Whisk Wednesdays: Filet Mignon and Artichokes with Bearnaise Sauce

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Paul and I bought a used copy of Le Cordon Bleu at Home from Half Price Books a few months ago, and ever since we’ve been joking around about how we should do one lesson a week from the book until we’ve worked our way through the whole thing. Some would be review for us, some would be brand new skills, but we figured it would be the quickest way to learn enough to pull off cooking like a pro for our friends and family. So imagine my surprise when I visit Whisk and see that there’s an event, Whisk Wednesdays, dedicated to doing just that.

Filet Mignon with Bearnaise

This week’s dish was Coeur de Filet Henri IV (Filet mignons with artichokes and Berarnaise sauce). I was a little trepidatious because I’m not a huge fan of artichokes (and at $3 each, it would be an expensive failed experiment if we hated them). Rather than doing the full recipe of 6 crappy quality filets, we instead decided to just spring on 2 really good quality tenderloin cuts from Bluescreek.

I seared the steaks (and tried out the infrared searing burner on my new grill at the same time), and then set them aside to finish on a colder part of the grill. In the meantime, Paul was inside prepping the artichokes, and starting the sauce. We were right about the artichokes – I can’t believe there’s so much waste with a single vegetable. The sauce came along swimmingly, and emulsified with no problem. We threw some fries into the deep fryer instead of making them from scratch like the recipe suggested.

And then, after the steaks rested and we got everything plated up, we sat down to eat. Our impressions? The steak was amazing, as filet mignon usually is. Our only complaint with the Bearnaise is that we wish we had made more. I was completely right about eating artichokes – I don’t think we trimmed them correctly so what little I did eat made my throat scratchy, and I hated the stringy texture. I was a little peeved that I wasted some of the amazing Bearnaise by pouring it on those godawful artichokes. The fries were great dipped in the Bearnaise.

Next week uses artichokes again. :( Not sure how I’m going to get around that one, because I guarantee that an artichoke that doesn’t come out of a can won’t be passing through my lips again anytime soon. ;)

So if you have the book, join us in cooking from it each week! One more week of sauces, then we’re on to soups.

Taste and Create: The Spiced Life

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I’m really getting my Taste & Create entry in at the last minute, because tonight has truly been a comedy of errors. My partner for this round was Laura of The Spiced Life – I was extremely delayed in getting this done because I changed my mind about what I wanted to make about 5 times, finally settling on the Summer Blueberry Crumble Bars when I realized I didn’t have quite enough time left to pull off the multiple step lemon cake. :)

Summer Blueberry Crumble Bars

So, since I had the big dinner I had to prepare for Whisk Wednesdays (check back tomorrow to see what happens when we try to make Bernaise Sauce), I delegated and left it up to hubs to make dessert. Bad idea. I should have had him make the Bearnaise (since he is the king of sauces). Because he just up and forgot one of the most important ingredients in the crumble – the oats! After having a mini-meltdown, I decided to let it bake and see how it would come out – it’s not like I have enough ingredients left on hand to give it a second try, and the clock was tick tick ticking away.

So, my judgment of the dish isn’t accurate – it’s missing an integral component that I’m sure makes a huge difference in the final result (both with taste and texture). Having said that, I’m sure if I made it correctly it would be delicious – with the caveat that next time around, I’d cut down on the cinnamon – it was a little cloying (but then again, the oats may have tempered that as well). Also, I didn’t have quite enough blueberries so I went outside to the mulberry bush and used about a cup of them to the 2 cups of blueberries.

I still want to try her lemon cake one of these days. The pic on that entry is droolworthy. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what’s left of the bars (nay, let’s call it what my version is – a crumble) with some ice cream on top. I think it would be delicious in cheesecake ice cream. Check out her recipe, and don’t forget the oats!

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

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The recipe for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie is definitely a timely one, since I’m up to my armpits in berries of all sorts. So I was actually looking forward to giving this recipe for Mixed Berry Cobbler a try, to compare with my own recipe.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

So for the filling, I went for variety and used one cup each of strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, blackberries and raspberries – and let me just say, the bottom part tastes awesome. The jury is still out on the topping, though – I usually make my cobblers in a different way, with a very buttery topping that envelops the fruit rather than covers it. This one was a bit dry for my tastes, and didn’t keep well like my other recipe does. Nice for a one time experiment, but I think I’ll stick with my tried and true recipe next time. The recipe can be found in Dorie’s Baking From My Home to Yours and has been previously published online by Dorie at NPR.

Review: Hoover Grille

Update: Hoover Grille is now closed. A new restaurant, Bel-Lago Waterfront Bistro, is in its old location.

