November 27, 2022

Smoked Salmon

Well, I didn’t leave this for last, but pretty close. I’ve had smoked salmon before but I have to admit I’ve never really liked it all that much and so I wasn’t very excited for this one. The other thing holding me back was Alton’s whole homemade smoker rig, which I had been considering how to make. But, I had my smoker out after doing a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, so I figured if I had a smoker already, why not use it instead of making something with a cardboard box and hot plate like he did in the episode?

Since I wasn’t terribly excited for this, I simply did a 1 pound fillet rather than the book-ended giant ones he did in the show. I estimated that each of those things was about four pounds, so I cut the cure recipe by 1/8. I sprinkled the fillet back and front, and wrapped it up in plastic and foil.

ready to cure

After putting some weight on top and sticking it in the fridge for 24 hours, I then washed it off and set up a little fan to dry it for a couple hours.

fan rig

While it was drying I got the smoker going and when it was ready I put the fish on.

ready to smoke

The recipe online says to keep the smoker to about 150/160 but I could really only control the heat to somewhere between 200-220. I’m not sure this made a huge difference in the end, but it’s worth noting. I tested the fish after 20m and took it off the smoker after 30m.

smoked

Finally, I let it come to room temperature before the whole family gathered around to give it a try. Here’s where I have to say I wasn’t just surprised, I was blown away. It was SO good. Smoky and sweet, and not fishy at all. The three of us stood at the counter with forks and just crushed this thing. Besides just straight up, we also ate it on crackers with a little bit of cream cheese too. It was marvelous, and I kind of regretted not doing more. However, with Christmas coming up, I’m planning to do this again as a gift.

Smoked Salmon

  • Crowd: 5/5
  • Ease: 2/5
  • Used a ~1 1lb skin-on filet, and cut the cure recipe by 1/8
  • Cure recipe was 2T salt, 1 T brown sugar, 1T sugar, and a few shakes of pepper
  • Smoked to 150 in about 30m

November 26, 2022

Stuffed Lobster

As a born-and-bred New Englander, I have to say I’ve been really skeptical about AB’s Stuffed Lobster recipe. I grew up believing that the only way to cook lobster is to just steam it and crack it at the table. So, even though this felt like blasphemy, I gave it a go anyway. I started by chilling the lobsters in the freezer while prepping the steaming pot.

lobsters

In the episode, Alton used some river rocks to steam the lobsters. For my version, I collected up some rocks from the nearby beach to use as the base for the steaming part of the recipe.

ready to steam

Extracting the leg meat, cutting up the lobsters, and cleaning out the bodies was a real pain, and again sort of felt like something I shouldn’t be doing. So after making the stuffing and baking the lobster halves, we sat down to eat and … it was incredible.

cooked

The claw and tail meat was both flavorful and moist. The stuffing was buttery and crispy, which was a perfect complement to a bite of meat. We were really surprised by how amazing this lobster was, and absolutely make this again. We were bummed that we only did one lobster per person. Can’t wait to do this again.

Stuffed Lobster

  • Crowd: 5/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • My only regret is not cooking twice the amount of lobsters

November 15, 2022

Garlic Chicken

As garlic lovers, we were looking forward to 40 Cloves and a Chicken. I started out by quartering a chicken – something that we’ve done a few times so far in this project and I’m starting to get a little better at.

quartered

The recipe was pretty easy, just browning up the chicken and tossing it with a bunch of garlic and olive oil. For the garlic, I used a package of pre-peeled cloves from Whole Foods, which might be cheating but… really didn’t want to peel 40 fresh cloves.

ready to cook

After roasting for 1.5hr, it looked amazing. The garlic cloves were perfectly cooked, and the legs and thighs were perfect. However, the breasts were almost inedibly dry. The reviews on the Food Network site mentioned this, but surprisingly only some of them. One thing we loved though, was eating the roasted garlic on toasts. I put them in a bowl along with the oil from the pan. It was amazing.

cooked chicken

So even though the breasts were a 2, the dark meat was a definite 4. If I did this again, I would only use legs and thighs, and would probably only cook it for 45 minutes or so.

