Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Master Ridley's Pepper Paste

     This particular concoction was my first foray into pepper sauces. I had a bumper crop of cayenne and needed to use them in bulk. The end result was my single most popular hot sauce recipe, at least among friends and coworkers. There is so much you can do with this. Toss it with melted butter and chicken wings and you'll never do hot wings any other way again. Mix it in chili for an extra punch. One of the guys at works just spreads it on his hamburger. You will not be the same after this. It has just enough heat and more than enough flavor. Since it's made with vinegar, it cans well, too. Just pack it in half-pint jars, making sure to work out the air bubbles. Then just process in a boiling water bath for 12-15 minutes (as always, consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips on how not to get botulism). We actually have an open jar that's been in our fridge for over 2 years without going off. We just add leftovers from each season's batch. We figure in the next couple years it should achieve sentience. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. And just who is Master Ridley, you ask? If you've read Fahrenheit 451, you'll know the reference: "Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."*

Master Ridley's Pepper Paste
Ingredients can be easily multiplied for larger batches. A double batch of these ingredients should yield about a half pint of paste.
  • 1 dried Guajillo pepper
  • 10-12 Cayenne peppers (cut off and discard the stems and roughly chop. Don't remove the seeds unless you're a huge wuss. If that's the case, make sure you wear gloves and hike up your diaper, too)
  • 2 grated baby carrots
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  1. Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth 
  2. Another tablespoon of vinegar can be added if the sauce is too thick for your liking.
* Nicholas Ridley was a bishop burned at the stake for heresy in 1555
Good times!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Altoids Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

     Every now and then I get wild hair and decide to drag out the old ice cream maker. There's a pretty good recipe for vanilla custard ice cream in there that I used as the base of this recipe. I had a taste for mint chocolate chip. I had the chocolate chips, but no mint. I don't really keep that kind of extract in the house. I do, however, keep Altoids. I read somewhere that you can substitute crushed Altoids when you need mint. That's what I did. I crushed up some Altoids and added green food coloring for that unmistakable "Shamrock Shake Green" tint. This made for some fantastic ice cream. It's a bit of a P.I.T.A. to make. If you want ice cream fast, just head to the Dairy Queen. Pick me up a Dilly Bar while you're there. As always, notes and changes are in blue.
Altoids Mint Chocolate Chip
Ice Cream

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks (I really despise having to de-yolk the eggs. It means I end up having to find stuff to do with the whites)
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1-1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (use more if you'd like. 1/2 cup of chips isn't really visible, but they're in there!)
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • 10 crushed peppermint Altoids (Yes. Altoids. Just trust me on this)
  1. Beat egg yolks and sugar until light (I started making this around noon, so it was already light. I guess I was supposed to start this sometime after sunset). Add the crushed Altoids to the milk and heat the milk to just boiling. Slowly beat the milk into the egg/sugar mix (be careful that the milk isn't too hot or it's going to cook the eggs when you pour it in. Also, don't dump it all in at once. That's bad, too. Or so I've heard. I don't make mistakes like that).
  2. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (this takes a while. Be patient. Have a glass of wine or six). Cool completely. 
  3. Add the whipping cream and vanilla to the custard. Combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until cold.
  4. Toss the mixture in the ice cream maker of your choice. Once it starts mixing, add the food coloring and chocolate chips. Process about 30 minutes. Throw it in the freezer if you want it a bit harder. (Take note of the fact that I took the moral high ground and did not make an obvious erection joke.)
Good times!
UPDATE: This was just too good looking not to add to the post.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kitchen Sink Casserole

     I'm pretty sure most people have some sort of variant of a "Kitchen Sink Recipe." There's just something fun about grabbing all sorts of stuff you need to get rid of and putting it together in a meal. Maybe you end up with soup or stew. We ended up with a casserole. I have no idea what compelled me to make a "crust" with mashed potatoes. I just needed to use them because they had all sprouted and were approaching sentience. Surprisingly, this wound up being an extremely tasty meal. I feel it benefited from a tableside dousing of hot sauce, but it was pretty flavorful as is. The fun of this is that you could swap in or out just about anything. Go crazy. Take out the green beans and add Jolly Ranchers. I'm not here to judge. Actually, I'm totally judging, but quietly. Behind your back. I never said I was a nice person. All right. I may have said it, but I lied. As always, notes are in blue.
Kitchen Sink Casserole

  • 6 potatoes (peel them or don't. I like the peel. At the very least, wash them.)
  • 1/2 pound yellow or green beans
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1" squares
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1" squares
  • 1 can (about 10.5 ounces) cream of mushroom soup 
  • 1-1/4 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tube biscuit dough (at least 7.5 ounces if you want it to completely cover the casserole)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • another 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons Milwaukee Avenue Steak Seasoning (available at The Spice House. If you don't want to buy it, it contains: salt, hickory smoke powder, Hungarian sweet paprika, garlic, Tellicherry black pepper, cardamom and marjoram.)
  1. Cut potatoes into large cubes and boil in salted water until fork tender (the potato, not the water. The water is already fork tender.) Remove the potatoes from the water and mash with the butter. 
  2. Take a 9"x13" baking dish and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the mashed potatoes in an even layer across the bottom.
    Blinding speed is the key to good potato spreading.
  3. In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the ground beef, mushroom and onion. Cook until meat is browned. Drain all but a bit of the oil and move the meat to a bowl. With the heat still on the pan, add the wine and scrape up all the brown bits in the pan. Boil off about half of the liquid. Add the peppers and beans. Simmer for about 5 minutes. 
    These fresh vegetables will balance out the 9 Guinness Stouts I'm going to have with dinner.
  4. Add the contents of the pan to the bowl of meat and onion. Add the cream of mushroom soup and seasonings. Stir it all up and spread it evenly over the mashed potatoes.
  5. Have someone brave pop the tube of dough (I will freely admit that I am a grown man, but I am scared shitless of opening a tube of biscuit dough. It never pops when you'd expect it and I jump out of my skin every time. I just hand the tube to The Wife and leave the kitchen until it's all over). Flatten out the biscuits as much as possible. Wad it up and roll it out in a big sheet if you'd like. The plan is to lay that sheet of dough over the top of the casserole. 
  6. Spread the other 2 tablespoons of butter over the biscuits. Put the casserole in an oven at 375F (190C, Gasmark 5) for about 20 minutes, or until the biscuit dough is golden brown.
  7. Cut yourself a big old hunk and slather that bastard with hot sauce. Now get to work. 
Good times!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


     For the longest time, our house has had a huge stockpile of bagels. Our local market carries Pepperidge Farm overstock, so we could get bags of six bagels for 99 cents! Our freezer was stuffed. Lately, they haven't been stocking the bagels, so I was forced to take drastic measures and make them myself. I once again turned to my trusty copy of Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals. There just happened to be a pretty good looking bagel recipe. While the bagels are really, really good, they are a bit labor intensive, pushing P.I.T.A. status. It's worth the effort, though. You end up with bagels with a nice crust and a chewy middle. I'm talking deli-delicious. As always, any notes or changes are in blue. 

via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (2 of the little packets)
  • 1-1/4 cup warm (110-115F) water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (we used vegetable oil)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons, plus 1/4 cup honey, divided (we omitted the other 1/4 cup of honey, as you'll only use it for boiling the bagels. It just seemed wasteful)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4-5 cups bread flour (we use 5 cups every time)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds (omitted. We didn't have any on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the oil, sugar, 3 tablespoons honey, brown sugar, salt and egg. Mix well. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes (we mixed and kneaded everything in the KitchenAid. If we have it, we're going to use it until it explodes.) Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Shape dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 10" rope (we just set out a tape measure on the counter to make it simple). Form bagels by overlapping the ends; pinch to seal. Place on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes.
  3. In a large post bring 8 cups of water and remaining honey to a boil (again, we left out that extra honey. Honey is expensive and I don't think I'm really losing anything by not using it. Maybe once the Bugatti gets back from the shop, we'll try it with the extra honey). Drop bagels, one at a time (that is dumb. The pot will hold three! I boiled three at a time), into boiling water. Boil for 45 seconds. Flip the bagels and boil for another 45 seconds. Remove bagels and allow to drain. 
    See? Plenty of room.
  4. Place bagels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (2 times in a row I forgot to buy parchment paper. We used foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and nothing terrible happened). Sprinkle with the minced onion, sesame seeds and garlic (or whatever topping you choose).
  5. Bake at 425F (220C, Gasmark 7) for 12 minutes. Flip bagels and cook another 5 minutes (the cooking time was pretty accurate, but keep an eye on things as cooking times may vary).
Good Times!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sauerkraut and Dill Potato Salad

     Is there any side dish that screams "summer" more than the ubiquitous potato salad?  Probably, but for today we will say "no!" I love potato salad in all forms. American, German, Amish, Venusian. Just slap it on my plate and I'm good to go. This particular potato salad came about on the 4th of July. We didn't really have any side dishes for our grilled meats, so I decided to go with potato salad. We had potatoes. I considered making Dill Pickle Potato Salad, but then decided I needed to add sauerkraut. It just seemed like a good idea. It was. This is a rock solid potato salad that went great with brats and steaks. Give it a try and tell me what you think! Unless you think it sucks. Then I don't want to hear about it. As always, notes are in blue.

