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Friday, April 30, 2021

Blueberry Butter Maple Bacon

And why the heck not? I probably should have run this recipe a few more times for better shots, but I think the flavors speak for themselves. I stumbled across this PRIMO Maple syrup called Trees Knees Butter Maple and WOW, it's fantastic! The company's name is Bushwick Kitchen LLC. and they carry a barrage of other delicious and intriguing flavor combinations featuring honey, maple and even a 'hot line' with Sriracha and Gochujang!   They are whimsically marketed as "Bees Knees, Trees Knees and Weak Knees", very befitting of such elevated condiments!  Next on my list is the Honey/Meyer Lemon blend, it sounds Amazeballs.  
This quick and simple recipe is a melodious fraternization of fresh spring flavor, with familiar and classic staples, bacon and maple syrup, to bring a modern elevation to your next sandwich or breakfast/ brunch table.  Frozen thawed blueberries will do just fine, as only the juice will be used to marinate the thick cut, smoked protein, imparting its color and subtle nuance.  The results are an upbeat tinted, smoky, not too  sticky treat, hitting the high notes and satisfying your bacon cravings and hankering for  something a bit sweet at the same time, and that's pretty sweet!  
Recipe:
1 lb. thick cut Apple or Cherrywood smoked bacon
1/4 c. blueberry juice, plain nothing added
Trees Knees Butter Maple for brushing
Directions:
Arrange bacon on parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush with the blueberry juice.
Let stand for about 10 minutes to absorb the colors and place in a 400*F oven to roast or under a broiler.
Cook until desired crispness is reached, brushing with the Butter Maple during the last 5 minutes.
Let stand for several minutes to set the Maple coating and serve as desired.  
 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Noodle MegaBowl: Just Add Kimchi

Korean Noodle Bowl w/ Kimchi

 Do your body a favor and add some Kimchi to your next noodle bowl for a plethora of good bacteria for your gastrointestinal flora and an elevated dish in just a few forkfuls.  Kimchi is a Korean staple and condiment made with fermented cabbage, lots of garlic, Korean radish, carrot, Red Pepper Powder, bonito and other flavor builders, that pair perfectly with any dish you can think of! Being a given in Korean cuisine, there are quite literally thousands of versions, varying from family to family.  
I am currently buying my Kimchi, but making some from scratch is high on my agenda, likely with a Southern American twist, what I am not sure yet, but subtle enough not to disrupt or disrespect the integrity of the dish.  It's actually quite perfect and can turn a basic meal into a well balanced one. Full of fresh tasting flavors and crunch, the cool bites of pungent cabbage alongside your veg, starches and proteins, is a match made in heaven. 
 My daughter Bronwyn and I are big fans, my oldest daughter Genesis, can't get past its aroma, which is admittedly not something you will soon forget, but the taste is BONKERSMACK! 
 Today's feature is brought to you by a Korean brand of Ramen called Bibim Men, spicy, and a modest half teaspoon of some Red Pepper Powder.  


Monday, April 26, 2021

Dinners Without Borders: Proscuitto Wrapped Provolone and Swiss Chicken Breasts


 

Dinner is a cinch when you cook from the heart and without pretense.  This meal came together at short notice and was centered around a request for a "vegetable medley".  Yes, that's all I had to go on, which immediately sent me into a tailspin, because it sparked more questions than a few, like what kind? Steamed, roasted, sauteed? Creamy, stewed, tender crisp? What vegetables in the medley? Spring veggies? Root veggies? The answer in return was "I don't care, just make it good!" I laughed, relieved, because that part I was pretty sure I could handle, so for traditionalists sake, I chose the usual suspects, with a triad of colors and roastability, whole carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion (which I roasted separately, for the two 'no onioners' attending dinner) and garlic, a dream team of tastes and textures, full on flavors and self explanatory for my client.  
I broke the vegetables down into a bit larger sized pieces and lowered the overall roasting temperature, to accommodate the cooking time of the chicken, which admittedly started off as frozen.  I married the freshly thawed chicken with flavor builders like Prosciutto, smoked Provolone and Swiss cheese, with a modest pat of butter to the toppings before going into a 375*F. oven.  I used a garlic based seasoning blend to boost the sometimes dry breast cutlets and served as a quick dry rub before tossing with some olive oil and a pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt.  I threw in a store bought pesto for time constraints to embellish both the veggies and the protein, even the starch, which was a garlicky and cheesy Italian loaf, quick and homemade, well the assembly at least, the bread was fresh from the bakery.    
Dinner was a casual one, family members, served later, as my client (Brother in Law Mark) and his spouse (my sister Brenda) both worked late this beautiful day.  The featured photos are just that, a quick snapshot after the dishes came from the oven, with no time to fuss over plating and lighting, a document of my newest Chicken Recipe, producing a plate full of color and delicious roasted flavors, plus a medley of vegetables to choose from and stack with every moist bite of smothered, smoky chicken goodness.  I enjoyed the freedom to create outside of my normal kitchen and in someone else's lab, using their utensils.  I was able to find my way around pretty well and the menu came out solid and satisfying.  There were no strict dietary rules to follow and a blank canvas to work my magic and I did just that, and there were compliments on each dish, respectively.  I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of cooking while they chatted on, did a chore or two, showered, then converged back on the scene at my beckoning.  They were satisfied and so was I.  I love dinners without borders, it gives me room to create and bring scribbles on paper, to life...


*This post is dedicated in memory of my cousin and friend, Lawrence "Jay" Berger, who left us today for higher ground, We Love You and are deeply saddened by your passing, too soon- Prayers and condolences to lil cuz Jason and Frances, Teresa, Skeet(Willie), Aaron( Frame) and Karen. - The Smith Family. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Grilled Cheese Bar: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day Highlights

Grilled Cheese Duo; Bacon and Sauteed Spinach/ Buffalo Ranch Pulled Chicken
Grilled Cheese is like the universal language of delish and its special day (April 11) had to be celebrated accordingly.  I really wanted to make this day memorable for the kiddoes and adults alike by providing a variety of accoutrements to make each sandwich unique.  I started out with breads offering Sourdough, English Toasting, Brioche and Marbled Rye.  The cheeses included American, Extra Sharp and Mild Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, Pepper Jack, Habanero and Pepper Jack Blend, Colby and Monterey Jack, Smoked Provolone and Muenster.  I may have missed one or two, but you get the idea. 

The spreads included regular butter spread, Honey Infused, Garlic and Herbs and Mayonnaise.  Mayo makes for an amazing color and crisp Mukbang style snap when you cut into the sandwich or take a bite!!  The fillings were so much fun. I made a cream cheese based Cheesesteak Spread, made with fire roasted green chilies and Cheesesteak sirloin.  I also made a Buffalo Ranch Chicken Spread, full of savory and spicy shredded chicken breast.  Other accessories included, pepperoni, precooked bacon, Black  Forest ham, Virginia Prosciutto or (thinly sliced Country Ham), Sauteed Spinach with Garlic  and Fresh Gourmet Greens Blend! 

I set up my beloved Blackstone Griddle, 17 inch, Propane, I fricking LOVE LOVE LOVE it, I have been able to entertain my family many a night with my griddle on our patio picnic table, its like Hibachi Outdoors and soooo much fun.  I made Pad Thai one night for dinner and the griddle is perfect for developing the levels of flavor in such a complex and fantastic dish.  Burgers and Hotdogs, no problem, the griddle heats quickly and efficiently, imparting grilled deliciousness in every bite. Power outage, no biggie, this propane powered gem handles the tiny tabletop canisters.  Too hot in the kitchen, pull it out! Take the worry of a food heat source off your mind.  

 The Blackstone Griddle is perfect for making Grilled Cheese for the whole family, all at once.  The seasoned surface is the key to  a gorgeous bark with a great crunch and mouthfeel,  as demonstrated in some of the masterpieces we created that evening.  A good grilled cheese sandwich is hard to beat and when your family can customize it to their exact standard, dinner will be seamless and unforgettable, just like your first bite!!

