Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Get Thee to a Crockery!

Actually, get yourself a crockpot, or slow cooker--same thing.

I've always been interested in this particular appliance. We never had one in our house growing up, and I didn't know many people who actually used one.

Yet in the past few years I've been hearing increasingly more about the joys of owning a crockpot. At first I was skeptical--wait, you just put your food in there and press a button and it cooks by itself? You don't have to stir? You can leave the house all day without fearing a fire?! And it's ready when you get home?

Dude, between that and the roomba, it's like having sister wives.

I was so intrigued, in fact, that when, in a moment of weakness, I found myself in front of a crockpot on sale (40% off at Bed, Bath & Beyond), I ended up bringing it home with me. Plus, I had a coupon for another 20% off, so it was super cheap.

PapaPhat laughed at me and insisted I'd use it twice and it would collect dust.
Au contraire, mon frere.

It's become a semi-permanent fixture in our household. I've made quite a few meals in the crockpot, simplifying my life in the process. I feel so Mormon.

Isn't she cute?

Recently someone mentioned one could make lasagna in there. (I know, right?!)
So I collected a few different recipes I found for crockpot lasagna and added my own tweaks.

This is the first time I'm attempting this...we'll see how it works out.

Lazy Man's Crockpot Lasagna

First I browned about a pound of ground beef, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Drain.

Grab a jar of pasta sauce.

Dump it into the browned meat.

Mix it all up and heat. I also like to throw in some herbs like fresh oregano and basil.

Spread a bit of sauce onto the bottom of your crock pot.
Grab some lasagna noodles and ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

Put 2 layers of noodles in your crockpot. You'll have to break the noodles to get them to fit.

Top those with a layer of the meat sauce.

Now plop some ricotta cheese on top of that. Plop plop plop. And smear.

Sprinkle a layer of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Add another layer or two of noodles.

Repeat until you a) reach the thickness you want, or b) run out of something.

Once all the layers are down, pour about 1/4 cup water over the whole thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. When done, sprinkle top with some more mozzarelle cheese.

Throw it in a 350 degree oven for about half an hour.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting into it. You can also transfer it to a serving dish.

Mmmm...doesn't that look yummy?

I think I may have done something wrong here because it came out dryer than lasagna should be. I cooked it on high, so maybe it would have turned out better on low. I was able to revive it by adding some stock while reheatin the next day.

Final Verdict: Definitely a keeper. Not as fabulous as regular lasagna, but who has the time for that? I'd rather set it and forget it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Perfect End of Summer BBQ

There are certain things to be said about the group of people one chooses to surround themselves with. Given PapaPhat's profession, it's only a given that many of our close friends are also chefs.

This, of course, makes for some very interesting get-togethers, particularly when a PhatKid is concerned.

Among our closest friends are Rupert and Adriana. Rupert is PapaPhat's old boss, and Adriana is his wife. They are awesome. He's an old-school, sometimes-crabby chef (as most old-school chefs are) and she's a cute, feisty little Columbian-American who keeps him in check. They live in Jersey. They share my love of drink and our love of food.

And I have to admit, the trip to Jersey (and subjecting oneself to the horrible driving conditions and poor air quality of the "Garden State") is definitely worth it for the Bacchanalian revelry that goes on at Rupert and Adriana's parties. Actually, any time we get together, it ends up being an obscene orgy of food and drink (get your mind out of the gutter, people, really, all we do is eat and drink).

With the summer coming to a close, Rupert and Adriana decided to host a massive get-together this past weekend. Although it rained on and off, the festivities were still great. There was a plethora of yumtastic dishes served, but given the crowded and hectic conditions there, I managed to come away with only three recipes.

But what great recipes they are.

Let's start with a cocktail, shall we?

Because, well, everything's better when you're buzzed.

PapaPhat doesn't drink, and I'm not one for the hard liquor, but my oh my this interesting take on a martini was amazing. I even had 3 glasses of it! I don't know what it's called, so let's just call it...

Summerific Tropical Martini

1/2 cup of coconut rum

1/2 cup of pineapple rum (or vodka if you're feeling feisty)

1 1/2 cups pineapple juice

Chunks of pineapple (I think you can also add some mango pieces, if you really want to kick it up a notch)

Mix that all up in a large pitcher or serving jar, let it chill.

