Monday, January 28, 2019

Hot Stuff for Your Super Bowl Wings

According to a story in USA Today, Americans eat 1.35 BILLION chicken wings on Super Bowl weekend. And that insane number of hot chicken parts needs an insane amount of hot sauce to flavor them. If you're like me and prefer to make your wings at home rather than consume them at whatever purveyor of alcoholic beverages you plan to visit in order to watch the Big Game, you might be interested in a few of the hot sauces I've encountered recently. Unless of course you're a wimp and like your wings sans sauce. :)

First up is the Harissa Hot Sauce from Moore's Marinades & Sauces. While the sauce is hot and garlicky with a North African flair from harissa spices, it's not a radical change from a classic Buffalo wing flavor once you mix some up with a good dose of melted butter. In other words, celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing are still a perfect match for wings made with this sauce. But if you wanted to switch things up, you could make your dressing with feta cheese instead of bleu. And if you want to go a different direction entirely, swap out the chicken wings for lamb sliders and top them with a dose of Moore's Harissa hot sauce (and the feta cheese sauce, too). Yum.

Moore's also makes a Spicy Mustard hot sauce, and both Jalapeno and Habanero sauces, plus a whole line of ready-to-eat wing sauces and marinades. Find them at various supermarkets including Giant and Weis.

Then we have Marion's Kitchen Coconut Sriracha and Coconut Sweet Chili Sauces. The Coconut Sriracha is fiery, like regular sriracha, but with the added creaminess of coconut. Never fear, the coconut doesn't do anything to ease the heat--the sauce is still pretty damn spicy. The Coconut Sweet Chili is like the chili sauce dip that comes with spring rolls in a Thai restaurant, again with the addition of coconut. It's not nearly as hot as the sriracha, but it does have a kick. If you don't want to set your mouth on fire, you can blend the two. I want to say that the coconut gives it a sweet heat, but that's like saying a summer day in Arizona is more pleasant than a summer day in Baltimore. It may be a dry heat, but it's still HOT.

Marion's Kitchen also has a line of marinades, stir fry sauces, meal kits, and coconut milk, all starring Asian flavors like ginger, lemongrass, lime, and of course, chiles. I have the marinades at home, too, and will be experimenting with them in the future. I'll be sure to post the happy results here.

In Maryland, you can buy Marion's Kitchen products at Sprouts, Wegman's, and select Walmart stores. Check the store locator for details.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Flashback Friday - Pumpkin Seed Brittle

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on January 20, 2014.


In 2012, I made caramels for the first time; they turned out so well, I promised myself I'd try other candies in 2013. I don't know why I drive myself so crazy with making holiday treats, but I do (especially considering how few gift recipients I have). I'm sure cookies and fruitcake would suffice, but even more sweet stuff is better, right? Fudge! Brown sugar caramels! Mini chocolate orange loaf cakes! Bacon jam! And pumpkin seed brittle!

Why pumpkin seeds? Because my dear brother has nut allergies, but can eat seeds. I searched the Interwebs for a fairly simple recipe and came up with this one at Food 52. I didn't have enough allspice on hand, so rewrote the recipe using the amount I used. I also added a bit of cayenne pepper, for a nice kick.

A few days after Christmas, my Dad called and said, "What is this stuff I am eating? It's crunchy and spicy and like heaven in my mouth!" So apparently my alterations were a hit with the parental unit. I thought it was pretty fabulous, myself.

If you try it, don't skimp on the salt.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle (adapted from Food 52)

1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
Kosher or sea salt

Pour the pumpkin seeds into a dry skillet. Turn the heat on to medium-high and toast seeds, shaking pan frequently, until seeds have started to turn from greenish to brownish and are plump. Remove from heat and pour seeds on a plate to cool.

Measure out the spices and toss with cooled pumpkin seeds.

Combine butter, sugar, and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, boil mixture until it reaches 280°F. Carefully pour in seeds and spices and stir. The mixture may clump up a bit but keep stirring until it smooths out. Continue cooking over medium heat until the thermometer reads 300°F. If the mixture smells like it's burning before it reaches 300°, remove from heat anyway.

Once the candy has reached 300° (or smells like its burning!), pour onto a Silpat-covered cookie sheet and spread out to a thickness of about 1/8" - 1/4". Sprinkle with sea salt while it's still warm.

