Friday, July 27, 2012

Found Friday

Today, I am introducing one of the new weekly features on my blog: Found Friday. While I love to experiment in the kitchen, and spend a great deal of time testing my own recipes or modifying old family ones... I often run across recipes and ideas from other sources that get the old go-round in my kitchen.

Whether it's a cookbook that has been dog-earred, stained, and has notes all over the margins or a trat from a fellow foodie blogger, this is where I will share it. Found Fridays will be all about those discovered little treasures that have found their way into my kitchen battery. This is not a place where you will find Pinterest shares. Pinterest will find its own place on here in the coming days. But, for now, on to FOUND FRIDAY...

Today's finding is brought to you by Kichen PLAY and CUTCO cutlery. If you haven't yet stumbled upon Kitchen PLAY, it's a fabulously inspiring little site from the creator of Taste Stopping (a humorous poke at the elitist foodie sites such as TasteSpotting, FoodGawker, etc., publishing only rejected food snaps). I adore both sites.

Every month, Kichen PLAY hosts a "progressive party." An online potluck of sorts. Six food bloggers are selected to create either a cocktail, amuse bouche, salad, appetizer/soup, entree, or dessert. Here's the catch: each blogger is challenged to incorporate the same product or kitchen tool in creating their dish. Then, readers are invited to play along in a sort of "blog hop," if you will, and recreate one of the featured recipes.

This month's sponsor is CUTCO cutlery. 6 bloggers were given the challenge of using their cutlery to slice and dice their way to success in this month's delectable creations. While I have no experience with CUTCO's product, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about their product line! And, winners of this month's progressive party will win a CUTCO Salad Mates gift set!

After scanning through my choices, I decided to recreate the Summer Ceviche from Aggie's Kitchen.

Ceviche is one of those refreshing summer dishes that I often enjoy at some of my favorite beach restaurants during our many trips up and down the Carolina coasts. But, I've never tried to make it at home. I was always fascinated by the idea that the citrus juices actually "cooked" the fish, but never delighted in actually observing the process. This was my perfect opportunity! I made a few adjustments to her recipe, but not many. Here you go:

Summer Ceviche
1 lb fresh halibut, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 red onion, diced small

1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 C fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
1/4 C fresh lime juice (about 3-4 limes)
Pinch of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 red pepper, diced small
2 jalapenos, diced small
Bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Drizzle of olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Melba toast rounds and table water crackers, for serving

Start off by juicing the lemons and limes. I highly recommend a hand-juicer if you don't already have one. It makes quick work of juicing the citrus, and maximizes the quantity of your juice.

Halibut was the star of this recipe not by choice, but rather by accident. I sent the Mr. to the store with a very specific list of ingredients to procure for that night's dinner. On that list? 1 pound of flounder. Readily available, inexpensive, delicious FLOUNDER. What did I get instead? Halibut. Don't get me wrong... having spent many years in Alaska, I love me some halibut! Back in Alaska, halibut is plentiful. And, cheap. There's a reason it is referred to as "poor man's lobster." My parents usually have a deep-freeze full from summer fishing trips. Never in my life have I paid $25 for ONE pound of halibut. But, in light of the fact that the flounder was completely intact, just without a pulse... the Mr. decided I would be better off with a headless, scaleless, skinless fillet. The only whit fish on ice that fit that bill? $25 per pound halibut. Crazy man. At that price, I'll happily skin and decapitate any other fish! But, the halibut was delicious, so I digress...

To prepare the ceviche, combine fish, red onion, shallot and garlic in lg bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover completely with citrus juices, and toss gently to combine.

Cover bowl, and refrigerate for 2 1/2 hours (stirring halfway through) until fish is white and "cooked" through.

To prepare the salad, use a slotted spoon to move the fish mixture to a new bowl (leaving behind the citrus juices). Add the red pepper, jalapenos, and cilantro to the bowl. Dress with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Serve with melba toast rounds and table water crackers.

