Bananas Foster Monkey Bread

Bananas Foster Monkey Bread

Travel is the best way to draw inspiration in life. For me traveling means exploring the food of the city I am visiting. I spend hours of research mapping out my food journey to ensure I eat only the best the city has to offer. Oftentimes the result is overindulgence over a short period of hours.

Two weekends ago I found myself in New Orleans. One of my favorite southern cities of all time. I am lucky to have family in Louisiana which gives me more than enough legitimate reasons to explore the land of endless sugar cane fields. If you have never visited, I strongly urge you to add NOLA to your short list of destinations. Wrought with history and culture, the French influenced city has no shortage of things to see and do. Live music in every bar, towering historical buildings, and more voodoo shops that you can stand. I have been many times yet I have never seen the same thing twice.

Louisiana a state that is know for the origin of Cajun cuisine which is heavily influenced by Creole cooking with French technique. Technically, Cajun food did not start in Louisiana, but through immigrants who eventually settled in the state. And yes, there is a large difference in the Cajun and Creole, which I plan on breaching in a later post.

For now I would like to spend a little bit of time focusing on the Creole and French side of the state. The city folk, those in New Orleans, cook Creole food, unlike the country folk who cook Cajun. Since I spent time in the city, everything I ate could be considered Cajun—even the non-Cajun food—and here is why:

If you have ever visited New Orleans it is easy to see that the town is a culmination cultures created through the settlement of immigrants, which is still occurring today. There are more restaurants that a visitor could reasonably conquer, all of which are a different—even if only slightly. Restauranteurs present patrons with their interpretation of local food, adding in their own influences and ideas. This is a practice that has been occurring in NOLA since before my time. The food of our ancestors is not the food of our towns as we now know them.

A world-wide known dessert is the perfect example of the evolution of the food in NOLA. Bananas foster was created in New Orleans at famous New Orleans restaurant Brennan’s by Chef Paul Blange. Today you can still visit Brennan’s and try the food that has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards. The recipe was created in 1951 and even published by the New York Times in 1957. The concept is simple: smother ripe bananas in butter, sugar, and liquor then set it aflame.

Although widely considered a traditional southern dish, by no means it is so in the literal sense of the word. The recipe was not contemplated until the mid 20th century. When comparing so many dishes that are said to be traditionally southern, bananas fosters is much younger than say hoppin’ john, which can be dated back to the 19th century.

This dish epitomizes both Southern and Louisiana cuisine, ever progressing into new fare that features a nod to the past. So why not draw inspiration from a City and State that has drawn culinary inspiration from it’s inhabitants, landscape, and visitors, and create something totally new from already known and loved recipe (also my husband begged me to make monkey bread, so the idea was streamline).

Many recipes call for canned biscuit dough. I believe that fresh is best, so my recipe makes the dough from scratch.

If you draw any inspiration from this post or recipe, I hope you take the idea of bananas foster and add it into a something to create a brand new dessert…or savory dish. I would love to hear about what you come up with!

The finished loaf turned out from the pan

Bananas Foster Monkey Bread

The baked bread cooling in the pan

Ingredients

  • For the Dough:
  • ⅔ Cup of Warm Whole Milk, no higher than 110°F
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  • 1 0.25 Ounce Package Dry Yeast
  • 3¼ Cups of Flour, divided
  • ¼ Cup of Butter, melted
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • For the coating:
  • 1 Cup of Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon
  • For the Bananas Foster:
  • 4 Very Ripe Bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 4 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1 Cup of Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • ½ Cup of Heavy Whipping Cream, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons of Bourbon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced

Instructions

  1. Start by making the dough.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the milk then sprinkle over the yeast and sugar. Let sit for at least 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.
  3. With the dough hook attached, turn the speed to low. Pour in 1 cup of flour, mixing until combine. Next the melted butter, and finish 1 cup of flour.
  4. Mix in the eggs, then finish with the remaining flour and salt.
  5. Once dough is fully combined turn the speed to medium and kneed for 3-5 minutes. A soft dough should form and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl, coat with spray, and allow to rise, covered, in a draft free place for one hour or until double in size.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the topping sugar and cinnamon. Mix until combined then set aside for later.
  8. Prepare your bananas fosters. In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, add brown sugar and butter. Cook for approximately 3-5 minutes until mixture is an amber color.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, salt, and bananas. Stir to fully coat bananas. Set aside and allow to cool.
  10. Prepare a bundt pan by coating it in cooking spray.
  11. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Once dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently shape dough into a ball.
  13. Pinch off one inch pieces, roll them into a ball, then dunk them into the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  14. Start assembling by placing a small amount of bananas fosters mix into the bottom of the pan.
  15. Create a layer of dough balls in the bottom of the pan, then coat in your bananas fosters. Continuing layering dough and sauce until the pan is full.
  16. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
  17. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning it out.
  18. Eat!
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Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

Georgia Brunswick Stew

On overhead view of the big pot of stew and bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound of Smoked Pork Shoulder
  • 4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 16oz Bag of Frozen Lima Beans
  • 2 32oz Boxes of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 14oz Cans of Stewed Tomatoes
  • 2 14oz Cans of Creamed Corn
  • 3 Medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Cup of Sweet Barbeque Sauce, or more to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

  1. I start this recipe by saying that everything is to taste. Add more barbeque sauce at the end if you preferer a sweeter more pungent barbeque flavor. As for the chicken stock, I start with one box then add more towards the end of the recipe to get the stock thickness I desire.
  2. Place a heavy bottom soup pot or a Dutch over over medium heat, and pour in one tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee the onion until caramelized and translucent.
  3. Place in your chicken thighs, then pour over enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.
  4. Bring the chicken stock up to a boil, then reduce the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the chicken thighs for 30 minutes.
  5. After the chicken has cooked, pour in your remaining ingredients. Turn up the heat as long as necessary to bring the stew back up to a simmer. Once at a simmer you can reduce the heat back to medium-low.
  6. Add as much chicken stock as necessary to get the stew to your desired thickness.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. I cook the stew for at least one hour to allow the potatoes to soften. The longer you allow it to cook the better it gets.
  9. Serve with sliced white bread or cornbread.
  10. *For an even easier version, combine all of the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
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If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

Last week I posted a new recipe for homemade Cheesecake Marshmallows, and I wanted to share the recipe of how I used the mallows because the flavor is so unique.

The recipe for the cheesecake flavored marshmallows can be found here.

I created this recipe some time ago. I started with strawberry Rice Krispie treats that I created for my nieces and nephews. To make simple strawberry flavored Rice Krispie treats, all you have to do is use plain marshmallows in lieu of these cheesecake flavored ones.
The natural progression for strawberry cheesecake Rice Krispie treats came when I decided to attempt to make my very own homemade marshmallows.

Like most recipes, it is simple to make your own flavor or version by switching out some of the ingredients. You can create or use any flavor marshmallow you like, and the same goes for the freeze dried fruit. Make banana flavored Rice Krispie treats by using freeze dried bananas. Or even thrown in some vanilla wafers to make banana pudding Rice Krispie treats. Maybe that will be my next recipe to post.

The good news is that this recipe is extremely simple, so any level of cook can make it. It is also a really great recipe to make with your kids. I hope it inspires you to come up with your very own uniquely flavored Rice Krispie treats.

Three finished treats stacked high on a plate

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

A stack of pink rice crispy treats

Ingredients

  • 6 Cups of Rice Crispy Cereal
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 10 Ounces of Cheesecake Flavored Marshmallows
  • 1/2 Ounce of Freeze Dried Strawberries

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 9x9 baking pan, or size of your choosing by spraying it with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Pulverize the freeze dried strawberries with a food processor. Once strawberries are a fine powder, place the powder in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the cereal into the same mixing bowl, and mix together the strawberry powder and cereal. Set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until the butter and marshmallows are fully melted and combined.
  5. Pour marshmallow mixture over the cereal mixture and mix until fully combined.
  6. Pour the finished mixture into your prepared baking pan, spreading until even on top.
  7. Allow the treats to set up for at least one hour before slicing and serving.,
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Cheesecake Marshmallows

Cheesecake Marshmallows

Marshmallows are one of those things that I have always wanted to make at home. But when it is so easy to just buy a bag of pre-made marshmallows at the store, why take the time to do it yourself? Have you ever tried a homemade marshmallow? There is no comparison! Making them yourself is totally worth it.

