Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Had a Hard Time Titling This, so I Went With "These Brussel Sprouts Taste Better Because Martha Stewart Went to Prison, Though I Bet They Would Have Been Good Even If She Had Escaped to a Non-Extraditable Country.......Like Djibouti." ....Title Dominated

If you ever thought that not much thought goes into the writing here, you should be ashamed of yourself. It took me literally 45 seconds to google countries that don't extradite to the United States. I only know the term "extradition" from television........This is starting poorly.

So Martha Stewart is awesome. Her dripping, absolutely genuine cheesiness should be nauseating, but I find her show mesmerizing. There is nothing in the world that I should hate more, but I just don't. I think I have figured out the reason. No matter how sickly sweet she seems on tv, I know Martha Stewart is a stone cold killer (metaphorically speaking. She probably never actually killed anyone)

It's true, when she got busted for insider trading and got sent to the pokie, everyone got wise to the real Martha. The Martha I already knew about. The one with ice water in her veins and laser beams for eyes. The Martha that was portrayed by Sybil Shepherd in Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart.

I really don't have an explanation for you as to why I watched this, but it left an impression on me, and I could appreciate her as a person afterwards, and still do to this day. It wasn't hard to imagine her in a prison jumpsuit shivving (or is it shiving?) fellow inmates in the community shower with a modified knitting needle after seeing some of her "alleged" outbursts in that made for tv movie.

I'm getting sidetracked again. The point is, Martha Stewart is awesome. And when she cooks, her food looks awesome. And one of her recipes stuck with me. And I made it. And it was awesome.

I probably saw Martha make Brussel Sprouts with Apple and Bacon about 5 or 6 years ago, and I remember thinking "Blech, brussel sprouts.....But wait....Apples....And Bacon.....Mmmmmm."
I hadn't started my cooking odyssey back then, so I never really planned on actually making it, but I stored it away anyway.......

Fast forward to yesterday. The Artist Formerly Known as Pregatron has been on a zero dairy diet for the last week, and when I wanted to cook yesterday, that presented some challenges. Amy was going to make her Grandpa Ascoli's Famous Meatloaf, so I was only responsible for the vegetable. I wanted a reasonably healthy meal, and we couldn't use any of my staple ingredients like butter or cheese. That's like telling a vampire hunter they can't use a wooden stake, but rather one made of recycled plastic bottles. Wait, that's no good, vampires are so last year. Zombies are the new vampires. Me with no dairy is like telling a zombie hunter that he can only carry a NERF baseball bat. Crap, I'm trying to be ahead of the trends......It's like telling a Chupacabra hunter that they can't use a....well....I don't know much about Chupacabra (Chupacabras?), but I'm sure you get the point.....Assuming you're still reading........fairly giant assumption.

BACK TO MARTHA AND THE BRUSSEL SPROUTS
I saw a bag of fresh green brussel sprouts in the produce section, and instantly Martha's recipe for them popped in my head, along with Martha/Sybil screaming at a Kmart representative "I'm not going to sink to your level, I'm going to bring you up to mine."

Here's how it goes.

Brussel Sprouts with Apples, Shallots and Bacon

About 10-15 brussel sprouts (get fresh ones if you can, but frozen ones will work)
1 large apple diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 shallot, sliced
3 strips bacon, chopped
2-3 tbsps red wine vinegar

Brussel sprouts are basically little tiny cabbages. They can be bitter, and when you cook them they stink. But when treated with the following instructions, they make an excellent savory side dish that will surprise you. In a good way.

Slice the sprouts in half if they are small (ping pong ball or smaller) or in quarters if they are larger. Get a pot of roiling, boiling water going and drop the sprouts in. Leave them for about one minute of boiling, and then pour them into a strainer and shake them dry.

This is called blanching, and it starts the cooking process, but then quickly stops it without turning them a dark color or making them mushy. In a skillet, brown your bacon pieces until they are crispy, then add the shallots to the pan.


