October 19, 2008

Honorable Mention

From haute cuisine to bourgeois fare, I implore you to check out this year's new food additions at the State Fair of Texas and this video with the winning entries.

My favorites:
  • Chicken Fried Bacon – Thick and peppery Farm Pac® bacon is seasoned, double-dipped in a special batter and breading and deep-fried. Served with a creamy side of ranch or honey mustard sauce. (A judge in the video said, "I'm pretty sure this is the way God intended bacon to be eaten.")

  • Fernie’s All-American Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwich – An American classic with a State Fair twist. Two slices of white bread filled with a blend of American and cheddar cheeses, dipped in an egg and milk batter and lightly coated with panko bread crumbs for extra crispness. Served with a side of shoestring potato sticks, a pickle spear and tomato soup dipping sauce.

  • Texas Fried Jelly Belly Beans – Jelly Belly Beans are rolled in funnel cake batter and fried to a crunch. People can share the treat with friends and try to guess the flavors before biting down.

  • Fried Chocolate Truffles – A silky-smooth, handmade, dark chocolate truffle is rolled in cocoa powder before being battered and deep-fried. The melting chocolate goodness is dusted in cinnamon, sugar and cocoa powder. (Now why would you go to the trouble of shaping a handmade truffle if you're going to fry it?!?)

Be still, my beating heart, indeed. What are your favorites from the list?

The South Plains Fair has nothing on the food court at the state fair. Speaking of the fair, I got my blue ribbons and prize money in the mail yesterday. Two checks totaling $16.75 for my cake and cookies. That should cover the cost of the ingredients. Oh! Guess whom I saw at United last night on a midnight grocery run? Stocker/Stalker Boy. I returned his hello and quickened my shopping pace.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I read My Life in France over the last couple of weeks and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a little sad to finish it. No more foodie adventures with Julia Child. The book mainly covers her first years living in Paris, where she began her culinary training and started writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The audio book is great, too, for picking up correct French pronunciations.

I remember in 1996, my family got a new PC (with Windows 95 and everything). It came with a hodgepodge collection of software, things like Grolier's Encyclopedia, a golf game, and Microsoft Bob. One of the included CDs was "Julia Child: Home Cooking with Master Chefs." I remember being very excited, since I was a budding cook, and had already gotten a bit of a reputation for making good desserts. I knew this would be a wonderful resource, and it was on the computer, too! What a disappointment it was, however, to find that the recipes on the CD were for traditional French entrées and other very snobby gourmet foods. Roasting a whole chicken did not much appeal to a teenage girl more accustomed to Taste of Home recipes with five ingredients, one of which was always chocolate and another peanut butter. Not much has changed on that front either.

Thus concluded my experience with Julia Child. Until now, that is. I love the enthusiasm she had for cooking and food. I love one story Julia tells about getting too self-confident while she was in cooking school. She served the most terrible meal "one could imagine outside of England." But she made sure not to apologize for it. She writes:
I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as "Oh, I don't know how to cook...," or "Poor little me...," or "This may taste awful...," it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, "Yes, you're right, this really is an awful meal!" Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed - eh bien, tant pis!

Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes. (p. 71)
While reading this book, I got an intense craving for French food. I quelled the cravings somewhat by eating dinner at Cafe J. I had pan seared duck breast with béarnaise, sweet potatoes, and spinach. It was a beautiful presentation and very delicious. I thought as I ate the spinach that I should take some back to the workplace cafeteria. "You see, this is what cooked spinach should be! See how it is still bright green. See that it still has some shape and some bite to it. It's also seasoned!" For dessert, I had a crepe filled with vanilla ice cream surrounded by raspberry sauce and topped with whipped cream, fruit, and almonds. I'm making plans to reserve a table for me and my book at the reliable Frenchman Inn here in town. Very spinster librarian of me. Also making plans to try some classic French recipes, perhaps coq au vin to start. I like this quote by Julia's instructor, Chef Bugnard at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school:

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake"You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made. Even after you eat it, it stays with you - always."

