Friday, April 30, 2010

Quick Update for Everyone!

Hello my little pets,

Some of you have been asking me how everything is moving along with my book so I thought I'd give you a little update. Right now, my agent is still in the process of finding the right publisher, so I'm in this weird place where there's a lot of hurrying up and waiting. It gets a little frustrating, but I know that we will find the right fit and What the Bleep will soon move on to become something you can buy in a bookstore.
I apologize for the blog being a little slow lately. I'm less than a month away from getting married (to the most lovely, talented, and creative man I've ever known) so I've been a little preoccupied with wedding planning and traveling.
I also need your input, ideas, and questions! What the Bleep Happened to My Rump Roast? is, and will always be, an interactive blog. So if you like reading it, please keep sending in your dilemmas, but more importantly, share it with your friends. Sharing is caring, people! The more readers I have, the more questions I get. The more questions I can get, the more often I can write. And the more often I can write, the more blogs you get to read. And in the end, everyone wins! (Except for the cast of "The Hills." They'll never win at anything. Ever.)
You can click on the Facebook Share link on the right side of the your screen for every blog that you enjoy. And if you haven't already become a follower, what the hell are you waiting for? And I'm sure if you put my blog in your Facebook status for an hour or two, your cyber friends will enjoy reading it a lot more than reading that you just decided on Subway for lunch. So riveting.
As always, thanks for reading, for your support, and for helping me do what I love to do.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Goat Cheese...

Dear Tricia, Goat cheese might be my favorite out of all the cheeses...behind brie of course. Do you have any suggestions on ways to use it besides crumbling it on a salad?

Hell yes I do! I f-ing love goat cheese. And you're right... brie is superior, but that's another blog for another time. Lets talk goats.
For pasta: if you ever make a white cream sauce for pasta, or use one out of a packet (Hey, I don't judge), you can whisk in a handful of goat cheese into the sauce until it melts to give your sauce some extra oomph. So good. If you've never made a cream sauce from scratch, I found a simple one for "alfredo sauce" (its not really alfredo sauce but its still good) that cheats and uses cream cheese.

1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups milk
6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring with wire whisk until smooth. Add milk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps. Stir in goat cheese and pepper. Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency. Sauce will thicken rapidly, thin with milk if cooked too long. Toss with hot pasta to serve.

You can also cook chicken breasts with goat cheese stuffed in the middle of them. All you have to do is take a seasoned, raw, boneless chicken breast (with or without skin. That depends on your own preference.), lay it flat, and cut a little pocket into the side of it. Try to keep one side open and one side closed. Take your goat cheese and stuff it into the middle of the chicken. Cook your chicken in a skillet on both sides for about 3 minutes and then finish it off in a 400 degree oven until its fully cooked- about 5-8 minutes. When you cut into the chicken, there will be ooey gooey melty goat cheese and its completely awesome.

For dessert: take your favorite cheesecake recipe and substitute half of the cream cheese for goat cheese. I know, this might seem weird but, trust me, its better than the first time you heard the New Kids on the Block sing "Please Don't Go Girl" in 1988. (Oh, that Joey McIntyre. His voice gets me every time.) When its finished and cool, drizzle it with honey and serve with some fruit. So freaking good.

For cocktail party hors d'oevres: take a package of goat cheese and mix it with a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of honey. With the palms of your hands, roll the mixture in little balls and then roll them in chopped pecans. Chill and serve. Oooh la la.

Inversely, you can make savory version of those delectable little goat cheese balls (I hope you can come up with a more appetizing name, though. Let me know.) using black pepper, minced fresh chives, and any other yummy herbs. These are really versatile and you can use whatever you think sounds good at the time. Be careful with roasted red peppers though... if you mix everything up too much it turns pink. Which could actually be fitting if you're having a valentines day party (blech) or a baby shower for a baby girl (double blech.)

If you're reading this post and you hate goat cheese, I understand. It took me some time to like it too, but I have some advice for newbies: don't buy any goat cheese that says "aged" on the label. Look for words like "un-ripened," "fresh," and "young." These are the goat cheeses that taste more mellow and are easier to eat if you're new at it. But have some balls and give it a go sometime... It won't kill you. And when you love it, you can come back here and I'll say I told you so.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hollandaise? Holla!

I was talking brunch with some of my readers on my Facebook fan page (have you checked it out yet?), and got a request for a hollandaise sauce recipe. This is a bold undertaking, my pets. Hollandaise has a reputation for being really moody and unpredictable if its not handled right. Its pretty much the Mickey Rourke of sauces. But that's not going to stop me from taking this heavy hitting question and punching it in the face.
Having a good hollandaise recipe isn't as important as having good technique. How you handle the sauce is going to be what will make, or literally, break it. That's what so fussy about hollandaise- if its not made just right, it separates or "breaks," and turns into a gloppy, disgusting mess.
So, lets start with a recipe and I can elaborate from there. This is my favorite hollandaise recipe: I used it when I ran a hotel kitchen in Telluride and had to make hollandaise every morning. Every cook has their own method of making hollandaise (and of course they all think theirs is the best because they're usually arrogant butt heads), but my recipe eliminates half of the steps that you'd normally use and doesn't involve whisking in a bowl over a double boiler. Only pansies do that. And you're not a pansy, are you?

