Hey Hey It’s Some Monkfish

•12/17/2012 • Leave a Comment

(This of from WEEKS ago.  Somehow I never finished it…lol)

Seafood has not been on the menu for a while.  This has saddened me.  It was definitely time!

The other day at work I discovered that we are no longer going to be carrying monkfish.  The seafood manager has made the decision and now I have to go elsewhere for it.  It’s all good though, I have somewhere else I can get it for a good price and just as fresh.  So, I nabbed two out of three remaining pieces from the case.  They were just the right size for individual pieces.  The remaining piece could have fed 4 adults.  Talk about a huge size difference.

Monkfish might be an creepy looking fish, but is a wonderful fish.  If you have not tried it yet, you definitely should.  It is commonly referred to as “poor man’s lobster” and rightly so.  It is truly a treat.  It is a firm, meaty fish with a slightly sweeter flavor than most other fish.  It was something that I tried first as a young child and grew to appreciate later in life.  It is a versatile fish to work with as far as pan searing, braising, wrapping in proscuitto or bacon, or frying.  Even though it’s a bit mild, it takes other flavors quite well so it’s a fun one to experiment with for toppings, sauces, reductions, and broths.  If you look monkfish recipes up online, you’ll find things you didn’t even think could be thought of.  In looking for a picture of these scary looking fishes, I found some interesting ones I can’t wait to try in the future.  Here’s a  picture of these guys – http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/1255/1346/1600/monkfish1.jpg.  Hope that doesn’t turn you off to trying a piece sometime soon.

The last time I made Frank and I some of this, I grabbed some artichoke lemon pesto and roasted tomatoes from the olive bar at work.  The tangy, salty, and acidic flavors from them are a good contrast to the sweet flesh.  I usually pair it with a darker green vegetable as well for further flavor and because I just love vegetables with fish.

Ingredients:

2   6 oz Monkfish filets

1/2 pound loose spinach

1 scoop artichoke lemon pesto

4 slices roasted tomatoes

2 large pieces artichoke quarters

4 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

How to:

Preheat a pan with enough space to cook both filets.  Once the pan is hot add the olive oil.  Season the fish to taste with the salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes and flip over and cook for the same amount of time.  Monkfish cooks a little slower the most fishes so be attentive to it.

Once the fish is cooked, remove it and add the pesto, artichokes, and roasted tomatoes immediately to the hot pan. Heat through, divide in half and top the fish with it.

Wilt the spinach in the hot pan, this will only take a matter of seconds.  The oils left behind will be enough to keep it from sticking.

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I lost the receipts from this seeing as it has been some weeks since I started this post.  I think it was before Thanksgiving.  Oops.   This dish was tasty and easy and I will still be able to do it, just not with monkfish bought from work.   😛

Wagyu For Two

•10/05/2012 • Leave a Comment

Fall is here.  Finally. I love this time of year.  The cooler weather allows me to cook and bake more comfortably at home so hopefully I’ll get to this more.  I have shredded zucchini in the freezer just waiting to be made into bread, duck breast to be cured and sliced as prosciutto, and seasonal vegetables begging to be turned into soups.  And that will be just the start.  Hooray for autumn!!!!!

So, once again I scored an AWESOME deal on some Wagyu beef.  $25 for almost a pound and a half of it. This time, it was asked of me to not reveal my source, so I won’t.  What I can tell you that if it were the same price as we sell it at work, it would have been $80.  That’s steep, but not nearly as bad as going out and ordering it.  I also decided that that was all I was going to spend on dinner.  I had some potatoes and frozen vegetables at home and there was no good reason to buy anything else.  Here, look at how gorgeous Wagyu is.  Just don’t drool on your keyboard though.  http://www.toledoblade.com/image/2004/05/18/800x_b1_cCM_z/Premium-Kobe-beef-originated-in-Japan.jpg

