Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Club part 2

I mentioned that I'd share the other two apps after I fussed over caramelized bacon for a few days weeks.

Without further ado, here they are! 

Balsamic Pears with Taleggio (click here for recipe)

 Balsamic Pears with Taleggio
photo courtesy of

I cut this recipe out of the Wegmans magazine over six years ago and just now tried it.   I'm actually not kidding, and the proof is that we moved here four years ago, and Richmond doesn't even have a Wegmans. On that note, start rant. WHY, OH WHY doesn't this place have a Wegmans?! It is on the short -- very, very short -- list of things I miss about living in the DC area.   Considering the demise of Ukrops and its characterless replacement, the market here is totally ready for it. Please, Danny Wegman, I beg you to make it happen.   End rant. Sorry, that topic gets me amped.

Back to the topic at hand: yummy appetizers.  This little bite delightfully mingles a variety of textures with barely toothy fruit, crispy pastry and gooey cheese.  Even better: the complex flavor profile. Sweet, cinnamon spiced pears sing with a backdrop of balsamic vinegar accented with woodsy rosemary.  And then it's topped with a creamy layer of nutty cheese...need I say more?  I will!  It can be prepped in advance!  I made the pear mixture and froze it the week before.  I thawed it the day of serving, leaving only the steps of spooning it into cute little phyllo cups and topping with cheese before popping it into the oven for 8 teeny minutes.  Fab.

Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers

Who is the appropriate third amigo for a spicy/sweet bacon bite and tangy, fragrant pastry cup?  Why, a buttery cracker, of course!  This superdooper simple recipe is in Barefoot's latest book.  It sounded tasty to me, but what sold me was that this can be made weeks (in the fridge) or months (in the freezer) in advance.  This was just perf to pull off a hosting gig while hub was out of town.

Just slice, egg wash and bake.

My only comment is not about the recipe itself, but about the thickness of the crackers.  With such a rich result, I vote to slice thinner than the 3/8 inch width suggested. 

Ina Garten's Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¹⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
14 tablespoons (13/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, 1/2-inch-diced
5 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
3 tablespoons ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Fleur de sel or sea salt

Place the flour, kosher salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheddar, jalapeño, and chipotle chili powder and pulse again. With the food processor running, add the ice water all at once. Continue pulsing until the mixture begins to form a ball. Dump the dough onto a floured board and roll it into a 14-inch log. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Cut the dough in 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place the crackers on the prepared sheet pan, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Holy Pig

One glance at the recipe title and I could focus on little else.  A mere two words have captured my heart and have yet to relent.  Friends, if you've never met CARAMELIZED BACON, get ready to start living.

I was scheduled to host book club last week and was in dire need of some fresh snack inspiration.  A potentially risky choice, I opted to prepare three dishes for the gals that I had never tried before myself.  But with two of them being Barefoot recipes, my fears were eased.  As a rule, she never lets me down; that reliability coupled with a divine concept like caramelized bacon, how could this NOT be fabulous?   Salty, sweet and spicy mingle together on a satisfyingly toothy backdrop... of bacon... Are you sold yet?  Did I also mention that this is simple to assemble and can be made in advance?

The only thing better than a couple of these little beauties is a whole tray filled with them. 

I'll share the other two recipes in the next post. This one deserves the spotlight.

Ina Garten's Caramelized Bacon

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 pound thick cut, applewood smoked bacon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or mini chop, combine sugar, nuts, salt, pepper and cayenne until finely ground. Add maple syrup and pulse until moistened.

Top a foil lined baking sheet with a baking rack.  Cut the bacon slices in half, and place them on the baking rack, being sure they're not touching.  Evenly spread the sugar mixture on each slice.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes and let cool to room temperature before serving.