Archive for September, 2010

Cuban Sandwiches!

Bri and I were craving Cuban sandwiches for lunch today.  I had the (clearly brilliant) idea to grab a slice of pizza for lunch and hit the market for some ingredients to make our own Cubanos for dinner.  Our first stop was Mara Bakery in Elizabeth, NJ for some authentic Cuban bread.  Then we stopped off at a local grocery store for some Mojo, pork butt, swiss cheese, pickles, deli ham and yellow mustard.

First things first,  I put the pork butt directly into an enameled cast iron dutch oven and poured enough Mojo into the pot to cover the pork about 2/3 of the way.  You can make your own Mojo, but I used the Goya brand because tracking down bitter oranges on short notice wasn’t going to happen.  I’d already managed to convince my husband to drive an hour round trip just for the right bread (the belly full of meatball parm helped) but by the time we were headed to the local grocery store he had already slipped into a food coma in the passenger seat.

I marinated the pork butt in the Mojo for about 3 hours.  I’m sure marinating over night would have been ideal, but we’re impatient.

I preheated the oven to 425F and parked the butt in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.  I then lowered the heat to 350F and covered the dutch oven loosely with aluminum foil.  About 3 hours later the pork was fork tender.  Shred the pork with a couple of forks and pour some of the mojo from the dutch oven over the pork.  (Or just put the pork back into the dutch oven – which is what  I did.)

Porkily goodness!

Slice your sandwich bread completely open so you have two separate halves.  Authentic Cuban bread has a firm exterior and a very soft interior.  Its also usually quite pale in color so that it doesn’t over brown when pressed.  If you can’t find authentic bread, use a sub roll but know that you’re not going to get a true Cuabno.

Put down a few slices of ham and then layer the thinly sliced pickles over it.  I sliced the pickles with a vegetable peeler.

Layers 1 & 2: Deli sliced ham and thin dill pickle slices.

Drain some of the excess Mojo off of the shredded pork and put down an even layer over the sandwich.  Ideally it should be 50/50 ham to pork ratio.  Then cover the pork with a bit of yellow mustard.

Layers 3 & 4: Shredded pork and yellow mustard.

Finally, lay down a few slices of swiss cheese.

Layer 5: Swiss cheese.

Put the top half of the bread on and let it hang out for a bit while you prep the cooking apparatus.

Letting the ingredients come to room temperature helps the sandwich heat evenly.

Shockingly enough, I do not own a sandwich press.  I’ll let you take a moment to digest the fact that there is in fact a cooking appliance that I do not own….

I covered the bottom of my (very heavy) 7 quart dutch oven with aluminum foil.  I heated a griddle pan over medium low and then brushed the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter.

Place the sandwiches butter-side down (if you’re one of those butter side up people – no need to start a war over it, the butter is going on both sides, I promise) into the griddle.  Place the dutch oven (or some other aluminum foil covered heavy thing) on top of the sandwiches and let the weight of the pan smoooosh the bread.

Set your timer for 90 seconds and wait.


After 90 seconds check and see that the bread touching the griddle has gotten crispy and ever so slightly golden.

Butter the bread and flip.  Set the timer for 45 seconds.

The sandwich is done when the bread on both sides is crispy and golden.  The cheese should be melted and the sandwich should be warm all the way through.  Cut on a sharp diagonal (make 2 triangles) and serve immediately!

Thin, crispy, toasty, melty!

If it looks like he's up to something, it's because Bri decided to finish his own sandwich and sneak a few bites of mine!

You know you want to make these!

Homemade Croissants. Oh yes I did!

I started thinking about what I could make with butter. I had sort of a WWPD (what would Paula Do) moment.  So I decided it was finally time to tackle croissants. The croissant dough alone contains 3 sticks + 2 tbs of butter. The other 6 tbs of butter left from the pound (yes. I used an entire pound of butter) combine with chocolate to make the filling for pain au chocolat. I’m glad butter was on sale this week.

Detrempe (the pre-laminated dough)

Combine 4 1/2 cups of flour (I used a 50/50 mix of bread flour and a.p. flour
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs instant yeast (not dry-active)
7oz cold whole milk (that’s 3/4 cup + 2 tbs)
8 oz cool water
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.

add the milk, water & melted butter.

mix (by hand or with a mixer) until very sticky but well incorporated. if the dough is too dry, dribble in more water. if its batter-like, sprinkle in a little flour. the dough should be very soft & very sticky – but still look like dough.

park this in a lightly oiled and covered bowl over night in the fridge (or up to 2 days)

Butter Block

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) of cold, unsalted butter
2 tbs a.p. flour

cube the butter and mix with the flour until it forms a smooth paste (it should still be very cold)

form the butter into a 6 x 6″ square that is 1/2 inch thick. cover and park in the fridge until firm (about 45 minutes)

Laminating the Dough

Flour the work surface

Roll the dough out to 12 1/2 x 6 1/2″

Place the butter block on the right side of the dough with a 1/4 boarder around the side, top and bottom.

