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All posts for the month May, 2010

Pork TenderloinI love slow cooked, chiapas style pork, but I don’t always have 4 hours to wait for dinner.  That’s when I turn to

Mexican Pork Tenderloin

Tenderloin is such a great ingredient because it cooks quickly, but it tastes great.  You can use it in so many wonderful dishes…like this one.

I was actually really surprised at how cheap I can find pork tenderloin in the store.  We were able to buy two-packs of them from the store for about $3.50 a pound.  That meant we had enough pork for two meals for about $12-13.  That was a real shocker given how expensive beef tenderloin.  All in all, not bad.

Not bad at all.

Anyway, this recipe came out of a dinner engagement I had last week.  Most times I’d just grill the tenderloins, maybe give them a little glaze or something.  Not last week!

I was taking dinner over to a friend’s house and I wanted to do something my friends wouldn’t forget.  (For long time readers of the blog, this should imply that I actually had time to plan the meal, something you know rarely, if ever, happens in my house.)  What I decided to do was marinate the pork (technically I brined it) overnight in the fridge before searing it off in a hot pan and then letting the oven finish the job.

Again, long time readers of my blog are probably a little surprised the title of this post is Mexican pork since my first inclination is usually to go Asian.  However, I didn’t have enough sides to do Asian right, but I did have some rice, some avocado, and some refried beans.  Therefore, we were going South of the border with this one.

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Okay, so this is another easy recipe and another great topping for tacos, roasted pork, soups, even omelets.  It’s

Pico de Gallo

All in all, pico de gallo (strangely enough, Spanish for “rooster’s beak”), is crazy simple to make as long as you have basic knife skills (and pretty easy even if you don’t.)  All you have to do is chop up some tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, and cilantro plus whatever else you want thrown in.

What follows is the way I like to make it, which includes pickled jalapenos and a touch of their juice for heat and flavor.  But really, do whatever you want with it.  Leave out the pickled jalapenos, add fresh ones (or even fresh poblanos), whatever you want.

But no matter what you do, try to make it the day before you’re going to serve it.  Pico de gallo is great the day its made, but it’s awesome the day after.

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Avocado

Avocado Relish with Cherry Tomatoes

This is one of my favorite condiments ever and it’s so easy.  The first time I had it was on top of an omelet at the Crowne Royal in downtown Tulsa.  It was so good that I had to make it when I got home.

Ever since then, I make it up every so often to top homemade omelets, tacos, roasted pork, beef, or really anything that needs a little extra sweetness and saltiness.

One note: even though this is an avocado relish, the key to really making it tick is to use good cherry tomatoes.  The acid, natural sugars, and bold earthiness of the cherry tomatoes take this from a nice avocado condiment to a fantastic relish.

Now, without further ado.

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Fondue BarFor the first time since my childhood, last Friday night I experienced a sugar high.  A full-on, all-is-right-with-the-world, drunk-like-shots-of-whiskey sugar high.

Thanks Amore Chocolate Pizzas.  The 10 pounds I put on was totally worth it.  And I totally mean that.

Chocolate Fondue Is Awesome

It all started with a fairly innocent email.  Amore was having an exhibit of photographs from a local gallery and then the email urged me to join them for Saturday night fondue.

“You like fondue don’t you, Mrs. WellDone?” I asked Mrs. WellDone.

And that pretty much sealed our fate for what we did last Saturday.  And perhaps for many, many Saturdays (and Fridays) to come.  Why you may ask?  You see that big long long line of things in the picture over there?  That’s two types of cookies, graham crackers, pound cake, angel food cake, black berries, pineapple, strawberries, pretzels, cornflakes, and probably one or two things that have been lost in a sugar induced haze.  Next to all that are four types of chocolate: milk, dark, spicy, and white.  And the price is ridiculous.

Fourth PlateAnd it’s all you can eat.  See that plate over there (the one without fruit?  That’s my fourth plate.)

All I can say is thank God I only put on 10 pounds.  It could have been much, much worse.

Oh, and like I said, all of this can be yours every Friday and Saturday night.  Friday night, apparently, is board game night.  They have lots of games in-house (including Family Guy Monopoly…Giggity! and a very nice wooden chess set.)  Saturday night is live music.  Last Saturday featured a good dulcimer player who managed to do a very serviceable tribute to modern pop.