The homemade version is fluffier, lighter, gooier, and even more so of all of the things that everyone loves about a marshmallow. And after making my very first batch (successfully might I add), I concluded that it is not very hard at all. The only troublesome part is dealing with the extra sticky freshly made mallows.

The second benefit to making them at home is that you can flavor your confection with almost anything. I found a bottle of cheesecake extract on Amazon and it arrived in two short days. Click here for the extract.

And finally, you actually get to see what is in your food. Instead of pumping yourself with processed store-bought stuff.In a few short days, I will post my recipe on how I used these little clouds of cheesecake heaven. Until then, just eat them by the handful.

The marshmallow being coated is powdered sugar

Cheesecake Marshmallows

Up close of the marshmallows after being sliced

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup of Light Karo Syrup
  • 0.625 Fluid Ounces of Cheesecake Extract
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) Envelopes of Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • Approximately 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 9x9 (or something similar) baking pan by coating it in cooking spray then powdered sugar. Be sure to shake out any excess sugar. Set aside.
  2. In your stand mixer, pour in 1/2 cup of water then sprinkle over the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to bloom while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Be sure to attach your whisk beater.
  3. In a small saucepan combine the karo syrup, sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup of water.
  4. Heat over medium heat, cooking until the candy reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit or soft ball stage.
  5. Once at the desired temperature, remove the mixture from the heat and allow the bubbles to dissipate.
  6. With your stand mixer on low, slowly pour the candy mixture into the bowl.
  7. Once the mixture is full incorporated, turn the speed up to medium. Whisk the mixture for approximately 10 minutes or until the mixture folds back onto itself in a thick ribbon.
  8. After the mixture is at the desired texture, beat in your cheesecake extract.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top of the mixture with wet hands.
  10. Allow the marshmallows to set for at least 4 hours before slicing.
  11. After slicing, coat eat marshmallow in powdered sugar to subdue their stickiness.
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Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

Apricot Glaze Roasted Chicken

Apricot Glaze Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Chicken
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Jar of Apricot Jam
  • 2 Yellow Onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Lemon, halved
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
  • 2 Cups of Chicken Broth, and more as needed
  • 1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Cup of Dried Apricots, sliced in half
  • 5 Tablespoons of Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the chicken by patting it dry with paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the cavity of the chicken then stuff the chicken. Add in one half of the lemon, half of the whole fresh thyme sprigs, two cloves of garlic, one half of one onion, and approximately six dried apricots.
  4. Coat the chicken in juice from the remaining lemon and in olive oil, rubbing them into the skin. Generously sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper then tie the legs together with cooking twine.
  5. In the bottom of the roasting pan place the remaining onion, apricots, and thyme. Pour the chicken broth over the vegetables.
  6. Finely chop the remaining garlic, and sprinkle approximately 3 cloves worth over the chicken broth.
  7. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  8. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven to roast.
  9. You will initially roast the chicken for 15 minutes at 450 degrees before turning the temperature down.
  10. While the chicken initially roasts, prepare the glaze.
  11. In a small saucepan combine the jar of apricot preserves, butter, red wine vinegar, and remaining chopped garlic. Mix until everything is combined and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the glaze from the heat.
  12. After the initial fifteen minutes has passed, reduce the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and baste your chicken with its first coating of apricot glaze.
  13. If the pan ever becomes dry, add in more chicken stock.
  14. Glaze the chicken every 15 minutes, cooking the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  15. Once the chicken reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest before serving it.
  16. While the chicken rests, create a sauce to serve with it.
  17. Combine any drippings from the pan with the remaining glaze and heat in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  18. Reduce the sauce until it reaches the desired thickness or is reduced to approximately half. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste
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Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

The concept of a kitchen sink cookie is simple: you put everything in but the kitchen sink. It is one of those recipes that works with almost anything and everything you have in your baking pantry. This means it is a great recipe to keep in your pocket when a baking emergency comes up, i.e an impromptu party or impromptu house guests.

