Friday, May 30, 2014

Summertime Cooking with Epicurean Butter: Grilled Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic and Herb Croutons

Last November I had the pleasure of cooking with and reviewing some of Epicurean Butter's compound butter flavors. I really like using them because of their ability to elevate the simplest of dishes to gourmet status with minimal effort. I can honestly say that all of their flavors are exceptionally good. 

Probably like many of you, I have been making simple compound butters on my own for years. They are both easy to make and delicious, but on occasion I run into the problem of not having all the ingredients on hand to make a butter that would complement the dish I am making. Then it is off to the store to pick up my desired ingredients and $50.00 worth of things that I didn't realize I needed when I left the house. I am famous for that. I like it that Epicurean has already done the shopping for me.

Back in November it wasn't an easy decision which one of Epicurean's 14 flavors to use, but I chose their Chili Lime flavored butter in one of my favorite Tex-Mex dishes, pechugas de pollo. It really blew me away how great this dish was with just a couple of ingredients.  All I did was lightly season a couple of chicken breasts, seared them in my cast iron pan and added a dollop of butter on top to finish and BOOM, in 20 minutes dinner was ready.

Epicurean recently sent me some more of their butter and asked me to see what type of summertime grilling recipes I could come up with. Since we grill around here come rain, shine, snow, sleet or hail, I was up for the challenge, eventually deciding to work on something super simple that could be done on the fly after work.

So I started thinking that there isn't much I like more on a hot summer evening than a big salad. I then decided to reinvent my favorite Caesar by grilling the components and improving the flavor of the croutons with some of Epicurean's roasted garlic and herb butter. The resulting dish turned out to be smoky, flavorful and a great new way to think of this popular salad. I know once you try it, you'll love it.

If you'd like to make this recipe exactly as written and aren't quite sure where to buy Epicurean Butter, please click here to find out more information about this product including retail locations and how to order it online. These butters are readily available here in Colorado at King Soopers and Whole foods.  

  Grilled Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic and Herb Croutons

3 tablespoons Epicurean Roasted Garlic and Herb butter, softened
4 - 1" thick slices of French or Italian style bread (day old if possible)
1 large head romaine lettuce, outside leaves removed, rinsed and dried, then cut in half if desired
Homemade Caesar dressing (for my recipe click here) or your favorite vinaigrette
2 tablespoons shaved or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat grill to high.

Spread butter evenly on both sides of each slice of bread. Slice in half lengthwise, then in thirds across. If pieces are small enough to fall through the grill, thread them on skewers or toothpicks; set aside.

Spray the romaine lightly with non-stick cooking spray on all sides. Place the lettuce and croutons on the hot grill. Watching very carefully and turning often, grill them  until they are golden brown around the edges and the croutons are crunchy on all sides. This will only take a few minutes depending on how hot your grill is, so don't get distracted or walk off because they burn quickly. If the croutons are brown but still soft, move them towards the outside of the dry out. This can also be done in a low oven too.

Once cooked, remove lettuce and croutons from the grill and transfer to a cool surface. Once cooled, either chop the lettuce or cut it in half lengthwise. If chopped, toss with croutons and dressing and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, or drizzle lettuce halves with croutons, dressing and cheese. Serve.

Makes 2 large salads

Friday, May 23, 2014

#mixitup2014: Spiked Peach Iced Tea

I've been doing some thinking this afternoon, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't write about cocktails nearly enough. Since I am two thirds of the way through a very strong one right now, it actually seems like a very good idea to test them much more often.

I don't usually drink alone in the middle of the afternoon mind you, but when the social media coordinator at asked if I'd like to join in on a virtual cocktail party with some other bloggers, it gave me a good excuse to do some daytime drinking. Hey, it's five o'clock somewhere.

This party was organized to bring attention to the Mix Master event at The Aria Hotel which was part of Bon Appetit's 8th annual Uncork'd celebration. During the four day festival, which ran from May 8 through the 11th, activities took place at several of the hotels and restaurants within the city and were hosted and attended by a who's who of the culinary world.

On May 9th at the Aria Lobby Bar, master bartender and mixology expert, Craig Schoettler hosted the Mix Master event. During this event he gave attendees a crash course in bartending by demonstrating the Aria's signature drinks before breaking participants into teams and having them create their own signature cocktails. The winners' then had their drink featured on the Lobby Bar menu.