This is makes for some light, delicious summer fare that even the pickiest of kids will love. Trust me... mine licked their plates clean!

If you want to participate in this month's progressive party, you still have until July 31 to get those kitchen creations posted. You can find the participatinghere blog posts here and the official rules here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Next Food Network Star: Challenge #6

No, no, no... I haven't quit blogging again. We've just been a little bit busy doing a little bit of this...

And, a little bit of that...

And, this too...

But, more on that later. With all the getting hitched, family visits, and honeymoon business... I've fallen a bit behind on The Next Food Network Star challenges. Since the show is almost over, I'll finish posting the couple of challenges that I already completed, and set the project aside until next season. Next time, we'll be up and running on premiere night... not like this year's late start. Not to worry, I've been cooking up a storm since we've gotten back from Alaska. I have lots to share, and plenty of future plans for the blog to include weekly features that will debut this week. So, stay tuned! 

Tonight is the final episode of this season's Next Food Network Star. Fingers crossed, and all bets are on for my fave, Justin Warner to bring it home tonight. In the meantime... here's the first of two installments of my remaining completed challenges:

For episode 6, we tuned in while the teams competed against each other to elevate the cuisine of typical food court fare. Team Alton: an Italian-themed booth. Team Giada: a Mexican-themed service. And, Team Bobby Flay: an American deli style menu. 

According to Food Network, here is the synopsis for episode 7...

Ten finalists remain to compete for the title of Food Network Star. This week, each finalist must elevate iconic food-court food while adapting to the limitations of a kiosk. The challenge is taken to another level when they learn they'll be feeding Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian in addition to 150 hungry shoppers! Tensions mount as Zakarian provides an Iron Chef-worthy secret ingredient that the finalists will have to incorporate in their dishes.

Per our usual random selection, I came up with the challenge of creating a dish for the classic American deli. And, what deli menu would be complete without a side of fries to go with those delectable sandwiches? These are the French fries to end ALL French fries!

Inspired by a dish discovered at the Alaska State Fair many, many years ago... I present to you peanut potatoes!

I grew up mostly in Texas, having moved to Alaska only right before my sophomore year in high school. Alaska, with its breath-taking scenery, is a magnificent place to visit. Although, with its long, cold, dark winters... it is up for debate on its ranking as a desireable place to live full-time. Obviously, summer is the ideal time to visit. And, if you can manage a trip right at the end of summer, you can count yourself lucky enough to have a stab at a trip to the state fair. Living there, the state fair becomes a rather stale event year after year. Not much changes. Same food booths. Same craft vendors. Same 1,000 pound cabbage contest. But, there is one booth that made the journey worth it every time: the peanut potato food truck. This is one of the elusive booths that only graces the presence of the fairway every couple of years. It is a booth, upon which its sole participation, determines whether we even make the long trek from Anchorage to Palmer on any given year. 

Fingerling potatoes are fairly easy to come by in the south. Every summer, you will be able to find a choice of red, white, even purple fingerling potatoes up for purchase. In Alaska? Not so much. These buttery, flavorful spuds were an oddity to come across up in the last frontier. Until I moved to North Carolina, I was never able to duplicate this recipe on my own. But, now that I can... they are a regular on our summer BBQ menus. And, let me tell you... the put your run-of-the mill French fries to shame!

Peanut Potatoes
2 (1 lb) bags fingerling potatoes
Peanut oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Dried parsley
1 med tub sour cream
1 (.4 oz) pkg ranch dressing mix
1 pkg real bacon bits

Fingerling potatoes, although only the length of a finger (hence the name), are fully matured when harvested. They have thin skins which are ideal to remain intact during cooking. Low in starch, with a waxy texture, they make for a smooth buttery treat once cooked. Look at these beautiful little taters...

Start by cutting up your potatoes. If the fingeling spuds are small enough, halving them is good enough. But if you end up with a bag of rather large guys, go ahead and quarter them. My selection was small enough to halve.