1/4 cup water
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt to taste
6 egg yolks
4 ounces clarified butter

First, lets talk about the clarified butter. Clarified butter is butter that has all of the milk solids and water cooked out of it- its just pure fat with nothing else to get in the way. In restaurant kitchens, there's usually a big batch of clarified butter made every few days and you can grab from that. At home, that's usually not the case. If you want to clarify your own butter, its not impossible. All you're really doing is melting butter in a pot, letting it simmer, and then skimming the white foam off the top. I looked up instructional videos on it, and the least obnoxious (everyone thinks they're a natural born cooking show host these days...) I've found is here. If you want to buy butter already clarified, you can find it next to the butter at the grocery store, sometimes called "ghee." Same thing.
Alright, so now that you've got your clarified butter, lets go.

1. In a small pan, melt the clarified butter. The goal is to have it ready and warm, but not screaming hot. This is why I melt the butter first so that it has time to cool off a little.
2. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (save those for an omelet) and have them ready in a bowl.
3. In a small pot, bring the water, salt, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and add the egg yolks. Here's where technique matters: whisk the daylights out of those eggs. The goal here is to whisk air into them to get them light and foamy. If you whisk too slow, the eggs will start to cook and will make the sauce gritty. Gross. So whisk whisk whisk! And when the color gets lighter and they start to look fluffy...
4. You can start adding the warm clarified butter very slowly. This is the second part of the recipe where technique matters. If you dump all of the butter in at once, you're just adding fat to more fat (yolks) and it won't emulsify. (What's emulsifying? Check out one of my older posts here.) So add the butter in a very small, slow stream, and keep whisking like a banshee. Once you've added all of the butter, your sauce will ideally be smooth with no lines of oil in it. Then you can add whatever seasonings you want: cayenne pepper, black pepper, Worcestershire, weed... whatever suits your fancy pants.

I know, I know... you tried making it and are wondering why it separated. Here's what you may have done wrong.
Temperature is so important when you emulsify. So remember that you have to turn the heat down to low when you add the eggs. Also, was the clarified butter too hot? If its too hot, the hollandaise will break as soon as you add it. (You weren't listening to me earlier, were you?) Also, did you add the clarified butter too fast? Slow down, buddy.
So now what? Did you break the sauce and want to cry because you wasted half a dozen eggs and all that clarified butter? Well, you don't have to toss it. Get a new bowl and put a couple of tablespoons of warm water in it. Then slowly add the broken hollandaise into the bowl of warm water while whisking it. That trick usually works for me, and one of my CIA instructors, Chef Pardus, always swore by that fix-it. He was a smart man. He also teased me a lot because I was always cutting my fingers open. Just make sure you add the hollandaise to the water, not the water to the hollandaise. Chef Pardus will be proud.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yet Another Reason to Hate Baby Showers

Dear Tricia, I have to go to a baby shower and we're all supposed to bring a "covered dish." What in the world does that mean? I don't have that kind of time, or any dishes with corresponding covers. Please help.

Ugh, lame. First of all whoever is planning said baby shower SUCKS as a hostess. Hostess-ing means you're supposed to do all the grunt work, not lay it on everyone else. Let me be the first to tell you that. And second of all, since your shower is obviously going to be awful (not that most baby showers don't suck to begin with), I think you should just buy a gift online and ship it to the mom/slave-to-be. She'll get her gift (which is all she wants anyway), and you're in the clear. Just an idea.

Alrighty, covered dish (church talk for "pot luck") ideas should be simple. Especially in your case since it sounds like you're super busy. I have a several options.

1. Deviled eggs. This might be too time consuming for you, but its a thought. Everyone loves deviled eggs. They're almost as awesome as Little Smokies. For reference, please visit an older blog I wrote about deviled eggs, "The Devil and His Eggs" (under "eggs" in the archives) where there's a basic recipe.

2. Spinach Artichoke Dip. Again, I've written about this when a distressed, busy young woman had a pot luck to go to. You can read that entry, "Is That a Salad, or Did You Just Fart" (under "pot luck" in the archives) and use that recipe if you want. Its super easy.

3. This one may be up for debate, but I'm pretty sure everyone and their mom loves some green bean casserole. And its a nice treat because nobody ever makes it after Thanksgiving. If you show up with green bean casserole, you're probably going to be the popular one at the baby shower. Here's the rookie version of the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350

2 cans of French-style green beans
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
3/4 cup of milk
2 cups of French fried onions
1 teaspoon of pepper

In a bowl, mix up the soup, milk, and pepper until all the lumps are gone.
Stir in 3/4 cups of the fried onions and all of the green beans.
Put in a casserole dish (or any oven safe dish or pan that will fit everything inside of it) and bake for 25 minutes
After 25 minutes, evenly cover the casserole with the remaining fried onions.
Bake for 5 more minutes and voila! Done. If you do it the night before, you can pop it in the oven for 15 minutes when you get there to reheat it.

If you don't have a corresponding lid for your dish, its no big deal- just cover it in foil.

Now, you might be wondering at this point, "Tricia, why not just bake some cookies or make a simple dessert?" You know why? Because that's what everyone else is going to do. That, or they'll bring cheese and crackers. If you bring green bean casserole it will be a welcome change from dairy and sugar city, population: you. And the never-ending "awwwww's" and "how cuuuuuute's" and decorations that look like pastels threw up all over the room are reason enough to give you a stomach ache- why make it worse with crap food?
I have spoken.