This New Year’s Eve, my Sweetie and I are going to The Grape.  Which is a Dallas institution.  And the Institution-within-an-Institution for The Grape is their mushroom soup.  It’s really famous.  I mean, really, REALLY famous.

I have the recipe for their soup, but I have tweaked it, and I daresay that mine is even BETTER.  For reals.  (Be sure and eat the soup with a sourdough baguette!  The bread really makes this dish pop!)

So, here is my redone recipe for The Grape’s Mushroom Soup.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbs butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3,  8-oz packages of various mushrooms, chopped.  I like to use button, shiitake, and crimini.  (And throw in some oyster mushrooms if I can find them!)
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of beef stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • pinch of white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan.
  2. Add shallots and cook over moderate heat until they become translucent.
  3. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in flour and coat vegetables well.
  5. Add white wine and cook for a minute or so, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add stock slowly, stirring constantly.
  7. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  8. Add white pepper & nutmeg.
  9. Remove from heat, stir in cream, and serve.

Serves 6.

If you serve this with a baguette of sourdough bread and a glass of red wine, you will be adored forever.  Ladies, this soup is a MAN TRAP.  I kid you not.  How else do you think I snagged my husband???  It’s THAT good!

Enjoy!

It’s Christmas time again!

For this post, I thought I’d give you a few of my favorite recipes.  These are great for giving as Christmas gifts, and they’re super easy to make, too!

Today we’ll be making Peppermint Bark, Chocolate-covered Apricots, and Rum/Bourbon balls!

Peppermint Bark

This stuff is so easy that I’d trust any of my sister’s kids to make it.  At my house, even.  Seriously.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided (Optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided (Optional)
  • 8 ounces high-quality white chocolate chips
  • crushed peppermint candy

Directions:

  1. Roll out parchment paper or aluminum foil and place into a sheet pan.
  2. Place the semisweet chocolate (and 1 teaspoon of the canola oil) into a microwave-safe bowl and nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.  (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler.)
  3. OPTIONAL:  When the chocolate is melted, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the peppermint extract.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, until chocolate hardens.
  5. Place the white chocolate (and the remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil) into a microwave-safe bowl and nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.  (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler.)
  6. OPTIONAL:  When the chocolate is melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract.
  7. Pour the white chocolate directly over the semisweet chocolate layer, and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crushed candy over the top and gently press in. Refrigerate until completely hardened. Remove from pan. and break into small pieces to serve.
  8. Store, tightly sealed,  in the refrigerator.  (Sorry, Chocolate Sacrilege, I know…  but the chocolate isn’t tempered, so it needs to stay refrigerated.)

Chocolate Covered Apricots

These are super fun to make.  And you can be all artsy with the dipping!  Express  yourself through apricots!

Ingredients:

  • Dried apricots
  • white chocolate chips
  • semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Melt each kind of chocolate, separately, in a double boiler or microwave.  (If microwaving, cook in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval.)
  • Dip half of the apricots in white chocolate and place onto waxed paper or parchment paper to cool
  • Dip the other half of the apricots in the semisweet chocolate and place onto waxed/parchment paper to cool.
  • Dip a fork or spoon into the leftover white chocolate, and use it to drizzle streaks onto the dark-chocolate-covered apricots.
  • Dip a fork or spoon into the leftover dark chocolate, and use it to drizzle streaks onto the white-chocolate-covered apricots.
  • When chocolate hardens, store the apricots in a tightly sealed container in a cool place.

Rum/Bourbon Balls

These are seriously everyone’s favorite thing at Christmas.  Make a batch for your Granny and watch her get tipsy!  (That’s when the really interesting stories come out!)  Yay!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, or 1/2 cup rum
  • additional confectioner’s sugar (or nuts, or shredded coconut or cocoa powder)

Directions:

  • Pulverize the vanilla wafers in your food processor.  Or use a rolling pin.
  • Mix crushed wafers, confectioner’s sugar, nuts, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and liquor together until well-blended
  • Mixture should be moist, not soggy.
  • Roll dough by approximate teaspoonfuls into small balls
  • Roll in additional confectioner’s sugar (or nuts or coconut or cocoa powder)
  • Store in tightly covered container in a cool place.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

I’ve got a really good one for you today!

I was at World Market and picked up a mini version of Spanish chorizo.  And I had some scrimps sitting in my freezer at home.  So I decided to make this little concoction…

Penne with Shrimp, Chorizo, and Asiago cheese!

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 shrimp (Mine were in a bag in my freezer.  Feel free to use fresh ones.)
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Asiago Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped Spanish chorizo  (You can use Mexican chorizo if you want, but it will just fall apart and get runny and gross.  So whatever floats yer boat…)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1 box Penne pasta
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Directions:

  • While you are making the sauce, cook the penne according to directions on package.
  • Save yourself some time and dishwashing by throwing the peas into the water with the penne.
  • When penne is done, set aside.
  • In a nonstick frying pan, fry the shrimp until they are done.  Or just follow the cooking directions on the bag of frozen shrimp.
  • Remove shrimp and set aside.  (And remove the extraneous sauce matter from the pan, if your shrimp came in a bag.

