Tag Archives: Food Network

Hear Your Heroes: A Conversation with Ina Garten

Who would you invite to your fake fantasy dinner party?

Let’s assume it’s you + 3 people. No stipulations.

I’m going to say: Tina Fey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ina Garten.

I think we’d all have lots to talk about, no? Tina and Ina already have met on 30 Rock. Tina and Lin are both prolific writers and actors. Lin and I are both Puerto Rican. I mean, the conversation is flowing and I haven’t even opened the first fake bottle of wine yet.

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via Buzzfeed

Ina Garten spoke in Richmond last Tuesday and I got the opportunity to go and, PEOPLE, it was incredible.

Disclaimer: I am a dork and I love Ina Garten, so if either of these things offend you, just X on outta this post.

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The only photo I took. It is genuinely terrible. 

I think I’ve seen every episode of Ina’s show, The Barefoot Contessa. I own more of her cookbooks than anyone’s and they’re the first books I consult when I have a party, need a recipe, or need inspiration. She feels like a friend or family member. Her soothing manner of saying, “how easy is that?” is instantly calming.

I’ll admit, I cried more than once during the event. (I said I was a dork.) But honestly, I was overwhelmed by her ease and grace was really  inspired by the path her career has taken. She is even more more interesting and charming in person.

Throughout the evening, which was billed as ‘a conversation with Ina Garten’, the moderator (who was also a friend of hers) steered us through questions about her early years in nuclear energy policy at The White House, how that brought her to to buy the deli in the Hamptons called The Barefoot Contessa, how she was so out of her depth when she first owned it but then how it rose to success, how she wrote her first cookbook, and how she started with The Food Network. The biggest success of her entire career didn’t come until her late 30s/early 40s. She turned down the pilot to her cooking show and then the Food Network came back to her with a better offer. And then she turned it down again. Until they just told her, “yeah, we’re going to shoot this pilot. We’re coming in 2 weeks.” Insanity.

It was fascinating to me to hear her talk candidly about her successes and failures, but even more interesting was when she spoke so honestly of feeling overwhelmed or scared to do something new, but just doing it anyway. It’s a good reminder not to let those fears of how or why get in your way. Just do it and then figure out why you’re doing it later. You can course correct once you’ve started.

Of course, there were some wonderful entertaining tips, which I’m excited to share with y’all. Some of these are fairly intuitive, yet, I didn’t always think of them. But that’s the thing she does best—strips back the bullshit and gets to things in their simplest terms.

  • Dinner parties are about the friends, not the food. So pick a really simple meal and just enjoy yourself. As a guest, you don’t want to impose upon your host. And as a host, you don’t want to be in the kitchen all night.
  • Only invite people that you really love over for dinner.
  • The fancier the guests, the simpler the dinner.
  • Ask your guests what they don’t eat and then make one meal for everyone. Find the thread between vegetarian/pescetarian/omnivore/other.
  • Always put the two most talkative people opposite each other. If they’re next to each other, the conversation stops with them.

I think the loveliest moment of the evening was when the moderator asked Ina why she felt food/food culture has become so important now.

I’m paraphrasing here, but she said that it’s really about taking care of ourselves and connecting with people. We have high stress jobs and ‘jangled nervous.’ How generous it is to be able care for cook for someone.

Isn’t that the whole point of this life—to connect with and care for others? There is nothing I’d rather do than make someone feel cared for and loved with some fried chicken and a pie.

That got a little sappy, y’all. But Ina brings out it out in me.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled quippiness.

Ina Garten is a New York Times best selling author and has many wonderful cookbooks, which are available here.

Her newest cookbook is called Cooking for Jeffrey and comes out in October.

 

 

 

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Food-vertisment: Sargento Commercials make me Swiss-cidal

Let’s play Specific Desert Island.

You’re trapped on a desert island. You have all sorts of islandy things to eat: pineapples, warthogs, fishes, rum. But you get to bring a lifetime supply of any one item with you. What is it?

