Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

So, the other day, I am flipping through the channels trying to find something to watch. When I flip by Food Network and see Paula Dean. Hmm...I wonder what she is cooking. It was cinnamon rolls and they look delicious. I started thinking to myself "Flour, sugar, butter, yeast....I think I could make cinnamon rolls for work tomorrow." This is where the twist comes in, I can not take credit for the recipe it is not mine, nor is it Paula Dean's. I stole this recipe from the great Alton Brown. Let me introduce you to his "Overnight Cinnamon Rolls".

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 7.5 Tbsp of butter
  • 6 oz of buttermilk
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 package of instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 8 oz of light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese
  • 3 Tbsp of milk
  • 1.5 cups of confectioner sugar
Let's start by cracking some eggs. We are going to need 1 whole egg and 4 egg yolks. Save the white's for another day's healthy omelette.

Go ahead and follow that by dumping the buttermilk into the bowl with the eggs.

In goes the 1/4 cup of sugar.

Add 6 Tablespoons of melted butter.

Add 2 cups of flour.

On top of that goes the package of instant yeast.

Stir that up and add the salt.

Start working in another 1 1/4 cups of flour. If you have a stand mixer, put the dough hook attachment on and kneed for 10 minutes on low. If you are like me, and don't you are going to need to get your hands dirty. Take the dough out, place on a cutting board and go to town on it. Once the dough is soft and moist, but not sticky, dump it back in the bowl. Put a little oil over the top (so it doesn't dry out) and cover with plastic wrap.

In about 2-3 hours, your dough should have doubled in volume and should now look like this:

And, from the side:

Turn the dough out on a extra large cutting board or on your counter top. Whichever you choose, make sure you sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.

Gentle shape the dough into a rectangle. Get yourself a rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle if you are short of a rolling pin) and roll into an 18" x 12" rectangle. Try to get the thickness of the dough even.

In a small bowl, or mixing cup, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

Melt a tablespoon and a half of butter and brush it along the dough.

While you are at it, go ahead and butter up your 9" x 13" baking dish.

Sprinkle your cinnamon mixture over the entire surface, save a 1/2" on the top-most horizontal edge.

Start rolling up the dough from the bottom to the top. I worked slowly here trying to get a tight roll and keeping things even. Then I tried to squeeze it down to get an even roll. It helped, but it was far from perfect.

Once it is all rolled up, get a serrated knife and start dividing it up into 1 1/2" segments. I used a serrated knife and applied very little pressure as I sawed through it so I wouldn't squish the rolls.

Throw all your rolls into your pan and cover tightly. Throw them in the refrigerator and let sit overnight. They will rise again and take up all the space in the pan. Try and pinch those loose ends together so the insides won't fall out.

I am a terrible morning person, so I made the icing the night before as well. It starts with 1/4 cup of cream cheese.

Add the 3oz of milk.

Then dump in all the confectioners sugar.

It doesn't look like it will mix in, but believe me it will. So, get that whisk out and get to work.

Now, previously I had mentioned that I am a terrible morning person, so I forgot to take pictures of the proofing process. Basically, all you have to do is boil some water, throw it in a shallow pan and place it in the cold oven with the cinnamon rolls for 30 minutes. This will help them puff up some more and let's face it, nobody wants little cinnamon rolls. Take the water and the rolls out, then preheat the oven to 350°. Once ready, throw in the rolls for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them the last 5-10 minutes though.

Then as they are cooling, dump all that beautiful icing all over them. They are far too hot to eat now, and they will actually absorb the icing while they cool down to an edible temperature.

