For Christmas this year, my lovely sister Leah gave me a wonderful Williams-Sonoma cookbook full of recipes for the thing I love most in the world; brunch! Paging through page after page of beautifully shot photos, I finally settled on a recipe for a corn & chile strata with chorizo. This is an extremely homey dish, and after refrigerating overnight, I absolutely could not wait to get this in the oven the next morning. Definitely worth the preparation because it was so light and fluffy the next day; satisfied my love of homemade brunch in a huge way!
Preparing mussels at home has always intimidated me. I'm not exactly sure why; I've done pretty well at my first attempts at Beef Wellington and Risotto Tortes, so why would the thought of preparing mussels at home frighten me?
So, you know how there are just certain things you go to the trouble to prepare just to harvest the end result? A whole duck just to capture the delicious rendered fat? An entire pound of bacon to, once again, harvest the delicious fat? This year, I knew I was going to be hosting two Thanksgiving meals, so I decided to roast a duck just for the fat. I didn't have any plans for that fat until Christmas day, when I decided to roast some potatoes in that delicious fat and then broil them until golden. These are super easy to make, and really delicious hot from the oven kissed simply with sea salt.
While very belated, I wanted to finally getting around to posting my first attempt at making a from-scratch Green Bean Casserole. On our way home from visiting our family in Houston this Christmas Eve, W mentioned that he was once again craving GBC. He wasn't sure what he wanted as a main, but he absolutely knew he wanted this as a side. Comfort dishes like this one always appear to be so much simpler to prepare when using a canned cream of something-or-other soup instead of just making your own cream sauce. This one is as simple as melting some butter, whisking in some flour, and adding some liquid and combining the components into a baking dish. Ditch the topping in favor of just the traditional French fried onions (if you want) and you have a quite simple make-ahead meal that will win over family and guests alike.
I started looking through the Starters/Appetizers recipe of my blog and realized "Sheeesh, for as much entertaining as I do, I sure don't have a lot of quick and easy appetizers on the site . . ." Sweet and salty inspiration then struck us; W and I decided to wrap some brie and some sort of fruit in some puff pastry, bake it, and call it a day. But then the question came to us; Which fruit should we use? There's the ever popular preserves option, but we don't keep a lot of preserves handy in the fridge, so that was out. I thought, for a moment, about going savory with some sun-dried tomatoes as an excuse to use the last of our soon-to-be-dying basil due to the impending winter. But, ultimately, we went with chopped dates since they were in our pantry and I had no impending plans for them. The possibilities are endless here, so go nuts!
So, it's finally starting to feel like Fall around here, and with the slowly changing leaves (very slowly, because Dallas has been hovering in the mid-70s this week), it's starting to look a bit like it, too. So, when my friend Miah posted this recipe for a pork chili simmered in pumpkin ale with chocolate, pumpkin, and spices, I thought "What on Earth? That sounds really odd." And my next immediate thought was ". . . but Miah wouldn't steer me wrong. . ." And he absolutely didn't. The combination of flavors this chili produced were nearly addicting. It's a bit on the spicy side (so, I've been told; my sensitivity to spice has been reduced drastically in recent years) so it may be "Holy crap, my tongue! It burns!" spicy to those of you who haven't been challenged to eat raw peppers as of late. Also, while the garnish may not look exceedingly appetizing (and as a friend pointed out, a bit like melted Velveeta), it's a really uplifting flavor and is delicious mixed in with the very complex sweet and spicy chili.
I tend to go on and on about how much I love Europe, and how Italy (specifically, Positano) has stolen my heart, but I'm here to tell you, I think I have a new love in my life. I know. Surprising, right? It's been quite some time since, but W and I jetted off to Sardinia in May ahead of what was a very generous (and timely) vacation to the island of Capri provided by Small Luxury Hotels. Well, *provided* after I spent weeks and weeks voting and asking many of you to spend some time voting for me, so for that, I thank you. I intend to do some justice to Capri at a later date, but this post is intended to focus on our lovely experience at a hidden gem of a restaurant in Palau on the northeast tip of Sardinia, La Gritta. Oh, yeah. And something, something . . . on a boat.
I'm not really one for baking, as I feel I'm more improvisational in the kitchen as opposed to a scientist. Measurements (exact ones, anyhow) tend to scare me a bit. And, if I'm being honest, I've had my share of baking experiments gone awry in the past, so I'm not really interested in repeating those mistakes any time soon. However, I've made some Lemon Almond Biscotti without a whole lot of drama in the past, so I thought I'd take a stab at some that included one of my favourite things; Chocolate! These were pretty great, and didn't last long in our household, as both W and I are coffee drinkers (him, way more than me!) every morning, and we have friends who accept our generosity at exactly face value; please remove these delicious treats from our household so our waists don't expand *that* much.
I have been a vegetable roasting fiend as of late. Pretty much any combination of vegetables, I'll roast. Lately, I've rediscovered the magnificence of simple roasted brussel sprouts, and at the risk of over kill, it's been a two-three time a week meal since we're trying to watch our figures and make sure our upcoming trip to Las Vegas allows us to be gluttonous fools for a weekend. DB Brasserie and Burger Bar await, as does Bouchon for brunch. Well, that's where this post runs off the tracks. I had every intention of just using minimal oil, salt, pepper, and garlic to season these things, but then the idea of bacon and topping it all with a couple of eggs crept into my mind, and all hell broke loose in the form of these breakfast-inspired roasted brussel sprouts. Gotta love the versatility of them, but they can get exceedingly addicting. Just fair warning.
Though I've done so in the past (I know; bad, bad Lauren!), I just can't bring myself to call these braised pork shoulder breakfast tacos "carnitas". I didn't slow cook them in lard, and sort of cheated, if I'm being honest. Because really, that's just what braising is; joyous, minimal prep, and then shoving the meat in a dutch oven with some liquid, and just let. it. go. I watched nearly the entire web series The Guild (highly recommended if you're an internet nerd, and well, you're reading this blog, so I strongly suspect that you might be) while I was waiting for dinner to be ready. I wrote the recipe for a larger amount of pork (because most people will have a 4-6 lb. pork shoulder to work with), but what I like to do since we recently invested in our KA meat grinder (on another note, grinding meat has become somewhat relaxing in a way), is to buy a 10-12 lb hunk of shoulder from our favourite meat shop and break it down into 1-2 lb. freezable portions, so that I'm rarely overcooking and thus, boring ourselves with the same leftovers for days. This amount (1.5 lb.) of shoulder easily made 8-10 breakfast tacos, which was perfect for 2 nights of dinner for 2 people.