144 cobalt blue 12 fluid ounce glass bottles. I look forward to using a bench capping machine I inherited from my grandfather. Soon I will be making my own root beer, cream soda, and ginger ale. But perhaps what I am most excited about is being able to make less common sodas based on fruits like tamarind, pomelo, and babaco. I’m also excited about experimenting with using stevia extract as a sweetener, much how Zevia has done, resulting in a zero calorie soda without using synthetic sweeteners.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Last night I was looking through the fridge and decided to cook up the rest of the bacon in the meat drawer while it was still a tasty color. I covered 2 half-size bun pan racks with bacon strips and baked them in the oven at about 475 degrees until golden brown and delicious. But while cooking bacon in the oven on a rack removes the vast majority of fat, it doesn’t really result in the kind of pan-fried crispiness I was after. So I finished them off in a frying pan on high, dumping the grease off into a container after each pan-full for later use – after all, rendered bacon fat is good stuff. After letting the now crispy but mostly still flat bacon strips rest for a bit, I set up the double-boiler with about a quarter pound of dark chocolate, and then dipped the bacon strips into it, laying them out on parchment paper to cool overnight.

Not very photogenic, I know

The results… Well I only have a photo of one of the strips because this stuff didn’t last very long at the office. There were some reluctant partakers though, but all were instantly converted after experiencing the medley of flavors this simple snack provides. Sweet and bitter chocolate over savory salty bacon.

Carmel Apple Ice Cream

On second thought, the coloring might be off a bit

Normally when I go to the grocery store to buy something specific, I end up collecting lots of additional items on my way through the store which were not on my original list. Today, on a quick run for some diapers, I noticed that the items I was collecting were different than usual; heavy cream, whole milk, food coloring, and dry mustard. I found myself inventorying our kitchen as I walked though the isles, and spent a good couple minutes looking at various cleaning and polishing products for copper and stainless steel. The other day my wife and I were in the car, both sitting there quietly pondering as we often do. Melissa asked me, “What are you thinking about?” I replied “Cooking”. She sort of laughed at her expectations being met. But what can I say? I just get very focused on hobbies.

Anyways, now that I’d restocked my kitchen a bit, I couldn’t help but start looking through my wife’s preserve stash for something interesting to make ice cream with. Ah ha! Apple butter. I quickly threw this together and popped it in the fridge for later churning.

 

Carmel Apple Ice Cream
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Mixture
  1. 2 cups whole milk
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup apple butter (ideally home made)
  5. 1oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed and strained of pulp)
  6. 1/4 tsp sea salt
  7. food coloring as desired (i used about 45 drops of neon green)
Mix-ins
  1. 1 tbsp minced granny smith apple
  2. 2 tbsp 1/4″ x 1/4″ super-thin slices of granny smith apple with skin on the end
  3. 1 tbsp freshly pressed granny smith apple juice
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Combine and heat mixture to 170 degrees, bring to room temp, refrigerate, churn, add mix-ins, freeze, eat.
She & Him, Cooking http://cooking.parscal.com/
Initial taste tests indicate that my attempts to capture fresh green apple flavors during the mix-in stage were successful. We shall see how the texture comes out after a full day in the freezer.

Yeah so after half a day in the freezer secondary taste testing revealed little to no fresh apple taste in my opinion. To me it was more of an apple pie or roasted apple flavor. In a secondary note don’t use green food coloring for something that tastes like apple pie it sends conflicting signals to the brain. It’s like picking up your glass of orange juice and realizing it was actually milk.

Indeed, the flavor and color didn’t turn out to match up all that well, but it’s very fun looking!