Scheduling Panic

IMG_5804Hi all. Remember me? Sorry, it’s been a while I know, but I’ve had a few things to do. Find a new job, find a new home, create a new life. You know, simple stuff. It’s not that I didn’t love parts of my old life. I loved the friends made that I now consider part of my family. I loved the beauty and bounty of the Columbia River Gorge, and the people who take what the region offers and make truly amazing, wonderful things. And I’m grateful to my hungry gorgers, who encouraged and embraced Cooking in My Heels, some buying, many drooling, but all along supporting my quest for tasty pastry world domination. Yet life rolls on, situations change, and it was time to move forward. Or in this case a little south-eastward, trading Cascade for Wasatch, and rural for city.

IMG_5809When you pick up and move to a new and somewhat unknown world, with a new and more-what uncertain future, it helps to be organized. Structure takes the fear out of chaos, and I was banking on that. You see, I’m usually a very organized gal. Genetically teutonic, trying to be anything other than overly prepared would be swimming upstream. And since I was crazy enough to do this whole dance less than three years ago, I knew a few things. Like don’t start packing earlier than two weeks before the big truck pulls up, unless you actually like living encased in cardboard. Or don’t seriously start the apartment hunt until less than a month before opening that new door, unless you’d like to pay for a month of empty. But most importantly, don’t forget to schedule the panic.

I discovered the importance of scheduling panic during a full-on panic. My panic reasons were certainly legit – in three weeks time I would be homeless, jobless, with a great big truck pulling up in front of my soon to be non-home, taking all my worldly possessions to a zip code. Yup, just a zip code. Not even my zip code as it turned out. Just one of the several in the city of Salt Lake. And as I was relaying this insanity to my remarkably calm mother, through backdrop of snot, tears and ridiculously squeaky voice, she suggested I set a panic day in my calendar. The absolute last day that anything could be organized, wherein panic would certainly be the most appropriate activity.

You’d be amazed at the calming effect scheduling panic has. It’s really quite logical, once you’ve blown your nose, wiped your eyes, and the palpitations cease. Why live in chaos before chaos ensues? Seriously. It’s not like you are more productive or have clearer thought when you are running around in circles, shrieking and thinking the worst, right? Panic when it’s time to panic. Pick a date, then put it aside. The magic of it is, once you do you get a hell of a lot more things done. And, if you’re lucky, you won’t have to keep that appointment.

So while I’m completely certain my move was the right move, and absolutely love my new kitchen, home, and city, everything isn’t rosy in my new world just yet. But I’m not panicking. It’s on the calendar, though. 😉

IMG_2018

To honor my new Salt Lake digs and give a shout out to some new friends, I’m sharing the most appropriate recipe I could find, one I’ve posted about a year ago on my first visit here, and the first thing I wanted to share with my niece when she visited: Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes. These wonderful nuggets, and the recipe are courtesy of The Garage on Beck. I have a feeling I’m going to like it here. 🙂

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013)  – Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

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It’s Five Somewhere

FullSizeRender-2Having the people you love in different time zones can be a pain in the tuchas. First, you always have to remember what time it is where they are, as opposed to where you are. Then there’s math. Add 3, subtract 1, no, wait. Is that subtract 2? How many of us have called someone, thinking math and time was on their side, only to get a sleepy “huh?” Or worse, “WHAT HAPPENED?!!” Then there’s screwing up the collective viewing of a favorite show. If it’s not a live event, you either stand in danger of being the spoiler or the spoiled. All because someone decided to throw up arbitrary time boundaries through the middle of the map.

Yet, there are distinct advantages to time zoning, and I learned quickly how to work them. I could swap snark with the gang back home during long Oscar broadcasts, still see my favorite non-preempted programs, and walk into work the next day without the bleary-eyed blahs. And then there’s cocktail hour. You know that phrase “well, it’s five o’clock somewhere”. Living in differing time zones pretty much guarantees at least one of your pals is time-appropriate tippling. Want to toast something after work with your Jersey Shore pal when you live in rural Oregon? Well what do you know, it’s five o’clock there. Oh sure, I suppose you could do that anywhere. But somehow when you actually know someone bellying up at the sanctioned hour right now, it’s like the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is giving the big thumbs up. So cheers to you all in the east, mountain, pacific, and that one county in Arizona where no-one knows what the hell time it is. It’s five o’clock somewhere!

FullSizeRender-1Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a new class to some of the residents of Flagstone Senior Living. The schedule of this class was set specifically to serve as a prelude to their afternoon happy hour. Naturally, this inspired my recipe and demo, and Savory Shortbread became the lesson of the day. They get their alternative name from an uncanny flavor resemblance to a popular childhood nibble. Cheers! 🙂

Grownup Cheese-Its (Savory Shortbread)

This is an adaptation of something Ina Garten does, though she includes the addition of herbs. I originally made these for a new winery tasting room opening, so I omitted the herbs, and switched up the cheese a little.

Makes 2-3 dozen

  • 1 stick (4 oz.) salted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces (about a cup) grated and shredded parmesan, romano, grana padano or a combination (**SEE NOTE ABOUT CHEESE BELOW)
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • *Pinch salt (*if you are using unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon of salt. Otherwise I’d leave out since the butter and cheese are already salty.)

[** A little bit about cheese: the original recipe called for finely grated parmesan. I didn’t have enough but did have some shredded parm so did half that, half grated. The shortbread came out with adorable reddish freckles, and everyone LOVED IT!  So now I use a grated/shredded combo. The key here is they should be dry cheeses. If you had a great extra aged sharp cheddar that kind of crumbles it would be fine too.]

 IMG_5021  IMG_5041

TO MAKE THE DOUGH:

Beat the butter in/with an electric mixer until it is creamy. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients (cheese, flour, pepper) in another bowl. When the butter is nice and creamy, dump in the dry ingredients. Now here’s the trick so that your kitchen DOES NOT get covered in flour the minute you turn on the mixer. Take a kitchen towel, and drape it over the mixer bowl. Pulse mixer 4 or 5 times on low to start, while you are covering bowl with towel just until the flour starts to incorporate. As soon as there are no loose bunches of flour, and the dough just begins to form a ball, stop the mixer.

Lightly flour a work surface, and dump the now crumbly dough onto it. You can go one of two ways here. Form it into a disk if you want to roll the dough and cut into shapes/bars, or roll the dough into a log that is about 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in cling wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you like, and you could also pop the wrapped dough in a freezer bag and stow there for when you want to use it. FullSizeRenderTO BAKE OFF: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two sheet pans with parchment. If you made the dough into a log, just cut ½-inch slices and place on the baking sheet. These won’t spread much, so you can put the shortbread pretty close together. You can even bake these right from the freezer, just add a little more baking time.

If you are slicing and baking, you’ll need to let the dough warm up just a bit so you can roll it out. Flour your work surface, and roll the disk of dough out to about ½-inch thickness. Use a 2 or 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter, and cut out the shortbreads, place on the baking sheets. Gather up scraps and re-roll and cut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the baking process. Let cool completely before serving.

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…and sometimes, I don’t want to

No, this doesn’t have to do with job shopping (although I don’t particularly want to there either, but a gal’s gotta eat.) Sometimes, I really don’t want to cook. Or bake. Or do anything that calls for more effort than it takes to open a bag of salad and douse in the pre-made dressing and crouton packet. However, there too, a gal’s gotta eat, and when part of my funds for that come from shoving things into oven and hawking the results, “I don’t want to” inevitably turns to “suck it up cupcake – you have to”. Which brings me to doughrigami.

I’ve experienced the zen-like attention to making puff pastry from scratch. Roll, fold, rest…roll, fold, rest…repeat again, and again. It’s kinda the flour and butter equivalent of “wax on…wax off”. Patience + time = puff. Know what else equals puff? Freezer section + Pepperidge Farms. So the other day when I had a new class/demo to teach, wasn’t sure of the kitchen I’d be teaching it in, and, frankly, didn’t wanna pull out the butter and flour, I pulled out the box of puff from the farm, and started playing.

The reason puff pastry does what it’s named for is due to many layers of butter and dough. Those layers push upward like an accordion when high heat hits the water in the butter and turns it to steam. It’s like a little pastry steam engine. And when you make little slices, scores and folds in the dough here and there before it hits the oven, wonderful things happen. It’s origami, with dough. Doughrigami!

Doughrigami is actually ridiculously easy once you get the hang of it, impresses the hell out of your friends, and you get to eat any mistakes. It’s also a good way to turn a sometimes I don’t want to, to an I’m glad I did. 🙂

2016-04-08 09.21.41Doughrigami

What you’ll need:

  • 1 box of puff pastry sheets (two 9″x9″ sheets per box)
  • Rolling pin, sharp paring knife, pizza cutter, ruler, pastry brush, serrated knife (if you are making mini sandwiches)
  • Flour for work surface
  • Cream, half & half, milk, or just plain water
  • Yummy savory and sweet things to bake in or top the puff once baked (cinnamon-sugar, grated cheese, jam, cream cheese, smoked salmon, chocolate ganache, berries…you get the idea.)

Since puff is sold frozen, you’ll have to thaw so you can work with it. I like to pull it out the night before I use and let it do that in the fridge. You can also do it in about 40 minutes on a counter. You want it cold but not frozen. Also, puff pastry doesn’t last more than a day all nice and crispy so try to bake them as close to serving as possible for maximum shattering buttery goodness. That said, what you can do with all of these is form them, then stow them in the freezer, and when you are ready to bake, just pull and pop in oven.

