Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cheesy Vegetable Casserole

Cheesy Vegetable Casserole.

Let's start with singing some retro 70's tune shall we? This dish is truly vintage but also very good. I have Abba's Dancing Queen going around my head but you can pick yours. I just checked at it was 1976 so it fits. . . 

So this is a recipe that my mother handed down to me years ago and I have updated with experience over time, staying true to the general principles:

1. Even if kids won't eat their vegetables they will most probably eat this. After all cheese smothering the broccoli and the peas make them taste delicious.
2. There is nothing better than white bread sometimes. Add some melted butter for a topping and you have true bliss.
3. Cream of Mushroom Soup can be a staple. Want it to be fancy? Use Campbell's rather than generic brands.

I should add that I grew up in a home where vegetables were NOT served at every meal (rarely) and my kids are not big veggie fans despite my repeated efforts. I personally love raw kale with dressing, baby carrots with houmous, and celery sticks in homemade blue cheese dressing. But there is a theme there. . . I really do like something with it so this is just a fancy version of that, all dressed up in a casserole dish.

  • 2 packages of frozen chopped broccoli (12 ounces each) Please note that chopped broccoli can be hard to find and often I substitute broccoli spears.
  • 1 package of frozen peas (12 ounces)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 6 slices of American Cheese (Note to self: I could have updated this recipe further by using shredded cheese)
  • 6 slices of white bread - a little stale (exposed to air for a bit) is better.
  • 1/4 stick butter, melted

So I could lie to you and tell you that I cooked all the packages of vegetables separately and according to directions like my mother used to. Of course in her day it was on the stove top and it took a while. I dumped all the vegetables in a big white corning dish and added about 1/2 cup of water and cooked in the microwave, checking every 4 minutes or so until they looked reasonably "done". It took about 12 minutes. I added salt and stirred, then drained off the water.

Ripped the cheese to melt quicker. . . Note to self: Shredded Packaged Cheese!
While the vegetables are cooking, heat the two cans of soup on low on the stove and add the American cheese. I rip them into pieces so they melt more evenly. Stir until smooth.

Stir until smooth

Mix the soup mixture into the vegetables, using the cooking dish you had for the microwave. It's still a little warm which works in your favor to get the soup mixture evenly spread. Dump this new combination into a greased Pyrex dish.

Rip the sliced bread into tufts and place on top of the casserole dish. Drizzle with some melted butter. Quick tip: Melt the butter in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then sprinkle from there for less mess!

Bake at 350 until heated through, taking care to get the bread golden but not burned. I don't use my top over because it seems to burn. . . a lower rack in a larger over is better.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The First Orange Door Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I apologize that it took so long to get a book read! I think that this factor plays a lot into the review of this book. Without further ado. . . Here it is:

Shadow of Night: Book 2 of The All Souls Trilogy
This book took a very long time to read. I can't blame it completely on the book because there were some other factors such as life in general, starting a blog for cooking and food porn and also a new discovery of a game on the I-Pad called Spelltower. I will tell you NOT to check it out if you like word games because it is going to be my downfall. I digress. . . I would like to point out that I really LOVED the first book in this series - A Discovery of Witches. Vampires and witches were described in new ways and did not fall into the typical Hollywood/teen fiction world that we have seen in recent years. This author must truly be brilliant. Deborah Harkness pulls elements of historical fact and literary finds with traditions from a variety of cultures to truly make the world, past and present, come alive and from a variety of perspectives.

I think my big problem was that the first book was so wonderful and ended with a cliffhanger. Then I waited. . . There was no Book 2 when I completed it and I went on to other things. If you haven't read Book 1 you are very lucky because you can read these back to back. I spent so much time trying to retrace/recall what happened in Book 1 while reading Shadow of Night that I know I'm missing entire parts in the continuum.

I also didn't like the male vs. female battle that went on for control sometimes. Apparently Matthew in the past is not as liberal and understanding as present day Matthew!

