Monday, February 22, 2010

You say Potato, I say Potato!

This weeks recipe just to happened to fall on Valentine's Day and what better way than to celebrate with your loved one and good friends! Since we hadn't seen them in a while, we decided to get together with Valerie and Ryan for Valentine's Day and just hang out and watch movies. We definitely didn't want to go out and face the crowds since Valentine's fell on the weekend this year! So instead, we decided that Val and Ryan would bring the meat (pork chops, YUM) and I would make my next recipe in line from my book which was Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

Since I am the worlds biggest procrastinator (ok maybe not THAT bad), I waited until the day of to go out and get all the ingredients for this recipe, which at the time seemed pretty simple. We had a lot of the stuff already at the house, so all I needed were: red potatoes, shallot, green onion, blue cheese, watercress & aged sherry wine vinegar. That's nothing like chipotles in adobo sauce or anything, right (refer to pressure cooker chili for that story)?! So Adam and I head off to Kroger to get everything, that afternoon, and our first headache was finding the aged sherry wine vinegar! We say sherry cooking wine and aged vinegar, but no combination of the two! So after standing and talking for what seemed like forever...since all the last minute, disgruntled husbands were all frantically taking over the store trying to find cards, balloons, dinner ingredients, flowers, etc...we decided that we would buy both and just mix it together to make our own aged sherry wine vinegar. So we continue along, trying to get in and out as quickly as possible, because neither of us do well in crowds of people, and hit another road block-watercress was no where to be found. After looking up pictures from google on Adam's phone thinking that maybe I was mistaken and it isn't a leafy green veggie, I decided to ask the produce stocker if they carried it. He proceeded to say, "hmmm, let me check" and I followed him over to where I had just come from and he pointed and said, "No, we just have water chestnuts" (apparently everything was in alphabetical order)! SERIOUSLY Mr. Produce stocker guy...I mean I know you were stocking the oranges, but watercress and water chestnuts are two TOTALLY different foods. Not to mention I sincerely loath water chestnuts and just hearing him say that word made me gag! I tell him, ya that's not quite it...watercress is a leafy green veggie and he said "OH YA, you are like the 4th person to ask about that, so I'll let my Manager know and maybe we can get it in stock for you". I politely said thank you and found my way back over to Adam who was gathering the green onions (which side note: 2 green onions means 2 stems of green onions, not 2 bunches, haha LOVE YOU HUN)! Since waiting a week for them to get watercress in stock wasn't really an option, we decided we would give Tom Thumb a try, since they seem to be an upper class Kroger and are right around the corner. ALSO I need to mention that we put both the sherry wine and aged wine vinegar back, thinking that maybe Tom Thumb would carry the aged sherry wine vinegar we needed as well!

We enter Tom Thumb and quickly discover that they do not carry watercress, but decide to ask Customer Service, just in case they had it hidden in the cereal isle or something (we were desperate)! While Adam dealt with Customer Service, I went off to look for my aged sherry wine vinegar, only to discover that they carry the exact same sherry wine and aged wine vinegar as Kroger it is just about $3 more expensive!!! Feeling more than frustrated, I return to where Adam is and of course the watercress wasn't hidden on the cereal isle, they don't carry it either. I told Adam that I no longer think that Tom Thumb is an upper class is just the same store, same stuff, more expensive! We decided we would give Whole Foods and/or Central Market a try. Instead of driving to both and getting the same result as we had with Kroger and Tom Thumb, we called to check first and found out both of the stores carried watercress and they had it in stock. Of course I'm thinking we will just go to Whole Foods, since it is closer than Ft. Worth, but Adam quickly reminds me that the All-Star game is in town and Whole Foods is located right by the stadium and he was not going anywhere near that area of town. I was in complete agreement, and it doesn't hurt that I absolutely love Central Market, so we decide to go there instead! So LONG story short, we find watercress at Central Market, but still no aged sherry wine vinegar. I decide to just get sherry cooking wine and mix it with some white vinegar and use that, because if Central Market doesn't have it then it must be a New York thing and I didn't have the time nor money to make that trip to find it!

