White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

white truffle oil mac and cheese

White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese with Rosemary

My first experience with truffle mac and cheese was at Clusters & Hops, an excellent restaurant in Tallahassee that features unique dishes like Parmesan-crusted ostrich filet and espresso-crusted filet mignon with wild mushrooms and Cognac caramelized onions. But my favorite dish of theirs (and one of their signature dishes) is truffle mac and cheese. A blend of cheeses and truffle oil–the exact varieties and proportions of which they jealously guard–gives it a silky smooth texture, a wonderfully intoxicating truffle taste, and leaves you craving more as soon as you take the last bite.

When we moved from Tallahassee to Chicago, I set out to re-create this dish in my own kitchen. I thought it might help us survive Chicago’s brutal winters. I’ve played around with many different recipes since then and I’ve finally found a winner–one that approaches the truffle oil mac and cheese found at Clusters & Hops.

My white truffle oil mac and cheese is made with equal parts Parmesan and fontina cheese. The parmesan is sharp and earthy, while the fontina is soft, creamy, and tangy. Combined, they work wonders on the palate. But the truffle oil is what really takes this dish to the next level. Its intense aroma and earthy flavors make this a truly indulgent meal. A fresh rosemary garnish finishes the dish and make the luxuriant flavors pop.

A Note about Truffle Oil

Much controversy surrounds truffle oil; some chefs love it, others abhor it. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this polarization. First, truffles are the most expensive food in the world, with the European white truffle selling for as much as $3600/pound. Truffles are thus a coveted commodity in the cooking world, but many restaurant-goers cannot afford to pay for the “real thing,” so chefs turn to truffle oil to capture the flavors and aromas of truffles.

The reason some chefs scorn truffle oil is because most truffle oil is chemically synthesized, without the use of any actual truffles. It’s made with a chemical called 2,4 dithiapentane, which is the primary component that gives truffles their aromatic smell. However, there are some truffle oils made with actual truffles. You can tell if truffle oil is made from truffles or with 2,4 dithiapentane by checking the ingredient label. If you see “truffle aroma” or “truffle essence,” it’s chemically made.

Personally,  I like truffle oil and believe it allows people to experience the taste of truffles without the prohibitive expense. So if you want to try a truly delicious meal, try this truffle oil mac and cheese!

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White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8
Meal type Main Dish
Website adapted from Instructables
This white truffle oil mac and cheese is made with Parmesan and fontina. The truffle oil's intense aroma and earthy flavors tastes delicious.

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups heavy cream
  • 9 Ounces dried short pasta (should yield about 4 1/2 cups cooked pasta)
  • 3 Tablespoons white truffle oil
  • salt (to taste)
  • 8 Ounces fontina cheese (freshly grated)
  • 8 Ounces Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • 3/4 cups panko bread crumbs

Optional

  • chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

Step 1
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling, add a liberal amount of salt and pasta; cook according to package instruction until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Step 2
While the pasta is boiling, butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Step 3
In a large saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Step 4
Add the pasta, truffle oil, and salt to the cream, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Step 5
Add both cheeses and stir until the cheese is just melted. If the consistency seems too thin, just add more cheese. If it seems too thick, add more cream.
Step 6
Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
Step 7
Broil until brown, about 2 minutes.
Step 8
Remove from oven. Top with the fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

I love cupcakes, but not as much as my sister Sadie. She’s a cupcake fiend! She visited me in Miami over the Fourth of July weekend, and there were two things that she absolutely had to do before leaving Miami: go jet-skiing and make cupcakes.

Jet skiing was an adventure—at some points I wasn’t sure that we were going to survive! I’d never driven a jet ski before, and at first it was scary. It’s easier to steer at high speeds, but to go that fast is intimidating. So I started out really slow, which made my steering horrendous.

But Sadie egged me on. I found this quite hilarious, as I’m partly to blame for her adventurous nature—I took her on an inverted rollercoaster when she was 5 years old. She loved it and laughed the whole time!

