Tuesday, December 30, 2014

IChewandReview Cooks for You: Ina Garten's Corn Chowder

Ina Garten's Corn Chowder


The Recipe
Ingredients

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All Rights Reserved
Advertisement

© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.


Cooking for You . . .

Barefoot Kimtessa won't have sore feet...
Every Christmas, I host my inlaws, parents, and sometimes other random people for linner at my house. I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen because that's not what Christmas is about. Besides, who in the hell wants tired feet on a holiday? Maybe the Barefoot Contessa, but not me. Because I'm lazy, it's become a tradition for me to cook up a soup or two and serve them in bread bowls. See what I did there? Bread bowls = less dishes. 




This year was no different. In fact, I was so lazy I only cooked one soup. I was wanting something creamy and a bit cheesy, so I decided on Ina Garten's Corn Chowder. It sounded easy enough. 

A quick tangent...
I imported the recipe into my PlanToEat.com account, so now it is stored for life. And I need to take us on a tangent for a quick sec to tell you I love Plan to Eat! You can import recipes from anywhere on the web, drag and drop meals onto a calendar, and then generate a shopping list. Oh, but it doesn't stop there, folks! When you are ready to cook, you can go into cooking mode where it breaks down the recipe into steps with the ingredients highlighted. This is great for me because I have a really tough time following directions. When it's broken down, it's easier. I just elevated my laptop in case I spilled something (highly likely). Another super feature is you can make notes about the recipe after you've prepared it.

Taking it one step at a time...
I got out (what I thought was) my large pot and preheated it a bit. I threw in the bacon and olive oil, all the why questioning why in the world I was adding oil to bacon. Isn't there enough grease? However, Ina knows best, so I followed her directions. 


I cooked up the bacon until it was nice and crispy and set it aside. Gorgeous, huh?


Into the bacon grease went my diced onion and a half a stick of butter. I know you are totally admiring my knife skills with those perfect little onion pieces. I'll let you think I'm that skilled with a knife. Once again, I was wondering why I was adding butter to olive oil and bacon grease (was this a Paula Deen recipe in disguise??), but being a good little girl, I played along with Ina's little fatty game. 



After the onions became translucent, I added my dry ingredients which I had pre-measured--Yeah, I was that organized--and cooked them for three minutes.


Then in went the chicken stock and the taters. Oh can I say how glad this recipe called for UNPEELED potatoes? Yes! Less labor and mess!

As the taters bathed in the chicken stock and stuff, I couldn't help but notice the thick layer of grease on the soup. At this point, I also realized Ina and I had 2 different definitions of "large." I still had cream, corn, and cheese to add to this concoction, and the liquid wasn't but a couple of inches from the rim of the pot. Fingers crossed it would fit. As the potatoes cooked, I shredded the cheese and measured out my liquid ingredients. Next time, I'll hide the bottle of Two Buck Chuck. I'm embarrassed that I have that crap in my house. I also shucked the corn. Kidding. As I have established, I'm a bit lazy on Christmas, so I used frozen--don't hate.

After the potatoes were done, I dumped in the rest of the ingredients, and dare I say I had about 1/2" to spare in that dang pot. Whew. Minus the layer of fat, I would have had 1" to spare. Ha ha.

So that was pretty much it as far as the actual cooking of the soup. I chopped up some green onion and finely grated the rest of the sharp white cheddar cheese for garnish. Take a peep at the finished product:

Now the moment had arrived to taste my creation. I found it to be completely lacking flavor. It didn't knock my Christmas socks off, and it was very thin. And greasy. If Ina wouldn't walk around barefoot, she would have realized her socks wouldn't be knocked off by this recipe either. However, it wasn't horrible. After I added some ghost pepper salt for some heat and some more cheddar for some bite, it was pretty good. It still lacked depth, though. 

Lessons Learned . . .

To get more depth of flavor, I would suggest one or all of the following:
  • Add a bit of fish sauce for some umami.
  • Make this the day before. It was MUCH better the second day.
  • Omit the olive oil, cook the bacon a little longer, and allow some more fond (is that the right word?) develop in the pot. Those brown bits are yummy.
  • Use a really sharp white cheddar cheese. 
  • Make my own stock.
  • I actually think a little dollop of sour cream would be good in it. I know. Hypocritical since I was griping about all the fat.
Would I make this again? Probably, but it won't be in my regular rotation. Onto the next recipe, folks!

