(Happy-Go-Lucky Memoirs of a Foodie and her Peeps)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brown Bread in a Can

What the eff am I talking about, you say?  If you're from New England, brown bread in a can is apparently some kind of old tradition.  I grew up in New England and still live here now, yet I had never had it until this weekend.  And I thought it was high time that I finally partook of this foodstuff.  So, what is it?  Just what it sounds like....a loaf of brown bread that comes, well, in a can.


It sounds disturbing, I agree, but truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  First off, there weren't nearly as many ingredients as I would have expected from something coming out of a can, and to boot, they were all completely identifiable:


Preparation, of course, is incredibly straighforward-- simply open the can on both ends, push the bread out, slice and eat.  You can also heat it up or slice and toast it (easy multi-method directions are all on the back of the can).  I opted for the heat it up in the oven technique, which I will illustrate here with a series of photos....






See that trash can in the background?  For a while, I was worried that that's
exactly where this loaf of bread truly belonged.  Lol.  But I was wrong.  :)


What did I end up with?  A nice little loaf of moist, strongly molasses flavored (albeit can shaped) bread.  It was tasty and perfectly edible all on it's own, but I also opted to try it with strawberry jam....yum.



Believe it or not, I consider this experiment a success, and I would actually recommend that people try this product....if for no other reason than the fun factor and/or pure nostalgic value.  =)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Technique (Cambridge, MA)

Last week, we went to Technique, the signature restaurant of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Cambridge, MA.  The attraction here, other than pure foodventuring, is that you can get a three-course dinner for $12 per person (yes, twelve dollars, that's not a typo)....the catch being only that the meal is prepared by the students.  As it says on their website, they present "simple, elegant menus inspired by the classic techniques of fine cookery and prepared with the finest ingredients culled from high quality, sustainable sources."  Due to the quality-to-price ratio, reservations for this venue are hard to come by, and must be booked well in advance.  In fact, we made our reservation well over two months ago.  This is how our experience went....

First off, a few shots of the how the place looks:





Cool metal-bound menus.
We started off with the requisite rolls and butter (rolls that were being freshly baked right in sight of the dining room):


Next, we ordered our dinner, including a nice glass of Merlot for me (only $6) and a good Porter for Hubby (only $4).


Here is what we ate:

Hubby's appetizer - Shrimp Risotto using fine herb salad and preserved lemon.

My appetizer - Grilled Fruits & Arugula Salad with crispy prosciutto, shaved parmesan
cheese, served with a champagne vinaigrette dressing.

Hubby's entrée - Filet Mignon, Tomato Hollandaise served with housemade fries,
roasted zucchini and tomato salad.

My entrée - Lamb Loin served with english pea puree, baby seasonal vegetables,
asparagus, mint chimichurri sauce.

Hubby's dessert - Salted Caramel Pot De Crème with chantilly cream and almond sable cookie.

My dessert - Classic Creamy Cheesecake with strawberry-rhubarb compote and cocoa sauce.

This was a good meal.

The service wasn't "all that."  The waiters and waitresses were just culinary students who would, quite frankly, rather be in the kitchen over serving customers.  Some of them were professional and confident (obviously showing that they had waited before), and others were awkward and forgetful.  This isn't to say the waiters and waitresses were bad, just amusingly as can be expected in this environment.  It actually annoyed me to hear other diners being rude to them and overly demanding of them.

As for the food, my initial impression (particularly of the main course) was that the portions were too small.  But when you consider the entirety of the meal as a whole, it all turned out to be just the right size.  Added up, it left you feeling completely satisfied, but not stuffed like you would feel departing any other typical American restaurant.  And the flavors were clean and well-balanced.

This restaurant's goal is to show off what they have taught these young aspiring chefs, and they did so quite well.  For $12.00, the equivalent of what most downtown Boston workers pay for a quick lunch every day, one certainly can't go wrong with this borderline gourmet fare.  We will certainly hit this place up again, and suggest that you check it out, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro (Boston, MA)

Today, many thanks to my friend Jen at EcoScribe, I was treated to a lovely meal at Les Zygomates.  Because I ate two dishes for the first time in my life at this business lunch, I thought I'd write about it.

We started out with some nice French bread with butter that was better than you'd get at the average American restaurant.

Next, was a Scallop Ceviche.  I have never been a huge fan of scallops.  It's not that I dislike them, or that I wouldn't keep trying them, but I have only ever had them prepared in various cooked fashions....and I always just felt "meh" about it.  Perhaps I've never had them cooked correctly, I don't know.  But this ceviche was pretty darn good.  It was made with red onions, cilantro, garlic and I think lime (or maybe lemon) juice.  I only tried one piece, but it was good and I definitely plan to explore this are of food more.  I should have taken a picture of it.  My bad.

Next up was the main course....my first ever Cassoulet.  Frankly, seeing this dish on the menu was why I chose this restaurant from the few that Jen suggested.  I wanted to try it that much.

Photo credit goes to Jen, whose cell phone camera took a better shot than mine did.

Doesn't that look great?  The description on the menu said "Coco Tarbais Beans, Pork Belly, Garlic Sausage, Duck Confit, Braised Pork."  How could one resist that combination of meats!  As you can see, there were some seasoned croutons thrown on top, too.  It was served in a cute little Le Creuset pot, and it was delicious.  Now I am going to have to find a recipe and try to make my own sometime.  Mmmmmm.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chocolate-Topped Peanut Butter-Bacon Bars

What did you make for Super Bowl Sunday?  We made a recipe that Hubby found on the Betty Crocker website: Chocolate-Topped Peanut Butter-Bacon Bars.  I don't know what exactly he was Googling for, but this is where he landed.  :)

Yes, you read it right.  Chocolate + Peanut Butter + Bacon.  Why not.  Believe it, they make a lovely combination....and bonus, this recipe is pretty darn easy to put together.
  