My sister’s fearless nature inspired me to go fast. I summoned the inner Klingon in me and said, “Today is a good day to die.” I squeezed the gas and we flew. It was smooth sailing from there. Sometimes you have to embrace adventure!

Our cupcakes, while not as adrenaline-packed, were an adventure in and of themselves. It can be challenging to create recipes, but never let fear get in the way of your creativity. Sadie wanted to make a cupcake that had an unexpected ingredient or unusual flavor, and so our chocolate-Sriracha ganache was born. But what kind of cupcake would go well with this?

We didn’t want to make chocolate cupcake base because the ganache needed to stand out from the cupcake itself. So we decided on sweet coconut cupcakes as a cool counterpoint to Sriracha’s mild heat.

The coconut cupcakes are moist and sweet. We used coconut milk, instead of water or regular milk, to enhance the coconut flavor. We also added sweetened coconut in the batter. For the ganache, we used Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate. This resulted in a dark chocolate bittersweet taste accented with a hint of warmth from the Sriracha.

If you’re up for the adventure, try out these coconut cupcakes with chocolate-srircaha ganache. They’re out of the ordinary but very good.

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache image

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache Topped with Sweetened Coconut Flakes

Creators of the Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

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Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Serves makes 12 cupcakes
By author Rosanna Bell and Sadie Shireman
These coconut cupcakes with chocolate-sriracha ganache are deliciously sweet with a hint of warmth. Be adventurous and try these coconut cupcakes!

Ingredients

cupcakes

  • 1 stick butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (plus additional for garnish)

ganache

  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate)

ganache (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha

Directions

Cupcakes
Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups.
Step 2
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric beater over medium-high speed, for 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until fully incorporated. Mix in the coconut milk.
Step 3
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Step 4
Slowly beat in the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Fold in the shredded coconut flakes.
Step 5
Spoon batter into cupcake tins.
Step 6
Bake cupcakes, rotating the pans halfway through, 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack. Allow cupcakes to cool to room temperature.
Ganache
Step 7
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache: bring the cream to a boil, remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit in the cream for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Add the Sriracha, if using. Let the ganache cool to room temperature.
Step 8
Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache; if you want to, you can remove the cupcake wrappers before doing this. Turn the cupcakes right side up, sprinkle with coconut flakes if desired, and let the ganache cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve!

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

I really like authentic dishes that represent their native lands. But, I also like it when chefs fuse two disparate cuisines and pair them in an exciting way. This apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi does just that.

I took the classic Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dish, and gave it a Korean twist. The corned beef is roasted slowly in the oven with ½ cup of kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container). This infuses the kimchi with a hint of spiciness; it’s subtle as corned beef has a very strong flavor on its own. If you don’t have easy access to kimchi, you can still make the apricot-glazed corned beef; just substitute water or beer for the kimchi juice. Slow-roasting the corned beef at a low temperature in the oven ensures the meat will be nice and tender.

When creating this dish, I wanted to showcase a variety of flavors: sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy. The corned beef is naturally salty. The sweet apricot glaze pairs perfectly with the corned beef. The tang and spice come from the kimchi, which is served alongside the corned beef. Take a bite of kimchi with the apricot-glazed corned beef and experience the flavors.

The apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi is incredibly easy to make and requires hardly any preparation. The kimchi is already prepared when you buy it. Just put the corned beef and kimchi juice in a roasting pan, cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake 2 ½ hours, or until a fork easily pierces the meat. Remove the foil, drain the kimchi juice. Pour the glaze over the corned beef and bake for an additional 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest for 25 minutes. Then serve with kimchi and potatoes. You can’t have corned beef without some form of potato!  It’s really that easy.

What are you waiting for? Go make this apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi and let me know how you like it.

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Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi

Serves 6-8
By author Rosanna Bell
The apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi is incredibly easy to make and requires hardly any preparation. The dish is sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy.

