Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blue Cheese and Mascarpone Spread on Chocolate Biscuits with Port Wine Reduction [Rhonda]

With a mix of unlikely flavors, my favorite chef--Josh Dalton--has created a fun appetizer for one of the best (and most imaginative!) restaurants in central Ohio...Veritas Tavern. He's up in Delaware OH doing stuff that would warrant recognition in, say, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or Tribeca.

When you unpack it, this appetizer is easy. Soften two cheeses, whip them together. Pour some port or red wine in a small saucepan, add a touch of brown sugar and cook it down to a syrup.

The chocolate biscuits? A UK staple, found in the international aisle at Meijer's and at World Market. So no whining about being hard to find!

Degree of difficulty: very easy (sorry Josh)
Time: 15 minutes, mostly to reduce the port
Serves: 12

2 boxes McVitie's Digestive milk chocolate biscuits
8 ounce container mascarpone
4 ounce container blue cheese crumbles
half a bottle red wine or 2 cups port
1 tablespoon brown sugar if using red wine

Let the mascarpone and blue cheese come to room temp for a few minutes. Put in mixing bowl and whip until blended, a minute or so.

Pour the port in a small saucepan and, over medium heat, reduce by two-thirds. If using red wine, add the brown sugar, swirl and reduce. (This reduction will keep in the fridge for a few days if you want to plan ahead, as will the cheese mixture.)

Suggested soundtrack: "Blow the Whistle" by Too Short. Not for the lyrics. For the beat.
Blow The Whistle (Explicit) by Too Short on Grooveshark

Beef Stock + French Onion Soup [Zack]

If chicken stock is like Eddy Murphy (versatile, well-liked by everyone, and the most popular of stocks), then beef stock is like Charlie Murphy.  It's not made as frequently, it's underrated, and if used in the right way, it can be better than chicken stock.

It takes a bit of time to make the beef stock, but overall it requires very little active cooking time.  I suggest that people try to make stock one time to see if they're willing to go through the effort to make it from scratch.  And while you are at it, you may as well make a really big batch and freeze the extra for other uses!

Head over to your local butcher and ask which bones are the best for beef stock.  They'll tell you that you want thick, marrow-y beef bones with some meat left on them.  The bones will be dirt cheap (unless too many people read this post ;))

One of the ultimate uses for beef stock is a classic French Onion Soup.  Using homemade stock will put your soup miles ahead of one using canned broth.  Because you're using such a nice beef stock, you can simplify the recipe and it will still knock socks off.

Process for Beef Stock (French Onion Soup Recipe after the Ingredients Section):

Slice 2 onions in 1/2 (you can leave the skins on as long as they aren't dirty), slice a carrot, and grab a few cloves of garlic.  Toss them on a tray with your beef bones and put them into a 400F / 200C oven for 20-30 minutes until they are caramelized.  This will deepen the flavor of the stock.

Add the roasted bones, the bay leaf, and veggies to a stock pot.  I like to pour some water onto my cooking tray and scrape up all of the good bits of beef flavor stuck to the tray.  Pour this into your stock pot.

Fill the pot with water until it covers the bones, bring the whole thing to a fast boil, and skim off any foam or impurities that float to the top with a spoon.

Put the stock pot into an oven at 225F / 110C.  Walk away for about 8 hours.  Alternatively, you can make it in your pressure cooker to drastically reduce the cooking time to about 2 hours.  (use the same method as the pressure-cooker chicken stock, but extend the time)

After your bones have given up all of their flavor, grab them out of your pot with tongs and throw them away.  Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer (I never use cheesecloth, but you certainly can if you want).

You can continue to reduce the newly-strained stock if you want to have the flavor more concentrated.  You can store it in multiple ways:  reduced heavily and frozen in ice cube trays for sauces, in jars in your freezer (easier for soups), or in large gallon freezer bags so they lay flat in the freezer.  As long as you don't burn the liquid by reducing it too much, you can always add water to dilute it for a soup.

If you reduce it a lot, it will be super gelatinous like the below chicken stock.  This stuff will add a ton of body and flavor to your sauces.

