Salted Caramel Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

This summer I decided I was going ot take on baking . Franky, I sort of suck at it. I can’t make a cupcake. But I decided I would be patient and learn how to make delicious, delicious goodies. This recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies looked like a winner, mostly because I really wanted to eat them and they appear to be within reach for a relatively new baker.

Long story short, they turned out awesome. I’m not usually one to toot my own horn but they’re truly delicious. The prep time is pretty long on these when you combine all of the time for each layer. If you time it correctly you can do most of the prep for the next step while the  brownies are baking/cooling.

These have proven to be a hit with everyone I’ve forced them on (force being use very loosely here) and were well worth a little patience. I plan to try various recipes all Summer. The site I got the recipe from seems like a great resource. I think my baking adventures are off to a great start!

Original Recipe:here

-Claire

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

I’m a big fan of the deviled egg. I remember being a kid and watching my mom preparing  whole trays of them on Christmas morning; cutting, mixing the yolk and mayo, seasoning and eventually spooning it all into the whites knowing that my brother and I were waiting in the wings to steal “just a few” before dinner. These days it’s usually a given that I’ll make a tray for family parties and we’re constantly trying out new recipes to freshen things up. Chopped bacon, truffle salt, anchovies, Caesar dressing… everything is open game though some things work better than other.

Last week my friend Amy sent me the recipe for a guacamole deviled eggs… and despite a “mild” allergy to avocados I decided to throw caution to the wind and make a batch tonight. So as Claire worked her butt off making  a batch of Salted Caramel Brownies (which should be an entry to itself- I’m a dreadful excuse of a baker; luckily the little Chef takes full advantage of our Kitchenaid Mixer) I boiled a few eggs, peeled an avocado and got to work.

  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 clove minced raw garlic
  • cilantro, diced to taste

Boil the eggs while preparing your other ingredients. (I bring the water to a boil, let it go for a minute or two then remove the eggs from the heat and allow them to sit in the hot water, covered,  for 15 minutes or so before placing them in cold water to stop the cooking process)

Chop the avocado into manageable pieces, crush up the egg yolk and mix in the lime juice,  hot sauce,  minced garlic and diced cilantro and salt & pepper and mix until its an even consistency. Spoon (I usually use an icing gun) into egg whites and garnish with cilantro or diced avocado and enjoy!

Original recipe credit: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fat-guacamole-devils

-Shawn

Tod Mun Pla

Philadelphia has an amazingly diverse restaurant scene, little pockets of regional and international cuisine can be found all over the city if you know where to look, ranging in price from $1.75 for an amazing lamb kabob snack to skies the limit dinners. Why is it then that it’s so dang hard to find decent Thai in the city?

I’ve been craving it for the last few days, so Claire and I went on a little adventure today stopping off at Siam in Chinatown for a late lunch.  More than anything I was craving my favorite appetizer: Tod Mun Pla. Fish cakes seasoned with red curry and kaffir lime leaves that are usually served with a Thai sweet chili sauce and sliced fresh cucumber. $9 for five decent sized fish cakes was a bargain.

Our entree was a garlic and Thai basil fried duck plate. Good. Not great but tasty enough to justify my “let’s get Tod Mun Pla” excursion.

Siam Thai Cuisine-
Appetizer: 10/10
Entree: 6/10
Price: $

I did a bit of digging and found a recipe for the fish cakes; I’ll be attempting my own soon!

8 oz. fish paste
1/2 egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
5 snake beans/long beans (thinly sliced)
5 kaffir lime leaves (cut into fine thin strips)

-Shawn

Foie Gras and Sweetbread Sausage

Cooked Sausage

On page #149 of Ruhlman & Polycn’s indispensable “Charcuterie; the craft of salting, smoking & curing” is a recipe so calorically and financially irresponsible that it’s like a neon sign saying “you must try me”. Foie Gras and braised sweetbread sausage.

With foie gras prices hovering around $100/lb in Philadelphia and the recipe calling for exactly that it’s a sausage that the home foodie is not likely to experiment with. The recipe is also wildly complicated compared to other sausage recipes; diced Bacon, pork back fat, powdered milk, wild mushrooms fried in bacon fat and lean beef join herbs, spices, foie gras and braised sweetbreads. It’s sort of the “great white buffalo” of sausage myth. You might know a person who’s made it, but you’re probably never going to see it.

Luckily I do know someone who’s made it. Claire and I stop into a local fromagerie every few weeks to pick up tasty cheese, cured meats, stuffed olives or foie gras mousse and usually BS for a bit with the extremely knowledgeable staff while waiting in line. We were talking sausage making one day, and one of the staff sheepishly admitted he was about to attempt the foie/sweetbread sausage, just having bought a full lobe of the fatty duck liver and sweetbreads. I would never have been so bold as to ask to try it, but I did ask him to let me know how artery cloggingly decadent it was.

Weeks passed. No mention of the sausage until earlier this week when Claire and I wandered in to pick up some cheese. The young man greeted us, then headed out of the shop, returning a few minutes later with a ziplock bag containing a single sausage. “My girlfriend and I decided to eat less meat” he said, “not give it up entirely, but cut back. So since we talked about this a while back, I’m giving you guys one of the foie/sweetbread sausages to try. Let me know how you like it”.

