Monday, April 29, 2019

Sullivan's Steakhouse

Mr Minx and I generally aren't steakhouse people, but we do like a good chunk of meat on occasion. When we received an invitation to try Sullivan's Steakhouse, we immediately said yes.

We started our meal with the lump crab cake appetizer. Don't expect a Maryland-style cake at Sullivan's. Theirs contains bell pepper and is breaded with panko. But it's moist and lumpy, and the crisp crust is a nice addition to a familiar dish.

The lobster and shrimp bisque is a must-try. It has a deeply-flavored shellfish stock base, with a hint of tomato. There's not much in the way of actual chunks of lobster in the soup, but the ones we found were very tender.

Mr Minx went for the 22-ounce cowboy rib eye, and I had the roasted rack of lamb. The steak was a bit shy of medium rare, tender, with a nicely seasoned crust. The chops were a little over mid-rare, but still juicy, and bathed in a lovely, slightly sweet grain mustard/rosemary glaze with a hint of mint.

We also had the classic steakhouse sides of creamed spinach and white cheddar and bacon au gratin potatoes. Both were impeccable. (I can eat creamed spinach all day.)

For dessert, we had the Chocolate Meltdown: a flourless chocolate torte topped with chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries and concealed by chocolate dome. At tableside, the server pours hot chocolate sauce over the dome, which melts it and reveals the treat inside. Generally, this is an Instagrammable moment, but our hot chocolate sauce was too thick and lumpy to pour properly, and the end result was a big chocolate mess on the plate. Not too pretty, but it tasted great, which of course is the most important thing, right?

In addition to their regular deliciousness, Sullivan's is bringing back Prime Rib Sundays. Every Sunday starting at 4pm, guests can dine on 12- or 16-ounce portions of hand-carved prime rib served with garlic horseradish mashed potatoes and a selection of Sullivan's signature sides.

Note: Several Inner Harbor-area restaurants have closed in the last year, some blaming it on crime. The real crime is the cost of parking. Parking in downtown Baltimore is shamefully expensive. Up to 2 hours can cost $24! That's no way to attract local diners. Pro tip: use a parking app, like Parkopedia. I found a garage that offered 3 hours for $9, and it was around the corner from the restaurant (1 West Pratt garage). Do your wallet a favor and try reserving your space in advance.

Sullivan's Steakhouse
1 E Pratt St Ste 102,
Baltimore, MD 21202

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Flashback Friday - Sausage and Peppers Lasagna

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This post originally appeared on on April 11, 2014.

Have you ever gone to the grocery store, seen a random ingredient, and then come up with a completely weird dish in which to put it? For instance, have you picked up a bulb of fennel and thought, "I'm going to make lasagna?"

I have. Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either. Fennel isn't exactly a typical lasagna filling. And of course fennel alone might be a bit strange, so I decided it needed to be combined with sweet Italian sausage (which is flavored with fennel) and roasted red peppers. Why not? Why does lasagna have to be made with the same traditional ingredients every time? Ok, because it is delicious that way, but it can be delicious with other ingredients, too. Like sausage and peppers and fennel. (Oh my!)

I picked up a package of Giovanni Rana brand fresh pasta sheets on that same grocery store excursion. The fresh stuff cuts out the whole messy step of precooking dry pasta and carefully separating out the individual noodles so they won't stick together when they cool. I won't use the no-boil kind; they require far too much sauce and make for a lasagna that seems drowned. And while a besciamella (béchamel sauce) may be more traditional, I like to use ricotta cheese mixed with a bit of Parmesan to make my lasagna nice and creamy.

Really, I think anything goes in a lasagna, as long as there's plenty of cheese.

The result of my madness was actually pretty great. The fennel married nicely with the sausage, and even though the ingredients were non-traditional, it still tasted like lasagna.

This recipe makes a ton. Enough for 10 normal people.