I took these to work and my co-workers LOVED them. Needless to say, they did not last long. Thank you Alton Brown for making me look good, yet again. PS. Alton Brown's original recipe: Overnight Cinnamon Rolls.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BBQ Ribs

Everyone knows that real barbecue is cooked over hardwoods at low temperatures for long periods of time. I love this process and miss the days that I would constantly monitor my smoker to maintain temperature while it slowly churned out the most heavenly meats I've ever tasted. Currently, I live in a condo, and unfortunately, I am not allowed to have an open fire within 50 feet of my building. It sort of ruins my balcony smoking/grilling and really takes a toll on my ability to make authentic 'cue. If you have a little time, this is a great recipe that, while it may not recreate the smokiness of BBQ, it will provide you with a delicious substitute with very little work.

  • 3 lbs of Pork Spare Ribs
  • 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 cup of Chili Powder
  • 1/4 cup of Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 cup of Ground Pepper
Preheat your oven to 300°. We want to slowly cook the ribs to help break down some of that connective tissue that makes it a tough cut of meat. Let's start it off by making our dry rub. This is a thing that after you make it once, you don't really have to measure ingredients anymore. I know when I make it, it's a little different everytime but always delicious. This will make more dry rub then you need, but it's great on chicken or pork as well. I've even done it on salmon before (to great success). Here's the breakdown of the ingredients.

Start with the 1/2 cup of smoked paprika in a large bowl.

Add the 1/4 cup of chili powder to that.

Then add the garlic powder.

Follow that with the onion powder.

And the ground pepper.

Toss in the salt.

And finally, the brown sugar.

Stir it all up and you have a wonderful BBQ dry rub.

Take your spare ribs and give them a once over. A lot of potential here.

If they have any membrane on the back, go ahead and score them or remove the membrane completely. This will help our dry rub sink in. As you can see, I was feeling lazy and just scored them instead of full removal.

Completely cover the ribs in rub and.....RUB it in!!! That's why they call it a rub, you have to get your hands dirty. There is no way around this. Make sure you get both the front and back and don't forget the sides and any nooks and crannys.

Place ribs on aluminum foil covered (for clean up) sheet pan and bake for 150 minutes. That's two and a half hours for those that are mathematically challenged.

Let's make our BBQ sauce. If you're a regular here at this blog (Hi Mom!), then you have seen me do this before. I will make the BBQ sauce tangier by adding vinegar to it. This will also thin it out a bit, but that is more than OK because it will thicken back up while in the oven. Start by combining the 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and with 2 tablespoons of your apple cider vinegar.

Toss in a good size pinch of your leftover dry rub and then mix everything together.

Are your 150 minutes up yet? Due to the magic of Internet time, mine are and my ribs are looking like this.

Bump the oven up to 375° because it's time to give the ribs a good BBQ baste. Spoon (or brush) the BBQ sauce all over the rib. Throw back in the oven for 15 minutes. Baste again and then follow with another 15-20 minutes in the oven.

Serve with your favorite french fries and a whole heap of paper towels. Guaranteed to not last long.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

White Lasagna

To tell you the truth, I just sort of made up this recipe on the go. I had family in and one of them was a vegetarian (poor girl, I don't know where she went wrong). I was told I had to fix dinner for about a dozen people and I wanted something that I could actually talk to my family while they were visiting. I was thinking of a spinach lasagna with a cream sauce. Then I thought mushrooms would be better. Then I had an epiphany. I could make a little lasagna that was vegetarian and a big lasagna that was meat-a-licious. Or Seafood-a-licious. What about shrimp? Genius, I say. And a delicious recipe was born.

10 oz of ricotta cheese
1 handful of fresh parsley plus extra for garnish
1 egg
2 packages of frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
1 medium onion
5 cloves of garlic
12 oz of mushrooms
1.5 lbs of shrimp (I used 36-40 count, it's cheaper and we don't need huge shrimp in the lasagna)
1 lb of lasagna noodles
3 cups of mozarella cheese
3/4 lb of Pecorino Romano cheese
6 tablespoons All purpose flour
6 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of italian seasoning
2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
an utterly unhealthy amount of butter
old bay seasoning
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

First up, the ricotta cheese mixture. Dump the ricotta in a bowl with the egg and a couple grinds of black bepper. Remember I was making two lasagnas here, so you don't need two eggs. Hopefully, it won't confuse you too much.