For my version of kitchen sink cookies I use a combination that I find is well balanced, salty, sweet, and spicy. For salt I throw in pretzels and kettle cooked chips, kettle cooked so they retain their crunchiness. The sweet comes from butterscotch and chocolate chips. Finally, the spicy from some chipotle roasted peanuts.

If you do not have spicy peanuts you can throw red pepper into the cookie mix, roast your own peanuts in a spice mixture, or simply use plain peanuts.

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The cookie base for the recipe is heavy in brown sugar and butter, which results a gooier more buttery cookie. In my book, the ultimate cookie is one that is cooked on the outside and still gooey on the center. The trick to a perfect texture is twofold, chilling the butter before baking and under baking the cookie. I take the cookies out of the oven when the edges just start to brown then I let them cool on the cookie sheet.

Chilling your cookie dough before baking it prevents the butter from spreading too much during baking. If the butter spreads too much the finished cookies will be thin and not thick and tender.

This recipe would also be delicious as a chocolate chip cookie using only chocolate chips as the add-in. And of course, I recommend a large glass of ice cold milk to accompany your fresh out of the oven warm cookies.

This cookie may be the strangest, most delicious, and well balanced cookie I have ever eaten.

For more tips on cookie making, see this post.

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Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

A stack of baked cookies next to a glass of milk

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 2 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Cup of Butterscotch Chips
  • 1 Cup of Kettle Cooked Chips
  • 1/2 Cup of Pretzels, crushed
  • 1/2 Cup of Spicy Peanuts

Instructions

  1. With your stand mixer on medium speed, cream together your sugars and softened butter. Mix until well combined.
  2. Next add in the eggs and egg yolk. Pour in eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined.
  3. Add in the vanilla extract, mixing until well combined.
  4. In a bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Pour the flour mixture into mixing bowl a little at a time. Continue to mix cookie dough until fully combined.
  6. Once cookie mixture is fully mixed, add in the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pretzels, chips, and peanuts.
  7. Mix the cookie dough over low speed until the add-ins are broken up and well distributed. This should take no more than 1 minute.
  8. Cover the cookie mixture well and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. This will prevent too much spreading.
  9. While the cookie dough chills, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fairenhiet.
  10. Prepare each cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper.
  11. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges. If you are baking more than one cookie sheet at a time, it will take approximately 15 minutes for the cookies to bake.
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The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

An Ultimate BLT

All of the prepared ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Pound of Thick Sliced Bacon
  • 8 Slices of Country White Bread
  • Balsamic Onion Jam, link to recipe can be found above
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup of Mayonise
  • 1 Head of Romaine Lettuce
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  1. First, bake your bacon. Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange your bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, or two if needed. Bake for approximatley 45 minutes, or until bacon is the texture that you like.
  2. While the bacon cooks, make the garlic confit. Peel the garlic cloves. In a small saucepan, combine your olive oil and peeled garlic.
  3. Heat oil over medium low heat. Cook garlic until soft, approximate 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Once your bacon is cooked, remove it from the oven and let the bacon drain on paper towels.
  5. With your cooked garlic, make your garlic aioli. Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic. Combine the chopped garlic with the mayonnaise and a pinch of salt and pepper. Store the remaining cooked garlic for another use.
  6. Rinse off lettuce and tomatoes, then set aside to dry.
  7. Slice the Romain lettuce into bread size pieces. Slice the tomatoes.
  8. Toast your white bread.
  9. Smear each piece of toast with maynaoise, then salt and pepper the mayonnaise.
  10. Next place on your romaine, then a layer of bacon, and a layer of tomatoes. Salt and pepper your tomatoes.
  11. Spoon over your balsamic onion jam. Finish the sandwhich by topping it with a piece of bread with mayonnaise.
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How to Make Fish Stock

How to Make Fish Stock

This past weekend my husband and I hosted a dinner party. On the menu we had an entire grilled grouper stuffed with lemons and herbs. The fish was so large we had to chop off the head so it would fit on the big green egg.

