Posts tagged butter
Posts tagged butter
Friday, March 14th was a good day. Even though spring break was nearly over, my case study was pretty much done, and I had a cooking date with this babe!
This is my friend, Renee - she’s in the clinical psych program at VCU, and we have been through many grueling courses together. Among these was social psych, which we took together during the previous fall. As Christmastime approached, I spied Renee pinteresting (during a break in class, of course), and we agreed that we should get together to make babka, a chocolatey Jewish dessert bread, sometime. Like five months later, we finally made it happen!
Renee and I share a love of cooking and baking, and even though we don’t see each other very often as our program responsibilities have diverged, we always pick up right where we left off, especially if food is involved. She is a very gifted baker and was the perfect companion for the patience and talents required to make babka (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2007/09/mmm-bab-bee-bab-ka/).
We began by preparing the dough you’ve been seeing above - a nice, buttery combination of little more than eggs, yeast, and flour. This was to be the base of our babka.
While that was rising, Renee and I turned to make two additional components of this dessert, a streusel topping (powdered sugar + flour + butter that you see above) and the chocolate filling. It was kind of a gritty mixture of melted semisweet chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, and of course, a stick and half of butter.
After the dough had risen for about an hour, we were ready so stuff it with our chocolate filling. This process wasn’t unlike making cinnamon rolls…we just rolled out the dough, scattered the chocolate filling across it, and then rolled the whole thing up. Speaking of cinnamon, I have to say that the cinnamon added to the chocolate filling really just elevated the whole thing. It reminded me of salt in that way - it kind of made everything taste like a better version of itself.
Instead of slicing it up at this point like you might do if making cinnamon rolls, you twist the whole thing and then tuck the ends under it. This process required many reads of the directions (how many PhDs does it take?) - the recipe says “When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full 5 to 6 turns.” Thank goodness Renee was there to figure out that this looked about right.
We formed three beautiful loaves, topped them with streusel, and put them in the oven. It was getting to be early evening now, so Renee and I whipped up some dinner while waiting for the babka to finish baking.
It wasn’t anything too special, just some seared salmon fillets with tzatziki sauce and a side salad. Renee offered her services and made the tzatziki - it was delicious! Rob got home while we were cooking and made us all a nice tiki cocktail. I figured he had the ego strength to tolerate this photo (love youuu).
The timer went off shortly after finishing dinner, and Renee and I excitedly extracted our babkas. Just LOOK at this happy counter!
How about some gratuitous closeups?
We couldn’t wait to slice into these babies and sample the fruit of our labor. But we couldn’t help ourselves from pausing to admire the beautiful cross-sections of our creation. Those swirls!
I quickly whipped up some cream and served a slice to my husband and my co-chef. A sprinkle of cinnamon on top to pull it all together, and there you have it.
This was so good, and I’m so glad we did it, even if it was several months after we had the idea. It wasn’t traditionally decadent - it wasn’t strongly sweet or flavored. It was the butter that carried this team (all 3 and a half sticks of it), making the crumbly, sweet bread a steady vehicle for the occasional bite of sweet, chocolatey swirl. Renee took some home, and we kept the rest - Rob and I seriously ate from these loaves for over a month. A good day’s work and gift that kept on giving.
Ah, Sunday February 2nd. I have been anticipating writing about this day since it happened. I want you to know that Rob and I care about our bodies, and we really don’t eat meals like these on most days. And we definitely don’t usually start breakfast this way.
But I had a grand weekend breakfast vision of chicken and waffles, and once you let that vision in, there’s only one way it’s gettin’ out. So I fried up some little chunks of chicken thighs, prepared in my favorite dredge I’ve used in my cooking career thus far (http://blogchef.net/jack-daniels-bbq-chicken-wings-recipe/).
Very nice. I also whipped up some waffles from scratch (because it honestly doesn’t take very long). I don’t have an allegiance to any particular recipe - I usually just use whatever comes up first on allrecipes or Food Network or something like that.
Rob did not hate starting the day this way! And I have to admit, neither did I. I got a nice golden crust on my waffles while keeping them chewy and moist on the inside, and that chicken recipe is so failsafe and flavorful - the proportions of the paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne are just perfect. Particularly when fried.
Sooooo after a long day of laboring on all things grad school, I returned to kitchen to make dinner. Our Kroger over on the Carytown side of Richmond just so happens to carry Sausage Craft sausage, a local variety produced right here in town (http://sausagecraft.com/). It can be a little pricey, particularly in link form, but the ground variety is often a little more reasonable. Thus, this acquisition.
