Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tazo "Passion" Iced Tea



Iced tea is probably one of my favorite beverages. And when I say "iced tea," what I really mean is what some of you might refer to as "sweet tea" - the two are synonymous in my book. What's the point of unsweetened iced tea? It's never as refreshing as I hope it would be and you can forget about trying to add sugar to it now because all of the crystals will just sink to the bottom of the glass (unless you go with a simple syrup). Although I tend to think of it more prevalently being consumed in the warmer months, today is as good a day as any to enjoy a refreshing beverage. Plus with it being Oscars Sunday I thought you might enjoy an idea for something to serve at your viewing party - be it an actual party or just at home on the couch.  Feel free to add your favorite spirit (vodka or a white rum should go well) to turn it into a tasty cocktail.

Ingredients:
  • 8 tea bags
  • 2 cups sugar (plus extra)
  • blood orange slices for garnish (optional)

Procedure:
I decided to switch up the usual Lipton version and go with some bags of Tazo "Passion" tea that were hanging out in my cabinet. Throw them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover (I also like to tie them together so it's easier to discard). Place on the stove and bring to a simmer for a few minutes - let's say three. Discard the tea bags and stir in the sugar while the liquid is still hot - this way it dissolves effortlessly without the otherwise constant stirring if it were allowed to chill first. Next, pour in a pitcher and fill with water. At this point you can give it a taste to see if you want to add more sugar. Once you have achieved your desired level of sweetness, throw in a few ice cubes to help chill it down along with some nice slices of citrus for added flavor and eye-appeal. Now just sit, back, relax, and let the time roll by...
 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thyme Marinated Chicken with Red Wine Glazed Onions

Well folks - it's Valentine's Day (gag me)... So whether you're spending it alone or with that special someone (I'm spending mine with my lovely roommate!) you might as well have a nice dinner to cap it off. The slowly caramelized onions in this dish develop an amazing level of sweetness and complexity that is unparalleled. Plus it even has wine! A little booze goes a long way to make your V-day go a bit smoother. So grab the day's dinner by the balls and fill your stomach (and maybe that of someone else) with something delicious in honor of the chubby baby that goes around shooting people in the name of l-o-v-e.
The Chicken:
  1. Drizzle the chicken breasts with olive oil. 
  2. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
  3. Toss to coat and set aside until the onions are almost done.
  4. Once the onions are almost ready to go, sear the chicken in a hot skillet.

The Onions:
  1. For two chicken breasts I used 2 LARGE onions cut into slices.
  2. Sweat the onions in a saute pan vvveeeeerrrrryyyyy sssssllllloooowwwwllllyyyyyy in a couple tablespoons of butter. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
  3. After about 30 minutes (I'm serious it takes that long), deglaze with 1 cup of red wine and a few swirls of balsamic vinegar. It should then look something like this:
Lastly, add the chicken fresh from its own saute pan to the onions so that it finishes in the sauce and picks up some of its flavor.


Let's raise a glass in the name of love and I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day from my heart to yours... Enjoy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Steak and Potatoes Frittata


I think I've mentioned before about how I often get the question of "When are you going to cook for me?", whose frequency has only increased since I actually started culinary school. Of course I would love to cook for everyone that I could, but I currently have the least amount of free time in my schedule ever. Enter the holidays... I went home to Chicago for Christmas this past year and by being free of both school and work I had no excuse not to share my food. The lucky recipient of my culinary acumen was one of my best friends from high school who is like a brother to me (and later two more friends that got the leftovers as we picked them up form the airport). In fact, I think I sometimes spend more time with him than my actual brother when I go home to visit (sorry David). We've accumulated countless fond memories over the years and have learned so much from one another. In the dorms during high school (I went to a boarding school) we would always overhear him speaking "Chin-glish" (Chinese-English) with his parents and he would teach us various words and phrases - some of them more practical than others. Thanks to him I can say "My name is butt dragon" if I ever find myself in a situation when it would be useful. I'll be sure to let you know when that happens...