Preheat oven to 400º F. Lightly dust your work surface so all your hard work (ok, not so hard work) doesn’t stick. Dust the rolling-pin and ruler too.

Mini Puff Sandwiches: (These make stinkin-cute nibbles with your favorite adult beverage)

Puff pastry sheets, the ones from the farm that is, are 9-inch x 9-inch squares, folded in three. This means once unfolded, you’ve already got three 3-inch x 9-inch strips, that just need a little slice down the folds. Now you have two choices. You could just cut each strip into three squares, 3×3, or if you like your tiny sandwiches rectangular, use the rolling-pin to coax another inch out of the dough, lengthwise, then cut to 2×3 inch rectangles. Place the dough on parchment-lined baking sheet.

If you are going to fill the “sandwiches” with something savory, brush lightly with cream or water, sprinkle with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. If it’s sweet going inside, sprinkle with a little sugar or better yet, cinnamon-sugar.

Baking time is going to vary on all the doughrigami. Puff pastry doneness is more by eye than time. I always start at 10 minutes on the top rack, let them puff, then lower them to bottom rack and bake 5-10 or so minutes more so they get nice a golden brown and the bottoms are cooked. There’s nothing worse than beige puff with soggy bottoms. Once they are done, cool completely, then use a serrated knife to slice them in half horizontally. Spread whatever you like on the bottom, place top on top, and nibble away!

The bottom left is a pinwheel. Bottom right is a such.

Pinwheels & Such:  Both of these start out as squares. If you go with 3×3, it’s more a nibble, 4″x4″ more dessert-ish/breakfasty. This is why you need a ruler, rolling-pin, and pizza cutter. Makes all of this much easier. And a sharp pairing knife for these guys. Take your square, and for pinwheel, make a slice in each corner towards the middle. Wet your finger with water and dab a little in the center, then take alternating corners and press to middle to make pinwheel. (Don’t worry, I did it wrong the first two times, then got the hang of it. Same with the “such”.)

For the Such:  carefully make a slice around the corner on opposite sides of the square about 1/2 inch from the edge, and to about half way along the edge in each direction. (Ok, look at the pictures below….you’ll get it.) Now dip your finger in a little water and dab the inside point where you made the cut. Gently pull the outside edge across to the opposite inside point. (Again, check that picture out.) Do the same for the other side, making sure to press it to the dough so it sticks. Brush everything with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon-sugar.  Bake until done (see above.) Let cool completely, then fill the middle with jam, chocolate ganache and a berry, cream cheese, whatever you like. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

 2016-04-07 17.18.37 2016-04-07 17.18.18 2016-04-07 17.18.08

Easy tarts: These have been my go-to “can you bring dessert” response for a very long time. Here I’ve made two – one with a base of apple butter, sliced apples and cinnamon-sugar, one with just fresh rhubarb and strawberries, and sugar. I’ve also done these with cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. You can use a full sheet, or roll it out a little to 12″ x 9 ” and slice down the middle to make two 6″x 9″ rectangles. All you need to do is score the pastry rectangle about 1/2-inch from edge. Score, not cut all the way through – I use a butter knife or the back of my paring knife. Spread, lay out or sprinkle the fruit or filling inside the scored edges, brush the outer edge with cream or water and sprinkle with sugar, or in the case of the tomatoes, sea salt and pepper.  Bake until the edges have puffed to form a crust and the bottom is crisp — again, start with 10-15  minutes on top rack, move to bottom or middle, bake until done, lowering the temp or covering the top if the edges look like they are getting too dark.

 2016-04-08 07.33.36 2016-04-08 07.33.30

Cheese squiggles: Hi, I’m Karin. I’ve never made a successful cheese straw that stayed twisted in my life. But, I’ve got something better. Take your favorite grated cheese (parm, locateli, mix of whatever), sprinkle the board. Take a sheet of puff and place over the cheese and roll over a few times with the rolling-pin. Flip the sheet, sprinkle some more cheese, do it again. Now cut strips 1-inch wide, 9″ (or thereabouts) long. Take a metal skewer, and thread the cheesy dough through (think ribbon candy.) Bake as usual. My cheese straw shame is appeased.

