Friday, April 30, 2010

Blue Cheese Bacon Burger - I think I got It!

After yesterday's less than sterling post of my first bread fiasco (click HERE), I wanted to do better with a meal.  In fact, I was after the best I could do...

Look close at the photo above... two different burgers, two different sauces, two different cooking techniques...

I have had the phrase "Signature Dish" on my mind lately.  While I go into every cook project trying to make the best final product I can, some dishes "work" better than others.  Also, some dishes I revisit (my wife roars in laughter when I use this term) in attempts to perfect the dish.  This is one of those dishes I really want to perfect.

Here in paradise, there is a terrific bar called, DUFFY's LOVE SHACK.  Jackie and I have tried several of the menu items they offer during the dozen or so times we have eaten there.  But we have started to order the same meal.  Both of us think their Blue cheese burger is the best thing they offer.  SO, I have set a goal of duplicating the taste of this burger before I leave.  I am finding out that this is MUCH harder than it sounds.  I did ask what the blue cheese sauce is, and was politely told they prefer to not divulge.  It involved rice wine, not to divulge (they know I am a blogger).  This sauce is not just melted blue cheese.  I have tried to duplicate the taste before.  I tried a recipe I found that was a little complicated (it used rice wine as a base).  While tasty, it was not the sauce I was after.  I did put out a plea on my blog and got a response and a suggestion. 

So last night, I made two burgers, two different sauces and two different presentation methods...

Here's what I did...

First up, Moomie Buns!  I have blogged this recipe many times, and if there is anyone afraid of baking bread (I read your comments, you know who I am talking to), give these buns a chance.  EASY, and nearly fool proof.  I have never had a bad experience with this recipe.  I make these about once a week down here in the land of $8 loafs of bread.  It is also very adaptable.  Today, I made the buns as listed in the recipe, but just prior to popping in the oven, I brushed with an egg wash, sprinkled a little garlic flakes and Parmesan cheese on the top.  Toasted garlic smells so good!  If you need the recipe for the basic Moomie Bun, click HERE... it will change your life.

Next up, I started working on the blue cheese sauce.  First, I used a super secret recipe.  Actually, one of my favorite bloggers is going to have a milestone soon.  Her recipe for a blue cheese sauce is scheduled to be published as part of a Newman's Own cook book (you know, THE Paul Newman - Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler and The Sting... the three greatest movies of all time!).  I do not have permission to pass the recipe on, so you will just have to trust me for a short amount of time (BTW, K... Let me know when it gets published, I want to buy a copy).

But, recently, I made a Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese DIP!  Which you can find by clicking HERE.  The dip was terrific, but the comment section had the real gem... Everyone's favorite, CHRIS from Nibble Me This, made this comment -

Chris said...

How about a "juicy lucy" style burger using this as the filling? Mmmmmmm
GENIUS!  That got my head spinning... What about a stuffed burger with a blue cheese mixture of this dip???  So, I made another batch up of the dip, and added about 2 ounces of blue cheese crumbles to the dip.

Stuffing a burger is pretty easy.  Make two thin patties, add whatever you want to stuff, and seal the edges.  Work hard at getting the edges sealed as once it starts leaking in the cooking process, all that great stuff leaks out.  It is a spectacular technique once you get it down.

One more tip, best to fry the burgers (actually best to grill them, but don't get me started).  cook with the cover on.  It helps to sort of "bake" them as well as fry them.  DO NOT press down with a spatula.  It will force the stuffing out.

I toasted the bun, added some crispy bacon, some raw onion slices and was ready for a comparison.

Comparing with the super secret Paul Newman "Cool Hand Luke" sauce.  The Paul Newman "The Sting" sauce was added as a glop on the top (actually the way it is served at Duffy's).

And the verdict...


I preferred the Paul Newman "The Hustler" cheese sauced burger, and thought that was the taste of the Duffy burger.  BUT...

Jackie was positive that Chris's (who has not appeared in a famous movie, but for the sake of continuity, let's call this the Porky's II burger... BTW, Porky's II, by far the best Porky's movie since the original Porky's, but I digress)...

