Monday, December 23, 2013

Cook Something: Spiked Hot Chocolate and Homemade Churros

For a perfectly cozy evening or a late night Christmas treat, I highly recommend some steamy hot chocolate and homemade churros.I made these a couple Fridays ago on a particularly dreary and frigid night and they were the perfect way to spend the evening.


The churro batter is very similar to a French pate a choux, albeit thicker.  Making churros is a lot less intimating than it sounds, but a couple words of advice. Watch the temperature of your oil.  If your oil gets too hot your churros will burn before cooking on the inside.  If the oil is too cool, your churros will be greasy.  Use a thermometer and keep your oil as close to 350 as you can.  Secondly, invest the $8 in a pastry bag.  Most recipes will say you can use a gallon bag with the corner snipped off.  This. Is. A. Lie.  This batter is thick.  If you try to squeeze it out of a gallon bag the bag will split open and you're going to end up with a huge mess all over your counter.  I bought my pastry bag at Michael's of all places, but you can find them at any kitchen wares store and possibly Walmart (if your Walmart has a cake decorating section).



For the hot chocolate, I used this recipe and to be honest I didn't love it, especially because it required a decent amount of work.  Whatever hot chocolate you decide to use make sure it's super thick and decadent.



Churros
Adapted from here.
Ingredients:

  • 8 cups vegetable oil or other frying oil
  • 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon.  Mix together in a gallon size ziploc bag and set aside
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups milk, at room temperature*
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature*
*To bring to room temperature quickly, microwave the milk in 30 second bursts.  Be careful the milk doesn't scald.  Place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.

Instructions:
  • Add oil to a heavy bottomed pot and bring to 350 degrees.  I prefer using my LeCreuset dutch oven for frying.
  • Bring milk, butter, salt, remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and nutmeg to boil on medium-high heat in a large saucepan.  Turn off heat once boiling and allow to stand for 10 minutes so the flavors infuse in the milk.
  • Discard the cinnamon stick.  Bring the mixture back up to a boil then add the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms.  This is going to take a bit of muscle.
  • Transfer dough to a large bowl and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes, stir periodically to help with the cooling.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated before add the next egg.  
    • If you do this by hand there will be a moment when you think everything has gone terribly wrong.  The dough will somehow look curdled.  Fear not!  Just keeping beating and like magic the dough will transfer back to a homogenous mixture.
  • Insert a star tip into the pastry bag and add the dough into the pastry bag.  I like to use a chip clip to close the top of the bag to prevent any of the dough from squeezing out the back.
  • Pipe the dough into the hot oil in 4-6 inch long pieces.  Pinch the dough of with your fingers or snip with scissors.  Fry up to 6 churros at a time for 3-4 minutes until a beautiful golden brown.
  • Quickly roll the cooked churros on a paper towel and then toss in the bag filled with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Enjoy while warm!

Merriest of Christmases to those of you who celebrate!









Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Friendsgiving 2

This past weekend Jason and I hosted our 2nd Annual Friendsgiving.  If you remember from last year, we hosted the inaugural Friendsgiving outside, and I had every intention of doing so again this year.  Mother Nature, however, had very different plans.  It was cold in Texas this past weekend, very very cold, especially for Texas.  So Jason and I had no choice but to move Friendsgiving inside.  We are fortunate enough that by clearing every. last. piece of furniture out of our living room and dining room that we had just enough room to fit the 26 people who had RSVP'd for the event.  We were fairly concerned about space, and although it may have been a little snug, it was a perfectly cozy way to spend a very dreary and frigid night.

So without further ado, the details from Friendsgiving 2.

I was adamant about using real plates and silverware this year.  I picked up the plates from the Dollar Tree (for a $1 a piece, which is crazy because I actually like them more than my actual plates) and the silverware was leftover from my sister's graduation party.

Jason rented tables and chairs from our trusty rental place and I decorated each table with strands of bittersweet and white candles.



Each table setting had a mini-pumpkin pie thank you gift that I made (completely from scratch, crust and all, which is kind of big deal because I am certainly no baker).  Friendsgiving is a party that requires you to bring food, so I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to make and attend the party and to thank all of the great friends we have in our life.  Thanksgiving so often gets overlooked and I particularly love this event, because it's simply a chance to say thank you to everyone who helps enrich our lives.

I downloaded the "thank you" calligraphy from here and sized it down in Photoshop to about 3"x2".


For beverages I made spiked apple cider and unsweet tea.  And everyone brought beer and wine to share.