Good parts of this book that make it ultimately go on the list of books worth reading:

1. I really like these characters. They have flaws and seem human even if they have supernatural powers.

2. I liked the time travel and the glimpses into Elizabethan England and France as well as Prague. From my perspective getting a new back story for the Golem was pretty cool all on its own.

3. We learned a lot about Ashmole 782, the book at the center of this time traveling quest.

Until I downloaded this photo from Amazon, I had not read any other reviews and it sounds like a lot of people agree with me. This book is not as good as the first but necessary to bring us to the conclusion for Book 3 which is not yet set with a release date (it might not yet be done according to the author's website). If you haven't started this series maybe just wait?

The story of the first book is also going to be a movie. . .

So final verdict: On the list of "books worth reading" but with some conditions!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jewish Comfort Food

Kasha and Varnishkes also known as Kasha and Bowties

Kasha and Varnishkes
I don't make Kasha and Varnishkes often but it's one of my favorite traditional Jewish foods. There is a great basic recipe for them on Epicurious from Wolff's in New Jersey which is coincidentally (probably not really a coincidence) the brand of Kasha that I purchase for this dish. Kasha is really buckwheat groats but you will see we toast them with some egg to really release the flavor.

Growing up this was a side dish for lunch or dinner on Shabbat and therefore it was reheated as Jewish law does not allow for cooking during the sabbath. Many families utilize a blech, which is a thick sheet of steel that is placed on the stove top to keep the food warm throughout the day. The reason that I mention this is because of this method, the bow ties in the dish were always dried out and crunchy and I have grown to like it that way. Most recipes will stop with cooking it and the dish will remain soft. I always use the oven to crisp it up. I like those noodles browned.

Varnishkes aka Bow Tie Noodles
1 large sweet onion
1 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms
2 large eggs
1/2 box (approx 6.5 ounces) of Kasha
1 32 oz. box of chicken stock
1 cup of cooked farfalle (bow tie noodles)
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice onion into rounds (about 1/4 inch thick) and place in a covered skillet with some olive oil. Chop up mushrooms and add to pan on low/medium heat. My mushrooms were close to the point of no return, dying a slow death in the fridge, so I will not show you a picture of them! Check on these periodically to make sure that they cook and get soft but not burned. When onions are soft transfer to a plate.

Onions and Mushrooms slowly cooking

Beat the two eggs in a bowl and stir in kasha, making sure to coat all the kernels. Some of the mixture will clump. Don't worry about it as we will separate it when cooking. Place the kasha in the skillet and press it down with a spatula to cover the entire surface area at medium heat. We want to toast it without burning it. You will smell a fragrant nutty aroma. Flip and then begin to separate with your spatula.

Once it is toasted and separated, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the skillet's contents come to a boil, add the onions and mushrooms and reduce to low and cover. At this time cook the noodles in a separate pot according to instructions, leaning to the al dente side as we will be cooking some more.

Because I add a lot more liquid than called for it may take up to ten minutes to absorb. I don't worry about every last bit as we are going to finish this in the oven. Transfer the mixture into a Pyrex and stir in the drained noodles. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bow ties are browned.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Black Truffled Deviled Eggs with Black Salt

Also known as ... "Another Excuse to Use Truffle Oil" Installment #4 

One of my friends - Trish, who is also a foodie, recently was outlining her experience eating at Ocean Prime in detail. For those who are also enamored with food, this would be no surprise as most of us to engage in what we call "food porn". In case you don't aren't familiar with this term, it means we talk about food, take photos of the food, live to try the food. . . etc etc etc. In any event she began to detail the truffled deviled eggs that are an appetizer on the menu. Really, once she said "truffled" she had my full undivided attention. Truffles! Truffled oil? Well that sounded simply fabulous and another way to use that new bottle of truffle oil I recently purchased. For a while the two of us tried to imagine what could be in the recipe (keep in mind I hadn't even tried them) and then realized that the Internet could give us an idea of what to put in to make this treat. 

