Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheesy Pull Apart Bread

Oh baby. 

Baby, baby, baby.  Just stop it.  Stop it right now.

Can we talk about this real quick?  This is so good you don't even KNOW.  So you have to make this so then you can know.  Okay?  Thanks.

Those manly finger tips belong to my hubby, BTW.

The good thing about this recipe, is that there is bread, cheese, and 95 pounds of butter so just short of dumping gas on it and lighting it aflame, this will taste down right DUH-LISH.

Here are the best ingredients in the world:

Round Crusty Bread Loaf 
Italian Blend Shredded Cheese 
Butter (or use unsalted butter and 2 pinches of sea or kosher salt like me)
Dried Italian Seasoning
Fresh Chives 

Alrighty.  So.  Chop up your fresh garlic and chives.

And melt your butter over medium heat.

Add in the chives and garlic and return to the heat for 1-2 minutes and stir often to infuse the flava into the buttah.  Did I just type that?  I think I did.

I saw my mother in law Nancy do this once, and it was the downright smartest thing I have ever seen.  She cuts super crusty bread with an electric knife.  HELLO.  Genius.  I mean, can we talk about crostini?  Takes seconds.

So you want to cut it one way and then the other to make cubes.  Do not cut all the way through the bottom, you want to leave the bottom crust totally intact.

See?  This is what you want.  Awesome Blossom like.

Ok so you can eat it like this.  OR you can wait another 30 minutes or so for true paradise.  Just wait.

Pull out two pieces of foil.  Place one horizontally, one vertically.

Slowly drizzle the herb garlic love butter on top of the bread.  Move the pieces of bread around as you go so the butter gets distributed as evenly as possible.  You can also use your hands and rub the butter into the individual sides/pieces of bread.  That's what I did.  Because I really love food. Yippidy do da. gets better.

Add your dry Italian seasoning to the cheese and toss it around with your hand.

Sprinkle/push the cheese in all the nooks and crannies.

Oh bizzzzooyyyyyy.

Ok so remember how we had a piece of foil for each direction?  This is why.  Make a nice little tent.

You want to bend the foil inwards, but not over the top. Why do it this way you ask?  If you fold all of the foil around the top, the melted cheese will get stuck to the foil and - GASP - get wasted.  So we cook it like this first and then once the cheese is nice and golden brown on top and out of harms way, bend the foil over top (after the first 10-12 minutes or so).

I mean.  This is the tastiest football I have ever seen.

Get out of town. 

Can we just have a moment of silence through the next series of photos?  Thanks. 



It's still going!!  Hot damn.  Serve this for NYE, for your next football Sunday, or on Tuesday just because it's Tuesday.  And enjoy because life is good.  Every crunchy cheesy bite of it.  Stay hungry! 

Cheesy Pull Apart Bread Recipe 
1 Round Crusty Bread Loaf 
2 Cups Italian Blend Shredded Cheese 
1-1/2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter 
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped 
1/2 Tsp Dried Italian Seasoning
1 Tbs Fresh Chives, chopped 

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut cross hatches in bread to make cube shaped slices, but leave bottom crust in tact.  Melt butter over medium heat and add garlic and chives.  Stir and cook another minute or two to infuse the garlic and chives.  Drizzle butter mixture over bread as evenly as possible.  Use your hands to rub the butter into the crevasses.  Mix the dried Italian seasoning with the cheese and pack the cheese into all of the nooks and crannies. Wrap bread in foil but leave top uncovered for first 10-12 minutes of cooking until cheese is golden brown on top.  Then, cover and finish cooking for another 20 minutes or so until outside of the bread is very crisp and cheese is melted through.  This will go ridiculously fast so if you are serving more than 4 people, make two.  ENJOY! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Wedding Pennant Banner

Like owls, party banners (or pennants) seem to be all the rage lately.  I had seen them all over the blogosphere and decided to make one for Jaisa's bachelorette party.  The bachelorette party, a 4 day trip to New Orleans, took place the weekend after we moved so I knew this project needed to be simple and quick.  Using some colored cardstock, scissors, ribbon, and photos of Jaisa & Charlie, here's what I whipped up:

It was a departure from the usual bachelorette decor but Jaisa liked it so much that she had it displayed at her bridal shower & in the hotel room where we got ready for her wedding.  This was definitely one of my favorite projects of 2011 and I love how much use it got.

