Friday, 17 May 2019

Firecracker Burgers

I know it's been spotty here in this corner of the world for a while.  I have to be honest with you - two things.  First - when I'm off work I can barely bring myself to sit and look at the computer and think about how to tell you about this amazing food!  Second - when inspiration does strike, I'm usually tucked up at my desk at work and just simply CAN'T write.

But my goal for the remainder of the year is to do a little bit better. 

I thought I would come back to you and kick off burger season with these AMAZING Firecracker Burgers.  A simple burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, red onions, chipotle ranch sauce, and deep fried jalapenos. 

With all these things going on, one would assume that the burgers would be mega-spicy - but fear not.  Even someone who doesn't like heat will love these!

Make sure your buns are ready!

Make your burger patties and set them in the fridge while you prep the rest.

Stir together the ranch dressing and chipotle peppers.  Pop those in the fridge while you're doing the jalapenos.

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt,


Chili powder,


Cumin,


Garlic powder and pepper.


Whisk in the beer.  Make sure your oil is heated to 350 degrees F.

Slice the jalapenos and remove the seeds and membranes.  If you want the jalapenos to have more heat, then leave the seeds and membranes in place.

Dredge the jalapeno slices in flour.


Then dip the floured slices into the beer batter.  Let the excess drip off and fry in the hot oil, three or four pieces at a time, for 3 to 4 minutes.  When the slices are JUST golden brown, remove them from the oil.

I drain mine on paper-towel lined cookie sheets.  I also keep them in the oven at 220 degrees F to keep them warm and crispy.


When the jalapenos are all cooked, cook the burger patties, and get ready to put them together.

Start with the patty, then add the Monterey Jack cheese.  Spread the Chipotle Ranch Sauce on the top bun.


Add some red onion.


Top with the jalapeno slices.


Et voila.


Boom shakalaka.



Be still my heart.


These have been in my top 10 burger list since I made them!  I love the smoky ranch sauce with the crispy jalapenos and the cheese and the beef.  It all makes me so happy.

I made these for my brother - and he's notorious for not requiring much of anything on his burger.  But he piled his burger high with these pieces of jalapeno!

Even if you're not a jalapeno lover, you will still LOVE these burgers.  It's worth the time it takes to deep fry the jalapeno slices.  And don't be cheap - do three or four jalapenos!  You'll use more on your burger than you think.

And then you always have the leftovers to munch on with the ranch sauce!!

Happy Summer to us!

Friday, 29 March 2019

Oreo Layered Dessert

You guys are gonna hate me after this one.

But not because it's SOOOO delicious you're going to want to add it into your regular rotation, but because one of the ingredients isn't readily available here in Canada.

Sorry.  But if there are any American readers peeking in - hey!!!

Before we get TOO much further - we have to talk about this recipe.

We all know it.  There are a zillion different versions of it - there are a couple here on this blog even.  The most popular one is a walnut crust with chocolate and vanilla pudding topped with chocolate shavings.

Lots of people call it Lush.  Some people call it Better than Robert Redford.  I believe in my family the original name was Gram's Special.  We call it Sex in a Pan.

Or - Love in a Pan if you have an 8 year old niece and you can't say that word in front of her.

This is just another version of it.  I incorporated Michelle's crust for her version of this dessert because it made the most sense - and the rest is just like every other version of Sex in the Pan out there.

First - open a package of Double-Stuff Oreos.  But don't eat them all.


Woosh them in a mini chopper so you get fine crumbs and chunks.


Pour in some melted butter.


Press the Oreos into a 9 x 13 inch pan and keep in the fridge.


Then, start the cream cheese layer by combining icing sugar and cream cheese.


Fold in whipped topping (**Cool Whip**).


Then spread evenly on the cookie crust and put back in the fridge.


Next to make the pudding layer.  You're going to need Oreo Cookies and Creme pudding mix.  I bring mine back from the States, but lately it's been getting hard to find.


Pour milk into a large mixing bowl.


