Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Beer Can" Chicken on the Big Green Egg

Sadly our egg got a crack in the fire box, but luckily the Big Green Egg has a lifetime warranty, so they replaced the parts free of charge. This warranted a trip to BBQ Outfitters, where we picked up the new parts and their ceramic "Sittin' Chicken" stand, which emulates beer can chicken without the bad paint chemicals leaching into my organic, happily raised, free-roaming chook. This was hands down the VERY BEST chicken we have EVER EATEN. EVER!!!!!

Glorious. Thank you sweet little chook.

Here's how it went down...

Brine the chicken in 1/4 cup fine grain sea salt, 2 quarts water, a sliced lemon, 4 bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbs onion powder, fresh thyme for 8 hours. Rinse. Pat dry and let it air chill in the fridge for an hour. Crack some fresh pepper all over the chicken plus some garlic and onion powder. We stuffed some sinful truffle butter under the skin of the breast for good measure.

Meanwhile, light the grill and bring it to 400 degrees.

Pour a bottle of beer in the stand (As an homage to my Belgian heritage we used a delicious Belgian beer called Blanche de Bruxelles). We added fresh rosemary, another bay leaf, a celery stick and a few sprigs fresh thyme to the beer. Stuck the stand in the chook's bum and roasted it about an hour until the skin was crisp and the chicken was cooked through. We let it rest under a tent of foil for 20 minutes before carving and reduced the remainder of the beer/chicken juice over low heat in a pot with a dash of sherry vinegar until reduced by half.

Drizzled the sauce over the chook and garnished with fresh tarragon and a fresh tomato salad. THIS is what summer is all about. 

Pugs reflecting on the perfect summer dinner and dreaming of chicken bites.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

White Bean & Roasted Tomato Dip

Before Austin hit the map with its celebrity chefs and renowned restaurants we were literally starving for casual, yet upscale places to have a bite. While we were in college in the 90s there were a small handful of great places, but most of Austin was fraught with chain restaurants, greasy college grub joints, inferior Tex Mex and mediocre BBQ.

And then suddenly around 1997 our little college town started earning its culinary PhD. St Edward's was flanked by grubby South Congress, which was riddled with a few funky shops, prostitutes (and the senators that loved them), XX movie theaters and a sprinkling of gang bangers. And then one lucky day, Vespaio opened. Named after the den of wasps found in the walls during the demolition, Vespaio was met hungrily by the small crowd of us who envisioned a more sophisticated, but charming Austin dining scene. We dreamed of the Austin it has become (other than the traffic). And we dreamers happily waited in line for two hours to try the inventive cuisine offered to us. All these years later, she still purrs like a wizened cat among the kittens and we had the most delicious dinner there with old friends recently.

 Culotte of Beef with Bordelaise and White Truffle Risotto.

Pizza with Prosciutto, Arugula & Egg.

This recipe is inspired by the white bean dip we had on our last visit. I loath hummus- not sure why, but I do. Chickpeas just aren't my thing and I always inwardly groan when someone pops open supermarket hummus at get togethers. Blech! But this recipe is vastly different and hopefully will have you thinking of taking a break from hummus.

There are two ways to make this. Easy and fast, or slow cooked and better. I prefer the slow cooked and better method, but will share the easy and fast recipe as well.

2 cups cannellini dried white beans, soaked in cold water overnight. Place them in a heavy pot with a lid and add halved onion, bay leaf and cover beans with two inches of water. Cover and simmer a couple of hours until beans are tender.

While beans are cooking, cut the root of of a whole garlic bulb, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast 30 minutes in a 320 degree oven. If you like them completely mushy and easy to spread on toast, then roast about 45 minutes.

Open a jar of roasted tomatoes soaked in oil- pull out a couple of them for the dip.

Once beans are cooked and garlic is roasted and squeezed from the bulb, add them in a blender with the squeeze of a lemon and a good glug of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), some sea salt and tomatoes (I used two slivers). Blend until pureed. You could add a little water if it is really thick. Or a few dashes of good wine vinegar if you like it more acidic.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt (like Cypress or Maldon salt) and some red pepper flakes. The dip is great with raw veggies or toasted french bread, crackers, spread on a burger. You name it.

Drain and thoroughly rinse a can of cannellini beans, grate a small garlic clove with jarred tomatoes (or red beller pepper), squeeze in a lemon, olive oil and add some salt and puree till smooth. This will still taste great in a pinch, but not as deep in flavor as the low & slow method. And here's one more SUPER EASY way...

