Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gutsty Cooks Chicken Pot Pie & A Lesson Learned

So I've been very conflicted about making this week's Gutsy Cooks Club Chicken Pot Pie. One reason is it's supposed to be spring and this particular dish, although one of my all time favorites, is a comfort food more suited for a cold wintry day. Another reason the past few weeks have just been crazy busy so a dish like pot pie is more time consuming than I can pull off currently. And lastly I really wanted to make an adaptation to this recipe from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible that called to use puff pastry on the top only; I am a firm believer that the best pot pies have full crust; top, bottom & sides. But I read Monica's post about how light and fluffy the recipe was with the puff pastry and I knew I just had to make it.

So on this particular Wednesday night I was at school trying to get caught up late but I was still determined to make this dish. It was blustery outside; pouring pelting rain, windy, 42 degrees, yes, you read that right 42 degrees.
So the whole comfort food thing was sounding good after all.

I stopped by our local Safeway, picked up a rotisserie chicken and some whipping cream and was set to arrive home at 7:15 p.m. I was still determined to do this, (read: stubborn wife.) Luckily G also loves chicken pot pie and although he was starving he agreed and offered to help even.

I took the puff pastry from the freezer, and was sure it would defrost while we prepped everything else.

I made several adaptations to the recipe; I added potatoes instead of parsnips. I can't have a pot pie that doesn't include potatoes. It just wouldn't be the same. I used asparagus instead of fava beans or peas. And also added mushrooms and tarragon (this herb seems to be hitting the spot lately.)

I cooked the veggies, made a roux by adding flour, hot chicken broth and eventually whipping cream as the recipe called for. I seasoned with salt, pepper and my chopped tarragon.

I chopped and added the rotisserie chicken.

 Here's where the lesson learned comes in. (for part of this I so should have read Monica's tips about shrinking crust prior.) For starters when we were finally ready to roll out the puff pastry it was still very frozen. We put it in the microwave on defrost for a bit. The first bit wasn't quite long enough so we went for a bit more. When we pulled it out the second time it was a bit too long. Oops.

The edges of the puff pastry on a few spots were hard. So G decided to roll it all into a ball and start rolling from scratch. That created a new problem; now the puff pastry was a bit greasy.
We did eventually get it rolled out, but it was easy to see the puff pastry wasn't just right. If it wasn't 8 p.m. at this point we would have ran quick up to the store and started with a new box of pastry but we were just pooped to do that so we stuck w/ what we had.
I decided to make 4 small pot pies as opposed to 1 big one. I filled each ramekin w/ the filling and then was just barely able to stretch the puff pastry we had left over the 4 individual pies.

 I then brushed them w/ an egg wash and sliced a vent in each one. I could tell they weren't going to come out picture perfect.
While they baked for 25 minutes. We had some salad and G opened a bottle of wine. A new one for us. A Columbia Valley Red Wine called The Surveyor made by Snipes Gap Vineyards in Prosser, WA. A blend of 69% Cab and 31% Merlot.

It was an approachable easy drinking red.
Finally the timer on the oven beeped and dinner was served @ 8:30 p.m. And out from the over came the four most ugly little pot pies you could imagine.
But what's ugly on the outside was delicious on the inside. The texture of veggies was just right, the seasoning and especially the addition of the tarragon was a hit.
Lesson Learned: Don't defrost puff pastry in the microwave. And secondly don't try to roll all together and flatten it from scratch.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Breakfast for Two

We had a phenomenal day on the mountain skiing the day before Easter.
Mt. Rainier April 23, 2011 from the top of Crystal Mountain
We had the wonderful opportunity to take my niece & nephew up for possibly the best day of spring skiing I've experienced in my life. So we skied and skied and had a great time.
Crystal Mountain
This was great but it made for tired bodies and souls the morning of Easter. Which was just fine as we don't have little ones to hide baskets and eggs for early in the morn. So we took full advantage of this "perk" and slept in. Dinner wasn't until late in the afternoon at T's mom's house. When we woke we both had a craving for something different. 
Abeja Vineyards, Walla Walla, Washington
One of the two fabulous breakfasts we were served at The Abeja Inn in Walla Walla last August was this great creamed baked egg.We still remember how wonderful it was.
Abeja Inn, Walla Walla, Washington
Abeja Inn, Walla Walla, Washington
And while flipping through our Gutsy Cooks The Illustrated Kitchen Bible cookbook I came across a recipe for Baked Eggs in Cream that looked similar. We decided this looked like the perfect late morning, Easter breakfast for this Foodie Couple.

We cooked shallots and garlic in olive oil and then added Tarragon and whipping cream before removing from the heat.