Two weeks ago, Mom and I went to visit Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck for her birthday.   It had been a few years since I had been there and was looking forward to the trip down.  Of course, both of us looked up the wrong address for it and got a little side tracked, but it was all good.  I inadvertently discovered where Laird’s Applejack was bottled and that amused me.  It’s a kick ass apple liquor that I like to use for mulled cider and fall-esque mixed drinks.  Anyway, we finally got there and explored for a little bit.  For those of you who have not been there before, they have a pretty decent selection of fresh fruits, veggies, meats, seafoods, salads, cheeses, coffees, teas, and ALL sorts of goodies. Things are a little overpriced there but some of its worth it.  You could easily spend more than you plan on in there starting with their food court outside.  They have some of the best french fries I have had, and that’s because they are made with Yukon gold potatoes.  They are a seasonal potato that have lots of flavor and great texture.  Their color is also on the golden side, hence their name.  They happened to have the potatoes themselves for sale inside at .99 a pound.  Mom and I were all over that.  You normally don’t see them that cheap.  Or at least I haven’t. I grabbed 6 of them for myself (around 2lbs or so) to use and tonight I would be using 3.

How to cook the potatoes was an easy choice.  I wanted to treat them well seeing as they were going along with a killer steak.  Some weeks ago on our vacation, Frank had fingerling potatoes with truffle oil and grated parmesan cheese in a restaurant in Cape May.  They had incredible flavor and I happen to keep a bottle of truffle oil at home for just such an occasion.  Searching the fridge for a piece of parmesan big enough to grate was a challenge though.  Mom took the big piece on her vacation this week and left all the tiny bits. Thanks mom!  Lol.

Enough on the potatoes.  On to vegetable choice.  Green beans!!! Frozen!  Ok, that was easy.  Hit them up with some basil and butter and we’re good to go.

Time to do that Wagyu!

Ingredients:

2 2/3lb Wagyu strip steaks

3 small Yukon gold potatoes

1 bag Wegmans FYFGA just picked cut green beans

2 tbsp Wegmans black truffle extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp dried basil

Himalayan pink salt

Fresh ground pepper

How to:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Wash potatoes.  Slice in half longways and then slice in half again.  Make around 1/4” slices and repeat with the other 2 potatoes.  Rinse and dry off with a paper towel.  Coat with the olive oil and parmesan cheese.  Evenly spread out the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until browned.

When the potatoes have about 10 minutes left, preheat a pan for the steaks.  Make sure the pan is large enough to give the steaks room to breathe so the edges aren’t touching.  Season the steak to taste with the salt and pepper and place in the pan once hot.  Sear on the first side until the color has changed about a third of the way up and turn over.  Give it about the same amount of time, more if you like it more well done.  Rare really is the best way to serve this beef.

Start the green beans at the same time as the beef.  Combine the beans, butter, basil and salt and pepper to taste and use a medium flame until the beans are heated through.

This was a extremely savory and filling meal. The contrast between the rich beef, crispy/earthy potatoes, and sweet basiled beans was clear as a bell.  I’m hoping I can get an “in” again soon so I can enjoy it again.  Then again, it wouldn’t be a treat if I had it all the time right?

The nice thing was there were a few people at the fire house that had never tasted the Wagyu beef before and I shared with them so they could experience it.  They loved it.   I even gave their daughter, who’s not even 2 yet, a piece to try.  She walked around with a big grin on her face like she understood it was something special.  That was kind of neat to see.  I truly do enjoy giving someone a new or different food to try.  It makes me feel like I’m helping a palate to grow.  😀

Price breakdown:

2 Wagyu strip steaks – $25.01

3 Yukon gold potatoes – $1.50

1 bag Wegmans frozen green beans – $1.99

Truffle oil, cheese, and spices – on hand

Grand Total – $28.51

Per Person – $14.25  (two people)

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Grilled Cheese with Tasso

•09/06/2012 • 2 Comments

Recently I’ve been checking out a lot of Cajun recipes.  Don’t ask me why, I have no real answer other than I passed Old Bay leaving New Brunswick Saturday night.  I went out to eat with my coworker Christian to The Frog and The Peach.  Awesome place, I will go there again.  Perhaps I will do a blog entry on them as well.  😉