 2016-04-08 07.55.20 2016-04-07 17.32.06

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  :-)

Cider Acts

Washington (the district, not the state) recently passed something called the Cider Act. Basically, this means the folks in DC passed a law that changes the way hard cider is taxed, for the benefit of those who imbibe and even more for those who brew so we can imbibe. Therefore, this new set of cider laws is a pretty big deal for the business of hard cider. Why do I even care? You may have noticed I’ve been including hard cider in some recipes lately. Like in the last two of three posts. I’ve a vested interest in hard cider these days. Actually, I’ve an interest in a handsome cider maker so, well, you know…

Ok, back to acts of cider. While I may not know exactly the ins and outs of the new laws, I am quite familiar with some older ones:

  • Law 1: Cider goes really well with onions;
  • Law 2: Cider goes really well with anything pork, especially in bacon form; and
  • Law 3: Cider goes really well with apples (um…duh)

Of course, no law is worth the parchment it’s written on unless put into use. That dreamy cider maker I mentioned? He threw out the ‘using hard cider in recipes’ challenge a little while ago, and in the interest of scientific experimentation and democracy, I’ve come up with a few. Today’s Cider Braised Onion, Bacon and Apple Tart is the judicious application of my cider laws. God bless the legislative process.

File Mar 07, 11 26 56 AMCider Braised Onion, Bacon and Apple Tart

Makes one 9″ x 13″ Tart

This is one of those recipes that can be done in stages so you can build it around your day and not the other way around (see…very democratic.) Cook the bacon ahead, the onions too and stow in fridge until you are ready to put the whole thing together and bake.  I baked this in my quarter-sheet pan, but you could also bake this on a cookie sheet. Puff pastry usually has enough fat in it not to stick, but I always either spray with oil, or line with parchment (just in case.)

  • 1 sheet packaged frozen puff pastry (defrosted in refrigerator overnight and kept chilled until ready to roll out)
  • 1 large onion, halved then sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup dry hard cider (I used Ruby from Mountain West Cider in Salt Lake City)
  • 1/2 a large green apple, cored, peeled and julienned
  • 3-4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, gruyere, grana padano, extra-sharp cheddar, or a combo
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (full or half-fat, but not fat free)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Grated zest of a small lemon (about a teaspoon)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Flour for rolling out dough
File Mar 07, 11 29 57 AMPrepare the toppings:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then lay the bacon strips flat, making sure pieces do not overlap. Bake until crisp and browned, 15 to 18 minutes, or desired doneness, rotating the sheets once. Transfer strips to a paper towel to drain and cool completely. Once cool, slice the bacon into lardons (strips about 1/4″ thick).
While the bacon is cooking, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it stops foaming, then add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a few good grinds of pepper. Saute about 5 minutes, getting a little color on the onions but careful not to burn. Add the cider to the pan, turn heat down to a simmer, and cook over low heat until the onions are completely soft and there’s no liquid left in the pan. Cool completely.
Peel the apple, slice in half and core (my favorite tool for that is a melon-baller.) Slice half the apple into 1/4″ slices, then stack the slices and cut into 1/4″ matchsticks (in other words, julienne the apple.) Toss in a bowl with the teaspoon lemon juice and set aside.
Mix the sour cream with the 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, the lemon zest, and a few good grinds of pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon). Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed (remember, the bacon is pretty salty so go easy).
  File Mar 07, 11 29 30 AM  File Mar 07, 11 29 09 AM
Prepare the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Flour your work surface a little, then unfold the thawed but still cold puff pastry. Roll out the pastry to about 10″ x 14″. Cut the pastry to 9″ x 13″ rectangle. (Every pastry chef has a kitchen ruler. Yes, we are a tad anal.) Use the scraps to make two 9″ strips and two 13″ strips, or the crust of the tart.
Wet the outer edge of the pastry all the way around with water, milk, or a little beaten egg (this will act like glue), then place the strips around the edges to build up a crust. Carefully score along the inside edge of the strips with the tip of a knife (don’t cut all the way through.) This will assure the edges rise around the filling, making a really pretty tart.
Spread the sour cream mixture on the bottom of the tart, then evenly distribute the onions, bacon and apple. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the edges are puffed and browned and the bottom is crisp. Serve warm or room temperature, with a big glass of cider!
   2016-02-12 10.17.50    2016-03-01 09.04.28
 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

Aluminum Rooms

cropped-dsc01979.jpgIf you grew up where I did, chances are diners were a part of your life. A big part. Regardless of whether it was a six booth and counter aluminum room or acropolis of 24-hour neon and naugahyde, the local diner usually served the same purpose. It was the auxiliary kitchen table. And just like at home, important things happened across diner tables. Life changing events were shared. Met a new guy and things starting to get serious? The besties were summoned to a booth, and the details dished over dishes of cheese fries. Break-up eminent and you needed your girlfriend’s shoulders to sob on? Just tell them to meet you at the diner for cheesecake. That’s all the explaining you had to do. By the time you got there they’d have reserved your usual booth, kleenex in hand.