We then divided the shallot mixture and cracked 1 egg each into two ramekins. Added cream to each ramekin.

Next we mixed together shredded swiss cheese, bread crumbs and chives and added salt & pepper.

We put both ramekins on a sheet pan and baked them in a 325 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. T likes a firmer egg so T's stayed in longer than G's.

It was a nice change of breakfast pace for us. Not as great as what we had at The Abeja Inn but quite good just the same.

Baked Eggs in Cream Recipe from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible

2 tbsp olive oil
4 small shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tarragon, chopped
3/4 Cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
3 tbspn gruyere (we used swiss)
1 tbsp dry bread crumbs (we used panko)
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 324 degrees. Heat oil in frying pan over low. add shallots & garlic, cook 'til golden. Add tarragon and 2 tbsp of cream

spread equal amounts for shallot mixture amongst 4 ramekins. Crack an egg into each dish. Equally divide the remaining cream amongst the ramekins.

Mix together cheese, bread crumbs and chives season w/ pepper. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gutsy Cooks Club #30 Waldorf Salad

Finally spring has arrived to the Northwest as displayed by the blooming tulips and trees.

Now spring here means 56 degrees and rain showers occur most of the day but that's a true Washington spring even if it's supposed to happen in March as opposed to the end of April. Hey we'll celebrate summer coming in any way possible. And the final arrival of spring means summer has to be around the corner.

So this week's recipe for Gutsty Cooks from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible for Waldorf Salad I decided to go with the "willing summer to come" route in making some major adaptations.

Like most children of the 60's & 70's I grew up with Waldorf salad. Usually made by my grandmother for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Full of apples, celery and usually raisins. It's definitely a nostalgic dish for me.
Supposedly the Waldorf Salad Originated from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
The version I grew up on usually looked something like this.
But I was in the mood to make it a bit more savory and more of a meal as I was serving it with soup on Monday night after a mentally exhausting day of figuring out how to help my district close the achievement gap with a team of my teachers attending the How Race Affects Learning conference. Heavy thinking and strategizing was a big part of the day. Something tasty was in order. I was thinking of an adaptation to be served in a sandwich wrap or maybe on a brioche roll.

I came home and knew I was going to make this dish and on my afternoon run I plotted out adding shrimp, tarragon and red onion served on an avocado. Similar to different summer seafood salads I've made with avocado but this will be a first with adapting a Waldorf.

And how can anything with these fresh ingredients be bad and I kept playing the flavors over and over in my head and still thought "hey, this could work."

I gathered my ingredients:

Did you know Washington State is the #1 apple producing states in the USA. So it's always bit disappointing to cut into an apple that is mushy and brown on the inside. 1 of my 4 tonight resulted in this disappointment.

I diced my apples, I used Braeburn because they were on sale. Pink Ladies are our current favorite apple. But even in the "Apple State" they were 3.99 a pound today. After dicing the apples I squeezed 1 lemon to keep them from turning brown.

I then chopped some celery, red onion, .
fresh tarragon and chives

I mixed these fresh ingredients with 1/2 cup light mayo and salt and pepper.

I then sliced open the avocados and was so happy to see they were just right. I've had bad luck with avocados lately it seems. These were firm but creamy. Just right!

I then added almonds to the salad mixture and scooped some salad on top of the avocados.

We served this light and fresh dish with some creamy basil tomato soup to round out our dinner.

We both thought it was the perfect Monday Night "summer will eventually come" kinda meal.

And G's only complaint is that he doesn't like raw celery. Of which my response was "the raw celery adds just the right bit of crunch needed."

My adapted Shrimp Waldorf Recipe: (I used little measuring and it turned out great, so adjust amounts to fit your needs.)
1/2 Small Salad Shrimp cooked, peeled and deveined (I bought them this way)
4 Braeburn Apples (Any crisp apple would work in my opinion)
1 lemon
3 stalks celery
1/4 red onion, diced
3 Tblspns fresh tarragon, chopped
2 Tblspns fresh chives, chopped
1/2 Cup Light Mayo
1/4 Cup sliced almonds
2 avocados sliced and pitted
salt & pepper

Mix ingredients with mayo. Serve on avocados.

We had plenty for our meal and at least 2-3 servings to have for lunch the next day as well.

Our Typical Makeshift Meal

I know we are not the only people who come home from work and just can't decide what you want to eat for dinner. To be honest it really doesn't happen in our home too often. One because we love food and cooking and two it always seems we have a stack of recipes we are wanting to make.

But on this Thursday evening of late we both just weren't in the mood to cook nor the mood to make a decision so we went with our usual "Friday Movie Night" go to meal: cheese, salami, fruit, crackers, baguette and olives. The combination differs based on our mood and availability.

