Thursday, February 28, 2013

Date Night: Steakhouse Salad with Seared Filet Mignon on Mixed Heirloom Greens Tossed in a Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette with Candied Pecans, Dried Cherries, Sliced Apples, Apple Chips, Crumbled Bleu Cheese, & Crispy Shallots, Drizzled with a Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel

Steakhouse Salad with Seared Filet Mignon on Mixed Heirloom Greens Tossed in a Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette with Candied Pecans, Dried Cherries, Sliced Apples, Apple Chips, Crumbled Bleu Cheese, & Crispy Shallots, Drizzled with a Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel 
It's been a long, long, longgggggg time since I have last posted a Date Night recipe. And this meal will surely make up for the lost time! As many of you know, I am an avid lover of all salads, my Mountain Man, on the other hand, doesn't get that yearning for a big ole' pile of frilly greens like I do. But, his mind can quickly be changed when a hearty steak is added into the mix. Oh, and crispy fried shallots don't hurt it either. This bad boy of a salad is loaded with a bunch of yummy ingredients... sweet dried cherries, fresh apple slices, crunchy apple chips, crumbled bleu cheese, & candied pecans. The base of it all is a mix between heirloom greens, frisee lettuce, and baby arugula. Then, they are all tossed in my go-to Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette, which perfectly complements the other components of the dish. I like all of the balance of these different greens put together for a lot of variety and then the acidic-sweet dress that is dressed in. Now, here's where it all comes up to you... We love our filet mignons to be crusted in fancy fleur de sel and coarsely ground peppercorns. It is super hearty and extremely flavorful. But, most importantly, we prefer our steaks to be cooked to a bright red medium rare. It has such a deep, complex meatiness that way and it literally just melts into your mouth. But, I know that not everyone feels the same way we do, so please cook your meat according to your preferences. After every thing has been assembled, you have to garnish it off with a heapin' mouthful of crispy shallots. Life don't get much betta than this, y'all!! Enjoy :)

Beautifully Cooked Filet Mignon + Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel Drizzle
Crispy. Shallots. Are. My. Life.

Dried Cherries, Crumbled Bleu Cheese, Crispy Shallots, Apple Chips,  & Apple Slices

For the Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel:
½C Red Wine
1C Balsamic Vinegar
1T Dark Brown Sugar

For the Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette:
2T Olive Oil
2T Apple Cider Vinegar
4T Maple Syrup
2t Dijon Mustard
2T Grainy Mustard
2t Garlic, Minced
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Candied Pecans:
1 ½C Pecans, Toasted
½C Sugar
Pinch of Salt, Cinnamon, & Cayenne (or to your taste, I did a large pinch)

For the Crispy Shallots:
4 Large Shallots, Thinly Sliced
½C Buttermilk + 2T Hot Sauce
AP Flour, For Coating
Vegetable Oil, For Frying

For the Steakhouse Salad:
Mixed Heirloom Greens, Frisee Lettuce, & Baby Arugula (or your favorite salad greens)
Prepared Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette, For Dressing the Salad
Prepared Candied Pecans, Roughly Chopped
1-2C Dried Cherries
1 Fuji Apple, Thinly Sliced
Apple Chips
Crumbled Bleu Cheese
½C Red Onion, Finely Minced
2T Freshly Parsley, Minced
Seared Filet Mignon, Cooked to your Preference & Sliced
Prepared Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel, For Drizzling
Crispy Shallots, For Garnishing