Or you can do that what we did and cheat.  They have the board games out on Saturdays so you can listen to live music and teach your son how to play chess.  It’s like combining say milk chocolate and white chocolate together, except this is combining two special nights at Amore.  Still with me?

Oh, off to the right is the fruit plate I assembled when I decided I have some vitamins with my sugar.Fruit Plate  Make no mistake about it, there’s still plenty of chocolate to go along with the fruit, but at least I got some nutritional value.

Did I mention that we hadn’t had dinner before we went?

More Than Fondue: More About Amore

Amore is more than just killer fondue on Fridays and Saturdays.  They also sell a variety of chocolate dishes including mochas, hot chocolates, chocolate spoons, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate Samplerpretzels, and everything you see in the sampler platter over there which owner Chris Cook graciously gave me.  (That would be chocolate nachos, gingerbread and chocolate stackers, chocolate pie with coconut crust, and German chocolate cake. 

Yes, that’s right, chocolate nachos.  That would be nacho chips with chocolate sauce, peanut butter, candied fruit, and homemade whipped cream. 

No, I didn’t think I’d like them either.

Yes, I ate them all.)

Still, what Amore is really famous for is their chocolate pizzas which bare absolutely no relationship to the dessert pizzas you get at some pizza buffets (that’s what I thought at first.)  Chocolate pizzas are basically layers of chocolate that have been tempered like a candy bar to form a pizza crust and then the pizza is topped with various gourmet toppings like peanut butter, coconut, marshmallows, toffee, etc.  (See the full list on the Amore product page.)

If you want an idea of what they taste like, take a chocolate bar, throw some marshmallows and chocolate sauce on it and eat it.  That’s a good start, but the stuff at Amore probably is better that that.  They use really good chocolate.  Seriously.

In summary, if you are in the KC area, go to Amore for dessert, fondue, or a chocolate-pick-me-up.  If you are out of town…inquire about shipping!

Have your own sugar high.  Then call your trainer.  You’re going to need him/her very, quickly.

FruitFruit Tarts at Skies on Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, I took the special mother in my life and our son to Skies’ Restaurant in Kansas City.  For those not hip to the Kansas City culinary scene, Skies is the tallest restaurant in the area.  It sits proudly atop the Hyatt Regency hotel (one of Kansas City’s snootier fancier hotels) and spins contentedly all day, every day.

Yes, not only is it a very tall restaurant, it’s a revolving restaurant.

Which is pretty cool when you hear about.  If you’ve never eaten in a restaurant that spins (and frankly, I don’t think there are many left), I recommend doing it at least once.  Just try to keep your bearings so you can remember where the bathroom is.

Anyway, I digress.  Upon making my reservations to Skies, I had a certain level of trepidation.  I have had some of the most expensive meals in my life at Skies.  I just didn’t enjoy them very much.  Except for the spinning thing, which really does lose it’s appeal when you decide that you kind of like being about to look out the window and know what you’re going to see.

(The other exception is the Mile High Sky Pie, an eighteen inch high dessert that my wife and I have gone to Skies to order on more than one occasion.  I enjoyed those times very much.)  So, you may be wondering why I picked Skies as our Mother’s Day restaurant.  Honestly, because Caenen Castle and the American were full.

Lucky for me they were full. Let me say in no uncertain terms, the meal I had at Skies was the best Mother’s Day meal I can remember.

Skies was divided into two sections: lunch and breakfast.  The breakfast section had omelets to order, French toast, smoothies, breakfast meats, fruit, and other delicacies.  The lunch section (where I met chefs John and Nathan and forced them to cook a truly heroic quantity of tenderloin for me) was also excellent.  My favorite tenderloin had a nice dijon demi that perfectly accented the meat and went nicely with the pasta made to order.  There was also baked chicken in a nice orzo, roasted pork in cranberry sauce, and desserts.  Lots of desserts.

However, the highlight of the meal were these little fruit tarts they served.  They were just strips of puff pastry with fresh fruit (mango, strawberries, black berries, and blueberries) with a little glaze to hold it all together and to add sweetness.  Had I known Tina would like them so much, I would have made something very similar years ago.  Because I love them, too.

Here is the recipe if you want to make them.