So, Jackie preferred the Chris's "Porky's II" sauced burger.  This sauce was a little more complicated, and had extra flavor layers that I believe she was preferring.  But the Paul Newman "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" sauced burger was more likely to be the sauce that Duffy's uses (my goal).  the sauce was very easy, and that is a priority for bar food.

So, my final verdict...

I will use the "Porky's II" sauce when I want to impress.  It is just difficult enough to leave your guests admiring.  When it is just for Jackie and I... I may do the lazy thing and make the excellent Paul Newman "Color of Money" sauce.  Either way... this was an impressive burger!

Thanks Chris... Thanks K.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

CIABATTA - Bread Baker's Apprentice #9


I have been pondering for a week how to post this... For the first time in my bread baking career; I failed...

On the surface, the loafs don't look terrible...

but once you cut into them, 

The beautiful holes of a great dipping ciabatta bread simply never happened.

Here is what mine looked like (above) and here is what it should have looked like (below)...

My bread didn't go to waste.  I used it for sandwich bread and it was fair.  But a great loaf of ciabatta bread can be used for dipping in oil and balsamic (I bought some for my loaf).  I didn't have the heart to crack open a nice bottle of balsamic for this poor attempt.  It also makes a great panini sandwich, and I was all set to improvise a panini press.  Again, just couldn't do it.

So, after 8 terrific recipes from the book, 8 incredible successes, I did something wrong.  I plan to spend a day researching what others have done with this recipe, seeing where I went wrong and try again.

Anyone out there try the recipe in the book?

Anyone else have problems, suggestions or had a screaming success??? Let me know.  Any hints can only help.

I still am loving the book... just a single step backwards after 8 giant leaps, but I can do this...

Stay tuned


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caribbean Pineapple Upside Down RUM Cake Attempt Number 2

I am close.... very very close to the ultimate Rum Cake.  Thanks to a recipe I adapted from Marguerite (call her Mags) at Cajun Delight, I would say I am at about 98% of a signature dish.  Someday my forced exile will end.  I would like to be able to make the best rum cake in my little Dul de Sac in Kansas.

So, 7 weeks ago I tried my first rum cake...RUM CAKE - in fact, PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN RUM CAKE

I liked the look of the cake and the general taste.  But it was dry.  I knew I could do better...

And thanks to Mags, this is about as far from dry as you could possibly get.  It even had a surprise center... But I will get to that...

This is Mags' recipe as she posted a few days ago...


Cajun Pineapple Rum Cake

This heavenly cake is so simple to make and the flavor is so fabulous that you will have a hard time resisting a second piece, cher! Worth the calories, cher!! Cest bon! Bon appetit!

1/2 cup pineapple rum
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 pkg. French vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Spray a bundt pan with "Baker's Joy" baking spray. In large bowl, combine first six ingredients. beat at medium speed for two minutes. Stir in nuts, and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool and remove to cake plate. Make glaze and drizzle over cake.
Melt 1/4 cup butter, in saucepan. Add 2tbs. pineapple juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook and stir, until sugar is melted. Boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and slowly add 1/4 cup pineapple rum, until blended. Prick top of cake with a fork and drizzle glaze over warm cake. Divine!

Of course, I made a couple of changes... mainly that I dropped the bundt cake idea.  I do not have a bundt cake pan.  But I sure do like the idea of an upside down pineapple rum cake.  SO, I lined a rounded baking dish with pineapple slices.  I added some brown sugar to bring out the sweetness.

I was unable to find a simple yellow cake mix here.  So, I used a lemon mix and a lemon pudding mix.  I also did not have any pecans, so I left those out.

Other than those changes, I tried a little experiment...

I don't have a photograph, but instead of putting the dish on the oven rack, I put the dish on a larger baking dish.  the dish had a 1 inch lip, about the same size as what did not brown on the cake below... make sense, can you picture it in your mind?  Remember this is an upside down cake, so when it was baking, the top was the bottom.

Alright, now that I have you completely confused, this method had an unexpected consequence...  

The base (top while it was cooking, the part that was above the lip of the second baking dish) browned nicely.  It has a bit of a crunch and is almost all cake.

