Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream with Bourbon Caramel Swirls + Praline Bits in PRETZEL CONES

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream with Bourbon Caramel Swirls + Praline Bits in PRETZEL CONES
I feel like I have been so busy lately. Wedding planning has taken over my life... and to top all of that, I found out that I have Shingles again. I have literally had it twice in less than 10 months. Kill me now. What 25 year old has something that 60 year old's get? Me. That's who. But you know what cheers me up when I don't feel good? Ice cream. Cool, creamy, dreamy ice cream. And one of my favorite flavors has to be salted caramel. Matter of fact, triple the salted caramel ice cream. It starts off with a salted butter caramel custard base, and then cluttered with even more caramel-y goodness. I mean, who doesn't like praline? It's like crunchy caramel. It's perfection. The praline bits give the ice cream some crunch + texture, which I adore. And then there's the bourbon caramel sauce that is swirled in as well, which makes it even more luscious. I can't even tell you all the millions of reasons as to why you need to make this right-friggin'-now. Summer is coming to an end in about a month and you can't miss out on this treat before it starts to get cold. My favorite element of the whole dessert though... are these fabulous Pretzel Ice Cream Cones. You have to order them online, but trust me, they are so worth the purchase! Head over to Pennsylvania General Store to get you some gurrrllllll (or guys). When you open the packaging, the most intoxicating maple-like smell wafts through your nose. But then when you bite into it tastes like a LEGIT PRETZEL. No joking here. This has to be the most ingenious idea ever. So go buy some now because I'm pretty sure it would pair beautifully with any ice cream you have in your freezer!! Enjoy :)

For the Praline Bits:
½C Sugar
¾t Smoked Sea Salt (I prefer Maldon)

For the Bourbon Caramel Swirls:
1C Sugar + ¼C Water
½C Heavy Cream
1T Bourbon
Heavy Pinch of Smoked Sea Salt 

For the Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream Custard:
2C Whole Milk, Divided
1 ½C Sugar
4t Salted Butter
½t Smoked Sea Salt
1C Heavy Cream
5 Large Egg Yolks
1t Vanilla
1T Bourbon

1. For the Praline Bits: Spread the sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy saucepan; I use a 6-quart pan. Line a baking sheet with a silpat. Heat the sugar over medium heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved (or most of it-there may be some lumps, which will melt later). Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.
2. For the Bourbon Caramel Sauce: Simmer sugar and ¼ cup water on medium heat, swirling pan (NOT stirring) for about 15 minutes, or until a deep amber color is reached. Then turn off burner, remove from heat and slowly add in cream while stirring. Add pinch of salt and bourbon and place back on still-warm burner for another minute while stirring. Transfer to a heat-safe dish or bottle and let cool. Store covered in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature or heat in a warm water bath before using (if needed).
3. For the Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream: Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it. Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in the praline bit process. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup of the milk. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Assembling the Ice Cream: While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch). As soon as the mixture is done churning, pour or scoop in one-third of the ice cream into a large container, and then spoon some of the bourbon caramel sauce on top of the ice cream. Using the spoon, smooth it out into any even layer and swirl it some for a pretty marbling effect. Scatter in more of the crushed praline during this layering process. Repeat this process until all of the ice cream and caramel sauce (and as much praline bits as you want) have been used. Once it has been assembled, store in the freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
5. Enjoying your Masterpiece: To take the dessert to a’whole’nother level, scoop your salted butter caramel ice cream into a Pretzel Ice Cream Cone (by The Cone Guys) and enjoy this ultimate salty + sweet treat!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Caramelized-In-Bacon-Fat Peaches with Bleu Cheese, Serrano Ham, White Balsamic Reduction Drizzle, + Fresh Herbs

Caramelized-In-Bacon-Fat Peaches with Bleu Cheese, Serrano Ham,
White Balsamic Reduction Drizzle, + Fresh Herbs
It's peach season, y'all! And thank gawd for that. Ripe peaches are practically religion down in the southeast. We use them for just about anything... cobblers, salads, on crostini, flavored lemonade, infused sweet tea, as toppings on pizza, and even in a savory capacity, like these caramelized peaches. It is the perfect side dish during the summer. What makes this recipe so mouth-watering? Well, let's just start from the beginning... they are caramelized in bacon fat (another southern staple), and then finished in the oven where they are caramelized with sugar and scented with fresh rosemary. After they achieve the dark, caramel-y color that you desire, you take them out of the oven and start assembling these sort-of-kinda "peach salads". Drizzle the tops of the caramelized peaches with some of the sweet + sticky + tangy white balsamic reduction. Now onto the matter of the bleu cheese... any kind will really do, but I especially like a soft, silky bleu cheese that will soften some while they sit on top of the warm peaches. Don't like bleu cheese, that's fine too! I'm sure that a creamy goat cheese would be a lovely compliment to the other ingredients! So spoon that sticky, yet delicious cheese into the center of the fruit and pile on a heap of shaved serrano ham. If you can't find serrano, prosciutto or country ham would work just fine as well! I love to finish these bad boys off with a little bit of fresh basil + minced chives because it gives the dish some herby elements that counteract all the sweetness and savoriness that is going on in the dish. We served our peaches with a pepper jelly glazed, BBQ rubbed, grilled pork tenderloin (I will post the recipe for that soon), and it was the perfect compliment to the hearty meat. I think this would absolute perfection for a dinner party with friends or just to whip up on a sunny weekday!! Enjoy :)

