Haute Hot Food

Only for the adventurous in eating that want to tantalize their taste-buds and make food dance on their palate.

For I am not afraid of letting the food
overtake my desires, nor am I afraid of letting my desires be my food. Food is my expression, not just my livelihood. Cooking is my art, not out of responsibility, but purely out of passion.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Southern Hospitality

The phone rings, a few nice words are exchanged along with the pleasantries of chit chat. Then, you end the conversation with a "see you in a bit!" Last minute company in an unexpected home is a nice surprise, but it throws us into a whirlwind of panic. Last minute dishes need to be put away, quick run through of the bathrooms, toys go into odd places that you swear you'll remember where you've put them, but we all know we will be searching frantically for later! As for me, I was taught that in a good Southern home, always have something to eat. Whether it's fresh cookies, a cheese ball with crackers, fruit salad, or the infamous block of white stiff cream cheese bathed in some kind of jelly or bottled sauce, something was brought out and placed on a platter.
I love to play hostess, and I have decided that I not only wanted to be prepared for unexpected guests, parties, or impromptu get together, but I wanted to wow the crowd. That doesn't always mean a fabulous beef wellington or decedent 3 layer cake, but I have learned that fresh food and fresh ideas that are packed with flavor can speak volumes. A little extra effort and a few additional minutes in preparation not only gives others a delicious treat, but it also shows others that they were worth the extra effort. People appreciate efforts and they always notice when you have put just a little extra care in the anticipation of their arrival.
Reach beyond the cheese ball, and past the jar of salsa. When your at the store, grab a specialty bag of pita or sweet potato chips to keep on hand. Stock the fridge and pantry with assorted nuts, fresh cut vegetables, rich sour cream, and local herbs. Try wondering over to the specialty cheese selection and olive bar at the market. These things are always sure to be turned into a fabulous quick spread or fabulous anti-pasta platter of some kind, and if no company calls or parties are scheduled, you have wonderful snacks for the kids or at home movie nights!
No matter where you live, or who you entertain for, bring a little Southern hospitality into your home. A little extra effort speaks volumes, and it is truly the little things that make people smile.

Roasted Pepper and Walnut Spread

12oz jar Grilled Piquillo Peppers( by the jarred roasted peppers or in the ethnic section of the store) (can use roasted red's)
5 garlic cloves
3 Serrano peppers
1 lg Poblano pepper, roasted and peeled
5 3" Hatch Chilies, roasted, and peeled
1/4c packed fresh Basil
1/2c. packed, fresh Parsley
1c. fresh Cilantro
2 Bay leaves
1tsp salt
1tsp Mexican Oregano
2c. Toasted walnuts
1/4c. Olive Oil
juice of 2 medium limes

-Roast Peppers over hot grill until charred. Place in a resealable bag and let sit 5 minutes. Peel away black skin and remove seeds.
-Toast walnuts over low heat in a large skillet just until they are aromatic
-Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor
-Pulse until finely chopped.
-With motor running, slowly add oil.
-Serve at room temperature with pita chips and blanched asparagus

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Little Taste of Cajun Heaven

My kids go on a special vacation with their Nana every summer. Seven nights, 8 days of fun, travel, and every indulgence a 10 and 8 year old could ever imagine!! This year, she made a special plan to go on a Cajun adventure! Sugar plantations, alligator farms, Mississippi River boat rides, and Civil War battle spots were all on the agenda. Not only did they hit these amazing Louisiana hot spots, they also got a mouthwatering taste of the delectable culinary world of New Orleans. Needless to say, they both came home with a new found love of light, fluffy, snow capped pastries....Beignets!
They requested them every morning, noon, and night. I can't blame them, I mean, what's not to love! Deep fried, and covered in powdered sugar, warm and soft with a perfectly crisp crust that immediately opens up to a soft, steamy center. Perfection!! Add a cup of espresso, and you have a perfectly rounded out, full- on, guilty pleasure.
After a few batches, I wanted to experiment. I wanted to stuff them for an even more decedent dessert....CHOCOLATE!
No, they are not the traditional way to eat them and yes, they are perfectly wonderful the way they are intended to be enjoyed, but sometimes, experimenting can take us just a little bit closer to that nirvana that our pallets seek!