Any who, one of the ingredients I kept seeing in the Cajun recipes was Tasso ham.  I know from watching Food Network what it is, I’ve just never had it or seen it in a store.  We had it in once before at work and I ended up forgetting to buy some to try before it went out of date.  The other day, I got to fill out the D’Artagnan order for the first time and I ordered some for the store so I could purchase it.  You could also order it directly from D’Artagnan on their website if you like.  They have a ton of neat stuff to browse through if you’re into different game meats, specialties, and such.  Check them out here:  http://www.dartagnan.com/565814/Tasso-Ham.html

Since I was not completely sure how to describe Tasso ham other than cured and spicy, I looked it up online so I could give you guys a real definition.  Wikipedia states “Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt. In this case, “ham” is a misnomer, since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a pig. This cut is typically fatty and, because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor. The butt, which will weigh 7 to 8 pounds, is sliced across the grain into pieces about 3 in / 7.5 cm thick. These are dredged in a salt cure, which usually includes nitrates and sugar. The meat is left to cure briefly, only three or four hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing Cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through.

Tasso is not eaten on its own, but is used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes, soup to gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Cajun/Creole origin, such as jambalaya.”
Hope that helped explain it some.

Instead of cubing it up for a gumbo or other dish, I decided to slice it up in the deli at work to make sandwiches.  I knew Frank would enjoy the Tasso because it’s a little on the spicy side.  I bought his favorite bread from the bakery and got some Cooper sharp American cheese as well.  It was going to be a quick and easy grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients:

12 slices Tasso ham

4 slices Marco Polo bread

4 slices Cooper sharp American cheese

olive oil spray

1 small tomato

1 small avocado

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp dried cilantro

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

How to:

Cube your tomato and avocado into small bite size pieces.  The best way to cube the avocado is to split it in half, pop the pit out, and slice it INSIDE its peel.  Use a spoon to scoop out the pieces.  Combine with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro and set aside to go with the sandwich.

Spray the sides of the bread that will be going face down in the pan and heat your pan.

Place the bread oil side down in the heated pan and layer 6 slices of the Tasso and 2 slices of the cheese however you like.  Top it with the other slice of bread, oil side up.

Heat on both sides until cheese melts or desired doneness is reached.  Cut in half and serve.

This was by no means a fancy dish, but the sandwich hit the spot juuuuuuust right.  There was plenty going on. Between the texture of the Marco Polo bread and the melted cheese it was almost a creamy sandwich.  The cheese helped to mellow the spices of the Tasso just enough that it wasn’t “hot”,  but it still had plenty of flavor.  The edges of the ham that stuck out even crisped up a bit and now it has me thinking of pan frying some slices for spicy bacon.

The tomato and avocado salad was perfect along side the sandwich.  The cool flavors and textures complimented the spices in the ham.  If you’re a wimp when it comes to spicy things, it would definitely help to keep your mouth cool while eating this creation.

I have definitely been thinking of other things I can add the ham to or flavor it with.  I have half created a recipe for a “Cajun vodka sauce” in my head.  I want to do a spicy BLT with it.  I want to try a shrimp and grits dish I saw on Old Bay’s website.  Seeing as I have a pound of it left to go through, I need to get crackin’!

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Sweet, Sweet Scallops

•09/04/2012 • Leave a Comment

Hello!  It sure has been some time hasn’t it?  I was quite surprised to see that there were some views while I have neglected this page.  Thank you for that.  It’s good to know that I have not been forgotten.  🙂

So, I spent all of August and up to today sampling scallops at work.  I still love scallops very much, but needless to say I want a break from staring at them for a while.  They have been an incredible size at 8-10 a pound but have not lost any sweetness or flavor due.  Scallops tend to lose some of that the bigger they get, sort of like lobster tails.  Ours were coming in from Point Pleasant, New Jersey so the appeal of them being local was huge.