We've got plenty of weddings on the books for 2012... we'll see if a pennant banner makes another appearance.  Until then, stay homey!

Ginger Infused Champagne

I am a ginger nut. If I see a cocktail with ginger I will knock over you, your children, and even your freshly fried up bacon, just for a sip. 

I came across this recipe on the Food Network and thought it was such a nice idea for this time of year.

Cool, crisp, refreshing, and just a little bit sweet, this will knock your socks off.  Forget kissing at midnight, people will be getting downright married up in here.

The ingredients are quite simple.

Vodka (boom)
Fresh Ginger 
Candied Ginger (not so optional garnish)

So you want to peel your ginger and then give it a rough chop.

Throw your water, sugar, and ginger in a pan and let it simmer over low to medium heat until sugar completely dissolves.  About 7-10 minutes or so. Make sure to stir it every couple of minutes.   Then, remove from the heat and add your vodka and stir. Let the simple syrup cool completely in the fridge for 2 hours.  If you want, you can strain it.

You can chop the candied ginger, but why bother?  I think the long thin strips looked beautiful in the champagne flutes.

Lightly wet the rim of the glass with water or with a lemon wedge (I used water because I don't like to follow directions) and roll in some sugar.  Place 2-3 tablespoons of the ginger simple syrup in the bottom of your glass and then add a slice of candied ginger.  Top it all off with some dry champagne.  Go slow!  The champagne really bubbles once it hits the ginger.

You can either pat on the sugar like this...

...or roll it in the sugar like this.  I prefer option #1, but #2 looks pretty too.  Yum!  Isn't this a beautiful drink?  Stay hungry (thirsty)!

Ginger Infused Champagne Recipe 
1 Bottle Chilled Dry Champagne 
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Vodka
1/2 Fresh Ginger, chopped 
Candied Ginger 

Simmer water, sugar, and ginger in a sauce pan for 7-10 minutes, stirring often.  Once sugar has melted, remove syrup from heat and add vodka.  Let the syrup cool for 2 hours in the fridge.  Strain syrup, if desired.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of ginger syrup, a slice of candied ginger, and top with dry champagne.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things, Take One...

As much as I utilize stores like Target & Ikea for shopping, the decor from the big box stores can only get you so far - after a while, you need unique items to make your house your own. I'll be sharing a few of my beloved homey items, like the wagon wheel, in a series of posts about our favorite things. Here's the first one:

My grandfather had this print hanging in his house - nobody knows where he got it but his wife gave it to me in 2005 and it's been hanging in every kitchen I've had since. This is a print of the cover of the 1972 New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which I also own a copy of.

It needs a new frame and probably could benefit from some protective glass - as you can see, some parts of the print are fairly weathered. But I don't care… I love this jungle chef and all of her animals and this is a gift I'll cherish always.

What things do you own that are unique to your house? Let me know and stay homey!

Saffron Butter Poached Shrimp

When I was in Minnesota this weekend for Christmas, I had the pleasure of spending some good quality time with Charlie's Aunt Nancy.  We were both chit chatting in the kitchen while preparing for the big holiday bash that evening.  

Boy does that woman love and appreciate food like I do.  I just loved talking with her and trying all of her goodies (crunchy chicken bites and super awesome crab cake posts to follow).  Both of her appetizers each night were the first to go.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Aunt Nancy had just completed some time at a cooking school and she got me thinking about saffron.  The idea of saffron butter poached shrimp popped in my head and just wouldn't leave.

Sort of like me.  At a party.  When everyone else has gone home.

Lucky for you this experiment turned out tasty.

What's cool about this dish is that it can be served as a super elegant first course, or a more casual tapas style snack.  I photographed it both ways so you can see what I mean.  It's all about the presentation.

Yes please.

I have never butter poached anything in my life, but it's really quite easy.  I'll walk you through it step by step.

Here are the ingredients:

Unsalted Butter
Hot Water
Kosher Salt (not pictured) 
Tarragon & Chives (not pictured/not so optional garnish)

Saffron is bizarre.  It has this wonderfully light aroma, almost sweet and floral/grassy.  What I love most about saffron is how the color just illuminates the dishes it comes in contact with.