40 Cloves and a Chicken

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Rather than 1.5 hr, I think 45 min would have done the trick
  • Doing this again with just legs and/or thighs would be great

November 03, 2022

Fried Chicken

Tonight was Fried Chicken night! I’d been looking forward to this one.

I started last night by cutting up a 6-pound boiler/fryer and marinating it in buttermilk.

cut up chicken

Then this afternoon I created my spice shake and set up my left-to-right frying stations. One thing I noticed in the Food Network recipe comments were people saying the recipe is way too salty. The shake in the recipe, though, isn’t for using 100% for one chicken! It’s for using a bit now and saving the rest for next fry. I dusted the chicken pieces with the shake until them seemed “well seasoned” but there was a ton left over. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to use all of it for this one recipe.

fry station

I let the dredge dry for a bit while I got the shortening to temperature. There seems to be a shortage of Crisco so I had to use what I found – in this case Spectrum Organic shortening.

Once it was up to 350 degrees, I loaded up the pan. Problem was that not everything fit in at once – I has to leave the legs out for a second batch.

frying

I did each side for 10 minutes, testing the oil temperature every now and then. The pieces came out at just under 180 degrees, like AB recommends. After taking those out, I started the second batch of legs only. For round two, though, I let the oil get a little too hot and the legs came out a bit blackened. I let them cool to room temperature while making the rest of our dinner.

done

Regardless of being slightly burned, the chicken was amazing. Crispy on the outside and warm and moist on the inside. To serve, I made up a little Sriracha mayo for dipping, which was also fantastic!

Fried Chicken

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 2/5
  • Used a ~6lb boiler/fryer, but a 4lb would have been better.
  • For the shake I left out the cayenne pepper, and doubled the garlic powder.

October 30, 2022

Halloween Cake

Two things happened on Saturday:

  • We were invited to a Halloween Party
  • I had some time to make an Angel Food Cake

Turns out we were able to combine these things by making it into a Halloween-themed cake to bring to the party!

I gathered all the ingredients together, including the pan I borrowed from my Mom. This pan has clearly been through some stuff in its lifetime:

everything ready

Next it was time to make the foam. I started whisking, then switched to the hand mixer. It took 15 minutes before I achieved medium peaks.

foam

My Mom’s pan isn’t one of the two-part deals, so I thought it might be a good idea to line the bottom with parchment. After the cake came out of the oven (it took about 40 minutes until getting a clean skewer), I turned it upside down to cool and set.

upside down

After about 20 minutes of cooling, the cake fell out of the pan, and I think it could have used a little more upside down time because the cake was a bit denser than I expected.

out of the pan

However, even though it was dense it was really delicious. I took some store-bought lemon frosting and added some food coloring to it to make a pumpkin orange color. Gemma then cut out some eyes, a mouth and a stem to finish the cake!

pumpkin

The cake was a hit!

Angel Food Cake

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 2/5
  • Took 15 minutes with the hand mixer until medium peaks
  • Baked for 40 minutes until done
  • Should have filled the pan about 2/3 of the way instead of about 4/5 of the way
  • Used parchment on the bottom of the pan, but probably should have left it bare

October 22, 2022

Beef Broth

I’ve been looking for an excuse to get an Instant Pot, and the Pressure episode was the final push I needed, so I got a deal on one and set out to make AB’s Beefy Broth.

I started by salting and oiling 2 pounds of beef shank and 1 pound of oxtail, then using the Instant Pot’s saute mode to give them a nice sear.

searing

I then added the veggies and the water. This filled the pot right up to it’s max fill line. I kept the pot on saute and waited for it to boil, but taking its temp for a bit told me it probably wasn’t boiling any time soon, so I decided to just skip that step. I don’t think it made much difference in the end, though.

filled

I set it to pressure cook for the full 50 minutes as listed in the recipe.