When completely cook, break into pieces. Store at room temperature in tightly covered containers for a week or two.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Raw Spice Bar

Though I live in the hometown of one of the biggest spice producers in the world, I find myself buying spices online far more often than I buy them in the supermarket. It's not that I don't trust the supermarket brands--I have never had an issue with any of them--it's that I really have no idea how long those spices have been hanging around the store. Especially more exotic items, like star anise or garam masala. How often does the average Giant/Safeway/ShopRite/Wegman's shopper buy something like that, and how often does the store replenish its stock?

There are several really good spice shops online, and I've tried them all. Each has products not available at the others. Some shops have really wide ranges of seasonings, while other shops carry what might be considered more specialty items. RawSpiceBar is in the latter category. While they do sell things that just about everyone has in their spice rack--granulated garlic, cumin, ginger, peppercorns--they also have the more esoteric grains of paradise (a member of the ginger family that's like a citrusy black pepper), sansho peppers (a Japanese cousin of Sichuan peppercorns), and asafoetida (a stinky resin used as a substitute for garlic and onions in some Indian dishes). RawSpiceBar specializes in spice blends, and as with the individual spices, they have both the familiar (poultry seasoning, herbes de Provence, taco seasoning) and the exotic (Ethiopian berbere, Turkish baharat, Indian chaat masala). Rather than use larger jars, RawSpiceBar sells their freshly toasted and ground spices in 1-ounce containers (about 2 tablespoons). With their subscription service, customers can choose to have their supply replenished in 1, 3, or 6 month intervals, so they never really run out, yet the spices are fresh every time.

When RawSpiceBar approached me with samples in exchange for writing about them, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try another source for seasonings. I was especially interested in the more oddball spice blends, but was happy to take whatever they sent. To be honest, I was a little disappointed to receive a package of apple pie spices. I mean, how interesting is cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice? Not very. But RawSpiceBar's version of this blend also contains green cardamom, ginger, star anise, grains of paradise, and rosemary. It's a blend that definitely kicks the milquetoast ass of supermarket apple pie spices. It's bold. It's spicy. And it goes fabulously with apple, as I found when I used it in a simple apple tart. But it also works with pumpkin. I made a quick pumpkin butter with leftover canned pumpkin, brown sugar, and a big pinch of RawSpiceBar apple pie spices and pretty much ate the butter straight from the jar with a big spoon.

Thanks to RawSpiceBar for introducing themselves to my pantry. I have a couple more samples that I will be playing with in the future, and then I'm going to order myself some fancy stuff like French vadouvan, Persian advieh, and Japanese curry powder. Yum.

Spicy Apple Tart

4 large apples (I have found that Cortland are especially tasty in tarts, but use your favorite)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Raw Spice Bar apple pie spices
1/4 cup sugar
1 refrigerated pie crust
Apricot jam

Peel the apples and cut them into quarters. Slice off the core bit and cut each quarter into 4-5 slices. Put in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, spices, and sugar.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place the crust into a 10" or 11" tart pan with removable bottom, gently pushing the dough to fill the corrugated sides. Trim excess pastry flush with the top of the pan. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles within the pastry, making sure to fill in all the gaps with other apple slices. It doesn't have to look neat or perfect; it will still be beautiful.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the apples have started to brown and the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow the tart to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Warm a few tablespoons of apricot jam in the microwave until it's more liquidy. Brush a thin coating of it over the cooled tart.

Serve warm, room temperature, or slightly chilled. Whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream are fine accompaniments.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Flashback Friday - Smoky Joes

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on January 8, 2014. Might make a good playoff snack.


I decided one Sunday to throw together a pan of sloppy joe to eat during football. I didn't want to make the same old same old, so I poked around in the fridge for ideas. There, I found a jar of roasted red peppers, a container of chipotles en adobo, and a jar of freshly-made pumpkin butter.

Yes, pumpkin butter. The stuff has a lot of the same spices as ketchup--cinnamon, ginger, cloves--and it also contains an actual vegetable and no high fructose corn syrup. It also lacked a certain tangy-ness, which I remedied with a bit of cider vinegar. Mr Minx was skeptical when I told him of my brilliant idea to use pumpkin butter in our dinner, but after I mixed a bit of vinegar into it and gave him a taste, he was a believer.

Not only did I want to use the pumpkin butter, but I also wanted the sloppy joe to have a pronounced smokiness. I stopped short of cooking the meat in my stovetop smoker, but added all of the smoky-flavored ingredients I had on hand, apart from liquid smoke (which might have taken it over the edge), plus the usual Worcestershire and mustard flavors. The result was rich and sweet, but not overly so, with a smoky edge.

