Archive | January, 2011

Mussel-rama

23 Jan

In the past I’ve written about my serious love of mussels. I know I have at least one post on it, but I’m sure it’s been mentioned several times. Last night, we had a party that was the ultimate indulgence of mussels. A lot of our friends share in my love of this creature and we had been comparing recipes for sometime. I figured, enough talk, let’s throwdown.

It took a little finessing, but the final plan sounded like this. We would provide the mussels and everyone had to come with a sauce or ingredients to make their version of mussels with. There were no limits and no qualifications. It just had to taste good with mussels. I know there are thousands of ways to prepare these little buggers so I was pumped to see what everyone was bringing.

I made my version of moule frite. I did a quick steam in bacon fat, shallots, and prosecco and then garnished with crispy bacon, bleu cheese, and watercress. I did make french fries, complete with truffle oil but they were gone before the mussels were cooked (and that’s saying something.) Our friend Desiree went with a white wine butter sauce with red onion and parsley…

Our friends Lindsay and David went a non-traditional route and made grilled mussels with a sriracha and wine sauce. It was crazy amazing. I wanted to stop eating them, but I couldn’t.

I will apologize to our other friends who’s mussels are not pictured, but I was so busy eating my first round, I forgot to take pictures of the second round. Our friends, Vicki and Steve made the mussels from Bonefish. Not only were they fantastically full of garlic, the sauce was perfect for dipping. Greg and Margot made a Tuscan tomato based sauce that was also out of this world. I know that I’m gushing, and raving about everything, but it’s the truth. There was not a bad mussel to be had!

The best part about this party was that everyone got involved. There was some friendly competition and everyone wanted to impress. We had simple appetizers and free flowing wine and beer. There were lots of laughs and lots of eating. It’s been decided that it was so fun, that we are now going to do a monthly dinner where everyone prepares something. It never ceases to amaze me that food brings people together, and when it’s made with care and passion.

Always thinking about the next meal

Katie

Guacamole, Tatziki and Salsa… oh my!

16 Jan

guacamole, tatziki, and salsaLiving in Florida has definitely made me love happy hour. I love a good discount and happy hour usually has them to spare. The problem, I also love good food. Most of the places that have the dynamite specials, usually fall flat on the food. My resolution? Happy hour at home.

I know it might not be as social, but the alcohol is cheaper than any bar special and I can have whatever appetizer I want to whip up. A few nights ago that was a trio of dips. I poured a glass of wine and checked out the fridge for what I could make.

Granted I have more ingredients in my fridge than most people, but you can be creative with just about anything. (I once made a dip from cream cheese, old bay and celery) I had just opened a jar of salsa so that was an easy decision. Don’t judge me, some jarred salsas are pretty good. I also had the makings of a pretty wicked avocado salsa or guacamole. Let me just say that salsa is Spanish for sauce. Guacamole doesn’t really fit into this category since its thickness is much denser than a sauce. Traditional guacamole (at least for me) is simple. Avocado, salt, and lime juice. But, seeing as thought I was feeling creative… I channeled my inner Mexican (also my friend Shaddai Barron’s recipe) and started cooking:

Avocado Salsa

1 large Florida avocado, small dice
1 large jalepeño, minced
a solid hand-full of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sour cream
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Serve with chips or veggies.

While I was feeling good about my dip/sauce, I wanted more. Ever excited by variety and never limited by cuisine I found the makings of tatziki sauce. Again this sauce is very simple to make. I wouldn’t have thought to have the 3 sauces together, but çe la vie. For the tatziki I mixed 1 5.5 once container of greek yogurt with 1/2 cup cucumbers cut into a small dice. I like the skins on for texture, but feel free to peel if you prefer. Add 2 tablespoons freshly minced dill, season with salt and pepper and viola! You can also add lemon juice to bring some acidity to the party, but you don’t have to.

So my happy hour turned out wonderful and the best part was that I didn’t have to drive home… I was already there

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Long over-due update

8 Jan

I know this update is long over due. It’s been over 2 months since I’ve delighted you all with the trails and tribulations of cooking for the kiddies. Mostly the excuses are poor, but know that I’m back on track and the stories will be new and tasty.

The past few months have been a roller coaster. I’ve seen days that were nothing more than sheer delight. Most recently, the menu was burger sliders, tater tots, veggie dippers and popsicles. You would have thought I was serving gold. I know it’s not much of a stretch to think that kids would like burgers, but these are surprising kids. They are used to frozen bubba burgers. Not only are frozen burgers shoemaker style, but they are expensive and tasteless. Let’s face it, if you are going to eat a burger, it might as well be an indulgence. There is absolutely no room in this world for burgers made from 97/3 ground beef.

I really had no idea how I was going to make the sliders. As with most of my menu planning, I start by coming up with items I know the kids will buy and then figure out the execution from there. Yes, this method has shot me in the food a few times, but it seems like the more logical approach of defining recipes and execution and then putting in on the menu, yields much lower lunch count. When the day came I had 320 orders. That means I needed to have (at minimum) 640 sliders prepped for lunch. I usually get some last minute additions and so I like to have some extras. The goal was to make 660 sliders. I wound up with 700. How did I manage? Well, instead of making 700 individual patties, I pressed my raw meat into a foil lined sheet pan and baked the whole thing at 350 for 15 minutes. Because the meat was so thin, it cook remarkably fast. I pulled the sheet pans from the oven and let the cool. Once I could handle the meat, I used a pizza wheel to cut the sheet of seasoned meat into small squares. I was able to get 70 slider squares out of each sheet pan. It was awesome. The kids loved them, there were plenty to go around, and each one went out hot and steamy. It was a red letter day!

But not every day can be a gold star kind of day. In fact most days are about a 6 or 7 out of 10. Even with the best intentions, sometimes you just can’t quite get to the goal. On Thursday of last week, I make pancakes, bacon and fruit salad. Sounds like a decent, balanced meal to me. I decided to make whole wheat pancakes to up the healthy factor and they tasted great. I was cracking these babies out. Every kid was to get 3 pancakes, 2 slices of bacon and a 1/2 cup of fruit salad. They could help themselves to the butter and syrup.

This was destined to be one of those days that wasn’t going to be good. I started making the pancakes at 8am and was still flipping well past 1pm. I had made 930+ pancakes and ran out half way through the 3rd lunch. It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough batter, or that my math was off, it was just that I couldn’t cook the pancakes fast enough. I have a 20″ x 20″ griddle that could fit 12-15 pancakes on it at one time. I added 2 sauté pans that each held 3 pancakes each. This helped, but not much. In the end I had to boil up ravioli for the last lunch. The kids were fine with it, but it was embarrassing. I know now that I have to cook some of them ahead of time and be prepared with back-up. Granted we had high numbers and the cost was really low, but my stress levels were really high.

This roller coaster job is crazy. It’s crazy fun, and crazy overwhelming. It’s extremely rewarding and extremely defeating. There are days I want to throw my apron up in the air in disgust, and days I want to hug every last kid that walks through the line. It is pretty amazing to me that I get to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to see what Monday brings.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie