Grilling out… A Montage…

September 1st, 2010

As Labor Day approaches, here is a list of some great dishes to include in that last summer cook out… A montage of our summer cookouts!

Burgers with Emeril’s Seasoning Rub: Great for adding some spice to the burger!

Grilled Romaine Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnut Vinegrette: My mom had this at a cook out and raved about it.  It is quite good and a different take on a salad. Worth trying but it would not be my normal salad for cookouts.

My Father’s Potato Salad: I can’t go a summer without it!

Brochettes or Kabobs: In Argentina, Kabobs are called Brochettes. These were composed of chicken, steak peppers, dates and mushrooms, marinated in Italian dressing and grilled.  The addition of dates is excellent.

Smitten Kitchen’s Mango Salsa with Cashews and Mint: A hit! Everyone loved it!

Pepper Bacon-Scallion Mac and Cheese: Click through to read guest post!

Amazing Mac & Cheese… a guest post…

September 1st, 2010

A guest post from Jeb, a friend through Juan, who has fabulous culinary taste and quite the way with words… I’ll let him introduce himself…and give you the instructions to his delicious mac & cheese, which I couldn’t stop eating…

Though it was never stated explicitly, JEB is likely a grizzly bear who wandered into Juan’s life and instead of mauling him, offers life lessons over cheeseburgers. He has an unnatural obsession with fresh fruit and seafood, and the nasty little bits of animals people don’t seem to know how to cook properly.

Pepper Bacon-Scallion Mac and Cheese

As adapted from Alton Brown’s stove-top mac and cheese recipe, which is excellent on it’s own.

* 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 2 eggs
* 6 ounces evaporated milk
* 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* Fresh black pepper
* 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
* 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
* 2 ounces jack cheddar, shredded
* bunch of scallions*
* mess of bacon**

* A bunch of scallions is defined as around two cups, cleaned, usually about eight scallions, depending on how much of the green you use.

** A mess of bacon is between a third and a half a pound of bacon, depending on how much of it you eat between cooking the bacon and adding it to the mac and cheese.


Get bacon. Bacon should be high quality stuff. I prefer bacon that has been crusted in peppercorns prior to smoking, as it mellows the pepper when you cook it; bacon that has been covered in pepper after smoking is acceptable. Bacon that comes in vacuum packed bags at the end of the deli isle next to a single block of souse that exists only so little children can poke it should be avoided unless absolutely necessary (both that variety of bacon, and that block of souse.)

Stick the bacon, along with the blocks of cheese into the freezer. Bacon’s easier to slice when cold and firm, and the cheese is easier to grate. That said, don’t let either freeze. Bacon doesn’t bounce back from freezing well, it takes longer to thaw than to freeze, and grating frozen cheese by hand is worse than having to grate room temperature cheese.

Once firm, dice the bacon. Usually you can use a bland oil like canola, though because it’s bacon, and it’s going to give off a ton of bacon fat (which you will save, this is not up for discussion) you can get away with using cheap olive oil, or or even extra virgin olive oil, but please, not too much of it. You really only need to barely coat the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium high heat until barely crisp. You have to watch carefully, the blackness of the skillet and the oil make it hard to gauge the how browned the diced bacon is. It’s better to leave it a little chewy than to cook it into oblivion, otherwise you’re going to be eating char with scallions in mac and cheese, and that’s disgusting. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels (a sieve would be better, but if you move the bacon and don’t let it sit on the paper towels, you’ll be fine.)

Clean and dice the scallions. If you can’t figure out how to clean (rinse under cold water, remove damaged bits, roots and the leathery green tops) or dice (cut) scallions, you’ve probably suffocated while reading this recipe, since it does not regularly remind you to breathe.

Set the bacon and scallions aside.

Shred the cheese. I like to put a bowl in the freezer along with the grater in advance, then put the bowl of shredded cheese back in the fridge while the pasta cooks, and take it out when you drain the pasta, so the cheese isn’t too cold going into the pasta, but isn’t clumping back together either.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. I like to add a a pinch of cayenne as well, again, don’t over do it. It’s basically a bechamel sauce, which makes this more of a carbonara than anything, but don’t tell people it’s carbonara, they’ll be mad that it’s not mac and cheese. People are stupid when it comes to labeling things. If you time this right, You will be tempted to check seasoning levels. It’s unlikely you’ll get sick from tasting this mix, even though the eggs are raw, but it’ll also taste terrible, since it’s made of evaporated milk and eggs. It’s binder, it’s not supposed to taste good on it’s own. If you’re worried about salt levels err on the side of less, the cheese and bacon were both salted before you got them. Worry more over whether or not there’s enough pepper.

Boil the pasta like you would boil any pasta, more water than you think you need, plenty of salt. Rolling boil, add pasta, turn down the heat, stir so nothing sticks. Drain the pasta before it becomes mush. Most recipes say “al dente” which just means don’t cook it all the way. People seem to think pasta magically goes from crunchy and brittle to soft and pliant. Like all pasta dishes, stop it just before it hits soft and pliant. Drain the pasta, saving a half cup of the pasta water in case the pasta looks dry.

At this point, at a bit of the butter to the pot, usually a tablespoon, cut up into pats. I like to start melting the butter in the pot before adding the pasta back in to prevent it from sticking to the pot. Hot, dry pot plus hot, drying pasta makes for crusty, unappealing bits. Once the butter has melted, add the pasta back in, and add the rest of the butter, stirring to melt it all and coat the pasta evenly. Again, if the pasta looks too dry, add the pasta water back in a tablespoon at a time. It is very unlikely it should come to that, as the scallions will bring moisture after the fact. Then add the egg and milk mixture. Stir to coat evenly. Start adding cheese by the fist full, stirring to incorporate. The cheese will melt, and become mortar-like, which is really the desired effect. Once all the cheese is in, add the bacon and scallions. Mix them in well.

Serve in bowls, possibly with Lipitor. Feel free to obtain and laugh derisively at a blue box while eating. This may cause shame at your mocking a major childhood icon, and you will end up eating seconds or even thirds to quell your guilt. This is OK, it happens sometimes. Instead, laugh derisively at a box of breadcrumbs you didn’t need to coat the top of a casserole. Don’t piss off the breadcrumbs entirely, if you want to use them to make fried mac and cheese days later. Yes, I am deeply concerned over the opinion a shelf bound box of panko has of me. These things happen.

Happy 10,000th day birthday!

May 23rd, 2010

Last fall, Juan sent me an email that his 10,000th day birthday is May 21, 2010 and mine is December 28, 2011… I love randomness and celebrating quirky days (we did celebrate Valentine’s on Flag Day last year) so I put the dates on my calendar…

of course, as the date got closer I did not know what to do… luckily, I was in town but Juan had been saying how he was sick of sweets (yes, he’s odd) so no cupcakes… He loves my quiches though so I made little breakfast “cupcake” quiches.  I couldn’t find the cupcake holders anywhere…hence the improvisation but they tasted good and Juan loved them…

but that was just the beginning of my plan (can you tell I’ve had a lot of time on my hands since school ended?)… while Juan was at work, I hung this awesome half-homemade banner… and I made dinner…

Now, I would have made this dinner regardless of any special occasion. I have this very elaborate idea for a dinner party but it involves some techniques that I have not mastered… such as handrolling pasta…

My first pasta attempt was not very successful (hence, it never made it up here) but this time I used this pasta recipe and was very pleased with the results.  I couldn’t find the rolling pin (it isn’t my kitchen and sometimes it is hard to find things!) so instead I used a SIGG.  It worked great and, of course, I promptly found the rolling pin after I finished.

I let the pasta dry for about an hour and put it in the fridge until dinner time.  I served it with Sun-dried Tomatoes Pesto with Slow Roasted Tomatoes.  I added some more garlic to the pesto and a few of the slow roasted tomatoes.  It was really good… Juan said the best part was the pasta…

So, yes, it was a very successful 10,000th day birthday celebration… plus, I feel more comfortable with my pasta technique… next, mastering Carolina BBQ…