Summer Corn Chowder

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My years of living in New England made me a chowda lover. In addition to the regional cuisine, I had a roommate who was obsessed with the dish, especially corn chowder.

Now that summer is here I am taking advantage of all the fresh beautiful produce out there. This afternoon I picked up corn, potatoes, and bacon for the soul purpose of transforming them to soup.


I also love any reason to use my Staub coquette.


The soup is really easy to prepare once all the chopping is complete.

SUMMER CORN CHOWDER
5 ears fresh Corn
3 Potatoes
1 sweet Onion
5 strips Bacon
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 stick Butter
2 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
2 quarts Chicken Stock
1 cup Greek Yogurt
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Cheese and Scallions to garnish, optional

  1. Prep the corn, potatoes, and onions. Strip the corn from the cob, using either a knife or corn stripper. Dice the onion to a medium chop, and peel and cube the potatoes into one inch pieces.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, render the bacon. Once browned, remove the strips, leaving the grease.
  3. Sauté the onions until soft and starting to brown. Add corn, flour, and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, about two more minutes until ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Add chicken stock and potatoes. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 25 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.
  5. Ladel out about 2-3 cups of soup, process in a blender until smooth and creamy. Mix in to the rest of the soup.
  6. Chop the bacon and add to the soup. Adjust seasoning to taste preference. Serve with cheese, scallions, and fresh ground pepper, if desired.


  
  

Baked Potato Soup 



With winter coming to a close (hopefully) I decided to give baked potato soup a whirl. Whenever I go to Houlihan’s it is my favorite soup to order but for some reason I never thought to make it.

I looked up some recipes but I was not totally sold on anyone in particular so I modified and came up with my own.

In all honestly I needed an excuse to use the grill press that I bought as my first employee purchase from Sur La Table.



To make the soup I cooked about 11 slices of thick cut applewood smoked bacon and I reserved about a quarter cup of the bacon grease. I chopped one small yellow onion and threw in some garlic, seasoning the mixture with salt-and-pepper. After the onions got soft I added a few tablespoons of flour and started to create a roux. 

I then added 32 ounces of chicken broth and six chopped and peeled russet potatoes. I let the mixture boil then simmer about half an hour until the potatoes were soft. I then added a cup of warm milk (I was scared cold milk would curdle) and adjusted the seasonings. The soup definitely needed more salt because I forgot how much the potatoes absorb. I also added about a cup of chopped scallions and then my crumbled bacon which I had reserved on the side. That was pretty much it and it was really only about an hour for the whole process.

To serve I just added a little bit more scallion and shredded cheddar. So yummy and boyfriend approved. ☺️



Quick Birthday Brunch

what's cooking

My boyfriend’s birthday celebration weekend went beyond Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake. I also surprised him Saturday morning with a quick brunch for two. The whole meal took less than an hour to prepare, as it utilized a mix of from-scratch and pre-made ingredients. And all this was done as he was still snoozing away.

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On the Menu:
Scrambled Egg Muffins
Bacon Hearts
Banana Berry Smoothie
Sea Salt Caramel Blondies
Fresh Fruit
Coffee

For the Egg Muffins:
I lowered the the oven temperature to 350 degrees (it had been at 400 degrees for the bacon). I beat about four eggs and mixed in 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. I sprayed a few molds in my muffin tin (I did not need all twelve molds), and filled each about halfway with the egg mixture. Because of how much eggs leaven when they bake, it was important not to overfill the tin, even though they eggs collapsed a bit after baking. The eggs baked for about 20 minutes, until they were just starting to turn golden and were firm in the center (use a toothpick or knife to check – if it comes out clean, the eggs are done). What is great about this method is that you have portion control and you can play around with ingredients in your eggs.

For the Bacon Hearts:
Since David’s birthday is just after Valentine’s Day, Pinterest and the blogosphere were full of cute recipes. I found this one at The Paper Mama. I did deviate from her recipe slightly, by brushing the bacon with some maple syrup and brown sugar for a hint of sweetness.

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For the Banana Berry Smoothies:
I love smoothies. I have one almost every day for breakfast. I usually mix in chia seeds and greens powder, such as Green Vibrance, but for this brunch, I kept it simple. I mixed a cup of frozen berries, a cup of frozen bananas, a cup of berry juice, in this case I used Tropicana Farmstand Pomegranate Blueberry, and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. I blended it all in my blender until smooth, about one minute.

For the rest:
The rest of the menu was pretty much ready-made items. The blondies were Dancing Deer brand that I bought on sale at work, and I cut them in to smaller pieces, we also had clementines, and coffee was made in my Keurig.