There is no wrong or right answer here, people.

Except my answer is the right answer and every other answer is the wrong answer.

Don’t you see? It’s cheese. You won’t find cheese in the wild. You won’t find cheese in the sea. You can’t make cheese from a pig. And if you can and one of you has tried it, please don’t tell me.

Cheese. Cheese is the answer. Cheeses is the reason for the season. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I have 8 types of cheese in my fridge right now. How many types can I eat at once? I don’t know. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

I was watching the best episode of Chopped ever yesterday. They had an Amateur’s Brawl and it’s an absolute delight. Drew Magary of Deadspin finally got his chance to compete after his application for the show went viral a few years back.

This episode of Chopped was brought to us by the good people of Sargento. They’re Real Cheese People. #RealCheesePeople

Charles what now?

I’m including a video that I shot from my TV. Apologies for the terrible quality.

 

Did no one at the cheese company realize that CHEESE is one letter off from CHEESY? Apparently the writer of this spot set out to write the cheesiest muenster-fucking script there ever was. I take some serious issue with it.

You’re cheese people? Like, a person made of cheese…? You want a piece of real and a slice of legit? If you’re such a real cheese person, why don’t you put your legit where your mouth is and put a piece of cheese in your mouth.

A slice of legit. What does that even mean? Seriously. I make up phrases all the time. (I take you back 2 paragraphs to “muenster-fucking.”) But a “slice of legit.” That’s puffery.

Now, don’t think I don’t understand what they’re going for here. They want us to REALLY understand that their cheese is real cheese. They’re trying to distinctly differentiate themselves from Kraft singles, which is “processed cheese food.” This is actual cheese. Made from actual milk. For real cheese people.

And real cheese people are authentic. And legit.

Like these two guys.

#RealCheesePeople

#RealCheesePeople

These two guys who look like they were just told their wives have been killed by wolves in the barn behind them and then forced at gunpoint to hold up this picture of distant relatives for a TV shoot.

Seriously. These guys look like they HATE cheese. And barns. And definitely wolves. They certainly don’t get off on the creamy mouthfeel of a piece of camembert. Or the oniony bite of a piece of cotswold. These are not people who have bought cheese for their best friend as a birthday present. (Yes, I have done that. What of it?)

But these guys dweebs. These dweebs live their life shredding authenticity wherever they go. They’re so mother-feta legit.

Listen, I could get all arrogant about who wrote this piece of real. (Get it?) But…who approved it?

Seriously. Who thought that this made anyone want to buy cheese?

This commercial is a handjob for the Sargento family. And I think that we can all tell by their faces that they’re not having a very good time.

But hey. If there’s one thing we can say about them, is that they’re real cheese people.

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Christmas in July: Lechon (Puerto Rican Pork)

If ever I’m in prison and getting the death penalty and I have to have my last meal, I already know what I’d choose.

(This assumes that Jon Hamm worship is now a crime punishable by death, btw.)

If I am punished for the heinous crime of Jon Hamm worship, then I know how I’d like to spend my last meal: eating my mother’s Puerto Rican roast pork, also known as lechon.

This pork, y’all. This pork is even sexier than Jon Hamm (somehow). It’s got everything you’re looking for in a roast. It’s got chicharrones (crispy pig skin). It’s got tender, flavorful meat. It’s covered in human tin foil.

What’s human tinfoil?

It’s that thing where a midget paints himself silver and does downward facing dog over the pork shoulder.

…Was that joke TOO ridiculous? I just made a Stefon-esque roast pork joke. Admittedly, it’s a long way to go for a ham sandwich.

via Giphy

Anyways, this pork is incredible. When my friend Alison planned a Christmas in July party and asked me to do the meat, I knew I had to bring my show-stopping dish.

Christmas in July is a fun occasion to eat holiday food in the middle of the summer. Christmas is so far away, but if you’re really being honest with yourself, you’re always thinking about stuffing. And mashed potatoes. And roasted meats. (At least, Alison/Anna/Jennie/Becca and I were.)

