Resolutions

hoppin' john soup

Let me state the obvious – it is a new year.  Another obvious fact – it has been quiet here.  The truth is, I’ve struggled to find my voice, to find inspiration, to be motivated.  To take the time to photograph a recipe’s preparation and document the teaspoons, cups, temperatures and cooking times.  We’ve eaten well, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t shared.  I’ve tried.  Looking through my photo files, I’ve amassed quite a collection of fragments of recipes.  Spices in a mortar and pestle, mise en place of veggies next to a steaming pot, pans of roasted chicken pieces, searing short ribs – I could go on.  But I didn’t.  And I’m not sure why.

black-eyed peas

Even in the simple act of admitting this, I struggle to find the right words.  Call it a giant case of writer’s block combined with a lack of creativity.  I’ve experimented so little this year with my own recipe creations, instead relying on my giant collection of bookmarked recipes on Pinterest.  Even WordPress had to stifle a chuckle when providing me with this blog’s 2012 stats.  Maybe it is due to our small, rented kitchen and a lack of a garden.  I’m sure a lot of it is due to my health struggles from earlier in the year and the slow recovery time before I felt like a glimmer of myself once more.  And I’m sure some of it is just plain apathy and laziness.

simmering soup

It is a day of making goals, resolving to do things differently in the new year ahead.  I have a rather succinct list for myself, a tidy little plan for 2013.  One of those items is to find myself here more often, chatting with you and sharing a view into our kitchen.  I promise the recipes won’t all be show stoppers or JB’s Pour House originals, but they will be good meals worthy of a night on the couch watching re-runs of the Big Bang Theory or entertaining new friends.  Because that’s what we will be doing.  We’ll be opening a bottle of bubbly on a Tuesday, because why the hell not?  If there’s a lesson I learned in 2011-2012, it is to celebrate life’s little moments.

broil

So we kicked off this chilly start to the new year with hope for a little good luck.  I figured we could use all the help we could get this year, and a dish rooted in tradition with promises of prosperity wasn’t a bad way to start.  And I took pictures.  From start to finish.  Happy new year friends, and I’ll see you soon.

Hoppin’ John Soup with Garlic Rubbed Toasts

Adapted from Saveur

16 oz. dried black-eyed peas

2 meaty smoked ham hocks or 1 ham bone + 1/2 c. chopped cooked ham

1/2 – 3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. canola oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped + 1 clove garlic, peeled

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 bay leaf

2 bunches collard greens, stemmed and leaves roughly chopped/torn

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. – 1/4 c. hot sauce

Ciabatta

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring black-eyed peas, ham hocks/ham bone, and 8 c. water to a boil in a large stockpot.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove ham hocks/ham bone and set aside.  Remove 1 c. cooking liquid and set aside.  Drain black-eyed peas and wipe stockpot with a paper towel.  Return stockpot to medium high heat and add canola oil and red pepper flakes.  Once fragrant (do not let red pepper flakes burn), add carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf.  Saute for about 8 -10 minutes or until vegetables have softened.  Meanwhile, remove fat from ham hocks and dice meat, reserving bones.  Set aside.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add 12 cups of water, reserved cooking liquid, ham bones, ham, drained black-eyed peas and collard greens.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and partially cover.  Simmer for 1 hour or until collard greens have softened.  Stir in vinegar and season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Preheat broiler.  Slice ciabatta into 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Cut individual slices lengthwise into thick strips.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Season lightly with salt.  Toast to desired color.  Remove from broiler and rub garlic clove across craggly surface of toasts.  Serve with Hoppin’ John Soup, preferably dunked happily into the broth.

Wishing you luck and prosperity in 2013,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2013 jb’s pour house

lobster rolls and slow-fried french fries with old bay aioli

What a difference a year makes.  365 days ago (although it feels a little like a lifetime ago), I was told I had cancer.  Tears welled up in my eyes as my doctor explained it was likely lymphoma (it wasn’t) and for the most part, I held it together as I left the doctor’s office.  I made it as far as the parking garage before I began to unravel.  Thread by thread, I fell apart as I sat in my car, cried, and desperately tried to reach my husband on every phone number I knew for him.

I drove home, tears blinding my vision, and once there, I hugged my pup, called my family one by one, and waited for Ben who was racing to get home to me.  My mind was spinning with questions – will I die?  Will I ever be able to have children?  What will treatment be like?  Is this going to hurt?  How did this happen?  This can’t be right, can it?  I will never forget that day.

A cancer diagnosis is comparable to being on a speeding train.  Once you step on, you hold on for dear life and watch as appointments, strange faces, and vial after vial of blood pass you by.  Your vision is blurred from the speed with which you progress and your mind spins with the abundance of information and medical terminology being forced into your brain.

But each day you wake up, you find the strength for another day and you meet the newest challenge.  Beginning to lose your hair and taking control of the situation by buzzing it into a mohawk for the hell of it and then, down to nothing but your scalp.  Buying smaller belts and eventually, smaller clothes as your body whittles away (not complaining too much about that one) due to your complete inability to eat.  Summoning the strength to take a shower and then curling up in bed, still wet, exhausted and in pain.  Shivering to the point of convulsions through one of the mildest winters ever as you fight the cold sensitivity.  Crying (and throwing up) at the drop of a hat.  It is a battle and anyone who tells you different doesn’t know.  But I do, and I have the warrior scars to prove it.

But time heals all.  One year has passed.  Thanks to the glorious power of Mederma, the scars have lessened.  The hair is growing.   Color has returned to my skin.  My energy grows with each passing day.  And I can eat again.  I can look back and be grateful for the love I have in my life and for the very simple fact that I still have a life to live.  I plan to do so.  My gusto and zeal has only been fanned by the fire of the lessons learned this past year.

Life is short, friends, I can tell you that much!  The small stuff is certainly not worth stressing over – believe me, there are much bigger issues to deal with.  Instead, I’m focusing my attention and energy on the things that matter most, the things that make me happy.  And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, but I like to cook.  I like to drink wine with my husband.  I like to entertain friends and laugh.  I like to gather around a table blessed full of food and be grateful for the family sitting around it looking back at me.  I’ll be doing much more celebrating in the days ahead.  A random Tuesday?  Why sure, that calls for a bottle of bubbly and our best glasses.  Take the china out of the cabinet and use it, even if it is only to eat take out fried chicken to go with that bubbly.  There’s never a better chance than right now.

 

lobster rolls with slow-fried french fries and old bay aioli

recipe:  jb’s pour house, bon appetit

 

Lobster Rolls:

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4-5 sprigs of dill

2 lemons

1 c. white wine

4 c. water

4 – 4 oz. lobster tails

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 c. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Hot dog buns

 

Combine carrot, 1 celery stalk (diced), shallot, and 1 sprig of dill in a large saucepan.  Cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze juice into saucepan and add juiced halves to the pot.  Add whine, water and Old Bay.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add lobster tails and return to a boil.  Boil lobsters for 1 minute per ounce.  Remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes.  Strain and let cool.

Once lobster has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the shells.  Discard remaining solids.  Dice lobster into bite sized pieces.  Combine lobster, mayonnaise, and the juice of half a lemon.  Finely dice remaining celery stalk and add to the mixture.  Mince dill and add about 2 tsp. fresh dill to the mixture.  Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a microwave safe dish.  Brush the inside of hot dog buns with melted butter and broil until toasted to desired color.  Spoon about 1/3 c. lobster salad per roll.  Serve.

 

Slow-Fried French Fries

2 lb. russet potatoes

Canola oil

Salt

 

Peel  potatoes and cut into long french fry sticks.  I’d recommend using thicker cuts than what I show in the photo – about 3/8″ by 3/8″.  Rinse and shake of excess water.  Place in a large, deep stockpot and cover with oil (you will likely use all of a large bottle of oil plus some).

Place the pot over medium heat and cook for 45 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula.  Be careful not to do this too often, or you will break your potatoes into many small pieces as I did.  Increase heat to medium high and cook until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Season to taste.

 

Old Bay Aioli

1 egg yolk

1/4 – 1/2 c. canola or olive oil

1/2 c. canola oil

1/2 – 1 lemon

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

 

Use a food processor or blender for  the best results.  Combine egg yolk and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  With the motor running, slowly stream in canola oil (you can use olive oil for a stronger taste).  The mixture will begin to thicken.  Stop motor, scrape down sides and add Old Bay seasoning.  Depending on thickness, continue to stream in oil until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and depending on preferences, add more lemon juice, oil, or seasoning.  Serve with fries.

 

Carpe diem!

– j

 

All contents and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

seared scallops with meyer lemon beurre blanc

Our days are numbered.  Finally.

I rushed home with takeout sushi, hoping to beat B to the apartment.  I had failed.  As I walked into the house and tried to keep Brix from having a heart attack, I saw the bottle of bubbly on the counter and as I pushed the door the rest of the way open, I saw my husband.  I went to greet him with a hug and kiss as I always do, but this time was superceded by my congratulations.  He got a job in Kansas City.  Five long months of living apart were finally over.  I thought I could keep it together.  I failed again.