Ingredients

  • 1 3 to 4 lbs corned beef
  • 1/2 cup kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container)
  • 3-4 Cups kimchi
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Teaspoons mustard powder

Note

You can find kimchi at some grocery stores and most Asian markets.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove corned beef from packaging. Place fat side up into a roasting pan. Pour kimchi juice over the corned beef. Add contents of spice package over the corned beef. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, basting occasionally.
Step 2
When the corned beef is nearly done, make the apricot glaze. Combine the apricot preserves and water in a microwaveable dish. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring in between, until the mixture combines. Mix in the mustard powder.
Step 3
Test the corned beef for doneness by inserting a fork into the meat. If the fork easily pierces the meat remove from the oven. Otherwise, continue cooking until it does. Remove the foil. Drain the kimchi juice and pan drippings. Pour the glaze over the corned beef and cook for an additional 30 minutes, basting twice.
Step 4
Remove the corned beef from the oven and let rest for 25-30 minutes. Slice the corned beef and serve with kimchi.

Khong River House Miami Beach, FL

Interior of Khong River House Restaurant in Miami Beach, FL

Interior of Khong River House Restaurant in Miami Beach, FL

When dining out I prefer authentic establishments that highlight regional flavors and fresh ingredients. I love Raku in Las Vegas which features authentic Japanese cuisine and I’m a huge fan of Tony Hu’s Chinese restaurants in Chicago widely known for their regional authenticity. I love that food has the power to transport you to other places—moules marinières always takes me to France where Corey and I spent our honeymoon and whenever I eat kimchi-bokkeumbap I always imagine eating in a snack-food restaurant in Korea.

The Food at Khong River House

The food at Khong River House is a confluence of cultures and flavors inspired by the countries the Mekong River flows through: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This results in an exotic journey in South East Asian Cuisine.

Vietnamese Iced Tea and Tamarind Mint Iced Tea at Khong River House

Vietnamese Iced Tea and Tamarind Mint Iced Tea at Khong River House

Our flavorful journey began with a deliciously sweet Vietnamese iced tea and a refreshing mint and tamarind iced tea. Corey and I had just come from the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. We hadn’t quite adjusted from the Chicago winter to the Florida heat and we were in dire need of refreshment. These served us well.

The waiter recommended that we order two small plates and two mains to share. Though in all honesty, I think we would have been fine ordering one small plate and two entrees. But, I’m not complaining, the appetizers were wonderful. We started off with the Spicy Isan Waterfall Salad with Fried Snapper. The lightly-fried fish tasted fresh and paired nicely with the lime juice, fish sauce, salad greens, and mint. Sorry there is no picture . . . it was just so good, and we were so hungry from walking.

Pork Summer Rolls with a Spicy Dipping Sauce at Khong River House

Pork Summer Rolls with a Spicy Dipping Sauce at Khong River House

I’m a huge fan of spring rolls. They’re so much fun to make and the fillings are endless. I typically make mango and chicken or shrimp and mint, so these pork summer rolls were a fun alternative to my usual fair. The lettuce and carrots were nice and crisp; the spicy dipping sauce adding some heat to the fresh rolls.

Northern Vegetarian Pad Thai at Khong River House

 Northern Vegetarian Pad Thai at Khong River House

Corey chose the vegetarian pad Thai served in a tangy tamarind sauce with mung bean sprouts, julienned carrots, scallions, scrambled eggs, and spinach. Chopped peanuts, a fresh lime slice, and spicy red chilies accompanied the dish to add to your liking. The freshness of the ingredients were apparent and appreciated. The dish was full of flavor—tangy, salty, spicy, and sweet. The vegetables shined and we didn’t miss not having meat.