When it's ready, go get yourself some coconut sorbet.

(See, it's even low fat. Good looking out, huh?)

Put a small scoop of the coconut sorbet in a martini glass

(We used plastic glasses because, well, we're not the most agile when we drink)

Pour the alcohol/pineapple mixture over it.

Drink up!

Creamy, tasty deliciousness.

Onto the main course.

The centerpiece of dinner was a roasted pig.

He went to the market, but never made it back.

Now, I don't eat pork, but I felt that it deserved to be spotlighted for you, dear readers. Rupert was very proud of his little piggie. And he should be, as I'm told it was fabulous, from the first piece of chicharrones to the last piece of meat on the bone.

Now, because of the next few pictures you're going to see, I think you should all know something about Rupert, or Rupee as I like to call him. He came to the US from Austria several decades ago, and has primarily worked in the New York area, and lives in Jersey. So imagine a man with a pseudo Austrian/German accent twinged with a Jersey accent, with the enthusiasm of a die-hard Jets fan.

Here's Rupert with his Babe.

This Little Piggy

To tackle this venture, you'll need:

About 20 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup of olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 suckling pic, about 35 lbs. This particular piggie came from
Moloney's Market in Jersey City.

Mix everything but the pig together, and rub the concoction on the pig.
Rub it like ya love it, baby

Let it marinate in the rub for 24 hrs.

When done, take the pig out and rub it again with olive oil, like an old luvah.

Wrap the ears with some tin foil (or they'll fall off). Throw that piggie in the oven, preheated at 350 degrees, and roast uncovered for 6 hours, or until the internal temp is 165.

If you did it right, it should look like this:

Now, cut through the skin, which will have pulled apart from the meat a bit. It'll crackle. And chances are, a mass of fiends will swiftly appear to claim the skin, or chicharrones. And, if you're into scaring little children, chop that sucka's head off a la Lord of the Flies.

Obviously, Rupert likes decapitation and scaring little children.

Dive into it. I was told it was fantastic.

And now, for dessert.

Now that's what I'm talking about.

There were a variety of cakes and pies, but this dish I'm about to show you takes the cake (pun fully intended).

Grilled Peaches in a Pan

Okay, go get yourself:

3 pounds peaches, pitted and sliced
1 pound plums, pitted and sliced
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, cut half lengthwise
2 sticks of butter, soft
1/2 cup Grand Marnier

Mix all of that together in an aluminum pan. Throw it on a grill (medium heat).

Put the lid down, if you can.

Go get yourself another cocktail or two. Sit down and renew your post-dinner buzz.

After 40 minutes, check on the peaches. Mix it all around to get it nice and blended.

When they're semi-soft and somewhat browned, they're ready to eat.

You can pour this over cake or ice cream.

And if you have some left over, you can puree it and pour it over pancakes or waffles the next morning. That should be good for your hangover.

Your welcome.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Holy Moly Guacamole!

Okay, so we love Mexican food. We love avocados. And Guacamole is, like, sublime in our house. So any time we cook Mexican, I try to make guacamole. PapaPhat was the one who showed me how to make this delish guacamole. Anyone who tries it loves it.

And the best part?
It's quick and easy.

What You'll Need:
2 ripe avocados
1/2 finely diced red onion
1/2 to 1 whole finely diced jalapeno pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
handful of chopped cilantro (adjust to taste)
juice of one lime
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1-2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (adjust to taste)
1-2 teaspoons fresh ground white pepper (adjust to taste)

What You'll Do:

Put everything except the avocados in a bowl. Cut the avocados in half, remove pit by hacking into it with a chef's knife and twisting (don't cut yourself). And take off the little stem thingy on top, too.

Squeeze the contents of each avocado half right into the bowl with the rest of the stuff.

Don't worry, the harder you squeeze, the easier it'll be to mix and crush.

Got every last bit? Good.

Now, mix it all up and crush avocado as you're mixing. Adjust seasonings to taste, if necessary. Chill a bit, and enjoy.

Oh, and if you have any leftover for some unknown reason, make sure you put it in the fridge, tightly sealed. If it browns--actually, even if it doesn't--just squeeze a little bit of lime into it and mix it up to revive it.