Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Panini - its still grilled cheese you ninny

December pretty much wiped me out this year. Tired, beat exhausted and combo's therein. After all was said and done I broke down and got the Calphalon Panini Grill that I have been eyeing for ages.  A little self indulgence is good for a tired old soul.

At 49.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond it was a screaming deal (for Calphalon that is). As if I prolly couldn't have used my grill pan and stuck a foil wrapped brick on it for the same effect, but then again I'm a cookware whore so I had to go the distance and get an official panini pan.

Those stupid sandwiches are all the rage. Put on your best "Godfather" voice "PA nee nee" and you have it nailed down. Why call it panini instead of grilled cheese? My best guess is that they can turn a 2 buck grilled cheese on the kiddy menu into a $10 sandwich on the adult entree side. My guess, could be wrong but I don't think so.

With this silly panini grill we've been on a hot sandwich binge. It falls into the stupid easy category. Bread, some sort of binder like mayo, mustard cheese, vegie and meats are at your whim.

Pictured is a "Rueben Panini". Roast beef, mayo, sauerkraut and swiss on Jewish Rye.

Other variations have been equally easy to slap together and grill up. So far the big "hits" aren't that unusual more adding a new ingredient or two to make it more than the usual grilled cheese.

"Cheese Steak" - Jewish Rye, roast beef, roasted red peppers, swiss and hot asian mustard.
"Grilled Chicken" - Wheat bread, grilled chicken slices, roasted red peppers and swiss
"Tuna Melt" - Rye Bread, Tuna (chicken of the sea) pepper, cheddar and jack cheese
"Italiano" - Chibata, provolone and mozzarella
"Holey Bread and Cheese" Swiss and Sourdough

Of course after all that cheese you better have a salad on the side to keep the pipes running clear(ish).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Poblano Potato Gratin

One of my favorite cooking magazines is Gourmet.  The recipes are pretty global and they give the history of the region it came from as well as resources for the odd ingredients.  Fortunately in LA I usually don't have to wander too far too often to find the real deal or a reasonable substitute.

This recipe was in the November 2008 issue and it really got my attention.  Potato gratin with attitude thanks to some roasted peppers.  IT could go with a lot of different foods as the heat was just enough.  And it did just that last night when a bunch of my old friends from the cube-dwelling days got together for the Holidays.  This was the perfect side, adding just the right amount of heat and creaminess to counter point the Asian Crusted Salmon (recipe to follow) and a traditional Beef Bourginon.

Poblano Potato Gratin
Serves 8 (side dish) 
Active time:45 min Start to finish:2 1/2 hr 

November 2008 

In Mexican cuisine, rajas refers to thin strips of roasted chiles. Although they commonly spice up everything from stews to tamales, rajas are best when adding a kick to creamy dishes. Here, forest-green poblanos lend a mild, almost fruity heat to a potato gratin.

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh poblano chiles (about 5) -I substituted Anaheim
  • 1 lb onions, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 3 lb large Yukon Gold potatoes 
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup whole milk - I substituted non-fat milk
Roast chiles and make rajas:
Roast chiles on their sides on racks of gas burners (or see cooks’ note, below) on high, turning with tongs, until skins are blackened all over, about 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and let stand, covered tightly, 10 minutes.

When chiles are cool enough to handle, peel or rub off skin. Slit chiles lengthwise, then stem, seed, and devein. Cut lengthwise into thin strips.

Cook onions with 1 tsp salt in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in chiles and remove rajas from heat. Reserve 1/2 cup rajas for topping.

Make gratin:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 3-qt shallow baking dish.
Peel potatoes, then cut crosswise into 1/16-inch-thick slices with slicer. Transfer to a small heavy pot. Add cream, milk, and 1 tsp salt and bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally (liquid will thicken). Stir in rajas, then pour mixture evenly into baking dish. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup rajas on top.

Bake until potatoes are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Cooks’ notes: 
Chiles can be roasted by broiling on a broiler pan 2 inches from heat, turning, 8 to 10 minutes. 
Rajas can be made 3 days ahead and chilled. 

Gratin can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature and reheat, covered, in a 350°F oven (about 30 minutes).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cherry Fudge (stupid easy of course)

Its the holidays.  I have an excuse to bake and cook like a fiend for the fam and friends and give it all away as gifts.  Baking and Candy making is my favorite part of the Holidays.  Of course Fudge tops the list of my candy making.

Last year the basic fudge got names "Stupid Easy Fudge" by my friend Ruth666.  Yup, it really is that easy.

Today,s version used 82% Valrhona and semi-sweet chips in a 50/50 blend.  Keeps the final product the right texture for cutting and of course, how it feels as it melts in your mouth. 

Cherry Fudge

8 oz Valrhona 82% Cocoa chocolate - coarse chop
8 ox semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c coarse chopped dried cherry
1 T Cherry Brandy

Line an 8X8 baking dish with foil or cling film.

In microwave safe dish put in the chopped valrhona.  Cover with semi-sweet chips.  Pour sweetened condensed milk over the top.  Microwave 1 minute.  Test - if center still cool to touch microwave 30 seconds and test again.  Do not boil.  When center is just warm, add cherry brandy and stir until smooth.  Fold dried cherry in to the mix.  Pour into prepared pan, cover and cool.