Thai Coconut Chicken Curry Soup with White Rice

Thai Coconut Chicken Curry Soup with White Rice

Whenever there is a coconut curry dish on a menu, I almost always have to order it. Corey jokes that I’ll read the whole menu, even though I know I’m going to order that dish. Well more often than not, he’s right. I can’t resist the rich and utterly decadent slightly sweet and spicy coconut broth. It’s amazing and Khong River House’s version does not disappoint. It’s much heartier compared to most other restaurants I’ve been to, with tons of chicken and vegetables. I highly recommend this dish, though I might be a tad bit biased given my inclination for coconut curry.

The Venue at Khong River House

The Extensive Bar at Khong River House

 The Extensive Bar at Khong River House

The atmosphere at Khong River House is warm and inviting. Empty bird cages hang from high ceilings interspersed with bare light bulbs, but my favorite part of the restaurant is the extensive bar stocked with fresh herbs and copious amounts of liquor, wine, simple syrups, and spices. The bar has a rolling wall ladder and trust me, it needs it. We did not try any cocktails this time around, but we’ll be back. And if you’ve been there let me know which one/s I should try.

Khong River House Store Front

Khong River House Store Front

Khong River House brings South East Asian cuisine to Miami Beach. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think!

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Mother’s Day Brunch Menu Bon Appétit 2014

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Happy Mother’s Day! This blog post is dedicated to all the moms in the world and especially to my beautiful mother, who taught me the importance of family, inspired my appreciation for good food, and loves my sister and I unconditionally.

 

Preparing a Mother’s Day brunch is a special way to honor your mom. After all, mothers spend a lot of time making meals for their children; it’s nice to return the favor and let them sit back and relax while you wait on them. Trust me, they won’t complain!

 

My mother-in-law visited us last weekend, and I prepared her this Mother’s Day brunch menu from the May 2014 issue of Bon Appétit:

 

Smoked Trout Salad

 

Lox Platter with Capers, Radish, Cucumber, and Red Onion Slices

 

Everything Bagels with Horseradish-Dill Schmear

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

 

I love that this menu is elegant, delicious, yet very easy to prepare—leaving you plenty of time with your mom.

Lox Platter with Capers, Radishes and Cucumber Slices, and Fresh Dill

Lox Platter with Capers, Radishes, Cucumber Slices, and Fresh Dill

Mother's Day Brunch Bagel Spread

The Full Spread (clockwise from left): Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad, Horseradish-Dill Schmear, Smoked Trout Salad, Everything Bagels, and Lox Platter

Mother's Day Brunch Lox Platter

brunch production

 Keeping It Real: Your Kitchen Might Get Messy, But Your Table Will Look Beautiful!

For this meal, I tried two new ingredients: smoked trout and rhubarb! The smoked trout was hard to find—it took three trips to different grocery stores to find it. But it was really worth it! The trout salad was the winning dish—creamy, smoky, and delightful. The moment it was gone, I was already craving more. I’ll repeat this often, especially for festive occasions and brunches! Plus, it only takes five minutes to prepare.

Rhubarb is a brightly colored vegetable with edible pink stalks, similar in shape to celery. It’s mostly served with desserts, as its tartness contrasts nicely with sweet things. I don’t know how I never tried it! Strawberry-rhubarb salad is best the day it’s made; after that, the fruit becomes too soft.

Though Mother’s Day only comes once a year, mothers deserve special treats all year long. Consider surprising your mother with this lovely meal when she’s least expecting it!

Mom and me

Mom and Me. I love you, Mom!

Corey, Susan, and David

Happy Mother’s Day, Susan! We’re so glad that you got to visit!

 

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

Serves 8
From magazine Bon Appétit
This strawberry-rhubarb salad with mint and hazelnuts is bright and festive. It's perfect for brunch or afternoon tea. The tart rhubarb contrasts nicely with the sweet strawberries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
  • 2 rhubarb stalks (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 Pounds strawberries (hulled, quartered)
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Note

The strawberry-rhubarb salad is best the day of; after that the fruit becomes too soft.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool, then chop.
Step 2
Meanwhile, toss the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Let sit until rhubarb is slightly softened and releases its juices, about 30 minutes. Toss with strawberries, mint, and hazelnuts.