Diners in the NY-Metro area could be small or large, but never understated. Neon, chrome-rimmed, with sparkly vinyl seats befitting a tricked out 70s corvette were par for the course. Decor could vary from Elivs-movie raceway to Athens via the BQE, but one thing you could always count on. The autographed picture behind the counter. For a time Telly Savalas was popular, but as time and television programming changed, Don Johnson, John Travolta, and my favorite, Abe Vigoda were often enshrined behind the butter cookies and melt-away mints at the register.

I miss diners, as much for the ritual as for the food. I loved the weekend diner breakfasts, catching up over eggs, planning the day. And as the last stop of the evening, nothing capped off a fun night with friends better than a plate of pancakes or onion rings in the wee hours. I’ve moved pretty far away from the local diner, but I’m not too worried about that. Because even if there’s no autographed Telly, and “diner” isn’t in the name, as long as there’s a booth and friends to share it, I’ll aways have a kitchen table away from home.

2016-02-04 18.10.45When I think of diners, I think of onion rings. Battered and fried onion rings. Probably because this was the dish most often consumed in the wee hours after work as a waitress at the Rustler Steak House. Yes, my first foray into the culinary arts was done while wearing a plastic cowboy hat.

Anyway, I recently got back from a trip to Salt Lake City, during which I spent a lot of time enjoying some pretty great cider with a cider maker who’s pretty great too. Which brings me back to onion rings. In honor of my diner nostalgia, the Superbowl, and because I’ve been playing with cider recipes lately, here’s my take on a favorite late night treat – Cider Battered Onion Rings.


Cider Battered Onion Rings

The amounts below are for about two portions, but the recipe is easy doubled

  • 1/2 cup flour plus extra for dusting the onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry hard cider like Ruby
  • Two large onions
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil and it worked great!)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

For the Onion Salt: 

These rings are good, but a sprinkle of onion salt makes them great. Take the minced onions and the coarse sea salt and grind them up together in a food processor or spice grinder to a fairly fine powder. You’ll have much more than you need for the rings, but this stuff is pretty great on taters, steak, etc.

For the Onion Rings:

Peel and slice the onions into rings about 1/4″ thick, and separate the rings. You could also do these in half moons if that’s easier.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the cider and whisk until there are no lumps. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

When your batter is ready, heat the oil in a deep frying pan (I use cast iron for this). You can test when the oil is hot enough by dropping a tiny bit of batter in once the oil is “shimmering” (about 350F on a thermometer if you want to go that way). If the batter sizzles and cooks, you’re good to go.

You’ll want to set up a place to put the cooked rings before starting to fry, since things go  fast once you’re sizzling rings. Here’s how I do it:   I cover my counter closest to the stove with a brown paper grocery bag. It sops up grease well, makes an easy place to season with onion salt, no waste of expensive paper towels, and easy clean up. Once I’ve laid out the bag, I put a dish of the onion salt right next to it for easy sprinkling once the rings come out of the oil and are still hot.

Now to the frying: Throw a little flour in a bowl, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dredge the first batch of onions in the flour, then in the batter, and carefully place in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. The battered ring will puff up, which is exactly what you want. Fry for about 3 minutes on one side or until golden. Carefully turn over, and fry another few minutes til done. Remove to paper bag, and sprinkle on a little of the onion salt. Repeat with the remaining rings. If I’m making a bunch, I’ll put a cooling rack on a baking sheet, put the finished rings on it and keep them warm on it in a 300F oven while frying the next batch

Serve with a cold glass of Ruby or your favorite hard cider.

It may not have "diner" on the sign, but you may be pleasantly surprised...

It may not have “diner” on the sign, but you may be pleasantly surprised…

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

I resolve…

File Jan 04, 8 33 16 PMNow that the jolly fa la’s and dreidel spinning has ceased for another year, it’s time for that annual self-flagellation of good intentions and promises to do better this year. And in the spirit of that, I have some resolutions for my next 360 days.

I resolve:

  • to hold firm to my commitment to shun kale or quinoa, despite a constant stream of recipes on every food web trying to convince me of how delicious it really is. If it’s so wonderful why haven’t we been eating it for centuries, like say butter, or chocolate, or bacon;
  • to pay absolutely no attention to anything uttered by or about a Kardashian or Trump, unless it’s related to the aforementioned’s long-awaited well deserved exile to an island with no microphones, television cameras, wifi, twitter, instagram or cellphone reception, where inhabitants are forced to live in huts made of selfie sticks;
  • to try to just smile and resist the urge to slap anyone who tries to convince me to live  a paleo or vegan life;
  • to seek facts before saying or doing anything with anything on everything;
  • to keep trying to find the laugh before, through or after the tears;
  • and to continue to share the love and a few giggles through food and snark, because let’s face it, that’s why I’m here.