Throughout the month I had to get creative or get bored.  I did them with different salsas, vinaigrettes, Asian sauces, tried crusts and seasonings, infused olive oil, from scratch sauces,  assorted greens, and even made a bisque out of them.  Every time I pan seared them because it truly is the best way to bring out the flavor in a scallop.  Hearing over and over and OVER from the customers trying it how great it was didn’t get old.  I know I KNOW how to cook them right.  Many of them kept asking me if I watch Gordon Ramsey because he always gets the chefs on cooking them wrong.  I’d love to see him walk in and see a part time employee in a super market cooking scallops better than chefs who are trained and own eateries.  You know that would entertaining.  Maybe he’d send me to culinary school.  ::sigh::

Quick!  Someone write to Gordon!  😛

As tired as I am of seeing them for now, I had a request to make them.  My friend Aaron has just moved back to New Jersey this week and enjoys when I cook.  With him home permanently now, it will be much easier to plan that from time to time.  Today’s demo was  practice run for dinner tonight and I am tweaking what I did a bit to make sure Aaron has a good meal.  At work, I only did peas, chicken stock, garlic, and a touch of salt together.  I decided I wanted to tweak it a bit at home to give it a little more substance and flavor.

Ingredients:

15 sea scallops

1 filet tilapia

16oz bag Wegmans FYFGA frozen sweet peas

2 bunches asparagus

1/2 can Wegmans reduced sodium chicken stock

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp dried onion

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried mint

sea salt

black pepper

How to:

Combine the bag of frozen peas and chicken stock in a food processor and blend until it looks like a paste.  Add the spices and cream and blend until smooth.  Transfer it to a small sauce pot over a low flame and heat through.

Clean your asparagus.  Hold the top and bottom and bend gently until it breaks at its natural breaking point.  This will ensure you have no stringy ends.

Preheat a large fry pan on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add your olive oil and heat for about 30 seconds.  Season your scallops to taste with salt and pepper.  Place them in the heated oil and cook until the edges are golden brown.  Turn them over and let the other side match.  Remove them from the pan and allow to rest for a minute.  Plate on top of the pea puree.

While the scallops cook, saute the asparagus for 2-3 minutes with the butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Price breakdown:

15 sea scallops – $27.18

1 filet tilapia – $3.20

2 bunches asparagus – $7.54

1 bag Wegmans FYFGA frozen peas – $0.99

1/2 can Wegmans reduced sodium chicken stock – $0.39

1/2 pint Wegmans heavy cream – $0.79

Grand Total – $40.09

Per Person – $10.03 (4 people)

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How’s that for a cheap scallop dinner?  I challenge you to find what I made that is just as fresh for the same price.  You won’t.  Restaurants rob you for a meal based on sea scallops.  This plate would probably be priced at $23-$28 easy.  Over twice what I paid for it.

The nice thing about this dish is the contrasts in flavors.  The scallops are meaty and sweet.  The pea puree had a smooth but textured, well, texture.  It was creamy, sweet, and the spices came through nicely.  The asparagus complimented both the scallops and the peas.  It went over well with Frank and Aaron.  Dan had it with the tilapia because he doesn’t do shellfish.  He said it was pretty awesome with that too.  I have some left over and am considering picking up some salmon or halibut tomorrow to eat with it.  It might even go well with a piece of tenderloin.  Thoughts on this anyone?

Weeklong Chili – A Day By Day Recipe Adventure

•02/01/2012 • Leave a Comment

So, Superbowl Sunday is coming up.  What better way to prepare then to take the whole week to make chili?  Can you think of anything else?  😉  Besides, it will be much easier only spending a little bit of time a day on it instead of all at once.

Many things that I plan on using for this I already have.  Meats, stocks, spices that are just sitting around that have no meal assigned to them.  How sad.  But now, they have a purpose!  I’ve wanted to make another pot of kick ass chili since vacation but just haven’t had a reason to make so much.  The guys at the arcade in Wildwood were convinced that the chili I made was lucky.  We won the raffle for Giants tickets AND a 42” plasma flat screen.  Maybe I DO make lucky chili…lol.

As far as meats go, beef, pork, and venison were what I wanted to go with.  A customer asking for ground brisket made me decide to take what was left of that.  I had a decent amount of pulled pork left in the fridge I had just made.  Venison, well, I have a stock pile in the freezer.  Not sure if the pieces I used were sirloin or tenderloin but it really doesn’t matter.  Either will get super tender after being cooked down a few times.