Smoked Trout Salad

Serves Makes about 2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
The smoked trout salad is creamy, smoky, and delightful. This smoked trout salad is perfect for brunch and is a breeze to make! It comes together in minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 celery stalk (finely chopped)
  • 8 Ounces smoked trout (skin and bones removed, flaked)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, dill, or flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Step 1
Mix onion, celery, trout, mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Horseradish-Dill Schmear

Serves 1 1/2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
This horseradish-dill schmear is easy to whip up and perfect on bagels. Great flavor and super easy. Get the horseradish-dill schmear recipe today!

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces whipped cream cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • salt

Directions

Step 1
Mix cream cheese, dill, and horseradish in a small bowl; season with salt.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden: A Tranquil Oasis

Panama Queen Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Panama Queen  or Coral Aphelandra (Aphelandra sinclairiana)

A couple weeks ago, Corey and I fled Chicago to Miami for some much-needed sunshine. Two of the things we miss most about living in Florida are the close proximity of nature and the relative ease of escaping into it.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden is a tranquil oasis, away from the party culture and entertainment tourism typical of South Beach. It’s a small park, but manages to showcase a wide a variety of plants—both local and exotic—and contains meandering paths, a Japanese garden, small ponds, a softly flowing fountain, and a hidden gazebo.

Here are some pictures of the beautiful plants we saw while visiting Miami Beach Botanical Garden:

Blue Sky Vine or Bengal Clock Vine Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Blue Sky Vine or Bengal Clock Vine (Thunbergia grandiflora)

Pink flowering stalk Miami Beach Botanical Garden

This is another pretty plant. I’m unsure of the name; if you know, please tell me in the comments.

a light pink orchid Miami Beach Botanical Garden

A Beautiful Light Pink Orchid

A Gorgeous Red and White Orchid Miami Beach Botanical Garden

A Gorgeous Red-and-White Orchid

orange shrimp plant Miami Beach Botanical Garden

What Corey and I Refer to as the Shrimp Plant

Aechmea sp. Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Aechmea sp.

Pendent Heliconia Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Pendent Heliconia (Heliconia pendula)

This reminds us of parrot beaks. A true stunner!

Pretty flowers Miami Beach Botanical  Garden

More Pretty Flowers

Cactus Patch Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Amidst the beauty lurked a rather dangerous cactus patch—parents be warned.

girl with bamboo staff

I found a handy pile of pruned bamboo staffs.

In addition to its colorful plant life, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden offers cultural and family events. We stumbled upon a Japanese Taiko drumming performance by Fushu Daiko. The movement and style of the performers was elegant, disciplined, and reminiscent of martial arts. The sound and choreography were mesmerizing.

Here are some photos of the event:

Taiko Drumming Fushu Daiko

Fushu Diako Taiko Drum Playing

More Taiko Drumming

Info about visiting Miami Beach Botanical Garden:

Address:

2000 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Phone: 305-673-7256

Website: http://mbgarden.org/

Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM, Tuesday through Sunday

Cost: Free

Miami Beach Botanical Garden is an excellent place for a picnic, reading, or painting (an artist was actually painting the Japanese bridge while we were there). We thoroughly enjoyed it and welcomed the change in scenery from Chicago. I hope you do too!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some that contrast with those above, showing what winter was like in Chicago. This winter was brutal, and complete with a string of extreme weather phenomenons—including thunder snow (yes, it’s a real thing), polar vortexes with -40F temperatures, and record snowfall (it was the 3rd snowiest winter on the books).

Ice Bike

Ice Bike

Ice Bush

Ice Bush

These photos were taken behind our apartment. While the snow and ice have a unique beauty, they don’t make for a hospitable environment.

