Thursday, April 18, 2013

Profiteroles with Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce and Candied Bacon #Improv

It's Improv time and this month we're talking about Eggs and Bacon! Confused? Improv is a monthly challenge hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Each month we are given two seasonal foods to get creative with and this month we've got Eggs and Bacon. Eggs and Bacon? A piece of cake **grin**

Not long ago, I wasn't crazy about the idea of using bacon in any kind of dessert. Mixing meat with sweets just seemed so wrong. Then last June I had the opportunity to try Bacon Ice Cream made by Executive Chef Julian Grainger of the Minneapolis Hilton was topped with a Bacon Lollipop (!) and it was fabulous. Still, I was hesitant to try it at home. An Egg and Bacon Improv theme was just the ticket to get me was time to try Candied Bacon.

I searched the Internet for the bacon recipe and was most inspired by the one posted by Recipe Girl. Simply mix some brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and coat both sides of the bacon slices. Put an oven safe rack on top of a parchment lined baking sheet; spray it with cooking spray. Arrange the bacon slices on the rack and bake at 350 degrees F. Since I only had thick slices of bacon, I baked mine for just about 30 minutes. Watch it carefully near the end, to make sure the bacon doesn't burn.

Frankly, I had no idea how I was going to use the bacon after I made it...the dessert just evolved after these beauties emerged from the oven.

One of the best "eggy" desserts I can think of are cream puffs. Made from just a little water, butter, flour, and eggs, they are not only easy to make, but they look impressive as well. They can be filled with whipped cream or custard or chocolate mousse. If you fill them with a scoop of ice cream, you get to call them "profiteroles" and you are immediately elevated to the status of fancy schmancy baker. Look at how easy these things are to make:

Simply combine 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of butter (I used unsalted), and a pinch of salt into a medium sized saucepan. Bring it to a boil and add 1 cup of flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball. Let this cool for 5 minutes.

The hardest part is the workout your arm gets from beating the eggs in....

After the mixture has cooled for 5 minutes, add 4 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture should be smooth and shiny when you are done.

Next, use a cookie scoop to drop the batter onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and browned. Immediately cut a small hole in each one to allow steam to escape.

Aren't they pretty? They freeze well, too...bag up what you don't use and save them for a quick emergency dessert.

When they are cool, just cut the tops off and pluck out some of the insides. Now you have the perfect vessel for the good stuff. You could even make little savory tarts by filling them with chicken...hmmm...pot pies?

Meh, it was Sunday afternoon and I was feeling a bit lazy, so I just filled these with vanilla ice cream. Now I'm thinking that some Sweet Potato Ice Cream might be good.....

At any rate, it still needed a topping, and since bacon and maple are such a good combination, I turned to the Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce. If you haven't made this yet, go do it now. I've used this a bunch of times over apple pie and bread pudding. It is life altering. Btw, one tablespoon of whiskey is plenty--it gives it just the right boozy flavor without overpowering.

Fill your profiteroles with a scoop of ice cream, pour some warm Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce over it, and crumble some of that Candied Bacon on top...that is if you have any left. 

Now go see what everyone else is making with Eggs and Bacon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saucy Apricot Chicken

Sometimes you need easy....and fast....and comforting. Here's a quick chicken dish that I learned how to make when I was still in high school for just those times. The original recipe calls for a whole cut-up chicken but, since it's just my husband and me at home and we really only like white meat, I've adjusted. Feel free to use whatever chicken parts float your boat. You could even sub pork chops--I won't tell. I'll bet you could even throw this in a crock pot.....

Saucy Apricot Chicken

1 (10 oz) jar apricot jam
1 small bottle Russian dressing
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the apricot jam, Russian dressing, and soup mix in a medium bowl.

Season the chicken with pepper and brown in a skillet with a little olive oil. Place the chicken in a casserole dish. Pour the apricot sauce over the chicken. Bake, covered, for one hour.

Can you tell this recipe dates back to the '70's?

Browning the chicken first is totally optional...I just don't care for anemic looking food. I don't season it with salt...there's enough in the onion soup mix.

