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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

So this year I went about approaching Mardi Gras all wrong. After my donut debacle, I immediately swore off all sweets, treats, fatty foods, and empty starches for the following week. It was seriously bad timing because what I should have been doing was gorging myself leading up to Tuesday and then starving myself afterward like so many others. Irregardless, Mardi Gras came around and I couldn't resist the temptation to make something celebratory of one of the places best known for their Carnival celebrations; New Orleans. So Gumbo it was, and ya know, for a Northern gal it didn't turn out half bad ;) 

Chicken & Andouille Gumbo:  (Serves 4) 

2 1/2 c. Chicken Stock
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil 
3 Tbsp. Flour
14 oz. Can whole stewed tomatoes, crushed 
4 Boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
9 oz. Andouille sausage (you can sub chicken sausage here for less fat!) 
15 Small shrimps; precooked, peeled and deveined (optional) 
1/2 White onion, chopped
1/2 Red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 Green bell pepper chopped
 3 Ribs of celery, chopped
15 Okra pods, cut crosswise into 1/2" pieces
 2 Cloves garlic, minced
 1 Bay leaf 
1/4 tsp. Cayenne
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. each, Salt and Pepper, or to taste 

Mmm. I started cooking with a four pack, I ended my meal with none. Oops. 
Ok, lez do it to it! 

1) Start with your prep so you've got everything ready to go. Measure out your seasonings 
    into a small bowl. Chop your veggies, set aside in a large bowl, keeping the okra in a
    separate bowl. Chop your meats, set aside in separate bowls. 
2) Grab a large heavy bottomed skillet or a dutch oven and heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium 
    heat. Add your sausage and cook until browned on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. 
    Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain. 
3) Now add your chicken and cook until browned a little and cooked through, 5-8 
    minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. 
4) Toss in your onion, peppers, celery and garlic, and cook until the onions are tender and 
    translucent, 10 minutes or so. Remove veggies from pan and set aside. 
5) Time to make your roux (<-read this). With the pan still medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. oil
    and 3 Tbsp. flour. Use a flat wooden spatula (metal will ruin your pan) or a spoon if you
    have to, scraping the mixture back and forth constantly to mix and continuing to move
    the mixture for about 20 minutes. I know this seems like forever, but if you don't get a
    nice deep color to the roux you won't get the flavor your looking for. Go ahead and
    crack one of those Crispin's to get you through it. You're looking for a color close to
    milk chocolate, if your mixture starts to smoke, take it off the heat, don't let it burn! 
6) Roux's done? Great. Toss back in your veggies, stir them around, and add your cider
    slowly to the pan. Scrape the bottom to get any roux that may be stuck off. Turn up the
    heat and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add your stock, seasonings, and tomatoes,
    bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
7) Add back in your chicken and sausage as well as the shrimp, simmer 5 minutes more.
    And finally, add your okra, allowing to simmer 5-10 min. more or until the okra is
    tender. Serve over some rice and eat up!

 Mmm, mmm! And honestly, if you swap out the sausage for chicken sausage and use brown rice instead of white, you're looking at a darn healthy and decadent meal here kids. 
And not to ruffle anyone's feathers, but I'm really not a huge okra fan. Yeah it helps thicken the sauce but I also think the stuff's slimy and strange tasting. If I were making this gumbo again, I personally don't think I'd put it in there. Please! Save your stones! It's just me, you do what you'd like, 
I sure won't judge you for it. 
 So get in there and get cooking, and have fun with it y'all! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mulled Cider Donuts

 Oh yes. I did. I have been wanting to do cider donuts ever since my trip to the apple orchard in September, but I kept holding out, knowing well that once they were made it would be impossible to stop my inhalation of them.  Well, freshly back and well fed from my trip to visit my parents in Florida, I thought, 'what have I got to lose now?' My integrity? My girlish figure? Bah. Who needs those things anyway? So come to me donuts; you hot, sugary, bits of fried dough. It's time to make our love affair official.  
Mulled Cider Donuts:  Makes 18 donuts & holes  
Adapted from Pumpkin Patches & 
 1 c. Fox Barrel Mulled Cider (Seasonal now, try substituting the Pacific Pear and add a little
        more cinnamon/clove/allspice, etc.)
 2    Eggs
 4  Tbsp. Butter, at room temperature 
1/2 c. Buttermilk
1 c.  Granulated Sugar
3 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour (plus some for dusting)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. Table Salt 
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
Enough oil (I used Canola) to reach a depth of 3" in your pan, for frying 

If you'd like to adorn your dough with extra sugar...