I combed a few recipes and then came up with my own spin on this small plate. Please note that Ocean Prime's appetizer contains white truffle oil and caviar. I don't have caviar in the house on a regular basis (um maybe I have never purchased it at all) and I wanted to use black truffle oil. I have not tried theirs to compare but I imagine they are simply delicious. In any event, here's my take:

Black Truffled Deviled Eggs with Black Salt

One dozen eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon Black Truffled Oil (yes, you can use white)
Black Salt for garnish

Egg Piercer Contraption
So let's start with the eggs. I always have to refer back to how long to cook them so here's the refresher. First I use this handy dandy egg piercer. I have had the same one for about 15 years. When you press the egg (raw) on the little depression, it makes a small pinhole in the bottom of the egg which is designed to release pressure and result in less broken/cracked eggs when you boil them. I think it does work because we typically have all eggs survive. Put the eggs gently in the pot with enough cold water to cover them, about an inch higher than the eggs, and place on a high flame. Once the eggs come to a boil, remove from heat and cover, for 12 1/2 minutes. Why 12 1/2? Well I read one reference that said 13 and another that said 12 so I split the difference. They came out just fine so I'm sticking with 12 1/2 minutes.

You can see those faint ripples in action. . . air escaping from those pinholes.

Immediately drain hot water and replace with running cold water. Some instructions say to use ice but I find the immediate temperature change leads to cracking eggs and I prefer to cool a little more gradually. Once completely cooled (or you can put in fridge and wait until the next day), roll the eggs to start a crack and begin to peel. I find running cold water on them as you peel is helpful. I will also admit that I hate this part and am completely bored and not patient enough and some eggs have deep scars on them when I begin to rip the shell off. I can guarantee that the restaurant's version of this is much prettier.

Whipping Yolks = Divine Deviled Eggs
Once your eggs are peeled, half them lengthwise and take out the yolks. Place the yolks in a food processor with the mayonnaise, sour cream, cayenne and seasonings and pulse them. Now I know I sound so smart but for years I did not do this. I have been a savage mashing this stuff together with a fork and I can tell you now I have learned my lesson. These yolks were so light and airy. It made a HUGE difference. I will never ever mash with a fork again. It is barbaric.

I really did pipe them!
Photo credit to my son as I can't take a pic of my own hand!
Drizzle the truffled oil into your whipped egg yolks slowly and taste. Now the amount of truffled oil to use could be a serious debate. There are so many factors and each batch of oil is different in its potency. I may have put a tiny bit more than a Tablespoon in but it's a good place to start. Once you taste and approve, scoop the mixture into a Ziploc bag and cut a small corner. I figured if I already whipped these yolks and put the truffled oil in I might as well pipe the yolks back into the egg whites. We have some time invested in these eggs and they are fancy. 

Now of course my eggs are not perfect and I could have focused on one or two real beauties to showcase this recipe. Honestly, looking online other deviled eggs look perfect. I really want to know how many dozen eggs go into that to get those few treasures. In any event, in case you are counting we are missing two halves on this plate. It was not on purpose. One egg half was lost in a freak accident involving gravity and the other egg white half was snatched by a little girl.

Black Salt:
Poor Man's Caviar?

Well they looked pretty to me and ready to eat but I did not want to stop here especially since we did not have caviar to garnish with. Black salt looked pretty darn good for this as well. But as usual taste is pretty high on the deciding factors of approval. I should note that the 7 year old girl who lives here (my daughter) was intrigued by these pretty little gems and asked to try one. She promptly returned to eat the equivalent of 2 and a half eggs so I think they were pretty good. As she doesn't like "spice" I would say the level of cayenne pepper with an 1/8 of teaspoon is pretty mild and I would add a little more next time.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Candied Bacon and Cheese Corn Bread

It was Sunday which is almost - not quite - synonymous with grocery shopping here. As I contemplated the box of corn bread mix that has been sitting in the pantry from Trader Joe's for a couple of months I was thinking about how to spice it up. Sometimes I add some brown sugar, or maple syrup, to make it a little sweeter but I was in the mood for some savory flavors too. Bacon! It came to me as I did a quick inventory of the groceries we had bought today. To take it up to another level I thought about specifically making candied bacon.