Sausage, Pepper, and Fennel Lasagna

1 lb mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bulb fennel, sliced thinly
1 12-oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on their size and how much you like garlic, crushed
24 ounces of your favorite marinara, homemade or jarred, 1 cup reserved
generous pinch red pepper flakes
generous pinch of fennel seeds, crushed lightly
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces fresh lasagna noodles (NOT the dry "oven-ready" noodles)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Put a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage meat from its casings and add to the pan, breaking it up into smaller pieces with the end of a spatula. When the sausage starts to let off some of its fat, add the onion. Stir occasionally, continuing to break up the sausage into smaller pieces, until the onion is translucent and sausage is mostly cooked through and browned. Add the fennel, roasted peppers, and garlic, stirring to combine. Pour in the sauce (except the reserved cupful) and add the red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat down to low. Cover pan. Cook until meat is tender and sauce is somewhat reduced, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

Combine ricotta and Parmesan in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Put a few spoonfuls of the reserved sauce on the bottom of the pan, then cover with a layer of pasta. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the pasta. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out chunky bits of sausage and vegetables from the sauce and layer these on top of the ricotta. Lightly sprinkle with some of the mozzarella cheese. Top with another layer of pasta, the remaining ricotta cheese, more chunky bits, and a bit more mozzarella. Add the final layer of pasta, a layer of sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes until bubbling and browned.

While the lasagna is baking, reheat the rest of the reserved sauce (combined with any leftover sausage/fennel sauce) to use at the table if the lasagna seems dry.

Allow the lasagna to rest about 10 minutes before cutting into servings.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Blood Orange Manhattan

Fabrizia's blood orange limoncello is as delicious as its lemon version, only, you know, orange-flavored. It's a great post-dinner sipper, and can also be used in recipes, like the one for limoncello balls posted here the other week. Of course, it also works well as an addition to a cocktail, as in this simple blood orange Manhattan. It's light and orange-y, not too sweet, and perfect for warm weather.

Blood Orange Manhattan

2 parts Bourbon
1 part Fabrizia Blood Orange Limoncello
a few dashes blood orange bitters
Fancy cherry (or a regular Maraschino) and blood orange slice for garnish

Stir together the bourbon and limoncello and add a few dashes of bitters. Pour into two lowball glasses with ice. Garnish with the cherry and blood orange slice.

Easy peasy, light, and delicious.

* Fabrizia Spirits sent us product and compensated us for this post. However, the opinions within are our own.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Flashback Friday - Maple Bacon Baked Donuts

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This post originally appeared on on April 28, 2014.

A few months back, I received a cookbook to review. It was full of gluten-free donut recipes, and I wanted to try at least one before I said anything about the book. But each recipe called for several ingredients that we didn't normally have on hand, and it took a while to compile them all. Eventually, everything was in the larder and we were eager to eat some delicious, home-made donuts.

I whipped up a batch for breakfast one day. They looked really pretty, but they were horrible. Dry and flavorless, despite the insane amount of vanilla in them. What a disappointment. (Celiacs, you have my sincere sympathy.)

So now we had these special donut pans that were taking up precious room in the one small cabinet that we use for baking sheets and muffin and cake pans. I had to use them again (and again), but this time, we were going to skip the gluten-free business and going straight for the good stuff: wheat flour. Real sugar. Butter. Forget the applesauce (every damn recipe in that book had a minuscule amount of applesauce in it). An Internet search revealed a recipe for relatively plain baked donuts flavored with nutmeg and I decided to use it as my base. The nutmeg is key in this recipe--it's what makes the donuts taste like donuts. And since we had a few slices of bacon left over from dinner the night before, I sprinkled them on top, with a layer of maple syrup-flavored glaze in between.

Oh so good!

Ok, so while baked donuts aren't exactly like the fried kind, they are pretty damn delicious. The texture is somewhere between a honey dip and a madeleine. Spongy, but not spongecake. Not at all like a cupcake. I'd love to find a recipe for a denser, cake-donut-type baked donut, but I'm pretty happy to eat these until I find one.

Maple Bacon Baked Donuts (adapted from Joy the Baker)

For donuts:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Splash vanilla
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 slices bacon, chopped

To make donuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 6-well doughnut pans and set aside. (I use this one by Wilton.)

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, and vanilla together. Add melted butter and whisk again. Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir together just until everything is combined and no flour bits remain.

Spoon batter into a small zip-top bag, Squeeze out as much air as possible without squeezing the bag too much and seal. Use scissors to cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag. Pipe batter into as many donut wells as you can fill halfway. If you're using the Wilton pan linked above, you should be able to fill all twelve. Don't overfill, otherwise the donuts will rise too much and the holes will close.

Place pans in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pans to a rack and allow to cool completely before unmolding donuts.

While the doughnuts cool, make the glaze.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and cream until smooth.

Once the doughnuts are cool, dip top-side-down into the glaze. Return to the wire rack and sprinkle with bacon. Eat immediately, or, if you want to put a couple away, wait until the glaze has set and wrap each donut separately in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Fogo de Chao Adds New Items For Spring

For serious meat lovers, Brazilian steakhouses like Fogo de Chao are sheer nirvana. One can simply sit at the table while waiters arrive with skewers of various grilled meats. For one set price, meat lovers can gorge on steak, pork, chicken, and lamb in all varieties until they cannot eat another bite. Fogo is also good for people on low-carb diets as, in addition to all the meats, they offer a huge self-serve bar full of vegetables and salads.