50 minutes

When it was done, I first strained the big stuff out directly through a colander, and then used a potato masher to squeeze what liquid I could from those solids. After dumping the colander, I lined it with 2 layers of cheese cloth, and strained the broth through it again two times.

straining

The initial broth needed seasoning so I added salt bit by bit and tasted until it all seemed right. I should have measured, but I estimate I added about a teaspoon of salt total to the finished broth.

broth

In the end, it was delicious. We ended up simply drinking it in mugs over the next few days, which is a warm and fantastic little snack – tt’s a great time of year for broth, and a mug of it really hits the spot. I had originally planned to make soup or something with it, but we never ended up doing that. We did freeze the rest for later use in gravies and stuff, so I look forward to having that in the toolbox.

AB's Beefy Broth

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Used 2 pounds of shank, 1 pound of oxtail
  • Didn't bring to a boil and skim before starting pressure cook
  • Cooked for 50 minutes in the Instant Pot
  • Added about a teaspoon of salt to the finished broth before it tasted well-seasoned

October 16, 2022

Puff Pastry Weekend

Did a lot of work with puff pastry this weekend. On Saturday I made the Stacked Puff Pastry with Cherries. Measuring and cutting the pieces for the walls was fun.

the walls

After the walls came the filling. I had accidentally bought “cherry filling” rather than “pie cherries” but dumping the can into a colander and rinsing it down produced enough whole cherries to be salvageable. Also, I didn’t have cake crumbs around but we did have some glazed donut holes in the freezer than I was able to crush up into crumbs to use for the filling – it turned out really tasty!

filling

And finally the top. I brushed the top with egg wash and then, as one of the recipe comments suggested, I sprinkled a bit of sugar over the top.

the top

After 30m at 400 degrees, the crust was a deep golden brown, and not wanting to risk burning it I did the second 30m at 300 degrees, which worked out fine.

finished pastry

We didn’t get a chance to eat it right away so I stashed it in a gallon freezer bag to serve on Sunday night. For Sunday afternoon, I decided to do the Salmon Turnovers but make them appetizer size. Instead of making four from a sheet of puff pastry, I made 12. Putting them together was delicate work, and I thought it was going to be a disaster – check out my handiwork:

ready to cook

But, sloppy as they were, they came out looking just great.

cooked

However, we weren’t really big fans. I think trying the appetizer size caused the puff pastry to overwhelm the filling, but even so, the filling itself wasn’t that great. I think I’d really like to try a meat filling (AB suggests Manwich) or maybe steak bomb filling.

For dessert, I served up the cherry pastry, with Sweet and Sour Dessert Sauce on top plus a little vanilla ice cream. Rather than cook the honey over the burner in the metal bowl, I microwaved it then dumped that into the bowl and added the sour cream. So easy!

dessert sauce

The dessert sauce added a little extra zing to the pastry, and was a nice touch. It’s so easy to make, and would probably be really good with some fruit, like pears or peaches.

Salmon Turnovers

  • Crowd: 2/5
  • Ease: 2/5
  • Tried making a bunch of little ones
  • Wasted a ton of filling in this

Stacked Puff Pastry with Cherries

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Used glazed donut crumbs in the filling mix
  • Cooked at 400 for 30m, then 300 for 30m

Sweet and Sour Dessert Sauce

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 4/5
  • Used orange blossom honey
  • Used as a sauce on the stacked puff pastry with cherries
  • Would probably be really good with fruit

October 09, 2022

Honey Plums

What a quick, easy, and delicious dessert topping. Tonight I whipped up some Honey Plums to serve over vanilla ice cream, and they did not disappoint!