I sobbed as I hugged him tight, so thankful for the end to be in sight.  I sniffled through the opening of the celebratory sparkling wine and wiped tears away as the glasses were filled with the golden liquid.  It was a special wine (the same he had used in his marriage proposal) and I’ll tell you this – that wine, with a side of good news, tasted damn good.

But, if you know anything about me by this point, you know that I can’t call a celebration complete with a meal carted into the house in styrofoam containers and a plastic grocery bag.  We needed a little J & B style celebration.  We spent a great weekend together with beautiful weather and a plethora of activities in our new hometown.  I wanted to close the weekend with something special and decidedly spring.  Fat asparagus and delicate sea scallops seemed like a fantastic idea, but I needed a little more to push the meal to celebratory mode.  Remember how I said my favorite food was sauce?  Enter beurre blanc.

Beurre blanc is like risotto to me, meaning, once you get the technique down, you can play with it and modify it as your heart desires.  With the richness of the scallops and the bright asparagus, I wanted to counter the additional richness of the sauce with a bright splash of Meyer lemon.  To me, Meyer lemons taste like a honeyed, herbal version of a lemon.  Some call the flavor a cross between an orange and a lemon, but there’s something deeper under the surface that enhances the dishes in which it is included. 

One of the best things about this meal is that it comes together in a flash – the scallops take just minutes to sear and the sauce pulls together as fast as butter melts.  All of this was a good thing, because we were anxious to open another bottle of bubbles to celebrate our good news.  Sadly, the meal ended as all do – no food remaining and too short of a time had passed.  As B packed up the car yet again and I walked to the car with Brix, I greeted our weekend ritual of parting a little differently.  I was sad to see him go, certainly.  But I didn’t cry, unlike the other 21 Sundays since this began.  I had cried tears of joy on Friday.

seared scallops with meyer lemon beurre blanc

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 lb. sea scallops, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry

1 c. dry white wine, such as chardonnay

2 Meyer lemons

3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp. black peppercorns

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (preferrably European style)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Canola oil

Combine white wine, zest and juice of Meyer lemons, shallot, rosemary, white wine vinegar and black peppercorns in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Strain remaining liquid into a small bowl.  Discard solids and wipe out the saucepan.  Return the liquid to the saucepan and place over medium low heat.  Begin to whisk in butter, one cube at a time, until butter is thoroughly incorporated.  Do not let sauce sit without stirring and do not let it boil, or you will break the sauce.  Once all butter has been incorporated, season to taste with salt.  Reduce heat to low and remove pan from heat.  Alternately place pan back on heat and whisk often as scallops are cooking to prevent sauce from breaking.

Place a large skillet over high heat.  Add about 1-2 Tbsp. canola oil.  Season both sides of scallops lightly with salt and pepper.  Place scallops in pan and sear, about 2-3 minutes, being careful not to move scallops once placed in the pan.  Turn scallops over and sear for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve immediately with as much beurre blanc as you like!  (You may want a piece of bread to sop up all of the deliciousness.)

Fin.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2011 jb’s pour house

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mortadella pizza

Well, I had the best of intentions.  I was all groceried up and ready to tell you all about a certain pepperoni sauce heard ’round the world, but then Sunday happened.  Sunday – in all its 90 degree glory.  Sunday – in an apartment with only west facing windows through which the sun beat unmercilessly until the grace of a storm and cold front finally provided relief.  The sauce is coming, but we’ll have to wait for either a screen door and a glorious cross breeze or a cooler day.

You may recall me telling you about my sister’s continual recipe request for items which have never passed my lips, yet I am supposed to provide instruction.  Well, it finally happened.  In October of 2009, GQ magazine published an article in which a thin crust (gasp) Chicago pizza was named the best in America.  My sister immediately requested the recipe for the mortadella pie.  I’m a little behind on my list it seems.  When I finally got around to making it last week, I was interrupted in my preparations by said sister, requesting yet another recipe.