When the warmer weather sets in, some might feel that a meal heavy in proteins might be too rich for the rising temperatures. However, Fogo is introducing seven new items for Spring with lighter cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, and a new tribute wine. The Minx and I were recently invited to try out these new menu items.

I started out with their new Blood Orange Manhattan. Buffalo Trace Bourbon is mixed with a splash of Carpano Antica and dashes of blood orange and angostura bitters, then served over rocks. While it did remind me a bit of a Manhattan, this cocktail had a bright citrus touch.

Fogo has also unveiled “Eulila,” a red wine blend that pays tribute to Eulila “Selma” Oliveira, Chief Culture Officer of Fogo de Chão. She was born and raised in Brazil, but moved to the United States in 1985, determined to achieve the American dream. Following a chance encounter with the founders of Fogo de Chão while in Dallas, Oliveira joined the company as the brand’s first female manager and, ultimately, executive. Oliveira is affectionately known as the Fogo matriarch; the wine was named in her honor for her unwavering affection, passion, and appreciation for every restaurant guest and team member.

Specially created for Fogo by the award-winning winemakers at Viña Vik, Eulila the wine is a blend of 48% Carmenere, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 22% Syrah. Carmenere is a new varietal to me, its fruitiness balanced nicely by the Cabernet and the Syrah. Though full-bodied, Eulila is not particularly tannic and pairs well with Fogo's meat selections.

Now it was time to get to the food. The Minx and I started with Fogo's new Carrot & Ginger Soup. This light, vegetarian friendly, gluten-free soup is made with baby carrots and spicy ginger, blended together with fresh herbs and coconut milk.

Although Fogo is known for its grilled meats, they also offer several seafood options. We decided to order one of our favorites - the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. Jumbo shrimp are served in a huge bowl of ice and paired with a malagueta cocktail sauce. In the background of the picture, you can also see ttheminx's go-to cocktail, the Strawberry Hibiscus Caipirinha. The hibiscus-infused cachaça is mixed with muddled strawberries and lime to create a refreshing warm weather drink.

Before we started in with the meat, we visited the bar for our vegetables. The Roasted Cauliflower Salad is made of cauliflower that has been oven-roasted with olive oil, garlic, and black pepper, and finished off with scallions and sesame seeds. The Brazilian Kale & Orange Salad is composed of fresh kale, crunchy red onion, juicy oranges, and is topped with a citrus-honey vinaigrette. I also picked up some asparagus, green beans, hearts of palm, and potato salad, but the Market Table has so many more fruits and vegetables to choose from.

With the preliminaries out of the way, we were ready for the meat. We flipped over our cards from red to green, notifying the waiters that they could come over with their skewered of grilled goodness. The Pork Picanha is butchered and prepared with the same simple style as traditional Picanha, then carved right at the table. I was particularly impressed with the spicy Linguica Sausage, a pork sausage with red pepper, garlic,and fresh onion. I also had to partake of the beautifully cooked sirloin. All the meats were tender and juicy. (Also featured in the above photo is a beautifully pink chunk of rib eye.)

Fogo has also created a new dessert for Spring, the Crème de Coconut. Freshly-shredded coconut is combined with condensed milk and cream, baked in the oven, and then served warm with ice cream and a little lime zest. I'm usually not a fan of shredded coconut, but the incredible coconut flavor made me overlook the chewiness that I normally dislike. Also, the ice cream and lime zest provide a refreshing coolness to the dessert.

Fogo de Chao has always been a great place for meat-atarians, but they also have a lengthy menu of options for everyone's palate. If you have been debating about visiting Fogo de Chao, these new Spring items are worth checking out.

Fogo de Chao
600 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 528-9292

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Flashback Friday - Rice Salad with Chinese Sausage and Roasted Broccoli

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This post originally appeared on on April 30, 2014.

Have you ever read a food magazine and felt the urge to cook one of the recipes RIGHT NOW? As in, drop the magazine and run to the kitchen immediately? I had that feeling when I spotted the recipe for savory granola in the April 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. I had just turned the oven off 10 minutes earlier after removing a tray of roasted broccoli and knew I wouldn't have to wait for the thing to pre-heat (it takes forever, which can be a real buzz-kill during a cooking frenzy). We had most of the ingredients--old fashioned oats, walnuts, sesame seeds, fennel, seeds--and I substituted for a couple others (pumpkin seeds in place of sunflower seeds, skipped the pistachios entirely). I mixed up the ingredients pronto and banged them into the hot oven.