Grilled Cheese Meatlover's Supreme

Grilled Cheese w/3 Cheeses and Sauteed Spinach

 Make your next family meal amazing by having a Grilled Cheese Bar, your family won't soon forget it!! The spreads were so delicious, we used them for sandwiches the next day!  Plan to do it again the next night, for even more combinations you didn't get to try the first time around!  Stay tuned for the fabulous Cheesesteak and Buffalo Ranch Pulled Chicken Spread recipes , coming up in my next few posts! 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

White Sweet Potato Pie Supreme


 Sweet potatoes pack a mean punch of good for you vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  They are one of the most nutrient dense vegetables in the supermarket! The vibrant orange color of a sweet potato comes from its concentration of beta carotene, but it may come in other mediums like red, white and purple! The red and purple ones have higher concentrations of anthocyanins and polyphenols, which are types of antioxidants.  I have prepared all these versions for my Mom and the classic orange is still her favorite.  Apparently, the tastes of those multicolored sweet potatoes are also different, though slight, to a discerning and most admiring critic.  I did find that the purple ones were a bit dry, soft, almost doughy also, or maybe that was my fault.  I think the purple would be suited nicely as a substitute for yams in making Foo-Foo, an African dish composed of pounded yams, kneaded into a sticky ball of sorts, torn off in bits and used as a vessel for dipping and scooping up such delights as Stew Chicken, Peanut or Okra Soup and Egusi, all African cuisine and quite amazing, according to my readings.  I do however draw the line at okra.  I have a disdain for its texture and mouthfeel.
Many consumers think that sweet potatoes and yams are one in the same, which could not be further from the truth. 
 Yams, which have native origins in Africa and Asia, are a tuber yes, but are also toxic if not cooked before consumption.  They are from the Yam Family, boasting over 600+ varieties and related to grasses, while sweet potatoes are from the Morning Glory or Lily Family. Yams are also Dicots, or have two embryonic seed leaves, while sweet potatoes are Monocots, having only one.  Yams have more starch and are drier as compared to sweet potatoes and their sizes can vary exponentially greater than that of its Doppelganger. 

 Sweet Potatoes however, are classified as firm or soft, with the softer variety being cultivated second.  The African Slaves found familiarity in the softer version, because it was closer to what they consumed in their homelands, so they began referring to the softer sweet potato as a Yam.   
This recipe features the white sweet potatoes and white baking chips.  It was received very well by the kiddoes and we felt it was outstanding served warm.

Recipe:
16 oz. cooked and mashed white sweet potato
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk 
1/2 c. salted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
2/3 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 c. pure cane sugar
4 oz. white baking chips
2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. Vietnamese Cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground Green Cardamom
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt 
Zest of one lemon
Prep the sweet potato by peeling and cutting into equal sized chunks and boiling until tender. Drain and remove from water and mash.  Cool slightly before using.  May be done up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 400*F. 
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and blend  until smooth. 
Divide the baking chips between the pie shells, spreading evenly across bottom.
Pour blended mixture between the pie shells.
Bake at 400*F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350*F and bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool for one hour and can be served warm for a decadent and wonderful dessert with coffee, just add friends and family.
Each pie makes 8 servings, give one to someone you love and adore.




Saturday, April 10, 2021

Gulf Shrimp and Pantry Ham Fettuccine Alfredo

 

Gulf Shrimp and Ham Alfredo
Spruce up your regular Alfredo with the addition of some simple, canned, diced ham and some clam juice.  With the tides turning for the better, in great part due to the implementation of the three Covid 19 vaccines; Pfizer,  Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, I feel that I can safely begin to dwindle down the pantry ingredients acquired out of necessity.  We are not out of the woods just yet though, and its imperative that we remain vigilant in our course, to effectively turn the corner on this nightmare that is a Pandemic.  Being aware is all of our responsibilities and continuing to wear our masks, at the very least until we are personally vaccinated is to our benefit.  Soon, sooner than later even, we will be back to business as usual.  I am now comfortable enough to start using some of these dried and canned goods I have amassed as well, so get ready for some recipes featuring legumes of all sorts!  Admittedly, I used a box version of a Tuna Casserole, just out of curiosity, by a certain brand that features a guy whose name rhymes with Harry and may or may not be involved with fiber optics (chuckles to myself) and they absolutely abhorred it.  I just followed the instructions, so I don't feel like it was a personal attack on my culinary fortitude, but the kids certainly won't let me live it down!  I actually have a very solid and delicious recipe I wrote for Tuna Casserole, but unfortunately, they seem to only remember the one I made last. I wasn't impressed either, to me it was 'just food', but I kept my poker face to the end and was relieved when my portion was no more.  There was something about the sauce and the tuna, sad face. I am glad I only purchased one pair of those kits, though the brand has other kits that are solid and worth the very affordable cost of a buck!  
The canned, diced  ham is another such purchase.  On it's own, it is a very plain and unimpressive affair, lacking any pizzazz and very little flavor. I remedied that, as best I could, by draining it from its watery grave and patting it dry.  I then proceeded to saute it in some olive oil, getting some good color on it and adding texture, then using it as the base for this recipe's sauce and pairing it with an elevated ingredient, Gulf Shrimp.  This recipe is inspired additionally by a Roman born Carbonara, a rich and amazing pasta dish that features cured pork, raw egg, black pepper and a hard cheese, with the egg and pasta water, stirred in at the end and cooked by the heat of the pasta! Delish!  
Recipe:
1 lb. 41-60 Wild Gulf Shrimp, if frozen, thawed, cleaned
1 5 oz. can cooked, diced ham in water, drained and patted dry
1 lb. Fettuccine, cooked al dente in salted water, about 7 to 8 minutes, reserving 1 c. pasta water
3 tbsp. AP flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion, 
3 -4 cloves garlic, chopped or finely minced
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk or 12 oz. whole milk
1 bottle of clam juice, 8 oz.
1 cup. pasta water with 1/2 c. hot water to equal 1 1/2 c.
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Garlic bread, baked and cut into thirds for garnish, optional