While the sloppy joe was delicious the day it was made, it was even better a few days later.

Smokey Joes

1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1-2 chipotles en adobo, finely minced (depending on your tolerance for heat)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground pasilla negro (optional)
3/4 cup chicken stock, plus additional
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (optional)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced

Make the sauce: Combine the pumpkin butter, chipotle, vinegar, tomato paste, Dijon, and Worcestershire sauce in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the paprika and ground pasilla and slowly stir in the chicken stock. Stir in the smoked salt, if you have it, and taste the sauce for seasoning. If it needs sweetening to your taste, add some or all of the agave syrup. Bring sauce to a simmer, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, start cooking the onion in a separate pan over medium heat with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt. When onion is translucent, add the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cooking until no longer pink. Add the garlic and the roasted pepper.

Pour in the prepared sauce. Stir well to combine. Add additional chicken stock if the mixture seems dry. Bring mixture to a simmer, then turn heat to low. Cook for 30-45 minutes, until beef is tender, adding more stock if necessary and skimming off any fat that rises to the top. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Serve on your favorite rolls, buns, or toast.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Pat's Select Pizza Grill

Any place that serves good pizza and is within reasonable driving distance is going to become one of our regular dining destinations. Add a selection of salads, pastas, sandwiches, and wings (in the rare case that one of us doesn't want pizza), and we have Pat's Select.

Pat's is a small regional chain out of South Jersey that has so far branched into Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The Cockeysville outpost, which is closest to us, opened in the second half of 2018. On our first visit, Mr Minx and I were treated to a selection of Pat's most popular options, which included the margherita pizza, cheesesteak roll-ups, and wings. We were also urged to order whatever else from the menu we wanted to try, so we opted for a wrap and a pasta dish.

The cheesesteak roll-ups, from the appetizer selection of the rather voluminous menu, consist of flour tortillas filled with sliced steak and melted cheese and come with a creamy horseradish dipping sauce. They were hot and tasty and good for sharing. Pat's wings come in both bone-in and boneless varieties and can be tossed with any of six sauces of varying heat levels, or naked. We went for the "blazing bourbon," which provided just the right amount of sweet heat.

Pat's pizzas are long, rather than round, but there is a thick crust round pizza available. All are baked in a blazing brick oven visible from the dining room. There are two sizes, the 15" x 7" being more than enough for two people and the 24" x 11" being, well, gigantic. There are all the usual toppings, but also specialty pizzas with pulled pork or buffalo chicken and bleu cheese. We had the margherita, a simple affair of fresh mozz, good sauce, and extremely fragrant basil on Pat's light crispy crust. Mr Minx and I are fussy about pizza. We like what we like, and we hate everything else. There's a lot of mediocre pizza out there, and about as much bad pizza. Pat's is good pizza, however, which means we'll be going back. Possibly often. They also have strombolis, and two oven baked sandwiches, one involving chicken parm, and the other, meatballs.

We tried Pat's meatballs atop a mountain of spaghetti baked with marinara and cheese. Honestly, we didn't really notice how much pasta was in the bowl until we took the leftovers home and had them for dinner the next day. Mr Minx can eat a LOT of pasta, and there was enough left over that he was able to share it with me. But back to those meatballs...they were very nice. Not too soft, not too cheesy, but just right. They'd be great in that oven baked meatball sandwich I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and I do intend to try that in the future.

Last but not least, we tried the Sriracha shrimp wrap, a flavorful combination of breaded and fried shrimp with avocado, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and sriracha aioli. I'd eat that again. However, there's a ton of other stuff on the menu to try first. They have crab cakes! They have many many salads, burgers, steak sandwiches, other wraps, more pasta, fries, even gyros. It'll be a while before we can say we've tasted something from every major category on the menu. I'm thinking that will be a fun endeavor.

Pat's Select Pizza Grill
10151 York Rd
Cockeysville, MD 21030
(410) 683-2000

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Friday, January 11, 2019

ShopRite Panettone

Have you ever tried Panettone? It's an Italian brioche-like enriched bread usually studded with dried fruit and nuts and traditionally served around Christmas and the new year. It's great sliced and eaten with a cup of tea, or used as a bread component in things like French toast or a grilled cheese sandwich. I love Panettone and usually buy a small one around the holidays, so when I was contacted by ShopRite and offered a sample of the panettone from their new ShopRite Trading Company line of premium artisanal foods inspired by world cuisines, I of course said yes.