Lift the dough and butter and fold it over onto the other side. Pinch the dough edges so the butter is fully encased in the dough. You now have 3 layers. Butter/Flour/Butter

Roll out from the center to the corners, and then from the center to the sides (gently but firm so you do not tear the dough and expose the butter) until it is 16 x 9″.

Letter fold the dough. Turn it so the seam is facing away from you. Let it sit covered on the counter for 20 minutes. You now have 9 layers alternating dough and butter.

Roll the dough out to 16 x 9″. Turn it so the seam is facing away from you. Let it sit covered on the counter for 20 minutes. You now have 27 layers alternating dough and butter.

Once again, roll the dough out to 16 x 9″. Turn it so the seam is facing away from you. Lift this onto a parchment lined pan and cover the dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes. You now have 81 layers alternating dough and butter.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll it out to 32 x 7″ (it will be about 1/4″ thick)

Use a ruler or yardstick to mark every 3″ on both sides of the dough.

Cut from mark to opposite diagonal mark to make a triangle. This can be rolled from the wide end to form a crescent shaped croissant.

To make filled croissants, cut straight to the opposing mark to make a rectangle. Place filling on the first 1/3 of the dough and then fold twice to make a flattened roll.

Allow the croissants to proof covered with plastic wrap on parchment lined pans for 2 1/2 hours.

With 20 minutes to go, Pre-heat the oven to 425F.

Place the croissants in the oven and lower heat to 375. Bake for 15 minutes then rotate the pan(s) front to back and shelf to shelf and continue to bake for another 10 – 20 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides.

Allow to cool for one hour.

*If you wish to freeze the dough, freeze the croissants immediately after shaping (do not proof or bake). On baking day remove them from the freezer and allow them to come to room temperature and proof for about 3 hours and then bake as directed.

Try your hardest to let them cool at least 1 hour before eating. We couldn’t.

Chocolate Filling

Note – you can buy chocolate batons at specialty stores or online, but I decided to save some money and make my own.

6 tbs melted butter
12 oz chocolate chips (i used 60% bittersweet)

Mix until smooth. If necessary heat in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time.

Spread the chocolate onto a piece of parchment. It should be 1/2″ thick.

Refrigerate until solid and then use a knife or pizza cutter to make 3″ x 1/2″ batons.

Cheese Filling

Note – this filling is typically made with cream cheese, eggs, butter and sugar. I decided to try something a little different… plus I was out of butter.

8oz mascarpone cheese (room temp)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 vanilla bean (just the seeds)
1/4 tsp Fiori De Sicilia (This is a citrus extract that tastes like a combination of vanilla and orange. It’s italian so I figured it would go nicely with the mascarpone)
1 egg yolk

Whip all ingredients on high speed until well combined and fluffy. Fill contents into a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

Taste – OMG so mother effing good. Buttery & light. The cheese filling was delicious. Not heavy or overpowering. These have some serious wow factor if you have an opportunity to make them. I impressed myself – I really expected this to be an epic first timer’s fail.

BBA Challenge – Foccacia

After reading other BBA’ers comments on Foccacia, I knew I was in for an experience.  Nearly everyone raved about this bread.  I mean RAVED.  Couldn’t stop eating it and talking about how awesome it was.  They did not lead me astray.  This Foccacia is “OMG GOOD”.  Bri and I kept walking past the bread board and slicing another little hunk off.  The herbs, the oil… the texture!  It was such a perfect package my mouth is watering just remembering how fantastic it was.  If you are searching for the perfect foccacia recipe – look no further.  Get thee to the nearest bookstore and find yourself a copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Now.  Go.  Seriously.  Anytime you waste now is time spent without this foccacia.

BBA Challenge – English Muffins

When it comes to breakfast breads, nooks and crannies are number one on my list.  It never occurred to me to try and make them myself.  Who does that when Thomas’ already does it so well?  I approached this challenge with a whole lot of skepticism.  You “bake” these on a griddle – which baffled me.  Once I really started looking at the anatomy of a store bought English muffin it started making sense – like a light bulb came on!  OH SO THAT’S WHY THEY ARE BROWN ON THE TOP AND BOTTOM!  In the end they were the perfect little nooked and crannied muffin and I was beyond excited with the outcome.

BBA Challenge – Corn Bread

I love cornbread in just about any form.  Muffins are adorably portable, but for this recipe I went with the standard 8 x 8 cake pan so that we could snack on it with pulled pork.  Peter Reinhart’s recipe includes bacon but I opted out (FOOLISH!)  I think next time I’ll skip the corn kernels and add in the bacon.

BBA – Cinnamon Raisin Bread

To me, Cinnamon Raisin Bread requires a cinnamony-sugary swirl.  I used dark brown sugar instead of the standard granulated white sugar and it turned into this delicious filling reminiscent of a sticky bun.  Delish!

Mystic & Essex, CT

Back in August Bri and I decided to take a few days and head to CT for some R&R.  We took a ride on the Essex Steam Train & the Becky Thatcher River boat, then headed to Mystic to check out the Seaport Museum and a few of our favorite Mystic restaurants.

Kyle Joseph

My nephew Kyle was born on may 28th.  Here’s some pictures from our last visit in August while he was hanging out with Uncle Bri.

Canon Expo NYC 2010

At the Expo I got to play with the set up of my dreams.  It was pretty sweet.  They created a mock-fashion show and let us use a variety of cameras and lenses while a guest photographer gave some instructions on fashion photography.  In the end we got to keep the memory cards.  I used a 1Ds Mark III with a 24 – 70mm f/2,8 lens, a 1Ds Mark III with a 70 – 200mm f/2.8 lens and a 7D with a 17 – 55mm lens.  Here’s some of the photos.

You never saw such a sausage.

Luganega is an Italian sausage that is more common in the Northern provinces.  The recipe varies from town to town and is truly a regional sausage.  In this recipe the wine and cheese are the dominant flavors.  Typically this is a sheep casing (smaller diameter) sausage that is wound into a single dinner plate sized coil.  When I decided to make it the only casing that was readily available was the larger diameter hog casing so my husband Brian and I twisted it into the more commonly found “bun size” Italian sausage links.  This was our first attempt at sausage making and we had a total blast.  Brian and I were cheering and high-fiving each other when we finished.

La Salsiccia Luganega

3 lbs Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt)
3 tsp sea salt
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of crushed red pepper flake (optional)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
1/3 cup white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)

Place the pork in the freezer for 30 – 90 minutes prior to grinding.

In a small bowl whisk together the spices, cheese and wine.

Nest a bowl inside of a larger bowl filled with ice and water.  Metal bowls work best for this but any bowls large enough to hold the ingredients will do.

Grind the pork with a fine grinding die and allow it to fall into the chilling bowl.

Add the seasoning mixture and mix thoroughly but quickly.  Cold hands (chilled with a bowl of ice water or under very cold running water) or a stiff spoon will do the job.

Pull off a small portion of the sausage and fry it over medium-low heat so you can taste (and adjust if necessary) the seasoning.

If you plan to stuff into casings, stuff immediately or refrigerate until you are ready to stuff.  It is very important that the mixture stay cold so the fats do not melt and separate.

Store the sausage in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Carrot Cheesecake Gelato

It’s a common misconception that Gelato is worse for you than ice cream. The truth is – that Gelato contains only milk (rather than milk and cream) and few to no eggs. So dig in!


1 cup carrot juice
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of sea salt
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 oz mascarpone cheese

-Heat the milk and carrot juice over medium-low until hot but not boiling

-Whisk together eggs, sugar, corn starch & salt

-slowly pour 1/4 cup of the hot carrot milk into the eggs while you whisk

-add the carrot milk 1/4 of a cup at a time in the same manner until both mixtures are combined.

-pour the mixture back into the pan and add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger.

-stir continuously over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

-turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese until smooth

-push the mixture through a mesh sieve and refrigerate until chilled (or chill in an ice bath)

-churn the mixture in your ice cream maker for 15 – 20 minutes or until it reaches soft-serve consistency.

The other fantastic thing about making Gelato is you do not need an ice cream maker. Gelato does not have air whipped into it like ice cream, so can pour this mixture into a freezer safe container and freeze. Stir every 45 minutes until the mixture is fully set.

Gelato is eaten at softer consistency (and warmer temperature) than ice cream. Having less butterfat means it will not harden as much as regular ice cream, and the flavors will be present as soon as it hits your tongue.

To make the graham cracker cups:

combine 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

line a muffin tin with paper liners and press the mixture into the cups making sure it goes up the side of the cups. I use another paper liner to help me press it into place

refrigerate or freeze until set

carefully remove the paper liner


Taste – It is super smooth and yummy. Lightly spiced and creamy from the mascarpone, but the carrot really comes through. Bri hates the idea of carrots as dessert and he loved it.

Chorizo and Peruvian Potato Empanadas with Cilantro-Lime Crema

Chorizo and Peruvian Potato Empanadas with Cilantro-Lime Crema

When I told Bri that this week’s ingredient was ground beef he said “OOH OOH MAKE EMPANADAS”.

Recipe:  (I made sure I wrote amounts down as I went along this time – so they should be fairly accurate.)