The other ingredients are pretty basic to chili.  Bean, peppers, onions, diced canned tomatoes, and several cans of beer in my case. Spices however, are going to be a little different. For starters, I am going to avoid adding any salt unless it is in a blend I’ve already planned on using.  I don’t know about you, but I can not stand salty chili.  I’m going to use a brand most of you probably haven’t heard of yet.  Penzeys.  Please do yourself a flavor and request a catalog from them.  Their spices quality is phenomenal and I am hooked.  Two of their blends are going into this creation.  33rd & Galena, which is a salt free blend based on traditional Southern flavors, and Chicago Steak Seasoning, which is an intensely smoky and robust blend that I have come to use on almost anything so far.  Both are going to give depth and character to chili like I’ve never given it before.

I am going to attempt to keep this short, it’s going to be updated every day so you can follow my steps and see how the chili comes together.

Now who’s ready for some football food?

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs ground brisket

2 cups leftover pulled pork

3-4 cups small diced venison sirloin

3 1/2 pounds small diced and WELL TRIMMED steak

1 pint frozen home made beef stock

8 oz diced green bell peppers

8 oz diced onions

2 cans Wegmans chili spiced diced tomatoes

1 can great northern white beans

1 can black eyed peas

1 large can dark kidney beans

4 cans Pabst Blue Ribbon

2 tbsp chopped garlic

Penzeys 33rd & Galena

Penzeys Chicago Steak seasoning

Chili powder

Cayenne powder

1 dried ghost chili pepper

How to:

Day 1 (Monday, January 30)

Preheat your pan and start cooking the brisket.  Make sure to break it up as small as possible.  Season to taste with the 33rd & Galena, chili powder, and cayenne.  Remember that the spices will get weaker as the other ingredients are added during the week.  You may want to check the spice level again in a few days.

When the beef is cooked, add to a large sauce pot with the frozen stock.  Heat through until the stock is completely melted and remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 2 (Tuesday, January 31)

Skim/remove whatever fat is solidified on the top.  This will ensure a non greasy chili later.

Add the pulled pork and two cans of the beer to the beef and stock and heat through until hot.  Remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 3 (Wednesday, February 1)

Skim/remove whatever fat is solidified. In my case, there was maybe a spoonful.

Cut the venison into cubes about 1/2”.  This will keep them easier to eat and to cook.  Season lightly with the Chicago steak seasoning.

Sear off the venison until paper bag brown.  Add the venison and whatever juices are in the pan to the beef

and pork and heat through until liquid is gone.  Remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 4 (Thursday, February 2)

Add your diced peppers, onions, and cans of diced tomatoes.  Heat through and cook off some of the liquid.  While wearing gloves, crumble the dried ghost chili as fine as you can and add to the chili.

(I chose to ladle out some liquid to save for later in case liquid is needed.  That way the flavors won’t get watered down, they’ll just be returning to the chili.)

Remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 5 (Friday, February 3)

Add all your beans to the pot and heat through.  Check your spices if you like.  Remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 6 (Saturday, February 4)

Transfer all the chili to a 6 quart crock pot and store in the fridge.  Add 2 cans of beer and 2 tbsp chopped garlic to the same pot you’ve been using.

Sear all the beef until paper bag brown and add to the beer.  Heat through and remove from heat.  Cover and store in the fridge.

Day 7 (Sunday, February 5)

Skim/remove whatever fat has solidified.  Heat through until most of the liquid is gone and then add to the rest of the chili.  4 hours before serving, start the crock pot on high and then switch to the “keep warm” setting.

Price Breakdown:

Don’t have it.  Receipts were lost in cleaning up and some of the things I already had at home.  I can tell you however that I’m pretty sure I didn’t spend any more than $30.  Most of what you use for chili is cheap unless you get into fancier items like the venison.  But I have a personal stockpile in my freezer.  😉

This chili was something I really needed to do this week.  Due to some personal issues, I really needed something to focus on and a lot of people I know told me to cook because they know how much I love it.  I also knew I was going to have today (Sunday) off and wanted to bring something to the firehouse to share.

All in all, this came out to be a very flavorful chili.  Meat is by no means scarce in this one…lol.  The heat level I achieved is a nice, warm, slow building heat that will linger for some time, but is not nasty.