When they are starting to get translucent, add the sprouts, and turn the heat down to medium. Stir frequently for about five minutes until the sprouts start to get tender, then add the apples.


Season with salt and pepper and continue for about 5 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and toss to coat, then serve immediately.

The sweet apples, salty bacon, and sour vinegar really stave off the bitter cabbaginess of the sprouts, and the little petals really soak up the flavors of everything else. This is actually a very healthy dish, and it tastes great. Trust me, I have a trustworthy face.........and I've never been to woman's prison.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You See, Your Pie Bake-Off Was OK, but It Lacked Bacon.....Enter the Jacked Up Grill

So I baked a pie.........The King of All Pies, you might say. Well, it finished tied for 3rd, so "King" might be ambitious. It's the "Prince Harry" of Pies. I think he's the one who only gets the crown if like 7 other Royals die first. It was a joke......

Anyways, to tell you how I came to bake this pie at 1:30 am to enter in Cville Pie Fest 2011, I present to you the world's longest sentence:

Way back, I entered a multiple course dinner of Jack Daniels flavored food and drinks for a Grilling with Jack contest on GrillGrrrl Robyn's blog, and I wanted to have a whiskey flavored key lime pie, so I asked our local pie expert Marijean Jaggers, who has a blog about pie that I follow called Pie it Forward, which is a play on "Pay it Forward," which is the movie about people helping each other (the kid dies in the end) that should move me, but falls short, due to my stunted emotional range, for help finding key limes in Cville, and she was really nice and sent me to the only place in town that had them, and the pie was awesome, and I totally won, so I started following her on the Twitter, and recently I saw chatter (my Twitter term) about pies and some sort of contest, and you know how I love contests, and then I saw that it was this past weekend, and I had to work this past weekend, but then I saw that it was to support a good cause (the Haven, a local shelter), and that there were prizes including a gift certificate from Jean Theory, a local high end denim boutique (the DO NOT carry my size), so I said "What the hey, I don't need sleep," and I spent all day Thursday making test pies, and one tasted great and the other tasted like soapy feet, so I tweaked the original recipe I found online and made my final adjustments,  and then when I got home from work at 11pm friday night, I started work on my final product and at 1:30am I took it out of the oven, and my good buddy Jared took it to the Haven for the contest for me, and I didn't pay attention to any prescriptions I filled at work all day saturday because I was busy reading tweets about pies (sorry, customers), and I got a little disappointed when I saw that I didn't win (a handsome looking cherry almond beat me) but I did some fist pumping and cheering when I saw the bracket on the contest website that showed the judging was done in rounds of head to head competition (I beat three other pies), and that I had come in tied for third overall, even though third means you are a loser, and that there is someone better than you who is still a loser, which makes you a double loser....or a loser twice-removed anyway, but either way, we had some pie success, and my pie didn't suck, and it helped a good cause, so you could say i Pied It Forward.......and no kids died in the end.

World's longest sentence ended.

Here's how the pie was made: (Adapted from CamiHines recipe on www.instructables.com)
Crust:
1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp ice cold water
1/3 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

In a food processor, place the butter, and then add the flour, sugar and cheese.

 Pulse until uniformly crumbly. Then while the processor runs, add a little water at a time until the crumbles are thicker and stay together when pressed into a ball. Remove from processor and form into a disc. If it's too wet, you can add more flour, and if it's too crumbly, you can add more water, but use moderation for both!
(It's utterly ridiculous for someone making bacon cheese pie to tell you to use moderation).

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, let the dough sit out for about 30 minutes and then sprinkle a clean counter with flour. Place the dough on the flour and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick, and big enough to cover a pie pan. Roll it up on the pin and transfer it to the pan, pressing the dough down to conform to the pie pan.

Filling:
3 large Rome apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup cinammon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup real maple syrup

After dicing apples, quickly before they brown, add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Do this before making crumble so apples can marinate.

Crumble:
6 strips maple bacon
6 strips applewood smoked bacon
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup all purpose flour.

Crumble bacon, and then place in food processor with all other ingredients, except flour. Pulse until uniform, but not too fine, and then add flour, a little at a time, until it is coarse and crumbly.

Place the apple mixture into the pie crust. Pour liquid over apples at the most, half way up the height of the pie. Cover apples with crumble mixture. Cover crumble mixture with a thin layer of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.



Now comes the fun part, the bacon lattice. You will need some really meaty (not all fat) bacon that looks pretty and is thick enough to hold its shape. Pay for the good bacon for this part.
I tried to follow the www.instructables.com directions for making the lattice, but in the end I just wrestled with it for twenty minutes until it looked right. Don't look for answers here. But the bad boy looked good.

I then got fancy, by taking the excess dough around the edge and folding it up over the edge of the pie and crimping it. I'm a little girl.

To gild the pieverbial lily, I brused maple syrup over the bacon lattice and then sprinkled the whole top with Sugar in the Raw to give it some sweet crunch.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour. My bacon for the lattice was very thick, so I had to take the pie out, wrap some aluminum foil around the edges to protect the crust from burning, and then crank the oven up to 425 for about 15 minutes at the end to cook the bacon all the way through. It should look brown, bubbly, and the bacon should be pretty crispy.

Let it cool to room temperature before serving.

Be ready to be the most popular person you know at any party you bring this to. It has already been requested for a party this weekend, and the judges, contest organizers and even the Pie Queen, herself, Marijean, all raved about it, so it's bonafide.

Make it. Eat it. You'll thank me.

Pie it Forward.



The 9 lb 2 oz. Reason I Haven't Posted Lately: Grilled Food, Baking, and Cute Baby Pictures.......

Pregatron/Pregzilla/Pregpocalypse/Preggy Potter/Preglociraptor/Pregasaurus Rex/PregLeg/Preggy McPreggerpants/The Pregsident of the United States/Pregpolean Bonaparte/Preggy Poppins (I just made that last one up just now) has officially changed her callsign back to Amy (My Beautiful Wife whom I adore).
You might have noticed that I haven't been cooking/posting lately. Here's why. Jay Lucas, born September 28 at 12:45am......We don't sleep much. He is healthy, happy, fat, and awesome! With a Newborn and a 17 month old, the 4pm to 8pm time slot at our house is an atmosphere similar to what I imagine the Chernobyl incident to have been like. You know, lots of screaming, running for your lives, nuclear meltdowns, the whole works. Because that WAS my usual experimental grilling time, I haven't had much to write about, and when I have cooked, I haven't had time to write about it. It's been a whirlwind of diapers, crying (mostly me) and more diapers over here.
Luckily, nobody reads any of this, so I don't even feel bad.

I did cook some interesting things that are worth repeating, and in between that, there were lots of cute baby things happening over at our place, so I have prepared the following rapid fire montage of Jacked Up Grillery. Please enjoy.

On Tuesday, Amy said "My belly hurts!"
I said "I swear that chicken was sushi grade!"
She said "No, Stupid. We're having a baby!"
13 hours later, we had this dude


After a lovely three day stay at the new Martha Jefferson Hospital, (where they could use some serious pointers from this blog and others about what food is supposted to taste like) we packed up and headed to the house.


Madness ensued for the next several days, and I can only recall moments of clarity. Everything else was a haze......

After about a week, things calmed down enough to cook something. I went with this


It was Sriracha Shrimp & Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits. Here's the recipe in tiny little pictures.
The recipe in words will be at the end.







And there you have it. You'll never eat better shrimp & grits.

So then Lil Jay and Jack the Lil' Ripper did cute things.
One day, while rocking a baby.....or maybe cleaning up spit up......or maybe getting peed on while changing a diaper........I saw Paula Dean make Brie en Croute....Don't ask me, but it looked delicious.
So I made it.






Then, there were more cute baby things...



And finally, I give you one of my greatest creations.......
The Bacon Cheddar Apple Pie with Bacon Crumble
This one deserves a post of its own, so I stay tuned for it and my other Cville PieFest adventures.

