Friday, May 30, 2014

Elderflower Sour

This has been an incredibly long week. How about a cocktail to kick off the weekend? Cheers!

Cocktail created by Andrew Buhrer

Makes 1 cocktail

The Ingredients
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine)
1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
1 egg white

The Process
Shake the ingredients over ice until frothy. 

Stain into a cocktail glass.

Serve with a lemon twist.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Bacon

I made these beauties a while back, during a fit of madness in the kitchen. Unfortunately the madness hit the same time I was in the midst of a long lapse in blogging. But the recipe lives on!

the recipe is my own

yields 16-20 cupcakes and a lot of extra frosting

The Ingredients
Bourbon Chocolate Cupcakes:
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 1/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp bourbon

Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting: 
8 oz cream cheese, room temp 
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp 
1/8 tsp salt (or use salted butter) 
3-3 1/2 cup powder sugar, sifted 
1- 2 Tbsp bourbon 
1-2 Tbsp milk

Candied bacon: 
5 stripes of bacon 
2/3 cup brown sugar 

The Process
for the cupcakes
Preheat oven to 375 and line 16-20 cupcake tins

Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder, set aside. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Whisk in vanilla and bourbon. Add flour mixture, alternating with chocolate mixture, until just combined. Do not over mix.

Fill cups 1/2 to 2/3 full. I had enough for about 18...they did puff up quite a bit.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting
cream together cream cheese, butter and salt until fluffy. Add sugar, a cup at a time, alternating with 1 Tbsp liquid. I started with 2 Tbsp bourbon and found I did not need the milk to further beat it to a spreadable consistency. 2 Tbsp Bourbon was enough with that amount of powdered sugar.

Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

for the bacon
preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.

Cut bacon into quarters and press each piece, both sides, into the brown sugar, coating as evenly as possible. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Bake 10-20 minutes. This largely depends on the thickness of the bacon. The most recent bacon I used was a Patrick Cudhay which seemed sliced incredibly thin...8 minutes tops. But I've had thick cut bacon take nearly half and hour before. You want to cook the bacon until the sugar has caramelized the bacon is still slightly pliable.

Transfer to a plate or wire rack to will crisp up more as it cools. Do NOT place the bacon on paper towel to drain. The sugar coating will cause stick.

Allow to cool completely and then use as garnish on the cupcakes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lemon Dill Orzo Salad

Here's a little something simple for your next picnic or potluck. This salad was huge hit the last time I made it. Enjoy!

adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

serves 8-10

The Ingredients:
for the salad
2 cups (about 12 oz) dry orzo
2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped cucumber
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped

for the dressing
6 Tbsp oil
6 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp dill, minced
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
In a large saucepan bring 3 quarts lightly salted water to boiling. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7-9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine cooled orzo, chickpeas, cucumber, onion, feta, and dill.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon, oil, dill and garlic until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Acorn Squash au Gratin with Smoked Ham and Gouda

Leftover ham...a blessing and a curse...

The recipe is mine own

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
2 acorn squash
2 green onion, diced
1 cup smoked ham, diced
2 cup shredded gouda
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper

The Process:
Slice the top and bottom off of each squash. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, cut away the skin from the ridges.
 Cut the squash in half, end to end. Remove the seeds. Cut each half in two. Thinly slice each quarter crosswise, into slices approximately 3/8 inch thick. 

In a lightly greased 3 qt baking dish, arrange 1/3 of the squash in a layer. Top with half of the ham, half of onion and 1/2 cup of the gouda. Layer another 1/3 of the squash and follow with remaining ham, onion. Sprinkle 1/2 cup gouda over top.
 Finish with a layer of the remaining squash.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook until the mixture turns a light golden color, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the cream and milk. Bring the mixture to just about a boil. Add 1/2 cup gouda. Stir until smooth and the gouda has melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the prepared squash. Cover with foil. Bake 45-50 or until squash is tender. Remove foil. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.  Allow to cool 5 -10 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Peppers Stuffed with Farro and Italian Sausage

Some dishes are classic. But I still like to tinker, especially as new ingredients come to my attention. Farro is lovely in this dish. Slightly nutty and more earthy than rice, it adds quite a bit more flavor. It also doesn't disintegrate as much as rice typically does. As a result, the filling has much more texture and doesn't form up into a homogeneous meatloaf mass as some other stuffed pepper fillings are wont to do. The blend of Italian sausage and ground beef lends the filling a little extra kick. Feel free to play around with spicier meat blend. A chorizo tex/mex blend could be fun...