So, everyone showed up to Alison’s house, where she’d hung the stockings by the chimney with care.

Merry Christmas!

We drank whisky/gingers, listened to the Vince Guaraldi Trio and made sure our meal was properly documented.

The Meal

 

Anna Documenting The Meal

Anna Documenting The Meal

We also referenced the holidays/Christmas as often as we could. For example:

Becca: Today was a crazy day.

Me: Things can be tough around the holidays.

If you’re in the market for a dish to wow a crowd, this is one you need to make. This pork has such an insane amount of flavor that permeates the whole dish. It’s salty and herbaceous, with a hint of tang from the vinegar. The chicharrones are not to be discarded, but fought over. Crunchy and fatty. It’s better than the best bacon. And when you pair that with the juicy meat?

Well, you realize that it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh...dang.

Oh…dang.

Roasted Pork Shoulder, adapted from Tyler Florence from FoodNetwork.com

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (about 9 pounds), skin on
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 large handful fresh oregano
  • 4 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Place the pork, fat-side up, in a roasting pan, and using a sharp knife, stab small slits (seriously) the surface of the meat and the skin. Mash the garlic, oregano, salt, and peppercorns into a paste using the back of a knife or a mortar and pestle. Place the adobo (the paste) in a bowl and stir in the oil and vinegar. Rub the garlic paste all over the pork, being sure to get into the incisions so the salt can penetrate the meat and pull out the moisture. Cover the pork with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Note: Save yourself some trouble and put the whole roasting pan in an unscented garbage trash bag and put it in the fridge. That’s how my mom has always done it.

It's just easier.

It’s just easier.

Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Roast the pork for 1 hour, uncovered, until the skin is crispy-brown. Be sure to roast it skin side up.

Turn the oven down to 325 and roast for 2 more hours. Internal temperature should be between 150 and 160 degrees F.

Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes before slicing. Break the skin into chicarron pieces and serve with the meat.

 

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Jam Thumbprint Cookies, or as we like to call them, “Jam Thumpers”

It’s Christmastime, which is my favorite time of the year: the time when it is socially acceptable to eat cookies for breakfast.

Now, you really could eat cookies for breakfast every day and be alright in my book. Hell, I’ll vote for you for president. But, at Christmastime, it’s encouraged. With a cup of coffee and the tree on, maybe a little Vince Guaraldi Trio on in the background, eet’s nice. (If you celebrate Hannukahtime or Noneoftheabovetime, this also applies. Just adjust for the appropriate religious or non-religious symbols.)

Our favorite cookies aren’t really Christmas cookies, but they are delicious. And I just realized I’ve been making them over 10 years, which is weird.

Sidenote. It’s strange to make realizations relative to time. I’ve been out of college for 7 years. I’ve been making these cookies for 10 years. I’ve been I’ve been driving for 13 years. I’ve been bad at driving for 13 years.

Anyways. These cookies are made of buttery shortbread, rolled in coconut with a little bit of sweet jam on top. They’re Ina Garten’s Jam Thumbprints, so named because you make a thumbprint in the cookie to put the jam inside. However, for some reason, my mom forgot the name one year and started calling them “Jam Thumpers,” which I really like better.

And what’s more breakfast-y than jam?

…bacon.

 

Well, this post is ruined.

Ina Garten’s Jam Thumbprint Cookies, slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style and foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut | I used a bit more, probably 10 ounces
  • Raspberry and/or apricot jam | I used raspberry and blueberry. Go with your preferences, folks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. If dough is still a bit crumbly, add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water so that it comes together. (I added 2.)

Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls, about the size of a golf ball. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger.

SEE. I told you.

SEE. I told you.

Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.

Jam Thumbprints, Jam Thumpers. Potato, Pa-tah-to.

Jam Thumbprints, Jam Thumpers. Potato, Pa-tah-to.