I love that list of ingredients. Pork. Pork fat. Salt. Sugar. Black Pepper. Sage. Chili flake. NOTHING ELSE. Yes, this would be perfect for some simple little sausage meatball sliders, the likes of which I’d read about in my precious Food Network Mag (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/mini-meatball-sliders.html).
The link is more of an honorable mention, as I really didn’t follow this recipe very closely. I used sausage, for one thing, instead of ground beef, and I made my own marinara sauce instead of using the kind from a jar. My favorite marinara sauce recipe of the moment involves frying minced garlic in butter and olive oil, along with some oregano and some red chili flake. Add pureed San Marzano tomatoes and red wine, let simmer for at least an hour. Add some fresh basil (I do love to chiffonade) in there toward the end, and salt and pepper, of course.
As soon as my meatballs were cooked and my sauce had simmered into a deep, deep happiness, I assembled our little sliders onto buns with some shredded mozzarella cheese (if only I’d had a big ball of the buffalo type. sigh.). I don’t even think I had to call Rob’s name to get him to come eat.
Well, there you have it. A very fat day in the Bratney house. I can let it slide (slider pun y’all) every once in a while, especially when everything is homemade and made from really nice ingredients. Sure, there’s fat and oil and carbs and all that, but I can also control how much of what goes in (very important with salt), how big the portions are and stuff like that, too. I’ll take it over a processed box of Lean Cuisine any day.
I told you guys what Rob got me for Christmas this year, right? None other than a subscription to Food Network Magazine, the gift that keeps on giving! I have a lot of fun getting my new issue every month and dog-earing pages like there’s no tomorrow. On the evening of Thursday, January 30th, I put one of the featured recipes to the test - Middle Eastern chicken and rice (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/middle-eastern-chicken-and-rice.html).
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting this to be an amazing recipe, just something to get us by on a busy weeknight. But I ended up really loving the Middle Eastern twist…despite not having basmati rice (oops, just had to do plain ol’ brown rice), OR apricots (used raisins, no shame). Classic Caroline, undeterred by not having all of the ingredients. Whatevs, at least I had cumin, which definitely gave it that exotic flair.
The chicken was pretty straightforward - just some little breast strips cooked in butter with salt and pepper. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such simply treated chicken come out so well! It was tender, juicy, and full of buttery flavor. A squeeze of lemon, and we were ready to serve.
Wait, are those multiple food groups represented?! We’ve got nice lean chicken, a starchy rice, raisins for a fruity sweetness, spinach and onions for vegetation, a dollop of Greek yogurt representing the dairy group, and a lemon wedge for an additional tang. I have to say this all came together very beautifully, and the flavors complemented each other marvelously in a way that was a little less conventional than your average American preparation of chicken and rice. Rob approved, too.
I should also mention, this dinner was just 445 calories per serving! That’s one of the perks of having the ol’ Food Network mag, I don’t usually have those stats on hand. I would highly recommend this little dinner - it was easy, flavorful, and a little off the beaten path. Shoot, I might even do raisins instead of apricots on purpose next time, because it really was a tasty substitution!
After three more long workdays, Rob and I were home in Kansas City for the holidays. Since we live so far away and can’t afford tons of carry-on baggage, we usually have to wait to purchase gifts and such after we get home. This is kind of a maddening way to Christmas shop, but I had a game plan.
An easy go-to gift for my mom is cinnamon popcorn from Topsy’s (http://www.topsyspopcorn.com/). She doesn’t have a lot of edible vices, but she’s loved the stuff since she was a kid. I decided that a fun gift for her this year would be some homemade cinnamon popcorn, so Rob and I made a pit-stop at Hy-Vee, bore the ingredients back to my childhood home in Pleasant Hill, and popped popcorn. A lot of popcorn.
Meanwhile, Rob was working on the cinnamon coating (http://www.recipegoldmine.com/foodgiftsnack/cinnamon-candy-popcorn.html). I know, he’s practically a kitchen model.
This was a pretty simple little mixture, comprised of those little candy red hots, butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and baking soda. My favorite additions were cinnamon oil (could red hots possibly need to taste more like cinnamon? Apparently) and “butter flavoring.” One of the more interesting grocery store purchases I’ve made.
Once it was all melted and smooth, it was time to apply it to the popcorn. Here’s where our rookie flavored popcorn status really showed - we had no idea how to best do this, especially since the candy coating was hardening with every passing second. We tried many methods.
The spatula method wasn’t our best effort, and I think we ended up just pouring it over the popcorn and tossing with the spatula as fast as we could. Once coated (to varying degrees), we put it in a low oven and stirred periodically.
It looked pretty nice when we were done with it! After it had cooled, we put it in a couple of cute little plastic treat bags and tied them up nicely with ribbon, and then wrapped those up and put them under the Christmas tree. Luckily for me, this blog is actually a time machine and we can fast forward to Christmas night when Mom so sweetly posed with her homemade noms.
And even MORE follow-up, I got this text from Mom when we were on our honeymoon in early January.
So this doesn’t exactly follow the traditional trajectory of an omnomwithrob post in more ways than one, but I count it because it was so much fun for Rob and me to be in the kitchen together and make this for my mom. I think this recipe is DEFINITELY a two person job, especially when it comes to coating the popcorn, but it’s worth it for a nice and tasty homemade gift. I’m not sure if it was as good as Topsy’s, but Mom seemed to enjoy it, and we made something that I’d never thought could be done very well at home. High fives all around.
When we returned to Virginia after the holiday/wedding weekend in the Midwest, you can imagine that I had pretty much nothing in my refrigerator, especially in the general aftermath of Dissertation November. But I knew I had to whip up something cute, albeit humble, for Rob since I hadn’t been able to cook him anything for his proper birthday. So on Monday, December 2nd, I scoured my freezer and went with shrimp.
Back at the restaurant where I used to work in Columbia, Missouri (http://www.ccscitybroiler.com/), I learned some great restaurant secrets for making delicious food. One of their most famous appetizers was Shrimp Atascadero, or as we called it, “Taz.” Our chef and owner Scott Cleeton would take enormous prawns, wrap them in bacon, and broil them in a sauce that was no more than Frank’s hot sauce and melted butter. I didn’t have big, beautiful prawns, nor did I wrap them in bacon, but I did use my broiler and that wonderful sauce. I knew Rob would appreciate the nod.
I was really scrambling to get this all cooked up in the little time I had between getting home from school and Rob getting home from work, but the bigger challenge was finishing his birthday cake. I decided to make him a spice cake (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/moist-tender-spice-cake/), which I was lucky to have all of the ingredients for. He loves spice cake so I was pretty excited, but I didn’t have time to wait for it to cool before extracting it from the pan. Hence the lumpy presentation.
I should have known that I had nothing to worry about - Rob walked through the door and was as enamored by my efforts as ever. Cake and shrimp isn’t exactly a match made in heaven, but at least I whipped my own cream, and it all actually tasted pretty good. Plus, there’s something to be said for the element of surprise.
Rob is a pretty good belated birthday sport. I mean, he took me to New York for my birthday, and I gave him buttered crustaceans and chunks of cake. But it brought back fun memories from my restaurant days, and he always appreciates when I remember his preferences for cinnamon and spice. Plus, we would do more celebrating in a few weeks when the semester came to a close.
After a long day of work, I tore myself away from my computer for long enough to make dinner. As you’ll see in coming posts, the “having time to make dinner” phase was drawing to a close at this point in the semester. But on this night, I happily withdrew to the kitchen to admire these enormous swordfish steaks I’d impulse bought on manager’s special at the Kroger.
I have since learned that a “manager’s special” sticker might as well be a giant, flaming red flag (be smarter than me. don’t get the yogurt). Anyway, this looked and smelled fine to me, but I’d never made swordfish before. I knew it was quite a beefy fish, filling, robust. So I knew I wanted to treat it nice.
So I obviously put gobs of butter in a mixing bowl and jazzed it up with fresh lemon juice, garlic, and parsley and probably more…I can’t seem to find the recipe I drummed up from Epicurious or Spark Recipes or whatever app I was using to search for ideas that day. After liberally rubbing the fish down with my herbed butter and sticking it under the broiler for several minutes, I moved to vegetation.
I had carrots, so I made carrots - simple enough. I like to buy the little baby carrots because they’re a nice and easy side dish for the sack lunches Rob and I so often tote. But tonight, they too were getting my herbed butter, so that the carrots themselves could receive what I like to call, “continuity of care” (psych joke, not sorry).
This turned into such a nice plate! Covered in butter, mind you, but you’ll also notice my “donut holes” from earlier that morning that hadn’t gotten the apple pie treatment. Like my adviser says, “Never do anything for just one purpose.” Check.
We sat down in front of the tv with a couple of pumpkin beers and ate our dinner in front of the Mizzou vs. South Carolina football game. Well, what we could see of it anyway, from behind Rob’s warty New York pumpkin. The first half was going so well, look how excited and happy and blurry we were!
It was short lived, as we endured a heartbreaking loss in double overtime. Rob learned that his new wife could write the book on how to be irrationally emotional following a heinous sporting loss. But at least we were well-fed - the swordfish was so delicious (thanks, butter), and the carrots and little biscuits really rounded things out into what’s probably the weirdest football-watching food ever. But you just wait until you see what I make for the Chiefs game the next day. You just wait.
After returning from City Island, Rob and I took our bags over to 29th Street in Manhattan, where we checked in at the wonderful King and Grove Hotel (http://www.kingandgrove.com/). Rob wanted to make my birthday extra special, not just because it was our first married birthday together, but because 25 is kind of a fun milestone (go go gadget rental cars). So in addition to bringing me to New York and pumping me full of fried seafood, he set us up with some luxurious accommodations. I knew I liked him.
Once we got there, we dressed for dinner. As you may have noticed, we had been eating pretty…heavily on our trip so far, and it was time to church it up. When we had booked the room a month or so earlier, we decided to do their chef’s package (delightfully entitled “say cheese”). It was a little more expensive, but we figured we’d be eating a nice dinner out anyway, and it sounded like a fun experience to have a three-course meal with all the trimmings. Including this super professional and otherwise legit looking voucher.
That’s right folks, they handed us this handwritten “IOU” voucher in the hotel lobby, and when we took it to the Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro on Park Avenue, it paid for our dinner. Lawdy mercy.
We settled into our little corner of the enormous space (http://www.artisanalbistro.com/), which is always shocking to find in New York. Seriously, the place might have been bigger than a Cheesecake Factory. Anyway, it was too bad that we had to be immediately next to a guy in a tweed jacket, bowtie, and fedora, talking out of his ass about his career in Egyptology to his clearly disinterested first date. They never mentioned the entertainment would be free!
Anyway, sorry, back to the food. We each got to choose an appetizer, and I had the chesnut gnocchi, served with guanciale (cured meat from the pig’s jowl!), brussels sprouts, pickled cranberries. Not bad, but it felt a bit disjointed to me - there were only a few pieces of each component on the plate, and you couldn’t really get a great bite of all of them together. I did like the little gnocchi bites though, and obviously the pork jowl (der).
You thought it couldn’t get fancier, right? Well this is going to be a fun post for you. Rob got ESCARGOT, that fabulously slimey snail dish, swimming in little pools of garlic and butter and topped with little croutons. This was my first time trying escargot, and it was surprisingly delicious. I chalk it up more to the garlic and butter than the snails, though.
For his entree, Rob ordered “chicken under a brick.” Not the most descriptive, flavorwise, but very informative as to cooking method. They did in fact cook this under a brick. It came with roasted vegetables and “pomme puree” (aka mashed taters). All in all, it was a nice dish, but nothing that knocked our socks off or was too far removed from what could be made at home…pending brick acquisition.
I had the skate wing, a nice piece of fish I’ve tried before at another French place back in Richmond (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/16925998365/yes-we-can-can). It was very nicely prepared, delicate and flavorful, served atop a bed of diced cauliflower, blood orange, and grenobloise (browned butter + capers + parsley + lemon). I especially liked the preparation of the cauliflower (I know, said no one ever), but they were crunchy and really took on that delicious brown butter.
We just so happened to be sitting right next to…the cheese cave. As such, we were served two types of cheese for our third course, which we didn’t get to choose, but were pretty happy with anyway. The first was La Bonde, a soft French goat cheese (in the foreground, there), and the second was Prima Donna, a hard, cow’s milk gouda cheese from the Netherlands. If I’d had to pick two on my own, I might have ended up with these two anyway, because goat and gouda are kind of the way to my cheese heart.
I have to say, this was a spectacular dinner. Not because the food was over-the-top good, but it was just a luxurious experience (I mean, this place has black truffle mayonnaise. BLACK TRUFFLE MAYONNAISE). I think it was a great idea to do the chef’s package with the hotel and have a swanky little meal, Egyptologist and all, before heading out to celebrate my birthday with Rob’s sweet friends. Kudos to my husband for making a girl feel special.
Hello! I’m so sorry it’s been so long. Rob and I got married last weekend in Kansas City (woo!), and we’re working on getting our little lives in order back in Virginia. Now that we’re married and no longer in a long distance relationship, surely you must be wondering…what will happen to good ol’ Eating with Rob? Fear not, faithful reader, I’m not going anywhere. Sure, I won’t be documenting every little thing we eat these days, but I’m sure to continue to document fun restaurants, new recipes, and special occasions. Like this one!
We didn’t know it was a special occasion at the time, but on Tuesday, June 4th, we fixed our last meal together at the apartment where I lived in Richmond for two years. You can usually find some decent steaks on manager’s special at Kroger, so I picked up a pair of strips for like five dollars and tossed ‘em on the griddler for Rob to manage.