Moving right along to the fun stuff...the cooking part!! First you have to take the potatoes and par boil them. This is basically placing your whole potatoes in a pot of cold water, bringing it to a boil and as soon as it starts to boil, removing it from the heat, draining and letting the potatoes cool for a bit. After I was done with letting the potatoes cool, I got to bust out my super cool julienner that Adam got me for Christmas! I have to admit I was standing there about to try and measure and cut my potatoes by hand 1/4 inch thick and Adam reminded me that I now had super cool kitchen gadgets that can do that for me! Thank goodness for him, otherwise I would have been there for hours measuring and cutting potatoes, ugh! With the julienner it was a cinch and the potatoes were done in no time. Although, I must warn you, they are SUPER sticky at this point. After they were all cut and put into a bowl, I tossed them with some olive oil (just enough to coat them all) and salt and pepper (again, just eye ball it) and it was off to the grill. Adam went ahead and lit the grill again for me and placed it against the house so that the horrid wind wouldn't blow my flame out. Not the safest thing to do and I don't recommend it at home, but it was my only option. I think my next invenstment will be an in-door grill like the Neely's use on Food Netword! I carefully and meticulously placed all my potatoes on the grill and waited about 10 minutes before flipping them over and cooking again for another 10 minutes. Note: Since there are different "hot spots" on the grill, you may have to re-arrange some of the potatoes so they all get evenly browned.

While my potatoes were finishing up on the grill I went ahead and combined my sherry wine with my white vinegar to make my aged sherry wine vinegar. I then added my chopped shallot, dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of olive oil to the bowl. While that sat, I chopped my watercress and green onions and set them aside for later. Since I was knee deep in doing all of this, I lost track of time, but luckily Adam had my back and was able to remove my potatoes from the grill for me and bring them inside! Once you have your potatoes grilled you just simply toss it in your vinaigrette mixture of olive oil, shallot, vinegar and mustard and remove them with some tongs and set them aside in a bowl or platter of your choice. Then you take your watercress and green onion and add it to the remaining vinaigrette.After you have everything tossed in your vinaigrette, it's time to crumble your blue cheese. The recipe called for Cabrales blue cheese or Roquefort blue cheese. Kroger didn't carry Cabrales, but luckily had Roquefort on hand. The piece I got was about the size of the palm of my hand and cost $8! So this isn't just any blue cheese we are talking about. The "cheese lady", for lack of a better term, at Kroger informed me that a little bit of this blue cheese goes a long way! I am not really a huge blue cheese fan, so this was the only part of the recipe I was hesitant about. The thought of aged, moldy cheese just doesn't excite me! Luckily the recipe only called for 1/2 of the blue cheese! I crumbled it up and placed it on top of my potatoes (washed my hands, because this stuff was pungent) and then poured my remaining vinaigrette over my potatoes and blue cheese and tossed it all together!

We had these delicious, thick, juicy pork chops that Valerie and Ryan brought over to pair with the potatoe salad and a side green spinach salad, and I must say it was quite the feast! It all not only looked pretty together, but complimented each other quite well in taste. I wasn't a huge fan of this recipe, just because of the blue cheese, but everyone else said they really enjoyed it and even went back for seconds AND thirds! They all promised they weren't just doing it to make me feel good and they genuinely liked it, so I will take their word for it! For dessert (since you HAVE to have dessert on Valentine's) Valerie and Ryan brought over and assortment of candy and m&m cookies...DELICIOUS! So we all just sat around and nibbled on chocolates and watched a movie after dinner! It was the perfect Valentine's Day surrounded by lots of love and laughter!

Recipe Rating: Medium, only because not everyone has a julienner to save time
Good Leftover: My Mom was the only one who tried it left over and said it was good (note: she also ate it cold)
Tip: Never trust Tom Thumb to carry what Kroger doesn't and call ahead to other grocery stores before going on a wild goose chase!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Grilled Oysters with Mango Pico de Gallo and Red Chili Horseradish

You can find the Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions & Blue Cheese Vinaigrette recipe here (FYI: The quail wasn't in my recipe book):

Monday, February 15, 2010

Holy Guacamole!!

This week was my first recipe with Bobby Flay!!! I was SUPER excited to start on this chapter because Bobby is one of my favorite chefs on Food Network. Even though he is from New York, he still has a Southwest flair to his cooking and usually packs a punch when it comes to his recipes. This is my favorite part, because if you know me, you can not make it TOO hot...that just doesn't exist in my book!

I was looking for an excuse to make this Charred Corn Guacamole recipe, because it isn't a main course and I wanted to be able to make it to take some where for an appetizer instead of having people over like we normally do. So it was perfect when our good friend Lori and Nathan invited us over for a game night at their house! It fell on the weekend I was suppose to make this recipe and there would be about 10-15 people there!! Since I wasn't sure how much the recipe would make, considering portion size in Texas is usually double everywhere else, I went ahead and doubled the recipe to be safe. Better to have too much than too little, right?