Many specialty or upscale grocery stores now have marinated olive bars stocked with great things like marinated beans, garlic, artichokes, peppers. Grab some, take them home and blend them with fresh lemon juice and herbs. EASY!!!

I have fallen in love with these gluten free crackers!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pot Roast with Malbec Sauce- on the Big Green Egg

Comfort food. It's like a warm hug. That's a pot roast. Add a little malbec and a reduction sauce and now you have a sophisticated version of the classic. This recipe is super easy, serves 4-5 hearty portions and freezes well for reheating after a long day.

4 pound chuck roast
1 bottle of malbec
2.5 cups beef stock
4 bay dried leaves
6 garlic cloves, peeled & slightly smashed to release flavor
1 large carrot, sliced into large chunks
1 medium onion
1 tbs olive oil
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tbs fresh cracked pepper

In a large ziploc bag or storage container, pour 3/4 bottle of malbec wine & 1/2 cup beef stock over roast. Add garlic cloves, bay leaves and thyme. Seal and marinate overnight in the fridge.

Ready for the Big Green Egg

We decided to cook the roast on our Big Green Egg, low and slow at 250 for 4.5 hours, but you could do the same in a dutch oven or heavy pot in your oven. Or a crockpot!

In my pot I heated up the olive oil over medium high heat and placed an onion cut in half with the cut side down to cook until golden brown and caramelized. About 12 minutes. Adjust the heat to not burn it, but make certain there is a nice browning as this adds depth of flavor to your roast. Add the carots about 8 minutes in.

Then add the roast, marinade and herbs. Cover and place in oven or on the Big Green Egg and cook about 4.5 hours until fork tender and easily shredded.

 Three hours in.... almost ready.

While there is about 45 minutes remaining before the roast is ready, I whip up mashed potatoes and make a delicious reduction sauce to drizzle over the roast.

over a double boiler (a pot placed over another pot filled with water), I add the remaining malbec wine and 2 cups of chicken stock and stirring often I reduce the sauce until it is reduced to a cup or is syrupy in consistency. A whisk works well and if you need to speed things up, just turn up the heat and whisk away until it's reduced, but I do it low and slow and easy for 45 minutes.

Serve the roast on a bed of mashers, with something green and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Calamari Braised in Tomatoes & Wine

My family used to go weekly to a wonderful family run restaurant on Royal Lane and Preston in Dallas called Rodolpho's. My mother would charm the owner with her Italian fluency and we always managed to get a decadent, complimentary piece of cappuccino pie on each visit. It has long since closed but I remember on one of my first visits my dad had me try Calamari Fritti. I loved it!! Then he told me it was squid and I recoiled in horror that something so "gross' could taste so fabulous. Mind you, calamari in Dallas in the late 80s was pretty exotic.

Since I've stopped eating wheat and no longer have the metabolism to process fried foods anyway, I've been searching for healthier versions of my childhood favorites. I attended a lively cooking class a few years ago with Chef Gina Stipo and she prepared the most savory and succulent calamari dish for us that is much, much healthier yet leaves the calamari swollen with flavor and tenderness. It is very easy to prepare and is incredibly cost effective. A serving for four people is around $9 TOTAL!

6 Calamari tubes, rinsed and sliced into rings
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 cup white wine such as pinot grigio
1 can organic Whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 small, whole sprig of rosemary
1 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
Fresh chopped Italian Parsley and Fresh Basil for garnish
Sea Salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon and some fresh sprinkles after serving).

Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy dutch oven or skillet (not cast iron due to the acids of tomatoes and wine).

Add onions and carrot and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add bay leaves, dried herbs, whole rosemary sprig, sea salt, garlic and cook about 1 minute before adding the wine. Simmer wine about 4 minutes.

Add can of tomatoes and crush with a spoon.

Add Calamari, cover and braise on low heat about one hour until calamari is tender and cooked through. I also added bay scallops the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Pour into warm bowls, squeeze with lemon, drizzle a little olive oil and garnish with fresh basil and parsley with a fresh salad and grilled rustic bread.

You could add a touch of creme before serving to add a little decadence.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Classic Cheese Soufflé- Gluten Free

Where has the time gone? I've been so busy with work and play lately that I have been relying on cooking my standards until last week when I was staring at an almost bare fridge that luckily had some left over cheeses nearing the end of their prime, plus some farm fresh eggs from the Lone Star Farmer's Market.

Ah oui, soufflé au fromage!! My mother was a champ at soufflé and her chocolate version made from Cote D'or Belgian chocolate was ethereal. Soufflé is wonderful because it has a wow factor and is the perfect way to use up cheeses and eggs and pairs perfectly with a fresh green salad.