So, in parting, here are some real winners from our session with Jamie Kay of JMK Photography.

I'm too tired to add recipes for the shrimp & grits and the Brie thing, so I'll add them later. Email me if you just can't wait!
I'll be funny next time.....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cooking for the Extremely Pregnant: Redux........I Have No Idea What Redux Means......I'll Put a Dollar in the DoucheBag Jar

THANK THE SWEET GOODNESS Pregpolean Bonaparte's crazy pregnant food craving was for something that didn't come out of a box with a talking glove on the front today!!!!!! I asked her what she wanted me to cook for dinner in passing, hoping she wouldn't give it much thought, thus preventing us from eating Tuna Helper with sweet pickles topped with pineapple and a side of raw hot dog......I hope she doesn't read this.......
To my distinct satisfaction, her craving was for a Jacked Up Grill classic, Grilled Chicken Fettucine Alfredo. I have been cooking this for her for years, and though it is totally phoning it in compared to some of the wacky food I have been making lately, it is tasty, so feel free to reproduce.....The food I mean. I'm not encouraging any of you to actually reproduce....I mean, it's the greatest joy of my life, but I'm old and wise and....old, so it is the right timing for Pregdemort and me, but you, my only reader, shouldn't jump into anything without thinking it through first. Jeez, this is awkward, just make the food, already.

So most of my cooking on this site is done on Meatblaster or in the as-yet-unnamed smoker, but some things call for a few minutes on the stove, and this is one of that group. This is quick, easy, and it tastes like something you would order off of a menu at a Chili's or O'Charley's at the very least. So go for it. And if you have an extremely pregnant lady around, you will make her very happy.

The Jacked Up Grill's Chicken Fettucine Alfredo
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
6-8 heads of broccoli
1/4 pound Fettucine pasta (we used Buitoni, which is in the cold food section, usually next to the cans of biscuits.......I know this section well)
1 jar Alfredo sauce (we use Bertolli 4 cheese)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

First, boneless chicken breasts are usually very thick, so wrap one in plastic wrap and beat it violently with something like a rolling pin until it is about twice its original diameter, and about 1/2 inch in thickness. This gives you more surface area for seasoning with salt and pepper, speeds the cooking time, and makes it easier to slice. Beating your proteins is a regular theme around these parts (see my post about Chicken Paillards), and it is a great technique to make better grilled food.
So pound out one chicken breast for every two people, and brush lightly with olive oil. sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on a preheated grill for about 5 minutes per side. It doesn't take long when it's this thin, so don't let it dry out!
The rest is a piece of cake......that's confusing, there's no cake. Oh crap, PregaMind probably will read this and want cake........The rest is EASY. Just heat up the alfredo sauce in a sauce pan (the two are made for each other. No irony there), and add the butter to the sauce, to make it more luscious. Boil some water, and add a good dose of salt to the water so your pasta doesn't taste like dried glue. Drop in the pasta and let it simmer until tender.
NOTE!!! When you use dry pasta, it takes a while to cook. When you use fresh pasta, like we did, from the cold food section (next to the biscuits, remember? Mmmmmm biscuits), it only takes a minute or two to cook. If it goes too long, it becomes a mush the consistency I mentally associate with zombie brains, and no one wants to eat that.
The broccoli can be cooked in any number of ways, but we simply steamed ours for a few minutes. Very easy.
Slice the chicken on the bias (which means you cut on an angle, rather than with the knife blade straight up and down).
To assemble, put down a pile of pasta, pour over the hot sauce, and top with chicken slices and broccoli pieces.

Serve hot, accompanied with a pregnancy-friendly beverage (I gave the Old Gal Diet Coke), and prepare to reap the rewards of your cooking "labor." These rewards include a significantly lower chance of having your head bitten off for changing the channel off of House Hunters International, even when football is on.

Stay tuned, Loyal Reader. We will be back to creating zany, spicy, ironic grilled food very soon. Until then....

New Baby. We are waiting. But we are getting very impatient.