Sauerkraut and Dill Potato Salad

  • 5 medium potatoes, washed and scrubbed, then cut into 1" cubes (peel them if you want. We didn't. As for potato type, we used plain old Idahos)
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) jarred sauerkraut, drained
  • 4 large green onions, chopped
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 teaspoons dill weed
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until easily pierced with a fork (don't overcook the potatoes, or they'll break up when you go to mix the salad. The Wife called the consistency we wanted, "not quite baked potato"). Allow to cool for a few minutes
  2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with all the other ingredients. Mix gently to incorporate all the ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
Good times!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mushroom and Chive Ravioli

     The Wife is somewhat predictable about certain things. If I ask what movie she wants to watch, it's always Pride and Prejudice or Ghostbusters. If she's going to read a book, likely it will be about the English royalty. If she's going to watch TV, it's going to be a baseball game. When it comes to food, it's pasta. Left to her own devices, it will be mac & cheese. If I'm cooking, it's pasta with red sauce and meatballs. I always tremble at that request because it is Labor Intensive. It's borderline P.I.T.A. However, she is wonderful and I love her very much, so I will indulge her. Plus, I really like pasta and meatballs, too. I already have a good red sauce and meatballs recipe I use, so I just needed to come up with a pasta. She loves ravioli and she loves mushrooms, so I threw together a filling for some ravioli for her. The end result was 54 delicious ravioli. Fortunately, they freeze really well. Just lay them on sheets of waxed paper with a dusting of flour! The basic pasta recipe came out of the KitchenAid pasta roller instructions. The filling is all mine. I hope you like it as much as much as we did! As always, notes are in blue.

Mushroom and Chive Ravioli

  • For Filling
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped (use whatever kind of mushroom you want. We used regular white mushrooms)
  • 6-8 whole chives, finely chopped (use both the white and green part)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • For Ravioli Pasta
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (I actually did sift the flour for once!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Filling
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add chive and sautee for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms and sautee for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce and sautee for one more minute. 
  4. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then put mushroom and chive mixture in a bowl with the ricotta and stir to incorporate.
    Now you need to resist the urge to just shovel this by the spoonful into your gaping maw.
For Pasta
  1. Place eggs, water, flour and salt in mixing bowl. Add the beater blade, turn to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds (we're assuming you have a KitchenAid here. If not, just mix by hand at whatever your personal "speed 2" setting would be)
  2. Swap the beater blade for the dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and knead for 2 minutes (or if you're not lazy like me, just knead it by hand.)
  3. Remove dough from bowl and hand-knead for 1-2 minutes (I actually did this. I am not a total slug.)
  4. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Run each through a pasta roller until you his "5" (I'm hoping pasta rollers have universal measurements, because I went to 5 on the KitchenAid pasta roller. I apologize in advance if you end up with tissue paper)
  1. Take 2 rolled out sheets of pasta. On one, start dropping 1 tablespoon scoops of the filling at even intervals along the dough (Our ravioli ended up being about 2-3/4" across on the average. Use smaller scoops if you want an obscene amount of smaller ravioli.)
    Notice the precision spacing between the filling. That's because The Wife did this part.
    I was busy rolling out pasta.
  2. Take a basting brush and brush water on the pasta in between the filling. Lay the other sheet of pasta over the top and press down in between the filling, sealing the two sheets and working out any air bubbles.
  3. Use a ravioli wheel cutter to cut the pasta into squares (If you already have one of those things that stuffs and seals the ravioli all in one, you probably are way past anything I can offer you and should go to a site where they know what they are doing). If you're using my measurements, you'll end up with about 54 ravioli.
  4. Cook like them you would any other ravioli. 
Those are the steady hands of a neurosurgeon.
Or an English teacher.
Good times!