Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sucré (A Sweets Boutique) Giveaway!!

Sucré Sweet Boutiques and Confection Studio are located in New Orleans, Louisiana and offer the definitive dessert and confection experience.  They have a wide array of offerings, including their award winning French macarons, artisan chocolates, toffee, pecans, and also regional specialties like king cake.  Chef Tariq uses only the finest ingredients, local if possible, to craft his one of a kind delights.
The Sucré King Cake is a signature buttery danish pastry sweetened by cinnamon and raw cane sugar, then folded with a light layer of creole cream cheese.  It has been voted a "favorite" by the Times Picayune and also voted "best" by the Washington Post.  Sounds like a winner to me!
After browsing through the collection of sweets I became enamored with all their chocolate offerings, especially this Caramel + Brown Butter Collection.  Avery chocolates, filled with a butter-soft caramel milk chocolate ganache, paired with our brown butter filled Meuniére chocolates make for a sinfully delicious collection.  Add in the chocolate almond toffee and dark chocolate caramel cookies and I'm totally in!

I'm also slightly obsessed with their aritsan chocolate bars, namely this Salted Pretzel Chocolate Bar. It's hard to beat the sweet and salty combination of creamy Swiss milk chocolate studded with pretzels sticks.

However, in the end it was these absolutely gorgeous and colorful macarons that won me over!  Don't they look irresistible?  Delicate little French macaron cookies filled with luscious mousseline.  Available in wonderful flavors such as pecan, chocolate, salted caramel, almond, pistachio, strawberry, hazelnut, and bananas foster. The picture above is Sucré's Signature Macaron Collection and one lucky reader will win their very own box!

Would you like a chance to win this gorgeous box of macarons?  All you need to do is visit the Sucré website, and tell me which treat you'd most like to try, then leave a comment below, along with your contact information (email address).  The contest ends this Saturday, March 2nd at midnight EST.  A winner will be drawn randomly (via random number generator) and announced on Sunday, March 3rdThis drawing is open to U.S. residents only!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tonkatsu with East-West Sauce

The name Tonkatsu probably has a few of you wondering, but basically this is a boneless pork chop that has been pounded to a quarter inch, then breaded in panko and lightly fried.  A Japanese version of Pork Milanese, if you will.  The thing that sets this dish apart is the tangy flavor of the East-West Sauce that gets drizzled on top.  It's a lovely blend of ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and rice wine vinegar and it totally makes this pork dish.  It's crave-worthy, for sure.

This recipe called for deep frying, but we're focusing on healthy eating right now so I used a large nonstick skillet and about 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  It takes a little babysitting, and you need to cook over medium-low heat to prevent burning, but I think the crust turned out fabulous.  It is important not to crowd the pan otherwise your crust will not brown properly.  Cook two pork chops at a time for optimum results.

Also, I have found that breading can be tricky business.  I've noticed that my panko gets somewhat wet and soggy after a few dredges.  Wet and soggy panko will not adhere to anything, so to remedy this problem I separate my panko into two breading dishes.  One dish for the first two chops.  The second for the last two pork chops, etc.  This makes a few more dirty dishes, but it does ensure a perfect even coating.

Another tip for perfect breading is to refrigerate anything you bread for at least ten minutes.  The breading procedure introduces something wet (the egg, milk, etc.).  Refrigerating allows the item to dry out which means that your breading will adhere better once it hits the pan.

Tonkatsu with East-West Sauce
Adapted from Step-by-Step Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4

4 boneless pork loin chops
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 cups panko
vegetable oil, for frying
Optional: East-West Sauce and/or lemon slices for serving

Pound 4 boneless pork chops to about one quarter inch each.  Season each with salt and pepper.  Dip pork in beaten egg, then into panko to coat.  Set each coated pork chop aside on a baking sheet.  Once all pork chops are coated place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.  This time in the fridge helps the panko to dry out and adhere to the pork chops.  

After refrigerating the coated pork chops for at least minutes, remove and set aside.  Heat about 1/4 cup vegetable oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet.  When the pan becomes hot, add as two pork chops at a time, browning on each side.  They should cook through in about 8 minutes (4 minutes each side).  Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a warm oven until all pork chops are cooked.

Serve with East-West Sauce and/or lemon wedges.

East-West Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 mustard powder
4 teaspoons hot water
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
4 teaspoons sake (*optional)
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

 Mix the mustard powder with 4 teaspoons hot water in a small bowl.  Add in remaining ingredients and mix well.  

Theme: Out of India

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Restaurant Review: Bellini's Italian Restaurant


Bellini's Italian Restaurant
115 West Main Street
Lexington, Ky 40509
Phone: 859-388-9583

(Today I'm bringing you a guest post, written by my dear friend and fellow foodie, Amy Stone.  Bellini's Italian Restaurant is located in downtown Lexington in a historic building dating back to 1869.  The building housing Bellini's is truly one of a kind, the only Italianette style architecture in the area.  Bellini's celebrates local and and seasonal offerings and is committed to supporting the region's farmers and farms.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten a meal in Lexington that actually surprised me, but my belated Valentine meal at Bellini’s Saturday night did just that. 

