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Food

Desserts

Key Lime Bars

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I made these bars last Spring when I spotted key limes for the first time at the supermarket. They’re a little out of character for me this time of year (this is pumpkin spice season after all), but key limes were on clearance last week, and I love a good sale.

Cook’s Illustrated never disappoints, and this recipe is no exception. These bars are so bright and chock full of sweet lime juice and zest, which makes them rich yet refreshing. One of the best desserts highlighting the fruit I’ve had. Only paid subscribers can see their recipes online, but I found this recipe on here for free.

Key Lime Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 5 ounces animal crackers
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Key lime zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup fresh Key lime juice

Garnish:

  • toasted coconut pieces, whipped cream, and/or thinly sliced key limes (optional)

Instructions:

Position oven rack to the middle and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7½-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray or grease with melted butter.

For the crust: In a food processor, pulse the animal cookies until they resemble coarse crumbs, this took about ten 1-second pulses, making sure they’re evenly fine. Remove food processor lid and add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle melted butter over crumbs and pulse until everything is evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, around 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Don’t turn off the oven.

For the filling: while the crust cools, in a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until it’s completely incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk. Whisk in the lime juice slowly until it’s fully incorporated. You’ll notice the mixture thicken. This is totally normal.

Pour the filling into the crust, and spread to corners and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake in the oven until the edges are set and are beginning to pull away from the sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 to 1½ hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 12 pieces. Top with whipped cream, toasted coconut, or key lime slices, if using, and serve. The bars can be refrigerated for up to two days. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Main Courses

Coq au Riesling

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Julia Child may have made Coq au Vin famous, but it’s not my favorite way to braise chicken. Not anymore at least.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Coq au Vin. I’ve made it a handful of times by request, to celebrate an occasion for somebody special in my life. It takes the entire afternoon, and a myriad of pans to make happen. Peeling pearl onions, one by one, is nobody’s idea of fun. Not even Julia’s.

So when I came across this recipe in Food and Wine Magazine, I made it the first chance I could, which turned out to be last winter. It’s hard to pass up on something that includes all of my favorite things in one dish: Riesling, mushrooms, crème fraîche, and lemon. This flavor combination is deeply savory, rich and bright all at the same time.

I made it again this past weekend, and it was just as good as I remembered. It’s a favorite in our home, and it’s bound to be a favorite in yours. I don’t know if I’ll ever make Coq au Vin again. Not if I don’t have to.

Now if you’re wondering what kind of Riesling to use, look for ones from the Alsace region of France or ones that are labeled dry. I found an affordable bottle of Trimbach Riesling at my local grocery store, and it was perfect to cook the chicken, and for drinking with dinner.

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Coq au Riesling

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds chicken legs, divided into drumsticks and thighs
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 1½ cups dry Riesling
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Finely chopped tarragon, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Add half of the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining chicken, then pour off the fat from the pan.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil in the casserole pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the Riesling and simmer for 1-2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the pot. Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil.

Nestle the chicken into the casserole; cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour, until tender.

While the chicken is braising in the oven, melt the butter and olive oil in a very large skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, without stirring, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender and no longer squeaky, 3 – 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Once the chicken is tender, transfer it to a plate. Strain the braising liquid through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing onto the solids. Skim off as much fat as you can. Return the braising liquid to the casserole dish and boil until reduced to 1½ cups, about 5 minutes or so. Whisk in the crème fraîche and lemon juice and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. Garnish with fresh tarragon and serve. I like to serve this with a crusty baguette to mop up all of the delicious sauce. Egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice will work too.

 

Soups & Salads

Cucumber Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onion

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Earlier this summer we joined Comeback Creek Farms Summer CSA Program. For eight weeks, I drove to Local Restaurant in Deep Ellum and picked up my assorted produce box. June, July, and August were known as the months of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini. Lots and lots and lots of zucchini.

One dish I made that I just loved was this Cucumber Salad from Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2015 issue. The minds behind this simple yet delicious dish are chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas of Olamaie in Austin. Like all great working relationships, the chefs met while cooking together at L.A.’s Son of a Gun where they shared their passion for classic Southern cooking.

Texas is meat country, so eating composed vegetable dishes like this is a real treat for me. I loved everything about it: cool refreshing cucumbers, buttermilk dressing, pickled onions, and sunflower seeds. It’s crunchy, creamy, and the perfect dish to make when it’s 100+ degrees outside and you don’t want to turn on your oven.

Cucumber Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onion:

Ingredients:

Pickled Onion:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Salad:

  • 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 3 Kirby cucumbers, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sunflower sprouts, roasted sunflower seeds, and tarragon leaves, for garnish.

Instructions:

For the pickled onion: In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, water, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat; add the onion. Allow to cool in the warm liquid, then refrigerate until chilled.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad: In a medium bowl, toss all of the cucumbers with the vinegar and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the cucumbers with salt and pepper and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Spoon the dressing into the bottom of a shallow serving bowl, and top with the dressed cucumber salad. Drain the onions from the pickling liquid and scatter over the cucumbers. Garnish with sunflower sprouts (if you’re using them, I found them hard to find at the grocery store), sunflower seeds, and tarragon leaves. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and top with finishing salt. Serve immediately.