We’ve tried to go to Hoover Grille before during dinner time, but have always been faced with an impossibly long wait, so when we were able to go recently for lunch (and a very late lunch at that), we were surpised that even then there was an almost hour wait for an outside table. There’s a stunning view from this restaurant – it sits right on the Hoover Reservoir (off Sunbury Rd), and is one of the few waterfront restaurants in Columbus. So we were curious whether all of the long waits were for the scenery, or if the food itself is worthy of the crowds that this restaurant obviously gets. Instead of waiting for an outdoor table, we decided on one by the window, where we could still see the water, just without the cool breeze of outside.

The menu (at least at lunch time) is rather run-of-the-mill – we didn’t see any items on there that couldn’t be found at a number of other restaurants in town. The question is, how do their versions compare to others?

We started with an appetizer of Baked Stuffed Brie ($9.95), a smallish wheel of a rather mild brie that was topped with a balsamic dried fruit compote and served with sliced fruit and baguette. Because the brie was so mild, the strong flavors of the compote (very cinnamony) overwhelmed it a bit, so we ended up scraping a bit of it off. The baguette was completely unnecessary, and the brie was nice just scooped up with the apples and pears.

Baked Stuffed Brie

For an entree, I chose the Beer-Battered Fish and Chips ($15.95), a honkin’ huge slab of battered cod served with fries, tartar sauce and cole slaw. The fish tasted nice, was perfectly golden, but I found it a bit on the greasy side. The fries were great, and were sprinkled with a nice coarse sea salt. The rest of the platter was unexceptional.

Fish and Chips

I also got a side garden salad ($2.95 additional) with my entree, and was happily surprised to see that it was more topping than greens, the complete opposite of what one usually sees with a side salad. The veggies were fresh and it was a nice complement to my entree.

Side Garden Salad

My husband chose the Glazed Salmon ($17.95), which was grilled and glazed thickly with a ginger miso/teriyaki glaze, and served with basmati rice and veggies. The salmon was great, cooked correctly and still moist and juicy, but the dry rice took away from the dish and he ended up leaving most of it. The squash was well seasoned.

Glazed Salmon

He chose a Caesar side salad ($3.95 additional), which was well-dressed, but rather unremarkable. For the cost of the upcharge, we expected something a little less pedestrian.

Side Caesar Salad

Overall, I guess we just don’t get it. The food is good, not spectacular. The view is great, but you can get the same view for free at a picnic table a couple hundred feet away in the park. The food is definitely not a good value – our bill was over $50 for just a single appetizer and two entrees – at lunch time. Service was average at best. So where’s the appeal? Maybe if we had an expense account, we’d give it another try – but truth is, Hoover Grille is just a little too rich for our blood and we don’t feel the view is worth the cost of admission.

If you’d like to go: Hoover Grille, 170 N Sunbury Rd, Westerville, OH. 614.891.0200

Upper Deck@ Hoover Grill on Urbanspoon

Bookmarked Recipes: Boston Baked Beans

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One of my favorite food blogging events to participate in is the Bookmarked Recipes event. You all know I love being inspired by other bloggers – so much so that I do a pretty extensive round up each month of the recipes I’d like to try. Unfortunately, there are only so many days in a year so I don’t get to try every one I want. This is one that I up and tried almost immediately. It was a Cooks Illustrated recipe adapted by Bridget at The Way the Cookie Crumbles. As for the taste? Wonderful, except I probably would cook the franks a little less (or add them later) next time around. Time consuming, but worth it. :)

Boston Baked Beans with Franks

Boston Baked Beans
recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated by Bridget

CI note: The beans can be made ahead. After cooking, cool them to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Bridget note: I added 2 hot dogs, cut into bite-sized pieces, to the sautéing onions.

4 ounces salt pork, trimmed of rind and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 ounces bacon (2 slices), cut into ¼ -inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped fine
½ cup mild molasses
1 tablespoon mild molasses
1½ tablespoons brown mustard
1 pound dried small white beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
Table salt
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Ground black pepper

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Add salt pork and bacon to 8-quart Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and most fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add ½ cup molasses, mustard, beans, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and 9 cups water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pot and set in oven. Bake until beans are tender, about 4 hours, stirring once after 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to bake until liquid has thickened to syrupy consistency, 1 to 1½ hours longer. Remove beans from oven; stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Homegrown Gourmet #9: Chef’s Pasta Salad

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Homegrown Gourmet is a food blogging event that highlights local products and cuisine – the point is to interpret the theme in the most local way possible.

This month’s theme is pasta, and I took it to a whole other level by combining the best parts of a pasta salad and a chef’s salad by making a chef’s pasta salad using mostly local ingredients.

