• Super Bowl Snacks: Slider Burgers

    Slider Burgers.

    Slider Burgers.

    slider2We started blogging about a year ago (more on that later this week), and one of our first posts was a recipe for Super Bowl Sliders. Since then, we tweaked the recipe a bit and figured since we are doing a “Super Bowl Snacks” series, we may as well post an update. But here is all you need to know; sliders are fun, perfect for entertaining kids and adults and taste great. And if you use our version of “Shake Shack” sauce, your sliders, or burgers, will be even better.

    slider10slider7This sauce is our version of the special sauce from New York City’s favorite burger joint, the Shake Shack. Serious Eats reversed-engineered the sauce a few years ago (see here) and we tweaked it ever-so-slightly to go with our sliders. The key to the sauce, which is in the “1,000-island family” of sauces, is chopping up and blending dill or sour pickles (we use cornichons sometimes) directly into the sauce. The extra acidity and bite of the pickles along with mayo, ketchup, mustard, garlic powder, salt and paprika takes this sauce over the top. We use smoked paprika to add a touch of smokey flavor that does come through. In any event, make the sauce, trust us…

    slider9slider8Otherwise, making sliders is just like making burgers, just smaller and faster. We make our sliders about 2 ounces (or a touch less) and make sure they are about 1/4 of an inch thick. We cook them in a very hot skillet or cast-iron pan for 2 minutes on one side, flip, add some cheese (just a little) and cook another minute for medium rare / medium. We set the sliders on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes, this keeps the juices in the burger.

    slider6slider5slider4As for the bread, we use buttered and grilled dinner rolls like King Hawaiian (yes we love those rolls) or Parker House rolls. Taking the time to brown and heat the rolls is a nice touch and adds some buttery flavor to the mix. Then we just put the sliders on the rolls and top with the sauce. Simple, easy, and oh so tasty. And the small size means everyone can enjoy the sliders either as a snack or full meal. Just be ready to make another batch. Continue reading

  • Pioneer Woman Prune Spice Cake

    Pioneer Prune Spice Cake

    Pioneer Prune Spice Cake

    prune3Don’t let the name fool you, this cake just rocks. Everyone who tries it, loves it. Ignore the prune thing if you must, but we do suggest you try this cake. It’s easy to make, sweet, super-moist and has a touch of spice. Perfect for dessert or breakfast, even the occasional snack. Very good stuff.

    prune5prune7The only reason we feel a bit sheepish about posting this recipe is that we barely adapted it at all. The original recipe (“Iny’s Prune Cake With Buttermilk Icing”) comes from the Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond’s bestselling cookbook. I picked this cookbook up a few years ago for Carolyn without knowing much about the Pioneer Woman, but I was perusing some cookbooks (something I may do a bit too often) and I checked a few recipes, and they looked good. Now that we have cookbook, it is one of our regulars, particularly for breakfast dishes. We don’t think Pioneer Woman needs any help from us, but the cookbook and blog are worth a look.

    prune8prune9We call this cake a “breakfast” dish because that’s when we serve it. But you can make and serve this cake any time. It may not look like much, but after the first bite you will be sold. Making the cake is easy, too. The only extra step is rehydrating and mashing the prunes. Then you make the standard wet / dry cake batter with a few spices and boil up a quick icing. Bake the cake, layer the icing on top and serve.

    prune11prune12Now let’s talk about this prune thing. Regardless of “therapeutic” uses and a terrible sounding name, prunes are a very useful cooking ingredient. Prunes add deep, complex sweetness to many dishes. Prunes also play incredibly well with both herbs and spices, so you can use them in sweet and savory dishes. We use prunes with sage in our dressings / stuffings for holiday roasts and they take the flavors over the top. So if you still aren’t onboard with prunes, try this cake, it is a very good introduction. And if you just can’t stand the idea of prunes, make it anyway and just call it a Plum Cake. We won’t tell.

    prune13 Continue reading

  • Max’s Mocktail

    Max's Mocktail

    Max’s Mocktail

    Truth be told, we mix a lot of drinks and cook a lot of dishes with the blog in mind, but most of the things we make are simply to feed our family and friends. But when they do like something and ask for a recipe, you can be damn sure we are going to post it. Happy faces never get old, and successful dishes and drinks are still hard to come by. If you want the recipe, just ask, we are happy to oblige.

    max3max6As for this “mocktail”, our eldest son had his friend Max over to work on a school project and play some baseball. After some time outside, our son asked for a mocktail, and if our kid gets one, well, so does his guest. And since we had a bunch of fresh winter citrus available, including blood oranges and Meyer Lemons (two of our favorite ingredients) we figured we could make something the boys would enjoy. And Max liked this enough to want the recipe, so here it is.

    max4max5Max’s Mocktail combines blood orange juice, lemon juice, falernum syrup, a dash of Rhubarb bitters (optional) and sparkling water. So what’s falernum syrup? Falernum is a sweet West-Indian syrup with flavors of lime, ginger and clove. Falernum is a common tiki-drink ingredient and is a primary flavor in classics like the Jet Pilot and Zombie. You can find falernum syrup in many liquor stores, it is inexpensive and lasts forever. Just don’t confuse falernum syrup with Velvet Falernum, a version that has alcohol and isn’t safe for “mocktails”. We understand that many people won’t have falernum syrup, so we also have a second version of the recipe that subs a dash of lime juice, sugar and ginger ale for the falernum syrup and sparkling water.