Breakfast & Brunch

Cornflake Crusted French Toast

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While having brunch a couple of weeks ago with some friends, I found myself struggling to choose between two delicious yet different dishes: the Duck Egg Shakshuka, and the Cornflake Crusted French Toast.

Did I want savory or sweet? I ultimately went toward savory, and it was delicious. The Shakshuka was unlike mine, the tomatoes were really fresh and light. I enjoyed it immensely.

Flash forward a couple of weeks later and I still hadn’t shaken the idea of cornflake crusted french toast. It stayed with me, so this weekend when I opened the pantry and spotted my lonely box of cornflakes, I decided to acquire all of the ingredients so I could make a version of it at home.

I used Ina Garten’s French Toast recipe as the base, because it’s one of the best renditions of French Toast I’ve eaten. Her custard is eggy and not sweet, and the orange zest and vanilla really perfume the Challah bread beautifully.

Once the bread has soaked in the egg mixture, I breaded each piece in a mixture of crushed cornflakes and sliced almonds. It added a really great crunch to the finished toast. Two pieces, along with some coffee, was enough for the two of us to share.

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Cornflake Crusted French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf day old Challah bread, sliced into 3/4″ to 1″ thick pieces
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups partially crushed cornflakes
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • unsalted butter
  • canola oil

To serve:

  • grade B maple syrup
  • raspberry preserves or apple butter (optional)
  • fresh berries, to garnish (optional)
  • sifted powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

I find this recipe works best when the Challah is a day old and pre-sliced the night before. You wan the pieces to be a little on the thick side, so anywhere between 3/4″ to 1″ is the ideal width.

In a large shallow bowl (I used a pyrex baking dish) whisk together the eggs, milk, orange zest, vanilla, salt, and honey. In another large bowl combine the cornflakes and almonds and partially crush them with your hands. Soak all of the bread pieces in the egg mixture, turning once until the custard is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes. Place the bread in the cornflake mixture, and bread each piece, making sure to press the cornflake and almonds into the bread.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter, and 1 tablespoon of canola oil into a large skillet (I used nonstick) over medium heat.  Add the bread to the skillet and cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. I like to drain my pieces on paper towels before popping them into the oven to keep warm while I finish making the rest of the french toast pieces. Continue adding butter and oil to the pan as needed to cook the remaining slices of bread.

Serve hot with maple syrup, preserves or apple butter, and powdered sugar, if using.

Food

Favorite Tacos in Dallas

I love tacos in just about any form. I can eat them everyday and never, ever tire of them. Now that I’ve been in Dallas for a couple of years, I finally feel like I’m starting to find my regular places, the ones that always deliver something delicious and keep me coming back for more.

The styles vary greatly between the establishments: two are classic Mexico City taco spots, two are modern interpretations of Mexican and global cuisines, and one is old-school, iconic Tex Mex, a place that helped me to see why this regional cuisine is something to write home about.

In no particular order, here are five of my favorite taco places in the city:

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mias

A few months after moving to Dallas, we asked our server while dining out one night what are must try Dallas dishes. The Brisket Tacos at Mia’s Tex Mex were the first thing he recommended. He said they were slap your momma good. And he was right. This dish is iconic Dallas. Tender roasted brisket topped with melted cheese, sautéed onions and poblanos, and a delicious brisket pan gravy just seals the deal. I’ve tried other brisket tacos around town and I haven’t had one that compares to Mia’s. No place has come close.

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Here you get no frills, deliciously simple tacos topped with onions and cilantro. One of my favorite spots for breakfast tacos. The salsas are really spicy. With locations peppered across the metro area, it’s easy to get your fix wherever you are.

urban-taco

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When we first moved to Dallas we ate here all the time. Now that we reside on the other side of town our trips are less frequent, but it’s one of the most consistently delicious places we dine at. Whether you’re having tacos (get the al pastor a la tuma), the baja caesar salad, grilled cebollitas, or mango jicama slaw, it’s always fresh, well seasoned, and delicious. Half price tamarind and passion fruit margaritas on Thursdays sweeten the deal.

velvet-taco

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By far the most creative tacos around. The combinations span the globe: chicken tikka tacos, British fish and chips taco, rotisserie chicken and potato salad tacos, they have it all. It’s also open late into the night on weekends, making it popular with the drunken bar hopping crowd.

trompo

img_6906Trompo’s tacos are some of my very favorite in the city, and I think it’s because they remind me of the tacos I had while I was in Mexico earlier this year. They’re simple, yet flavorful fillings of pork, steak, or poblano and paneer topped with cilantro and onion. What really stole the show for me here are the quesadillas. A griddled flour tortilla with crispy melted cheese topped with your choice of meat, onion, and cilantro. Unbelievably delicious.