Chef's Pasta Salad

Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that I tossed together and adjusted by taste, so there’s no real recipe, so to speak. I will, however, give you the general gist of what I did, so you can try to replicate it yourself if so inclined.

But first, let me just highlight the local ingredients that went into this dish – grape tomatoes from Wish Well Farms, fresh mozzarella from Blue Jacket Cheese, pasta from Mrs. Miller’s, eggs from 2Silos, buttermilk from Smith Dairy, and lettuce mix from Bridgman Farms.

Most of it is prep work – before you start, quarter some grape tomatoes, dice up some fresh mozzarella and aged gouda, slice up some deli turkey, hard boil and quarter a few eggs, cook pasta to al dente, and prep up some Penzey’s Buttermilk Dressing according to directions on the jar. To assemble, toss all of the ingredients together with lettuce mix except dressing, and then add enough dressing to dress lightly but not drown the salad. Add Mild & Creamy Grey Poupon to taste and serve immediately (it doesn’t store well once it is dressed).

So refreshing on a hot summer night!

One Local Summer 2008 – Week 3

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Ah, another weekend, another edition of One Local Summer. This week was tough for me on an eating local level – since I missed the farmer’s markets last week, I didn’t really have many local veggies to work with, so I made do with some locally produced products along with some local meat I had frozen.

Ever since I’ve discovered that CaJohn’s has milder products that would appeal to non-chileheads like myself, I’ve been going nuts with John’s products, trying out his recipes and finding the ones I love. One of my new favorites is his chili recipe, which is easily (hands down) the best chili I’ve had in my life. Chunky, full of flavor, and is great all by its lonesome or served over rice. Even so, although most of the components (ground beef from OMC Farms, CaJohn’s Chili Seasoning, CaJohn’s Picante Sauce) are local, the garnishes and the beans in the chili are not. Unfortunately, it’s the closest thing I came to an all-local meal this week. You too can try this chili, even if you don’t live in Columbus or anywhere near the North Market, just visit his web site for more information about ordering what you need to make it.

Cajohn's CaBoom! Chili

Here’s the recipe, straight from his site:

CaBoom! Chili
International Fiery Food Challenge
1st Place Chile con Carne
2005 Gatlinburg, TN Winterfest Chili Cook-Off Champ

Brown & drain desired amount of meat For each pound of meat Stir in 3 Tablespoons of CaBoom! Chili Fixins’ and 1 cup of water. Mix well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1 jar of CaBoom! Picante Sauce for each pound of meat. The hotter the salsa, the hotter the chili! Simmer for 10 minutes and Enjoy!

Note: Texas Style chili has no beans, but if you like beans, add 1 small can of beans for each pound of meat prepared.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 6/21/08

Happy solstice, everyone! For better or worse, summer is finally here. :) Up at the crack of dawn again, and we made our way out to the North Market before 8am. It looks like strawberries are winding down (last week they’ll be available until fall from what I understand), and today I found these lovely raspberries at Rhoads – I got a couple of pints for salad and also to go into the lovely mixed berry cobbler I’ll be working on later today for Tuesdays with Dorie.

Raspberries

Since I didn’t go to the farmers markets last weekend, I was pretty much cleaned out of everything, so after getting raspberries, my first stop was at Toby Run to get my requisite pound of shiitakes. I’ve become quite the shiitake piggy lately, wanting that earthy flavor in nearly every meal. It was pure torture this past week trying to live shiitake-free (supermarket shiitakes just don’t cut it, they’re anything but fresh). And something else interesting I saw today but didn’t get were these garlic scapes from Toad Hill. Interesting in concept, but found that the last time I got them, I couldn’t find much to do with them other than making some really strong pesto.

I’ll be making a salad later with some lettuce mix I picked up at Bridgman Farms – no pic of the lettuce quite yet, but look at the varieties of lettuce in this mix! Wow, I haven’t even heard of some of these. Should be extremely tasty.

13 Lettuce Mix

In addition to the above mentioned stuff, I picked up some red leaf lettuce (to use later on burgers) from Toad Hill, some grape tomatoes from Wish Well Farms, and some pea shoots from Elizabeth Telling Farms.

We had a bit of a delay in leaving the North Market (Paul needed to pick a few things up), so by the time we finally made it to Worthington at 8:50ish, the parking situation was already impossible. Paul dropped me off and circled around for nearly a half an hour before finding a space (and by that time I was already done). I think (I hope!) it’s because of the Art Sale they had going on this weekend, I’d hate to think that this will be a weekly issue. Especially since some of my favorite farmers are at the Worthington Market.

