Monday, April 23, 2012

Italian Stromboli

There are so many things I love about strombili. I love how the fresh pizza dough wraps around the delicious filling and bakes up in a neat package. I love choosing flavorful ingredients to stuff inside to accomodate whatever I'm hungry for and have on hand. I love slicing into it and serving the pieces to anxiously awaiting guests as the steam escapes and everyone ooohs and aaahs as the delicious filling is revealed. And I especially love that stromboli is not super common on menus or in cookbooks. Everyone loves it, but it is always a treat. Good news stromboli fans, this delectable meal is easy and fun to make at home! Just make a batch of pizza dough (or use your favorite store-bought kind), roll it out, load it up with toppings and roll it up. Then bake to perfection and serve with pizza sauce. Enjoy the ooohs and aaahs!

Italian Stromboli
Flavorful and fantastic for a crowd!
Serves 8

Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows, or 2 rounds of your favorite dough
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 cup sliced yellow onions
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
1/2 cup thinly sliced green bell peppers
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni or salami
2 cups grated provolone
2 cups grated mozzarella
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
1 cup finely grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet and set aside.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until very soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.

Punch down the dough and divide half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to a large rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. Spread half of the cooled sausage mixture across the dough leaving a 1-inch border. Overlapping slightly, layer half of the ham, pepperoni, provolone and mozzarella cheeses over the top. Using a pastry brush, paint the border of 1 long edge with egg wash. Starting at the opposite long end without egg wash, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise, 20 to 30 minutes.

Brush the top of each stromboli with egg wash. Bake until nearly completely golden brown and starting to crisp, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each stromboli with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the dough is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with pizza sauce.

Basic Pizza Dough:
1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wedge Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing

There’s no better beginning to a steak dinner than a wedge salad. There’s a reason it’s is a top-seller in steakhouses across the country- cold, crisp lettuce is smothered in creamy blue cheese dressing and topped with smoky bacon and bright tomatoes. It’s one of those perfect salads where the flavors combine beautifully and you feel completely satisfied without feeling to full. Along with some grilled bread this salad could even be the star of the meal. Take a break from boring mixed-green lettuce and vinaigrette with this big, bold wedge salad!

Wedge Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing
A cool, crisp and flavorful salad.
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 large head of iceberg lettuce, cut into 6 wedges, each with some core attached
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Milk, optional

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add blue cheese and stir until well blended. If too thick, thin with milk by tablespoonfuls to desired consistency. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until golden brown and beginning to crisp. Arrange lettuce on plates. Spoon dressing over. Using slotted spoon, transfer warm bacon from skillet onto salads, dividing equally. Garnish with red onion and grape tomatoes.

Recipe by Bon Appetit

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Orleans Menu: Gumbo, Shrimp Po-Boys, and Bananas Foster

I used to live in New Orleans, and it has inspired my love of food and cooking ever since. In New Orleans food is more than nourishment, it's family, life, passion. I love the Creole/Cajun style that centers on bold flavors and interesting ingredients. I recently hosted a dinner party featuring some of my favorite New Orleans foods- gumbo, po-boys, and bananas foster. The gumbo was bursting with flavor from the andouille sausage, chicken thighs, a ton of veggies, and Cajun seasoning. It's an unusual and unforgettable flavor that took me back to the Bayou. In this new rendition of shrimp po-boys I deep fried the shrimp, which became crunchy morsels coated in Cajun spice. It's truly my favorite sandwich! Bananas foster is the perfect end to this meal- hot, syrupy bananas soaked in a rum caramel sauce on top of vanilla ice cream. Throw on some jazz, pour a strong drink, and enjoy this New Orleans menu!

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
A hearty and flavorful New Orleans Stew.
Serves 8

1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, cut into 1/2" rounds
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and pale parts separated from dark)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 green bell peppers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
8 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups 1/2”-thick slices fresh (or frozen, thawed) okra, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (preferably Crystal)
Steamed Rice, for serving

Combine 1 Tbsp. salt and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl; sprinkle all over chicken. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Working in batches, sear chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. (Once cooled down, shred chicken with two forks.) Add sausage to pot; cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate with chicken.

Strain drippings from pot through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve 1 cup drippings, adding more oil if needed to measure 1 cup. Wipe pot clean; return drippings to pot.

Heat drippings over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Whisk constantly until roux is the color of milk chocolate, 15–20 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in white and pale-green parts of scallions and next 3 ingredients. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Slowly whisk in broth. Add bay leaves, thyme, and reserved shredded chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer gently, skimming fat from surface and stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup okra, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Simmer until chicken is very tender and flavors meld, about 45 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup okra; simmer until okra is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt.

Serve gumbo over rice. Garnish with dark-green parts of scallions.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Shrimp Po-Boys
The perfect sandwich- hot crispy shrimp with cool creamy mayo.
Serves 6

Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 French bread loaves, each cut into 3 sandwiches
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or more to taste
2 cup shredded lettuce
2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes, thinly sliced
Sliced dill pickles
Crystal hot sauce, for serving
Potato chips, for serving, optional (recommended: Zapp's)

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or preheat a deep fryer to 360 degrees F. Season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Essence, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the cayenne. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour and cornmeal and season with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the Cajun seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.

Dredge the shrimp in the seasoned flour mixture, coating the shrimp completely. Fry the shrimp in the hot oil, in batches if necessary, until golden brown, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season with salt and hot sauce.

Split the French bread loaves in half and brush both cut sides of the bread with some of the melted butter. Using a spatula, spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the bread, then sprinkle with hot sauce. Divide the shrimp evenly between the 2 sandwiches and garnish with the lettuce, tomato slices, sliced pickles and hot sauce, if desired. Serve with potato chips.

Recipe adapted from Emeril

Bananas Foster
A classic New Orleans dessert, rum-soaked bananas and ice cream.
Serves 6

 4 ripe bananas, peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dark rum
1 pint Vanilla Ice Cream

Cut the bananas in half across and then lengthwise.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and turning, cook on both sides until the bananas start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (Or, off the heat, carefully ignite the pan with a match and return to the heat.) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies.

Divide the ice cream among 4 dessert plates. Gently lift the bananas from the pan and place 4 pieces on each scoop of ice cream. Spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Emeril