Corn Bread with Candied Bacon and Cheese


1 box of Trader Joe's Corn Bread Mix (or your equivalent)
1 Egg - per package instructions
1/2 Cup of Oil - per package instructions
3/4 Cup of Milk - per package instructions
2 Strips of Bacon
Brown Sugar and Cayenne Pepper
1/3 Cup Shredded Cheese 
More Brown Sugar and Cheese for garnish/topping

Shhh, don't tell but I opened the perfectly wrapped stack of platter bacon that we got from the butcher department. If family members check it will be obvious because there is no possible way to wrap it back up to look the same. I seriously wonder how they do it and why I can't recreated the look. I took two slices and stuck the rest back in the paper, albeit it's messy, and maybe no one will be the wiser.

Bacon with Brown Sugar and Cayenne = Candied Bacon with a Kick!

To make this quickly, and not to have to clean a whole broiler pan for two slices, I used a foil lined cookie sheet with the deeper sides. I sprinkled them with a good coating of brown sugar and a little bit of cayenne pepper. Stick this tray in a cold oven (not preheated) for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. You want the bacon to turn bright red. I removed it from the pan and tore it into little bits to add to our corn bread batter.

Candied Bacon Bits

Bacon and Cheese folded into batter
While the bacon cooled, I mixed the box of corn bread with the egg, oil and milk according to directions. No secrets, beat the egg with the oil and milk and add the powdered mix. You stir the mix in until it's moistened but still lumpy. To this I added the bacon and the cheese. I used about a 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. Today's cheese selection was 4 State Cheddar by Sargento. It looked intriguing and boasted 4 kinds of cheddar from across our great states. . . California, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin!

I poured this combination of flavors into a greased Pyrex 8x8 square pan and then sprinkled more cheesy goodness and brown sugar on top and placed it in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, again according to the mix directions. 

Ready for Baking. . .

So the verdict? Well the almost-8-year-old noticed I was posting and asked what these photos were from and then noticed the pan of bread sitting as it was posted. She tasted it and declared it "delicious" and just now came up and stole the pan to take into the kitchen for dinner. That also lets me know that the bacon is not too spicy as she does not like when I add cayenne pepper.


Cabbage on the Cutting Board

Okay, totally unrelated but I just couldn't help but share a photo of my first use of my new cutting board today because it looks so darn cool (and you know I just censored myself!). I made cabbage and noodles for dinner tonight and actually enjoyed cutting the cabbage. I know, I have problems!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eastern Market and Reclaim Detroit

Food and Urban Kitchen Adventures

I love Eastern Market in Detroit and have come to see a few items we can purchase there as staples for groceries. This morning was a surprise impromptu trip because my husband had an ulterior motive which necessitated a trip to Detroit. Now the photos will make it look like we were there a long time but in reality it was about 30 minutes. Efficient shopping/tasting and then on to the main event.

Winter shopping at Eastern Market is a little bit different than Flower Day in the summer. You can see Bert's Marketplaces is still grilling BBQ outside but the line that spans for blocks in nonexistent. That is good BBQ if you are interested in some good smokey flavor and in the summer you can also enjoy karaoke as you sit down to chow. It's really an experience as you can see from this video. There is less traffic and easier parking once Christmas tree shopping is done and lots to still see and do as well as taste and eat and buy!

I think Eastern Market is fun for all the seasons. Yes, Flower Day in the Spring is a rejoicing event to welcome upcoming summer. I love buying pumpkins in the fall. Our family tradition is to pick out our Christmas tree and buy other assorted greens and wreaths in November. There is fresh seasonal produce all year and little shops, including antique stores to visit. I love Eastern Market.