the recipe is my own

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup farro
1 cup stock or water 4 medium green peppers
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 - 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp capers, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lg ground mild Italian sausage
1 egg

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350 F

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth and farro to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Slice the tops off of the peppers. Trim away the extra flesh from around the stem, coarsely chop, and set aside. Remove the membranes and seeds from the cavity.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanche the peppers for about 5 minutes, or until they are a vibrant green. Rinse the peppers in ice water and set aside to drain.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic and reserved chopped pepper. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, capers, and seasoning. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the cooked farro, beef, sausage, egg and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Arrange the peppers upright in a lightly oiled baking dish. Spoon the filling into each pepper cavity, doming the mixture slightly.

Spoon the remaining tomato mixture over the top. Bake, uncovered, about 60 minutes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hoppy Gimlet

It was snowing. On the way home from work on April 29th, it was snowing. So I did what any reasonable person would do. I stopped at the liquor store, grabbed a bottle of gin and headed home to play.

If only limes weren't so dastardly expensive right now...

Based off of the recipe from David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

1 serving

The Ingredients:

60 ml (2 oz) gin
15 ml (12 oz) fresh lime juice
15 ml (12 oz) honey simple syrup
4 drops hop bitters
lime to garnish

The Process:
Shake well with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.Top with bitters. Garnish with lime.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Red Curry Risotto with Thai Shrimp and Aspargus

Dinner tonight was an exercise in time and space management. The meal came together in about 45 minutes. All of the steps involved were fairly easy. But there was a lot to keep track of. I also did not seem to have enough space to broil the shrimp and asparagus at the same time. And sadly, the constant barrage of rain kept the grill at bay. This added some stress to the time management aspect. I opted to broil the asparagus first, tenting with foil afterwards to keep the spears warm until I was ready to plate them. The hot risotto spooned over the top helped bring the spears back up to temp.

Best plan of attack: create a mise-en-scène...laying out all of your ingredients and utensils. Start the risotto and get it to that first ladelful of broth. Start the shrimp marinading. Continue stirring the risotto. Broil the asparagus. Skewer the shrimp. Continue stirring risotto. Broil the shrimp. Plate. Serve.

Collapse into the chair after that marathon of planning and prep to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

risotto adapted from Pretty Little Dishes
the shrimp and asparagus preparation are my own

serves 4

The Ingredients
for the risotto:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced red onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups aborio rice
3/4 cup kolsch beer (or white wine)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
salt to taste

for the shrimp:
1 lb large shrimp (31-35 count), peeled and de-veined
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp peanut butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp brown sugar

for the asparagus
1 lb aspagus, trimmed
coarse salt

The Process:
for the risotto
In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.  Keep warm.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and garlic. Sauté over medium high heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the flaked coconut and rice, stir to coat evenly.

Slowly pour in the kolsch.  Lower heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring continuously.  Once the beer has been absorbed, add the warm stock, one ladleful at a time, allowing each addition to be fully absorbed before adding the next.  Patience is key.  Stir gently and continuously. 

After about half of the stock has been used, stir in the coconut milk and red curry paste, mixing until well combined.
Awww...curry, I love you too!
Continue to add the broth, one ladelful at a time.  After the last ladle of stock has been absorbed, and the rice is creamy in texture and slightly al dente, add the butter. Season with salt to taste. Remove the risotto from the heat. Cover and let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.

for the shrimp:
Rinse the shrimp and set aside.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together to create a thick marinade. Place shrimp in a shallow bowl or zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over, coating the shrimp completely. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate at least 15 minutes, but no longer than an hour.

Preheat the broiler or grill. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Thread onto skewers, about 4-5 per skewer. Broil or grill until shrimp are opaque and slightly charred, 3-4 minutes per side

for the asparagus
Preheat the broiler.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and spread out the asparagus in a single layer. Generously sprinkle with coarse salt. Broil 8-10 minutes, flipping once, or until the asparagus is tender and beginning to char.

to serve:
Divide the asparagus among four dinner plates, arranging the spears in a single, parallel layer. Spoon a generous scoop of risotto down the center of the spears. Top with two skewers of shrimp and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Beer Ice Cream

I've been tinkering around with beer ice cream for a while. How incredibly rude to not have shared this goodness until now.

One of my favorite beers to use is a Belgian dubbel and malty with hints of toffee, figs, and plums coupled with those intoxicating yeasty esters and phenolics of banana and clove. In this instance I opted for one of our lovely local breweries in Minneapolis, Boom Island Brewing Company, and their Hoodoo Dubbel.