I cut them a bit smaller than the recipe listing called for, and I think I might have used too much honey in the pan because they didn’t really brown.

in the pan

In the end, though, they were SO good on top of ice cream. This is one I’ll definitely make again, since we usually have various fruit around and we always have honey, too.

plum topped ice cream

Honey Plums

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 4/5
  • Used some of the orange blossom honey I used for the orange cake
  • Cut the plums up into fairly thin slices

October 08, 2022

Tea & Cake

I had read in the reviews of Aunt Verna’s Orange Cake that it was dry and not very good, so I figured I’d pair it with a Perfect Cup of Tea to provide a little bit of extra moisture and flavor.

I started out by making the orange cake batter and pouring it into a greased loaf pan:

loaf

I cooked that for 30 minutes at 350, and a skewer came out clean. So I let it cool and then when I went to dump it onto a cutting board, a bunch of uncooked batter spilled out of the cake and the whole thing basically fell apart into a huge half cooked lump. I wish I had taken a picture of that, but I didn’t, and instead regrouped a bit.

For my second attempt, I made half as much batter and poured that into a 6-cup muffin tin:

muffin tin

I popped this in at 350 and checked it after 25 minutes. This time I didn’t trust the skewer and cut into a muffin instead. Indeed they were done.

done muffins

To pair with the orange cake muffins, I made a batch of English Black Tea.

tea setup

When all was done, I sat down to a snack that could only be described as fairly OK. The cake is not great, just like the comments say. And as a coffee drinker, the tea was pretty much what I’d expect.

a snack

Perfect Cup of Tea

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 4/5
  • Used black tea, full boil, steeped for about 4.5 minutes

Aunt Verna's Orange Cake

  • Crowd: 2/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Added a tiny pinch of salt
  • 6 muffins (half the recipe) took about 25 minutes at 350

September 26, 2022

Ham Dinner

I’d been looking forward to making the City Ham ever since I read the reviews on the recipe page. People rave about this one so I wanted to see for myself. I started with an 8lb shank-end grocery store ham, and had fun cutting some diamond shapes into it. If you look closely you can see them:

diamond shapes

Cooked it for just over 3 hours before taking it out and peeling off the skin and the layer of fat as best I could. I probably could have cut the diamonds a bit deeper, because I had to do some serious peeling. I then brushed it with mustard, patted on brown sugar, sprayed with apple juice (lots of people in the comments used apple juice instead of bourbon), then packed with food-processed ginger snap crumbs.

crusted

It was then into a 400 degree oven (I bumped it up 50 degrees because I saw in the comments that people had trouble keeping the crust on at 350). Another 45 minutes and it was done.

done

I forgot to take photos of it sliced, but it was fantastic. The crust was sweet and crunchy, and it largely stayed on the ham. The meat was moist and flavorful. Great method for ham!

With the ham we had some of Vlad’s Very Garlicky Greens made with kale. I opted for “medium” garlicky but using 5 large smashed cloves plus a large sliced up clove.

garlic

Once again, in the ham-induced excitement of the moment, I forgot to photograph the kale in the pan. Instead here it is plated:

garlicky kale

City Ham

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Used an 8-pound, bone-in, shank side packaged ham
  • Took it out at 125 (took 3h 15m) and added crust
  • Used apple juice instead of bourbon
  • Put it back at 400 to crust up until it hit 140

Vlad's Very Garlicky Greens

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Used 5 smashed garlic cloves plus one sliced

September 24, 2022

Fruit Tart

First time working with puff pastry, and these were easier to make than I thought they’d be. We cut each Fruit Tart and served them with a scoop of ice cream and some whipped cream.

tarts

Thinking I might try making every smaller, bite sized ones at some point.

Fruit Tart

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Made one with granny smith apple, and another with pear
  • Used peach preserves as a glaze

September 18, 2022

Spicy

Was planning on doing some tacos tonight and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to make the Salsa from season four. Because I was out shopping anyway, I also figured that pairing the tacos with some Spicy Pineapple Sauce for dessert.