El Guapo Grill - Food Truck
All of the vendors today had moved indoors and things had shifted but we found El Guapo so we could enjoy a little Mexican. El Guapo is the first food truck to grace the city of Detroit and has now brought upon a whole renaissance of food truck cuisine. You can find it around town, even in my hometown of Royal Oak, but it's still something I look forward to at Eastern Market. Today we enjoyed Aloha Mr. Hand (pork belly confit, pineapple salsa minus jalapenos), Braised Beef (with cheese, no salsa), Adobe Chicken (no salsa, can you tell husband likes meat and cheese only?), and Korean Beef (Caramelized Marinated Beef with Asian Slaw).  You can see from the photos these soft tacos are not very large but they pack a lot of flavor in their small package. Two of them are perfectly satisfying.

Soft Taco Superstars
During many food festivals and around town, El Guapo is busy. You can order quickly but you will be waiting for your fresh-made-to-order food. Today the lines were minimal and they didn't even have to call out numbers!

Mac and Cheese!

Mac Shack with Bacon
El Guapo has a sister food truck called The Mac Shack. It's a cute little pull trailer that looks kind of like a tiki hut with a thatch roof. It's a tiny little space but they have it down to be an efficient kitchen. My son is a big Mac and Cheese fan and the fact that you can add bacon only sweetens the deal.  Toppings are included in the flat price of $6.00 and he chose "The Bacon Made Me Do It' minus tomatoes and green onions. Yep, you guessed it, he just wanted bacon. Considering how our family often considers bacon as it's own food group, seasoning, main ingredient, complimentary flavor and dessert component, this is no surprise. I count down the days until Baconfest so I am not going to say a word.


Beef Pho with Oxtail
The  surprise for me today was that the Mac Shack was also featuring Pho. I had recently read about the wonders of Pho in Hour Magazine. Pho is a Vietnamese street dish with French origins, noodles in a broth with meat, with lots of options. Pho may be a reference to the  French dish pot-au-feau, meaning "beef stew". Apparently locally Madison Heights Michigan is a huge mecca for Pho is all its varieties. This version came with beef and for an extra nominal fee, oxtail. Sprouts, Thai basil, green onions and jalapenos come in the side as additions. It was delicious! A little bit spicy with a sweetness that was both hearty and light if that makes any sense. I think I will be making a little trip to nearby Madison Heights to see what other flavors we can find.


Who would think that you could get beignets out of a food truck?!!! At Eastern Market you can! Now, I have never been to New Orleans so I haven't had the originals but these are good. Think of a little fritter deep fried but lighter and more airy than a donut, sprinkled in loads of powdered sugar. For the complete experience you can also have chicory coffee or even a cafe au lait. My son bought the beignets with his own money. That should be a testament to their goodness.

Shopping for Good Stuff!

Zen Dressing and Fresh Kale
Okay so everything above is not exactly health food and surely loaded with calories and fat. So you will probably be surprised to know that I was on a mission to find kale. Kale? I know, you can't believe it but it's true. The local grocery stores, including Trader Joe's have not had Kale in weeks due to some frost in Arizona that killed kale and grapes and just devastated crops. I am happy to report that Easter Market vendors had plenty of kale although one guy did inform me this was a different variety than what they usually sell.

So why do I love kale? Well I love a very specific dressing that we also buy at Eastern Market with tahini in it that is used to make kale salad, which a vendor does sell besides the dressing, along with kale chips. There are two versions of the Zensational Dressing and I go with #2 that is a little sweeter and creamier. It's made by monks and students of the Detroit Zen Center so you know that you will feel more at peace after eating some. Kale salad consists of the kale leaves stripped of the bitter stems and then tossed with the dressing. See I do eat something healthy. I actually keep the dressing at work and bring in a bowl of kale for lunch and toss right before. I think I may have some tonight for dinner.

The Main Event Today 

Reclaim Detroit

Reclaim Detroit is a division of Focus HOPE in Detroit. Think a local Salvage Dogs. They reclaim parts of houses being torn down and you can buy lumber, hard wood floors, windows. . . you name it . . . for repurposing, carpentry or crafts, or for materials in rebuilding your own home. I am now the proud owner of a cutting board that is from end pieces of lumber from an old house in Detroit. 