Now you must recall that I had just roasted broccoli. At 450°F. So the oven was a wee bit hotter than it needed to be, hence the charred appearance of my salad topping (some of the black bits are black sesame seeds though). No matter, even slightly burnt, the granola was AMAZING. It took all of my willpower not to shove handfuls of it into my face hole. The combination of nuts + fennel seeds is delicious and I wish I had thought of it myself.

Rather than eating all of it right then and there (it makes about 3 cups), I decided to use it as a component in the dinner I was preparing--cold rice salad with Chinese sausage and a peanut butter vinaigrette. Oh, and roasted broccoli.

I wanted the salad to have a peanut sauce flavor, but not a standard sweet peanut sauce. Instead, I made it ultra vinegary, using both rice wine and Chinese black vinegar (also called Chinkiang vinegar). Chinese black vinegar is, as Isaac Mizrahi is fond of saying, EVERYTHING, Darlings. It's mellow, malty, and woodsy, with a burnt caramel aspect. If you're a vinegar fan (and I know not everyone is...weirdos), then you have to try it. I then added a bit of agave syrup, soy, and sambal oelek for heat. (We use Huy Fong brand, the company that makes the ever popular "rooster sauce" sriracha. Oelek is different in that it's just crushed chiles in vinegar and salt, no garlic or sugar.) It was perfect on plain steamed rice garnished with Chinese sausage and scallions.

I tossed the broccoli into the salad after the sauce was added, because I didn't want the broccoli to have soggy florets. And then I sprinkled a bit of the granola on each serving.

So. Good. I need to make this again very soon.

Rice Salad with Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli:
3 broccoli crowns
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt

Peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
5 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1/4 teaspoon salt

To assemble salad:
3 cups cooked, room-temperature rice (Jasmine is nice, or basmati)
3 Chinese pork sausages, sliced into coins, lightly fried, and drained on paper towels
1/2 cup julienned carrots
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

Savory granola (optional, but delicious)

To make broccoli: Preheat oven to 450°F.

Remove thick stem from each broccoli crown. Break the floret into small pieces. Cut the stem into lengthwise slices. Toss both florets and stems with olive oil and salt and arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning broccoli halfway, until tender and browning in spots. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make peanut sauce: In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning--it should be vinegary, lightly salty, and lightly spicy. Add more salt and sambal if you wish.

To assemble salad: Using a fork, stir rice into prepared peanut sauce until well-coated. Add the sausages, carrots, and scallions and toss to combine.

Serve at room temperature with a helping of broccoli and a sprinkle of the savory granola.

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Monday, April 08, 2019

Limoncello Balls

When I was approached by Fabrizia Spirits to promote their limoncello products, I jumped at the chance. For one thing, I love limoncello. For another, booze! And while limoncello is a fine drink all on its own (particularly after dinner, in place of dessert), it's also an excellent spirit for cooking. And for drinking while cooking.

I've tried many limoncellos in my day, and Fabrizia is among the very best. It's light, not super sweet, and very smooth. Their limoncello cream, too, is excellent, as is their blood orange limoncello. Mr Minx and I had fun tasting and re-tasting each spirit, which inspired us to create some recipes for each.

The first, using the regular limoncello, is a riff on a bourbon (or rum) ball. For the uninitiated, they are somewhat like tiny adult cakepops, minus the stick and icing. Bourbon balls can pack a real boozy wallop, but a lower-alcohol drink like the Fabrizia limoncello (27% abv) makes the end product a lot milder. And easier to eat!

Limoncello Balls
Folks who like lemon bars will love these tiny treats!

12 ounces vanilla wafers, finely crushed
1 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Scant 1/2 cup Fabrizia limoncello
2 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Finely ground zest of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar, for dredging

Combine the cookie crumbs, almonds, and 3/4 cup powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the limoncello, corn syrup, and zest and stir well. Allow the mixture to sit for about an hour to allow the cookie crumbs to soften.

Place 1 cup of powdered sugar in a bowl.

Knead the crumb mixture a bit with your hands to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Form small balls and roll in the bowl of powdered sugar to coat evenly.

Store completed balls in a covered container in the fridge.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. This is a paid promotion, however, all opinions are my own.

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