Saturday, April 2, 2016

First Annual Brisket Cook-off

Ask me my favorite thing to cook and I always say brisket. You might think that sounds a little boring, but brisket lends itself to endless variations. Whether it is braised or smoked the flavor possibilities are numerous. But now the golden brisket award and bragging rights are at stake in the First Annual Brisket Cook-off at temple. My friend Jenni Logan and I teamed up to enter and decided her mom's recipe was our best shot at winning. For this type of event we thought traditional was the right way to go. We're not going for a trendy or 'out there' recipe, but rather something tried and true that will bring back great memories from the tasters.

Jenni and I "met" in the Boston University Masters in Gastronomy program a few years ago. I say "met" because it turns out that way back in high school our paths crossed in the Midwest. We even found pictures with us together at the same summer camp events! Since then we've shared a love of cheese, cooking, and plenty of homework! 
We bring you Jenni's family recipe for brisket and hope that you enjoy as much as they do! It is a sweet and sour style recipe that produces melt in your mouth slices. Stay tuned for the cook-off results! Want to see more pictures and know results sooner? Follow along on Instagram

Mom's Yummy Brisket
1 (3-4 pound) brisket (7 pounds for 10-12 people - double entire recipe)
14 ounces Heinz ketchup
2 large white onions (thinly sliced)
1 lemon (juiced)
1 teaspoon mustard
2 squirts Lea and Perrin's Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup water (adjust to consistency of a medium sauce)
Lawry's salt, black pepper
Garlic powder

1 9"x13" roasting pan
Pam non-stick cooking spray
Aluminum foil to cover and seal meat

Take roasting pan and Pam it. In a large mixing bowl, mix ketchup, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, brown sugar, and water (you want a medium thickness (not to thin or thick!)). Put a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan. 

The brisket should have some fat on the top but not too much. Put Lawry's salt, pepper, and garlic powder on the brisket, season well. Place brisket in the pan. Cover the brisket pretty well with the sauce (you may have to add a little additional water). Add the sliced onions on the top of the brisket. Cover and seal the pan with the foil. 

Bake for at least 3 hours at 350 degrees or until very tender (fork should twist easily in the meat). Cool and slice (I use an electric knife). Be SURE to slice the meat against the grain. Return the meat to the pan, re-cover with the onions and sauce and re-foil. You can either freeze it our keep it in the refrigerator until you reheat and serve. Reheat the sliced brisket in the sauce at 350 degrees.

We used an 8 pound brisket (weighed before trimming fat). We cut into two pieces for ease of cooking.
The type of ketchup is a consideration! Heinz ketchup does have a distinct flavor. If you use another brand (like an organic ketchup), you can adjust the sweetness level with the amount of brown sugar you add.
We found that after slicing the meat needed to be heated fully through and cooked for about 45 minutes - 1 hour to become as tender as we wanted.
You could cook this in a crockpot on low for 4-6 hours, checking at 4 hours on the tenderness.
If you make this for Passover, check your sauce ingredients to be sure they are kosher for Passover.

If you are looking for even more brisket ideas, try these:
New England Maple Coffee Brisket (about halfway down the post)
Smoked Brisket
Smoked Brisket, Version 2
Passover Brisket (with Manishevitz!)
Fun ways to use leftover brisket: Beef and Biscuit Pie
Slow Cooker Brisket

Here are a few shots of the competition! We had a lovely spring snowstorm to start our day - perfect brisket weather. While we didn't win we did have a blast (pretending we were in a Top Chef style competition!). We'll be back next year for another great time.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Summer Baking: Italian Night {Class 11}

This summer I completed the Culinary Lab: Baking course as part of my graduate program - the Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy at Boston University. For six weeks I spent two nights a week in the professional kitchen learning all about baking. The course required students to keep a journal of the experience and I decided to record my adventures here on the blog. I hope you enjoy! You'll get the calorie-free version of my decadent baking experience.

The last night! Wow! In just 6 short weeks I feel like I’ve gone from occasional home baker a little intimidated by fancy desserts to a baker ready to throw a fancy dessert party. I’ll have to keep up my skills by baking more often, but I’m sure that my friends, family, and co-workers won’t mind sampling the output.

Tonight’s class was all about Italian desserts. A some traditional and some a little different. We had a lot of components to pull together. It’s been a blast working as a team over the past few weeks. Tonight we donned our chef jackets, headed into the kitchen and got to work cranking out our Italian sweets. After a read through of our recipes and agenda for the night we dove right in. My team had three people and we divvied up the task throughout each recipe fairly evenly. We each whisked a custard until our biceps started burning, we took turns watching the mixer spin egg whites and sugar into soft peaks, and we ‘expertly’ turned off the mixer before our whipped cream turned into butter. On the first night we called the chef over to check on us a lot. Tonight I felt that we knew what we were doing and asked for confirmation, rather than direction. Each component of our desserts tonight were like a mini-test, confirming that we had been paying attention all along.