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Japanese Pork and Potatoes (Nikujaga)

Japanese Pork and Potatoes (Nikujaga)

Japanese Pork and Potatoes (Nikujaga)

Nikujaga is a traditional Japanese dish of meat and potatoes simmered in a soy, mirin, and sugar broth. In eastern Japan pork is commonly used, while in western Japan beef is preferred. As the meat and potatoes cook, the broth is reduced and the ingredients absorb its flavor. The finished dish–a hearty stew–is sweet, savory, and utterly comforting.

Japanese pork and potatoes is easy to prepare, and doesn’t even require a trip to an Asian market. Soy sauce and mirin—the only speciality ingredients—can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. This dish is great for beginners experimenting with Japanese cuisine. It’s a one-pot meal that requires minimal attention after the initial prep.

A few notes about cooking Japanese pork and potatoes:

* It’s important to soak the potatoes in cold water before boiling them; this removes the excess starch and helps prevent the potatoes from disintegrating.

* Though this dish is a “meat and potato” dish, less meat is used than in a typical American dish; it acts more as a flavoring agent. The potatoes are the prominent ingredient.

* Mirin is a sweet cooking wine commonly used in Japanese cuisine.

* The green beans brighten the dish and provide a nice contrast to the stewed ingredients. If it feels silly to only boil 2 green beans, you can make a whole batch and serve them as a side dish or just skip them altogether.

Try this Japanese pork and potatoes recipe today and learn just how easy and delicious Japanese food is to prepare. Skip the restaurant and head to your kitchen!

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Japanese Pork and Potatoes (Nikujaga)

Serves 4
Region Japanese
From book slightly adapted from Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide
Japanese pork and potatoes is an easy dish to prepare. Japanese pork and potatoes is a one-pot meal that requires minimal attention after the initial prep.

Ingredients

  • 4 Large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 " carrot
  • 7 Ounces thinly sliced pork
  • 3 Cups water
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

Optional

  • 2 green beans (boiled)

Directions

Step 1
Peel and quarter the potatoes. Soak the quartered potatoes in cold water.
Step 2
While the potatoes are soaking, thinly slice the onion and julienne the carrot.
Step 3
Drain the potatoes. Bring the potatoes, water, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce to a boil.
Step 4
Once boiling, add the pork. Spoon off any foam that forms on the surface. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender and soy-sauce colored. Stir in the onion and cook 2-3 minutes.
Step 5
Add the carrot, stir briefly, and remove from heat. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped boiled green beans. Serve.

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary + A Giveaway

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary

DrunkSkull Bloody Marys with Celery and Jalapeño Garnish

I discovered these bloody marys after talking with Hosho McCreesh, author of A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst—a magnum opus of “drunken poetry” from Artistically Declined Press. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book on The Next Best Book Club, an online book club that frequently features author-reader discussions. It’s a very cool way to light upon new works and authors.

A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst Cover

A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst by Hosho McCreesh

I really enjoyed reading this collection of poetry. It’s like sitting and reminiscing about the past with an old friend. Though these poems share the theme of drinking, they’re more about the connections made with others through–or in spite of–booze. Some poems are laugh-out-loud funny; others are touching and heartfelt.  

Interestingly, A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst employs the second-person perspective. This really throws you into the story, making you an active participant in the events that unfold—whether it’s “smell[ing] your ancestral home on the cool wind of some crazy astral plane” or “having the world you once knew . . . snuffed out in a brutal whiff,” you’re along for the ride. A crazy, wonderful ride of emotions and spirits.

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary

So Let’s Talk about These Bloody Marys . . .