This was far from our first trip to Bellini’s - my husband has been enjoying their fine bolognaise sauce for many years. The truth is, Bellini’s is the only restaurant in Lexington where I will willingly pay for Italian food. Having grown up in northeastern Ohio, as a child I was taught to make meatballs and red sauce from my neighbor and her mother in law. I confess since then I’ve found precious little to tempt me outside of what I was taught to make in that cramped little kitchen with Grandma Lavorini. I can still see her in her black shift making bread and showing me how to shape the rolls with gestures and head nods. (She never learned to speak English and in all the years I knew her I never heard her utter a single word.)

When we were seated in the Bellini’s dining room Saturday night our excellent server Quinn informed us that the appetizer special that evening was a Gnocchi Caprese. A well made gnocchi is a gift from the gods and the truth is, I’ve had precious few truly great ones. Good gnocchi should be light fluffy pillows of goodness, but if handled poorly, can end up as sticky wet globs of starch which quite simply, make me sad. Quinn was quick to recommend the gnocchi and I am so glad that we trusted him. What we were served was something I have never encountered in my life – a stuffed gnocchi! I know, I know - I’d never heard of stuffing gnocchi either. Turns out it can be done and the  Lexington Pasta Company has one of only three machines in the entire United States that can stuff gnocchi. Our little town is thus blessed and I had no idea! 

Gnocchi Caprese


Chef Craig Devillers flavors the potatoes with tomato which gives the gnocchi a lovely orange color and light tomato flavor. Lexington Pasta Company then forms the gnocchi and stuffs them with a mozzarella filling. The gnocchi are then lightly fried. Yes you read that right - surprise number two, fried gnocchi! Sounds like blasphemy I realize, but they were not the least bit greasy and the light crunch of the crust was in perfect contrast to the soft dumpling center. They were then served with a richly flavorful tomato confit, fresh basil and an onion balsamic reduction that was, quite frankly, ridiculously good. If they ever bottle it I will be the first one in line to buy it!

The rest of our meal was equally outstanding. Mr. Stone once again enjoyed the delicious Penne Bolognaise. I was treated to a succulent Lobster Ravioli in a red pepper cream sauce. What made these ravioli so outstanding was not just the quality of the pasta – thank you again Lexington Pasta Company – but the fact that there was a crazy amount of lobster in the filling. This wasn’t just a few flakes and some ricotta my friends, there were full on chunks of lobster in that ravioli and the flavor was delicate and light for what was in fact, a very rich dish. 

Here’s the thing about good Italian food, it’s not ‘chef-y’. Its’ beauty lies in the simplicity of good quality ingredients, skillfully combined to produce richly layered flavors. That was what struck me so much about the Gnocchi Caprese, it was innovative but not overdone and was truly a pleasure. So much so that it has instigated the writing of this, my very first dining review. Bellini’s is a local Lexington treasure. We had outstanding service (thank you young Quinn!) and Chef Craig took the time to come out personally to talk with us and discuss his amazing food. If you haven’t been to Bellini’s recently it’s time for a trip back in to sample the amazing quality of the dishes coming out of their kitchen. Chef Craig – Bravo Sir! Thanks for a surprising and delicious meal. And a big thank you to Kim Tracy who has allowed me to hijack her blog for this review. I appreciate your indulgence my friend!

A big thanks to my friend Amy for writing this review.  I know my readers will enjoy learning about the innovative stuffed gnocchi, the delicious food, and what sounds to be a wonderful restaurant with exemplary customer service. I hope to dine there as soon as possible!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shrimp with Garlic and Chiles

For months now my husband and I have been wracking our brains trying to think of the perfect way to celebrate our upcoming ten year wedding anniversary.  With the kids?  Without the kids?  Somewhere close or somewhere far away?  We tossed around the idea of taking a cruise departing from New Orleans (somewhere I've been dying to go).  However, as we watched the crisis on the Triumph unfold over the week we decided the idea of a cruise was definitely out!  Finally we decided on an all-inclusive adults only beach resort in Cabo San Lucas and I literally cannot wait!

To celebrate I made this very spicy shrimp with garlic and chiles.  After all, nothing says celebration like shrimp and pasta.  Let's just say it was a good thing I chose to serve this shrimp over pasta because it was HOT, and I don't mean temperature hot.  I'm talking spicy hot.  If you're into spicy food then this is a good dish for you.  The shrimp are tossed in cayenne and then stir-fried in a wok with a diced hot chile and lots of garlic.  It was just the right amount of heat for my husband but almost on the border of being a little too spicy for me.  It was definitely delicious, but next time I'd probably dial back on the cayenne and/or remove the seeds from the chiles.
Shrimp with Garlic and Chiles
Adapted from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking 
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or
2-4 as a main dish

 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and washed, then patted dry
1/4 teaspoon dry turmeric (optional)*
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh, hot green and/or red chile, finely chopped (do no remove seeds)
1/2 cup chicken broth/stock
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro 
*Note: My family doesn't care for turmeric so I always leave it out.