Have you made a good corn chowder before? Share the link in the comments! Have any suggestions about what I could have done differently? Comment! But remember, don't be an ass! :)
 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

IChewandReview Cooks for You



A Realization
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with cooking. There are some aspects of the process I really enjoy; however, there are days where cooking is an inconvenience and pure drudgery. I came to the realization this Christmas as I was preparing food for company, that I have solely been focusing on the product and not necessarily the process of cooking. I believe this ultimately harms the product.

The Blame Game
I blame all the food contest shows where it’s all rush, rush, rush to get something on the plate. Everything's a race. I think my lifestyle lends itself to that as well. I’m generally tired when I get home, and I don’t like standing in the kitchen cooking after I’ve been working all day. 

Now that I’ve placed appropriate blame, I can move on to rectifying this situation.



The Fix
I really enjoy photographing food, so why not use that as a tool to force me to slow down,  enjoy the process of preparing a recipe, and share my experience with others? Occasionally, I'll post about a recipe in a series entitled, "IChewandReview Cooks for You . . ." Look for my first installment soon!

The Goals
I have a few goals with this series:
  1. To entertain you. This shouldn't be hard because I'm going to screw up a lot, and I have no culinary training. But please, try to laugh with me and not at me. This leads me to my next objective.
  2. To learn from you. I'm all about improvement, so I am happy to receive tips to make me a better cook. Just be gentle and don't be an ass.
  3. To teach you something. I'm a teacher at heart, so my hope is you can learn something from me. No matter where we are on the "foodie" spectrum, I think we can all learn from each other. You'd be surprised what I learned from my second graders!
  4. I want to write more than reviews. Writing reviews gets stale, and I think there's more to food than eating out, and there's certainly more we can talk about. 
  5. To squash the rumor I never cook. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Mr. Nicosia!
The Sappy Thank You
Sometimes I'm really surprised people read my blog. I'm just a normal person who wants to share her experiences with food. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Kimmie Goes Indie!



I've not eaten much Indian cuisine in my lifetime, and I decided it was time to change that, so we ventured down to Houston and visited Kaiser's Himalaya, a Restaurant focusing on Pakistani cuisine. 

I spent some time thinking about my experience yesterday trying to figure out why my thoughts on this cuisine are shallow and completely lacking insight. I've come to the conclusion that because most of the flavors were so new and complex, I simply can't describe them. 

However, everything we ordered would be a great place to start if you are new to this type of Indian food. Be sure to visit on a weekend day or in the evening so you can order from the menu. Lunch selections seem to be predetermined. Happy eating and exploring!

Speaking of exploring, if you head down to that area of Houston, bring cash. Many places take credit cards, but cash is so much easier, and sometimes you can get a cash discount. 


Lamb samosas... These are pretty much a meat pie. We also had veggie samosas which I really liked. 

Naan...Indian bread similar (but not really) to a tortilla. How can anyone not like this? It's bread. Yum. 

Dal (split bean soup). It was very mild and probably the blandest of everything we had. This wasn't a bad thing, just the least complex. 

Achuuri (sp?)... The meat in here is chicken and its marinated in "pickles."

Hara Masala... This was my favorite wet curry. It's chicken in a sightly creamy sauce. 

Goat Biryani... I'd compare this to a stew with rice. 

Basically a mixed grill... The red meat is chicken, and was by far my favorite of the day. I'll order a plate of this next time, and I believe it's called chicken boti. The plate also included steak (Yeah, that's right. BEEF!), a beef sausage, and a lamb sausage. 

Honey balls. These were way too sweet for me and I don't care for fried dough even when saturated in honey and hints of rose. Not my thing. 

Another exploration tip: Some of these places don't sparkle and shine like the chain restaurants up here in The Woods. The appearance of cleanliness is not necessarily a priority, so set your expectations accordingly. 

Himalaya is located at 6652 SW Freeway in Houston (77074). Like many localy owned places, they are closed on Mondays. 


 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

La Bikina




I have to admit, there are very few restaurants in my regular rotation in The Woodlands. I try to eat local when I can, so that eliminates a good portion of the establishments in The Wood. One of the locally owned places I've been wanting to try is La Bikina, so when some friends and I were invited to a tasting there, I immediately accepted. 

The decor there is stunningly beautiful but very comfortable at the same time. Some of the lyrics to the song La Bikina, the restaurant's namesake, are on the wall in block letters creating an eye-catching art piece. 



I love the fact he has purse stands available so you don't have to hang your purse on your knee or put it on the floor. It's a nice touch. 

And that's another thing I noticed about La Bikina--the small customer-focused touches such as tables with special cup holders so the entire surface can be used to enjoy a game of dominos to free cab rides home within The Woodlands if you indulge a little too much. 