Though I have to admit I'm not a fan of raisins, and the panettone from ShopRite Trading Company was loaded with the little buggers, I still enjoyed it. The raisins were so soft and juicy, and the bread was pillowy and light, with that special citrus/vanilla flavor that panettones usually have.

A big slice of the bread made a great, filling, French toast breakfast on the day after Christmas, when carbs were appreciated.

Even better was the moist bread pudding we made with the second half of the loaf. It was originally intended as party food, but both Mr Minx and I were too sick to leave the house to attend said party. I felt bad for the folks that made it to the party, because they missed out! I modified a recipe I found on the 'net and have to say that it turned out very well.

The recipe follows, if you're interested in turning your leftover panetonne into a nice dessert. (Or breakfast, if you're so inclined.)

Panettone Bread Pudding (inspired by David Lebovitz, who was inspired by Rolando Beremendi)

1/2 cup of dried fruit (other than raisins) of your choice. I used diced apricots, cranberries, and tart cherries
1/4 cup bourbon or rum
Half a ShopRite Trading Company Panettone, cut into cubes (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Put the dried fruit in a saucepan with the bourbon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the booze starts bubbling, put a lid on the pan and turn off the heat. The fruit should soak up the alcohol in a few minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put the panettone cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned on all sides, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a toaster oven, don't cube the bread but cut it crosswise into large slices and toast them one at a time until lightly browned.

Melt the butter in a 8" square baking pan on the stovetop and add the brown sugar. Stir the sugar until it's moistened with the butter and spread it along the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put half the toasted panettone in the pan on top of the brown sugar mixture. Add half the bourbon-soaked dried fruit. Repeat layers.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt together in a bowl until well combined and pour over the panettone. Press down to make sure all of the bread cubes are covered with custard.

Place the pan into a water bath. I used a larger baking pan and filled it with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the panettone pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the pudding feels set but not dry. Remove from the water bath and cool on a rack for at least half a hour.

Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the pudding. Put a serving plate upside down over the pan, then invert them both together. Remove the baking pan. The pudding should have a glistening sauce of caramel on top, like an upside down cake, minus the fruit. If any sauce remains in the baking pan, spoon it over the pudding.

Cut into squares to serve. It's nice with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream, or even a glug of unwhipped heavy cream.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

Best of 2018, part 2

We had as much good food at home in 2018 than in restaurants. Probably more, TBH.

I made profiteroles for Valentine's Day. Yes, they were amazing.

Perhaps my favorite salad of all time came from Emeril's in Orlando. The dressing is made with sausage drippings, and it's super easy to recreate at home.

Peppers can be stuffed with anything. Like Kung Pao turkey.

Who knew that beef stock, coconut milk, and Dijon mustard made an extremely reasonable facsimile of gravy for Swedish meatballs? When one can't have either cream or flour (Whole30 diet), one has to do what one has to do. And I'd do this again even if we weren't dieting.

It's nice to find leftovers in the freezer, like this lasagna made several months earlier.

When ShopRite has a sale on lobster, that means lobster rolls at home, especially when they also sell properly top-split hot dog rolls (Pepperidge Farm).

2018 was the year that we started making pasta at home. It didn't always turn out pretty, but it was still tender and delicious. This particularly uneven pappardelle was served with a lemon feta sauce and wee meatballs.

Neal's birthday cake this year was the usual chocolate, made in a fancy new bundt pan, with homemade green tea ice cream on the side. If you've never tried that combination, you're missing out.

We were introduced to Hu Kitchens chocolate in 2018 and found that it was not only good for out-of-hand eating, but also for making some of the best gigantic chocolate chip cookies ever.

I try to make ice cream at least a couple of times in the summer. This one, a home version of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, was well worth the effort.

One of the few things I can eat on a regular basis without getting bored is an over-easy egg sandwich. My new thing is putting Urfa Biber, a Turkish chile pepper, on the egg to add a hint of heat.

Neal made this pretty apple galette with Cortland apples, which I think worked very well. The apple flavor seemed more complex to me than other apple varieties we've tried in the past.

I make pretty fine chili, if I do say so myself. This was no exception.

It's not difficult to make Chinese dumplings at home, and they're delicious to boot. Make enough to freeze for future noshing.

Neal's homemade gumbo is always aces. This one was totally from scratch, but he also made one earlier in the year with the carcass of a smoked tea duck and leftover fried chicken, and it was one of the best things I've ever eaten.

This burger, made with meat from Mighty Spark, was the best home-made burger I've ever had, hand's down.

Neal's pasta carbonara was fab.

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