1. For the Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel: Place red wine in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Add the balsamic vinegar and boil until the vinegar has reduced to about ¼ cup and is very syrupy and big shiny bubbles are forming at the surface. Watch the mixture very closely at this point — it will burn very easily. If it appears too thin, be assured that it will thicken upon cooling. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Pour into a clean jar and let it thicken before drizzling over the salad.
2. For the Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette: In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until combined. Season it with salt & pepper to taste. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to toss the salad.
3. For the Candied Pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until just toasted. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Meanwhile, pour the sugar into a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon while the sugar melts. Keep stirring until the color turns a medium amber color. Once that color is reached, add in the pecans to the pan and quickly stir to coat. As soon as they are coated, spread them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. Let them cool completely before adding them to the dish (after they have hardened, you can chose whether or not you want to chop them up or leave them whole).
4. For the Crispy Shallots: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce until combined. Add in the thinly shaved shallots and toss them in the spicy milk mixture until they are thoroughly covered. Let these onions soak for roughly an hour. When you are ready to fry, heat some vegetable oil up to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating, drain the shallots from the milk, and then lightly coat them in some AP Flour, shaking well to remove any excess flour. Fry the shallots in the hot oil, in small batches, until they are crispy & golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Once cooked, strain from the oil onto a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining shallots. After they have all been fried, set them aside until you are ready to garnish the salad with them.
5. For the Steakhouse Salad: In a large mixing bowl, place the mixed greens and lettuce in a bowl, along with the candied pecans, dried cherries, apple slices, apple chips, crumbled bleu cheese, minced red onion, and parsley. Toss them together until all of the ingredients are incorporated throughout. Next, pour some of the Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss until just combined (don’t overdress the salad or it will be soggy). Lay the slices of the filet mignon on top of the dressed salad, and then generously drizzle some of the Red Wine-Balsamic Caramel over the steak and the salad. Garnish the salad with a big pile of crispy shallots. Enjoy immediately with a big glass of red wine!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beer Battered Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Homemade Chipotle-Strawberry Jam

Beer Battered Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Homemade Chipotle-Strawberry Jam
Beer Battered Monte Cristo Sandwiches?? Yeah, that's the perfect way to start any Sunday morning. 

So, what's the cast of characters, you ask, well they are...

Brioche Bread (yes that buttery, heavenly, yet sinfully delicious bread)
Dijon Mustard
Gruyere Cheese
Honey Ham + Honey Turkey
Vanilla Bean Scented Beer Batter (vanilla bean goes in everything)
Confectioners' Sugar
Homemade Chipotle-Strawberry Jam 

This was one of our favorite brunches to date. I especially love Monte Cristo's, but my Mountain Man hadn't ever really had one. So, I explained to him that they were ham + cheese sandwiches that get the "french toast treatment", and then they are served with a dusting of confectioners' sugar and maple syrup or fruit preserves. We ended up deciding to go the fruit preserve route because I've caught the pickling + preserving bug this year, so any chance that I get to make a new concoction, then I'm on board. The only thing I was worried about was that between all of these sweet flavors, I knew we would want a spicy kick somewhere in the recipe. That's when I officially went off the deep end and added in some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This simple addition brought a nice smokiness + spiciness to the jam, but didn't overpower the natural sweetness of the berries. And lemme tell y'all, it perfectly complemented the sandwiches. Now for the good part... the beer batter. It's studded with a'whole'lotta beer, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and nutmeg. After assembling the sandwiches, you dip them into this luscious, smooth batter, and then you deep fry them in the hot oil until they are golden brown + crispy. Once they are "crunchified", you can slice 'em up and cover them in a good ole' dusting of that powdery, white sugar and then dip them into the sweet + spicy jam. And trust me folks, you get every foodie sensation from these guys... crispy, hot, buttery, melty, spicy, tangy, and ever-so-sweet. We loved these Monte Cristo's and I'm sure your family & friends will too!! Enjoy :)

These are soooooo good, people!!

For the Chipotle-Strawberry Preserves:
3C Sugar
2 Lemons, Zested & Juiced
¼t Salt
2C Strawberries, Cut into Small Cubes
1C Strawberries, Smashed
3 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo, Minced

For the Beer Batter:
2C AP Flour
1T Sugar
Pinch of Salt & Freshly Grated Nutmeg
¼t Cinnamon
1 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds
1t Vanilla Extract
1C + 6T Beer
Few Drops of Yellow Food Dye

For the Monte Cristo Sandwiches:
Prepared Beer Batter
Slices of Brioche Bread
Dijon Mustard, For Spreading
Slices of Honey Ham + Honey Turkey
Gruyere or Swiss Cheese (sliced or shredded)
Vegetable Oil, For Frying
Confectioners’ Sugar, For Dusting
Chilled Chipotle-Strawberry Preserves, For Serving

