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archive for November 2012

the only melt i want to see right now

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Recipe: patty melt (animal style)

Time to fess up – I’m not doing traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I haven’t done one in several years. We voted turkey OUT and seafood IN. Sea critters cook faster, taste better (to us), and I don’t become stuffed, sleepy, and belligerent. Winning! Are you having a traditional meal or are you doing something different?

I wish I could say I’m going to be skiing, but I think I’m going to be trail running and biking instead – because we don’t have much snow locally. Sure, our local hill has the White Strip of Death (the single run that goes top to bottom on the mountain), but it’s not especially appealing now… or ever. However, I was able to enjoy snow in Crested Butte this weekend, because we had some business out there. On Saturday, we were greeted with week-old snow on the ground under blue skies. Kaweah was eager to get out for a walkie even though she can’t walk very far any more. We stopped in a field and I told her to sit for a photo. Kaweah sat, then slid into a comfy lounging position. She was tired, but happy. Sunday morning brought fresh snow and once again, we got Kaweah outside for a short walk around town. I swear, snow makes everything awesome.

this car ride leads to a trailhead, right?

enjoying the snow with mount crested butte looming large

my happy girl

fresh snow sunday morning

We’re home now, looking forward to a mellow week of house maintenance, catching up on work, and quick meals. From time to time, my friends at Lava Lake Lamb like to send along some of their beautiful products for me to prepare and sample (rack of lamb, rosemary lamb noisettes, and braised lamb shanks). This time, they mentioned they are partnering with 100% grass-fed Brandon Natural Beef from the Wet Mountain Valley of Colorado. Lava Lake Lamb is good lamb from Idaho, but I wanted to give Colorado some lovin’. I received a 12 ounce Rib Eye steak, a 12 ounce New York Strip steak, and two 16 ounce packages of ground beef (80% lean) to try with no obligation on my part. After Jeremy and I had the steaks (grilled rare), I was so impressed with the tenderness, quality, and flavor, I was excited to try something with the ground beef.

the beef arrived frozen, so i let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator

I really feel the best way to let ground beef shine is in a burger, grilled. Oh, but I’ve posted many a burger here before. As I muttered to myself over the many variations on burgers that exist, Jeremy interrupted and asked me what a patty melt was. Silence. “You don’t know what a patty melt is?” He had a vague idea, but really… he didn’t. That’s partly my fault because I hadn’t had a patty melt since college much less made one. It’s the marriage of a hamburger and a grilled cheese sandwich, but I wasn’t going to make just any patty melt.

crusty sourdough, mustard, salt, pepper, fish sauce, onions, swiss cheese, ground beef

When I say “animal style”, what do you think of? If your mouth is starting to water, then we speak the same language – the language of In-N-Out Burger. If you don’t get it, that’s fine. You don’t get it. If you tell me that you can make a better burger at home, my response is “Duh!” and yeah, you still don’t get it. But for the rest of you lovers, I figured I could snazzy up the patty melt with a little riff on an animal style burger which in this instance means: mustard and caramelized onions.

thinly sliced onions

browned after about 20 minutes

First you want to caramelize the onions, because that’s the big time sink. No matter how much you try to rush the process, you can’t. Whenever I rush it, I burn the onions. So set the heat to medium and brown the onions in some oil slowly for at least 20 minutes. Stir it about every now and again to prevent burning. If you’re a multi-tasker, go ahead and mix the beef while the onions soften and brown.

the dash of fish sauce = magic

don’t laugh, i made the patties the shape of my bread

**Jump for more butter**

you oughta try the cassata

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Recipe: chocolate cassata cake

It’s cake season. This means that it is cool enough for me to want to turn my oven on. It means that it is cool enough that I am willing to work with chocolate. Even so, making a cake can fill me with dread and be downright frustrating at times – mostly because of elevation issues. I’m always keen to try new recipes, but hate the idea of wasting time, energy, money, and good wholesome ingredients on cakes that fail. A recipe tester, I am not. But this cake has been bouncing in my head since October.

let’s make some candied orange and lemon peels (lemons, orange, sugar)

slice the peel off

combine sugar and water to make a syrup

simmered peels (2 hours)

I have never had an authentic Italian cassata before. The only reason I knew anything about cassata was that I had made an adaptation from Marcel Desaulnier’s Death by Chocolate which involves yellow spongecake soaked in rum and layered with a shaved chocolate pastry cream rather than the traditional ricotta cheese filling. I read that Italian cassatas are commonly served around Easter. But when I had lunch at Pizzeria Locale last month, I saw cassata on the dessert menu and impulsively ordered it.

chocolate chiffon cake: oil, eggs, confectioners sugar, milk, flour, cocoa, sugar, almond extract

mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients (except egg whites and granulated sugar)

folding whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter

pour the batter in buttered pans lined with parchment paper

What arrived was a slice of chocolate cassata: chocolate spongecake with a creamy, almost buttery ricotta filling studded with pistachios, and all topped with a nice dark chocolate glaze. Brilliant. I had to attempt this at home – it was so lovely! I did a little research and decided to make a layer cake… because I am partial to layers. There would be four components: chocolate spongecake, ricotta cheese filling with candied orange peel, chopped pistachios, and shaved chocolate, a boozy simple syrup to soak the cake layers, and a dark chocolate glaze.

ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, grated chocolate, chopped candied citrus peel, pistachios, cinnamon, powdered sugar

adding vanilla

stirring in the pistachios, candied peels, and chocolate

**Jump for more butter**

the good, the bad, and the cream cheese

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Recipe: spinach artichoke cream cheese

They said it was going to snow this weekend, and it did. But between the sun and the 60 mph winds, we’ve got nada on the ground here. We are headed for single digits tonight (in °F) and the wind chill is well below zero. That would explain Kaweah’s lack of the usual dawdling when we turn around to go back home during her walk (but she still loves her walks). It also means that I have been a baking fool for the past few days, filling the house with the warm scent of fall spices, roasted vegetables, and hot soups. I’m still waiting for proper winter (read: snow), but in the meantime…

we have had a string of brilliant sunrises and sunsets the past week

lunch with jeremy at pica’s (wet burritos: carne asada and pork adobado)

hoarding the best duck prosciutto

That last shot is of four duck breast prosciutto from Il Mondo Vecchio in Denver, which is closing its doors at the end of this month (November 30, 2012). I’m heartbroken and upset about the closure because I love this small local business and their quality products. I’ve ventured down to their Denver loading dock before, but then Cured (in Boulder) began to carry Il Mondo Vecchio’s salumi such that I could gift duck breast prosciutto to a deserving hostess from time to time.

I don’t get to Denver very often (this is voluntary) and I know I am missing out on some great eats and treats in the city, but I do hear about great places from my local pals. Back in the spring, when my friend Kathya came to visit with me, she brought me bagels and cream cheese from Hi*Rise in Denver. The bagels were good, but the cream cheese was absolutely lovely – spinach and artichoke. When I had polished off the last of the spinach and artichoke cream cheese, I thought to myself, “I need to get in on that action.”

spinach, artichoke hearts, lemon, salt, cream cheese

chop the artichokes

You can use frozen spinach if you don’t want to deal with fresh spinach. I had fresh spinach on hand and rather like the idea of knowing exactly what is in it. It’s a quick blanch in boiling water, then drain it and squeeze it out just like you would frozen spinach. Chop it up and you are good to go.




**Jump for more butter**