October 15, 2008

Adiós Amigo

I'm sure you're all waiting to hear what I made for dinner last Friday, the Last Supper, or as I started calling it, the Adiós Amigo Menu:

Spiced pecans with rum glaze
Mexican shrimp martini
Rib-eye steak with red chile onion rings
Fiery corn salsa
Bananas Foster with vanilla bean ice cream

Adiós Amigo Mosaic

I decided to go with a Tex-Mex theme, with pecans, steak, and onion rings to contribute the "Tex." I kicked up the spice level of the salsas by adding habaneros. It was the first time I've tried to do bananas foster, and it was mediocre. Next time, I'll use more brown sugar, add banana liqueur, not overcook the bananas to mush, and try using a smaller pan to get a bigger flambé.

I couldn't help but feel especially sorry for myself on Monday afternoon. I had spent my lunch time researching fun cafes and restaurants in Brooklyn, whilst eating a tray of cafeteria slop: King Ranch chicken casserole, fiesta corn, and spinach. First off, why is there such a thing as King Ranch chicken casserole? Dad rightly notes that the King Ranch was a cattle ranch. This one was a little too heavy on the full sodium condensed soups. I tried mixing in the generic frozen corn and the soggy spinach that had all of its brightness cooked out of it. Even Tabasco didn't help much.

But that's the end of that. I have a few party menus in mind. I definitely think it's time for another dessert party. And there are dozens of spooky Halloween treats I want to make. I'm really channeling Martha Stewart this year.

October 1, 2008

Chet dies after eating 'superhot' chilli for bet

Chef Dies After Eating Superhot Chilli for Bet

Oh wait! It says 'chef.' Thank goodness. Cause that superhot chilli really sounds like something he'd be into. What am I saying? It sounds like something I'd be into.

I tried a Chuao Spicy Maya Bar for the first time. It's my new favorite chile chocolate bar. Dark chocolate with "a hint of Pasilla chile, cayenne Pepper and cinnamon." Dark chocolate has antioxidants, so it's just for my health. Remember, though, don't drink milk with dark chocolate. The milk wipes out antioxidant absorption.

Why spicy foods are good for you

Starting yesterday, Chet and I are celebrating our one year anniversary week - a year since we met, since our first date...

Our friends John and Sarah introduced us. Sarah called to invite me over for dinner and a game night. She said that they were inviting another guy over to make four people, an even number for playing games. Not to worry, because "It's not a setup!" A couple of days after I accepted the invite, she left me a voicemail message saying, "I was thinking, 'Why not Kimberly and Chet?' So keep it in mind. Call me and I'll tell you about him if you want." Very sneaky.

On the night of our first date, the Friday after the setup, Chet came to pick me up and brought me flowers. I was nervous. "Don't drop the flowers," I told myself. It would be just like me to drop the flowers and accidentally step on them or something clumsy like that. "Fill the vase. Add the flower food. Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile."

We went to Manna for dinner and hit a couple of sites on the Friday Art Trail. We went to La Diosa for cheesecake afterward. We sat by a table with a lot of other people because it was crowded. We were sitting between them and the band. They didn't even pretend to watch the band; they just stared at us the whole time. They had imbibed enough to lose their inhibitions, so they asked Chet and me if we were on a date. "You two haven't stopped talking," and "You must be on a date because you're sharing that slice of cheesecake. If you were together, you'd each get your own." We told them it was our first date, and they secretly ordered champagne for us.

The waitress set glasses in front of us and started pouring. I tried to tell them we weren't drinking, but the band was too loud. So they just stared even more and wondered why we didn't drink the champagne. Then they started telling us we had something special and toasting us, “To first dates!”

They started asking us all kinds of questions about how we met and saying Chet and I seemed like we had a lot in common. At that point, it felt like I was on a reality TV show, what with all the staring and unsolicited feedback from the judges. Every time I smiled at Chet or laughed at his jokes, I felt their eyes on me and imagined them thinking, "Oh my gosh, look at her grin at that guy. She's got it bad." I leaned in and whispered to Chet that we should go. We picked up Shaun of the Dead at his house since I had never seen it and watched that. It's just been a whirlwind romance ever since, yes, just a whirl of wind.

Tonight, I'm planning the menu for our anniversary dinner. Meh, he's moving, make that the Last Supper. Maybe something spicy? As for outings, these are the kind of Friday selections one finds around town:
Friday Ladies' Bible Study
NAMI's Mental Health Recovery Support Group
Mac and MeI'm not sure what happened to the no gifts agreement. Chet gave me a MacBook last night. (Unless you are a burglar, in which case he gave me a used VCR and a knife set.) Trying out Photo Booth...