Glaze: 1 c. powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. mulled cider-stir to combine, pour
           over donuts 
Cinnamon & Sugar: 1 c. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon-whisk to combine, dunk donuts     
1) Get started by reducing your mulled cider in a small saucepan over low heat until it 
    reaches 1/4 c.-this will take about 20-30 minutes. Let cool. 
2) Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium high until it becomes lighter in
    color and well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
    Then add in the buttermilk and mulled cider, beat 30 seconds more. 
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, 
    and nutmeg. 
4) Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, only stirring until combined.
5) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper. 
    Sprinkle the dough on each side with flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of 
    about 1/2 inch. If the dough starts to stick add more flour little by little.
6) Set the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just until it is slightly hardened. 
    Remove from freezer and cut into donuts using a 3" donut cutter, or a 3"and 1" 
    round cutters.
    *Tip: Dipping your cutters into the flour will help stop them from sticking in
         the dough. 
7) Set the cut donuts and holes onto a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the
    fridge for another 20 minutes. 

8) Heat your oil over medium high heat until it reaches 350 degrees (use a thermometer!) 
9) Cook donuts 2 or 3 at a time. Turn at least once and cook about 1 minute per side. 
    They will become a nice caramel color when they are done. Watch them carefully
    because they will burn quickly! Remove donuts with a slotted spoon or metal tongs
    and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels so they can drain. 
10) If you use the cinnamon and sugar; dip them in while they are still warm. If you
      use the glaze; let them cool a minute before pouring the glaze over them. 

*A note on frying: It's super important to monitor the temperature of your oil when
cooking. Too hot of oil will ruin your donuts in a hurry! Allow a little time in between batches for the oil to get back up to the temperature that you want it. 

I dare you not to drool. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Suuuuper Bowwwls...of chili.

Everybody's doing it, so how can you be sure that your dish will be the star of the party? Answer: make this chili. It's deeelicious! Plus, chili goes good with beer, and amazingly well with the cider I put in it. Annnd, you can put it on other things like hot dogs, fries, and breakfast the next day (if there are any left overs). So get to it, it's almost time to party.
Lansdowne Sirloin Chili: (serves 8-10)

18  oz. Beef broth
1/4 c. Vinegar
 2   Tbs. oil (I always use grapeseed)
 2  Cans kidney beans (15/16 oz.)
 1  Can black beans 
 1  Can pinto beans
 1  lb. Ground beef
3/4  lb. Sirloin, cubed
  2   Large onions, chopped
14.5 oz. Canned diced tomato
12   oz. Tomato paste 
  3  Cloves garlic, minced
  1  Fresno chili, seeded and diced
  1  JalepeƱo, seeded and diced
1/2 c. Brown sugar
  3  Tbs. Chili powder
  1  Tbs. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  1  tsp. Cumin
  1  tsp. Cinnamon
  1  tsp. Cayenne
  1  tsp. Ground coriander
  1  tsp. Fresh ground pepper
  2+ tsp. Kosher salt 
Mmm. Meaty. 
1) Prep. Measure spices and liquids. Chop your onions, garlic, peppers. Open your cans
2) Grab two large skillets, add one tablespoon oil to each and set on medium heat. In one
    pan add your onions and garlic, in the other add your ground beef and sirloin. Cook
    onions until tender and slightly translucent and cook meat until all browned.
3) In a large pot, add all your liquids and then your spices, whisk to combine. Then add
    your meats, onions/garlic, peppers, beans, and tomatoes. Stir it up. Bring that beautiful
    pot to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Walk away for 1 1/2-2 hours. Eat right away
    or make the day before, I think almost all soups are better next day, at least that's what
   my Dad always told me :)

With all soups and chili's and such, the thing that makes it 'amazing' is achieving that perfect balance in flavors. With this chili, it's a balance between sweet, spicy, and savory. Everyone's got their own personal "that's it" moment, don't be afraid to add a little more here and there and find your perfect pot. Add only little bits at a time, stir well, taste, and if needed; repeat. Trust your taste buds and remember that you can always add more, but you can't take it away.
"Hey, what's on your chili there missy?" you might ask; well, that's my favorite pile o' fixins.  Part of the fun of serving chili is all the add-ons you can incorporate. For our Super Bowl party I'm going to have a chili 'bar', one big pot and lots of little bowls full of goodies for everyone to choose from. My favorites are: sour cream, cheese blend, red onion, cilantro, avocado, tortilla chips and green onion. And if I can give you one really solid tip here, buy at least one extra bottle of the Lansdowne to drink while you're eating this, I built the recipe around the flavors in the cider and it's crazzzy good whilst eating the chili. Ok, I gotta stop talking about this or I'm headed to the fridge and there won't be any chili left for the party.