Unfortunately, Cuisinart’s griddling technology doesn’t allow the surface to get quite hot enough to sear a steak without turning it an unsavory shade of gray on the inside. I knew this, but I’d hoped that somehow Rob’s meat-makin’ presence would mitigate the inevitable. Nerp.
We topped our steaks with caramelized onions (the only steak sauce anyone should ever need) and served it alongside some garlic and butter-sauteed spinach and macaroni salad. I wouldn’t recommend using the shells like I did since the thickness of the pasta really overpowers the other fixins, but otherwise this is a great recipe that I’ve used many times for parties and such (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/classic-macaroni-salad/detail.aspx).
We ate our dinner at my kitchen table, not knowing that it would be the last time we would eat together there in my apartment, where we met every few months for two years for a good home-cooked meal. We don’t even have the table anymore, sadly…it was too big for our new little place. But trading a kitchen table for having Rob back in Richmond with me for the forseeable future? Sounds like a pretty good trade.
On the morning of Sunday March 3rd, Rob and I met up with our good buddies Tyson and Kristen, who live just a few neighborhoods over in Crown Heights. They joined us in Park Slope for a nice Sunday brunch at Dizzy’s, a “finer diner” on 5th Avenue (http://dizzys.com/).
We began with a basket of baked goods that came with our prix fixe brunch. The dreamsicle-looking scoop you see on top there is actually a mound of some kind of fruit butter, and it was AMAZING on those scones. Once we’d had our fill and were waiting for our entrees, Kristen spilled a little of her mimosa into the basket, which was actually a brilliant strategy for flavor enhancement.
We waited for quite a bit among a gaggle of screaming children in the new back room of the place, but finally we were ready to eat. Rob had the above corned beef hash, which was much better than the version he’d had in Front Royal, VA a few weeks earlier (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/44142739970/come-down-from-the-mountain). This stuff was fresh and flavorful and served with two over-medium eggs…Rob’s favorite!
Kristen went with a raspberry-stuffed waffle they were having on special that day. The second she saw ours and compared it with her own, she feared she had made a terrible mistake. But after a few bites and a little syrup, she was happy with her life choices.
This did not stop her from stealing a few bites of Tyson’s biscuits and gravy. Apparently Rob has been trying to get Tyson over to Park Slope to try them at Dizzy’s for quite a while, so this was a big moment. He had them with scrambled eggs on top, and we were so pleased that he enjoyed them.
I also had the biscuits and gravy…it wasn’t until right now that I realized that we are having an exact replica of that diner breakfast we had in Front Royal, but the quality was worlds apart. I love the b&g at Dizzy’s (re: http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/25651975015/dizzy-with-goodbye). As you can see, it is just a rustic and savory looking pile of deliciousness, truly robust in flavor and far from its pasty facsimiles. It has just the right amount of spice, and paired with crusty biscuits and over-medium eggs, these are oh so hard to beat. You’ll never have any other like them.
We had a great time at brunch with our sweet friends - isn’t Kristen so channeling Annie Hall in this pic? We became painfully aware of the screaming baby population in Park Slope - I swear there was one at every table. But if that’s the price you have to pay to live in a safe and adorable neighborhood in New York City, I’ll take it. I hope we make it back to Dizzy’s again soon - hopefully avoiding the after-church brunch rush about town next time.
When we got home from a chilly afternoon of pictures with Mallory, we went right back to work. As the evening wore on and we started to get hungry, I looked up from the stacks of exams I was feverishly grading and said, “Guess I’d better fix something for dinner.” To which Rob, who could see how overwhelmed I was, insisted he’d do it instead.
He decided to take on the leftovers from our dinner at Edo’s Squid the night before (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/44314238625/krabby-patties). Determined to make my pasta palatable, Rob asked me questions from the kitchen about how to put together an alfredo sauce. And he did a really good job! Butter, cream, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper brought my lifeless linguine back from the dead.
His pasta, the sausage with spicy red sauce, was a little easier to resurrect, since there wasn’t much that was wrong with it in the first place. So he just heated it up on the stove.
He brought the fruit of his secondary labor into the dining room, where there was hardly room for it among the exams, computers, and cameras. I eagerly took my first bite, wondering if somehow, maybe, our manipulation had worked.
Oh my gosh, it was so. much. better. These poor noodles that were so want for flavor the night before had been helped tremendously by our joint effort alfredo sauce. I was so proud of him for being able to whip that up from scratch, based on nothing but my brief how-to from the dining room. What never should have been one meal has become two, and my wallet smiled somewhere. Rob saves the day.