Ingredients:
  • vegetable oil
  • 2-3 good size potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and deiced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb steak, cut into small pieces
  • 12 eggs
  • a splash of milk
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • grated Gruyere cheese

Procedure:
  1. In a large skillet with a thin layer of oil, begin sauteing the potatoes with the peppers and onions until tender.
  2. Add the steak and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Separately, crack all of the eggs into a bowl, add a splash or two of milk, season with salt, pepper and parsley.
  4. When the steak is almost cooked through, reducing the burner to low and add in your eggs. You don't want the pan to be too hot when you do this or you'll end up with rubbery eggs.
  5. Stir the pan so that everything gets mixed together and as the eggs slowly begin to coagulate you can fold in about a cup or so of grated cheese. 
  6. Once the eggs are about halfway done cooking, stop stirring, sprinkling more cheese on top, and place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
  7. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley (if you have any), cut into wedges and serve (from experience a mimosa is a good accompaniment).
  8. In theory this should be able to feed up to four people, but in reality it was just enough for two very hungry ones with a small wedge leftover.

I decided to wait until after he said he liked it to tell him that I had actually never made a frittata before...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

As a child I learned one of the easiest peanut butter cookie recipes to ever exist: 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg. The result is a rather crispy cookie, and over the years I've decided that I'm much more of a chewy cookie type of guy. Therefore, it was time to enter the test kitchen! I took what I had learned about cookie baking (along with the internet) and headed to the oven. I started mixing ingredients and baking off test cookies until I achieved something I was happy with. Along those lines... I may or may not have lost track of exactly how much flour I added in my cookie iterations. With that in mind I think either quantity listed below would work out well, or you could follow my path by going with the lesser amount, baking off a test cookie, and seeing what you think.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour (although it may have been 1 cup - I lost track...)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup bitter sweet chocolate chips
Procedure:
  1. Cream together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter.
  2. Mix in the eggs.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Form into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press down with a fork to flatten.
  6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-11 minutes.
(If anyone happens to try this recipe, please do let me know how much flour you use...)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Corn and Bacon Chowder

 
Corn is without a doubt my favorite vegetable and one that I have never strayed from. Even as a kid I would gladly eat spoonfuls of golden kernels piled high on my plate without complaint - it probably has something to do with the sugar content (umm...corn syrup anyone?), but that's beside the point. Corn = deliciousness with the added bonus of health benefits.

Then enters the bacon! (Wasn't I just talking about health benefits...oops!) After all, we all know that bacon makes everything taste better (meaty, fatty and salty - oh my!). The combination of salty and sweet in this bowl of delight proves this glorious point once again. (You can tell your arteries not to stress too much - there's only a modest amount of pork heaven per serving). 


Ideally you'd want to make this in the summer when the kernel is in its prime. I had the good fortune of preparing this dish during such a time (August 15th to be exact - and yes, I know how long ago that was...), but thanks to globalization we are able to find "seasonal" produce all year round (for better or worse). Summertime can now be whenever you want! In fact, I have to complete a menu project for school over the coming weeks and I'm pretty sure the theme will be a summer barbecue. Looks like I have a good candidate for a second course!


Ingredients (Yields approximately 4 servings):
  • 6 ears of corn
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pepper (to taste)
Procedure:
  1. Husk the ears of corn and slice the kernels off the cob.
  2. Place the cobs into a large pot, cover with water, add the bay leaves, and simmer for 20 minutes to make a corn broth.
  3. Dice the bacon into half inch strips (pseudo lardons for all of you culinary aficionados out there) and cook the bacon in a skillet until done. Reserve some for a garnish.
  4. Add the corn kernels to the skillet with the rest of the bacon and rendered fat. Saute for about 10 minutes and season with pepper (there should already be enough salt from the bacon, but you can check that at the end). 
  5. Next, put about two-thirds of the skillet contents and roughly a cup of the corn broth into a blender.***
  6. Start blending and add more of the liquid as necessary to obtain the desired consistency. Combine with the remaining whole kernels, taste/adjust for seasoning and serve with the reserved bacon for garnish.


Change It Up: I prefer the end result to be a little chunky which is why I decided to leave some of the kernels whole, but feel free to do whatever floats your boat. You can also consider adding something like heavy cream, butter or cheese to make it a little richer and alter the flavor profile a bit. What else would be good to add?


***Be cautious about putting hot items into a blender - hold the lid with a towel to prevent it from exploding.