Uncooked Foie Gras & Sweetbread Sausage

The link was gorgeous. Just the right size for the flavor; anything bigger would be too rich (both fiscally and flavor wise) to fully enjoy. Flecks of herbs and chunks of fat visible through the hog casing. He wrapped it up with the rest of our purchases and we headed home. I wasn’t able to cook it that night. It sat in my refrigerator another day or two before I had time to cook it; in this case poaching in a milk/vegetable stock until it reached ideal temperature and then put in an icebath to stop cooking. Watching it poach (so the watched pot wouldn’t boil) was pure food-porn. The fat from the foie gras coloring the stock a nice orange hue as it poached. Our whole kitchen smelled like duck liver and herbs… priceless.

Poaching the sausage in whole milk and vegetable stock.

Once I removed the sausage from the ice bath I put it in a ziplock baggie for tonight’s after work charcuterie snack and preserved the stock to use for a rice dish later this week. It would be a shame to waste all that amazing flavor once the sausage is long gone. Thanks again to our friend in the Italian Market for the hookup!

-Shawn

Dinner at Garces Trading Company

Claire and I joined Robert, Carmela and B4 tonight at Garces Trading Company (corner of Quince & Locust streets) to celebrate Claire’s recent graduation from SUNY Purchase. I’ve been apprehensive about going to Garces since it opened; the Chef/Owner seems very “man of the hour” since his (some would argue overexposed) turns on Food Tv’s IRON CHEF and THE NEXT IRON CHEF broadcasts. His properties in Philadelphia are multiplying at a rate that would make Steven Starr blush and his deal with Pennsylvania’s LCBO to have a “Wine and Spirits” package store inside of the Locust street location has caused more than a few raised eyebrows amongst Philadelphia restaurateurs and foodies.

But the question was: Do business practices have anything to do with enjoying a good meal? At what point does our contempt with “celebrity Chefs” make us sound as bitter as (our beloved) Anthony Bourdain? With that in mind, we showed up shortly after 5pm to take advantage of the dinner menu. We were seated right away; our table was easily two times bigger than our party needed but gave us room to situate ourselves with no pressure of “what if a bigger party comes in”. Our server greeted us right away and was pleasant and helpful as we settled ourselves and started going over a relatively small menu. As a consumer I’m someone who hates a big menu; too many choices mean too much decision making. Too many choices mean too many ingredients behind the velvet rope; when you offer six pages of options you have to supply for six pages of dishes. Garces menu was impressive right off the bat. A few charcuterie and cheese choices with ample explanation of flavor profiles, a few pasta dishes, a few pizzas, salads, soups and grill choices.

Charcuterie:
We started with “chef’s choice” of charcuterie and cheese. The house chorizo was spectacular; the spices came through strongly (instead of just “hot”) and the portions bigger than expected. Two cured hams accompanied it. This was my first of two complaints for the meal; each of the hams has a light drizzle of a very distinctive olive oil on them. As thinly as the meats were sliced and as subtle the flavor of the prosciutto was the olive oil was overkill and overpowered the taste of the second two meats. The cheeses were standard fair; a nice pungent blue paired with honeyed fruit (I didn’t ask what fruit) dip. A cows milk with fig and an otherwise mild cheese paired with roasted garlic dulce de leche. That’s right. GARLIC CARAMEL. It played well off of the cheese. And the bread we dipped in it. And off of our fingers. Truly the highlight of the charcuterie course.

I moved on to a soup- the Vichyssoise Chaude. Potato, leek, bay scallop, chive and bacon with a little black truffle. Holy christ. I’ve never had a warm vichyssoise before but this played out perfectly. The carmelized scallops (two smaller portions, but just the right flavor) were strongly evident in the potato leek broth; the truffle mainly added garnish but I thought I noticed a truffle aftertaste that could have come from oil or essence of truffle. The bacon was thick cut and pleasantly fatty. A perfect soup and the price was very moderate.

Entrees:
I went with the Funghi pizza; maitakes, royal trumpets, taleggio, & black truffles. I added duck confit to it for a little gamey kick. Great portion size for the price (w/o the duck it was $13) and really flavorful. The duck added a lot to my enjoyment but if you’re a mushroom fan on a budget it would be just as good without it.

Claire had the Pappardelle With Lamb Ragu. Again, the dinner portion size was admirable and the dish had enough lamb to satisfy. She could have went with the smaller size as half of it is sitting in a to-go box waiting for her to get hungry again.

Carmela got the lamb chops. I’m always wary of ordering lambchops at nicer restaurants. Portion size is usually very small; even if they’re good cuts of meat you end up wishing you had more food. This wasn’t the case. The chops were gigantic; just enough fat-for-flavor and the rest perfectly rare chunks of lamb right to the bone.

B4 had the Margherita pizza which he devoured (a healthy six year old appetite loves pizza) and Robert… I think he got the daily special filet.

Dessert:
I was the only one who opted for dessert; house baked cookies. This was the second disappointment of the meal. The “cookies” weren’t cookies. They also weren’t that good. You can’t win them all.

Overall:
Appetizer/Charcuterie: 7/10.
Entrees: 9/10
Desert: 2/10
Waitstaff: 10/10.
Price: $$$

-Shawn