Luckily all the ingredients were recognizable and super easy to find at Kroger. Even the avacadoes were good and ripe, for being out of season (FYI-avacado season is in the spring). The first thing I did was get all of my ingredients prepped and prepared when I got home. I started first with finely chopping up my serrano chile. If you aren't familiar with serrano chiles, just think of it this way...compared to a jalapeno, a serrano chile (if it were a man) could lift a VW van and a jalapeno can lift a vespa! So, needless to say you are going to have more heat with a serrano than a jalapeno! Serrano peppers are like a slender jalapeno and as it ages it turns from green to red to yellow. You might have seen these variations at your grocery store! Anyway, I used the green (young) serrano's and it was perfect for a large crowd. It isn't "Brittany" hot, but it still packs a punch and gives the dish some flavor! If you are sensitive to heat and still want the flavor then remove the seeds and that will eliminate some of the heat of the pepper. After chopping and setting aside my serrano chile, I went ahead and finely diced my red onion and cilantro leaves and also set those aside in my bowl.

Next it was on to juicing my lime. Unfortunately, the limes weren't as impressive as the rest of the produce. For some reason, I just HAD to get the hard as a rock lime with no juice!! BUT since I am a Food Network freak, I learned a little trick that some may or may not know about! If you come across a hard lime, just pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds, roll it on the counter and then cut, WAHLAH...a practically dried up lime becomes this fresh and revived juicy fruit (not the gum)! Also, it helps to have one of those fancy juicer dishes for those of us who don't have a strong grip! Or you can always rely on the strong hands of your husband (or Dad, Brother, someone with man hands that's around) like I do most of the time! Once everything was chopped, squeezed and placed in my bowl it was time to move on to the main star of this dish, the CORN!! First, I must tell everyone I have only grilled one other time in my life and Adam was by my side the entire time. Not sure what it is, but I have always been intimidated by the grill. I guess I just always viewed it as a man's cooking tool and never really wanted to interfere with that. Plus there are many times when I see men missing hair on their face, hands, etc...and there is always a funny grill story to go along with it! I tend to like my eyebrows and didn't want to have to start drawing them on, so I usually leave the grilling to Adam!

Moving along...I had to start by removing just the outer husks from the corn. The husks are the "leafy" parts of the corn and tear away fairly easy. Once the outer husks were removed from my ears of corn, I loosened up the silks without removing them completely (the silks are the stringy, silky looking parts attached to the kernels). I have to admit that I still had Adam light the grill because we are in desperate need of a new grill (it's on the list, don't worry) and he had to do it by hand. As stated above, I wanted to keep my eyebrows so I let him take care of that part! Other than that, he left me to do everything else all by myself (after a quick lesson on all the parts of the grill). I dunked my corn in a bowl of water and placed them all directly on the grill. The recipe calls to leave the corn on the grill about 15min, rotating occasionally. It was a bit windy and cold the day I was making this that I left mine on about 30min, since everytime I would open the grill to rotate the corn all my heat would go out. So don't always go by time on a recipe...go according to your cooking instruments and pay attention to the elements! If it would have been summer time with a small breeze, 15min would have done just fine! Once you see the kernels showing through the husk and you have a nice char on your corn, they are done!!

I brought my corn inside and let it cool a little before I handled it. It isn't pleasant to try and cut corn while it is still hot unless you have no nerves in your hand! Once it was cooled, I carefully removed the remaining husks and silk from the cobs and cut the kernels off using a sharp knife. Make sure you have a sharp knife, otherwise your kernels will look butchered and you'll make a HUGE mess! Once the corn was added in with the rest of my ingredients in my bowl, I went ahead and started on my avacadoes. I didn't cut my avacadoes up with the rest of my ingredients at the beginning because I didn't want them turning brown. Avacadoes are super sensitive and if you cut and mess with them too much they can turn brown and look unappealing really quickly! So, I saved these for last, for a reason! I cut my avacadoes into chunks by first slicing each one in half and CAREFULLY removing the pit. I say carefully since there have been many occasions where I have seen many people, myself included, severely cut themselves while trying to remove those stubborn pits. Once you get the pit removed, take a tablespoon and slide it around the edges and remove the avacado from its skin. Place it flat side down on a cutting board. Then slice it length wise (or hot dog style as I say) and then width wise (or hamburger style) to form the perfect size chunks.

Once everything was in the bowl, I added the final touches of vegetable oil and salt and pepper (to taste). Then I tossed it gently, cleaned up my edges around the bowl and we were off to game night!! Adam and I agreed that it was more like a pico de gallo guacamole instead of the traditional mashed guacamole, we Texans are used to. All-in-all I think my guacamole was a success and everyone enjoyed it (or at least I hope they weren't lying)! A huge thanks to Nathan and Lori for having us over for game night, it was a ton of fun (especially since we won the Newlywed Game, YEA!!).

Recipe Rating: Easy, just chop, grill and pour everything into a big bowl!
Good Leftover: Yes and No, if you scrape off the top to get rid of the brown avacadoes you can probably eat it the next day!
Tip: Instead of eating this like a dip, you can also use it as a fun topper for fajitas, tacos, burritos, chicken, etc...
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

You can find the Charred Corn Guacamole recipe here: