Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recipe of the Week: French Bread

While growing up, my family wasn't very excited about cooking. But every now and then, the smell of cooking food would permeate every room of the home and send me running into the kitchen. Often, this smell would come from my father making bread.

He tried various recipes, and at one point even had some sourdough starter taking-up a semi-permanent residence in our refrigerator. But usually the bread had a hard crunchy crust, with a warm soft interior that just called for gobs of butter.

These memories have stayed with me. And late last year, I found myself trying to bake bread for the first time. It took a few tries before I was happy with the result. After all, getting a crunchy crust on a french bread is hard unless you have a professional-grade oven with steam injectors!  But the recipe below resulted in a tasty and tender bread that wasn't overly dense, and it had an almost perfect crust.

Make perfect bread with a pizza stone like this from Sur La Table.


First, there are some tips you should be aware of:

#1) If you want an awesome crunchy crust, steam is your friend. If placing the loaf on a pizza stone, or an upside down cast-iron skillet or baking  sheet, you'll want to place 1/2 cup of water in an open oven-safe container (i.e. pie tin) AND throw 1/2 cup of water onto the bottom of the oven once the bread is in the oven.  The water thrown into the oven flash-steams, while the water in the container evaporates over time keeping the oven more humid.

#2) Use a pizza stone, cast iron dutch or an upside-down cast iron skillet.You want something that is thick, retains and radiates heat. If you don’t have one of these, don’t worry, just use a good-quality, thick baking sheet -- upside down

Click "read more" to get the recipe


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Meat Ragu

Ragu recipe cooking
Ragu and ziti pasta cooking
on stove-top.
I've been on an Italian kick lately.  Last weekend we made Bolognese. The week before we visited an Italian restaurant.  And before that, we visited ANOTHER Italian restaurant. Needless to say, my wife wasn't surprised when I decided to try making a new meat sauce.

The below meat ragu recipe is based on the recipe in the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. When I was learning to cook, a friend recommended it.  And it is now the most used, destroyed and beloved cookbook in our kitchen.

This is an awesome cookbook is made by the same people who made the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, mentioned above:


This meat ragu came out very hearty with a strong beef flavor. In some ways, it almost tastes like my favorite beef stew.  However, the Pecorino Romano cheese and the Ziti noodles all but made me forget the resemblance. If I were to modify this recipe, I'd try to give it a more Italian flavor by adding oregano, a couple cloves of garlic and more tomatoes.

Click Read More for the ingredients and directions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cafe 100

About a week ago, on a Saturday morning, my wife and I wanted a big breakfast. But we REALLY didn't want to do any dishes. In addition, we wanted something closer to our house than Davidson or Mooresville. So, we decided to finally try Cafe 100.

On the former location on Toast, Cafe 100 has never been among my top "must-eats" of the area. I loved the Huntersville location of TOAST, and I really didn't like seeing it go. So I held onto the grudge for as long as possible, but eventually my tummy won the debate, and I found peace with trying this restaurant.

The inside still looks almost identical to Toast: wood paneling, tables, chairs, counter near the kitchen; it's all still there. However, now there is artwork on the walls (for sale), and some of it is pretty good. Once we arrived, a waitress told us to grab any seat we wanted. So we chose a table for two against a wall in the back room.

Shortly thereafter, our waitress asked for our drink orders. We begged for coffee, and it was brought out shortly along with some slices of pound/coffee cake. That was good!

The coffee was never refilled. That was bad.

Click "read more" to get the full review and score of Cafe 100

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Recipe Wednesday: Grilled Cheddar Eggs

As you may know, I LOVE grilling over charcoal. The flavors and the aroma of food that's grilled this way just can't be beat. So, when I ran across this article about using a grill to cook eggs, I snapped to attention.

Just a quick FYI, the eggs in this recipe are more like a quiche. And red bell peppers are used like a pie tin.  But that's the beauty of this recipe, by using the pepper, your minimizing your dishes and maximizing your flavor.

Speaking of maximizing flavor, I added some pre-cooked chorizo to the recipe below. Feel free to add whatever pre-cooked meat you like (bacon, ham, sausage, etc.) or none at all. What's important is that you like it.

If you're using charcoal or wood, the trick to this recipe will be keeping the temperature on the grill low enough so that you don't destroy the pepper. While keeping the temperature high and consistent enough to thoroughly cook the egg mixture. If you're using a gas grill (ACK!), use a medium-low heat.

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Click read more to get the ingredients, directions and wine pairings.