File Jan 04, 8 31 47 PMSo, in my effort to hold fast to my resolutions, let’s talk about butter. I make a small, hopefully growing part of my living by way of butter. Recently, I’ve decided to expand my quest for tasty tart world domination with puff pastry. Now before any of you decide to switch to watching cat videos because only a lunatic would make her own puff pastry, hold up there a sec. I know there’s some pretty good pre-made puff out there, and cast no aspersions to using it. But I’ve discovered something. Making your own is cheaper, better, and isn’t the servitude to endless rollings and turnings Julia led us to believe all those years ago. In fact, the whole process takes only about an hour, provided you are willing to relax and go rough.

Rough puff pastry has been around probably as long as its high maintenance fussy cousin. I’ve tried several recipes but the one I always come back to is Patricia Wells’ from her Bistro Cooking cookbook (1989, Workman Publishing.) I know that convincing some of you (mom) that spending an hour making your own puff pastry isn’t an hour wasted will be a challenge. But the resulting doughy treasure is so wonderfully layered and buttery, I don’t mind pulling out the rolling-pin and investing an hour, especially on a snowy cold day like today. And since most of that hour is resting rather than active, rolling my own gives me the opportunity to enjoy a cup of tea and four 15-minute intervals of internet surfing, catalog thumbing, or catching up on the latest torture Mary Berry has in store for her British Bake Off minions. Plus the result is so much better than anything I can buy.

Rough Puff Pastry (Patricia Well, Bistro Cooking, 1989, Workman Publishing)

Yield: One 10 1/2″ pastry shell, or enough for eight 4-inch circles or squares of dough to play with, plus a little more.

  • 10 TBSP (5 oz.) chilled butter (Patricia Well suggests unsalted, but for me this is the perfect place to use gorgeous salted Kerry Gold, Plugra or if you are lucky enough to have it, Amish butter)
  • 1 1/4 cup (160 g) unbleached AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (if you are using salted butter, just a pinch)
  • 6-7 TBSP ice water

Equipment: Bench scraper, rolling-pin, ruler

  1. Divide the butter into 4 portions, then chop each portion into little bits. Pop three portions into the freezer/fridge while you’re working with the first portion so everything stays nice and cold.
  2. Dump the flour onto a cool work surface and make a well in the center. Add the first portion of butter, salt and 6 TBSP ice water. Work the butter, salt and water together with fingers until well mixed. This is going to feel weird and look like a mess – don’t worry. Gradually start drawing in the flour, working the dough into large crumbs using your fingertips. If the dough seems dry as it’s coming together, add in the additional 1 TBSP water. Press the dough firmly together into a rectangle – it should be soft but not sticky. Wrap in plastic and pop in fridge for 15 minutes or longer. Put the kettle on, check in on your friend’s lives on Facebook.
  3. Lightly flour your counter, then roll out the dough to a 6×15 inch rectangle. Take the second portion of butter from the fridge, and sprinkle over two-thirds of the rectangle, leaving a third empty at one end. You’re going to fold the dough in thirds so there is butter separating each layer. Fold the empty third of dough over the center, then fold the buttered side over the center. Press the ends together with the rolling-pin to seal, then wrap and stow in fridge again. Sit and drink your tea (or make a cocktail), check your email, thumb through the Sundance catalog for things you’ll never buy for at least 15 minutes while the dough chills.
  4. See all those lovely layers...

    See all those lovely layers

    Repeat the rolling to 6×15″, butter two-thirds, folding, wrapping. Amuse yourself for another 15 minutes. Do this one more time with the last of the butter. You perform this whole dance 4 times.
  5. Patricia says if the dough looks streaky, roll and fold one more time. My dough always looks streaky, so I do this 5th one too (without adding anything, just roll out, fold, wrap.  Once it has rested another 15, you’re ready to make whatever you like, or freeze some, use some.  Here’s a few ways I play with this wonderful stuff:

Roll out to about 1/8-inch thick:

  • File Jan 04, 8 31 05 PM Cut circles from the dough. Score  a 1/2″ border around the edge (use a knife tip but don’t cut all the way through the dough). Now slice up your fruit of choice (apples, pears, peaches, etc.) into thin pieces, lay over the circle within the border, sprinkle generously with sugar, bake at 400ºF until the edge has puffed and the bottom and edges have browned.File Jan 04, 8 31 30 PM
  • Cut 3″ squares, tuck into muffin pans, fill with sautéed mushroom (they should be cooked until dried), sprinkle with parmesan, asiago, or goat cheese and thyme, bake at 400ºF until the edge puffed and the bottom and edges have browned.
  • Cut two circles the same size. Spread herbed goat cheese thinned with a little cream or whipped cream cheese over the bottom, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with some sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil). Brush the edge with egg white thinned with a little water. Put the other piece of pastry on top, crimp the edges with a fork. Bake as above. Or, fill with slices of brie and pear, or cheddar, apple and bacon. Or…