Chop up your handful of parsley.

Now add it to the ricotta and egg and stir it all up. Set aside in the refrigerator for later.

Chop up 3 cloves of garlic.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan.

Once melted, add the mushrooms, a generous amount of kosher salt and ground pepper. Stir and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

After the five minutes are up, add the garlic and keep on cooking.

Once most of the moisture is out of the mushrooms, remove from heat and set in refrigerator while we get everything else ready.

Take your shrimp and remove the shells, tails and 'vein' if they are there. Lay them out on a large cutting board and sprinkle with kosher salt, ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning. In Maryland, this is a must on our seafood (and fries, and corn, and everything else). If you don't know what Old Bay is, slap yourself and then slap your momma for not raising you right.

Once again, get your pan searing hot. Add a little olive oil and toss the shrimp in batches. Once again, we are just trying to carmelize the outside a little. Shrimp cook very fast (especially smaller ones), so keep your eye on them. Once done, set aside in refrigerator.

Take an onion and give it a rough dice.

Throw the chopped onion in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and cook for 4-5 minutes. Of course, we add some salt and pepper as well.

While it's cooking, chop up two cloves of garlic.

Add that to the pan with the onion and cook for 3 minutes.

Add your spinach and the crushed red pepper flake and cook for a few minutes. Stir to combine. Set this mixture aside in the refrigerator as well.

Get a giant sauce pan so we can build our sauce. I used my wok here because it's big. Melt seven (yes, 7!!) tablespoons of butter in the pan. I never promised this was a healthy dish.

Once melted, add the flour.

Stir to combine. Coook this for 6 or 7 minutes, until the flour has darkened to a sandy beach sort of color. During this 6-7 minutes, get out your 6 cups of milk and start to heat it in another pan. We want to add the milk warm here so it doesn't solidify all the butter.

I added 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning to give the sauce a little extra flavor.

Now add your warm milk and bring to a slow boil. Then cook for 10 minutes. This is the perfect time to start cooking your noodles.

Get out your shredder and go to town on the pecorino romano cheese. It might crumble more than shred, but that's OK as long as it get's smaller.

Now we get to add our cheeses. First we will go with half a pound of pecorino romano.

Then follow it with a cup of mozzarella.

And a bunch of ground pepper.

Our noodles are now cooked to a perfect al dente.

Now, we have all our ingredients prepped, we can start making the lasagna. Start with a layer of our cheesy and creamy sauce.

Follow with a layer of noodles and the spinach mixture.

Then comes some more sauce.

Another layer of noodles comes on top of the sauce. Followed by the ricotta mixture. I was about 30 minutes late for my dinner party at this point and forgot to take a picture of the ricotta but you can imagine what it looks like. On top of the ricotta comes the noodles followed by the shrimp.

Add some sauce on top of the shrimp, another set of noodles, and then our mushroom mixture. Another layer of sauce goes on the mushrooms.

Follow with some more noodles, more sauce and then 2 cups of mozarella cheese and the last 1/4 lb of pecorino romano. Sprinkle with a little of that left over parsley to make it look pretty and congratulate yourself for making my longest post ever. Seriously, this was a little in depth. I have 32 pictures here. Is that too many for one post? Just for clarification lasagna order is as follows; sauce, noodles, spinach mix, sauce, noodles, ricotta mix, noodles, shrimp, sauce, noodles, mushrooms, sauce, noodles, sauce, cheese, parsley. 16 remarkable layers combine for deliciousness.

Cover with foil and bake this at 375° for 30 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until all the cheese is melted and it's a little bubbly. My entire family thoroughly enjoyed this dish and raved about how delicious the shrimp were (Thank you, Old Bay!). It is a time consuming dish, however I wouldn't hesitate to make it again. I'd just plan on giving myself a little more time.