Jason and I were fairly concerned about squeezing 26 people into our 1200 square foot apartment.  We knew in advance that the tables and chairs would fit, because we did the same thing for my graduation party, but that party maxed out around 20 people and we had a solid 6 more coming to Friendsgiving.


My idea to help work with traffic flow was to create a "photo booth" in this weird area that connects every room in our house, but isn't really a room itself.  It's kind of like a foyer, but smack dab in the middle.  I decided to set my camera up on a tripod and let people take pictures in front of a backdrop of streamers that I saved from my mother's fiesta party.  The lighting wasn't great in that room, and I'm working on fixing the white balance.


I spatchedcocked the turkey again, using Kenji's method.  This is my second year doing this and I firmly maintain it is the easiest, fastest, and most full proof method of cooking a turkey.

Me shaking "Bertha's" wing.  Yes, I named the turkey.

And this is what you get.  A house full of good food and better friends.  A pretty enjoyable way to spend an evening.

And me the next morning...thinking about how much clean up I had to do.
*Thanks to Tiffany and Keith for the awesome mug.*



I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!  And a huge thanks to everyone who helped make Friendsgiving a success!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Brunch: Poached Eggs with Corn, Chorizo, Basil, and Brioche Croutons

I am always on the look out for brunch food.  Brunch in Dallas and Texas in general is kind of a big deal, and although most of my friends prefer to while the day away on a patio somewhere (which don't get me wrong is pretty fantastic), I tend to spend my Sundays on my front patio because that requires neither makeup nor shoes.

This brunch recipe from The Food Lab's post on perfect poached eggs is pretty much perfect.  It includes crunchy brioche croutons, crispy Spanish chorizo (and for those of you in Texas, it's different from Mexican chorizo), slightly blackened corn, and a delicious butter sauce.  Add that perfect poached egg and it's one delectable meal.  

Truth be told, it's an involved meal.  And this is coming from someone who barely blinks an eye at involved meals and instinctually distrusts recipes that are overly simple.  That said, it's not difficult, just don't expect to get it on the table lightning fast.

But make sure it gets to your table because it is damn good and so worth the time.



I poach my eggs using my sous vide, which is as easy as dropping the eggs shell and all in the equipment and letting them swim for about an hour.  Then you drain off the thin white part and give them a quick dunk in gently simmering water.  That process is ridiculously easy and your eggs both look and taste spectacularly.

Kenji gives a lot of details on creating the perfect poached egg, both with a sous vide and without so scoot on over there and read it.  Your brunch menus will thank you.


Then whip this baby up at home and enjoy the fruits of your labors.




Friday, November 1, 2013

Lawyered.

It is officially official.  I passed the Texas Bar Exam!!!!!

 And in two short weeks I will be sworn in as an attorney.  It's been such a long process and I am over the moon excited that I finally made it.  My boss let me leave work after results posted so I spent my first day as a real life attorney hanging out at Klyde Warren Park enjoying champagne and the lovely fall weather.  It was pretty much the perfect day.





Thursday, October 3, 2013

Painting Party

Two posts in a row! What what!

Last weekend we celebrated by friend's birthday with a night at Painting with a Twist, which is an instructor led painting session and you can bring in snacks and wine.  So basically it's most of my favorite things rolled into a 2 hour party.


I call myself the traveling party, because more often than not my trunk is filled with a variety of party essentials: platters, decorations, you name it.  But this party takes the cake in the traveling department.  I knew I wouldn't be able to get home and back to the painting place before the class started and have time to set up so I left home with a cooler filled with cheeses, snacks, and wine and trunk full of platters and plates...and carried it into work.  It's days like those I'm thankful that I have my own office to hide random things in.

Snacks included Marcona almonds, brie, the most delicious blue cheese ever, and a sharp white cheddar, some fruit, and various crackers.

A huge shout out to this Whole Foods for carrying a gluten free chocolate cake!  Jennifer can't eat gluten and this is the first time I found a gluten free cake.  ...my baking skills are not quite ready to tackle that feat.


 The beginning on our painting adventure.

The end.

Also, unrelated to the painting party, but I made this as a gift to one of my coworkers for her 10th anniversary with my firm.  I call it crafting: attorney style.


If I finally upload some pictures from my real camera, I may make it three days in a row!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

State Fair Themed 18th Birthday Party

Well I'm back.  My apologies for the delay; I've been finding it rather difficult to find a time to blog with working full time.

A couple weekends ago, I threw my cousin a State Fair Themed 18th Birthday.  The State Fair is her favorite thing and it seemed only logical to kick off fair season (her birthday was the week before) with a little State Fair inspiration.  The Texas State Fair is deemed the Fried Food Capital of Texas so I knew a majority of the food needed to be fried.  We picked up most of the food pre-made, but I was determined to homemake the corn dogs. (They're her favorite food).