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

 

Serendipitous

FullSizeRender - Version 2I love words. You’ve probably figured that out by now. I also love to make up words. No surprise there either. I mean, a fascination with shoes should be called a fashoenation, don’t you think? Then there are the words that sound like I made them up but didn’t. ‘Culinarily’. Definitely sounds like something I’d fake, but it’s legit.  ‘Ersatz’ sounds made up and a little gassy, but it’s real. ‘Fecund’. Not only does it sound made up, it sounds like something you’d haul off and slap someone for calling you. Yet if someone actually described me as “intellectually productive and inventive to a marked degree”, (I had the chance to look it up), I’d likely be flattered. Then I’d slap them for using such a pompous-ass word.

Now take the word ‘serendipitous’. First, it’s fun to say. Five syllables, with ‘dipi’ in the middle. If I was making up a word, I’d definitely put a dipi in it somewhere. The meaning is interesting too, and sums up my life of late. Kinda good (fortuitous), kinda not so good (erratic and uncertain), kinda fluky as in life feels like one big crapshoot. All of that can be said for the word, for me, and probably for just about everyone else too. We can all plan as much as we want, meticulously lay out the course as we’d like to see it, but there’s no guarantee that any of that is going to turn out as prescribed. Fact is, me, you, none of us has a lock on how things are going to turn out. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, or work really hard, or hope. At least that’s how I look at it. Sure serendipity will always factor in, but I’m serendipitously optimistic that whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it eventually. After all, I’m one fecund gal.

2015-09-25 17.43.12So why all the serendipitous chatter? I had a moment of serendipity when recently contacted by someone who works for Azure Farms. Serendipity, by way of the offer of free stuff to play with. Azure Farms is a local farm that among other things, grows and mills flours. The farm is part of Azure Standard, a food and goods grower/supplier based here in Northwest Oregon that distributes through coops, buying clubs and distributors across the country. As a local baker and blogger, I was asked to try out some of their flours. I chose two of their wheat flours, one hard red, one a softer pastry flour, and I must say both are beautiful products to work with. Organic, local, great quality. Of course, being given bags to play with for free was pretty awesome too. Certainly some new recipes will follow. But what got me really excited was the bag of their garbanzo flour.2015-09-25 13.37.20

If you’ve never used garbanzo (chickpea) flour, you’re in for a treat. You could certainly substitute it for some of the wheat flour in a recipe, especially if you are trying out some gluten free options. However, I chose to make a dish this kind of flour is known for. Socca or Farinata is part flatbread, part pancake, and totally delicious. A street food commonly found in the Provence region of France (socca) and neighboring Liguria, Italy (farina), it is the marriage of golden chick pea flour, lots of olive oil, onions, and whatever herb you like, cooked in a hot oven, brushed with more olive oil and then broiled briefly. I made it as a snack/appetizer to go with a great bottle of wine, but it could easily serve as first course, brunch or lunch. Thank you Rob from Azure Farms for your generosity inspiring this tasty addition to the Cooking in My Heels recipe files!

Socca/Farinata (Adapted from Mark Bittman and the New York Times)

4-6 appetizer servings

Recipe Notes: Bittman’s recipe calls for a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan or skillet. I grabbed a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron pan to make this, which makes a little bit thicker pancake, and I liked it better than the original. You can use whichever you prefer, just make sure the pan is well-seasoned or nonstick. If using the larger, you’ll have a crispier socca; use the smaller and you’ll get crispy top crust with a softer almost creamy inside. I reduced the pepper a little, and the rosemary too. Both were great at first, but I found you lost the subtle chickpea flavor to the rosemary and pepper.

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 -3/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 more for sautéing the onions
  • ½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or whatever your favorite – thyme or sage would be great too.

You can make the pancake in about 45 minutes start to finish, or make the batter and onions ahead, park it in the fridge for up to 12 hours, and bake it off as you are making cocktails or pouring wine. The instructions below are for prep/bake/serve.

2015-09-25 17.06.35 2015-09-25 17.25.36

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon oil to pan, and once it is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until they are nice and caramelized. While the onions are cooking, mix the chickpea flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Bittman suggests an immersion blender. A whisk is fine, especially if you are planning on letting it sit a few hours, but if you like power tools, have at it. Once the batter is smooth, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and let sit while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours.The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

Once the onions are done, remove from pan, wipe out, put 1 tablespoon oil in the pan, and put pan in oven for about 5 minutes until oil is hot. Stir in the rosemary or whatever herb you’re using into the batter, along with the onions. Carefully remove the pan from oven and pour the batter in. Return to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pancake is firm and the edges set.