The first thing I did was pick up a couple of quarts of the last strawberries from Crum’s. They looked good for the last of the harvest, and unlike most people, I’m not quite strawberried out yet. And root veggies are starting to make an appearance – like kohlrabi (which I didn’t get because I just harvested some from my garden) and these beets:

Beets

I can always measure the appearance of summer by the sighting of the first green onions at Two Crows. Today was no exception.

Green Onions

Next week there will be sour cherries. I’m so looking forward to it, I’ve got quite a few plans for preserving cherries this year. I picked up some more cheese curds from Blue Jacket Cheese, and then I had to hunt down Paul so we could make our way to the Clintonville market.

Clintonville was hoppin’ today, with some pretty long lines for I’m not sure what (never did make it down that far). Lots of strawberries to be had at Clintonville, and the first appearance of my beloved Snowville Creamery, where I bought some cream for processing later on (let’s just say that I’ve been inspired by Lisa to try my hand at making my own butter from cream. Some of those delicious fry pies from 2Silos, and then some baby turnips and English peas from Wayward Seed Farms.

English Peas

Why is it that something as simple as my weekend trips to the farmers markets bring me such great joy? I think Saturday mornings are the happiest I am all week, even more so than when I actually cook with what I got. Go figure.

After all that shopping, we got our okonomyaki fix on at ZenCha, and now we’re contemplating whether or not we’re going to grill tonight.

So what did you get at the farmers markets today?

Apples & Thyme: Sauerbraten

Apples & Thyme Logo

The Apples & Thyme food blogging event asks us to celebrate the influence of our mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen. Needless to say, my German Oma (great-grandmother) has had the most influence on my cooking – I spent the formative years of my life standing on a stool next to her and learning everything she did in the kitchen hands on. I cannot remember a time in my life where I didn’t help her in the kitchen in one form or another – when I was a toddler, it may have been as simple as snapping off the ends of the green beans for her. Later on, it was making the dough for kuchen or mixing up the meat for frikadelle.

Oma and Opa

One of the dishes that has always remained mysterious to me, though, is sauerbraten. She didn’t make it too often – I think because it was a multi-day, somewhat time consuming recipe. So, unfortunately, I don’t have her recipe. But through trial and error, I’ve found one that comes close. I followed a suggested modification to make it in a crock pot, and it came out beautifully. It was delicious served on a bed of home made spaetzle.

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten
recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com

2 c. cider vinegar
2 c. water
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 onions, diced
4 1/2 lbs. rump roast
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 c. crushed gingersnaps
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. sour cream

In large saucepan over medium heat, combine cider vinegar, water, brown sugar, cloves, allspice, salt, pepper, peppercorns, bay leaf, and onion. Heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles appear at edges, but do not boil.

Poke deep holes in roast and place in non-metal bowl. Pour vinegar mixture over roast. Cover and refrigerate for four days, turning once daily.

On morning of fifth day put the meat and marinade into the crockpot, and cook it on low for 8 hours or until meat is fall-apart tender. Remove the meat from the pot, and whisk the brown sugar, crushed gingersnaps and sour cream into the liquid. Put the meat back in and serve, preferably with spaetzle.

Frugal Fridays: Southwest Mac and Cheese

Frugal Fridays is a new food blogging event that challenges you to feed a family of four for one meal for under $10.00. Even though I sometimes spend big bucks on fancy ingredients, I’m feeling the pinch too when it comes to my dollars stretching at the supermarket. This was a dish I developed when I was first out on my own – it ends up being a well balanced meal (all the major food groups) that feeds a whole lot of people (more than 4, easily) for not that much money. Feel free to jazz it up any way you wish, I’m still changing it a bit here and there every time I make it. If you like, you can stretch it out even further by adding black beans, salsa, etc.

Southwest Mac and Cheese

Now, for the breakdown of the cost:

2 boxes of generic mac and cheese @ .50 each = $1.00
1 1/2 lbs. kielbasa (3 lb. package on discount for $4) = $2.00
1 green pepper @ 2/$1 = .50
1 onion (bag is .99 on sale) = .25
1 red pepper (on sale for $1.99/lb) = $1.00
1 stick butter (@ $1.99/lb) = .50
1/2 c. milk = .50
1 can corn = .50
Total cost of dish: $6.25

And the recipe:

Southwest Mac and Cheese

2 packages Kraft (or generic) macaroni and cheese, prepared according to package instructions
1 1/2 lbs. kielbasa, sliced and diced into quarters
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can (or thawed bag of frozen) corn, drained
olive oil
Penzey’s Fajita Seasoning
Penzey’s Southwest Seasoning

Put enough olive oil into a heated saute pan to coat bottom thinly, and then add peppers and onions and saute on medium high heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add kielbasa and saute for several minutes more, until peppers are softened and kielbasa is starting to brown. Add corn and prepared macaroni and cheese, and season to taste.