Hot Dish: And you thought I was joking…..

“Pray, tell me: how does your asparagus perform?” - John Adams, in a letter to wife Abagail, concerning the state of her garden.

So asparagus is serious stuff:  Serious enough for our 2nd president to write home about.  And serious enough to warrant celebration.  I first wrote about Spargel and the corresponding Spargel Parties here, when making Hollandaise sauce.  (Wow…that was a year ago!)

Our own mini SPARGELFEST!

And now to my great delight, others can also take spargel seriously.   Midwestern cornerstone of German fare, the Black Forest Inn, is in the midst of hosting Spargelfest.  Check out this fantastic article from Heavy Table about the event. Black Forest Inn Spargelfest.  Thought you would all want to know that indeed, spargel fests do exist and they exist here in flyover county.

Want to host your own spargel party? (Hint: the answer is yes) There are tons of German recipes online…including this decadent platter.  Yum.

So all in all, I feel like I am doing my small part to help bring the joy of spargel to the masses. SPARGEL PARTY!!

Hope your week is off to a seriously good start.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. As always….more soon!

Eggplant Parmesan (for Snobs)

“A true snob never rests; there is always a higher goal to attain…”  - J. Russell Lynes, editor of Harper’s Magazine

So as you know, I like to stick to the traditional versions of the food on my list. My whole schtick is to  get a feel for the classic flavors and methods.

Well so much for that.

I’ve had eggplant parmesan.  Or rather, I’ve had “eggplant parmesan” (quotes intentional) which was pretty much breading covered in sauce and cheese.  OOhhh, someone’s feeling a little snobby!

I was hoping that when I tackled this recipe it would be better than the restaurant versions I’d had in the past.  More flavorful and more interesting.  (Seriously, so snobby!) So I had an open mind when I found this non-traditional but still authentic recipe from Mario Batali: Parmigiana di Melanzane.

Step one with any eggplant recipe is to remove the bitterness from the eggplant.  This is done with a mixture of white wine and group therapy.  Or maybe just salt.  Slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for 30 minutes while the bitter juices weep out of the eggplant.  For real, it’s called “weeping”.

Letting the eggplant "weep". I couldn't tell if it was weeping out of joy or sadness...eggplant are tricky like that.

While the eggplant was weeping, quietly thank goodness, I made the basic tomato sauce, which is really simple.  Saute your onions and garlic in olive oil. Add fresh thyme and chopped carrots.  Then add your can of whole tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.  Simple!

So our sauce is cooking and we’re done weeping (for now).  Rinse and dry the eggplant…maybe with a few words of encouragement since its probably still emotional.  The eggplant now gets dipped in egg and pressed into the breadcrumbs to coat.

eggplant in breadcrumbs

Now that the eggplant has wept, it gets a coat of breadcrumbs. After I weep, I usually just get ice cream.

Mario’s recipe doesn’t call for dipping in egg, but all the reviews stated that it was hard to adhere the breadcrumbs without it.  So, I went with my instinct and dipped the eggplant first.

The coated rounds of eggplant go into a saute pan of heated olive oil for a few minutes on each side:

sauted eggplant

The eggplant was no longer weeping, but rather was rejoicing, because what isn't happier when breaded and fried!?

Now comes the biggest divergence with our traditional recipe.  As you fry the rounds of eggplant, they get placed on a large baking sheet:

breaded and fried eggplant

Breaded, fried eggplant...not a tear in sight!

As you can tell, there are varying sizes of eggplant.  Choose the largest ones to be the “base” of each of your stacks.

The eggplant parmesan now gets layered in the following order:

1. eggplant

2. spoonful of tomato sauce (mmmmm)

3. slice of fresh mozzarella (double mmmmm)

4. Parmesan cheese

5. Another slice of eggplant

Repeat for each of your stacks ending with a sprinkle of Parmesan on the top of each.  They are now little towers of Italian goodness:

eggplant parmesan ready for oven

Towers of eggplant. And yes, I'm cooking in a pure white button down shirt....I like to live dangerously.

So now our stacks are ready for the 350° oven.   They go in for a brief 15 minutes to melt the cheese into the warm loveliness that pretty much equals Eggplant Parmesan.

And then:

eggplant parmesan

Ready to be served/devoured depending on your mood

GORGEOUS!  Melty, crispy and a little sweet.  I hate to say it, but they were way better than your typical restaurant “eggplant parmesan”.  Actually…I don’t hate to say it, because it was really good.

eggplant parmesan

Seriously...don't these look SO much better than the stuff hidden under the blanket of cheese!?

So as you can tell by my enthusiastic captioning, they were delicious.  The eggplant was al dente, the sauce was light and a little sweet and they still had the appeal of frying and cheese.  Because I’ll readily admit…its still about the frying and the cheese.

UNFORESEEN BONUS(ES): 1. The sauce: make it.  Simple, fast and delicious.  A PERFECT topping. This Batali guy might really catch on. 2.  No meat!!  I usually have to think ahead to cook vegetarian, but this was perfect for Friday meal when meat was verboten for us and our house guests.  Totally had them convinced I was a pro.

Dinner was light and satisfying, the snobs guests were happy, no one wept except for the eggplant.

AND my white shirt remained spotlessly white.  (Cue tears of joy)

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Things are slowing down in the Flyover house after an extended busy season at work.  More posts at a much quicker rate.  HUZZAH!

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

“Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.” – Don Quixote

When I was talking about my 2nd list with people, I’d throw out a couple sample items.  Often, I’d offer Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic as a sample.  I got a lot of horrified looks.  And a lot of “Wait…40?  40?”.

Yes, we’re using 40 cloves of garlic, kids.  And yes, you will still be able to kiss that certain someone.  Well, unless that certain someone is Edward Cullen (keep dreamin’ sister) Then you might have problems.

Annnnnyway, let’s get started.  I used a couple recipes for this project.  One from The Joy of Cooking and the other from my new favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe Cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated. And finally, I went to the lady herself, with Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten.

Cooks Illustrated and Barefoot in Paris

HItting the books......

First, your pieces of chicken get seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.  Then cook them in batches, a few minutes on each side.  Set them aside and cover with foil…..we’ll get back to this in a bit.

Now, peel your garlic cloves but DO NOT chop them.  This is key.  The smaller you chop your garlic, the stronger the flavor.  So, if we’re using 40 of them, those puppies are going to stay whole:

Cloves of Garlic

This is what 40 cloves of garlic looks like.......

Now we cook these whole cloves in a dutch oven in some oil.  WARNING: this part will make your house smell delicious:

garlic cloves

Dutch oven with 40 cloves of garlic.

And a little bit later….

cloves of garlic

Cloves getting nice and brown....

The garlic gets soft and browned and it just smells different. It’s softer and smells roasted and rich.  Mmmmmm.  Now on to the next step…..

Add your liquid to the pot: a mix of dry white wine and cognac.  Add this to the pot with the garlic, your thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

white wine garlic

Garlic and wine. Win and Win.

The chicken now gets returned to the pot.  My chicken just barely fit in there, but I moved it around every once in awhile.  30 minutes or so, test with your thermometer to make sure you won’t poison anyone, then pull your chicken out of the pot and set aside.

Now crank the heat back up on your sauce.  Pull out 1/2 a cup of the sauce and mix in some flour to make a slurry:

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic sauce

For real, the technical term is slurry....

Whisk the slurry back in the sauce to thicken it and then pour over your pretty plated chicken:

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

So as I type this it is 10pm and I haven't eaten dinner and seriously this could not look any better.

And now we’re ready to rock.  Serve this deliciousness over mashed potatoes (because why wouldn’t you) and with slices of crusty bread (because the more carbs the better).

So how was the chicken?  Pretty good.  Juicy and roasted, but the real star was the sauce.  And its really weird to write this, but it really didn’t even taste that much like garlic.  This was a totally new kind of garlic.

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

The Garlic is served!

UNFORESEEN BONUS: Garlic. Is. Amazing.  Cooking garlic this way makes it so incredibly soft you can smear it on bread with a knife.  For real.  Do it.

So try Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic if for no other reason than it will be  a totally different garlic experience for you.  And you can make out with your vampire boyfriend afterward.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. As usual, thank you for being patient with my intermittent blogging.  Work is a liiiitttlle rough right now.  You guys are the best.

Viva la Bacon

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” - Doug Larson

This year the Handsome Husband and I got tickets to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival.  The festival is in its fourth year and tickets to the event sold out in less than 30 minutes!!  We had never been before and didn’t know quite what to expect.  Here are a couple pics from the day….

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival

Ohhhhh BACON!!

The rally cry of the day is  “ooooooHHHHH BACON!”.  It was sort of like  the group “PROST” at Oktoberfest except without the lederhosen.  Or the shared heritage.  And it was greasier.

blue ribbon bacon festival

The Bacon Explosion

The Bacon Explosion is ground Italian Sausage wrapped in a lattice-work of bacon.  It’s like the granddaddy of things-wrapped-in-bacon.

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival

Bacon frying in a skillet....made of balloons

We ate the classic maple donuts with bacon sprinkled on top, bacon wrapped breadsticks, pork belly tacos, bacon sandwiches, and the best thing of the day: buffalo style bacon with deep fried ranch dressing.

Yes: deep friend ranch dressing.  God I love the Midwest.

The one weird twist was that the festival was sponsored in part by Beggin’ Strips.   As in the faux meat bacon scented dog treats.

Beggin' Strips

Beggin' Strips are NOT bacon. Critical distinction.

There was something really unsettling about seeing bags of the dog treats on tables everywhere as people were eating strips of real bacon.  I’m not sure bacon scented canine snacks should play a role in any food festival.

But the highlight of the day was when two parents and their baby, dressed as bacon, were on stage singing a song they wrote for the festival.  The dad was bouncing the little bacon strip around and Handsome Husband exclaims “Is that a real baby?!?!”  Deep fried ranch dressing was no biggie, but the little baby was just TOO much for him to handle.

So all in all, it was an indulgent pork adventure…..

bacon fest

See ya next year.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. There is a whole week of bacon themed activities surrounding Bacon Fest each year.  Follow @BRBaconFest on Twitter for fun stuff year round.  And if you want…you can follow me too (blushes) @flyoverfoodie

Pommes Annas

“The potato, like man, was not meant to dwell alone.” – NY Times food columnist, Sheila Hibben

Potatoes aren’t the first food that comes to mind when you think “romance”.  I mean, you can’t dip a potato in chocolate.  BUT- when the potato is elevated by adding it’s soul mate, butter, then things start to get a little more amorous.   Which leads us to the traditional French side dish, Pommes Annas.

Legend says the dish is named for one of the coquettes of Paris in the late 19th century.  Leave it to the French to make potatoes sexy.

Pommes Annas has 4 ingredients: potatoes, butter, salt and pepper.   The thinly sliced potatoes get layered in a pan and baked, forming a “cake” of delicious buttery potatoes.   A sexy coquette inspired potato dish seemed perfect for our Valentine’s dinner.

Step one is to peel and thinly slice the potatoes.

Pommes Annas

Sliced potatoes....not sexy.

The sliced potatoes now get layered in your pan.  The classic French method uses a special copper pan, which of course I am without. (Feel free to remedy that, Handsome Husband)  But, an ovenproof skillet is a common substitute and that I did have.  A little melted butter goes in the pan and the potatoes get layered in pretty circles with some salt and pepper.

The pan goes over heat to start forming a “crust” on the bottom layer of potatoes.   The remaining melted butter gets poured over the layered potatoes:

pommes annas

Just a splash/stick of butter

The potato cake cooks on the stove top for several minutes, pressing down to help the cake form and shaking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan.  Although, I don’t know how anything could stick to a pan that has 8 tablespoons of butter in it….

pommes annas

A potato cake in the making

After sauteing and pressing down for 10 minutes or so, cover the whole thing, and into the oven it goes:

pommes annas in the oven

Let's see how this turns out.....

Every once in a while, I’d reach in and shake the pan again, just to make sure the potatoes weren’t sticking.  Again…there was a lot of butter in there.  But wouldn’t you know it….

They stuck.

So much for the power of 8 tablespoons of butter.  I don’t even have a picture of the “pommes annas” (quotes intentional) because it was basically a pile of buttered potato slices. Not terribly sexy.

UNFORESEEN BONUS:  Although a failure by French standards, this recipe still yeilded a pile of buttery potoatoes.  And who doesn’t like buttery potatoes? Not moi.  We ate them all with our Valentine’s fondue.

So, my apologies to the coquette Anna (whoever you are) for ruining your potato namesake.  Some of us just don’t have that same j’nes se quoi.

xoxo Flyover Foodie