2015-09-25 17.36.33 2015-09-25 17.41.22

Carefully remove the pan from oven and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Turn broiler on. Place pan a few inches away from the broiler and cook just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm. Leftovers are great cold, or reheated and crisped up in a little oil in a pan.

 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Real Gourmet

DSC07902I’m a good, sometimes great cook, and my heart cockles warm when I overhear someone I’ve fed call me that. But please, pretty please, don’t call me a “gourmet cook”. I honestly hate that term. I don’t know if it’s because it brings to mind visions of snooty elites and $100 entrees, or that I just have no idea what a “gourmet cook” is. Either way it’s one of those phrases that just pisses me off.

According to wiki-whatever, the word means “refined, elite, a higher degree of sophistication” and other hoity words you’d suspect. As if a gourmet’s palate has specially adapted taste buds that look down upon the lower, classless buds living on the other side of the tongue. To me, food should be far more democratic than that. I’m a culinary socialist with a palate of the people. Sure I love layered flavors, unique ingredients, creative cooking and top quality tasty things. I just don’t think those things should be elevated over a really good street dog with the works, a perfectly baked potato, or even a late-night plate of stoner nachos. If it tastes great at the time you’re tasting, right on! Who’s to say noshes that would send a self-defined gourmet screaming into the night aren’t gourmet to someone else? After all, one mouth’s trash is another mouth’s treasure, right?

Which brings me to Mormon Funeral Potatoes and a moment of enlightenment. This most tasty and decidedly not (by Wiki standard) gourmet fare falls into the culinary category of hot dish or casserole. You know, one of those wonderful concoctions shared at potlucks and hospitality hours, or brought over to nourish the grieving and guests (hence the name). In its most traditional form, a can of condensed soup, cheese and corn flakes aren’t far from the ingredient list. About a week ago, I tasted a version that can only be described as bar food nirvana.

IMG_2020

The best bar food EVER, courtesy of The Garage on Beck (and Josh).

That Mormon Funeral Potatoes would enter my life had been foretold to me about a month or two earlier. After receiving instructions to “google it”, I had a vision of what might unfold from this potato and cheese prophesy. But it wasn’t until I landed in Salt Lake City a few months later that the full extent of my culinary awakening was clear.

My prophet escorted me into a temple of MFP worship called The Garage on Beck. Our minister Josh handed us prayer menus and we took our place on stools, ready to receive our tater testimony.  Sacramental PBRs were poured, and the reason I was there was placed in front of me. One bite of the revelatory nugget and I knew my life would be forever changed by this bar nosh of trashy greatness. Am I gushing? Perhaps. But if you’d tasted a perfect creamy combination of cheese, bacon and potato wrapped in a perfect deep fry crunch and washed it down with a cold beer, you’d be gushing from steeple-top too. This, my brothers and sisters, this right here, is real gourmet food. AMEN!

IMG_2018 The manager of The Garage on Beck, Josh, is terrific guy. I have a complimentary shot glass to prove it. Unfortunately, Josh was a bit hesitant to ask the cook when when I inquired about the recipe for bar nosh nirvana. I get that. When you’ve perfected something so wonderful, you want to keep it close. Luckily, he was able to give me a  really good visual on what went into the mix, so I figured I could play around a little when I got home. What I found out after some more research is that I wasn’t the first to ask for the recipe. Sunset Magazine had beat me to it, and published it when they featured Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes as one of their Chefs’ Favorite Restaurant Dishes in March 2013. So that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t play around a little with it, since that’s kinda what I do.

At The Garage, MFP are served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. But my mormon funeral potato missionary and I thought there might be a better way. With the original recipe from Sunset, I’ve included two suggestions for dipping sauces. The first, Wasabi Ranch, and the second Horseradish Honey Mustard both gave a really nice bite of heat and sweet, but if you’d like to stick with ranch I can testify that it was really tasty too. And if you come up with another saucy suggestion, please share in the comments. What good is finding wonderful noshes of trashy goodness if you can’t spread the word! 😉

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013) 

Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

And the Oscar Goes To… (Again)

Last year I pondered the following question: ‘What if they gave an Oscar to food?’  This time around I’m in Oregon, so any musing on that and all the other Hollywood hullabaloo unfurls with the red carpet around 3PM. So after sitting though the marathon of “interesting” fashion choices, multiple mothers/wives/partners/agents/5th grade teachers thanking, and awkward camera zooms on those whose name the envelop didn’t contain, I’ll still have time to catch up on Shameless. That perk aside, I’m going to have to figure out how to fill 5 hours with food. I’m guessing so are some of you, and to that end, I’ve included a few nominations of nibbles below.

So settle in, get those Oscar bingo cards ready, and enjoy the annual parade of tinsel and stars!

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen atcookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)