The top (bottom while it was baking, the part that was below the lip of the second baking dish) was only gently browned, and that was mostly the brown sugar and sugars in the pineapple rings caramelizing.  The "cake" part was much more pudding than cake.  If you look at the photo below, you will see the cake texture around the bottom (which, in an effort to REALLY confuse you is the top of the photo), while the top half (bottom of the photo) is more pudding texture.

I put the cake in the fridge overnight before cutting into it so it would set solid.

And the verdict... OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

OH MY GOD!  The glaze added at the end adds a rum bite to the taste.  the pineapple rings add a texture and sweet bite.  The mostly pudding portion contrasting with the mostly cake texture is incredible.  So many tastes all in one cake.

I loved the color, taste and texture.  It is now my signature Rum Cake, and you will be seeing this around the firepit back in Kansas.  I have one small nit picky concern... I hate the idea that my signature cake is out of a box.  next time, I will use a scratch cake recipe in place of the box.  But that is just out of pride and for bragging rights.  Like the competitive church basement pot luck dinners of my youth... Wouldn't want to present a dish like this that wasn't intimidating to most people.

Mags, thanks for the recipe... I hope my final product did you proud!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cheese Soufflé to celebrate Avery's new book Long Quiche Goodbye

Have any of you ever seen "The Producers"... The musical version?  In addition to a spectacular dancing swastika, there is a song in the show that kept going through my head while I was whipping (literally whipping) this up...
LEO (Picture Matthew Broderick):

A Soufflé? Nah, that'd never work. 
MAX (Picture Nathan Lane):
Oh ye of little faith.
What did Lewis say to Clark
When everything looked bleak?
What did Sir Edmund say to Tenzing
As they struggled toward Everest's peak?
What did Washington say to his troops
As they crossed the Delaware
I'm sure you're well aware... 
What'd they say? 
We can do it, we can do it
We can do it, me and you
We can do it, we can do it
We can make our dreams come true
Everything you've ever wanted
Is just waiting to be had
Beautiful girls, wearing nothing but pearls
Caressing you, undressing you
And driving you mad 
We can do it, we can do it
This is not the time to shirk
We can do it, you won't rue it
Say goodbye to petty clerk
Hi, producer: yes, producer
I mean you, sir, go beserk!
We can do it, we can do it
And I know it's gonna work
Whatta ye say, Bloom? 
There are a lot of reasons I should not have tried... 

No kitchenaid, heck, not even an electric mixer to get the egg whites stiff (just a whisk and a good right arm... but I used my left too, which is not as good... but I digress).

No Soufflé dish.  Don't make fun of me, back in Kansas (Don't make fun of me for that either), I smoke cigars, drink beer from a bottle, cuss, scratch myself inappropriately and I like girls; but I do own a soufflé dish.  Here in my temporary pleasure palace (US Virgin Islands if you are not paying attention), I do not have a grill nor a soufflé dish. 

But I do have one thing going for me... my expanding learning curve of how things cook...

If the soufflé does not work, I can just punt, claim victory and declare a wonderful baked cheese and egg dish.  For my visiting guests, till I put something in front of them, the "soufflé " word was never used.

But not to spoil the outcome, and not to brag (well maybe a little) my soufflé looked fabulous!  So, if I can do it with my limitations, you can do this as well.

It helps that the recipe is so easy...

And before I get to that, I want to share some exciting news...

One of my favorite sites is THE MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN.  MLK is a fun site, with 6 very talented cooks alternating a weekly recipe posting.  BUT, they also have another thing in common.  Each contributor has a book (most a series of books), featuring recipes and or food as an important part of their murder mysteries.  It takes a bit of reading before you get the hang of which lady and which personality is cooking on any particular day.  But then, I am married, so I am used to one site (person) with borderline criminal schizophrenic personalities.  So I enjoy the blog a lot.

While everyone probably will pick their favorite writers, it is difficult for me to pick a single favorite of the six. Let's just say that 5 of the ladies do not regularly post Brussels sprouts recipes, while one, despite acknowledging that those sprout posts receive fewer hits and comments (if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything), one of the six insists on posting sprout recipes (like today).  So, my favorites are obvious... But I digress...

