Monday, February 21, 2011


As I previously stated, my husband and I traditionally eat in on Valentine's Day. I am going to apologize ahead of time for the lack of the pictures posted here, because my husband took them, and he, generally, has a hard time with my camera. Not that it is at all user friendly. It is something that hopefully will soon be donated to my sister or some other charitable cause and replaced.
I always ask my husband  what he wants to eat on these occasions, and on the menu this year we had: coconut shrimp with marmalade dipping sauce; spring green salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts; Ribeyes (shocker) with herb butter; green beans (shocker) with brown butter; steak fries (shocker); and we finished up with apple turnovers.
I was experimenting with a few recipes that I am going to put on my catering menu, and I am very happy with all of them. I don't think I am going to give you all of those recipes in this post...maybe just one. I think I would like to talk about my journey with french fries.
It started about a year and a half ago, when I started making them at home. They are quite delicious, but they lack the really crispy outside and soft, fluffy inside that makes fries so desirable. The issue I had with, let's just call them 'home-fries', is that they got soggy quickly, and they only had that really crunchy texture when they were far too hot to comfortably eat. I tried several different things, like cutting them very small, frying them longer, bathing them in ice water, etc. I even saw something that suggested boiling them first. I don't quite understand  how they would retain their shape. And, after all that, I still wasn't happy. Why can't I get the texture I want?
Then, last month, Food Network magazine had a little blurb (actually, it was a few pages) about making perfect fries at home. The trick? Fry them a little bit, then freeze the french fries for an hour before frying them for your meal.
Well, why not? I have tried practically everything else. So, I experimented on my husband. I cut the fries like steak fries (basically, oversized half-ovals), used a good amount of corn oil, mixed with bacon grease and fried them for about two minutes. I placed them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and popped them in the freezer. As a side note, this was really helpful because you can't cut potatoes ahead of time without them turning all rusty. This way, they were half-way done and I had more time for other last minute prep. So, I fried them up, and they were pretty amazing! If you want you can throw them on a baking sheet and keep them in a 200 or 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes while you finish frying up the rest. I was pretty impressed. Definitely a keeper!

Steak Fries
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled if desired
3 cups oil, grease, lard, or fat
1 Tablespoon each of : salt, paprika, Parmesan cheese

Slice potatoes into fries, transferring to a bowl of tepid water as you go. Cut fries by cutting them in half lengthwise, then lay each cut side down and slice lengthwise into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Stack about half the slices and cut lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch fries. Repeat with the rest. Heat 2 inches of the oil in a deep wide pot over medium heat until it registers 375.
Drain and dry the potatoes. Add half the potatoes to the pot and fry, stirring gently, until they soften and blister, 3 to 4 minutes (do not let them color). Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Transfer to the freezer until firm, at least 1 hour.
When ready to serve, reheat the oil to 375 over medium-high heat. Working in 4 small batches so the oil stays hot, fry the potatoes until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to fresh paper towels to drain. Combine salt, paprika, and Parmesan in a small bowl. Sprinkle over fries.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grandma's Cornbread

Do you ever go looking through a cookbook for some commonplace item, say, cake, and there is no such recipe. There is some crazy 'birthday cake' that has rum and candied fruit in it, or a lemon cake that contains the entire rind (pith included) of a lemon?
It was at this juncture of my cooking I decided I would pursue not just the unusual, but the ordinary. I don't understand why there are not cookbooks with ordinary, everyday recipes. Those classics that you want to try at home or oatmeal raisin cookies that turn out perfect every time. Whether its roast chicken, brownies, lemon curd, crepes, or homemade pasta, its pretty darn hard to find those recipes. You have such an abundance of variations on those recipes, like lemon-poppy seed crepes with creme fraiche, but no plain crepes.
You get what I'm saying...right? So, this is one of those recipes. The recipes that 'everyone' has...everyone but us. The recipes that the higher food powers have decided 'everyone' already knows how to make...cornbread. There is something so nostalgic and comforting about cornbread. It can be plain, or jazzed up a bit. It suits many meals, and for some reason, it makes people smile when you put it on the table. It is unassuming and simple, yet we love it. With plain butter, or sweet, with chili or bbq chicken, as muffins or squares, it is welcome.
This recipe is my moms, and she got it from her mom. I love it. It is the perfect combination of light and toothsome. It isn't so light you think of cake, nor is it dense. Its just perfect.
Now, of course I changed a few things about the recipe. For one, it calls for powdered milk, which I have noticed pops up quite a bit in recipes from Grandma. I traded the water and powdered milk for milk. It also calls for shortening, which I swapped out for butter. I have something against shortening in baked goods. I just don't like it. You might, but I don't. Softened butter works great, but you could also use melted butter. Of course, I can't leave well enough alone, so I have listed a few variations you might like: you can add 1 cup cheddar cheese by itself, or in addition to canned chilis or bacon, or all three. You could also use bacon grease instead of butter....I know bacon somehow makes its way into most of my posts, but you gotta love the stuff...

Grandmas Cornbread
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) butter, softened or melted.

Preheat oven to 425. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish or pie dish. Combine ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until there are no lumps. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
For muffins, bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Serve warm with lots of butter...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eat Here-Barking Frog Grille

Yes, here it is-another restaurant review. I may start doing this full-time instead of cooking at home...back in November, my husband and I had dessert at a restaurant in Sedona called the Barking Frog. I know the name is a little off-putting, but we had passed it a few times and decided to give it a try. We had the churros, and they were really good. We really liked the ambiance of the restaurant, so we decided we would go back again.
We ended up eating there for our anniversary. The staff was very friendly, and we were notified by the hostess that there were two dining rooms. In one there are no hamburgers or children- I have to say I chose that one.
Large fireplaces give the room a wonderfully homey feel, but don't let that fool you. The service and food are definitely first class. The menu has a southwestern-French feel. It may sound odd, but it actually works quite well. We started out with rotisserie chicken nachos. Before that made it to our table, the chef sent out a small appetizer that was a bite of caprese, drizzled with a cilantro pesto instead of the traditional basil pesto. It was amazing. The mozzarella was fresh and delicious, and the cilantro pesto was very good.
The nachos arrived in a timely fashion and they were piled high with fresh guacamole and queso fundido. The guacamole had fresh corn in it, which I love, and the nachos were layered with a delicious chili.  We were very pleased. The next thing to make its way to our table was  refreshing lime sorbet, sent out as a palate cleanser between courses. It was a few small bites (or just one, if you are my husband) and it was very good.
We ordered the lamb porterhouse, and I have to say it was fantastic. There were two porterhouse lamb steaks on the dinner, served with sweet potato fries and a latke. The lamb had a finely chopped green apple chutney, which was also very good and complimented the lamb perfectly. I had ordered it medium-rare, and it was cooked to perfection. There was none of the gaminess that sometimes accompanies lamb, just a deliciously seasoned, tender and flavorful piece of meat. My husband and I weren't wild about the sweet potato fries, but that's just preference. I really liked the latke, it was also lightly seasoned and complimented the lamb well.
Unfortunately, we didn't have room for dessert, but I am glad we had the churros and ice cream the last time we were there. They had a delicious looking selection of desserts, and we will probably make our way out there again just for that.

Barking Frog Grille
2620 W. Arizona 89A
Sedona, AZ 86336

Barking Frog Grille

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