Awesome Cutting Board

There are lots of reasons why these cutting boards are better, the are self healing because of the ends, keep your knives sharper longer, etc. I am going to go on record that I did not want this for any of those reasons. I wanted it because it was cool and had a history.

The Husband was originally going to surprise me with this for Valentine's Day but decided a tour of the facility was just as important as the gift. He was right! It was a delight to tour the warehouse and see all those remnants of history. I have all kinds of ideas swirling in my brain right now. I have plans!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Union Woodshop: The Best BBQ in Town!

. . . and by "town", I don't just mean Clarkston; I mean Southeast Michigan. 

If you aren't a Michigander this might not mean much but we live in Royal Oak, Michigan. That's about an hour away from Clarkston and we make the drive because it is worth it. I'm not the only one that thinks so; the Union Woodshop was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives a couple of years ago when Kid Rock gave Guy Fieri the tour. Sometimes the joints featured on the show don't live up to the hype (I can say we have visited a few in our travels) but this one certainly does.

Even though there were some hazardous driving conditions (it's February in Michigan) last night there was still a 2 1/2 - 3 hour wait. I bet the locals wait for bad weather so they can have their restaurant back. Going to the Woodshop is a destination and it takes some planning if you live far away because they will not take reservations or allow for call ahead seating. You have to show up and put your name in and they hand you a beeper. There isn't much to do in Downtown Clarkston once the shops are closed so we have come up with our strategy. We put our name in and take the beeper and head out of town, a little ways South to Great Lakes Crossing to kill some time. This way we aren't hanging out in the bar with two kids for 3 hours. We come back within a 1/2 hour buffer of our estimated seating time and it all works out.

Now this place isn't fancy by any means. The name "Woodshop" is a good name for this place. There's an assortment of tools, particle board floors, vintage lounge booths and lighting, and a kitschy illuminated art deco inspired bar, along with some rock memorabilia. The waitstaff wears "Made in Detroit" apparel or local homage to sports teams and it's a comfortable atmosphere. It's homey and warm and it just works. A nice little touch is that wine and cocktails are served in mason jars along with soda and pop. I have learned to love having a Margarita in a mason jar rimmed with salt. The margarita there has a little extra something anyways, as they add a shot of Badass beer (again a Kid Rock reference) to the drink.

Last night we sat in the first room, by the art deco bar, right under the Guy Fieri autographed beam. We couldn't resist getting a photo of that for The Orange Door since this is our first time back since this blog started. There are some really good appetizers to start with at the Woodshop but I think that if you are there for BBQ you want to pace yourself and adding an appetizer may be too much (it is for me). If you are interested in small plates before they have items such as woodsticks (bread sticks with garlic powder and cream cheese dip), deep fried pickles, and my personal favorite - burnt ends. Burnt ends are those charred edges of a beef brisket that have a distinct chewy textures, smothered in barbecue sauce and served on Texas toast. I should not that everything at the Woodshop that can be smoked, is smoked, and it's all done in-house. that includes shrimp (that you can add to a Caesar salad or have in a shrimp cocktail), bacon on your burger, and chicken wings. 

Food is served on heavy metal trays with a simple paper liner.  Main dishes of BBQ include pulled pork (they are famous for it), ribs, hot links, and chicken. Along with your choice of meat, should you decide on barbecue, you get to pick two sides. Picking sides is not easy because they are all very good. Last night I had beef brisket with green bean casserole and sweet potato jalapeno mash. I rely on other family members to get additional sides so we can share. I don't know why their green bean casserole is so much better than mine (and I don't mean to make that sound pretentious) but I think they use fresh green beans and there is a smokey flavor there that I cannot replicate even after I added bacon to my recipe at home. The sweet potatoes are not spicy but they have a great flavor. Other sides that are worth mentioning include cheesy potatoes and collard greens. The Union Woodshop and the Union (down the street) are known for their famous Mac and Cheese. That was a big focus on Diner Drive Ins and Dives. I may be in the minority but I think it's just okay. . . I prefer my mac more creamy and less crispy but others LOVE it so you might want to give it a try. It's very dense and even with a side you may have leftovers. I also recommend getting onion rings or fries not just because they are good but also because you get a side of dipping sauce called Memphis Mayo. Good stuff. I will eat fries just as a vehicle to eat the sauce.