Okay, moving on to the food. We started off with chips and salsa along with some cocktails including a tamarind margarita (that's what I had and is pictured), mango margarita,  and a Cosmo. I also had to try the tequila shot with the scorpion and worm salt. The scorpion had a slightly nutty flavor, but was a little crunchy for my taste. The tequila washed it down nicely though! 





We were served the molcajete de queso shortly after I found a scorpion toe in my tooth (not really). Mozzarella cheese is breaded in chicharrones and placed in a molcajete containing tomatillo sauce. We sliced the cheese, stirred it, and spread it on corn tortillas. I added a little habanero sauce to up the heat a little. This stuff was delicious and is a really big portion for $12.50. 



The star of the show for me was the snapper. I was somewhat intimidated by the photos I'd seen, but it's surprisingly easy to eat. The fish is scored so you can just pluck a cube of the flaky mild fish right which has been brushed with white whine and lemon right off its little body. It can easily feed two, so at $27, I think it's a good value. 



We also sampled the pastor tacos, and while good, I think I prefer the pastor from the taco truck by my house. It's probably because it's what I'm used to. 



For dessert we sampled the churros and a chocolate mousse served in a clay pot. I'm not a fan of fried dough, so they churros weren't my favorite, but they were loved by my dining companions. The churros come with 3 dipping sauces: chocolate, vanilla, and dulce de leche. The presentation is beautiful, with the churros standing over 12" high in a glass. 




The mousse was absolutely delicious. It's wasn't overly sweet, and the crushed chocolate cookies added a nice textural element. 



From reading some initial reviews, it seems La Bikina got off to a slightly rough start. I think they are beginning to hit their stride, and we were all impressed. I can't wait to go back for a happy hour (most items on that menu are $6) or for a night cap and a taco since he's open until 2 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Peli Peli




I'm usually hesitant to write a review after only one visit, but since I don't get out to The Vintage area very often, I decided pen a review after my first experience at Peli Peli. 

I struggle to find a steak up in this area that just knocks it out of the park. Aside from one misstep, last night's steak as well as the entire meal at Peli Peli was a home run. Being South African fusion, I was a bit curious what this was going to be like. The decor and atmosphere of Peli Peli reminds me of something you'd see in Vegas with the color changing LED lights. 

We started off with this lovely little blueberry twist cocktail that was the perfect combination of sweet and tart and wasn't overly fruity. 



I followed that with a South African Gentleman, Peli's twist on an Old Fashioned. It actually had espresso vodka in it which was surprisingly a nice addition. It almost gave the drink some chocolate noted and enhanced the caramel in the bourbon. 



The bobotie was a recommended appetizer, so we opted for that. It is their version of an English Cottage Pie topped with a flaky crust and mango chutney. The flavor profile was different from anything I've tasted before and was sweet and savory. Our server, who was excellent by the way, emphasized the importance of eating all the layers together, and I agree with her.  The layers, including mango chutney, puff pastry, carrot bredie, and curried ground beef, played a critical role in the overall texture and flavor of the dish. 



It was difficult to decide what to order, but I ended up choosing the surf and turf which included an 8oz filet and 2 prawns. I had been told the prawns were large, but these suckers were huge! 



Our server peeled them table side for us as she explained how to eat them and for us not to miss the meat up near the prawn's head. This was the most disappointing part of the meal because that meat was complete mush. Both my dining companion and I thought they were a little overcooked. However, the tails were still very flavorful even though they were a bit tough. The steak was cooked a perfect medium rare with a nice char and I could almost cut it with a fork. Like butter. I have to say, it's one of the better steaks I've had in quite some time. 



I chose carrot bredie and green beans as my sides. The bredie is basically a carrot couscous and was a little bit sweet and different than any cous cous I've ever had. 


Before I went, I had already decided to get the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. I make this every year around Christmas, and this version didn't disappoint. It was a little "cakier" than the one I make and mine is a bit more "sticky," but it was not overly sweet and was a great way to end our meal.

For more information on Peli Peli, visit their website, pelipeli.com. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bazille


Gave the new cafe in Nordstrom, Bazille, a try today. I made an 11:30 reservation which was not really necessary, but by noon, almost all the tables were filled. We started off our meal with crab bisque and the bruschetta. 



The bisque was a bit fishy when it initially hit my palate, but balanced out nicely. The bruschetta was beautiful to look at, but challenging to eat. The bread was hard to deal with and was suffering from an identity crisis. Too soft for toast but too dry to be fresh bread. However, slicing it prior to serving would make all the difference in the world. I just didn't eat it. The burrata and pesto were flavored so well. I've had burrata that's very bland, but this was not. Very tasty. 