To pull out that rich lemony orange color, pour the hot water over the saffron threads until it's nice and bright.  I let it sit for about 15 minutes.  Give it a little stir every five minutes or so.

So when you are butter poaching something, you want to cube your butter so it allows you to add a little at a time.

You can use whatever size shrimp you like.  When I serve shrimp as a first coarse or as an appetizer, I tend to use smaller, bite size shrimp with the tail and shell removed.  That way people can dive right in without wondering what to do with the tails.

I really love garlic, but I didn't want the garlic to compete with the saffron too much.  In order to give a nice, light garlicky flavor, I just smashed two cloves with the back of my knife and left them whole like this.  If you want more garlic flavor, chop it fine so it incorporates more completely into the sauce.  Also, depending on when you add the garlic will make a difference too.  If you add the garlic to the butter sauce towards the end, that will help keep the flavor mild.

Ok, so, once the saffron has infused the water, pour your water into a sauce pan that will be just big enough to hold the shrimp/butter, but gives you room to stir everything around.  I would recommend a 4 qt sauce pan for this.  I left most of the threads out, because I really just wanted the flavor and color of the saffron, not the threads.

Heat your saffron water up over medium heat.  Once it starts to barely simmer, add a pat of butter and whisk whisk whisk.  The trick to making a beautiful fluffy butter sauce is to emulsify the butter into the water.  Once you have one pat emulsified through, add two more pats and keep repeating.  You should be whisking the entire time.

I love using lemon zest when I can.  I wanted some bright citrus notes to the sauce so I zested some up.

Now try your sauce.  Mine needed some salt since I used unsalted butter, so I added a few pinches of sea salt.  Kosher salt will do just fine.

Add all of your shrimp to the sauce pan.

Keep stirring over medium heat until shrimp is fully cooked, about 8-12 minutes. 

I tried the shrimp and it needed some more acid.  The butter sauce lightens right up with a couple squeezes of lemon juice. 

I didn't even include the tarragon and chives in the ingredients shot because I thought this would be an optional garnish.  I could not have been more wrong.  The fresh tarragon and chives transformed the dish.  In fact, I will never make this dish again without these herbs.   Bright, savory, licoricey, and fresh, this was exactly what the dish needed.

The broth/sauce is unreal.  Dip some rustic, crunchy bread in or even top it with some shrimp.  Poaching the shrimp like this makes them so tender and sweet and adds this incredible flavor to the sauce.  Droolapalooza. 

If you want to serve them as an appetizer, pile them up in a large bowl and serve with toothpicks with some bread on the side.   

If you want to serve it as a first course instead, get a large bowl and pile a few pieces of shrimp in the middle.  Then, ladle the sauce around it and serve with a large piece of crostini.  Outstanding and so impressive!  We'd love to know what you think about this!  Stay hungry! 

Saffron Butter Poached Shrimp 
1 lb of Raw Shrimp
2 Pinches of Saffron
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Cut into 8 Cubes 
3 Tbs of Hot Water 
2 Cloves Garlic 
1 Lemon, zest and juice
2 Pinches Sea or Kosher Salt 
1 Tbs Fresh Tarragon, Finely Chopped 
1 Tbs Fresh Chives, Finely Chopped 

Pour hot water over saffron threads and steep for 15-20 minutes or so.  Pour water into a 4 quart sauce pan (or something equivalent) and heat over medium until it just begins to simmer.  Add first cube of butter and whisk continuously until butter is completely emulsified in the water.  Add two more cubes and repeat.  Keep repeating this process, whisking the entire time, until all of butter is emulsified.  Add kosher or sea salt.  If using regular butter, taste before seasoning with salt.  Smash garlic with back of your knife and add to the butter sauce along with zest from lemon, about a teaspoon or so.  Add shrimp to butter and gently stir over medium heat until shrimp is cooked through, about 8-12 minutes.  Gently squeeze the juice from lemon, about 1-2 tablespoons worth or until desired taste is achieved.  Finish shrimp with fresh tarragon and chives and serve with rustic, crusty bread.  Enjoy!