A Cheese Shop Mystery 

One of the stars of THE MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN is Avery Aames.  Avery has a new book, new series being released soon.  The sassy owner of an artisan cheese shop who also loves a tasty mystery, fights crime and feeds cheese lovers.  "The Long Quiche Goodbye" (don't you love that title) is due to be released soon, and you can pre-order now!  Recently Avery did a post of a recipe she is researching for use in a future book in the series.  I loved the possibilities and started thinking about if... And here is where you sing that "We can do it" song listed above...

Here's what Avery said to do...

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) butter
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups milk, hot
4 large egg yolks
6 ounces Gouda, grated
5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar (or you may use baking powder)
Use room temperature 1 tablespoon of butter to grease an eight-inch soufflé mold. Add the grated Parmesan and coat the butter with it. Set in the freezer for five minutes [to make the cheese stick to the butter.]
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, heat the other 3 tablespoons of butter.

Add the hot milk to the mixture and turn the heat to high.
 When it starts to boil, remove the saucepan from the heat.In a separate bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, salt. Whisk the mixture into the melted butter.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks. Slowly…mix the eggs into the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Add the cheese and stir until smooth and creamy.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar or baking powder until stiff. Fold into the hot milk/cheese mixture by thirds.Gentle, gentle. When incorporated, pour the mixture into the soufflé dish.
Place on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
Note: This soufflé will sink the moment it’s served. It’s a shame, but that’s the way it goes.

And here is what I did...

OK, I probably should have shown a better photo of the dish I used, but it is round (important).  It is stainless steel, and NOT ceramic, as a soufflé dish should be.  it is rounded a bit at the bottom, but the important part is the round shape and the tall sides.  My bowl is about 8 inches tall, which gave three inches of room around the side for the soufflé to climb up the side.

The tip that Avery gave about freezing the butter and Parmesan cheese coated pan (dish) prior to pouring the hot egg/cheese mixture in is inspired.  A soufflé rises best when it has something to climb.  In this case, the egg climbs up the cheese.  Using this technique, you will get a much taller rise from your soufflé.  And, let's face it, in addition to the light fluffy texture, the dramatic presentation are the best reasons to go to the trouble of a soufflé.

It probably would have worked better if I could have grated my fresh Parmesan finer, but I only have one grater, and this is the size I got.  In reality, it worked great.  the soufflé rose three inches to the lip of the pan (dish), PLUS an additional 3 inch rise above.  In reality, this is the largest rise I have ever gotten when attempting to make a soufflé.

As Avery said, add the egg slowly.  It is a tough thing to do, have the roux hot enough to melt the cheese without over cooking the eggs.  Just know to not have it boiling hot, not even simmering hot, just warm.  If you add the cheese slowly, it will melt without cooking the eggs.

And of course, as Avery says, stiff egg whites are key.  All those hours holding up that Farrah Fawcett poster with one hand has finally paid off, as it took at least 20 minutes of constant whisking to get my peaks stiff.  But I did it!  I didn't want them to fall, so I folded them in before I got a photo, but trust me... they were stiff. 

Also important is to (as Avery Said) only FOLD the whites in.  Do not undo all your whisking by over mixing the whites into the yolk/cheese mixture.

And work very quick.  have your pan (dish) handy, have your oven pre-heated.  You want to get the egg yolk/cheese/egg white mixture in the oven as fast as possible.

When the time to take it out of the oven comes, be ready to have everyone look.  A soufflé falls.  It is what it does.  No getting around it.  But it will last the few minutes it takes to remove, listen to the praise of your guests, and slice into.  just don't listen too long.


I had the wrong pan.. and no electric mixing device.  If I can do it... you can too.  In the words of Mel Brooks...


Why, you miserable, cowardly, wretched little caterpillar!

Don't you ever want to become a butterfly?
Don't you want to spread your wings and flap your way to glory? 

We can do it

We can do it

We can grab that holy grail!