1. For the Chipotle-Strawberry Preserves: In a deep pot, mix together the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium heat, while whisking, until the sugar dissolves. Add in the cubed strawberries, mashed strawberries, and minced chipotle peppers. Bring the mixture to a light bowl and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Check the gel consistency by placing a small amount of the jam on a plate and refrigerate. If it is still runny, then simmer for another 10 minutes or so until it gels properly. Once you have reached the desired consistency, place the hot jam into sterilized jars and seal. Chill some of the jam for serving.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in your deep fryer to 350 degrees.
3. For the Beer Batter: Put all the dry ingredients and spices in a bowl and whisk together. Add in the beer, vanilla extract, and yellow food dye. Whisk until lumps are gone.
4. For the Monte Cristo Sandwiches: Assemble the sandwiches by spreading each slice of bread with a little Dijon mustard, and then layer on some cheese, followed by the ham, turkey, more cheese, and the other piece of bread. Place two toothpicks into the sandwiches, so that when you dip and fry them, they will stay together. Dip the sandwiches into the beer batter and let the excess drain off. Gently lay them into the hot oil for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown & crispy. Remove the crispy sandwiches from the hot oil onto a paper towel lined plate to drain any excess oil. Cut them in half to form smaller triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
5. Eat the sandwiches while they are still hot with some Chipotle-Strawberry Preserves for dipping!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gourmet Beergarita's with Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix, Beer Simple Syrup, Mixed Citrus Sea Salt, & a Splash of Beer

Gourmet Beergarita's with Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix, Beer Simple Syrup,
Mixed Citrus Sea Salt, & a Splash of Beer
Hey hey everyone. It's officially the weekend in our house, and hopefully y'all are getting there too! Oh and by the way, did y'all know today is National Margarita Day? When I found that out, I knew I had to feature a margarita recipe, butofcourse. What I have always loved about margaritas are the infinite possibilities for flavor combinations. You really could drink a different type every day of the year and never repeat. Well, one of our favorites is Beergarita's. Between the tequila and the beer, you get double the alcohol in one drink... and that is our kinda drink people. I knew I had to gussy it up a bit, so I started off by making a homemade margarita mix because I didn't want any of that store-bought crap that is overly sweet and sour. Yuck, I was craving fresh squeezed juice from limes, lemons, and oranges, along with their ever-so-fragrant and flavorful grated zest. This makes a big ole' pitcher, so make sure you're throwin' a party! Along with the mix, I also made a Beer Simple Syrup that would sweeten the drink, but also lend a lot of beer flavor to the entire margarita. But don't you worry, at the end, it will all be topped off with even more beer. So, you put some of the mix, syrup, tequila, grand marnier, and crushed ice into a mixer, and shake it up until its ice cold. Next, you gotta rim a glass with some of this Mixed Citrus Sea Salt. It's salt that is loaded with a bunch of zest, and then baked until it has all dehydrated a bit. These beergarita's would be perfect for a Cinco de Mayo party... or any day of the week really!! Enjoy :)
Mixed Citrus Sea Salt Rim
See the layers of beer simple syrup, margarita mix, and beer?
Oh and just for fun, we made some Blood Orange Beergarita's!!
I mean, how amazing is that color?
For the Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix:
4C Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
2C Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1C Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1T Lime Zest, Freshly Grated
1T Lemon Zest, Freshly Grated
1T Orange Zest, Freshly Grated
4C Cold Water
1C Sugar
Green Food Coloring, Optional (if you want it to be a bright green color instead of yellow)

For the Beer Simple Syrup:
6 Budweiser Cans
2C Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick

For the Gourmet Beergarita’s:
3oz Prepared Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix, Chilled
2oz Silver Tequila
1oz Grand Marnier
2oz Prepared Beer Simple Syrup, Chilled
Crushed Ice
Corona Beer, For Topping
Mixed Citrus Sea Salt, For Rimming
Lime Wedges, For Rimming & For Garnishing