The salsa started with finely chopping a bunch of ingredients.

finely chopped

The fun part was scorching the jalepenos over the burner. In the episode, AB used his metal steamer insert over the burner, so I tried that myself.

jalepenos

They turned out well, but I think it ruined my steamer. It’s all discolored now, though it does seem to work still. Anyway, once I removed the skins and chopped them up, the salsa was done.

salsa

Alton says to let it sit for 24 hours or so, but it was still really good on the tacos – it had a nice fresh taste that went really well with the rest. You can taste a little hint of the roasted jalepenos. They have a nice combination of spicy and sweet. Looking forward to seeing how it tastes once it’s had time to meld together!

After the tacos I tried out some spicy pineapple over ice cream, complete with fried up corn tortillas.

spicy ice cream

While the salsa was good, the dessert left a little to be desired. I could see how maybe it would be good with really fresh pineapple, but I found it to be a little flavorless. I’d make more salsa in the future, but I doubt I’d do the spicy pineapple again.

Salsa

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Used 2 scallions and about 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • Wish I knew how much salt to add, just added to taste

Spicy Pineapple Sauce

  • Crowd: 2/5
  • Ease: 4/5

September 10, 2022

Honey Mustard

Had some friends over tonight so I thought it would be a good opportunity to whip up some Honey Mustard Dressing to go along with some (store bought) pigs in a blanket.

honey mustard

The dressing was good, and it went really well with the piggies. It is thin, so I guess if you really want a dip or a spread you could leave out the vinegar.

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 4/5
  • This dressing is thin, to make a dip I'd probably skip the vinegar

September 08, 2022

Mayo Battle

In season 4, Alton presents two mayo recipes: Mayonnaise and Party Mayonnaise – both of them mayo, but with some slight differences.

The first – Mayonnaise – seems like the “traditional” mayo completely whisked by hand and adding oil in drop by drop for a good portion of it. I started with this, and once I was done it felt like my whisking arm was going to fall off.

whisked mayo

The second one – Party Mayonnaise – was much easier since it was done in a food processor. While the first recipe had lemon juice and all safflower oil, party mayonnaise called for lime juice and a few tablespoons chile oil. I didn’t have chile oil so I made some by heating oil in a skillet and pouring it into a bowl with a couple tablespoons of red chile flakes.

making chile oil

From there it was just a couple seconds in the food processor and done.

let the party begin

The question was how to taste mayonnaise – what recipes feature mayo? My first thought was egg salad, so we went with that first.

egg salad

They tasted basically the same, so the second plan was BLTs. I didn’t get a picture of the side-by-side tasting BLTs but that did the trick – we were able to taste the difference. They are both really good, but of course the one that’s a huge pain to make (literally) was the winner. I’m digging the idea of homemade mayo so maybe next time I’ll try the first recipe in the food processor. Best of both worlds maybe?

Mayonnaise

  • Crowd: 4/5
  • Ease: 2/5
  • Arm almost fell off
  • Used safflower oil
  • Had perfect mayonnaise consistency

Party Mayonnaise

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Made my own chile oil with safflower oil and red pepper flakes
  • Used safflower oil
  • Had the consistency of yogurt

September 05, 2022

Sweet Tea

Time to launch into Season 4! Pretty excited about this season as there looks to be a bunch of great mains that I’m looking forward to trying (stuff lobster anyone?). I’m going to have to do the Smoked Salmon early, because if I save it to the end I’ll just procrastinate like I did with the catfish in Season 3. We’ll see.

I actually started Season 4 the other day making both mayo recipes, but we haven’t tried them yet. So, it’s Sweet Tea that will start us off.

This was a pretty easy one. I started off making the simple syrup (halved the recipe) with 3 lemons and a few springs of mint.

simply syrup

The tea couldn’t have been simpler – I bloomed it in a sauce pan and then strained it into a pitcher.

the tea

When everything was cool, we poured some glasses with ice and everyone could sweeten theirs the way they liked it. It’s a great version of iced tea that is so easy to make. Glad we got this in before the summer completely goes away on us!

Sweet Tea

  • Crowd: 3/5
  • Ease: 3/5
  • Bloomed tea in a sauce pan
  • Halved the simple syrup