“I’m a little busy on another request of yours,” I had texted back.  Here’s the kicker – she didn’t even remember requesting the recipe in the first place!  So, I guess we’ve gone full circle.  I know my sis will continue to send requests my way which doesn’t bother me, as I’ll keep playing and trying new things.  I guess it is a way to keep the creative juices flowing.  And at least in the short term, it offered an opportunity to create a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Full disclosure – as with most of my sister’s requests, I have absolutely no idea if this tastes anything close to the real deal.  But that’s ok.  Whether this can hold it’s own against the original remains to be seen, but in the interim, we have a pretty tasty pie on our hands.  I wanted the base to be simple as the spotlight was really intended to be on one thing and one thing only – the mortadella.  While you can buy a pre-made dough from the grocery store, I’d recommend making your own as I did here or swinging through your favorite local pizza joint and asking to buy some dough.  They’ll give you funny looks guaranteed. 

I also wanted the sauce to be delicious but not competitive with everything else going on.  So I simply reduced the liquid in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and once thick and to my desired consistency, I dressed lightly with a few dashes of oregano, a glug of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt.  To top the pie, I sliced orbs of fresh mozzarella into disks and quickly brined them to add a little salty bite but also to form a thin skin on the cheese to prevent it from turning too watery in the hot oven and causing the dough to be soggy.  A few minutes in a very hot oven later, and you have the makings for a delectable Margherita pizza.  Yum.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet, kids.  This baby gets topped with slices of mortadella ladened with peppercorns and pistachios.  A quick sear in the oven and the mortadella begins to curl and the edges slightly crisp.  It’s done.

As you take that first bite and the string of cheese forms a tightrope between your mouth and the retreating slice of pie, you can thank my sister.  I know I did.

mortadella pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. warm water

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. flour

1 24 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

3/4 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/4 lb. mortadella

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir and let sit for 10-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Add olive oil and salt and fit the mixer with a dough hook.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add flour.  Continue adding until all flour is gone.  Turn the mixer speed up and let the dough mix until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Place about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a clean large bowl.  Place dough in bowl and toss around several times until surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a working surface and begin to roll dough out to desired size (recommend 14″ to 16″ so as not to be too thin).  Lighly oil a large baking sheet and place dough onto it.  Fold edges of dough over itself to make a crust.  Set aside.  Place San Marzano tomatoes in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling and crushing tomato pieces with a wooden spoon until sauce has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original volume and desired consistency has been reached.  Add oregano, olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

Place about 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add about 1/2 c. very hot water and stir until salt has disolved.  Add enough cold water to come up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the side of the bowl.  Add mozzarella slices and brine for about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Spread sauce across dough and place mozzarella slices across the sauce.  The cheese will not cover the entire surface.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven and top with mortadella.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

I heart pizza.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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mexican pot pie

Margarita Madness!

Who needs basketball when there are margaritas to be had?!  I pass this sign every morning on my way to work and every day, without fail, it makes me want a margarita.  I’ll be a little sad when the big tourney ends and I no longer have a craving for a breakfast beverage filled with tequila and lime.  Ha, who am I kidding?  I’d still be up for a breakfast margarita.  Maybe with a beer chaser.  Now I want a bloody mary.  Ok, off topic…

My daily craving for a margarita has also fueled my near constant craving for Mexican food.  Any time we are looking for somewhere to go for a meal, I lean toward the chips and salsa while B leans toward steamed rice and soy sauce.  I guess one of the perks (if you can call it that) of living in different states is that I can indulge my crazy whims and make whatever food I’m craving.  Now B, if you are reading this, no chiming in and saying that’s what I do anyway.  It isn’t, I swear.  (Maybe just a little.)

So when images of margaritas danced in my head on a recent 80 degree day (Again!  In March!) I knew there was no denying the cravings that would soon follow.  Good thing it was grocery day.  As I wheeled my cart around the aisles, I began to amass the familiar ingredients but without a solid plan.  Ground beef, black beans, olives, tomatoes, jalapeno – soon enough I had the fixins for tacos but didn’t quite want to deal with hand-held food given the absence of a dining table.  Plus, “How I Met Your Mother” was on and I was planning to rock the easy chair during the evening meal.

I had a thought – Mexican Pot Pie.  I could take all of the usual taco fillings, place them in a casserole, cover it with a sweet corn cake and once bubbling and golden, drizzle with a creamy salsa verde.  All of my favorite things in one tasty dish.  Add a slushy lime concoction and I’m on my way to happiness. 

mexican pot pie

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

2 lbs. ground beef

½ onion, diced

1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seed if you prefer)

1 14 oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes, undrained

1 pkg. taco seasoning of your choice

1 14 oz. can black beans

1 6 oz. can black olives, halved

8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 pkg. Chi Chi’s sweet corn cake

1 14 oz. can cream style corn

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

¼ c. water

1 c. crème fraiche*

1 c. salsa verde

½ tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the ground beef in a large sauté pan and brown over medium high heat.  Once nearly browned, add onion, garlic and jalapeno.  Once beef is fully browned and onion mixture has started to turn translucent, add undrained tomatoes and taco seasoning.  Mix to incorporate fully.  Add black beans, black olives, and pepper jack cheese, mix and place mixture in a large baking dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine sweet corn cake mix, cream style corn, melted butter and water.  Mix well and pour over the top of the beef mixture.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until corn cake is golden brown and does not jiggle when dish is moved.