1. For the Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix: Combine all of the fresh citrus juice and zest into a pitcher until they are completely combined. Chill the margarita fruit juice mix in the refrigerator until cold.
2. For the Beer Simple Syrup: Add all of the ingredients into a pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture has reduced by almost half. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Pour the simple syrup into a bottle and let it cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, chill the syrup in the refrigerator until cold.
3. Assembling the Gourmet Beergarita’s: Fill a cocktail shaker with a little bit of crushed ice, and then pour in 4oz of the Homemade Triple Citrus Margarita Mix, 2oz Silver Tequila and Grand Marnier, and Beer Simple Syrup (we used our large jigger at home to make our drinks, so we followed a ratio of 4 shots of juice to 2 shots of tequila and triple sec to 1 shot of simple syrup… not exactly specific ounces, so keep that in mind). Shake hard to combine the cocktail. Next, rub a lime wedge along the rim of a tall glass and dip it into the Mixed Citrus Sea Salt. Add in a little bit of crushed ice into the bottom of the glass. Pour the strained liquid over the ice and fill the glass up to the rim with some Corona Beer. Stir until a frost forms on the outside of the cup. 
4. Enjoy immediately!!

**If you want to make the recipe for the Mixed Citrus Sea Salt, please look at this recipe!!**

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée

Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée
Fast Forward: This. is. the. best. pie. I've. ever. made. in. my. life. 

Got it? Okay... now rewind. 

I have loved cooking since I was a kid. Granted, I wasn't always good at it, but I loved holiday meals and baking with friends, and I knew that if I kept working on it that I would eventually pick up the skill. However, through each year, there was one recipe that I could NOT make. I'm still not sure why or how or what was going on in the world, but I was sure of it that this simple pie would be the death of me. Ironically, my blog revolves around the idea of hand-making each component in a dish (almost to an obsessive manner) and also making classic comfort food recipes with a gourmet or playful twist. So, you would think that a pie with originally FIVE ingredients (yeah, just that little) would be something I could make in my sleep. Nope, definitely not. Every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, my family's buttermilk pie was on the checklist of stuff to make. I just wasn't the person to make it because it was too important to be messed up. Yet, I could make 3 side dishes, 2 other pies, and help with the turkey. So, to say that this was on my bucket list to eventually conquer, is an understatement. Have y'all ever had a buttermilk pie? Well, if you haven't, you are truly missing out because it is just divine. It has the texture of a perfectly silky custard, but with the delightful tang from the buttermilk. Trust me on this, you need to make one. The other day, I got an itchin' for this classic Southern pie, so much so, that I decided it was time to own this recipe, once and for all. The task was daunting and the future was dark + gloomy, but I had faith. I started out by making my go to all-butter pie crust that is scented with vanilla beans. Then, all of a sudden, while knee deep in butter and covered in flour, a light bulb went off... I should make this pie into a Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie. Why had I never thought of this before? I mean, it has the same sultry texture as a Crème Brûlée and it would be perfect with a torched sugar topping. So, with this new idea, I went immediately to tweaking my mother's recipe. With the addition of vanilla bean to the filling, I happened to lose some of the tang from the buttermilk that is crucial in really calling this a buttermilk pie. As a solution, I sifted some buttermilk powder in with the flour to get back some of that tang without messing up the texture. Also, I felt like the pie needed just the slightest bit of salt to balance between the filling and soon-to-be sugar topping. Now, here is where I always messed up, incorrectly baking the pie. From year to year, it was split between being under baked and over baked. It is crucial that you watch the pie in the oven because it can go from jiggly to a curdled mess. And people, we do not want that. We want a creamy custard that is heavenly smooth, yet firm enough to be sliced easily. This depends heavily on your oven at home because my oven is a lot weaker in heat compared to the oven at home. For instance, my mom bakes this pie for about 30-45 minutes, where my pie required almost an hour of cook time. So, I suggest that you set oven timer to smaller baking intervals and check it regularly throughout the process. That way, you can ensure that it will not over bake. Buttermilk pie needs to be firm all around the edges and have the slightest, tiniest jiggle in the center. Once you get there, take it out of the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and cool completely to room temperature. Afterwards, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to make sure it is quite cold before you start torching the top. Now, the fun part. If y'all don't have a kitchen torch... get one. They are so much fun and well, they are a necessity to pull off this pie. You also have one last decision to make, you can either sprinkle sugar all over the pie and caramelize it, then cut into it. Or you can cut it into slices and do everything when serving it to people. We personally like the idea of doing each individual slice because the presentation is much prettier AND every person gets the euphoric joy of personally cracking that caramelized crust. That's honestly the reason why we all love Crème Brûlée to begin with, right? Okay, so y'all have all heard my spiel about this pie. Y'all know from the beginning, that this was the best pie I have ever made. No doubt about it. So, I hope that is enough to get some people to take a crack at this recipe because it is totally worth every bite!! Enjoy :)