But don't let my recommended favorite prevent you from playing around. Any malt forward beer will work. Think stouts and porters, Scottish ales, browns, bocks, and milds. Moderate alcohol levels are preferred. Too low and the ice cream can freeze rock solid. Too much and you have soft serve on your hands (not necessarily a bad thing). An ABV in the 6%-9% range is ideal. Don't let that prevent you from using your favorite barleywine, wee heavy, Russian imperial stout or old ale though...but plan reducing the full amount of beer down, or using less beer overall to ensure the ice cream firms up.

Avoid hoppy beers...the bitterness is intensified when the beer is reduced. But rest assured, I am working on a way to turn your favorite IPA into a frozen treat. It may or may not involve actual hops in addition to the beer...

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

yields about 1 quart

The Ingredients:
12 oz malt forward beer, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream

The Process:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add 10 oz of the beer, reserving the remaining 2 oz. Reduce to about half, stirring to prevent the beer from foaming up. Combine the reduced beer to the reserved 2 oz. Add the vanilla and set aside to cool.

Set up an ice bath of cold water and ice in a large bowl. Set fine mesh strainer over a medium-sized bowl and position into the ice bath. Set aside.

In a clean, medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth. Whisk in the cream until well combined. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken. Keep the stovetop low and continue gently stirring to avoid inadvertently making scrambled eggs. Bring the custard up to 180 F and promptly remove from heat.

Carefully strain the custard through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl set over the ice bath. Pour don't want to capsize the custard into the ice bath below. Whisk in the reduced beer. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, stirring periodically. Remove from the ice bath, cover, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Using an ice cream maker, freeze the chilled base according to the manufacturer's directions. Transfer the ice cream to a 1.5 qt container and allow to set in the freezer for an additional 24 hours.

Friday, May 2, 2014

IPA Spiked Chicken Tikka Masala

Tikka Masala is no stranger in our household. I've made this dish, and enough of its Indian relatives to whip it up with nothing more than a cursory glance at a ghee stained recipe. The amount of ginger and garlic often varies. Sometimes I use a serrano pepper to two of a kick of heat, other time a subtle touch of chili powder. Fresh and canned tomatoes alternate depending on my mood and the seasons (there are few things sadder than a "tomato" in the middle of a Midwestern winter).

So why does this warrant another visit to this blog...a blog that attempts to chronicle my culinary adventures as I test new waters?

In a word,


Ross had requested tikka masala when I asked for dishes to round out our week of dinners. As if by fate, the day before I had planned on our Indian feast, the Beeroness posted a yogurt and ale marinaded grilled chicken. The similarities between her chicken and the marinade for my chicken tikka were uncanny. These long lost cousins were only divided by a mix up of spices and the addition of beer. The discover was enough to revisit and modify this favorite.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did.

Inspired and adapted from The Beeroness, The Pioneer Woman, and my tried and true tikka masala recipe courtesy of Monica Bhide

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for the chicken and marinade
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup IPA
1 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch thumb of ginger, minced

for the Tikka Masala
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch thumb of ginger, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely diced
1 Tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 - 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
2 large handfuls of spinach, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup IPA
salt to taste

for the Basmati rice
1 cup basmati rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup frozen peas

The Process:
for the marinade
In a large bowl or gallon-sized zip top bag, combine the yogurt, IPA, and spices. Mix well. Add the cubed chicken and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours.

for the Tikka Masala:
Pre-heat the broiler.

Remove the chicken from the marinade. Thread onto metal skewers and arrange on an oiled cooling rack set over a foil lined baking sheet. Broil the chicken, 10" from the heat source, 5-7 minutes per side or until the chicken is beginning to char and juices run clear. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prep the rice:
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, rice, turmeric, salt, and broth. Bring to a boil and stir until the butter has melted. Reduce to a low simmer and cover, cooking 30-35 minutes or until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Back to the Tikka Masala:
Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Sauté until fragrant and the onion is translucent, 6-8 minutes.
Add the spices and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp of salt, the diced tomato and the tomato paste. Simmer on medium low for about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the heavy cream and return to a simmer.

Remove the cooked chicken from the skewers and stir into the sauce. Cover and simmer until the chicken is heated through.

Stir in the chopped spinach and simmer until the spinach wilts. Remove the tikka masala from heat and stir in the 1/4 cup IPA. Adjust salt and seasoning to taste.

Prior to serving, stir 1/2 cup peas into the basmati rice. Spoon pea-studded rice onto each plate and top with tikka masala