The tiramisu definitely did that for us. We made a light, melt-in-in-your mouth sponge cake as the base. Next, a boozy espresso simple syrup for soaking the cake. If that wasn’t enough, we also deftly whisked our way to a perfect zabaglione mousse. And no dessert in this class is complete with either additional whipped cream or sugar on top. This called for a sweetened whipped cream on top for good measure.

The star of the night for me was the lemon almond cake. The taste of this cake was amazing. Dense, moist cake in the most beautiful shade of lemon yellow. The addition of a generous amount of almond paste made it rich and nutty. For good measure the top of the cake is covered with sliced almonds and a brush of limoncello (lemon simple syrup for the kids). This cake would be perfect for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dessert, and midnight snack. It is that good. It would make beautiful cupcakes for a party or a loaf for a brunch.

For the magic trick of the evening, luscious lemon curd was whipped and folded with whipped cream and transformed into a semifreddo. The flavor is tart and tangy and perfect with a few toasted almonds and fresh berries on top. What a fun and relatively easy dessert to know how to make.

The last, and most unique, dessert of the night was brutti ma buoni – “ugly but good” – cookies. These fascinating little cookies are made with almonds and hazelnuts and a meringue dough. Egg whites are whipped with sugar until they are a beautiful, marshmallowy white color.

They are poured over a saucepan full of chopped almonds and hazelnuts. After a little heat and time the mixture turns a beautiful shade of beige. It is important to cook this over the right temperature, too low and the nuts will roast before the meringue is thick. Too hot and the mixture will cling to the sides of the pot.

These are baked until firm. The finished texture is crunchy and chewy and the flavor of the roasted nuts shines through. Ugly, but good!

I hope that you have enjoyed this whirlwind trip around the world of baking! I’m looking forward to a little break from overindulging in sugar, but am excited to add these new skills to my repertoire.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Game Day Menu Planning for Superbowl 50 and a Giveaway

I am excited to be participating in a Super Bowl Recipe Exchange with several incredible bloggers. Along with the recipes I'm sharing with you, here are their recipes to round out your Super Bowl 50 menu. This would definitely be a party I'd love to be invited to!

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ from Eat.Live.Blog
White Bean and Chorizo Stew from LivinLemon
Buffalo Chicken Empanadas from Appetite for Instruction
DIY Snack Stadium from Wife in Progress
Homemade Pimento Cheese Stuffed Sliders  from Aimee Broussard
Taco Dip from Anchors and Bows

Not only am I sharing with you these great recipes, but I am also excited to offer you an opportunity to win a $100 gift card courtesy of!  You could choose from one of their MANY slow cookers, or any one of a million other things that will make your Super Bowl Party the biggest winner of the night. The giveaway is open until the winner of the Super Bowl is crowned.

Enter here for your chance to win: a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Superbowl is a great 4+ hour excuse to put out your favorite snacks and graze while watching. Growing up it didn't matter who was in the game we always had a party. In middle school and high school my girlfriends and I would always have a Superbowl Bash. I can't remember what we ate at the parties, but I know we always had a great time!

Now my favorite things to eat while watching usually involve avocados, salsa, beans, and cheese. I have two recipes that share these ingredients in different ways. First up is a loose interpretation of a tamale - more closely related to the sweet corn tamales from The Cheesecake Factory. These take advantage of some shortcuts and produce a tasty dish. Up second are a healthier take on potato skins. These chili cheddar potato skins are indulgent but not over the top. One or both of these dishes would make a delicious and healthier addition to your Superbowl 50 viewing parties.

Both recipes have a number of components but it is easy to work on them at the same time. My workflow is to start the beans first and while they are simmering you can prep the other ingredients. Even better? Enlist your party guests to chop, mix, and assemble their own!

Corn 'Tamales' with Black Beans and More

I love to make as many things from scratch as I can when entertaining. For this recipe I 'cheated' and included a pre-cooked polenta to stand in for the traditional corn tamale. This speeds up the prep time and makes your life a little easier on game day. I've included the toppings that I like on these, but the recipe lends itself to endless customization. Don't love black beans? Substitute pinto or refried. Hate cilantro? Omit! Run out of lime juice? Use lemon or orange. That's the fun of cooking - you can make it just the way YOU want. If you have leftover toppings you can use them for a dip or a side dish. I used corn oil to enhance the flavors, you can also use vegetable or canola oil. Adjust the quantities based on the number of guests.