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Holiday/Celebrate: Margaritas Would Be So Nice

When it comes to this holiday season, you can count on two things.

  1. You will be invited to a holiday party.
  2. You will be required to bring something fabulous.

If you haven’t been invited to any parties, then…yiiiikes.

YIKES

But you probably all have been because you’re all very cool with nice teeth and good hair.

Our holiday party at work was a week and a half ago (I know, I know) and my friends Anna, Bailey and I decided to throw a little cocktail party beforehand. We planned really well, and had some delicious foodstuffs.

And by “we planned really well,” I mean “I planned ok yet had one major crisis.”

We had the party at Bailey’s, since it was right near the venue of our holiday party. So I was taking all of my stuff there. And since I was making two apps and a cranberry margarita, I was taking all my materials to her apartment.

As I started assembling my cranberry margarita, I realized: I left my tequila at home. And there was a parade going on downtown. And the party started in 15 minutes.

TEQUILA CRISIS.

Anna’s husband, Kevin, generously offered to go buy more but I remembered we were 3 blocks from my office. And there is always tequila at our office, so I took it. (Calm down, I replaced it Monday.) My work is drunker cooler than yours.

TEQUILA CRISIS AVERTED.

These cranberry margaritas are divine, y’all. They look like Christmas with the bright red margarita and the green lime. They’re sweet, but not overly so. And the tequila is present but not overwhelming, so they go down really smooth. The Chinese five spice on the rim is a revelation. Thank to Mark Fisher for the recommendation! (When Mark Fisher recommends a food or drink, you listen.)

As for food, Bailey was in charge of cheese and charchewterie (that’s what we call charcuterie). Anna made these amazing southern samosas and baked brie, and I brought a nut mix and ceviche. Basically, the two most random things ever. But they were good. Light and nibbly. Good party food. Good pre-party food. Good food for eating with your friends at one of your many holiday parties.

And if you weren’t invited to any parties?

Then just pop in your copy of Angels with Dirty Faces and go to town.

Junk and rubbish.

Cranberry Margarita from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • Homemade cranberry jam, recipe to follow
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Tequila

Cranberry Jam

  • ¾ cup fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy, 30–40 minutes. Mix in orange zest; let cool.

Jam can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Margarita Assembly

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 lime wedge, plus 2 oz. fresh juice
  • 4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz. tequila

Mix salt, sugar, and five-spice powder on a small plate. Rub rims of Old Fashioned glasses with lime wedge; dip in salt mixture and fill glasses with ice.

For each cocktail, combine ½ oz. lime juice, 1 oz. orange juice, 1½ oz. tequila, and 2 Tbsp. cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake until outside is frosty,  about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared glass.

This recipe can easily be made into a large batch and put in a pitcher. Just make sure final ratio is 1 part fresh lime juice, 2 parts orange juice, 3 parts tequila and as much cranberry jam as you like.

The Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts from Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds | I bought nuts at Whole Foods.
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.

Blurry Southern Samosas and Nut Mix, y'all

Mahi-Mahi Ceviche with Japanos and Coconut from Epicurious

Note: There was no mahi-mahi available, so I used red snapper and it was a really good substitute. I also added one cubed avocado.

  • 1 pound mahi-mahi fillets, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 jalapeño chiles, seeded; 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Saltine crackers

Combine fish, lime juice, and oregano in large glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Chill until fish turns opaque, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes.

Strain almost all lime juice from fish; return fish to bowl. Stir in onion, minced and sliced jalapeños, coconut, and cilantro. Season with salt. Chill at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Serve in Martini glasses, or in a bowl if you’re not a cheesy nerd. Pass crackers separately.

Red Snapper Ceviche

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Navy Bean Soup: Jowl What Now?

Happy 2013, fake food friends!

For my first meal of 2013, I had something SO un-blog worthy that I’m going to blog about it anyway. BECAUSE I CAN. 