Originally the request went out for me to blog about my favorite "go to" drink (alcoholic or not). This is like asking me which child I love the most. I just can't decide. I love all sorts of cocktails. I guess my favorite go to, knee jerk order at a bar has to be a vodka tonic with lemon. I love a cold lager with Indian food. A little Tex-Mex food screams for a margarita or paloma. Sunday brunch, has to be a mimosa or a bellini, and afternoon tea calls for a champagne cocktail. Finally, a late night around a crackling fire means a Drambuie neat or a Bailey's and coffee. See what I mean? It all depends on the circumstances.

So I tried my best to narrow it down. Since summer is around the corner, I'm going to focus on my favorite hot weather, sitting around the pool refreshments. I've already posted about my love for the paloma, the lemon ginger cooler, the strawberry prosecco float, and the cherry limeade skinny-tini, so I decided that I needed to come up with another hot weather refreshment to cool everyone down.

Well, for this Texas girl, nothing says refreshment like a big old glass of iced tea. As Truvy from Steel Magnolias would say, "It's the house wine of the south." Summer just isn't summer without a big pitcher of tea on the kitchen countertop at all times. So this whole idea started from there.

But what should I flavor mine with? Oh the possibilities! I thought about spiking my tea with fresh mint and some white creme de menthe, maybe a little limoncello and lemon slices, a jigger of Chambord and a handful of raspberries, or even a touch of Fireball and a spash of milk for a spicy milk tea.

After much deliberation I finally decided on my favorite (at the moment), some peach schnapps and as many fresh peach slices as you can fit in the glass. Not only is this drink really a great cool down on a hot day, but those macerated peach slices in the glass are more than delicious.

Since I'm on a roll and kind of enjoying this alcoholic iced beverage thing, I think I'll start working on some coffee drinks just in case needs a blogger to help them promote the Mix Master event next year. I'll be sure to keep you updated on my progress.

Spiked Peach Iced Tea

I have to be really honest here and say that in the interest of blog research I tried making this cocktail with Firefly Sweet Tea flavored vodka. As much as I really wanted to like it, I am sad to report that it just didn't have the flavor that I was looking for. In my humble opinion, skip the flavored vodka and brew your own tea. You just can't beat the real stuff.

1 black tea bag
1/2 cup boiling water
Sugar to taste, (I like 2 teaspoons), optional
1-1/2 ounces peach schnapps
1 ounce vodka, rum or bourbon, optional (if you are looking to grow a little hair on your chest)
Fresh peach slices (as many as you can get in the glass)

Place the tea bag in a cup and pour the boiling water over. Allow tea to steep for about 5 minutes or until it's good and strong, but not bitter. Remove the tea bag and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cool completely.

Place enough ice into a 16 ounce glass to fill about 2/3 full. Pour the cooled tea over the ice. Add the schnapps, vodka and peach slices; stir well. Add a splash of water or club soda if desired. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Something From Nothing #24: Cheese Quesadillas

When I was a kid I lived with my family in a middle class suburban community south of Houston known as Clear Lake City. Located right around the corner from NASA, most of this area's residents were from all over country and were most likely relocated here by either NASA or some related company.

As far as I knew there were at least two exceptions to this rule, my family and my school friend Linda's, who were all second generation Houstonians. My dad's family came from the great state of Oklahoma, while Linda's family on both sides were from Mexico.

Since we were both latchkey kids, more often than not we would walk home from school together and land up at one or the other's houses for a snack and maybe a little bit of backyard gymnastics before doing our homework. I don't really remember what we snacked on when we landed up at my house, but I sure do remember what we had at Linda's.

At her house the specialty was a folded corn tortilla stuffed with half a slice of American cheese and fried in a little bit of oil. This was my first experience with a quesadilla of any kind and I fell in love. A few years later, I discovered that they were also delicious made with flour tortillas and just about any kind of meat, cheese or vegetable you can imagine stuffed in between.

Well that was more than a few years ago and I have no idea whatever happened to Linda. I'm sure wherever she may be, she is probably still making people smile with her quesadillas. So Linda, if by some chance you are reading this, thanks so much for turning me on to this Mexican version of the grilled cheese. Of course, I probably also have you to blame for an extra ten pounds or so.

Cheese Quesadillas

Even though you can get really exotic with the fillings, my favorite quesadilla is just simply a tortilla with melted cheese inside. I like to start with this and add sides like guacamole (my favorite), sour cream, salsa, jalapenos and every now and then a little shredded lettuce and some chopped tomato when I'm in the mood for some health food.