Frying 24 corn dogs wasn't very difficult, although it was slightly time consuming.  My advice for any sort of frying is to be diligent with the temperature of the oil.  Too hot and your oil will burn and your house will smell like a McDonald's.  Too cold and your food will come out greasy and oily.

We kept the decorations fairly simple and went for a country, Texas theme.

*Sorry for all of the terrible quality photos.  I left my real camera at home and had to rely on my iPhone for photos.

The party itself was a complete surprise and I really have to commend her friends on keeping the entire thing under wraps.


I made the banners by cutting bandanas in half and hot gluing them to jute.  And yes, I burned the devil out of my fingers, twice.






Food included: fried corn dogs, "gas station" sandwiches (it's a family tradition), buffalo wings, fried jalapeƱo bottle caps, mac and cheese cakes, mozzarella sticks, and assorted popcorns.


Jason hand squeezed 20 lemons to make the lemonade (he's a keeper that one) and we enlisted one of Sarah's friends to make cake balls, in lieu of cake.

We had a made to order funnel cake station.  I fried individual portions of funnel cakes for the kids and we had a variety of sweets to top them with.  The empty bowl eventually had powdered sugar in it...after my Gram saved the day and made a last minute hail mary trip to the grocery store.  



 Little Dolce enjoying the party, by staying far away from everyone.  (He's actually sitting on an outside table.)

Happy Birthday SK! Love you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Brunch: Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato Biscuits, and Hatch Cream Sauce

So the title is a mouth full, but I couldn't figure out a way to shrink it down and not lose any of the deliciousness that is included in this meal.  I know I've said it before but brunch is my favorite meal.  I live for the days that I can spend a morning cooking something and the early afternoon indulging in it.  I'm always on the look out for that "perfect" brunch, and I think I may have finally found my holy grail of brunch.  But as fate would have it, what truly makes this meal special is the roasted hatch chili cream sauce, and hatch chilies are only available in Texas during August.  So this meal will sit patiently in my mind until I can get my hands on another case of hatch chilies.

Now I'll be the first to admit that you likely will not want to cook a giant hunk of pork shoulder (also called pork butt and Boston butt) purely for brunch.  I cooked the pork shoulder the night before for pulled pork sliders and saved half of the shoulder to use for breakfast.

There are several ways to cook pulled pork.  There is the fail proof crock-pot method that oddly enough uses some form of cola to cook the meat until it's falling apart tender.  There is the tried and true BBQ method, which involves smoking the meat low and slow for 12+ hours until it is falling apart and tender.  And, if you have the requisite equipment there is the sous vide and smoke method that I always use.

I've mentioned the sous vide in passing before,  but I have sadly never given my most absolute favorite kitchen gadget the proper posting it deserves.  But because it deserves its own post, I won't do it now either.  For now, suffice to say that sous vide is a method of cooking food that involves sealing it in a bag and cooking in a precisely controlled water bath.  The results are both outstanding and deceptively easy.

So for the pulled pork, I did the majority of the cooking in the sous vide.  I set my water bath to 175 degrees and allowed the meat to cook for approximately 10 hours.  The benefit with this method is that it allowed the connective tissue and fat to melt to nothing and left me with a sublimely delicious jous that I used after I shredded the meat.  Once my meat was largely cooked, I simply moved it to our grill/smoker and smoked it for an hour using mesquite chips.  This formed that beautiful smoke ring crust that you see in BBQ joints and it kept me from spending 12 hours tending to a fire.  I ended up with tender and juicy meat with a delicious smoke taste.

I'm not sure where I came up with the idea to pair the pulled pork with sweet potato biscuits, but once it was in my head I couldn't get it out.  I knew that the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes would pair beautifully the the smoky and silky texture of the meat.   After that it was simply a matter of finding something to bring everything together.  And I knew creamy roasted hatch sauce would do just that.


It is no secret that I have a deep and lasting love affair with the hatch chili.  It is so obvious that my dad calls me every summer to tell me that he saw the Central Market semis on the way from Hatch, New Mexico (which is near where he lives) on their way to Texas.  I really have no idea what makes the Hatch chili so special, but they are the most complex and robust flavored chili I've yet to encounter.  I spend an entire year craving the Hatch chili and always keep some stocked in my freezer to tide me over during my wait.