I mean, how delish does this all look?

For the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée:
3 ¾C AP Flour (plus extra for rolling)
3 Sticks of butter, Cut into ½inch Cubes & Chilled
1 ½t Salt
1T + 1 ½t Sugar
12-18T Ice Water, Very Cold
3 Vanilla Beans, Sliced & Scraped for Beans

For the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie:
2T AP Flour + 2T Buttermilk Powder, Sifted
1 ½C Sugar
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
3 Eggs
½C Buttermilk
¼t Salt (or to taste)
1-2 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds (we used two vanilla beans)
Turbinado Sugar, For Caramelizing the Top of the Pie

1. To Make the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée: Start by cutting the sticks of butter into ½inch cubes and placing in the freezer bag, along with the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the bag of flour into the freezer and chill for at least 1-2 hours. In a food processor, pour the frozen flour bag in, as well as the scraped vanilla beans, and pulse 6-8 times until the mixture resembles a course meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1T at a time, pulsing until the mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch of some of the crumbly dough and it holds together then it’s ready. Remove the dough from the machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully split the dough into three equal pieces and shape into discs (save the other two rounds of pie dough in plastic wrap and freeze them for a rainy day). Do not over knead the dough. You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. Sprinkle the discs with a little flour on all sides and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove one of the discs from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12inch circle (1/8inch thick). Place the rolled out disc on to a pie dish, lining up the fold with the center of the pan, trimming the excess and crimping the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. 
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the prepared pie dish onto a baking sheet.
3. For the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour and buttermilk powder, sugar, and butter until combined. Add in one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly until each one is incorporated before adding the next. Next, whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla beans seeds, and a pinch of salt. I find that an immersion blender can help make this pie filling a smoother and creamier texture. I have also made this pie filling in a standing mixer by first beating together the butter and sugar, and then adding in the sifted flour and buttermilk powder, along with the vanilla bean seeds. The mixture was beat on high speed to break up any clumps and to distribute the vanilla bean evenly. I then reduced the speed to low and beat in one egg at a time, making sure that each one was fully incorporated before adding the next. After the eggs have been mixed in, I slowly poured the buttermilk in a steady stream until the batter was creamy and smooth. Season with a pinch or two of salt until it has reached your desired taste. Once it is thoroughly blended, pour the filling into the frozen piecrust.
4. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and then reduce the oven to 325 degrees and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour or until just slightly firm in the middle, but still has the slightest jiggle (do not over bake the pie, but make sure it is cooked enough to firm up when it cools).
5. Once the pie is done baking, place the pie dish onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely to room temperature, and then place into the refrigerator until it’s completely chilled, roughly 4 hours.
6. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the buttermilk pie evenly with some sugar, and then using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar to form a crispy top (being careful not to burn it). Allow the Crème Brûléed Buttermilk Pie sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. However, you could also slice the pieces of pie, sprinkle on the sugar, and torch each slice before serving (this is our favorite option because it is easier to cut and prettier in presentation).
7. Use your fork to crack up the sugar topping and enjoy!