2 - 8" tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a quesadilla blend, but feel free to use your favorite)

Heat a non-stick flat bottomed pan over medium high heat.

Place one tortilla into the hot pan and heat for just a few seconds. Flip over, sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over it.

Fold tortilla in half and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and slice into quarters. Serve as is or get all jiggy with it and add your favorite sides or mix ins.

Makes 2

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Saucy Mama's 2014 Recipe Contest and Giveaway: Honey Dijon Fried Chicken and Bacon Wafflewiches

Congratulations Carmen! You are my lucky Saucy Mama sauce winner. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please keep on the lookout for future giveaways!

I am proud to say that I am one of the 25 bloggers chosen by Saucy Mama to compete in their 2014 recipe contest. The winner of this challenge wins $1,000, a golden ticket, which gives you the opportunity to represent Saucy Mama in The World Food Championships in Las Vegas in November, and a $1,000 travel stipend.

Not only was I excited about participating in the recipe challenge and possibly winning this great prize, but I was also happy about getting to taste their sauces. I have worked with them in the past cooking with their delicious mustards, so when I saw a call for bloggers to try out their sauce products, I couldn't sign up quickly enough.

For this challenge, Barhyte Specialty Foods sent me 6 bottles of sauce which included Orange Habanero Wing Sauce, Jamacian Jerk Wing Sauce, Honey BBQ Wing Sauce, Hot Wing Sauce, Four Leaf Balsamic Vinaigrette and Marinade, and Honey Dijon Dressing.

They asked participants to try them and chose at least one to use in an original recipe. Even though they are all really great, the moment I tasted the Honey BBQ Wing Sauce and the Honey Dijon Dressing the wheels in my head started turning. Since I liked both the sauces, I decided to do my best to incorporate both of them in my recipe.

My next consideration was to decide what type of dish I was going to make. We were asked by Saucy Mama that our recipe fall into one of the WFC categories of Burger, Bacon, Pasta, Sandwich, Seafood, or Cheese.

For some reason I just kept coming back to the sandwich category. I love a good sandwich. Who doesn't for that matter? A hand held meal is something we all enjoy at one time or another. So I've been working like a fiend for the last couple of days trying to put together a recipe that has bold flavors and textures with just a hint of comfort that does these sauces justice.

You might recall it wasn't that long ago that I wrote a post about my love for chicken and waffles. In the end it was this post that was my inspiration for my recipe. Sweet, salty, juicy and peppery, my wafflewich really has it all. The crispy cheesy waffles with the moist, slightly sweet honey Dijon breaded chicken tenders, are the perfect base for the spicy, smoky sweet mayonnaise, salty bacon, tangy olives, juicy tomatoes and of course the peppery baby arugula. Pretty great if I do say so myself.

So here it is, my official entry into Saucy Mama's 2014 Recipe Contest. If you'd like to check out what the other 24 talented bloggers come up with, please click here for links to their sites. Even if mine isn't chosen as the winner one thing is for sure, I've actually already won because I get to enjoy these great sauces all summer long.

Honey Dijon Fried Chicken and Bacon Wafflewiches

8 slices thick bacon
8 medium size chicken tenders (approximately 1-1/2 pounds)
1/3 cup Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing
1-1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Saucy Mama Honey BBQ Wing Sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers plus 1 chipotle pepper finely minced
2-1/4 all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus up to 3 more cups for frying chicken tenders
1 egg, beaten
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (I used vintage white cheddar)
3 rounded tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
3 medium size green onions, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 rounded tablespoons sliced large green pimento stuffed olives (or hamburger dill slices)
2 medium size juicy, ripe tomatoes (heirloom if possible)
2 cups lightly packed baby arugula

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place bacon rashers side by side on a jelly roll pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake until it has reached desired doneness. I like mine just shy of crispy so mine took about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drain on paper towels and set aside.

While bacon is cooking, place chicken tenders in a medium size bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt then pour the Saucy mama Honey Mustard dressing over the top. Toss to coat, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Place mayonnaise, Saucy Mama Honey BBQ Wing Sauce, adobo and chopped chipotle pepper in a small bowl; mix well, cover and set aside.

Sift 1-1/4 cup of the flour, the remaining salt and baking powder together and place in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and egg. While stirring vigorously, slowly add the liquid ingredients into the dry. Once a smooth batter is formed, fold in the cheeses, onions and black pepper; set aside.