Pork shoulder is a relatively fatty type of meat so it generally needs something tangy or something hot to cut through that fat or your palate will be overwhelmed.  This sauce provides both.  It is both tangy from the greek yogurt and spicy from the chilies and is the perfect accompaniment to the smoky fatty meat.  And best of all, the sauce is deceptively simple.  Jason was stunned when I told him how few ingredients were actually in it.

So enough of my poetic waxing.  Can you tell how excited and how much I love this meal?

Pulled Pork on Sweet Potato Biscuits with a Hatch Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups pulled pork, cooked according to your preferred method
For the Sweet Potato Biscuits
Adapted from Key Ingredient
  • ¾cup cooked mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
  • ⅓ to ½ cup whole milk, as needed
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
Instructions:
  • Whisk the mashed sweet potato and the milk in a medium sized bowl until the lumps are removed.
  • Using either a food processor (fitted with the dough blade) or a whisk, mix together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter into the mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  
    • I like to do all of this in the food processor and pulse several times.  It makes the process of making biscuits incredibly easy.
  • Add the potato/milk mixture to the dry mixture.  Pulse/stir the mixture until it begins to come together, adding just enough milk to create a dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and shape the dough into a 1/2 in square.  Cut into biscuits using a biscuit cutter or a cup; I just use a cup.
  • Bake a 425 on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned.  Allow to cool slightly.
Hatch Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 2 Hatch chilies roasted and skins removed.  (If you can't find Hatch, substitute with jalapeno or serranos.)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • the juice from 1/2 of a lime
Instructions: Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.


To assemble, stack some pulled pork onto of a biscuit and drizzle with the hatch cream sauce.  Repeat and repeat and repeat.  You'll be happy you did.

I hope y'all love this as much as we did.  And let me know if you try it out!





Friday, August 23, 2013

And Then the Bar Exam Happened and I Started Life Again

Well, it's finally over.  I finally sat for and finished the Texas Bar Exam.  All of my answers and my hopes and dreams are with the Texas Board of Law Examiners and if all goes well I will officially and finally be an attorney this November.  And if not, I'll be leaving the country to become some kind of beach bum.
This is what I packed for lunch in my hotel during the bar exam.  Hopeless foodie.

The bar exam was one of the longest and strangest journeys I've ever been on.  It literally gave meaning to the phrase "living under a rock."  I really had no idea what was going on in the outside world for three months.  But it's over and aside from several (two this week) nightmares about either the test or the results, the bar exam is a distant memory.

The next three photos are from the 4th of July and the only decent break I had over the summer.  That lovely girl is my sister.

I call this photo, "These are a few of my favorite things"



Jason and I had the traditional post-bar trip planned but he started a new job and doesn't have vacation days yet so we had to cancel it.  I'm hoping to get something together soon.  He probably deserves it more than me after putting up my crazy self all summer.

We spent a Saturday afternoon at Rahr & Sons Brewery in Fort Worth, Texas.

So I had a about 10 days off after the bar and spent them largely laying around my house and watching tv.  I had "Frat Boy Friday" the day after the exam ended and it was probably the most glorious day.  I covered up all of the windows in my living room (totally adult like), got out my extra down comforter, ordered pizza at 11am, and spent the entire day watching tv (and a 4 hour nap).  Then I slept for the next 20 hours.

Central Market had the Hatch Chile Festival, which is my absolute favorite foodie time of the year.  Jason and I binge eat hatch chilies for 2 weeks straight and then crave them for the rest of the year.

I'm back at work and that's been an entirely new adjustment in itself.  As soon as I came back, I moved from legal clerk to associate attorney (sorta).  We work about 10 hours a day and I'll be wearing full suits pretty soon.  I didn't expect it to happen so quickly, but it's kind of nice to actually feel like I may be starting to arrive in the world.  It's kind of crazy though.  One day I'm wearing pajamas and eating macaroni and cheese for lunch at 5pm and the next day I'm scheduling client meetings and working on pleadings.  I wasn't thrown into adulthood; I was catapulted.  Ha.

I've started listening to instrumental jazz music and we got a cappuccino machine at work.  Boom.  Instant adulthood status.


School started last week, and that was kind of surreal.  I have been a student for almost my entire life, and to know that I'm not going back (ever) was almost mind boggling.  But then I look at my completely free weekends and congratulate myself that its over.

Now spending my nights reading my Kindle and drinking tea instead of spending them reading textbooks or hanging out at the Dedman School of Law.

This was last Sunday.  Jason and I had a picnic at the park and then laid around in the the shade.  He took a nap and I read a book.  That alone is enough to convince me that not being a "student" is awesome.


 I'm planning on revamping my blog over the next couple weeks.  Thanks for everyone's patience over this summer and I'm very much looking forward to more frequent posting!