What in the world can you do with a leftover fish head? Luckily, for Christmas I was given the newest James Beard cookbook Waste Not. The idea behind the book is to use your kitchen scraps instead of throwing them out. The idea to make my very first fish stock was a no brainer.

This recipe is truly easy. Once you see how easy it is, you will not go back to using store bought stock.

The best part is that you can make the stock then freeze it. One fish head makes a very large batch of stock, and there is no way you will be able to use it all immediately. I let my stock cool, then placed it in sealed containers and into the freezer immediately. I hope to post a yummy recipe using the stock I made very soon.

Read more about the book Here.

A few tips about making your own stock:

  • A fish head or the bones from one fish is enough for one batch of stock.
  • Remove the gills from you head, if you do not it will make the stock taste awful.
  • This recipe is more of a guide. You can throw anything into the mix: shrimp shells, different herbs, carrots, celery, etc.
  • If your finished stock is milky or cloudy you need to throw it out.
  • I will warn you, making fish stock will stink up your house for a bit.
  • Fish stock freezes extremely well and tastes exactly the same after freezing.

Cooling jar of strained homemade fish stock

How to Make Fish Stock

How to Make Fish Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 Fish Head
  • 1 Onion, peeled
  • 4 Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt
  • 1 Small bunch of Thyme

Instructions

  1. Rinse your fish head well. Make sure all of the slime is off before using the head or your stock will taste bad.
  2. In a large soup pot put in the fish head and pour in enough water to submerge the head.
  3. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, pour out the water.
  4. Place fresh water in the pot with the fish head, filling until the pot is 3/4 full.
  5. Place the rest of your ingredients into the pot.
  6. Over medium heat, bring the water to a low boil.
  7. Once at a low boil, reduce the pot to medium-low heat then simmer, with a lid on, for one hour.
  8. Strain the stock with cheese cloth once cooled.
  9. Use immediately or freeze until use.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/01/28/how-to-make-fish-stock/

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional baker. I have baked for many, many years, but am in no way at the level of professional. I have just as many bad days in the kitchen as good ones.

This is especially true when it comes to yeast. Yeast is my kryptonite.
Anytime I go into the kitchen with plans to bake yeast risen bread, I am fully prepared to have the bake come out wrong. The silver lining is that you can always learn by messing up.

This past weekend may have been my worst weekend in the kitchen to date. I decided to challenge myself by attempting a Babka. A Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet yeast risen bread that is swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. The bread dough itself is basically a brioche dough. Technically speaking, it is medium of the difficulty of yeast breads.

Three days and four attempts is what it took to get this recipe right. I threw out two doughs and one finished loaf before the fourth and final loaf came out soft and pillow-like. So you do not make the same mistakes, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience. What else is a blog good for?

As for the filling, (per usual) I did not want to take the traditional route. My husband’s grandmother gave me a some homegrown lemons. Her lemon tree yielded for the first time this winter. Lemon is the perfect pick-me-up during the cold months when we lack sun and fresh ingredients. I juiced and zested them, combined them with softened cream cheese, then rolled the mixture up into the dough. My poor husband had to go to the store to get me more cream cheese after I threw out my third attempt.

The finished loaf is delightfully sweet, with a hint of tang. I think a glob of raspberry jelly would adorn a slice of fresh baked lemon cream cheese babka perfectly.

Several slices of lemon cream cheese babka sitting on a wood tray

What I learned throwing out three batches of babka dough:

Batch one and two:

  • Always check your yeast. Yeast will last in the fridge, but of course not forever. Instead of wasting your time making an entire batch of dough to only realize that it will not rise, take the first 5 minutes and make sure the yeast you are using is alive. It is simple, always bloom your yeast in warm water or milk (depending on the recipe). If it sits for 5-10 minutes and it is not bubbly…your yeast is bad. If it is bubbly…it is living!
  • Make sure your ingredients are not cold. If you know you are baking with yeast, set out your eggs, flour (if you store it in the fridge), etc in advance to ensure it is they are room temperature. Cold items will slow down the growth of your yeast. Just like a warm environment will speed up the yeast’s growth.