After a few of these babies, the world might begin to glow. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Check out this video tutorial on how to make the Official DrunkSkull Bloody Mary:

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And here’s the recipe, courtesy of Hosho McCreesh:

The Official DrunkSkull Blood Mary Recipe:
Spicy V-8, Worchestershire, horseradish, minced garlic, fresh chopped basil, cracked black pepper, cajun spice blend, Old Bay, a squirt of Sriracha, squeeze a lime wedge or 2.
Vodka: Your choice — Kettle One, Skyy, Stoli, Absolut, Dark Eyes (just kidding) — I wouldn’t even include Grey Goose, and definitely not Chopin — Chopin (my favorite vodka) is a sippin’ vodka…not a mixer!
Salt the rim using lime juice with celery salt + old Bay + cajun spice blend
Garnish with celery stalk, pickled green beans, a jalapeno if you’ve got it.

Now, go enjoy a bloody mary–you know you deserve it!

Giveaway Time

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As part of the Making Connections Blog Tour, I’m pleased to announce the DrunkSkull  Survival Kit Giveaway ($50 worth of fabulous prizes!).

DrunkSkull Survival Kit

The Kit will include:

- a signed copy of the book

- a recycled wine-bottle glass with the DrunkSkull logo on it

- a jar of Fiery Gardens Artisan Jams & Jellies

- a drunk skull fridge magnet

- some stickers

- temporary tattoos

- a coaster

- a patch

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

When it comes to Korean food, living in Chicago has really spoiled me. One of my favorite haunts is the King Spa and Sauna—a Korean spa that’s pretty much paradise on earth. On top of their spa amenities, they have a food court that features authentic Korean dishes, including eggs cooked in the hottest sauna at the spa! Despite, or I guess because of, the extreme heat, it’s my favorite sauna.

Right next to the King Spa is one of the best Asian grocery stores I’ve seen: H-Mart. It’s an Asian (primarily Korean) grocer the size of a big-box retailer, and its tremendous selection always spurs me to experiment with Korean cooking at home. Out of these experiments have emerged several favorites, one of those being kimchi fried rice.

I never grow tired of kimchi! In fact, it’s a rare day when we don’t have a container of kimchi in the fridge. Its unique flavor profile—salty, sour, tangy, and sweet—makes it a great addition to many dishes. And it’s healthy to boot: Kimchi is high in vitamins and minerals, as well as probiotics.

Kimchi Fried rice with Sesame Seeds, Nori, and Scalllions

Kimchi Fried Rice Topped with Sesame Seeds, Roasted Seaweed, and Scallions 

Today I want to talk about kimchi fried rice and why it’s my latest obsession. Kimchi fried rice is super easy, economical, and flavorful. The red pepper paste and red kimchi juice impart the rice with a rich color and taste.

SONY DSC

From the left: Red Pepper Past, Cut Kimchi, Sesame Oil, Sesame Seeds, and Roasted Seaweed

Here’s a little about the ingredients:

Read about kimchi in this post.

Cooked rice: It’s best to use steamed rice that is a day old. This allows the excess moisture to leave the rice and ensures that the dish has the right consistency and texture.

Kimchi juice: the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container. Hold the kimchi down and drain off some of this fermenting liquid.

Red pepper paste (go-chu-jang): this fermented red pepper paste is a staple in Korean kitchens. It consists of sweet rice, red chiles, soybeans, garlic, salt, and corn syrup/sugar. It’s similar in consistency to tomato paste, but a much deeper red and, of course, a much different taste. It’s spicy but subtly sweet, and is often sold in red plastic tubs.

How to toast sesame seeds: heat a skillet over medium heat, add the sesame seeds to skillet, and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, until you hear popping sounds.

Roasted Seaweed: this can have different names depending on the store and brand, kim or gim (Korean) or more commonly sold in the US, as nori (Japanese). It’s a dried seaweed commonly used when making sushi.

You can buy these ingredients in Asian grocery stores, and some of them can be found in your local grocery store in the ethnic food aisle. The kimchi will be sold in the refrigerated section; all the other ingredients will be located with dried goods.

Now that you know the ingredients in kimchi fried rice, it’s time to get cooking!