Combine crème fraiche, salsa verde and kosher salt.  Spoon desired amount of Mexican Pot Pie into an individual serving dish and top with about 2 Tbsp. creamy salsa verde.

*To make crème fraiche at home, combine 1 c. heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. buttermilk in a sealable container.  Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.  Stir and use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

Hope you are enjoying Margarita Madness and your bracket is still kicking!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

Things have changed a lot in the past several months.  You might have noticed it has been a bit quiet here.  Well, since we spoke last, I went from this:

to this:

We turned 30.  We put miles on our cars.  A lot of miles.  I learned to live on quickly prepared meals, relying more heavily on a microwave than in any other period of my life, even college.  I missed being home.  I missed cooking.  I was so out of practice that as I prepared to make my first real grocery list in nearly three months, I struggled to find inspiration.  There was so much I wanted to make and eat, yet nothing was coming to mind.  I spent hours lazing in my borrowed recliner as I cycled through cooking site after cooking site, desperately seeking the motivation and the ingredients needed to make a successful grocery list.

After being gifted with a few beautiful 65+ degree days, Mother Nature decided to remind us all it was still February with a bit of a “wintry mix” in store for the early part of the week.  I realized I had missed cooking so many of the winter comfort foods that I love and decided to treat myself to a little splurge and a big plate of home cooking.  Oddly enough, it was one of my quickest meals from my houseguest period that I kept coming back to – a fast spicy marinara sauce.  But this time, with a kitchen in my possession, albeit small, I needed to jazz it up a bit.  Have I ever mentioned that I like Boursin?

And then, there it was.  Inspiration!  A small disk of Boursin later, and we were looking to have some serious meatballs to go with the spicy marinara.  And so I started the sauce.  This has truly become a go-to marinara for me.  I find it perfect with chicken/eggplant parmesan, tasty tossed lightly with pasta, or rich underneath the melted blanket of mozzarella on a homemade pizza.  And with only five ingredients, it should become part of your repetoire as well.  Plus, you get to squeeze tomatoes with your hands.  What’s more fun than that?

The meatballs are equally simple as well.  Ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs, a bit of parsley, garlic, an egg, and oh yes, the Boursin, and you have some serious flavor happening.  As the first meatballs hit the hot oil and the steam from the pan began to rise toward the ceiling, I quickly realized two things.  These meatballs were going to be delicious.  The second?  This tiny apartment kitchen doesn’t stand a chance!

linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

kosher salt, to taste

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1 pkg. Boursin

3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Linguini, cooked according to package directions

 

Place olive oil and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Once you can smell the oil and the red pepper, add juice from tomatoes and start breaking tomatoes into pieces, holding hands over the pan.  Continue until all tomatoes are crushed into pan.  Bring to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue simmering for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency (I like to leave a bit of texture).  Return to low heat and simmer, covered, until ready to use.  About 2 minutes prior to serving, add garlic and season to taste with kosher salt.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ground beef, Boursin, onion, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix gently until just combined.  Form into meatballs based on your size preference.  For this recipe, I aimed for meatballs that were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Once all meatballs have been formed, heat about 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Working in batches, sear meatballs on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Repeat until all meatballs have been seared.  Place meatballs on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Lightly toss cooked linguini with about half of the sauce.  Place pasta on individual serving plates and top with meatballs.  Lightly spoon about 1/2 Tbsp. sauce over each meatball.  Serve immediately.

 

Welcome back!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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porcini chicken with fontina

Right about now, I wish I rented.  Oh, how I long for a building supervisor or property manager to come and make my home all shiny and new.  I wouldn’t have a bathroom in various stages of completion, nor would I have paint brushes and screwdrivers scattered about my house.  I wouldn’t have moulding laid across the length of my kitchen table, and I would have a shiny new toilet that was actually functional, rather than waiting for one last piece that we discovered we needed at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night (of course).  I wouldn’t have sore knees from laying new floors and I wouldn’t have tendonitis in my elbow from repeated motions of painting, sanding, scraping, repeat.  I’d have my weekends back to laze about as I wish, and I would return to my beloved kitchen to prepare a hearty fall meal, rather than reheating leftovers from previous quick-hit dinners at 10:30 p.m. when we finally called it quits for the day.