I had a turkey sandwich (Boar’s Head, bitches. ON SALE.) with white cheddar cheese on toasted sourdough with Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard (WHAT WHAT) and Duke’s mayo (best mayo ever, y’all).

…the standards of this blog have really sunk, huh. 

My first REAL meal of 2013 was something that I tried over the holidays and it went over gangbusters. If you’ll recall, Mom was on a whole “I don’t want to cook ever” kick, so she suggested I make some sort of soup for Christmas day lunch. Problem is: my dad hates soup. (WHAT!!!! HOW CAN ANYONE HATE SOUP!?!?) So, we had the following conversation:

Me: Ok, I’ll make soup. But what kind of soup would Dad eat?

Mom: Well, he doesn’t really like soup.

Me: …Yeah, I know… well, ok. Dad. What kind of soup would you eat on Christmas?

Dad: Soup? I hate soup.

…Yep… We finally settled on navy bean, which is, I dunno, less soupy than other soups? I made the soup the day ahead, so all the flavors could meld and I could focus on dinner on Christmas day. And Dad made some grilled cheese sammiches. Because my dad makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches evar. 

I got back from my folks’ on New Years Eve and went shopping for navy bean soup ingredients on New Years Eve. In North Carolina. In the South. On New Years Eve. There was nary a ham hock to be found. And I couldn’t figure out why. And then I realized that I was in North Carolina. Which is in the South. On New Years Eve. And everybody had scooped up the ham hocks because they were making their collard greens. 

Sidebar: I grew up in Florida, but Jacksonville is not the deep south by any means. So the first time I experienced the black eyed peas and collard greens thing was when I was maybe 8 or 10 and we were over to a friend’s house. She told us that it was tradition to put quarters in the collards for good luck. Is that a thing? It seems like a choking hazard to me. And the ones who are lucky are the ones who avoid the quarters.

I asked the Lady Butcher at Harris Teeter if they had any ham hocks and she told me no, but asked me what I was making. So I told her. And she said “hold on a second.” I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And I started wondering if I imagined that she’d said “hold on a second.” Did I dream it? Am I asleep right now? Is this the series finale of St. Elsewhere? Did anybody get that joke other than my dad?

Anyway, she finally came out and said “yeah, we’re out of ham hocks but you can use jowl bacon.”

Come again?

Jowl bacon, I was told, would work in place of my ham hocks. It was smoked. And she often fried it up with eggs. And you could only get it at Harris Teeter in January. And she often bought a ton of it up and froze it. Even though you could get it at the meat market. I got a LOT of information from this woman in a very short amount of time. 

Sponsored by Paula Dean

The only thing that was troubling is that I didn’t know what exactly a jowl was. And then I remembered something.

My friend Sarah had a baby about 6 weeks ago. Her name is Lana and I love her. She’s got these amazing cheeks. In fact, I very recently decided to start calling her The Cheeks because of her very yummy cheeks. A couple weeks ago, Sarah posted a picture of Lana, saying that older southern ladies referred to Lana’s cheeks as ‘jowls.’

And then I realized: jowls are just cheeks, y’all.

 A quick Google search confirmed this. And noted that jowl bacon is a very close relative of guanciale, the Italian unsmoked bacon made with jowls or cheeks. And I love guanciale. So I’m sure to love good ole fashioned American jowl bacon.

Having not tried the stuff before and being far too lazy to fry up a piece, I made a guess on how much to replace the ham hocks with based on my vast fake food knowledge and more googling. And it turned out pretty well. 

This soup is easy breezy, y’all. Not a whole lot of work to bring this together. It’s creamy, without having any cream in it. It’s filling and sticks to your ribs without a lot of meat.

There are two main differences between the jowl bacon vs. the ham hocks. 1. Because the ham hocks have the bone in (that’s what she said), they give a much deeper deeper flavor. The jowl bacon still brought the smoky ham flavor, but I’d take the ham hocks in the end. 2. Ham hocks have a lot of fat and very little meat. And the jowl bacon has a lot of fat. But more meat. So, you have more meat in the jowl bacon soup. 