    • In the same pan, add the chopped chorizo and garlic (and a little oil, if you think it will stick.  It probably won’t, but still…)
    • Cook until crunchy and brown.

    • Add the white wine and reduce until it looks something like this:

    • Add the heavy cream and reduce until the sauce is thick.
    • Then add cheese.

    • Then add drained pasta and peas….

    • Mix it all together…

    • Plate it up, and add some Parmesan or something if you want….

    YUM!

    Oh, by the way, how do you like my snazzy new apron that I got in N’Awlins?

    It’s so Me, don’t you think?  =-D

    This Thanksgiving, the JohnnyCakes and I decided to skip all the Whose-Family-Gets-To-Feed-Us-First drama, so we went to New Orleans!

    For our Thanksgiving dinner, we ate at the fantabulous M Bistro  at the Ritz Carlton in new Orleans.  I took pictures.  It was AMAZING!

    Amouse Bouche:

    Escargot Croquet Madame

    with organic quail egg and gruyere cheese

    It was DIVINE.  It was like a tiny little escargot lasagna…  Made with toast instead of pasta.  But totally yumtastic.

    First course:

    Acorn Squash Bisque

    with sultana marshmallow and pumpkin toast

    This is seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long, long time.  It had MARSHMALLOWS!!!!  How can you not like anything that has marshmallows in it???   This soup was sweet, creamy, marshmallowy, and the pumpkin toast croutons gave it a nice kick of texture.  I’ve asked the chef for the recipe.  Crossing my fingers in hopes that he provides…

    Second Course:

    Shrimp stuffed Mirliton

    with warm andouille remoulade

     

    My first question for the waiter was, “What the heck is a mirliton???”  And you know what?  He didn’t know either!  (That’s why he gave me the food and drink manager’s business card!  So that I could get the recipe from him!  Ha!)

    So thanks to dictionary.com, I have found out what a mirliton is.  Ready?

       
       

    (It’s a chayote squash.)

    So anyway, this was basically a peeled, cooked half of a chayote squash, stuffed with chopped shrimp and something resembling mayonnaise, covered with panko (I think) and browned on top.

    It was pretty good.  A little too mayonaissey, but not unlike your average shrimp salad stuffed into a squash shell.

    Note to Waitstaff: KNOW YOUR FOOD.  Ugh.

    Third Course:

    Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib

    with twice-baked potato, shiitake-green bean casserole, and bone marrow espagnole

    Yeah.

    Johnny opted for the standard turkey breast dinner with the standard accoutrements, but I decided to get something a little different.

    The prime rib was perfectly cooked, the potatoes were light and airy, and the green bean casserole was KILLER.  I’m SO glad I didn’t get the turkey!

    Fourth Course:

    White Chocolate Spiced Apple Mousse

    with carmelized bourbon apples and chocolate-hazelnut sorbet


    I didn’t much care for the dessert, honestly.  The mousse was more like stale pudding, and although the crust added some interesting flavor and texture (it was like a soft granola bar with bourbon), the chocolate sorbet kind of ruined it.  It was WAY too chocolatey, and it didn’t really complement the apple flavors at all.

    Fifth Course:

    Seasonal chocolate truffles


    There were six of these suckers.  And in other fine dining establishments that I’ve visited, the waiter at least TELLS you what flavors the truffles are when he puts them on your table.  At Stephan Pyles, there was a lavender one, a peanut butter (I think) one, and “the chef’s take on an Oreo cookie.”  See?  I still remember!

    So waitstaff, when you hurl a plate of random truffles at a customer, PLEASE tell them what the flavors are supposed to be!

    Johnny and I resorted to biting into each one and leaving a bunch of uneaten truffle halves on the plate.

    Just sayin’.

    But all in all, this was an AMAZING dinner, and if you are ever in New Orleans, go to M Bistro!  It’s well worth the trip!

    Beignets at Cafe du Monde!!!

    Yum!

     

    The day after Thanksgiving, we scooted over to Brennan’s for brunch!

    I got the Eggs Shannon, which was sort of like an Eggs Benedict.  That is, if you replaced the Canadian bacon with fried trout, and replaced the English muffins with creamed spinach..

    Doesn’t this look amazing???

    For dessert (yes, dessert.  This is BRUNCH, remember??), we got the Bananas Foster.  After all, Bananas Foster was friggin’ INVENTED at Brennan’s!

    So here’s how you make it:

    Ooooooooh….!

    Aaaaaaah…!

    And this is what you get:

    Oh, you wanted a recipe???

    Okay:

    (Recipe  shamelessly ripped from their website…)

    This is the actual Bananas Foster recipe from the original source and creator of this dessert: Brennan’s Restaurant. In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster. The scrumptious dessert was named for Richard Foster, who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission. Richard Foster was a frequent customer of Brennan’s and a very good friend of Owen.