Now I remember why it has taken me four years to find the motivation to resume my home improvement projects.  It does feel good to check things off of the list that has been hanging on my refrigerator since the early days of owning our house.  But after several days of non-stop work, I declared a moratorium on bathroom projects and retreated to my kitchen.  We needed a decent dinner, and I needed to find a different creative outlet, one with a tastier result.  Inhaled dust from sanding patches of joint compound washed down with a cold beer just wasn’t cutting it.  We needed sustenance.

When visiting a favorite Italian deli in town several months ago, I stumbled across a small packet of brown powder and upon inspecting the label, found that it read “Porcini Powder” in the gently sloping cursive reminiscent of many grandmothers’ handwriting.  I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it, but sure enough, into my cart it went.  The finely ground dried porcini mushrooms sat in my cabinet for a while, and every time I opened it, I’d look at that little packet and try to decide what to do with it.  Suddenly, it hit me.

I thought “Chicken Parmesan” except it wasn’t Chicken Parmesan at all.  The recipe starts somewhat similarly – a thin chicken breast, breaded and sautéed until golden brown, then slowly baked in the oven.  Traditional breadcrumbs were swapped for panko, then both the panko and flour were infused with equal amounts of the porcini powder to add an earthy richness to the chicken.  Instead of bright marinara, I sautéed cremini mushrooms until golden brown, added reconstituted porcini, sherry and fresh thyme, then piled the mixture over the crispy chicken breasts.  And in one final swap, I omitted the delicate fresh mozzarella and opted for a creamy, slightly tangy Fontina cheese to melt into the nooks and crannies of the mushrooms crowning the chicken.

The headiness of the porcini infused the crunchy coating on the outside of the chicken and permeated the rich mushroom topping.  The Fontina provided just enough creaminess and added to the richness of the dish.  It was perfect for fall, perfect for a night of no to-do lists.  It gave us a glimpse back into our “normal” lives and evenings.  I can’t wait to get back there permanently (with a shiny, pretty bathroom to boot).  Give me a paint brush, I have more work to do.

porcini chicken with fontina

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh garlic

1/3 c. dry Sherry

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts pounded to about ½” thickness

1 ½ c. all purpose flour

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 ½ c. panko

Kosher salt

Finely ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. canola oil

1 1/3 c. shredded Fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Add cremini mushrooms and saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes.  As cremini are cooking, bring 1 c. water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Once boiling, add porcini mushrooms and let soak for about 10 minutes.  Drain, reserving liquid.  Roughly chop porcini.  Set aside.  Once cremini are golden brown, add porcini, garlic and thyme and saute for about 1 minute.  Add 1/4 c. reserved porcini liquid and let simmer, scraping bottom of the pan, until liquid has almost completely reduced.  Add 1/3 c. dry Sherry and let simmer until liquid has nearly evaporated.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, set aside.

Place flour on a large plate or bowl.  Add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. porcini powder.  Set aside.  Place panko on a large plate or bowl.  Add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. porcini powder.  Set aside.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour and shake off excess.  Dip into egg, shaking off excess, then dredge in panko mixture.  Set aside and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Place canola oil in a large skillet (can use same skillet as mushrooms, but wipe with a paper towel prior to proceeding) and place over medium high heat.  Sear chicken breasts, about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Remove and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.  Divide mushroom mixture and spread evenly across chicken.  Top each with about 1/3 c.  shredded Fontina cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.  Serve warm.

*To make your own porcini powder, place dried porcini mushrooms in a food processor or coffee grinder (designated for spice use only) and pulse until finely ground.  Be sure to dust porcini lightly prior to processing to remove any grit.

Here’s to your home improvement project!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

The hourglass has been flipped.  Suddenly, the grains of sand begin to sift faster and faster into the vial below.  I feel as if I’m grasping for a rope that’s suddenly just out of my reach.  I’m becoming desperate, despondent.  No, it isn’t a bad dream.  It’s fall.

Despite the impression I may have just given you, I don’t dislike fall.  Cool days, crunchy leaves, apples with baking spices, red wine and soul-warming comfort foods are among the many things I enjoy.  It’s just that nagging season that comes on fall’s heels that makes me bemoan summer’s fade into autumn.  It’s why I am digging my heels in, desperately trying to stop the shift from warm sunny days to brisk afternoons filled with falling leaves. 