Directions:
Over medium high heat, in a heavy bottomed pan drizzled with olive oil and 1/2 of butter, brown ham, getting caramelization on all sides, about 4 minutes.
Add butter and once melted and  shrimp and saute until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Remove shrimp and ham from pan and cover to keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium. 
Add onion and continue to cook until onions are translucent, another 4 minutes.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle in flour, gradually and cook for about 1 minute.
Add pasta water and bring up to a boil and allow to thicken.
Add clam juice.
Continue to simmer for several more minutes and add milk.
Allow to come back up to temperature and stir in cheese.
Heat and simmer more to thicken.
Add pasta to coat and heat through.
Fold in ham and shrimp and drizzle in a bit more olive oil, as needed.
If too thick, add a splash of milk or water, chicken broth if desired to reach desired consistency.
Garnish with Parsley and Olive oil.
Serves 8 to 10. 
 




  


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Smidgen Hot Pots





















Hot Pots are all the rage and for good reason.  These steaming hot vessels of broth, teeming with fresh and delicious vegetables, unctuous and savory meat proteins and tofu.  There's many elements to a good hot pot and no real wrong way to execute a successful one.  A spectacular broth doesn't need much more to satisfy a meal seeker, especially when some fresh crunch is implemented.  Overall, this is an inexpensive way to fill your tummy and build your hot pot to your desired level.  
This feature is called Smidgen Hot Pots, a smidgen of this, a smidgen of that.  All the ingredients in this recipe, sans the egg and broth, are remnants of meals past, both simple and complex.  The star of this dish is simply everything, but most notably, the smoked and grilled Boston Butt I prepared on behest of my Brother in Law Mark, he wanted some for his meals, as he headed back out on assignment for his job.  
I thinly sliced some of the upper smoky portion of the Boston Butt, which I partially cured in a briny solution before grilling imparting the bright pink color ( in case you thought it was too rare) and added to my already adequate Hot Pot as I would have in one of the magnificent Pho Bowls, I'd dined on from Saigon Cafe!  I loaded the pot down with  classic coleslaw blend, sliced jalapenos, marinated tofu, rice noodles and sliced green onion, all left over from the Pad Thai I made for dinner one night!  I made a simple super hot broth using Better than Bouillon chicken base and added a scant amount of Chinese Five Spice, sooooooo soothing. Underneath, the noodle of choice was a Korean brand.  The eggs were a last minute, yet suitable addition, welcome and pleasantly essential.  
A few weeks ago, I was able to locate the illusive spice I'd seen in almost all of the Mukbang videos I've grown to enjoy for the food culture and culinary delights.  The gorgeous red color of those dishes comes from Pure Red Pepper Powder, consisting of only the fleshy red pepper meat, no seeds, brilliant and heat forward, It's not for the faint at heart, the burn of this spice is noted immediately during and after it hits the taste buds, so by all means, tread lightly, good fellows haha.

I added some as garnish and also to the broth itself, fully aware and privy to its thermogenic effects on the metabolism and its punch of antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, plus polyphenols and phytochemicals, all good for the cells and body, an armor against certain cancers and diseases!  

The final results are pictured above, simple and delicious, all using just a smidgen of this and a smidgen of that....small parts to a big finish, every bite a little different than the last, good to the last drop! 


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Smokinhotchef
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