    max7max8 Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #41: The White Negroni

    The White Negroni (the slightly bitter version)

    The White Negroni (the slightly bitter version)

    We have a confession to make. We don’t like the “classic” Negroni cocktail very much. We try to like it, but there is just too much Campari along with the gin and sweet vermouth. Too bitter and too “ashy” for our tastes. And no matter how many times we try it, or how many mixologists, magazines and websites tell us it’s the “cool” drink, it just doesn’t take. But happily, we are parents, and very used to being “uncool”. Our lives will continue on without ever gaining a taste for the Negroni.

    white2white7But we do understand the need for cocktails that include, and even highlight, bitter elements. Right now in cocktail circles (particularly in NYC and San Francisco) bitter flavors are “in”, and it is a somewhat unexplored area of cocktails. But being old enough to see the first microbrewery expansion, and the California wine craze, we can tell you both went into a similar “phase”. Brewers over-hopped everything (sound familiar?) and high-end wine makers and sommeliers started to highlight “green” flavors and acidity (and tried to call it “balance”). We suspect there is a little of “inside-baseball”, “too cool for school-ness” in these trends, and they don’t last (no, they really don’t). But we always keep an open mind and like to try new things. Enter the White Negroni.

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    The bitter version with Suze.

    The bitter version with Suze.

    The White Negroni combines gin, vermouth and/or bitter fortified wine or liqueur. The idea is to have the similar bittersweet flavors of the classic Negroni, but with lighter flavors and colors. And as we like all sorts of gin, dry vermouth and fortified wines, we figured we would have the ingredients to experiment. And we did need a range of ingredients, as there is no single recipe to work from. From the PDT Cocktail Book to Serious Eats to Cocktail Virgin Slut, the recipes abound.

    whiteBut it turns out there are two basic variants of the White Negroni, the slightly bitter and the very bitter. The main difference is in the strength of one flavor, gentian. Gentian is a very bitter root flavor found in many apéritifs and fortified wines. Some, like Cocchi Americano have just a hint of gentian, some like Suze or Salers are “gentian-bombs“. If you like the classic Negroni, make your White Negroni with Suze or Salers. If you are just experimenting with bitter-flavored cocktails, use the Cocchi Americano (good stuff for many cocktails, btw) in your White Negroni.

    white4We include a version of both recipes, but there is room to experiment. Usually the very bitter recipe includes dry gin, Suze and Lillet blanc to add some sweetness and counteract the very bitter Suze. The slightly bitter recipe includes dry gin, dry vermouth and Cocchi Americano. The very bitter White Negroni with the Suze has beautiful yellow color and strong flavor, and it is just as bitter as a classic Negroni (not as “ashy’). Not really for us, but we have friends who do like it. If you like bitter drinks, you will be very happy. Have at it. Continue reading

  • Daffodils…Just In Time

    daffyWe are in the midst of a “real” winter here in Norcal. We can’t complain, we need the rain. And I guess the cold and wind just comes along with the deal sometimes.

    daffy9But just when almost all the colors fade, the Daffodils (or Narcissus, your choice) pop up. The yellows and whites gleam amidst the browns and grays of winter. There are always signs of spring in California. That comes with the deal, too.daffy1daffy12daffy8daffy5daffy1daffy13daffy3daffy4 Continue reading

  • Super Bowl Snacks: Guacamole Revisited

    Putney Farm Guacamole and a cold beer.

    Putney Farm Guacamole and a cold beer.

    Well, the Niners did make it to the Super Bowl, so our series of snacks for the big game will have a more positive note (and perhaps some hints of red and gold). And we will have to come up with a cocktail to celebrate the event….but for now, let’s look at that big game staple, guacamole. According to some very precursory internet research, Americans eat over 8 million pounds of guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday. But what that too often means is millions of pounds of avocados get mixed with something like salsa and mashed up. Other than the color, evidence of avocado is often masked by copious garlic, citrus, tomato and pepper flavors. Good, but really “avocado salsa”.

    guac2guac3There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this type of guacamole, and if you have a recipe you like, please use it. And if the avocados aren’t at their best, adding more flavors will certainly help. But what if you have really good, ripe Hass (you really want Hass) avocados? We suggest you cut one open and taste it. Maybe add just a dash of salt. Doesn’t it taste great? Sweet, clean and creamy with some earthy notes? Beautiful color? Yes? Then maybe you can try a version of guacamole that is all about the avocados.

    guac4guac7guac8And we do have a basic recipe that really works when avocados are at their best. Three avocados, one minced shallot, the juice of half a lime, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of black pepper and a scant teaspoon of hot sauce. Dice the avocados with a butter knife in their skins (see the photos). Add the diced avocado to the other ingredients and fold them together, so some of the avocado chunks mash, while some keep their shape. Taste, tune (just a bit) and refrigerate for at least three hours. The taste again, the flavors will have melded and mellowed. Season with more salt, lime and/or hot sauce one last time, and then serve.

    guac9guac10guac12 Continue reading