It is during this time of year that I find myself stumbling across summer recipes that I haven’t had a chance to squeeze in yet among the tomato/zucchini/cucumber/pepper/eggplant galore that is our garden.  Some are old favorites, some are newly bookmarked, and I’m racing against time to try to fit them all in.  Sadly, I won’t get to them all.  It’s why I’m already dreaming of next year’s garden.  Yes, I have spring fever.  And yes, it’s only September.

There was something about this recipe that made me set it aside for a while, marking it as one to try in the early days of fall.  Something about it said “cooler weather.”  It was a recipe I could envision us enjoying as a cool breeze from the open windows dances across our table, and the light from the setting sun (much earlier these days, to my dismay) glimmers against the ruby colored wine in our glasses.  Lucky for me, it turned out just as I envisioned.

Relatively simple to prepare, this is one of those fantastically devious recipes.  As B said, this was something we easily would have enjoyed at restaurant prices and not felt a pang of guilt over having done so.  But again, lucky for us, that wasn’t the case.  Budget friendly to the extreme, this recipe uses inexpensive pork tenderloin and other refrigerator/pantry staples to create a showstopper of a meal once combined.  The pork pinwheels were a symphony of slightly sweet and crunchy toasted pecans, savory and tender pork, and smoky rich bacon.  With a drizzle of tangy Carolina mustard sauce, choruses of “mmmmmmm” and other words of praise soon filled our dinner conversation.

As the sun set on our perfect early fall dinner, I resigned myself to the fact that summer was drawing to a close.  I’ll continue to glean as much from it as I can in the days remaining, but with recipes like this, fall doesn’t look so bad after all.

pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

recipe:  adapted from big bob gibson’s bbq book

 

¾ c. prepared yellow mustard

½ c. honey

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. ketchup

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. hot sauce

1 pork tenderloin

6 bacon strips

1 c. finely chopped pecans (recommend using a food processor)

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine yellow mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a small bowl.  Whisk well to combine.  Prepare 24 hours in advance for the best flavor.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Slice pork tenderloin in half lengthwise.  Slice each half lengthwise into three long strips.  Repeat with remaining tenderloin half.  Using a meat tenderizer, lightly pound pork strips to flatten slightly.  Place a strip of bacon on top of each pork tenderloin strip and roll into a pinwheel.  Secure with two long toothpicks or medium-length skewers.

Combine pecans, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Set aside about 1 c. Carolina mustard sauce.  With the remaining sauce, lightly baste pork pinwheels and dredge in pecan mixture.  Set aside and repeat with remaining pinwheels.

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Cook for 7-8 minutes per side or until the edges of the bacon start to crisp.  Note – my grill runs hot.  I reduced my temperature and paid close attention so as not to burn the pecan crust.  You’ll want to watch this as well.  Remove from the heat and serve with the reserved mustard sauce.

Enjoy the dwindling days of summer!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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dynasty burgers

It happens to me too.  Usually on Friday or Saturday nights, but sometimes it happens on week nights too.  Sometimes, I just don’t feel like cooking.  (Gasp!)

On those nights where I’m just not up for the slicing, dicing, sautéing, etc., I’m usually met with the same answer.

What do you want for dinner?  (me)

Chinese!  (B)

Sadly for B, 9 times out of 10, Chinese food just does not appeal to me.  Why this is I don’t know, as I really do enjoy Chinese food.  I love rice, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, spicy sauces, and the umami of soy sauce.  And crab rangoon?  Don’t get me started.  I don’t even want to publish the quantities I am capable of consuming.  It’s bad.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s impressive.

Time and time again, I steer us in another direction.  But on those nights when our tastebuds align, I’m reminded again of how much I enjoy the flavors that permeate Chinese cuisine.  So when I stumbled across the Dynasty Burger, I knew this would be something we’d both enjoy.  It has all of the elements that we love, minus the fried meat.  And the crab rangoon.  *boo*

Sadness over the absence of the crab rangoon now behind me, I set about prepping the ingredients for the burger.  A quick hoisin-chili garlic barbeque sauce came together in minutes and with a few quick chops, the burger patties were ready as well.  On to the hot grill they went and in no time, we had plated burgers and steamed edamame for a lazy weeknight dinner.  The burgers, studded with shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts, had plenty of contrast and crunch.  A little grated fresh ginger and fresh garlic added some zing to the patties.  As the hoisin barbeque sauce dripped off of our burgers and onto our plates and hands, we agreed – this is a good burger.  And, best of all, it satisfied B’s cravings for Chinese.

dynasty burger

recipe:  adapted from Martin Yan

 

¼ c. barbeque sauce

¼ c. hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce

2 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 lb. ground beef (recommended:  85% lean)

2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

¼ c. finely chopped shiitake mushrooms

¼ c. finely chopped water chestnuts

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt

Lettuce

Tomato, sliced

Red onion, sliced

Hamburger buns

Preheat a grill to medium high. 