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Feelin’ Squirrely

•11/04/2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been in the baking sort of mood lately.

I made banana bread two weeks ago and that was great.  It had been YEARS since I did that.  My usual go to item in the fall is zucchini bread.  We had a little adventure with the banana bread though.  My sister’s boyfriend came over that night and I handed him a piece of it to try.  He explained that he really doesn’t like bananas, but he would try it since I made it.  A little while later, Kim came in the kitchen and got herself a piece.  Before eating it she looked at it and stared for a second.  Then she looked at Brian all bug eyed and asked him if he had eaten it because there were walnuts in it.  I had COMPLETELY forgotten about his nut allergy.  Every time it comes up its always peanuts being spoken about.  I felt absolutely horrible.  I started freaking out, Kim grabbed the Epi pen just in case he needed it, and Brian went outside to try to make himself throw up.   At the end of the whole thing, he was fine.  But we definitely had a more interesting night due to my brain fart.  I owe him nut free banana bread now.  😛

Today, I just wanted to bake something for Frank to take to the fire house for after elections.  He’s been nominated for Lieutenant.  I think that’s a deserving occasion of cookies, don’t you? I figured that chocolate chip should suffice.  Also, taking Tim to the airport so he could go back to the Army was a little nerve wracking.  I needed a kitchen based distraction.

There a few guys at the station that appreciate some of the things I do with food, but most of them are like food=good and will basically eat whatever is in front of them.  However, I decided to give them a little more flavor and a totally different appearance.

Flavor wise, the recipe I use time and time again comes out of Mom’s old ass Betty Crocker Cookbook.  You know, the big red one.  It was originally published in 1969 with hers being printed in 1980.  Needless to say, there are PLENTY of outdated recipes in it but the chocolate chip cookie recipe is my favorite “starter” dough for a lot of my creations.  The flavors I wanted to incorporate were a subtle hint of fall.  Scotch and nutmeg were just what was needed.  The nutmeg would add subtle spice and the scotch would add depth to the chocolate, brown sugar, and vanilla.

As for appearance, I wanted them to look like acorns.  How would I accomplish this you ask?  By using my Wilton brownie pop molds.   I got them on clearance at Wegmans and this is the second time I would be using them.  Things tend to take a little longer to bake in them, but it’s worth having a nice, consistent shape to decorate.  Wilton has a entire book on decorating cake and brownie pops, but some of it is just WAY too in depth for me.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup shortening

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

6 ounces chocolate chips

My additions/changes to the original recipe:

1/3 cup butter in place of shortening

1 shot scotch

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cups additional chocolate chips for melting

2 cups hazelnuts

How to:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugars, butter, egg, and vanilla until well blended.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Fill each cavity about 2/3 full.  I found this to be just about right as far as the cookies expanding upward instead of outward on a pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.  I know it seems like a long time for a cookie but it’s thicker in the mold.  You won’t get hard or burnt sides, I promise.

Roast hazelnuts on a tray in the oven at the same time.  Lay out in a single layer and roast for 5-7 minutes.  Remove and chop finely.

Let cool before attempting to remove the cookies from the mold.  Breakage will occur if too warm.

Melt chocolate SLOWLY in the microwave or in the still hot oven.   Over heating will dry it out and make it unusable.

Once cooled completely, dip the flat tops in melted chocolate and roll in nuts.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm acorns!!!!!

No price breakdown this time.  Had too much on hand…lol.

These came out SOOOOO awesome.  The guys thought they were cute and kept yelling for more acorns.  The flavor in the cookies was incredible due to the scotch and nutmeg.  Though it was definitely quite time consuming, this is definitely something that I will do again at some point.

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What The Duck???

•09/23/2011 • Leave a Comment

So, Frank and I came back from vacation Sunday night and while I would have liked to spend some time on this during last week, it just did not happen.  You know, lazy vacation and all.  😉

Anyway, I gave inventive birth to a chili that got my creative juices flowing again.  That, and fall is upon us.  This means more seasonal things I enjoy to eat and cook and hopefully a lot more blogging.  The chili will appear on here soon.  There is no way Frank will let me get away with not making it again.