Truthfully, I haven't made this dish in years, but it is a family favorite. Since it was too cold to barbecue, I made a pretend barbecue meal and served Mashed Potato Salad with it. Big brownie points with the hubby.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Chef Nancy Silverton Cooking Demo and a Signed Cookbook Giveaway! #CulinaryCouncil #Macy's

Chef Nancy Silverton

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a cooking demonstration at Macy's with Chef Cat Cora. It was so fabulous to have a front row seat to watch (and sample) food being made from such a talented chef. A few months later, Chef Tom Douglas came to town and I learned all about making crab cakes, plus there was a photo op and a signed cookbook to take home. I never thought I would be so lucky to have a third chance to watch and learn from yet another great chef, this time Chef Nancy Silverton. Chef Silverton is the co-founder of La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles, owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, author of several cookbooks, an acclaimed pastry chef, winner of too many awards to mention (a current James Beard Foundation nominee), and she even cooked with Julia Child! It didn't take me long to request the day off from work and get my name on the list....

The bar at Mozza always includes a seasonal acqua fresca (a sparkling non-alcoholic fruit juice drink). Nick, the bartender, created this drink made with kumquats, cucumber, and basil. Very refreshing!

Macy's Culinary Council is made up of a group of very distinguished chefs from around the country that are dedicated to inspiring you to eat, cook, and enjoy food at home, just like they would make it. Chef Silverton demonstrated two salads for us and ended on a sweet note with a shortbread cookie. Both of the salads had a basic Lemon Vinaigrette as a component, yet each salad was completely different. The first, a hearty Kale Salad, was comprised of marinated anchovies, ricotta salata, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Between the zesting, and the chopping, Chef Silverton inspired us with little hints. One suggestion: Save the best EVOO for drizzling on things--use a good EVOO for the actual recipe.

Chef Silverton bakes the ricotta salata, imparting a beautiful brown color, a bit of a smoky flavor, and a longer shelf life.

Off to the side, the Macy's staff prepared salads for all of us to try.

My sister was a big help, holding all of the food so that I could take pictures....

The next salad, Sweet Gem Lettuce with Bufala Mozzarella, Cucumber, and Yogurt was a little more delicate, so the dressing had the Lemon Vinaigrette with an added yogurt dressing to better coat the tender leaves. Chef Silverton isn't one for garnishes just for garnish sake...she likes them to be a part of the dish, and to have good flavor. This salad was garnished with chive flowers for looks and for flavor.

It turns out that Chef Silveton is not a huge fan of sweet desserts. She does, however, make a fabulous, not too sweet, ending to a meal with her Rosemary Pine-Nut Cookies. A shortbread dough with polenta in the mix is made up ahead of time so that it has plenty of time to chill. Then, a pine nut nougatine is made up. After the cookie dough is rolled and cut into shapes, a bit of the nougatine is put in the center, along with a couple of rosemary sprigs. The result is a really unique, not-to-sweet, cookie.

Macy's Culinary Council went all out for this cooking demonstration with Chef Silverton. As an incentive, if we spent $35 in the home department, we received in return a free copy of Chef Silverton's book, The Mozza Cookbook (a $35 value) and a $10 giftcard. Of course, I found a few things to buy...who doesn't need a new Silpat every now and then? We also had a chance to have Chef Silverton sign our books...Nice!

As a final, nice touch, Macy's gave me an additional signed copy of The Mozza Cookbook to share with one of my readers. I'm going to make it easy for you to enter--simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite Italian dish is. Please use the Rafflecopter gadget to enter--that way you can leave your email address and no one will see it. :)--then leave a comment as you normally would. Rafflecopter will pick the winner for me at random. I will open this giveaway to residents of the USA over 18 years of age. The winner will be chosen on April 10th.

Do you live near a Macy's? I suggest you check to see if a chef from the Culinary Council will be visiting your city. These events are free and make for such a fun day. I can't wait to see who the next chef will be! Oh--and my favorite Italian dish? Pizza! (I plan on trying out the pizza dough recipe in my new cookbook).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post about Macy's Culinary Council.  However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.