    BANANAS FOSTER

    • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ cup banana liqueur
    • 4 bananas, cut in half
      lengthwise, then halved
    • ¼ cup dark rum
    • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

    Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften Bananas Fosterand begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

    Unfortunately for you (but fortunately for ME!), I will be out of town next Thursday.  My sweetie and I will be in New Orleans (!!!!!) for Thanksgiving.  So to compensate for not giving you your weekly dose of yumminess on the most food-tastic day of the year, I thought I’d give you an extra special recipe today!

    This blog entry is about something very near and dear to my heart:  Chicken Fried Steak.  (No, it’s NOT “country fried steak.”  And if you call it that, you need to stop.  NOW.)

    The BEST chicken fried steak I’ve ever had, EVER, was at Gennie’s Bishop Grill in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas (Actually Oak Cliff).   The Bishop Grill has been gone now for at least five years, and I still wax nostalgic about her amazing chicken fried steak and soul food.  (COLLARD GREENS!!!!)

    So I went nosing around on the old interwebs, and I found her recipe!

    It’s a little different from my usual recipe, so I’ll just plagiarize it for you now, courtesy of her daughter:

    (She has a cookbook!!!!!   WANT!!!)

    AUTHENTIC TEXAS CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK


    Ingredients:

    4 pieces cube steak
    Vegetable shortening
    Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1-2 cups whole milk
    Pan gravy (recipe follows)

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to lowest setting. Put a couple of the steaks into a zip-top bag.  This is to eliminate grossness flying around your kitchen and getting stuck in the meat mallet… With a meat mallet, tenderize each piece back and front. (Or ask the butcher to run the steak through a mechanical tenderizer again.) Cut steak into individual portions.

    Place a cast-iron or other good, heavy skillet over medium flame. Add shortening and start heating. The shortening should be no deeper than ¼ inch. Heat until it’s hot enough to set the breading on the steak when it’s dropped into the skillet. Don’t heat to smoking; this will ruin the shortening.

    Meanwhile, combine salt, pepper, cayenne and flour in a large zip-top plastic bag. Mix well. Pour milk into a large bowl. Dip a steak in milk and shake off the excess. Then enclose in bag and shake to coat. Shake off excess. Lay steak in hot fat. Repeat with additional steaks until skillet is full, but not crowded. When each steak sears, the bottom crust is set and it starts sizzling, turn it over and brown the other side. You may need to do this in batches.  Don’t overcrowd the pan, because it will drop the temperature of the oil/fat and will ruin your chances of getting a good, consistent sear on each steak.

    Keep steaks warm on a platter in the oven while you cook remaining steaks and make the gravy. Makes 4 servings.

    Pan gravy:

    In a heavy, 2-quart saucepan, heat 3 cups milk but don’t let it boil.

    Using the skillet in which you cooked the steak, pour off excess grease, leaving about 4 or 5 tablespoons in the pan. Over medium flame, heat the drippings and add 3 tablespoons flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring to brown flour.

    When brown, hot and bubbling, add hot milk, one cup at a time. Stir or whisk constantly until thick and creamy. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

    RECIPE SOURCE: Gennie’s Bishop Grill Cookbook by Rosemarie Hudson

    Mashed Potatoes:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb white potatoes
    • milk
    • butter
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Directions:

    Clean potatoes and chop into 1-inch cubes.  Sort of.

    Place into large pot, cover with water (an inch or two over the potatoes) and boil the everloving snot out of them.  (15-20 minutes should do it.)

    Drain potatoes, put back into pot, and add milk, butter, salt, and pepper, and mash to your little heart’s content.

    Plate up the mashed potatoes, add the steak, cover the whole mess with gravy, and add some sort of veggie.  You know…so that it looks like you at least TRIED to make something healthy…

    ENJOY!

    Bonus Round:  How to care for your cast iron skillet

    • DO NOT put your skillet in a dishwasher.  Don’t even use soap to clean it.  Just clean with hot water and something slightly scrubby  (plasticky, not metally).  If you ignore this, the Skillet Gods will incur their wrath upon thee.  You have been warned.
    • If you have a cast iron skillet that is rusty and gross, or you find one at a garage sale or in your grandparents’ attic that is rusty and gross, just take it home, grab a 2-liter bottle of Coca Cola, and let the skillet soak in the Coke overnight.  The sody water will eat the rust off the pan!  After that, clean with hot water and something scrubby, and reseason your pan.  It will be fine.  JUST DON’T PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER.  Ugh.
    • The nonsticky goodness of cast iron skillets is made of cooked-on crud and grease.  Layers and layers and layers of cooked-on crud and grease.  So yes, it’s kinda gross when you think about it, but think about the FLAVOR!  (Which is why you should use your cast iron skillet to cook BACON!  Always!)
    • Cast Iron Skillet Cleaning Advice From Demigod Alton Brown:  “To clean the skillet, return it to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 tablespoon kosher salt.  Grab a wad of paper towels with your tongs and use them to scrub the salt around the skillet until the salt and the towels are are black and the pan is slick as a mambo band.  Kill the heat.  Dump the salt.  Let the pan cool.  Wipe with clean paper towels and store.  If your skillet has a good cure, odds are you’ll never have to use water on it.”

    There.  Now go forth and cook something delicious!