I had the chipotle lime shrimp salad. Get your dressing on the side. I don't think the salad even needed it and besides, it was a bit sweet to me. It was also heavy on cilantro which was fine with me, but I know how polarizing that little herb can be. The corn on the salad was fresh and I could tell it had just been removed from the cob. 




Good, fresh food and a nice addition to The Woodlands--especially in the Mall Ring where food is mediocre at best, but I'm already hungry again.


Here's a couple more random pics:


Pre-meal bread and olives:


Salmon Ni├žoise Salad:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Laurenzo's


I recently received an invitation to a media dinner at Laurenzo’s on Washington. I've always known it as Lauenzo's Prime Rib as depicted on the cover of the menu, but I believe they are rebranding and eliminating the "prime rib" from their name because the logo on the website is different. 

Before I attend an event like this, I enjoy learning the story of the restaurant and the people behind it. As consumers, I think it’s easy to forget about the hard work that goes into starting and maintaining a business.  Although I was familiar with the Laurenzo family and their connection to Houston, I did learn a little more. I also stumbled upon this Houston Press article from February that gives a great history of many of the influential restaurateurs in the Bayou City. Give it a read. It’s long, but very interesting (http://www.houstonpress.com/2014-02-27/restaurants/houston-food-families/full/ ).

Laurenzo’s is known for its prime rib which if I were to find myself there again, I would order. It looked wonderfully juicy and made my mouth water. 

I was also enticed by the meats on the grill as I walked in the door.

 

Not only can you see the prime rib, but you can also check out the other action in the kitchen as you wait to be seated. 

 

However, that evening we weren’t there for the prime rib, but to sample some of the new menu offerings.  First off, we were served with beef Carpaccio. Now, keep in mind, I’m a country girl who is just venturing into the raw world, so I thought it was very good, but I have no basis of comparison.

 

Next up were the prawns. Oh, the prawns. I could taste the Old Bay, and these babies were just beautiful. They had excellent flavor and a nice, firm texture.

I can’t say the grilled artichokes were my favorite. They had a nice smoky flavor, but eating them was a bit awkward. Perhaps it was because I was with many people whom I’ve never met before, and I found it difficult to be classy and scrape the meat of the artichoke off with my teeth at the same time.

 

All in all, the apps were great low-carb choices.

As for the main dishes, we were served double-cut lamb chops, veal parmesan, and a veggie burger. I’m usually willing to take one for the team but I couldn’t bring myself to try the lamb chop. I just can’t do it. Lamb is something I will try once every six months or so, and I just tried it recently at Red Brick Tavern and still didn’t like it. Judging by appearance, it sure looked good. It’s served with mint jelly as well.

 

My favorite of the main courses was the veggie burger, oddly enough. I think this is a great option if you dine here with a vegetarian. This is a very meat-centric place, but I thought the burger was executed well. The presentation wasn’t all that great, but the taste was excellent. It had hints of barbecue, and kind of reminded me of a “sloppy joe.” I would order it again if I weren’t a lover of prime rib and other proteins.

The veal parmesan was also very good. I could have used a little more sauce, but the overall flavor was nicely balanced. I’m also not a lover of veal, but honestly, I couldn’t tell this was veal. That would be a good thing. The pasta was flavored nicely, not very heavy, and I appreciate it wasn’t a huge serving sitting there just to fill the plate.

They served the appetizers and main courses with their house wines, and personally, I would upgrade my selection and pair my meal with an appropriate wine.  They serve great food, and it should be paired with a great wine. Trust me. Skip the house wines. 

I’ve been having some major sweet cravings lately, so I was pretty pumped about the dessert course which consisted of strawberry pie and pumpkin bread pudding. I got pretty burned out on strawberry pie as a teenager working at Shoney’s (geez that pie was gross), so I’ve stayed away from that dessert. This sample renewed my love for strawberry pie.  The crust was so light, flaky, and appeared to be scratch-made. It wasn’t overly sweet either. I really enjoyed it.

The pumpkin bread pudding was also another winner. It tasted like a traditional bread pudding with a hint of “fall” spices.  It would be a great way to end your meal.

Also, as I was dining, I took note of the immense amount of sports memorabilia on the walls. I learned it’s all for sale, and if purchased, the proceeds are donated charity. This struck me as a very nice gesture and a unique way to give back to the community. 

I’m excited to return to Laurenzo’s soon to try the prime rib and get another slice of the strawberry pie!

For more information on Laurenzo’s, including their hours, visit http://www.laurenzos.net/