Put the shrimp in a bowl.  Sprinkle the turmeric (if using), cayenne, dry mustard, and salt over the shrimp and gently mix together. Set aside. 

Put the oil in a wok or large frying pan and set over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic has turned golden.  Add in the red or green chile.  Stir once or twice.  Put in the shrimp.  Stir and fry them over high heat just until they turn opaque.  This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding in the 1/2 cup of chicken stock or broth.  Sprinkle with the cilantro, then toss and serve.  The shrimp would be delicious served all on their own as an appetizer, but we enjoyed ours over some buttered pasta.

Theme: Show Your Love!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quick and Easy Chicken Etouffee

Because I'm slightly obsessed with The Big Easy, and because Mardi Gras is just around the corner, I made Chicken Etouffee.  Normally Mardi Gras is all about indulgence, but we've recently committed to a new healthy living plan, so I wanted to make something that felt indulgent but was still healthy.  This recipe is one of my new best friends.  It meets all the criteria for a busy cook who wants to celebrate a special day by making something quick, delicious, and healthy that doesn't break the bank. 

You can put this dish together in under 30 minutes. The best news is that it makes a really big pot! Clean up is easy too.  One pan for the rice.  One pan for the etouffee.  The etouffee starts with a little butter in the pan, a quick saute of cubed chicken, a quick saute of the holy trinity (celery, onions, bell pepper), add in some tomato paste, flour, and seasoning, and then it's time for the chicken stock.  Once the stock comes to a low boil it's time to add the chicken back in and then you're ready to serve over rice and celebrate!

Chicken Etouffee
Stirring the Pot Original
Serves 4-6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped celery 
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, divided 
3-4 cups chicken stock, depending on how thick you want it

Optional/For Garnish: Sliced green onions, hot sauce and/or splash of Worcestershire sauce
For Serving:  Cooked rice (*see recipe below)

Cut chicken into one inch chunks and toss with 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning.  

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, or Dutch oven, over medium high heat.  Add chicken and saute for 3-4 minutes, until the chicken becomes golden.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate or in a bowl (it will finish cooking in the sauce later).

Over medium heat add onions, celery, and red pepper to the heavy bottomed saucepan and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add tomato paste and stir to distribute.  Add flour and 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and cook for at least two minutes, stirring constantly (you want this mixture to be pretty dark in color).

Now you are ready to add in the chicken stock.  You'll want to add in the chicken stock a little at a time, whisking the entire time to incorporate everything.  I like to do this over medium-low heat.  Once the mixture comes to a simmer/slight boil you will be able to see how thick your gravy is.  This is when you can adjust the thickness of the gravy to your liking.  Three cups of chicken stock makes a really nice thick gravy.  However, if you like your gravy a little on the thin side, then 4 cups of chicken stock will probably work well for you.  

At this time you can add the chicken, and all of the accumulated juices, back into the pan and cook over medium low heat.  You'll only want to cook the chicken for a short time, just so that it's cooked through (most likely about 5 minutes)!! Once the chicken is cooked through, taste the dish and check for seasoning.  You might need a little more Cajun seasoning.  Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce can also be great additions.  Once you've got the seasoning just right go ahead and serve over rice (I've included a recipe below) and garnish with sliced green onions.  Enjoy!

Plain Rice
Adapted from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4-6

2 cups long grain white rice
1 teaspoon salt
2-3/4 cups water

Put the rice in a bowl and wash well in several changes of water.  Drain thoroughly.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the rice, salt, water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover tightly, turn the heat to very, very low, and cook for 25 minutes.  Take off heat and let rest for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.
One cup of chicken etouffee is 221 calories, per my calculations.  One cup of chicken etouffee served over one cup of plain white rice is about 463, per my calculations.
Theme: Potluck

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork and Garlic

Garlic really earns it's place in the title of this recipe.  There happens to be 15 big cloves of garlic in this recipe, an entire head and a half of garlic. Nevertheless, it isn't overwhelming at all.  The garlic is definitely there, but not in an obnoxious way.

This dish really won me over.  Juicy succulent chunks of pork with the fresh pop of green beans all tossed together in a garlic and soy sauce.  Heavenly all on it's own.  Perfect with a side of rice.
Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork and Garlic
Adapted from Step-by-Step Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4

1-1/4 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
15 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces ground pork
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, paprika, brown sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well and set aside.

In a wok, or large skillet, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir-fry garlic over medium heat until it turns golden, then add in pork.  Stir fry the pork, breaking up any lumps, until the pork is cooked through and rather caramelized. Add in about half of the soy sauce mixture and mix the sauce mixture into the pork until the pork mixture darkens.  Remove pork and garlic from wok and set aside on a plate or bowl.

Add the green beans, 1-1/4 cups water, and the rest of the soy sauce mixture into the wok and cook on medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the beans are tender and most of the water has been absorbed.  Add the pork and garlic back into the wok and toss about until the pork is warmed through and everything is incorporated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, if you wish, and serve.  This would be great served over rice, but is also tasty on it's own.
Theme: Give Me Comfort