I don't have any of my mother's soufflé recipes written down, so adapted the Julia Child recipe and it turned out perfectly. I didn't intend to even blog it, so the picture isn't so great as I snapped it quickly just before it fell. It was a marvelous mountain of pillowy fluffiness when I pulled it from the oven. I just had to snap a shot and keep it here to remind myself to add this to the rotation.


2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk- heated until hot but not boiling.
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Gluten Free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder (optional, but I think it adds a savory kick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg
4 large room temperature egg yolks
5 large room temperature egg whites (cold eggs won't stiffen as well)
1 cup of cheese- I  used leftover Gruyere cheese, gouda and fontina (about 4 ounces total, but just using gruyere is more classic. However, any hard cheese works great and prevents waste.) 
NOTE: Want to really make your soufflé swanky? Add some chopped lobster or crab meat or sweet corn kernels and jalapeno for a Texas twist.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a souffle mold (I ordered FOUR of these for our wedding registry??). Then roll the grated Parmesan cheese around to cover the interior of the mold. 
I then made a "collar" by wrapping parchment paper around the mold and securing with string. Let the paper rise about 2 inches above the mold and this will really make it rise to new heights.

Meanwhile over low heat, melt butter and don't let it brown. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon until thickened and add warm milk and spices and stir until thickened. Pour into a clean large bowl and allow it to cool until lukewarm- about 15 minutes. Then whisk in egg yolks one by one. 
Then I added the egg whites to my electric mixer with the whisk attachment, a pinch of cream of tartar (to stiffen the egg whites) and I beat them until they formed stiff peaks.
Now here's the key: You must FOLD in the egg whites, not stir them as stirring will make the egg whites deflate. And if they do? So what. Practice makes perfect and the souffle will still taste great regardless.  So, fold in half the whites to lighten the egg mixture and then gently sprinkle the cheeses and fold in the remaining egg whites. The whole process should take no longer than a minute.
Then pour the mixture into the mold and place in the middle rack of the oven and immediately lower them temperature to 375.
Do NOT open the oven for about 20 minutes! The souffle should take about 25 minutes total with slight movement in the center when you gently shake the mold.

Sprinkle some more Parmesan cheese or chopped chives on top, remove the mold and serve immediately.

Classic. Elegant. Just like my mother...

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gluten Free Mac & Cheese Bites

Ahhhhh mac & cheese, the classic comfort food. These are a rare treat, but are so easy to make and fun to eat, not to mention they're cute!

2 Cups Gluten Free Pasta Shells
1 cup warm whole milk
2 tbs GF flour
1.5 cup shredded Organic Italian Four Cheese Blend  (I used Horizon Organics)
about 1.5 cup Ians GF panko bread crumbs
parmesean cheese for sprinkling
2 tbs melted butter, plus butter to grease the cupcake pans

Cook the noodles until al dente, about 6 minutes. 

Then in a heavy saucepan, melt 1 tbs butter and add 2 tablespoons GF flour and stir over low heat to make a pasty roux. Slowly stir in warmed milk and cheeses until melted.

Mix the noodles with the cheese sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Chopped jalapenos add a fun little kick (or bacon, because well... you know...).

In a buttered 12 cup cupcake pan, coat the bottom of each cup with panko crumbs that have been tossed in melted butter. This will make a tasty, crunchy crust once baked.

Fill the cups with the noodles and sprinkle with more buttery panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of paprika.

Pop in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cups are "crispy". Serve warm with some basil or Italian parsley chiffonade.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Soup- Houston's Knock Off

Happy New Year... a month late! The year is already flying by and I just realized I had no time to post last month as it started with a righteous case of the flu over New Year's eve and week followed by Austin's famous Cedar Fever and then a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica to celebrate the hubby's birthday. This was likely my 28th visit to Jamaica, but my first time in Ocho Rios and we had a fantastic time. We stayed at the Sandal's Royal Plantation and were very impressed with the level of service and quality for an all inclusive resort. We were upgraded after a little reservation snafu and I've never had any hotel go above and beyond like that to remedy an error. We cannot wait to return. I will post a few pics at the end of this post.

But now that we are back in Austin, we've had some crazy weather this year. One day it's 70 degrees and sunny and the next the whole city has shut down due to ice storms, or it shuts down in anticipation of an ice storm that never arrives. Classic Texas weather, for sure. Yankees and the like make fun of us, but the reality is that a lot of Texans don't have the proper cars or driving skills to take on icy roads and as a result tons of accidents happen. I was driving slowly into a meeting a few weeks back, knowing sneaky black ice could be lurking, yet a foolish young guy in the opposite lane hauled passed me at 60 miles an hour, hit some ice and started to lose control. Yeah, no thanks, I will stay at home and make some SOUP.