Combine barbeque sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce and 2 tsp. sesame oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Combine ground beef, soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, black pepper and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix until just combined.  Separate into four equal portions and form patties.

Place burgers over direct heat and cook for about 4 minutes per side.  Remove burgers from grill and place on hamburger buns.  Top with about 1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce, lettuce, tomato, and red onion.  Serve immediately (with a side of steamed edamame if you wish!).

Now I’m off to find some crab rangoon.  Yum!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

In the midst of the summer heat, we’ve managed to squeeze out a few days with low humidity and clear skies – the kind of day that begs for a lovely dinner on the patio and a chilled bottle of rosé.  A dinner party for three with my favorite boys as my guests, where locusts and neighborhood birds provide the background music.  A dinner where we’ll watch the bees buzz from our Russian sage to our purple coneflowers as we lazily enjoy our meal and sip our wine, and as the sun sets, we’ll talk as flames from our citronella torches dance and twirl in the gentle evening breeze.

The table is set, the wine is open, glasses are full and plates have been placed before us on the table.  The bees are buzzing, the torches are lit and the locusts are humming.  Ah, perfection.

And then, a siren.  A fire truck.  Soon enough, both of my dinner guests have their heads thrown back, mouths to the sky, howling away.  I’m so glad the hubs taught Brix to howl…

Try as I might, I can’t resist laughing at this spectacle.  Poor Brix has such a mournful little wail, his little doggy mouth forms into a perfect “O,” his small body goes rigid and the closer the siren comes, the more excited he gets and start to furiously wipe his feet as he throws his head back again.  And B, well, what can I say?  Ah well, you can dress `em up…

So often relegated to the backyard barbeque, corn on the cob and its requisite pile of napkins and waiting toothpicks is a veggie that could stand a little dressing up.  Not that I have anything bad to say about plain ol’ corn on the cob – I’m the girl that comes home from work and appears in sweatpants no more than five minutes later.  But every now and then, it is fun to get a little gussied up, and I thought it was high time sweet corn got the glamour treatment.  I knew just the thing.

I’d read recently about a benefit dinner where a sweet corn panna cotta was one of the featured courses.  I’d seen sweet corn panna cotta before, but always in a sweet setting as a dessert.  While the natural sugars and creaminess of really good sweet corn would be fitting for an after-dinner treat, the tomatoes fresh out of my garden led me in a different direction.  I thought back to a tomato and corn pie I’d made last summer and recalled the tasty combination.  So with a savory theme in mind, I set off to create a delicate summer first course.

Inspired by a version of panzanella salad I make every summer without fail, I wanted the fresh tomato salad to be full of bright flavors.  I strolled out to my garden with shears in hand and returned with fresh basil, chives and garlic.  To this I added some balsamic vinegar for a little depth, olive oil, and shavings of Parmiggiano Regiano cheese for a little salty accent.  The sweet corn and cream in the panna cotta provide such a creamy contrast to the fresh tomato salad.  Served cold or at room temperature, this was a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time and have ready and waiting for you. 

sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. whole milk

1/3 c. sugar

2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off and cobs reserved

2 c. heavy cream

¼ tsp. kosher salt

3 Tbsp. water

2 ½ tsp. unflavored gelatin

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½” dice

2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ c. shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small stockpot, bring milk and sugar to a slow simmer over medium heat.  Add corn kernels, simmer for about 5 minutes.  As corn is simmering, chop reserved cobs into four pieces each.  Add cream, kosher salt and reserved cob segments.  Bring to a simmer and once simmering, cover and remove from heat.  Let steep for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top.  Let stand for 15 minutes. 

Remove cobs from the cream mixture and discard.  Bring cream mixture back to a simmer and once simmering, add gelatin mixture.  Remove from heat and stir until gelatin is thoroughly incorporated.  Strain, reserving both cream and corn.  Divide corn kernels among six ramekins and top with reserved cream mixture.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Combine tomatoes, chives, basil, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To serve, run a metal spatula along the edges of each ramekin and carefully invert onto a plate.  Top with about ¼ c. tomato salad.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Enjoy – with or without howling in the background!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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