Then add the pudding mix.


Once the pudding has thickened, spread over the cream cheese layer.  Pop it in the fridge for a bit longer.


Spread more whipped topping (**Cool Whip**) over the pudding layer.  


You can decorate this however you choose.  Small chunks of Oreos (I didn't do this because I polished off the rest of the Double Stuffed - oops), or mini Oreos or chocolate chips or chocolate curls or whatever your heart desires.

Because I was in a hurry - the picture you see above was the last one I took of this treat.  I decided to go with the mini Oreos - in case you're curious.

It was DELICIOUS.  It's a total sin that we can't get this pudding in Canada because I think of all the versions I've tried, this one is in my top 5 favorites!

If you happen to come across Cookies and Crème pudding, grab a whole bunch and maybe send me some too!   (I would like you long time)

If you can't - you could always just sub in one box chocolate and one box vanilla like my family recipe and it would be delicious too!  But then I would really encourage you to chunk up Oreos for on top.

One more thing.  This dessert is best made one day in advance of serving.  It gives the layers time to firm up.  Trust me on this one.

Enjoy! - Heather

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

King Bundt Cake

Mardi Gras is coming!  Not that this means too much for us in Canada.  We're still dealing with snow and ice.

But this does not mean that we can't celebrate it!

King Cake has deep roots in theology.  This cake is generally served between King's Day (January 6th, also known as the Twelfth Night) and Fat Tuesday and is served during this time to celebrate the coming of the Three Kings (when they came to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus).

The cake is also typically topped with a simple icing colored in green, gold/yellow, and purple - which also contains quite a bit of symbolism.  Green for faith, gold/yellow for power, and purple for justice.  These are also the colors of Mardi Gras.

King cakes are baked sometimes with coins or small toys inside - but mostly there is a small, plastic baby baked into the cake.  Whoever finds the baby is supposed to have good luck for a year.

There was no baby baked into the cake this time.  lol

I made this before and when I told my sister-in-law that I was making it again, she said "you already made that!".  But - the truth is - I messed it up.  The first time I made it, I wasn't really paying attention and tossed in active dry yeast instead of instant yeast.  It actually ended up rising and turned out pretty good - but I wasn't totally 100% please with it.  So we're revisiting the recipe.

King Cake - isn't cake.  If you hadn't already guessed from my comment about yeast.  lol.  King Cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, sometimes filled with cinnamon, chocolate, etc.  In this particular case, there is a ground pecan, cinnamon, and sugar filling spread on the bread and then it's rolled up like a cinnamon bun, formed into a circle, and baked in a bundt pan.

And it's delicious.

Gather everything up.


In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the milk,


And the eggs,


And whisk together with the melted butter.  Make sure the butter is not too hot and that you whisk constantly as you're adding it to the milk and eggs - you don't want to cook the eggs.


Then add the flour,


The sugar,


The yeast,


The salt,


Then, with a wooden spoon, stir everything together until it just comes together.


Then turn the mixer on low and let the stand mixer do the work!  The dough is going to look SUPER sticky - but don't add any more flour.

Once done mixing, scrape the dough out of the stand mixer bowl into a greased bowl.  I used a sturdy silicone spatula - one that doesn't have much flex.  


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Then get the filling ready.  Gently toast the pecans in a pan - making sure not to burn.  Use low heat and swish the pecans around constantly.  Just be patient.  They'll start to be fragrant when they're toasting. 

Pay attention when you pull them off the heat too.  If you're going to leave them in the pan to cool, make sure you swish the pecans around a couple of times so they don't burn (because they will - trust me).


Combine the pecans and brown sugar in a bowl.  


Add some cinnamon.


And set aside until ready to use.

When the dough has finished its rise, roll out into a large rectangle.  


Gently rub a little water (not much!) across the surface of the dough.  Then, spread the pecan mixture across the surface - leaving a small border around the edges.


Then, just as if you were making cinnamon buns, start rolling the dough.  I suggest rolling towards you.  Once the dough is rolled into a tube, pinch the edge shut.