Now with BBQ you know that the sauce is a big part of the equation - there's no getting around it. All the meats here are dry rubbed and smoked so your sauce is a finishing touch. There are 5 - yes FIVE! - sauces on the table representing the best of BBQ across the United States. There's Tennessee, with is tomato and vinegar, really mild. Texas, is very red and has a little kick with tomato and chipolte. South Carolina is mustard and vinegar, yellowish in color. Alabama is a white sauce with mayo and horseradish and it's very thin. My favorite is NYC which is a hoisin base and very sweet. Once you get familiar with this stuff, folks make their own concoctions. I typically start with NYC and add some Tennessee and Texas to make it just right. . . a real melting pot of flavor. I should mention that there are other choices upon request to add to this variety. There is a North Carolina and one from Hell Michigan. I said "hell" and it's hot.

All dinners are served with a little corn muffin with more jalapenos and some sweet butter. I wish the muffins were bigger. I also wish that just simplified things by having a sides platter and let me just make that my whole meal. I get "let" isn't the right word because no one is stopping me from ordering them - I'm sure they would take my money and not tell me to go home.

My kids are not as inclined to the whole BBQ experience as much as the adults are. Fortunately there are other choices for them, including a very nice kids meal (mac and cheese, grilled cheese and the usual choices) along with the regular menu full of wood fired pizzas and burgers. The kids both prefer the "Juicy Lucy" on the adult menu as their choice of burger. This burger is best served "medium" because it's a patty of beef filled with American Cheese. It's really juicy as the name applies. . . the cheese just oozes out. 

Of course there are desserts at the Union Woodshop too. It was a late night so we just ordered some cupcakes to take home (based down the street at the Union General Store) but one of the items that they are also famous for is nitrogen ice cream. They use liquid nitrogen to cool the liquid ingredients that make ice cream at a supersonic speed. At the Woodshop they serve vanilla but at Vinsetta Garage (another one of their joints in Berkley) they have Faygo Red Pop Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream). I digress. . . that's another blog article. . .  Anyways the vanilla ice cream is creamy and flavorful and great on top of their seasonal cobblers and brownie skillet. I think it's best featured in their Maple Bourbon Sundae. .  . 

I would definitely recommend checking this place out. If you love BBQ you will love this!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Potato and Onion Frittata

Also known as ... "Another Excuse to Use Truffle Oil" Installment #3

So it's an early afternoon on a Saturday and it's cold and snowy outside. It's an early lunch and I haven't had any breakfast so a hearty egg dish sounds like a good impromptu plan (I know that's a contradiction in itself).

Sangria, a local restaurant that served Spanish fare and specialized in tapas, recently closed after a long successful run. I might be feeling a little reminiscent of one of their small plates that featured a cold frittata with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes and a dipping sauce with a mayonnaise base.

A frittata is basically an Italian version of an omelet, filled with anything from meats and vegetables, to cheeses and served open face. This Spanish version we are making is often called Tortilla de patatas and comes in many versions. Let's put on our twist on it today with some truffle oil. I will say that even without truffle oil this is very tasty and you can just use good olive oil.


1 regular potato, peeled and thinly sliced into disks
Sirracha Sauce
1 medium sweet onion, diced (I used about 1/4 of the onion)
8 eggs
Black Truffle Oil
Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons ketchup
Sriracha sauce
Black Truffle Oil (just a smidge!)

Olive Oil and a bit of Black Truffle Oil
Slice the potato into disks. Some recipes will say to make them very thin. I like them a little heartier and it also make it easier to flip them over in the pan as they have a tendency to stick. Place this in a heavy skillet or frying pan with a little bit of truffle oil and some olive oil. On low heat, fry these potatoes gently along with the onion.