Chocolate Stuffed Beignets

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2tsp pure vanilla
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shortening
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4oz cream cheese at room temperature
4oz Nutella
1TB Cocoa
1tsp pure vanilla
-Mix in a small bowl and set aside

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, eggs, evaporated milk,vanilla, and blend well. Mix in 4 cups of the flour and beat until smooth. Add the shortening, and then the remaining 3 cups of flour. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.
Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares using a pizza cutter. Place rounded spoonful of filling into the center of each square, Gently fold and seal edges by crimping with finger tips being careful not to over stuff and escape. Fry in 360 degree F (180 degrees C) hot oil. If beignets do not pop up, oil is not hot enough. Drain onto paper towels.
Shake confectioners' sugar on hot beignets. Serve warm.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Eve....

Emotions were running high and nerves were getting the best of me. My hand shook, and my voice cracked. I was in a constant battle in my head...."Will He love it?" Will He hate it?" Like an argument between a two year old and his friends over the latest and greatest toy at a birthday party. Am I forgetting salt? Did I put enough heat in the dish?....too much? The agonizing wait at the infamous doors was going to determine my fate. I wanted so bad to stay, I didn't want to walk ahead, but nothing could hold me back. My heart and soul were confined to a small silver cart handling the most precious of cargo's.......my dish!
Through the months of testing and retesting recipes, interviews, and on camera questionnaires, this was it. My heart pounded and the sweat trickling down my back was hitting every nerve. The doors opened and the judges await. I knew whatever the outcome, and wherever this landed me, one thing was certain: I was never going to be the same and I was never going to be satisfied until I was showing the world and sharing my vision: the greatest moments and the grandest memories are all made over one of life's most basic needs....FOOD!

Think beyond the bottle.
Can I change your mind.....

Extra Effort Whipped Cream: But Oh! So worth it!

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
1c. Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Vanilla Bean
1TB Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4c. Powdered sugar
- For intense vanilla flavor chill cream in a bowl overnight with the vanilla bean in it.
-Pour very cold cream in a large bowl.
-Cut bean lengthwise and gently scrape beans from pod and add it to cream.
-Add powdered sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
-Add vanilla and mix thoroughly
-Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reviving the Egg

Are eggs really just for breakfast? For a majority, people still pair eggs with bacon, top it on a dainty muffin and glaze it with rich buttery sauces, or boil it to the point the yolk is a shade of green. I am determined to chase people back to the carton and get cracking!
Over the last year, I have revived my love for the rich taste of that simple pleasure of the egg. I was always the kid at the breakfast table that wanted to "poke" my dads runny egg and watch it explode in the plate, but never really wanted one for myself. I ate them because that is what was served, but never out of enjoyment. I did not appreciate the look, texture, or taste of the mount of yellow on my plate until I truly realized what I had been missing.
My wonderful friend had been buying her eggs from a local farmer for years, and gave me a carton to try. I wasn't exactly thrilled about them, but I did want to test these out considering she thought they were fabulous. She was right! The eggs I had been using from the store had no volume or color. The taste was always bland and it took a lot of butter or bacon grease to get them to take on any desire of my palette. These were different! The yolk was perfectly at attention on the pan. No watery, thin substance oozed from the white, and the taste was as though I had churned fresh cream ans slathered it on my plate. These miss-shaped, beautifully colored eggs was just what I had been missing all these years, but didn't even realize it.
My conclusion: try to find a local farmers market or farmer! If a farmer has chickens, many times they will sell the eggs. Just ask!
Poach them on a salad, toss them in pasta, or fry them gently for a great topper on mushroom risotto! My personal favorite is a creamy chicken enchilada with steaming Verde sauce topped with a perfectly white, lightly pan seared egg. I think I'm driven to the kitchen as I'm typing this.....
The possibilities are endless, and your taste buds will thank you!!!

Asparagus and Pancetta Salad Topped with Pecorino
and a Perfectly Poached Egg
Tossed in a Fresh Lemon Basil Dressing

1Lb Asparagus
1/2c.Pecorino, shaved
4oz Pancetta
6 lg eggs

2TB Fresh Lemon Juice
Zest from 1 small lemon
1TB Fresh Basil, chopped
1/4c. Olive Oil

