Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cookie pr0n, Peanut Butter Edition

You see those cookies there?  They are some of the most amazing cookies ever.  No joke.  And when you read the ingredients there will be a few that make you either scratch your head or make you think "no, no, no".  And that's fine, you can substitute for them if you'd like, but they won't have the taste OR the texture that'll make you jizz in your pants.

Peanut Butter Candy Cookies
1/2 cup soft margarine
1/2 cup manteca (that's lard, people)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
12 ounce package peanut butter chips
1 cup roughly crushed peanut brittle
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup demerara sugar
1 teaspoon good quality fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream margarine, manteca and peanut butter with an electric mixer until well mixed.  Add in brown sugar and white sugar, and cream until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until well incorporated.  Remove bowl from mixer and use a wooden spoon to mix in the peanut butter chips and crushed peanut brittle by hand.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and add to the butter mixture by hand.  The dough will be very soft.  Mix demerara sugar and sea salt together in a small bowl.  Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, form dough into balls, roll in sugar-salt mixture and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack and then eat...or eat them fresh out of the oven if you want to burn your tongue, not that I would know about that first hand or anything.  Makes 4 1/2 to 5 dozen, depending on how much of the dough you eat...again, no direct knowledge of this kind of thing myself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Odd Couple

For reasons that I just don't understand the weather has been more like October than March around here.  Which is to say that it's cold, rainy and dreary.  So I think I can be forgiven for making Guinness stew yesterday instead of something bright and spring-ish.  What I might possibly NOT be forgiven for is pairing it with potato salad.  Yes, you read that correctly, potato salad.  

I really can't tell you why I did it the first time as I rarely have exact reasons for strange pairings outside of "that might taste good".  However, I'm glad that I did.  It's an amazingly good combination, both of them strong and distinctive in taste, and very hearty.  Brendan doesn't eat it this way, but Karina and I do.  She was with me the day that I first put them together and surprised me by trying it (on any other day she really hates it when her foods touch).  The bowl you see above didn't last long after the photo was taken.  Karina carried it off like a prize kill and devoured it.  I should say that she did ask if I was done taking pictures first.

Guinness Stew
2 pounds beef, at room temperature and cubed
1 pound carrots, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, diced
1 12 ounce bottle Guinness Extra Stout
1 1/2 cups meat stock, homemade if possible
3 small bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper the cubed beef to taste.  Heat a medium stock pot over medium-high heat and add the oil (I used a combination of canola and olive oils).  Brown the beef in small batches, removing them to a warm plate after each batch.  When all the beef has been browned and removed, add the diced carrots and onions to the pot and sweat them for about 5 minutes.  Add the beef back to the pot.  Stir in the Guinness, tomatoes (with the juices from the can), stock, bay leaves and thyme.  Bring the stew to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  Serve with whatever strikes your fancy (boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, or even potato salad).

Potato Salad I (just for the record, I make four different potato salads)
10 pounds potatoes
6 hard-boiled eggs
4 dill pickles, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 to 2 cups mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup half & half
salt, to taste

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets in a large stock pot until a fork inserted in them comes out easily.  The time will depend on the size of your potatoes.  In the meantime, in a large bowl break up the eggs into small pieces with a fork.  Add the other ingredients and stir everything together until well combined.  Make sure that the dressing is a bit saltier than you would usually make something as the potatoes have not been seasoned.  When the potatoes have finished cooking, drain them and let them cool until they can be handled (or even until they are room temperature, though they will be harder to peel).  Peel the potatoes with a knife as you would a peach that has been poached.  Slice the potatoes into the bowl with the dressing and fold them in carefully.  Let the salad sit for about 30 minutes and then taste for seasoning, add salt if necessary.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  It is best eaten at room temperature, whether by itself or as a base for the Guinness stew.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Everybody love parfait!

Most people have some sort of sweet offering that they enjoy above all others.  My daughter's happens to be tiramisu....but I don't make it as often as she would like.  Mostly because mascarpone is a bit difficult to find and when I do find it, it costs an arm and a leg or it's in a container the size of a water cracker.  I have made it a few times with substitutions for the mascarpone, however the dishes have always lacked the richness that only mascarpone provides.  Lucky for Karina (and myself and Bren) Kroger had mascarpone on sale the other week and I was able to pick up 2 pounds for ten bucks.  I was thrilled.  

Now, I admit, my tiramisu is NOT pretty.  I don't make it in one layer in a rectangle dish. I use the English trifle method, many layers in a tall round dish.  Ugly when dished up, but the cream to cookie ratio is perfect.  

base recipe:
2 pounds mascarpone
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, plus 4 extra tablespoons
1 cup strong espresso
1/4 cup kaluha, madeira, Irish cream or other tasty liquor/fortified wine
1 packet Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)
unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt

optional (added to the tiramisu in the picture):
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
1 pound whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 cup Amaretto
1 cup strong espresso
1/2 cup kaluha, madeira, Irish cream or other tasty liquor/fortified wine
3 tablespoons rosso sweet vermouth
1 packet Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; add the 4 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and set aside.  Beat the egg yolks, 1 1/4 cups sugar and pinch of salt until thick and pale yellow.  Beat in the mascarpone until well combined.  Repeat with the cream cheese and ricotta.  Add 3/4 cup Amaretto and mix thoroughly.  Taste.  If needed, add another 1/4 cup Amaretto.  Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture and set aside.  Mix together espresso, Irish cream and vermouth, pour some into a shallow dish large enough to accommodate one of the savoiardi without it breaking.  

Assembly:  soak savoiardi one at a time in the espresso mixture and use them to line the bottom of a large, high-sided bowl.  Add a layer of the mascarpone cream and smooth evenly.  Dust the top of the cream with unsweetened cocoa powder.  Repeat this until bowl is full and/or the last layer of cream has been added.  Dust top with unsweetened cocoa powder and set dish in refrigerator for several hours.  This allows the flavours to meld and the savoiardi to soften.  Serve at room temperature for best taste.

I've given directions for the embellished version that I made and is pictured, adjusting for a base recipe should be easy from there.  And just a couple of notes:  1) don't use fresh ladyfingers, use the ones called savoiardi, they don't disintegrate when soaking in the espresso mixture and maintain their shape when softened; 2) what liquor(s) you use is entirely up to you, I don't care what any other recipes say, if you don't like the liquor on its own you won't like it in the dessert; 3) using raw eggs is also up to you, should you not want to you can beat the egg whites in a double boiler until stiff peaks form and the temperature reaches 160 degrees, ditto with the egg yolks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March Madness

After a very, VERY long run, my shaman has finally managed to jump on the crazy train.  And I am so glad it's over.  I will no longer have to scour the AH on a daily basis for cards to complete decks that can only be turned in for rep seven days out of the month to a side faction that NO ONE gets exalted with...unless they're, you know, insane.  I will sell the leftover cards in my possession for large sums of gold (the only people who will buy them will be others trying to get on the train...and they'll pay handsomely for the opportunity to get these cards whilst knowing they are being gouged).  With my ill gotten gains I will purchase crazy-expensive things like Vial of the Sands and maybe take up belly-dancing.

There are a few people who really helped me along the way and they need to have a big round of applause and thanks.  Without their generosity I'd probably still be in Bedlam, whimpering in the corner of a padded cell.