Corn 'Tamales' with Black Beans and More
Presented in the order of preparation

Black Beans
1 can of drained black beans
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 of a yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan
Add in garlic and onion and cook until softened (about 3-4 minutes)
Add in black beans, increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil
Reduce to low and keep on the heat until it’s time to assemble the dish

You can use your favorite store-bought salsa here if you want another shortcut. There are a lot of great local options. If you like to make fresh salsa I would suggest leaving it chunky so it doesn't run down your guests' arms or drip on your floor. Here's a quick and easy salsa recipe:

Tomato Salsa
Adjust the amount based on the size of your party, this is probably enough for a log of the polenta.
4 plum or roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper or your favorite chili pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/4 of a white or red onion, diced
A small handful of chopped cilantro (omit if you have cilantro haters)
Fresh Lime Juice
Salt and pepper

Mix well and chill

Simply cut the avocado in half lengthwise
Remove the pit
Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the avocado flesh
Dice into small pieces and toss with lime juice

Ideally fresh corn. If it is not available you can use frozen or canned. You want to saute it for a few minutes to get a little color and develop the sugars.
If using fresh:
Remove the husk and all the silk from one ear of corn
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels away from the cob

For fresh, canned, or frozen:
Heat a small amount of corn oil over medium-low heat in a non-stick skillet
Cook corn for about 5 minutes (keep stirring so it doesn't burn)
Set aside in a bowl until you are ready to assemble everything

Southwestern Polenta
Precooked polenta, comes in a log wrapped in plastic, cut into 1/4" thick slices
For the seasoning, you want a ratio of about 1 tablespoon of chili powder to 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, adjust the amount to cover all of the polenta
Salt and Pepper
Corn Oil

Spread the polenta out on a plate in a single layer
Sprinkle the seasonings evenly across the top and press in gently
Let sit and absorb while the oil is heating
Heat corn oil in a non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat (enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan)
Cook polenta for 2 minutes on each side and remove to a paper towel lined plate

Putting it all together
Lay out polenta slices in a single layer on a serving platter
Top each round with:
Scoop of black beans
Sprinkle of crumbled queso fresco or goat cheese
Fresh cilantro

Chili Cheddar Potato Skins

I love potato skins but I don't love the way they make me feel. As part of a game day menu that is usually not light on calories these potato skins offer you a way to feel less bad about your game day dining. Avocado - health fat. Beans with vegetables mixed in - healthy. Cheese - dairy serving! Really, is there ever a reason to not include cheese in a party? I think the answer to that is always no.

Adjust the recipe quantities based on the size of your guest list. The techniques are the important part. You can start with my recipes and adapt to your liking. Once you use this method for making the skins you'll be adding them to your menu more often! The secret is another cheat, the microwave!

Chili Cheddar Potato Skins with Guacamole

Bean and Vegetable Chili
Approximately 4 servings
1 jalapeno, ribs and seed removed, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced (any color)
1 quarter of a yellow onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kidney or pinto beans, drained
1 can petite diced no-salt added tomatoes (drain about half the liquid)
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

In a medium pot, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil at medium-high heat
Add in minced garlic and jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic
Add in onions and bell pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes until softened
Stir in chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper
Add beans and tomatoes and stir
Bring to a boil and then reduce to low
Simmer until ready to serve

Potato Skins
Adapted from Amy at Playing House (who adapted from Ellie Krieger)
Serves 2 (1 potato/person)
2 Idaho potatoes scrubbed and dried
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pieces turkey bacon (use pork if you like, we don't eat it in the Good Cook Doris Kitchen)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar-jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork and wrap in paper towels
Microwave on high for 13 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through
Take out the microwave and cool until the potatoes are easy to handle
Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise
Using a spoon, scoop all but 1/8 inch of the inside of the potato, being careful not to break the skin (save the potato guts for another use)
Brush both inside and outside of potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt
Put the potatoes, skin-side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet
Bake until skins are crisp and edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes

For the turkey bacon, cook in a small skillet over medium heat, turning often, until crispy
Dice into small pieces

1 medium Haas avocado
Juice from 1/2 a lime
Jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced (Optional)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 a scallion, thinly sliced
Dash of salt and pepper

Roughly chop the cilantro, set aside
Squeeze the lime juice into a bowl
Cut open the avocado and add to the bowl with the lime juice
Using an avocado masher (or fork), mash until smooth
Stir in the cilantro, scallion, and jalapeno if using
Season with salt and pepper

Putting it all together
When the potato skins are done, remove from the oven and put on serving plate
Fill the skins with chili
Divide the shredded cheese evenly among the potato halves
Top with the turkey bacon
Spoon the smooth guacamole evenly over the four halves
Top with a few cilantro leaves for garnish

Don't forget to check out the recipes from these other great bloggers and to enter the giveaway to win $100 to

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ from Eat.Live.Blog 
White Bean and Chorizo Stew from LivinLemon 
Buffalo Chicken Empanadas from Appetite for Instruction 
DIY Snack Stadium from Wife in Progress 
Taco Dip from Anchors and Bows 

What's your favorite game day food?

Enter here for your chance to win: a Rafflecopter giveaway


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