Then, lift the tube into a greased bundt pan seam side up.  Let rise in the pan for 30 minutes.


After baking and allowing the cake to cool, make the icing.


Combine the icing sugar and the milk.  It won't seem like enough milk, but just keep stirring and the icing with come together.


Divide the icing sugar mixture into three bowls and color in yellow, green, and purple.




This came out with a really soft tender bread and the pecan filling is really fantastic!  Not gooey like a cinnamon bun - but essentially the same thing.

Today is Fat Tuesday - or Shrove Tuesday - and I think this is fantastic way to get ready for Lent to start.

Enjoy!  I hope you find yourself at a Mardi Gras party or two!


Saturday, 2 March 2019

Etouffee

Going to Louisiana and hanging around in the "Big Easy" is on my bucket list.  I'm pretty sure it's on most people's lists.  The mysteries of the region are intriguing - the way the dead are celebrated, the parties and parades, the voodoo, the food, the history.  And I really want to learn more about the FOOD part.

The cuisine from Louisiana is a beautiful dance of Cajun and Creole - which are actually pretty similar, except for the areas the dishes come from.  Cajun typically refers to "country food" and Creole refers to "city food", and both have heavy influences of French bases.

Cajun food is slightly more simple and is typically well seasoned - but not SPICY, and most dishes will start with a base of onions, celery, and green peppers (the French "mirepoix" uses carrots).  

Creole food is influenced by a variety of cultures borne from the settlers of French colonial Louisiana.  Creole cooking uses a wide variety of ingredients and spices not typically available to Cajun kitchens.

As mentioned before, seasoning is really important in both Cajun and Creole cooking.  The roux is also an important element of many dishes.  There are the "colors" of roux are chosen typically depending on the type of meat being used in the dish.  Blond or light roux is usually used for seafood gumbos, Medium roux (about the color of peanut butter) is most common in Creole dishes and is most versatile, and a dark roux - often cooked to the color of chocolate - is best for gumbos using chicken and sausage.   But this also depends on where the dish is being prepared, by who, and maybe just how they feel that day.  The roux may also be slightly different depending on if the fat base is butter or oil.  An oil roux will typically result in achieving a very dark roux.  And getting to a very dark roux is tricky and requires a lot of attention.

So the big question.  Is Etouffee Cajun or Creole?  

Both.  But they may have slight differences depending on what kitchen the dish is being prepared in.

Linked and overlapped and combined, but still different.  Complex and mysterious.  

With this recipe, I made a medium roux.

First - put together the spice mix.


Salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, black pepper, and a little cayenne.


Stir it all together and then set aside.


Next up is the roux.  This roux has an oil base - which I was actually initially a little weirded out by.  I'm used to a butter based roux - and I was tempted to just do that, but I wanted to try it at least.


Start heating the oil over medium heat and add the flour.


Whisk constantly.  Be patient.  Let the mixture come to the color of peanut butter.  


Remove the flour mixture from the heat and set aside.

Next up is to start the veggie base of the dish.


Heat some oil in a large pan on medium-high heat and then add in the onion, celery, and green pepper.  

Don't be like me and add the tomatoes at this point.  Luckily they didn't all make it into the pan.  (read your recipe COMPLETELY!)


Cook, stirring often, until the veggies are browned and softened.  


Stir in the seasoning mix that was made earlier.


Stir in the tomatoes and thyme and cook until the tomatoes are cooked through.


Add in the roux and stir together.


Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened.


Add in the shrimp and continue cooking until the shrimp are cooked through - about five minutes.


If you've made the Voodoo Shrimp that I had posted about before - you'll know that dish packs a fairly wicked punch.  I even REDUCED the original level of heat in that dish to make it bearable!

This etouffee was lovely - cozy and comforting, the sauce richly flavoured - but not spicy.  It's wonderful comfort food.

It's the perfect kick off to learning a new cuisine in my opinion!

Enjoy!