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Kansas Citians (or those familiar with the area):

Vote at http://www.citysbestkcmag.com/ for KC Magazine’s City’s Best in 2010.  There are places to vote for your favorite salons, fashion outlets, and restaurants.  No reason not to give your favorite place a little love.

(And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did, in fact, vote for Jasper’s for best Italian restaurant.  I can’t tell you to do so.  But you could.  I’m just saying.)

On Monday, I was invited to a United Way dinner at Benton’s Prime Steakhouse.  I met some very nice people there who are doing some wonderful things to make the world a better place.  This food blogger salutes all of you.

The dinner was also the first time I have been back to Benton’s in, well, longer than I can remember.  Not that I had a bad meal, but I’ve been trying to explore other culinary destinations in Kansas City.  Monday night reminded me that sometimes it’s good to go back again.

The event featured several stations including: a sirloin station with a morel sauce, a seafood/salad station, a lobster bisque station, a carvery station featuring four different types of meat, and the night’s crowning achievement: a banana’s foster station.  The contents of the sirloin station are fairly obvious (sirloin with morel sauce), the seafood had king crab legs and oysters while the accompanying salad station contained a delicious mozzarella salad (I’d like to call it a caprese, but it was more flavorful), and strawberry salad in parmesan baskets. 

The morel sauce was delicious and the oysters were surprisingly nice for being in the middle of Kansas.  The mozzarella salad was also very good and rumor has it the strawberry salad was nice.

The rubber really started to hit the road with at the carvery station.  There were several meats including a smoked bison, a lamb rib roast, and some of the juiciest, most tender prime rib I’ve had the privilege of eating.

It was so good I hunted down Chef Nicholas Boucher to ask how I could make it at home and despite the fact I forgot to introduce myself as a food blogger and started writing down his every word as he spoke, he was pretty forthcoming about how to reproduce the prime rib at home.

First thing’s first: you’ll need some good prime rib.  Can’t do this without good prime rib.  (That’s my addition.)

Then:

1.  Preheat your oven to 500.  “I prefer a hot oven,” explained Chef Boucher.
2.  Put the prime rib in the oven.  Do not season with anything but a little salt.  (Chef Boucher explains that herbs or pepper will burn.)
3.  Sear the prime rib.  You are not looking for time, but for an appearance.  (You want a nice caramel color says Chef Boucher.)
4.  When the prime rib has reached that color, remove the prime rib and set the oven to 185.
5.  Put the prime rib back into the oven and cook for another 1-2 hours or until the meat has reached an internal temperature of about 135.

Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes and then serve with sides including mushroom medleys, asparagus, au gratin potoates (like Benton’s) or your own favorite sites.

Then, you know what to do!  Enjoy!

Last week, Chef Jasper Mirabile had a great Limoncello Experience where he and Suzanne Frisse of Meadowlark Acres served us course after course after course of delicious breads, pastas, chicken, and desserts featuring limoncello.

He was gracious enough to share his recipes, which I have included unmodified below.  If you like how this sounds, he will have another Experience in June!

Jasper Mirabile’s Limoncello Pasta
1 Lb. Penne Pasta
1 cup Grated Peccorino Romano
1 Lemon Grated
1/2 cup Limoncello
2 Cups Cream
3/4 cup Chives
Cracked Pepper
Cook pasta according to pkg. directions.
Chop chives and reserve. In a large saute pan, melt butter and saute with chives & lemon rind.  Add limoncello and reduce in pan.  Add cream and cheese and bring to a light boil.  Season with salt and cracked pepper.  Add pasta and toss.  Serve with more grated lemon and cracked pepper.
Papa Mirabile’s Limoncello Risotto
3 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon salted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 Leek
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup Limoncello
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)
Cracked black pepper to taste

Clean and wash 1 leek.  Slice thin.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the shallots until soft about 2 to 3 minutes. Brown butter and add leeks. Stir in rice. Toast for 1 minute. Add the limoncello and bring to boil, stirring constantly. When of wine is absorbed add first 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Reduce heat to medium and continue adding broth as needed. This will take about 20 minutes. When ready, the risotto will have a creamy sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and add grated lemon. Stir in remaining butter and add cheese. Serve at once.

Jasper’s Note:  I also like to add shrimp to this risotto…just saute with leeks at the beginning and follow procedure. DO NOT ADD CHEESE if you add shrimp.
Jasper’s Roasted Limoncello Chicken
3-4 large lemons
1/4 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 boneless split chicken breast 1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup Limoncello
1 Teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat the broiler. Cut a small slice off both ends of each lemon, then cut in half crosswise. Arrange the lemons, flesh side up, in a flameproof non-reactive baking dish, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil 6 inches or more from the heat until browned and soft, about 10 minutes.

In a large saute pan, add olive oil and heat. Add chicken and saute on both sides. Add garlic and lightly brown. Reduce pan with limoncello and season with salt, pepper, thyme & tarragon. Squeeze roasted lemons in pan and continue to reduce. Cook until chicken is tender and has an internal temp. of 165 to 175.
Serve with roasted potatoes.

Jasper’s Limoncello
2 bottles Vodka
20 Lemons
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
Wash & peel 20 lemons and reserve all juice.
To make Simple Syrup:
In a 2 quart pot, bring water and sugar to a boil.  Remove from heat and cool.
In a large container, add vodka and simple syrup. Add juice of lemons and lemon peeling. Store in cool dry area for 2 weeks.  Remove lemon peelings and place in miniature decorative bottles.  Store in refrigerator.
Jasper’s Note:  To make Crema Limoncello…just add 1/4 cup Eagle Brand Condensed Milk to 1 cup limoncello, stir and place in bottle and shake.

The King of the Cannoli’s Limoncello Cannoli

1 lb Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup Limoncello
1 Lemon Grated
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Candied Lemon
6-8 Cannoli Shells
Place all ingredients in mixing bowl.Mix.  Fill pastry shells and dust with powdered sugar.
Limoncello Cake

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
1 Box Instant Vanilla Pudding
1/2 Cup Corn Oil 1/4 Cup water
3/4 cup  LIMONCELLO
4 Eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup lemon zest

Mix all ingredients and bake in a well greased bundt pan at 325 F for 1 hour. Pour glaze over cake immediately out of oven.

Limoncello Glaze


3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Limoncello
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp lemon zest

Place all ingredients in pan, bring to a boil and stir constantly. Poke holes in bundt cake and pour over top.

Jasper’s Notes: My friend and customer Bonnie Knocke loves limoncello and she developed this cake recipe for Jasper’s. Bonnie brought me this cake one day before dinner service and I swear I must have eaten the whole cake, I DO NOT REMEMBER. Grazie mille Bonnie!

Grazie mille mille Chef!

Slow Cooker Chiapas-Style Mexican Pork

If I was stranded on a desert island and could only bring one cooking tool with me, it would be my slow cooker.  (Don’t read too much into that sentence since if I was on a desert island, I could fashion a grill from native trees and rocks and probably an oven, too, if I was smart.  What I am saying is how much I like my slower cooker.  And yes, I know I’d have to have some sort of battery for it, but if the Professor can figure it out, so can I.)

Anyway, I my slow cooker rocks because it transforms tough (read: cheap and flavorful) cuts of meat into something tender and sublime.  Even better, whatever you cook in slow cooker absorbs all of the flavors around it, meaning you can create some true masterpieces in 4-6 hours.

Masterpieces like…

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Okay, so a little while back I released some recipes for Cooking With Your Kids, but as my friend Marc tells me, if you are going to cook with your kids, you are going to need some stuff from

SproutGear

SproutGear

Of course, he owns SproutGear.com, a cool little kids’ boutique, so he’s not really the most impartial of witnesses, but he does have some cool stuff.  This cool stuff will include, very shortly, some of my kid-friendly recipes and perhaps even a contest about cooking with your kids.

In the meantime, check out some of the cool stuff on his site.  He’s got everything from the perfect gifts for the mommy-to-be, baby clothes, shoes, stuff for dads, baby baskets, baby carriers, and the one must have for everyone who loves to cook with their kids: aprons (although I do need to get BWD, Jr. a chili pepper bandana!)  Here are few aprons from his catalog:

Denim-Mommy-and-me-apron-setpaisley-mommy-and-me-apron-set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not too shabby.  Now, if only he could get some aprons with some manly prints like footballs or monster trucks or dinosaurs.  G.I. Joe maybe?  Transformers?  BWD, Jr. would love that!  (Though he might like the pink, too, but that’s another story.)  🙂

Anyway, go and check out SproutGear.com and check back here for the official contest annoucement.  Maybe buy an apron.  Enjoy!