Don't worry about the onions, just golden potatoes
I should tell you that you need to use a heavy skillet that is completely metal and therefore oven proof as we will be putting this in the oven later. Because my only heavy pans that are metal are not nonstick, the potatoes need extra watching. I flip them a few times to try and make sure they don't stick. I also find the the pan does get some burned onions and some spots on the pan itself but don't worry. Focus on the potatoes. I actually get rid of the onions for the most part once the potatoes are cooked anyways. You get the flavor without the mess.

Once your potatoes are done, place them on plate lined with paper towel. Use another sheet of paper towel to blot off the excess oil that they may have on them. You don't want them super dry but you do want the extra oil gone. This will also lift most of the diced onions away that may have burned.
Using paper towel to drain, blot off excess oil and to lift off burned onions
 In a bowl, whisk together the eggs with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Potatoes back in the pan
Wipe out the frying pan and get rid of any little burned bits. You don't want to wash the pan, you want a little oil residue, especially since this is not a coated pan. Place the potatoes back into the pan arranging them in a single flat layer on medium heat. Pour the eggs over the potatoes and tilt the pan to make sure that the eggs get in between all of the disks.

The bottom of the eggs are set before going in the oven
Cook the fritatta so that the bottom is set, you will still see liquid on the top. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. You should test to make sure the pan will fit and remove any racks that may be on the way. I typically take out the top rack and use the middle rack, as far down as it can go, so that there is room for the pan. The oven is what really sets this kind of omelet apart which you will see in a few minutes. I am just happy I don't have to flip the eggs on the stove. I have never been good at making a traditional omelet.

Puffing in the Oven - add a dusting of Parmesan cheese
Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until the eggs are starting to get golden on top. As you can see the oven treatment allows the eggs to puff and get a little more airy. This makes for a great texture. This is good stuff. The combination of the dense potatoes with the eggs will make for a hearty meal with complex flavors once we add our sauce. Good stuff, I say! Make it better by sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top. It's all about layering the flavors.

Time to Plate
 It's important to get the frittata out of the pan in one piece. Well maybe on second thought it really isn't but I want to take a picture of it for you so it is to me. I loosened the sides first and worked my way around with a wooden spatula. I then flipped it on to the plate. You have to make sure to get to the very bottom of the omelet so that nothing sticks. In the next picture you will see I missed a spot. . .as evidenced by the lack of golden brown on one section.

My goof for you to see!
See? I wasn't kidding. That left side is missing the very bottom but it does give you a good illustration of the bottom of our frittata and you can see that layer of potatoes. I am going to use that for my justification for not spending enough time to separate the eggy goodness from our pan. I won't matter when we plate it really. . . I just like things to be almost perfect!

Just a touch of sriracha sauce
I made a quick little dipping sauce with the mayonnaise and ketchup. Think of it as an almost remoulade. Just stir those two items together in a little bowl and then add a few drops of sriracha and tiny bit of the truffle oil. I really like sriracha sauce for a little bit of a kick. I used to use Frank's Red Hot but there is a slightly different flavor with sriracha. It's not too hot if you use a little but if you like super spicy by all means go ahead and add a bunch. However, if you do I wouldn't bother with the truffle oil. I used a tiny bit of the oil and it was really subtle. I think if you go heave on the sriracha it will overpower it. Chill the sauce.

Hot vs. Cold

Now here is the time for debate. . . and I know the elections are over. . . cold or hot frittata. You can go either way of course. I will tell you I prefer it chilled. I often make it the night before for lunch the next day. I store the wedges that I slice from the frittata in a Pyrex dish in the fridge. Today was impromptu so I plated mine and stuck it in the fridge for a quick chill.

Tortilla de patatas - Potato Frittata

I really like the end result. You can see those potatoes and the eggs just forming a magical bond. The truffle oil we added isn't overpowering but adds a nice smoky flavor that I think works well with the more bland flavors of eggs and potatoes.

Sometimes I do add other good things to my frittata like sun dried tomatoes or spinach but the eggs and potatoes are staples and can be seen as a foundation. Experiment. I'm sure you will find this a good start. Enjoy!