I got an extra special treat because my friends Jenny and Ben dropped off a gift of homemade pretzels and homemade rice krispie treats (not pictured, but very delicious). The salty pretzel paired perfectly with the soup, especially for dipping (I did not dip the rice krispie treats in the soup). You can find the recipe here on Jenny’s bread blog chronicling all of Ben’s breadventures. Pancussion: A Regular Hit of Bread Experimentation

I’m gonna try the jowl bacon with eggs. Like Overly Informative Lady Butcher said. I might even make a JBLT: Jowl Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. 

If jowl bacon ain’t your thing, let me suggest you make friends with Lana. Cause those cheeks are the kind that anyone would want to nibble on.

…see what I did there…?

 

Navy Bean Soup, from foodnetwork.com 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound navy beans, picked over, rinsed and drained | I’m not exactly sure what I’m picking over. So I took out any beans that were really ugly (I’m judgmental) or split open.
  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large smoked ham hocks, about 1 1/2 pounds | Or about ¾ lb. of jowl bacon! Heavy on the jowl! 
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped | I did 2 garlic cloves. Cause I like garlic. And I didn’t invite any vampires over.
  • 8 cups of cold water
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Butter for garnish | I didn’t think that this was necessary. But then I tried it. Adding the butter adds a smooth creaminess. Don’t think, just do.

Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes; remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Drain and reserve. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf together with kitchen twine. 

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven combine the beans, herb bundle, hocks, onions, and garlic with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and adjust the heat so the soup cooks at a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans and hock are completely tender, about 1½ hours.

Turn off the heat and remove the hocks. Cool slightly. Remove the meat from the hocks, discarding the bones, fat, and skin. (If using jowl bacon, remove the fat as well. Cause it’s gross.) Cut the meat into small cubes. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

Puree about 3 cups of the beans with some of the liquid in a blender. (I used an immersion blender.) For a smoother soup puree all the beans. Stir the puree and diced meat into the soup. Heat the soup and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper.

Pour into heated bowls, place a small pat of butter on top of each soup, and serve.

 

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Blondies, Part Deux: Failure is Best Served Hot. Again. Twice.

Hey, remember that time that I wrote a blog post two weeks ago and it had a real “to be continued” vibe and then I didn’t write another post like ever!??!

Did you kind of feel like that TV show you’d sort of been watching had gotten cancelled and nobody bothered to tell you?

NOPE.  Just another case of Fake Food Blog. My Real Job got busy. So my Fake Fun had to take a back seat. But fear not, I have been eating and photographing. The bloggery will catch up. 

So, picking up where we left off a mere 2 weeks ago. Walker Texas Ranger was running towards the bus full of nuns that was hurtling towards the edge of a cliff. I had made really shitty blondies for work. And it was 10:40 pm. And I was pissed. Because my first batch of blondies came out looking like it should have been an obstacle in Olmec’s Temple. 

So, I decided I would make a second batch. And I would do everything right! And it would be delicious!

And as you expected, dear reader. None of that happened. Cause these sons of bitches didn’t turn out either.

I followed a different recipe this time. A Food Network recipe. No time to fuck around making brown butter. This is basic blondie time. Defense. Block and tackle. Other football words. Helmets. Lines. Mascots. 

I buttered and floured the pan. Which seemed weird. Doesn’t that seem like it’s going to make a gooey mess? NAH. The recipe says to do it! Trust in the recipe BLINDLY. THE RECIPE WILL NEVER FAIL YOU. (Let me be clear, by this point I was pretty drunk with exhaustion.)

I melted the butter! I combined it with the sugar! I cooled it to room temperature! I beat in the eggs! I made the batter! I added the chocolate chips! I put it in the pan!

I took a nap while I baked it! And then again while it cooled!

And then, after doing the whole toothpick thing and letting the pan cool, I inverted it to find this:

Blondies. UGH.