For tonight’s dinner, I decided to go with the hefty 1 pound Magret duck breast I scored for half off at work.  The beauty of duck breast is that it is not a flimsy piece of meat.  You can almost treat it like a steak as far as cooking and seasoning goes.  First I considered wrapping it in prosciutto, but wasn’t quite feeling the saltiness for the time being.  I remembered having the large bottle of aged balsamic vinegar and the Penzey’s Chicago steak seasoning I picked up in Pittsburgh while visiting Liz.  (that’s a WHOLE other food story there…)   The vinegar is 10 year old aged balsamic of Modena and I also have port left, so that would make a good reduction with the vinegar and some honey.  The spice blend is a medium boldness and is not too strong for the dark meat of a duck breast.

With the leftover fat from pan searing, it would save me from having to use butter.  Most people don’t realize that duck fat is actually much better for you than you think.  It also tastes a million times better than regular butter with vegetables.  My plan now was to cook shallots, mushrooms, and wilt spinach in the pan.

I wanted one more thing to go with the meal but I just could not figure it out while I was at work.  Then, Patti wanted me to taste the wild rice stuffing we get in to stuff cornish hens with.  Well, I decided right after tasting that it was what I was looking for.  Wild rice, raisins, cranberries, and spices would be a beautiful thing with everything else.  I was a happy camper.  My favorite chef in the kitchen said when he heats up the rice for himself, he adds a tablespoon of whiskey to bring out the flavors right before he serves it.  I decided that the apple liquor I have at home would be a nicer flavor to go with the fruit.

It was only 1pm and I was already looking forward to dinner.  The flavors were all played out in my head and I couldn’t wait to get to it.  Hope you’re as hungry as I am now.  😛

Ingredients:

1 D’artagnan fresh magret duck breast

1/4 lb Wegmans wild rice stuffing

1 5 oz package sliced shitake mushrooms

5-6 oz baby spinach

1 large shallot

1 tbsp Laird’s Applejack

2/3 cup port wine

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp dark raw honey (you can use regular if you don’t keep dark honey around)

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning

How To:

Add the tbsp of Applejack to the wild rice stuffing and let sit until ready to heat and eat.

For the reduction, combine the port wine and balsamic vinegar in a shallow pan and SLOW and LOW reduce to 1 cup.  This will be 2.  Add the honey and stir thoroughly to dissolve.  Continue to reduce to about 1/3 cup.  Turn off heat and stir in butter.  Pour into a small microwave safe container and let cool.  Set aside.

Score the fat side of the duck breast and evenly season both sides with the Penzey’s spice blend.  Let sit in the fridge for a couple hours before cooking.

Chop shallots fine and set aside.

Heat pan on a medium/medium high flame and let get HOT.  Place the duck breast fat side down and sear to golden brown.  Flip over and lower heat to medium and allow to finish cooking.  Cooking time will depend on whether or not you like your duck breast well done or slightly rare.  For slightly rare, cook about  minutes total. If you prefer your duck fat crispy, flip once more and let the top cook another minute. When done, remove the breast from the pan and let rest on a plate while the vegetables cook.

Warm up the reduction in the microwave to just hot.

With the pan still hot, add shallots and mushrooms.  Cook until just soft, about 3-4 minutes and add spinach just long enough to wilt.  Remove all from pan and plate.

Price Breakdown:

duck breast – $7.35

mushrooms – $3.99

spinach – $1.70

shallot – $0.27

wild rice stuffing – $0.99

port wine, apple liquor, vinegar, spices, honey, and butter – on hand

Grand Total – $14.30

Per Person – $7.15  (2 people)

Try getting THAT meal in a restaurant for at least the total price!  It would most likely be closer to $30 a person without tip if you went out for it.  The last time I ordered duck breast in a restaurant it was $28.  Part of that may have been because I was in the city, but duck breast tends to be a pricey item regardless.

This was totally worth the experimenting.  Frank declared it epicly delicious and my new friend Erica tried duck for the first time last night.  She was slightly disturbed that she liked it at first but was then posting about it later on Facebook.  I won yet another person over to something new.  I LOVE doing that!!!!!

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