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 10 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the cookie mix, oil, maple syrup and egg until a soft dough forms.
  3. Reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon for garnish.
  4. Stir the remaining bacon and peanuts into the dough and then press the dough evenly into the greased pan.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, and return it to the oven for 1 minute.
  7. Remove it from the oven and immediately spread the chocolate out over the top and then sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of bacon over the melted chocolate.
  8. Cool completely, about 1 hour or until chocolate is set, and then cut into squares of your desired size.
  9. Keep any leftover bars in the refrigerator (they do contain meat, after all).

REVIEW:

It's certainly an odd combination, and not one that many people would think of, but we liked these.  Of course, we are bacon fanatics and also love weird foods, but even the friends whose Super Bowl party we brought them to liked them (they ate 2 or 3 bars each, I think).  One even commented that it was a perfect combination of salty bacon and sweet peanut butter creaminess, and that the hardened chocolate gave just the right snap on top.  I personally didn't think that the peanut butter flavor came through strongly enough, and so if we make these again, perhaps I will add some actual peanut butter, or make the bars/brownies from scratch rather than using the bagged mix, so as to get a better flavor profile.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mojo Shrimp (a Glorious One-Pot Meal)


Hubby and I have a cookbook called "Glorious One-Pot Meals" that we take a recipe from every so often.  Earlier this week, we wanted to use up some shrimp that we've had sitting in the freezer for a while, so we cracked open the book and Hubby chose this recipe:

Click on the image to zoom in, or go to https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos?tab=mq#photos/118163428678152568649/albums/5662655903389895009/5705282154228916498
and click on "Options" to download the full-size photo.

On Wednesday, while I was at a job interview after work (a job which I ended up getting - woohooo!), Hubby headed home and made dinner.  As he described it: "Strangest combination of ingredients I've ever put in a single dish. Here's hoping it tastes as good as it should!"


We probably overcooked it a tad, as we tend to do with these one-pot meals, and it certainly was an odd melange, but it tasted really good.  It was healthy, light, refreshing, interesting, and didn't make you feel stuffed or gross afterwards.  I would definitely do this one again.




The Best Hot Chocolate

If you've ever been to Europe, you know that American "hot cocoa" blows. I put the words in quotes because 99% of what you get when you order hot cocoa or hot chocolate in the United States consists of some powdery substance that is combined with other wholly unnecessary chemical compounds, dissolved into water, and what you end up with is far from how things should be. I unknowingly began to discover the superiority of European chocolaty beverages many years ago when I randomly decided to melt a Hershey's Kiss into my otherwise completely suck-ass cup of chocolate water that I had purchased from Starbucks. We won't get into why I stepped foot into a Starbucks in the first place - it was a sin, I know, and I never need to do it again.

Anyways, in 2010, Hubby and I took a long-awaited trip to France and boy oh boy did we receive an education in food and beverage. Those folks do hot chocolate (and everything else) right! They take chocolate (real chocolate), melt it down and mix it into milk (not water), and the results are like nothing you have ever tasted here at home. It's no surprise, though, since literally everything we consumed in France, even cheap street food, was far superior to the most gourmet stuff you can obtain in the States.


Can you obtain these wonderful levels of hot chocolate outside of Europe? I am here today to tell you that you most certainly can.

Not far from where I live, there is a local chocolate maker called Taza, and they are doing things properly. You may recall my mentioning Taza in my posts for Impromptu Trail Mix and Chocolate in my Oatmeal. Check out their website to get all the info you need about them.

As I sit here sipping the cup of real hot chocolate that I just made with their products, I will tell you how it's done (and how it can be done with any real chocolate that you prefer)....the best part is that it's not difficult:

You will need:
  • a mug
  • a whisk
  • a good pan for heating the milk
  • a knife
  • a cutting board
  • milk
  • a Taza Chocolate Mexicano Disc (they make many delicious varieties/flavors)
  • sugar (optional)
First, measure out your milk.  You'll need 6-8 ounces, or a regular-sized mug full (I just use the mug to measure my milk, no need to dirty a measuring cup).  Put the milk in the pan and get it heating on the stove over low-medium heat.


While the milk is heating, take one chocolate disc (or approximately 1.33 ounces of your preferred chocolate) and chop it up into as small of pieces as you can.  If you feel like being really thorough, you can grate it.




By now, your milk should be starting to simmer.  When it just begins to boil, take it off the heat and add the chopped chocolate to it.  Whisk it together for about a minute or two until your drink comes together.  (I want to note here that it's important to not add the chocolate until the milk is hot.  I have tried doing this by adding the chocolate before heating the milk, thinking that it would melt as the milk heated up, but it just didn't work the same -- you'll just end up having a cup of warm milk with chunks of chocolate floating around in it.)





Now, pour it back into your mug and enjoy the most luxurious hot chocolate you've ever had.


Today, I happened to use a 70% dark chocolate disc, which for some people might not be sweet enough.  If that's the case for you, simply add a teaspoonful of sugar just as you would to a cup of coffee, and stir it in.



Look at the way this stuff coats the cup.  Isn't that the most wonderful thing you've ever seen?  Mmmmmm!


Now, go.....heat, drink and be merry....never having crappy American hot chocolate again.  :)