Once again. I had blondie soup. Cooked on the top. Soup on the inside. What kind of fool am I.

I even popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. But same deal. Just slightly more done on the edges. Just as soupy inside.

I conferred with Alison, my friend at work who happens to be a phenom pastry chef, and she thinks the problem is my terrible oven. Which is only a convection oven. I should be turning the heat down and cooking for longer, or something like that. Sheesh.

One day, I hope to open a wildly unpopular bakery where we make these soup blondies. It’s gonna be TERRIBLE. 

Blondies, from FoodNetwork.com

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), plus more for the preparing the pan
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing the pan
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • About ½ cup chocolate, butterscotch or white chocolate chips (optional) | It’s optional but I did it anyway 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 9 x 13-inch baking pan 

In a small sauce pan melt the butter. Put the light brown sugar in a large bowl, add the butter, and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until a smooth batter is formed. If using the chips, stir them into the batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center come out clean, about 20 minutes.

 Cool the blondies in the pan slightly before inverting them onto a cooling rack. Cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

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Thanksgiving Recap: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Icing

To quote middle aged ladies from accounting with pictures of Channing Tatum taped up to their desks who go out to lunch only on special occasions, let’s start with dessert!

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Mom made a blueberry pie. Not exactly in season, but it’s dad’s favorite. And it’s the best dessert for eating in the morning and pretending like it’s breakfast. Pie breakfast is the best breakfast. 

I decided I would knock out the gingerbread cupcakes that I had watched Ina Garten so breezily make a week before. My god, this IS easy, Ina! But you and your rhetorical questions lulled me into a false sense of security.

As this was a brand new recipe for me, I actually read it 3 times before I made it. This did not prevent me from completely leaving out a step. Imagine what would’ve happened had I only read it once. …Oh, the humanity.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Icing, from FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup dark rum or water | Let’s not kid ourselves. I used rum. Why would anyone use plain water?
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream | YOU, sour cream. You will be my demise.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup) 

For the frosting :

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½  pound confectioners’ sugar, sieved | Genuinely think I forgot to sieve/fluff my sugar.

For the decoration:

  • 6 pieces dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup), sliced in half | My mom says she buys hers at Homegoods. Also, crystallized ginger a good remedy for upset stomachs. The more you know.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Like a boss.

Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. When you do this at 10 am, you will feel like you are bending the rules of society. Go with it.

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Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.

OR. If you are like me. You will FORGET to mix in the sour cream and orange zest. You will feel confident! You will feel plucky! And then you will deflate, after you complete the next paragraph and you realize that you still have sour cream sitting on the counter.

Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together into a small bowl. Mix with your hand until combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth. 

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OH SHIT. The DAMN sour cream. At this point, my first instinct was to do what I always do when there is an emergency: tell my dad. But since this was an emergency of baking and not one of banking or braking, he could not help me in the slightest and told me to ask my Gramma. She said, “well, don’t tell your mother you messed them up and add the sour cream and orange zest in now.” So, I did. And, it worked. Phew. How did it look? Let’s not focus on that.

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Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula.

Divide the batter among the muffin pan (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 

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For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, orange zest and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined.

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Add the sugar and mix until smooth. I had some lumps, probably because I forgot to sieve/fluff my confectioner’s sugar. I tried to whisk them out, which might have thinned the frosting out a bit too much. But it tasted great. 

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and garnish with a slice of crystallized ginger.

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Despite my best attempts to screw this recipe up, I actually could not. I even had more batter left over after I made the 12 cupcakes the recipe calls for. So, I made a tiny loaf of gingerbread. This cupcakes were the good kind of dense and a little spicy. The frosting was light and sweet. It had great balance and it tasted like fall. 

My folks liked it. Gramma liked it. I liked it. I even think the ladies from accounting would like it. Not more than Channing Tatum, though. I mean, did you SEE Magic Mike? He was MAGIC.*

 

 

 

 

 

*I did not actually see Magic Mike. It was like Harry Potter, right? 

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