This latest makeshift meal included Cambozola(a creamy light blue cheese), Gouda, Double cream brie, sesame crackers, peppered salami, strawberries, pear and a pink lady apple.

It is one of limited perks of being childless, no youngons to feed appropriately so we can just go with whatever meets our fancy. On this evening this met our craving in front of American Idol and The Office, finish up the last glass of wine from two separate bottles opened earlier in the week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fire Noodles

This was possibly the first Thai cookbook; True Thai by Victor Sodsook,  we ever purchased....or at least the first or second

and now we have a few that we use.

But as you can see it's the well used one of the few we own.

We often joke that G wooed me first with the Tom Kha Gai  he made me on our second date and then again with his Thai Garlic Prawns he made for me the weekend before he left the second time for Alaska. Yes, those were the days.

Both of those recipes are still made at least yearly in our home with very loving homage to our initial coming together to who we are now.

Back to the cookbook. The only thing I don't love about this particular Thai cookbook is the lack of pictures. I'm a visual kind of person but the recipes we've made out of it have kept us coming back.

Especially this one for: Mahogany Fire Noodles. Warning if you are  not a fan of spicy this may not be the recipe for you. But if you are and you enjoy Thai flavors this one is a hit.

G is a big fan of ordering Pad See Ew ( a wide fresh rice noodle dish) at our local Wild Orchid Thai restaurant that we frequent regularly, mostly due to location.

He loves wide rice noodles. So when we came across this recipe about 8 years ago now he knew it was a must make.

It's a bit of prep but it comes together very quickly after all of the prep is complete. Gathering all of your ingredients is definitely key for this recipe.

First you start with fresh, wide rice noodles.

Not always easy for us to find even in the Asian markets so pretty much if we do find them we make them. The key is to cook them as soon as you can after you get them. If you have to refrigerate them we found they are difficult to separate and plain just don't taste as tasty.

You run them under boiling water to remove the oil coating before unfolding, separating and slicing into ribbons (thin noodles) or squares.

Next you take 15-18 small Thai chilies and 10 cloves of garlic and mash them into a paste. WARNING: We've never used the called for 30 chilies, we've tried 25, 20, 15, 10...we've settled on somewhere between 15-18 and it's always spicy enough to bring sweat to G's brow.

We add fresh mushrooms so I slice and prep them along with the chicken breast.
 I measure out fish sauce, pepper, black soy sauce, sugar and oyster sauce.Open a can of bamboo shoot strips and drain

And clean some Thai basil

You add the chile-garlic paste to a pan (wok if you have one) coated with vegetable oil.

Then add the chicken and mushroom.

Once chicken is opaque add the fish sauce. Then add the noodles stirring to incorporate the sauce.

Next add the pepper, soy & oyster sauces and sugar with the bamboo shoots.
 Just before removing from the heat add the Thai basil.

It really does come together fast.

Now this is a dish that must have wine, even on Monday night, preferably CHILLED and white with sweet notes is recommended by us. On this evening we went with Gamache 2008 Estate Riesling.

Being I especially am a HUGE Gamache fan, typically drawn to their Syrahs, I was excited to try this. Gamache is a must visit in Prosser each year with our wine tasting crew. Riesling is generally not a varietal we drink often because it's sweet. But when you're eating Thai and especially Spicy. It's the route to go. This particular pairing was good with the dish. It was pretty sweet so if it wasn't paired with spicy not so sure I'd of enjoyed it as much.

This meal of our beloved Fire Noodles didn't disappoint. It was spicy, G's brow did sweat, and the flavors were awesome this time around. It will continue to be a regular dish on our menu.

Mahogany Fire Noodles Recipe from True Thai by Victor Sodsook:
30 small Thai Chilies
10 cloves garlic
1 lb fresh rice noodles
1 tblspn vegetable oil
1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tblspn fish sauce
1 tsp white pepper
2 tblspn black soy sauce
1 tblspn oyster sauce
1 can (8oz) bamboo shoot strips, drained
1 1/2 tblspn sugar
1 1/2 cups thai basil

Make a paste with the chilies and garlic. Pour kettle of hot water over noodles in colander to remove oil coating and soften. Cut into individual ribbons.

Place all ingredients within easy reach of the cooking area.
Set wok or pan over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot add chile-garlic paste and stir fry 15 seconds. Add chicken and stir fry until opaque, about 30 seconds. Add fish sauce Stir in nooodles. Add pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, bamboo shoots and sugar. Stir fry 1 minute.

Turn off heat stir in basil until it wilts. Transfer to serving platter.