-Bring a large pot o water to rolling boil.
-In another bowl, prepare a ice water bath for asparagus
-Salt boiling water generously
-drop trimmed asparagus in for 3 minutes and immediately transfer to ice bath to shock
-Drain and cut into 1" pieces, set aside
-chop pancetta and fry until crispy. Drain and pat dry then add to blanched asparagus
-Combine all ingredient for dressing in small bowl. Season to taste with salt/pepper
-Toss dressing into salad and mix until coated
-Gently fold in pecorino shavings.
-Serve room temp with the Perfectly Poached Egg
First bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling. If the water is already boiling, lower the heat until it is no longer boiling. At this point, you can add one or two teaspoons of vinegar to the water, if you want. The vinegar will help the egg whites to congeal more easily.
Working with the eggs one by one, crack an egg into a small cup, then place the cup near the surface of the hot water and gently drop the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the egg whites closer to their yolks. This will help the egg whites hold together.Turn off the heat. Cover. Let sit for 4 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked.
4 Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon.
**One trick to make the eggs stay somewhat contained is to take a ring from a mason jar and place it in the pan. Drop the egg over the mason jar ring and let it settle in the ring, then turn off the heat and cover.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Passing the passion

Many times we pass by so many delicious options, but we never stop. Maybe they are not our normal, or maybe we have decided we no longer can indulge in things that may not make perfect sense. I have a passions. I have desires. I will seek out my dreams. I long to shift the paradigm of the cook whether in home or afar. My desire is to change the thought process of the way we shop for food, prepare food, cook food, and consume food. Passing on my passion to pursue food in a whole new light.
I have opened a new door and I will run through it whole heartily.
Swing open the doors and shout it in the market:
What a delicious world we live in! All it needs is a little creativity of the mind and passion from the heart!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Simple Summers!

I know it's summer, but at times I still log for that southern taste of something warm, crispy, and fried. Not drenched in oil, or smothered in a heavy sauce, but rather light and and crunchy with a smooth inside texture. Oh yes, being from Texas, I always love a little heat as well as that wonderful roasted flavor. The perfect summer meal of that Southern greatness with a slash of summer.....Roasted Corn Fritters with Chile Lemon Sauce served over fresh Arugula.
I must admit, growing up I never liked corn. The taste was void to me. Sweet, yes, but nothing I really wanted to indulge in. Whether on the cob, from a can, frozen, or, creamed the taste never appealed to me. All of this was until I was twenty-something and I discovered the wonderful flavor of roasted and slightly charred corn on the cob rolled in lime butter and covered in Cojita cheese. I can still taste it. Sweet yet tangy yet savory and creamy. This was the way I should have grown up with corn. Where was this wonderful concoction my entire childhood and young adult life??
With that being said, I am always looking for new fun ways to use roasted corn, and especially in the summer when it is picked at its peek! The carmalization of the sugars in the corn brings out another layer of goodness that would never be found in just adding it to a casserole or boiling it in a pot of water. Roasting, for me, is my only way to eat it! I know summer means lighter meals and quicker prep time to make up for the hours spent in the pool and therefore this was my inspiration for comfort in the summer. Not only are these fritters amazing in themselves, I also love to top them with blackened Tiger Shrimp or Jumbo Lump Crab meat. The marriage of the sweet meat, delicate sauce, and roasted corn is almost perfection! No longer will you look at corn in the same way, you will surely be drawn to put it on a hot fire, and get some color on it!

Roasted Corn Fritters:

1c. Fire roasted corn on the cob (grilled on med/high heat 25 minutes) scraped from the cob (about 2 full ears)
1 Jalapeno, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, chopped
1/4c chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp Tony's Cajun seasoning
3/4tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1c. Course ground cornmeal
1/2c flour
2TBS melted butter
1 egg
1c buttermilk
3/4c Pepper Jack or Regular Jack cheese, shredded
oil for pan frying

In a bowl whisk together the cornmeal, the flour, salt, baking soda, and Cajun seasoning. In another bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons of the butter, the egg, and the buttermilk, stir in the corn, onion, peppers, garlic, and Monterey Jack, and stir in the cornmeal mixture, stirring until the batter is just combined. Heat a skillet over moderately high heat with about 2" oil until it is hot. Working in batches, drop the batter by a 1/4-cup measure onto the griddle. Spread the batter slightly. Cook the cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, transferring them as they are cooked to a heatproof platter, and keep them warm.

Chile Lemon Cream Sauce:
8 oz sour cream
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice from small lemon
1 Serrano pepper, de-seeded and grated
1 green onion finely chopped
Salt/pepper to taste

Serve these fritters on a bed of Arugula or Bibb with cherry tomatoes and fresh lemon wedges for a perfect outdoor lunch, or even better, top fritters with Cajun blackened Tiger Shrimp or Lump Crab for a full meal!

Only for those......