Batch three:

  • Kneed your dough for longer that you think. Let me explain: Written recipes have various times for kneading dough with a stand mixer. Truly you can only tell when a dough is ready by touch or sight. Just because a recipe says knead for 5 minutes, does not mean that dough will be ready to rise after 5 minutes of kneading. It is easiest to tell when a dough is ready by kneading it by hand. If that is not you (me either), then you must look at your dough to see if it has been kneaded enough. If the recipe says the dough should “pull away from the bowl and form a soft smooth dough”, then make sure it does just that. Otherwise your finished bread will be more like cake than bread.
  • It often takes longer than the recipe says to let your dough double during a rise. Each home and each region is different. For example, I live in the deep south where it is humid. So during the summer it may take less time for my dough to rise. Right now it is dead of winter, and it took a bit longer for my dough to rise to double. My house was very cold. The moral of the story–watch your dough and only move on to the next step when the dough has actually doubled. Do not simply let it sit for the time designated in the recipe.
  • This is babka specific. Some methods call for slicing your rolled up dough down the middle then twisting it. Next, you stuff it into your bread pan to allow it to rise. The finished loaf has exposed filling on the top. The slicing method works great for certain fillings, but not all fillings. Cinnamon sugar or chocolate are ideal, cream cheese is not ideal to cook exposed to the heat of your oven. For my version I used a different method, I did not slice the dough. I rolled it up then twisted it together before placing it in the loaf pan. This way the filling stayed inside of the bread without being directly exposed to the heat of the oven. Consider the method of babka rolling you want to use based upon the type of filling you stick in your babka. Literally you can stuff anything inside a babka, sweet or savory.Upclose picture of the inside of the lemon swirrled babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Sliced loaf of babka being presented by the baker on a wood serving board

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Warm Milk, between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Yeast
  • Zest from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt
  • For the filling:
  • 1 Eight Ounce Block of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl bloom your yeast: Pour in warm milk then sprinkle your yeast over the top. Do not stir. Allow the yeast to bloom for approximately 5 minutes, or until small bubbles form.
  2. While you yeast blooms, prepare your stand mixer. In the mixing bowl, with a dough hook attached, combine your flour and sugar.
  3. After you yeast has bloomed, pour it into the flour mixture. Turn you stand mixer on low and allow it to begin mixing.
  4. Next add in your eggs and vanilla. Mix until it all comes together. If the mixtures looks too dry and crumbly add in more milk.
  5. Turn you mixer up to medium and add in your butter one tablespoon at a time. Let each piece of butter fully incorporate before adding the next. When you are ready to add in the last piece of butter, pour in your salt as well.
  6. Knead the dough on medium speed for approximately 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl forms.
  7. Place the finished dough in a bowl that is coated in cooking spray, then spray cooking spray over the top of the dough. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  8. Allow the dough to rise, in a draft free place, for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  9. While you dough rises, create your filling.
  10. In a small bowl, zest and juice your lemon.
  11. Next, whisk in the remaining ingredients to the lemon filling until the mixture is smooth and fully combined. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.
  12. Once the dough has doubled, gently turn it out onto a heavily floured surface.
  13. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to create a 16x12 inch rectangle.
  14. Spread your lemon cream cheese filling onto the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the outside of the dough.
  15. Starting at the short side, roll up your dough like you would a jelly roll. Press the ends into the roll to seal.
  16. Fold your roll in half, then twist the halves around itself at least four times.
  17. Place the loaf into a greased bread pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise to double. At least 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  18. Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fairenhiet.
  19. Bake the bread for 30 minutes on the middle rack. After 30 minutes, bake it for an additional 30 minutes covered in aluminum foil to avoid over browning.
  20. A thermometer in the middle should read 190 degrees. If after an hour of baking the middle is not done, cook the loaf for an additional 10 minutes.
  21. Let bread cool before slicing.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/01/25/lemon-cream-cheese-babka/

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Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Crackers

Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Crackers

Nutty, salty, crunchy, cheesy crackers—what could be better? I absolutely adore this recipe. It is easy yet a show stopper.