For the White Balsamic Reduction:
¼C White Balsamic Vinegar
1T Honey

For the Caramelized Peaches:
2T Rendered Bacon Fat
4 Large, Semi-Ripe Peaches (cut in half + remove the pit)
1T Granulated Sugar + 1T Light Brown Sugar
¼t Smoked Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
4 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary

For Topping the Peaches:
1t of Bleu Cheese (per peach half… we had about 8 halves)
Shaved Serrano Ham (country ham or prosciutto may be substituted)
Fresh Basil + Chives, Minced
Red Pepper Flakes, For Garnishing

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, mix together the sugars.
2. For the White Balsamic Reduction: Add the white balsamic vinegar and honey to a small saucepan and cook to reduce for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Set this aside until ready to use.
3. For the Caramelized Peaches: Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and add the rendered bacon fat. Once melted, reduce heat to medium-low. Sprinkle the cut-side up of peaches with half of the sugar mixture, the salt and the pepper. Place them cut-side done in the skillet, tucking the rosemary in between. Cook for 5 minutes, or until cut sides are caramelized and golden. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the un-cut side of the peaches. Drizzle a bit of bacon grease (1-2 teaspoons) over the peaches, then place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the peaches so they are cut-side up. Roast for another 5-10 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Remove from the oven and serve immediately, discarding the rosemary.
4. Assembling the Peaches: Place the caramelized peach halves onto a plate and put a piece of blue cheese into the center, followed by a drizzle of white balsamic reduction and a mound of shaved serrano. Garnish the top with fresh basil and chives, along with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and some more balsamic reduction. Enjoy with a glass of white wine.

inspired by: sugar roasted peaches

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta with Whipped Feta + Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction on Olive Oil Fried Multigrain Toast

Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta with Whipped Feta + Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction
on Olive Oil Fried Multigrain Toast
Hey y'all, I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday… we sure did. My Mountain Man and I celebrated our one year engagement anniversary. I can't believe it's already been a year of wedding planning, it seemed to pass so slowly and now looking back, it was too incredibly fast. Just in a short three months, we will be saying "I Do" in Atlanta. So bizarre. Anyway, today I am sharing a recipe that should be enjoyed all spring and all summer long. We're huge fans of bruschetta over here… and by that, I mean we could just eat a massive plate of it for dinner and call it a night. We don't discriminate, not even when it's made with fruit. Ripe strawberries pair beautifully with savory flavors and this recipe is a great example of that! I was actually inspired by a dish at our favorite restaurant (and wedding location), JCT Kitchen + Bar. It was a simple side of the ripest, sweetest strawberries that I have ever tasted with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic, some crumbled feta, and minced basil, mint, & chives. As we popped each berry into our mouth, the flavors sang so loudly and tasted so brightly. I couldn't believe the flavor combination. I just knew I had to take this idea and run with it. My recipe starts with a good loaf of multigrain bread, cut into rounds, and fried until golden brown in olive oil (a personal favorite technique when it comes to making bruschetta). Then, I made some whipped feta in the food processor, which is a breeze to make, but yields such lovely results. You could easily sub in goat cheese here, if you prefer, however I totally recommend the feta cheese. The strawberry bruschetta topping begins with chopping the berries into cubes and macerating them in a little sugar, balsamic, and lemon. I did this for about an hour, just to allow them to deepen and sweeten in a flavor (it's a must-do).  Luckily for me, I have a whole mess of fresh herbs growing in our garden, so I just minced up basil, mint, chives, and parsley, and added it to the mix. Save a little bit of the mixed herbs for garnishing though, it gives a beautiful contrast against the red berries, white feta, and dark balsamic. The balsamic reduction is enhanced with some crushed pink peppercorn because I absolutely love that flavor profile when paired with strawberries. Last year, I made strawberry-pink peppercorn jam and it was fab. So do it. Everyone loved this easy + fresh appetizer, and I can't wait to make it again and again and again!! Enjoy :)