Since I've been working on eating 5 cruciferous vegetables a day per doctor's orders, I admit my culinary adventures have been pretty boring. Roasted Brussles' sprouts, lean meat or kale salad from Whole Foods for dinner. Bah! Boring!

On a cold day, sometimes this family just wants a creamy cup of loaded baked potato soup inspired by our favorite Houston's Baked Potato soup (Now called Bartlett's in Austin). I could never figure out what the underlying hint of herb was until I searched around and found a copy cat recipe online that said they use fennel in their recipe. But of course! However, it's so subtle that my fennel averse husband even loved this soup. The copy cat recipe also calls for 5 cups of whole milk plus half and half, which explains the decadence, but I decided to tweak it a bit for health purposes and it tasted just as good if not better. Instead of baking my potatoes in the oven, I peeled and grilled them in a veggie basket on the Big Green Egg while the hubby was cooking some meats. The slight smoky flavor of the potatoes added a nice little surprise to the flavor profile that complemented the bacon terrifically. This recipe makes about 10 servings and freezes well for later use.

4 large organic russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 strips of bacon
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1.5 tsp fennel seeds (bundle them in cheesecloth with the bay leaf & thyme for easy removal)
1 tsp celery salt
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups 1% organic milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup sour cream
Shredded sharp cheddar to garnish
Chopped scallions and chives to garnish

Either bake the potatoes in the oven  for an hour then peel and scoop the insides, OR peel and dice them, drizzle with olive oil and grill them at 350 degrees in a veggie basket over charcoal for 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile in a large 6 quart Dutch Oven, cook bacon until cooked crispy. Set aside for later.

In bacon fat, add shallots and potatoes and saute until shallots are softened- about 5 minutes.

Then add herb bundle, milk, half and half and stock, cover and cook over medium low until the potatoes are very soft- about 40 minutes. Be sure NOT to boil as you don't want the milk to curdle. Stir occasionally.

Remove herb bundle and add the sour cream and pour it in small batches in the blender until it is creamy and smooth. Add more chicken stock if it's too thick, or if you like chunky soup, just mash the soup by hand.

Pour in very warm bowls, garnish with bacon, chives, scallions and sharp cheddar (I used a nice Irish white cheddar). Fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!

Some highlights from our trip...

 Gorgeous West Beach with the restaurant grill to the right.

Lovely lunch of fresh grilled snapper and island lamb kabobs delivered right on the beach after a morning of sailing the hobies.

The stunning villa and private pool

Beautiful plate waiting for us upon our return from a day at the beach.

Birthday FEAST fit for a king! Many thanks to Oratio, Claudine and Lucian for the big surprise.

One more bite of Jerk chicken at the airport before sadly returning to the chaos that is the Houston International Airport. Won't ever fly through there again if possible. 1500 people trying to clear customs through THREE lanes. Almost everyone missed their connecting flight. All the relaxation of the prior week was instantly snapped away in a heartbeat! 

And when things get stressful I just need to close my eyes and picture myself back here...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Tarte Tatin

Mon Dieu this thing is sinfully delicious!!!!! While this treat is gluten free it's most certainly not glutton free. I honestly don't have too much of a sweet tooth, but have found since going gluten free I've been missing the occasional French pastry. None of our local bakeries make GF pastries, so if it's meant to be, it's up to me. I am definitely NOT a baker. I prefer savory cooking because I'm not a fan of exact measuring and tedious labor, but this was surprisingly much easier than I thought it would be. And it is decadent. And every single bite was worth the time I'm going to be spending at the gym today.

Part of what inspired me to bake this is my new bag of Thomas Keller's Cup4Cup flour I recently bought. Would it stand up to the flavor of wheat flour? The answer is an astounding YES!! The flour works like wheat flour and TASTES like wheat flour. And yes, it costs me $20 for a big bag of it, but it's worth every penny in my opinion.


For the Pastry
1.5 cups Gluten Free flour blend
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 pinch sea salt
5 ounces cubed butter- very cold- I put it in the freezer 20 minutes. Use a high fat content butter such as Pflugra- you want 83% or more.
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream or buttermilk (blend it with the egg)

For the apple mixture
3 Honey Crisp apples (Or Fuji, Braeburn or Granny Smith)
Juice of one orange
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch of allspice
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the caramel
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbs butter
4 tbs water

I used a food processor to make the dough and it was super easy. But you could do it by hand by pinching the flour blend until the butter forms pea sized lumps and the dough gets kind of shaggy. I even froze the blade on the food processor because I was taught that the colder the butter, the better.
The dough ball looked like this...