And Avery, thanks for the recipe, and best of luck with the publication of the first in the series!  And one more thing Avery... Thanks for NOT writing a Brussels Sprouts salesman series.  Trust me, it would never sell.


Monday, April 26, 2010

My Super Secret CHICKEN SALAD - Yet another use for a Rotisserie Chicken

It's got chicken, but it also has a few surprise tastes in there as well!

I tore into another rotisserie chicken (cheap cheap cheap).  Removed the skin and tore into chunks.  I also started dicing...

1 Granny Smith Apple - Gives a little crunch, as well as the tartness of the apple.
10 Sweet Gherkin Pickles - So much better than relish.  The sweet pickles contrast so well with the apple.
1 small Vidallia Onion - Be sure to use a sweet onion.  I happened to find one of the real ones in the store.
20 seedless Grapes - It's the taste of the grapes that really set this apart!

Mayonnaise - real Mayonnaise - but do not add too much.  You want a thin coating, and a taste, but you do not want the Mayonnaise to overpower all the other tastes.

Notice that there is no celery... that is just filler, and adds nothing to the tastes (in my humble opinion)....

Bake a few loafs of bread, ziplock a few sandwiches, hire a boat to take you out to the British Virgin Islands and you have a great snack when you come in from snorkeling.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Caribbean Garlic Coconut Rum Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp... The stuff of legendary appetizer menus at bars everywhere!

And why not?  What makes a great bar snack...

Fast... these cook up in minutes.
Easy... Once the dipping station is set up, bingo bango bongo, dip, dip, dip fry and you are done
A little exotic, something special... It just sounds good.  It sounds like something that is much harder to make than it really is, and with the coconut, it sounds much more special than just a breaded fried shrimp...

I have made these once before, with a small salad size shrimp.  I didn't do the flour step that I did here.  Without the flour, the breading was thinner (with popcorn shrimp, you do not want the breading too thick, or you will not taste any shrimp).  You can check that post by clocking HERE... Garlic Popcorn Coconut Rum SHRIMP appetizer.

This time I was after a thicker coating, like a fried chicken (hey, this would work great for chicken... Oh, that was done recently... Eats Well with Others did the thin coconut coating recipe for a chicken breast.  It needed to be thin, or the coating would have been burnt badly by the time the chicken was done.  You can check her take on the recipe by clicking - Garlic Popcorn Coconut Rum Chicken.

But, for this, I made the recipe using the biggest shrimp I could find...

First I Set up the dipping station...


1 Egg mixed with 1/4 cup Coconut Rum

Bread Crumbs mixed with minced Garlic...

Fry in Canolla Oil.

Frying these is so easy, and judging when they are done is equally easy... When the coating is browned, flip and brown the other side.  Shrimp cook VERY fast.  Only about 3 minutes per side!

And just so you know, I did indeed try this with chicken wings... I cooked them as long as I dared, without burning the coating.  But, they were.... rare.

The thin pieces with less meat were fine.  the Bigger pieces with more meat were too rare.  This recipe is perfect for shrimp. but the thicker coating is not good for chicken...

Perfect to serve to guests...


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese DIP!

Oh boy was this good... easy and FAST!

And hey... we got company in paradise!  

Michelle and Mike, one of Jackie's co-workers has dropped in for a week.  

And what better to serve once they drop their bags and change out of their long pants...

The crackers are made using the recipe I posted a few weeks ago...

LAVISH CRACKERS - Bread Baker's Apprentice #6

That's Sesame Seeds, Smoked Paprika, Garlic and Onion Flakes, Chipotle spice and some of my "not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE ".

But this post is all about the dip...

1 - 8 ounce package of Cream Cheese Softened
3 cloves of Garlic finely minced
  That is my mixture (follow the link) of Rosemary, thyme, garlic, and a few other spices.  I make it up in batches and always have a baggie full around.  Feel free to use your favorite herbs or herb mixture.
1 tsp Mustard Powder

If you like to have a spreadable dip, you are done (I do).  Just have a cheese knife handy.

If you like a more dippable dip, add a couple tsp of milk to thin the dip.

And you are the perfect host!