For the Whipped Feta Cheese:
8oz Creamy Feta Cheese, Room Temperature (or very soft)
2oz Cream Cheese, Room Temperature (or very soft)
3T Cold Heavy Cream
Pinch of Salt & Pepper

For the Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta Topping:
1 Pint of Fresh Strawberries, Cut into Cubes
2T Balsamic Vinegar + 1-2T Sugar (depending how ripe your berries are)
1 Lemon, Zested & Juiced
2T Olive Oil
Big Handful of Fresh Basil + Mint, Minced
2T Minced Chives
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
¼t Red Pepper Flakes 

For the Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction:
¼C Balsamic Vinegar
1T Honey
½t Crushed Pink Peppercorns (or to taste)

For the Bruschetta:
Prepared Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta Topping
Prepared Whipped Feta Cheese (plus crumbled feta for garnish)
Slices of Multigrain Bread
Olive Oil, For Frying
Prepared Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
Freshly Minced Basil, Chives, & Mint, For Garnishing

1. For the Whipped Feta Cheese: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the softened cream cheese and salt until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides and turn the mixer to medium-high speed and add in ¼C heavy cream. Continue whipping, while continuously adding a little bit of a crumbled feta cheese at a time, until the feta cheese is combined throughout. Add in the remaining ¼C heavy cream and beat on high until it is light & fluffy. Season the feta cheese with salt & pepper to taste. Spoon this mixture onto a serving plate.
2. For the Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta: In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cubed strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Let the berries macerate for an hour. Add in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15-30 minutes to let the flavors meld.
3. For the Balsamic Reduction: Add the balsamic vinegar and honey to a small saucepan and cook to reduce for 3-5 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Stir in crushed pink peppercorns. Set this aside until ready to use.
4. For the Multigrain Bread: Heat about 1 inch of olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the slices of multigrain bread in the oil until golden brown & crispy, about 2 minutes on each side.
5. Assembling the Bruschetta: Spread the fried bread with some of the whipped feta, and then top each piece of bread with a mound of the strawberry Bruschetta topping mixture. Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, crumbled feta, and fresh minced herbs. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Honeysuckle Infused Mint Juleps

Honeysuckle Infused Mint Juleps
Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty people... there are are quite a few things that embrace the essence of the South. Fried chicken, gravy, peaches, biscuits, cobbler, grits, liquor... well, lots of liquor. And the quintessential drink is the mint julep. It's our go-to for parties, derby days, or even while we are just grilling out. So when I made such a big batch of honeysuckle syrup (the recipe I posted yesterday), my mind kept racing with all the possibilities it could be used in. Of course, making a honeysuckle mint julep was first on my list. I mean rose flavored lemonade is fabulous, as well as hibiscus margaritas, why wouldn't a honeysuckle mint julep be just as good? It was sweet with subtle floral notes that balanced perfectly against the fragrant muddled mint + strong-ass bourbon. All you have to do is serve it in a mint julep cup (if you have one) with a lot of crushed ice and sprig of mint, or hey, throw a blossom of honeysuckle just for presentation. Your guests will love it and it would be absolutely perfect for your derby parties... or just a hot, summer afternoon!! Enjoy :)

For the Honeysuckle Simple Syrup:
8C Honeysuckle Flowers (whole, stems + leaves removed)
3C Water
2C Sugar
1C Honey
Pinch of Salt

For the Mint Juleps:
6-8 Fresh Mint Leaves (plus mint springs for garnish)
1-2oz Prepared Honeysuckle Simple Syrup, Chilled
3oz High Quality Bourbon
Crushed Ice
Fresh Sprigs of Mint or Honeysuckle Flowers, For Garnishing

1. For the Honey Simple Syrup: Pick through your eight cups of honeysuckle flowers, making sure to remove any stems or leaves that remain…we just want the flower and its’ sweet honey nectar. Place the honey into a large bowl and make the simple syrup. Place the honey, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil, and simmer until the honey is completely dissolved. Pour in the syrup into the bowl of prepare honeysuckles and let it cool completely on the counter overnight (covered with plastic wrap) until the flower flavor as steeped into the simple syrup liquid. Strain the honeysuckle flowers out of the infused simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a big bottle. Chill the honeysuckle syrup until cold.
2. For the Mint Juleps: Lightly muddle the mint leaves with the prepared honeysuckle simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add in the bourbon and shake to combine. Fill a julep cup or glass with crushed ice. Pour the liquid over the ice. Stir until a frost forms on the outside of the cup. Top with more crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint springs (or honeysuckles), and then serve with a straw.