If you have a favorite Dallas taco spot by all means please let me know. I’m always looking for new places to check out.

Image 1/2/3/4/5-taken by yours truly.

Desserts

Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet

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Nobody makes ice cream quite like Jeni Britton-Bauer.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home is a beautiful resource book I’ve used to make ice cream both at work and at home, always with amazing results. My favorite flavor isn’t an ice cream at all, but a sorbet. And I don’t even really like sorbet.

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Riesling is my favorite wine, and pears are my favorite fruit. I was destined to love this.

So when I found myself with a leftover sample bottle of Riesling in my wine bag last week, along with some underripe pears from the grocery store, I used both to make this sorbet. In all honesty, this tastes like taking a bite out of the most ripe, sweet pear you can possibly imagine. The velvety texture just melts in your mouth. If you like pears you will love this sorbet.

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Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet

Ingredients:

  • 6 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Riesling
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

Instructions:

Combine the peeled and chopped pears, sugar, corn syrup, water, and riesling in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat on medium until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Simmer until the pears are very soft and tender. The original recipe says this should take about 5-8 minutes, but my pears were underripe so mine took about 15-20.

Remove the pear mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the entire mixture to a food processor and puree until the pears are completely smooth. About 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Press the solids though the mesh into the bowl.

To chill the mixture quickly, pour the puree into a large Ziplock bag and seal. Place the sealed bag into a large mixing bowl filled with ice and  water. Allow the pear puree to chill for 30 minutes. I placed the puree in a plastic quart container to chill it down and allowed it to spend the night in the fridge. Once the mixture is thoroughly cold, process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

Store in a sealed, freezer safe container for at least 4 hours before serving.

Food

Small Brewpub

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Small Brewpub is one of my very favorite places to eat in Dallas.

Well, it used to be. News broke last month that the chef and owners were parting ways, because they wanted to go in another direction. I gotta be honest, I’m pretty broken up about it. Eating here will put you in the middle of some of the most deliciously crafted, progressive plates being made in Dallas. Misti Norris a formidable talent who’s going to have a very successful career ahead of her. I hope she stays in town, because I plan to follow her to her next place.

Here’s some shots of a meal we had there recently:

Dylan’s beer flight, including a very refreshing black pepper pilsner.

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The Charcuterie Board with chicken liver mousse, nduja, and pickled celery, amongst other things. Easily one of the most delicious boards in Dallas.
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This tri-tip and local onion dish was meltingly tender.
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Small Brewpub
333 W Jefferson Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75208
www.smallbrewpub.com

Desserts

Classic Coconut Cake

“Cake or pie?” He asked.

It was the first interview question I was asked when I interviewed at Uchi two years ago. It was a complete break from the usual generic interview questions:

  • So, tell me a little bit about yourself?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Blah blah blah. When you think about it none of that stuff matters. What did matter is if you were a pie person or a cake connoisseur. It was my kind of place.

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Truth be told I’m a pie person. I love just about any dessert with fruit in it, and I can’t get enough of a well made buttery, flaky pie crust. When my birthday rolls around, I abandon my pie loving post, and indulge in a different kind of cake every year.

This year, fresh off of a trip to Charleston and stuffing my face with the most delicious coconut cupcake ever from Sugar Bakeshop, I made myself the famed Coconut Cake from Hominy Grill to celebrate.

Bon Appetit’s site explicitly stated that room temperature ingredients made all of the difference in this cake, so plan ahead. I made one slight addition. I added some toasted coconut simple syrup I made to brush in between the layers, because nothing is sadder on a birthday than a dry ass cake, and I wasn’t about to take a chance on an unknown recipe.

If you ever get a craving for coconut cake, this is your recipe. And it doesn’t even need the simple syrup I added. So coconut laden, and that frosting! I would eat a shoe if you frosted it with this stuff. It’s so good.

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Hominy Grill’s Classic Coconut Cake

adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • Cake:
    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 1/3 cups (loosely packed) sweetened flaked coconut
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 5 large egg yolks
    • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Frosting:
    • 3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 8-ounce package philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup (about) sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions:

  • For cake:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    • Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick cooking spray; line bottom of pans with parchment paper rounds.
    • Mix flour and coconut in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and baking soda in small bowl. Using a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter with a paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    • Add egg yolks and mix to combine.
    • Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low just to blend after each addition.
    • Beat egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon salt with a whisk in a large clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of egg white mixture to the cake batter; fold into batter until just combined. Fold in remaining egg white mixture in 2 additions. Divide batter evenly between both prepared cake pans.
    • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks for about 10 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the sides of cake pans. Invert cakes onto the racks. Carefully peel off parchment paper and cool cakes completely.
  • For frosting:
    • Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract in large bowl until well blended. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Place second layer, flat side up, atop frosting. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle some of coconut over top of cake; pat more coconut on sides of cake.

Can be made one day ahead. Just allow to sit at room temperature a few hours before serving.