Mexican Beef Chorizo

1 pound of ground beef (I used a 50/50 mix of sirloin and chuck)
3 dried guajillo peppers
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of diced onion
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt

-Remove the stem and seeds from the guajillos.
-In a pan over medium heat toast the guajillos until they become fragrant.
-Soak the guajillos in hot water for 30 minutes or until they become soft.
-Blend the softened guajillos with apple cider vinegar, onions and garilc until a smooth paste is formed. It will have the consistency of BBQ sauce.
-Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
-Add the cinnamon, cumin, paprika, oregano, cayenne & salt to the pepper mixture.
-combine the pepper mixture with the ground meat and mix until thoroughly combined.

The completed chorizo is best if used the next day, but you can certainly cook it right away.

Empanada Recipe

1 cup of diced peruvian potatoes
1/2 lb of mexican chorizo
2 tbs corn oil
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup crushed manzanella olives (with pimentos)
1/2 cup beef stock
20 Tapas Para Empanadas (Empanada Disks)
1 egg
Cinnamon (for dusting)

-Remove the Tapas from the freezer so they can thaw.
-Cover the diced potatoes in water and simmer until softened.
-Saute the chorizo and onions in corn oil until the onions are softened and the chorizo is almost completely cooked.
-Add the potatoes and saute until the chorizo is cooked through.
-Add the crushed olives and stir to combine
-Add the beef stock and reduce until the stock is thickened
-Cool completely
-Pre-heat the oven to 400F
-make an egg wash with the egg and a tablespoon of water
-separate the Tapas and allow them to come to room temperature (they will be very soft and pliable)
-brush the egg wash around the edge of half of the edge of one tapas.
-place one tablespoon of cooled filling in the center.
-fold the dough over the filling and use your hands to cup the filling and compress the dough edges
-crimp the edges (you can use a fork, but i prefer to employ the Argentinian method which is called repulgue – fold the edges over and over to create a pattern)
-place the empanada on a sheet pan lined with parchment and brush with egg wash.
-prick holes in the top of the empanada with a fork
-dust with cinnamon (its a nice compliment to the cinnamon in the chorizo and it also helps to differentiate fillings if you are making different kinds of empanadas)
-bake in a 400F oven for 22 – 25 minutes.  They will puff up and get golden brown.

Cilantro-Lime Crema
1/2 cup Crema
Juice of 1 lime
1 handful of fresh cilantro
pinch of salt

-blitz all ingredients until smooth.

Taste – The chorizo is SO FLAVORFUL we were eating it all weekend.  The potatoes added a great texture to the filling and the crema was a nice tangy & cool compliment to the hot & flaky empanadas.  I brought these to a BBQ and everyone raved about them.  Bri said its his new favorite empanada filling.

Baked Potato Fondue

Baked Potato Fondue and Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad with Red Potato Crisps and a Champagne Vinaigrette

(I made this up as I went along so the measurements are all eye-balled)

Pre-heat the oven to 375F

Butter 2 shallow ramekins (I used creme brulee dishes)

thinly slice baby red potatoes (enough to make a layer in each dish)
smash 2 garlic cloves
place the potato slices and the garlic cloves in a small sauce pan and cover with white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
Poach until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but not fall apart.

In the mean time shred 4 ounces of muenster and 6 ounces of emmentaler.  reserve 2 ounces of the emmentaler.

layer the potatoes in the dishes

remove the garlic cloves and discard.  remove all but 1/2 cup of the wine.

combine 1tbs of cornstarch with 1 tbs of cognac, set aside.

over low heat combine the 1/2 cup of wine with the shredded cheeses.  stir until melted and add the cognac/cornstarch mixture.  heat until thickened.

remove the cheese sauce from the heat and crumble in 2 ounces of a mild blue cheese and stir until melted.

ladle the cheese sauce over the potatoes.  top with the remaining 2 ounces of emmentaler and bake until golden brown (about 20 minutes)

While the fondue is baking, slice a baguette and toast lightly in the oven.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad with Red Skin Potato Crisps and Champagne Vinaigrette.

in a blender (or with a whisk)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar.
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
whiz until emulsified

lettuce of your choice (i used red & green oak lettuces)
heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

cube a crusty bread (i used a baguette)
warm some extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan with crushed garlic
add the bread cubes and toast

heat 1" of canola oil in a heavy bottomed pot.  shave slices of red potato with a vegetable peeler and fry in the hot oil until very crisp, drain on paper towels and lightly salt (i used sea salt)

combine all salad ingredients and lightly dress.  (you shouldn’t have any dressing left in the bottom of the bowl when you are done eating)



I’ve never made it before, but I will definitely be making it again.  It was really good and could easily be made in advance (refrigerate the filled, unbaked dishes and then pull them out to bake off later in the day) This would be really good to serve for a special occasion or a dinner party (couples could split a dish)

The potatoes really took on the taste of the wine & garlic. poaching them first made the texture fantastic.  At first Bri questioned the potatoes being in the dish, but once he scooped some onto the toast he said they really made the fondue something special.