Preheat a non-stick waffle iron. Once the waffle iron is good and hot, lightly spray it with non-stick cooking spray before pouring a little over 1/4 cup of the batter onto each side, spreading it out towards the edges just a bit to give your finished waffles a good shape. Close the lid and cook until the ready light on your iron comes on (my waffles baked about 3 minutes). Transfer cooked waffles to a cooling rack which is set on top of a cookie sheet. Place in a warm oven until ready to use.

Place a medium size frying pan (I love my cast iron pan for this) with enough oil so that it comes about 1/2" up the sides of the pan, over medium high heat. Preheat until oil sizzles when a bit of the breading from the chicken is dropped into it.

Pour the remaining 1 cup flour onto a plate. Taking one tender at a time, shake off any excess dressing before dredging in the flour. Place on a separate plate and continue with the remaining tenders. Just before placing them in the preheated hot oil to cook, dredge one more time if they appear to be sticky.

Carefully lower tenders into the hot oil (they should make a sizzling sound) being careful not to overcrowd. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on the first side, turn over and cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes on the other, or until they are cooked through and juices run clear. Due to the honey in the dressing, the tenders may take on a darker appearance once they are done. Don't worry as this adds a wonderful depth of flavor to this sandwich. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

To assemble the wafflewiches, slather one side (this will become the insides of the wafflewiches) with a good dollop of the spicy honey bbq mayonnaise mixture. Top one half of the waffles with a couple of the chicken tenders, followed by 2 slices of the bacon, then two slices of tomato each, equal amounts of the olives, 1/2 cup of the arugula and finally the remaining waffles to close the sandwich. Makes 4 wafflewiches.

Serve warm.

Saucy Mama has given me 3 bottles of their wing sauces to give away to one of my readers. I promise you are really going to love them. If you'd like to throw your name in the hat to win this giveaway, just leave me a comment here, or on Facebook (if you don't have Google+ and are unable to comment here) and you are entered. If you'd like extra entries, you can "Like" Savoury Table on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, on Pinterest or Google+ by clicking on the buttons at the top right of this page.

You can also "Like" Saucy Mama on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Pinterest by clicking on the links. Just be sure and leave separate comments stating your entries and make sure I have a contact link for you. In one week, that's Wednesday, May 14th at noon mountain time, I'll draw a winner. Good luck!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cooking For Fun: Asparagus Cheese Tart

Time has really gotten away from me lately. It seems like everytime I turn around there is some sort of deadline looming that I need to attend to. Between putting these fires out as they pop up and tending to my everyday chores, little time has been left for my duties here.

Since my calendar on this beautiful Sunday is clear, it is the perfect opportunity for me to cook a little something for the pure enjoyment of it. Something that doesn't have to contain any qualifying ingredients or fit into any time constraints. Just whatever I have a craving for, with as many ingredients as I like.

It just so happens that I have had a bundle of asparagus in the fridge for a couple of days now. The stalks are fresh and beautiful and just the right size in diameter. Personally I don't really care for the super thin asparagus that is everywhere in the early spring. It cooks too quickly and turns limp as soon as it is heated through.

I like to wait for the stalks that are about the size of my pinkie finger. Any bigger and they are sometimes woody and tough, but at this time of year they are just right and I wouldn't want to waste a single bite. With these factors in consideration I decided to finally put a pan to use that I bought a couple of months ago and make an asparagus and cheese tart.

Kind of a kissing cousin to the strata I posted last time, it is different in the fact that it is a bit thinner and sits atop a flaky shortcrust base. Best of all it can be baked ahead and eaten at room temperature at your leisure, like after a long day of watching Jane Austen movies and swinging in the hammock.

Asparagus Cheese Tart

1 recipe herbed pastry crust (click here for a link to the recipe)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 green onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound of asparagus, ends snapped off so the stalks are just a bit shorter than the width of the pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place pastry crust in a flan pan with a removable bottom or a pie pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Press crust gently against the bottom and sides of the pan. Lay a sheet of foil over the pastry and place beans or pie weights on top. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.

While the pastry crust is baking, place eggs, whipping cream, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Whisk until the eggs are frothy; set aside.

Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle with the cheeses and onion. Gently pour the egg mixture over the cheese and onion. Place the asparagus side by side on top of the egg mixture.

Place in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the egg is golden brown and puffy. Remove and eat while hot or at room temperature.