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Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

Website Slightly adapted from Maangchi
Kimchi fried rice is super easy, economical, and flavorful. The red pepper paste and red kimchi juice impart the rice with a rich color and taste. Spicy and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped kimchi
  • 3 Cups steamed rice (preferably day old rice)
  • 1/4 cup kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons red pepper paste (go-chu-jang)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Optional

  • 1 scallion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted)
  • 1 sheet roasted seaweed (such as nori or kim)

Note

For an in-depth look at the ingredients, refer to blog post.

To present the rice nicely, pack the kimchi fried rice into a bowl and invert it onto a plate.

Directions

Step 1
Heat a wok or large skillet with vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the rice, kimchi juice, water, and red pepper paste. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
Step 2
Add the sesame oil and remove from heat. Top with scallions, sesame seeds, and sliced roasted seaweed (I usually use kitchen shears to slice the seaweed).

Lobster Thermidor

lobster thermidor

Lobster Thermidor Atop Baby Spinach Leaves with Lemon Slices

The last two weeks have been rife with activity, good news, and celebrations. Among our festivities, Corey and I  celebrated Valentine’s Day and our 2nd anniversary as a married couple. And it wouldn’t be a celebration in our house, if it didn’t include good food and this lobster thermidor fit the bill perfectly.

Lobster thermidor is an elegant meal for a truly special occasion. Cooked lobster meat is mixed with butter, melted cheese, and sherry, which is then placed into empty lobster tails. The mixture is topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and then broiled. The result is  creamy, cheesy lobster meat  that is absolutely sinful. The lobster is served atop a bed of mixed greens, alongside fresh lemon slices. The lemon adds a nice acidity to the dish.

This recipe comes from Classic Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals cookbook and while Corey and I sometimes joke that her meals sometimes take longer than 30 minutes to prepare, at least for us anyways, this lobster thermidor is faster and easier than most recipes I’ve seen and is a highly enjoyable rendition of the French classic.

This is the perfect meal for company, a romantic date, or a celebration. It is one of our favorites; we love the way the dish looks—the bright orange lobster tail stuffed with cheesy deliciousness atop bright green spinach leaves. A truly stunning dish! It’s a great way to transform traditional lobster into something new and exciting. And the taste, the taste will surely satisfy even the toughest critic. Bon appétit!

Do you have a favorite French dish or favorite way to prepare lobster? Let me know in the comments.

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Lobster Thermidor

Region French

Ingredients

  • 2 whole lobsters
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small white onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • A splash of dry white wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 Cups baby greens
  • 1 lemon

Note

Sources: Boiling and removing the lobster meat, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook; lobster thermidor recipe slightly adapted from Classic Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals.

Directions

boiling the lobster
Step 1
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt for each quart of water used. Bring to a roiling boil and put the lobsters in the pot. The cooking time will depend on the size of the lobster. Allow 10-12 minutes for 1 pound lobsters, 15-20 minutes for 1 1/2 pound lobsters, and as much as 25 minutes for larger lobsters.
removing the meat
Step 2
Drain and shock the lobsters under cold water to cool. Twist off the claws; crack the claws with a nutcracker so the meat is easily removed. Chop the claw meat and set aside. Use kitchen scissors to cut away the soft underside of the tails. Save the tail shells , arranging them in a shallow casserole dish. Remove the meat from the tails and chop it into chunks. Mix the tail meat with the claw meat.
Step 3
Preheat the broiler to high.
Step 4
Heat a small saucepan and a medium skillet over medium heat. In the small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook until very soft, 3 to 5 minutes. To the skillet, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When the butter has melted, add the chopped lobster meat and sauté.
Step 5
Add flour to the saucepan with the onions and cook together 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in wine or sherry, then milk. Remove sauce from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese and paprika. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over lobster meat and stir to combine.
Step 6
Pour lobster meat into and over the shells in a casserole dish and top with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Broil on high until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve each tail, spilling over with lobster bits in sauce, on a bed of baby greens. Serve with lemon slices.