On top of that, this recipe is my take on a southern classic: cheese straws. As a southern girl, my go to cooking style is just that. When I get the opportunity I jump at the chance to revamp a classic southern recipe.

Every true southerner has been to a party or shower and sampled some homemade cheese straws. They are nutty, spicy (because of the use of red pepper), baked crunchy little cheese treats. Like sweet tea, cucumber sandwiches, or deviled eggs, you will can usually find cheese straw on the table of a party that is below the mason Dixon.

A stack of square baked manchego cheese crackers

Although I could not find any reliable sources on the true origins of this southern delicacy, I can tell you the idea behind them (at least in my not-so-expert opinion). The base recipe is a simple, half biscuit-like mixture and half shredded cheddar cheese. You pipe out the cheese mixture onto a sheet pan and bake them until nice and crispy.

Since you use shredded cheese, it is very easy to swap out cheddar with any comparable semi-hard cheese. To make my version a bit more fancy (cue my favorite Reba song), I swapped out the cheddar for Spanish Manchego cheese. Manchego is close to the top of my list of favorite cheeses.

A jar of manchego cheese crackers filled with cripsy proscuitto ham

I wanted to take the flavors a little further and balance the cheese flavor, so I crisped up some prosciutto and tossed it into the mix. You do not have to toss ham in, you can keep the prosciutto soft and serve it on the plate with the cheese crackers. I also thought a note of sweetness would be nice, so I plopped a jar of fig jam next to the platter.

The result, a slightly updated classic that everyone at the party I attended loved just as much (if not more) than the tried and true original version.

As with most of my recipes, this one is interchangeable. You can use any semi-hard cheese, toss in something extra, pair the finished crackers with any cured meat, and use any type of jam you would like. Challenge yourself and see if you can come up with your own winning flavor combination.

A slate tray of two types of manchego cheese crackers and proscuitto ham

Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Crackers

A manchego cheese cracker topped with fig jam

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Pound of Manchego Cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, also known as red pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, softened
  • Optional: 4 Ounces of Good Prosciutto Ham

Instructions

  1. For the plain cheese straws:
  2. In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients until combined.
  3. Next add the cheese and butter. Process until dough becomes smooth and has the texture similar to Play-Doh.
  4. Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
  5. After the dough has rested, pack it into piping bag fitted with a medium star shaped tip.
  6. Pipe long ribbons of dough across a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You want the ribbons to sit approximately an inch apart.
  7. Next, cut the ribbons into six-inch lengths.
  8. Repeat with remaining dough. If you do not have enough sheet pans, you can bake and then fill the pan again until all of the dough is baked.
  9. Bake for about 13 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.
  10. Let the crackers cool before serving.
  11. Optional: Serve on a tray with fresh prosciutto on the side and a jar of fig jam.
  12. For the variation with prosciutto inside of the cracker:
  13. In a small pan, over medium heat, crisp your prosciutto ham.
  14. Once the ham is crispy like a piece of bacon, remove it from the pan and drain on a plate of paper towels. Allow the ham to cool while you prepare your dough.
  15. Prepare your dough according the directions above. Stopping at step 3 above.
  16. Crumble you crispy prosciutto, and fold into the dough with a large spoon.
  17. Once the ham is evenly distributed, pick up at step 4 above. Cover the dough and allow to rest.
  18. Since there is ham in this dough, you will not be able to pipe it.
  19. Form the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface.
  20. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until approximately 1/4 inch in thickness.
  21. Slice the dough into the desired shape, I recommend squares or squared strips like pictured above.
  22. Bake the cookies according to the directions above.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/01/19/prosciutto-manchego-cheese-crackers/