So I blended the dry ingredients until the butter was pea sized, then I poured in the cream and beaten egg mixture in and blended until the dough was smooth. I formed it into a ball and put it back in the freezer while I peeled and sliced the apples and mixed them with the juice and spices- about 10 minutes.

I then took out the dough, placed it between two pieces of parchment paper and rolled it flat with a pin. I peeled off the top layer of paper, I placed my skillet over the dough and with a pizza cutter, trimmed the dough around the skillet. Put the dough on parchment back in the freezer and started the caramel apple mixture.

In a 9 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, I melted 4 tbs butter. Added the 1/2 cup sugar and 4 tbs water and stirred until smooth.

I then layered the apples in a flat circular pattern around the pan and let it cook over medium low about 12 minutes until the apples began to soften.

Once the apples were ready, I placed the dough over them and tucked in the edges around the apples. Popped it in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees and cooked it about 35 minutes until the dough was golden brown. Be sure to check it after 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after as each oven varies.

 I let it cool in the skillet about 15 minutes so that the caramel sauce didn't drip when I flipped the tarte over. To do this, place a plate over the skillet and carefully, yet quickly, flip the skillet upside down so the tarte lands on the plate. If you have a husband or strong person lying around, he/she could be a nice person to recruit to do this as the skillet is pretty heavy and you may be a little nervous you'd drop it ;-)

Serve the tarte warm with a dollop of whipping cream or marscapone. Then go run a few miles. Or eat another slice...

The crust... oh the buttery, warm, crispy crust... sinful bliss.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup

Another freezing cold day brought on a craving for some hot soup with a Tex Mex flavor profile. I used to love Chili's enchilada soup, but I'm not a fan of the quality of their ingredients, so I rooted around on the internet and found a pretty good knock off at and used it as inspiration for this rich, decadent and GLUTEN FREE soup. This makes about 8 cups or servings and freezes really well for another cold winter's eve.

8 cups organic chicken stock
2 whole roasted organic chicken breasts
1 large diced onion
1 12 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can red enchilada sauce
10 ounces velveeta cheese
1 cup Masa Harina (superfine ground corn meal)
1 tsp cumin
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil

I sprinkled two whole chicken breasts with salt and pepper and roasted them at 420 for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile I sweated some onions in olive oil until softened, stirred in the masa and stirred it for about 3 minutes until it became fragrant and toasty. I then added the chicken stock, enchilada sauce and tomatoes plus spices.

I pulled the meat from the bones and stored it in the fridge and added the bones to the soup for enhanced flavor. Covered and let it simmer about 30 minutes. I removed the bay leaf and bones and I then poured the soup in our vitamix blender in small batches and pureed until smooth. I transferred the blended soup back into the pot, added the cheese and shredded chicken and reheated it to melt the cheese. Serve with a drizzle of sour cream or fresh chopped cilantro (which I didn't have and that was a bummer).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Austin has had a terrific cold snap with temps dropping to 26 degrees- quite unusual for the area and most welcomed by me. I LOVE cold weather. So I was rooting around in the icebox looking for things to cook with when I discovered some bagel dough tucked away in the back. The Hubs has been on a pretzel and Gulden's mustard kick lately, so I thought perhaps the bagel dough would make tasty soft pretzels. Admittedly they kind of lost their shape when they baked, but that didn't affect their taste! Sadly I can no longer eat wheat, but they received two thumbs up from the Hubs and he suggested we post them as another great use for our homemade bagel dough.

I defrosted the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until they doubled in size, about 2.5 hours. Once defrosted,  I put a large pot of water to boil on the stove and added 2 tbs malt syrup. You could sub honey and 2 tbs baking soda.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

I rolled out a ball of dough into a long strip- about 15 inches, twisted into a pretzel shape and then lowered in the boiling water about 30 seconds...

I removed with a slotted spoon to a baking sheet covered with buttered parchment paper, brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled some Maldon sea salt on them...

Then I popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown and served them to my sweetie with some Gulden's mustard. He said they were warm and chewy and he's never buying frozen Super Pretzels again. What impressed me the most is that the dough has been in the ice box for over a year and held up beautifully! Well worth the hassle. I better go make him some dough and some gluten free dough for me to see how that turns out. Stay tuned...

Bagel Pretzels.... Yes.