You'll need a deep fat fryer for these. Admittedly, I purchased mine SOLEY for making peanut potatoes. But trust me... once you have one, you won't know how you ever lived without it! Fill the fryer up with peanut oil (canola oil if you have food allergies). Heat the oil up to 375*, and begin frying the potatoes in batches. You will be able to tell when the potatoes are done frying. They will reach a nice golden brown, and float to the top of the oil.

While your potatoes are frying, go ahead and whip up your baked potato dip. Empty the sour cream into a mixing bowl. Add your ranch dressing mix and bacon bits. Stir to combine.

When the potatoes are done, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the fryer. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Once drained and slightly cooled, sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and parsley. Serve with a side of baked potato dip to scoop up with those tasty taters!

Did you know that, if Belgian hisotrians had it their way, we wouldn't even know French fries by their current moniker? The Belgians insist that originated the fried potato. They would have us believe that it was American soldiers, arriving in Belgium during WWI that accidentally branded them as "French fries" for evermore. What the Americans had sampled were actually Belgium fries, but as a result of French being the official language of the Belgian army at the time... Americans coined these tasty fried treats "French fries."

Either way, trust me when I tell you... these peanut potatoes are unlike any French fry you have ever popped in your mouth. The texture of fingerling potatoes is smooth and buttery. And, that dip... oh that dip! These are heavenly little treats! Serve up with your favorite sandwich or burger, and you'll be on the hunt for fingerling potatoes to accompany EVERY summer meal!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Next Food Network Star: Challenge #2

Between wedding stuff, visiting relatives, honeymoon preparations, and an insane amount of house cleaning... things have been busy around here for the past couple of weeks. So, please excuse the tardy posts. We're still playing the catch-up game with Next Food Network Star challenges. We're back to Challenge #2: The Food Tour of New York. The contestants toured infamous foodie spots around New York, took what they learned, created their own dish, then served up the dish with a side of drive-by history on a food tour of the city. Here is the official synopsis per Food Network's website...

This week's challenge is a food tour of New York! The finalists are split into three teams and will each take a busload of tourists on a tour of three different New York neighborhoods. How entertaining are they? What landmarks will they highlight? How much food knowledge do they impart? Then each finalist will have to prepare and serve a dish to the judges based on the research they do in the neighborhoods.

While we don't live in New York City, we have our own realtively famous culinary stomping grounds: Raleigh/Durham, NC. A couple of weeks ago, while visiting the Durham Farmers' Market, we came across the motherload of food trucks. One, in particular, struck my fancy... the chicken and waffles truck. What true southerner doesn't love their chicken and waffles? Unfortunately, the next weekend... after I set out upon completing this challenge, the truck wasn't there. Ahhh... but, Durham is host to the next best thing (or perhaps the first best thing): Dame's Chicken and Waffles

The Mr. and I visited the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon with every intention of talking to the staff, learning a little bit about their history, and getting a belly-full of delicious chicken and waffles. Unfortunately, that wasn't what happened AT ALL. I use Yelp! all the time to read reviews on local restaurants, and find new places to visit. This was the only time I actually felt the need to create a Yelp! account solely for the purpose of reviewing a restaurant. 

Since Dame's was featured in Southern Living, it has become quite to popular dining destination... understandably so. We walked in the door, and were immediately asked if we had a reservation. No, we didn't. But, the Mr. inquired if we could make one and wait. The hostess simply turned our back to us, leaving us standing there slightly befuddled. Another couple walked in the door, stated they didn't have a reservation, and asked if they could eat at the bar. No problem. The hostess seated them immediately. Another host was left at the podium, and again we asked if we could make a reservation. He stared blankly at us, then turned around and walked off. Okay. That was enough. We abruptly left the restaurant. So, while Dame's might have the best chicken and waffles around... we'll never know. The horrid service was such an incredible turn-off... we will never frequent the steps of that restaurant again. But, that didn't stop me from concocting my own chicken and waffles recipe at home! A little spicy, a little crunchy, a whole lotta' flavor... I present to you Clucks-N-Quilts! A buffalo wings/pigs in a blanket-inspired chicken and waffles dish:

For salad:
5 celery stalks, finely chopped (plus more stalks, sliced for serving)
1 lg dill pickle, finely chopped (I prefer Claussen brand)
1 med shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 C bleu good-quality cheese dressing (plus more for serving)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For chicken:
Canola oil
1 pkg chicken tenderloins
1 bottle hot wing sauce (I prefer Texas Pete)
1 1/2 C Bisquick
1 1/2 C panko bread crumbs
2 tsp paprika

For waffles:
4 eggs, separated
2 C whole milk
1 bottle Tobasco sauce
2/3 C unsalted butter, melted
5 oz container bleu cheese crumbles
1/3 C parsley, minced
2 1/3 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt

Go ahead and put your tenderloins in a plastic Ziplock bag, cover with buffalo wing sauce and refrigerate while marinating for 1-2 hours. You can start the salad now too. It can be refrigerated for a while during your chicken and waffle making. Start by finely chopping your celery and dill pickle.

Then, dice your shallot and garlic cloves.

Add celery, pickle, shallot, and garlic in a med bowl with the bleu cheese dressing and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Toss to coat. Cover, and refrigerate.

Prior to creating this recipe, I laughed at the thought of owning a waffle maker. It seemed like a kitchen frivolity. After all... how often would I really use it? Let me tell you... if all I used it for was this recipe... it was worth every penny I paid for it. So, let's get started on those waffles! Preheat your waffle maker, and preheat your oven to 200* (to keep the waffles warm while you finish the rest of the batch). And, go ahead and get your canola oil heated up for the chicken. If you have a fryer... set it at 375*, otherwise heat the oil in a skillet on the stove. Back to the waffles... in a lg bowl, whick together egg yolks, milk, butter, cheese, Tobasco and parsley. Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the yolk mixture; whisk until smooth. In a stand mixer (or in a bowl with a hand mixer), whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to fold egg whites into batter mixture. Pour batter into waffle maker, close and cook until crisp and golden (about 5-6 min). Transfer waffles to wire rack in oven to keep warm.

On to your chicken! Sift the Bisquick and paprika into a shallow bowl. Add the panko crumbs, and toss to combine. Working in batches, dredge your marinated tenderloins in the breading mix until nicely coated. 

Add to hot oil, and fry until golden brown and cooked through (about 5-6 minutes). Remove from oil to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. 

To serve, place a waffle on the plate. Top with a scoop of the salad mixture, 2 chicken tenderloins and a drizzle of bleu cheese dressing on top. 

It's making my mouth water all over again just typing out this recipe! The Mr. has his favorite things that I make. But, in my own opinion... this is my all time favorite meal that I have EVER made. We rolled the waffles up to make the connection to "pigs in a blanket" official, but that didn't translate well into the photo session. Serve with a side of celery, and some extra bleu cheese dressing for dipping... perfecto!

The origin of chicken and waffles is uncertain, at best. Stories range from Southern slaves to the Pennsylvania Dutch being the creators of this dish. Either or, one thing is for certain... this dish gained its popularity through the Harlem Renaissance of the 20's-40's. At the height of the jazz music explosion, Harlem was the place to be. Concerts, parties, eves of merriment would often linger into the wee hours of the morning. Many restaurants in the area began to capitalize on the trend, and stay open for hours to accomodate the famished party-goers. The infamous Wells' Supper Club, in attempt to eliminate food waste, decided to take their left-over fried chicken from the end of the dinner rush, combine it with a sweet waffle topped with syrup, and the rest is history! Chicken and waffles are a true southern staple, and this spin on the classic dish is keep your taste buds coming back for more.

Thanks for joining me today, and check back on Wednesday for another Next Food Network Star Challenge... Challenge #8!