3.5 lbs or 1.5 kg beef bones (with some meat on them) - this cost me $8.
2 onions
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
a few black pepper corns

Anyways, on to the French Onion Soup Recipe -

Process for a simple French Onion Soup:

I read through a lot of recipes online - most list over 15 ingredients for a classic French Onion Soup.  If you make your beef stock from scratch, the only thing I think you need is a small kick of cognac and port to give a twang to the sweet and meaty flavor of the soup.

Properly caramelizing onions takes about 45 minutes.  Yes, I know this seems like a long time, but it's worth every minute. Put your butter and olive oil into a stock pot over medium-low heat.

Slice your 6 large yellow onions into moons and add them to the stock pot.  Cook them lightly and slowly until they are dark and brown (but not burnt).  If they start browning before they have softened, you can add a few T of water and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom.  Keep adding splashes of water until you achieve your desired color.

Next, add in your beef stock and warm it through.  Add a splash of cognac and port to your soup and taste.  The alcohol will chill out after about 5 minutes, but take it easy in the beginning.

While the pot is warming up, slice your crusty bread and toast it until it's light brown.

Pour the hot soup into a bowl or ramekin and top with the crusty bread.

And then cover it with a nice melty cheese.

Toss it under the broiler until the cheese is melted!

Ingredients (makes a lot of soup!):
2T of butter
1T olive oil
5 cups beef stock
6 large yellow onions (other kinds are okay too)
2-3 T cognac (to taste)
2-3 T port (to taste)
crusty slices of bread
Emmental or other melty cheese

Song:  Major Lazer - Bubble Butt
Bubble Butt by Major Lazer feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga & Mystic on Grooveshark

Monday, May 20, 2013

Swiss Rosti - Savory potato, pancetta, egg, and cheese breakfast [Zack]

Switzerland is an awesome country for many reasons.  It has beautiful scenery, amazing skiing/hiking, and nice people.  But my favorite thing to do in Switzerland is to eat a Swiss Rosti in a ski lodge after a long day outdoors.  A Swiss Rosti is a piping hot fajita skillet filled with fried potatoes, Swiss Cheese, bacon, onion, and an over-easy egg.

I was starving this morning (due to spending almost 6 hours on my bicycle yesterday) and I knew I had some potatoes in our cupboard.  I also had some awesome pancetta from Italy, plus the usual Emmental cheese, eggs, and onions in the pantry.  I've had the Swiss Rosti on the brain for the last month, and my appetite gave me a guilt-free chance to make it happen.

This Rosti will satisfy the deepest hunger and comfort the noisest bellies.


Slice the 2 onions and put them in a saute pan with a little bit of olive oil.  Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and add them to the pan with the onions.  Sprinkle crushed red pepper and garlic over the potatoes.

Add 2T of water to the pan and allow the potatoes to steam.  Use the same process as cooking a risotto: cook the potatoes until the water has evaporated, and then continue add an additional small amount of water water until they are fork-tender.  Make sure you cook off all of the excess water once they are cooked through so your Rosti is not runny.

Once the potatoes are finished, salt them lightly to taste (remember the bacon is salty as well, so don't overdo it).

Slice your pancetta (or bacon) into matchsticks.  In a separate sauce pot, slowly brown the pancetta over low heat.

You'll want it nice and crispy so it adds a nice crunch to the end product.  Remove the crispy pancetta from the pan and discard the fat.

Add the cooked potatoes and the pancetta to a baking dish.

Top it with the shredded Emmental cheese and make two divots to hold the eggs.  Crack the eggs individually into a bowl so you can easily guide them into their allotted slots.  You can crack some black pepper on top if you want.

Roast in your oven for 12 minutes at 375F / 190C until the egg is set and the cheese is browned slightly.  Enjoy and imagine the Sound of Music playing in the background (I hate that movie).

2 medium onions
5 potatoes
1tsp crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic
5 slices pancetta, cut into matchsticks
3/4 cup Emmental cheese

Hearty breakfast song:  Sonnentanz by Klangkarussel
Sonnentanz by Klangkarussel on Grooveshark