“Breakfast” Grilled Cheese

chef's journalThis is a pretty simple and quick breakfast that you may make as little or as much of as you like. In this case, I used about 1/2 cup of pancake batter (from an add-water mix), two slices American cheese, and 2 slices bacon. I first cooked the bacon and reserved a little grease. I divided the batter for form three pancakes. Upon flipping over the pancakes, I added cheese to two cakes. Finally, I stacked up the pancakes with a slice of bacon between each stack (cut in half so it would cover the full pancake. A little messy for cooking, but damn tasty!

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Caramelized Onion and Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Another reason I love fall…mashed potatoes! True, you can enjoy them any time of year, but there is something particularly enjoyable about this comfort food in the colder months. When I used to cater, the company I worked for had a caramelized onion mashed potato that guests loved. I developed my own version, cutting back on the butter and cream and instead using BACON. This is one of my favorite fall side dishes, I made them for Thanksgiving last year and have served them at multiple dinner and dinner parties. Guests are hardly ever disappointed.

It’s hard for me to give you an exact recipe as I always wing this one, but I think I have pared it down for you to try and replicate in your own kitchens.

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CARAMELIZED ONION AND BACON MASHED POTATOES
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 ounces thick cut maple bacon, or any thick cut bacon
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until fork-tender, drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a nonstick skillet, remove from heat when done. Using a set of tongs or a fork, remove the pieces and drain on a paper towel, reserving the bacon grease. Once cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon into pieces and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat back on the skillet with the bacon grease and add onions. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until browned, constantly moving the onions around, whether by hand flipping or with a spoon, careful not to burn.
  4. Add sugar to the onions and saute until sugar is incorporated and mixture is almost syrupy – the added sweetness is important to the dish. Remove from heat and set aside with bacon crumbles.
  5. Add milk, butter, and more salt and pepper to large sauce pan. Heat until butter is melted. Add potatoes and using a potato masher, start mashing by hand. Texture should have some pieces of potato – the desired effect is more rustic than whipped. Mix in bacon and onions, adjust seasonings as desired.
  6. Potatoes can be served immediately or cooled down and refrigerated. When reheating, additional milk may be needed to reconstitute potatoes to desired texture.

Remember this recipe is not an exact science – play around with more bacon, less bacon, more potatoes, more liquid, etc.

Late Night Snacks: Open Faced Bacon Grilled Cheese

It’s been mentioned a million times, my favorite food is cheese. There are always odds and ends in my fridge, thanks to my obsession with Maywood Marketplace, and now my employment with Whole Foods Market. I also usually have bacon in my fridge or freezer, both because I believe its effects on men in the art of seduction, and because it’s such a tasty, versatile ingredient.

Because of my cholesterol raising refrigerator stockpile, I’m usually prepared to put together a tasty late night snack. You can put together a pretty tasty grilled cheese sandwich with minimal effort by using your oven and not your frying pan – less mess to worry about in the morning.

Oven Baked Open Faced Grilled Cheese
Prepare bacon using your broiler setting. Arrange slices in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet (you can use parchment paper or aluminum foil). I like to brush the bacon with a bit of brown sugar and maple syrup to balance out the saltines of both the bacon and the cheese. Broil on low about 10 minutes or to your desired crispiness. Remember, you will be baking it once more for sandwiches, so you might want to leave it a bit chewier than normal as it will crisp up during the baking process. Meanwhile, spread a thin layer of butter on one side of each slice of bread you will be using, probably about a teaspooon per slice. As for cheese, I like to grate odds and ends of whatever is in my fridge that will melt well – I’ve used gouda, emmentaler, cheddar, manchego, robusto, UnieKaas, fontina, etc. When you’re ready, set the oven to 350 degrees, arrange bacon in a single layer on the dry, non-buttered side of the bread, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake sandwiches in the oven about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Eat open faced with a knife and fork, or just close those puppies up and enjoy as normal.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Perhaps a phrase you hear few people utter, but Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable. I feel they get a bad rap because folks just don’t know how to prepare them properly. Boiled and steamed, they are nasty. Baked, roasted, sauteed, etc., methods that incorporate flavor while maintaining a nice bite, those are the ways you should enjoy them.

Last night I came up with a quick and easy recipe that only utilized five ingredients and only took about 10 minutes to prep. Even better, under 150 calories per serving!

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON

Makes 4 servings
1 12 oz. bag Brussels sprouts
8 strips bacon, raw
2 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
Ground nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Layer strips of bacon into one equal stack. Cut into small squares, about 1/2 in in size. Place in bowl.
  3. Wash sprouts, dry thoroughly, and cut in halves. Place in bowl over bacon.
  4. Add olive oil and seasonings, mix ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Line a small baking sheet with either parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spread out sprouts in one layer. Roast until sprouts are slightly brown and semi-tender, about 1 hour.

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