Sunday, April 29, 2012

Puerco Cubano (Spicy Pork Loin with Black Beans)

I think was inspired by my trip to Fiesta in San Antonio, Texas last weekend to bring some Latin flavor to everything I cook this week. Gour-maybes love all flavors and are always trying to add new types of dishes to their recipe collections. This super simple, colorful and tastes amazing. It's basically a seared pork tenderloin, on spiced mashed black beans with pickled red onions and avocado. For a quick dessert, try sliced strawberries or blackberries with lime juice and honey (good way to use up any remaining lime wedges). Get the full recipe after the jump.

To Bake Or Broil? That Is The Question

Don't roll your eyes, this is a post about broiled chicken, and hopefully it will make you a believer. Chicken is a great, healthy protein - so why does it always get a bad rap in the gourmet world? Chicken seems to automatically conjure up images of bad wedding buffets and cafeteria food. I admit, when I am out, I rarely order chicken, and never really served it, until I stumbled upon this trick: broiling. It will result in delicious, tender, moist chicken every time, while baking tends to dry out the bird.

Gour-Maybe trick - please, please save yourself some seasoning and herb-chopping time and start with the pre-marinated chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) at Central Market. My personal faves are the Orange Honey Habanero, and the Dijon Herb varieties, but use whatever you like. 

Full instructions after the jump.

Pickled Red Onions

This recipe is from page 99 of the  Fried Chicken & Champagne cookbook by Lisa Dupar which you should already own or buy immediately. I have tried several pickled onion recipes and this is the one that I like the most. It's so easy: store the pickled onions in an airtight container and use them on sandwiches, salads, dinners (my upcoming Puerco Cubano post will use them as well). Read how this Gour-Maybe side gets made, after the jump.

Cookbooks A Gour-Maybe Can't Live Without: Fried Chicken & Champagne

Fried Chicken & Champagne by Lisa Dupar (Pomegranate Bistro) is a recent edition to the cookbook library and was a gift. I can be very skeptical of new cookbooks but after a quick flip through, I was in love. It's got great recipes - breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails (bonus) - which are all approachable, as well as basics to make and store like dressings and other condiments. My favorites so far are the Pickled Red Onions (see next blog post), Grain Mustard Drizzle, and Roasted Chicken with Smashed German Butterball Potatoes, Pancetta and Sage leaves. I can tell you just by looking at the desserts, that I will be making at least several of them shortly. Go buy this today!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ridiculously Good, Occasionally Truffled, Scrambled Eggs

yes, please
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, but most scrambled eggs leave lots to be desired - and then some are "good" but why waste a meal on good? These are the eggs that will change your mind. It started like most Gour-Maybe? moments do --as an accident, with a Bloody Mary. I didn't realize how low my heat was one Christmas Day morning and didn't really mind that my eggs were taking a little longer to cook because of the buzz. Thank God for accidents. I started adding cheese as is my way. The eggs came out so well, that they became a holiday tradition and now I can't make them any other way! If you want to really just push it over the edge, sprinkle some Truffle Oil on top. But at that point, be prepared to never eat eggs anywhere else and please invite me over. Read how to make these easy eggs and how to serve them after the jump!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Things I Love: Cypress Grove Chevre - Truffle Tremor

truffle tremor and its friend humbolt fog (notice the major dents I have made - this stuff doesn't last long!)

If you read Gour-Maybe? at all, you've probably learned that I am in love with cheese. You might also have guessed from a post or two that I love truffles. Most people get their truffle flavor from truffle oil, although usually that oil is not made from actual truffles, but additives which create the same aroma and flavor as truffles. I personally prefer Black (Perigord) winter truffles to white (Alba) truffles, but to each their own - it's a truffle. You could buy $100.00 worth of canned truffles from D'Artagnan (and there would be nothing wrong with that) or you can spend $18.99 on their truffle oil, which is delicious, and creates the same flavor profile for a fraction of the cost. Or to soothe your truffle-deprived taste buds, why don't you do none of the above, and buy some Cypress Grove Chevre Truffle Tremor for $5-10.00 per slice depending on how much you get. 

The first time I brought this to a party, it was done in 10 minutes. I would rip it from a baby's hands and not feel guilty. I would eat it even if it had 1000 calories per ounce. It's amazing goat cheese meets amazing truffle flavor. You can thank me later! 

Spicy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't like to wait. Not an hour, not a day, and certainly not three days. However, I will make a BIG exception for the cookies that come from this recipe, my favorite and I think, the best chocolate chip cookies ever. This recipe came from experimenting with the one-and-only Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (the one on the bag of the semi-sweet chocolate chips), adding some wisdom from The New York Times and then changing up the recipe to fit my personal taste (usually this means adding more salt and spice. The cookies are simple, the key is time. Jump for the recipe and more details!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Things I Love: Wickles

perfect pepper/pickle balance

Yes, Wickles! No, I was not blogging drunk and this is not a typo: Wickles are pickles, with a spicy kick. They are "wickedly delicious" as their name suggests. I love their "standard" pickles the best - but the relish, pepper strips - you really can't go wrong. These add a level of gour-maybe flavor to anything you might normally make with a boring old regular pickle such as tuna salad, sandwiches, burgers. Just last night, I added them to chicken salad - delicious. From the official Sims Food Website:

"Using a secret 70-year old family recipe differentiates Wickles products from all others. A custom blend of spices and ingredients makes our products Wickedly Delicious and truly irresistible. The recipe is a family secret that until a few years ago was just used for family and friends who were lucky enough to get a jar. When we started making Wickles for holiday gifts we never imagined those wicked little pickles would take on a life of their own."

I buy my Wickles at Central Market, but you can get yours there or at the link above, so the Wickles come to you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cookbooks A Gour-Maybe Can't Live Without: The Balthazar Cookbook

love the look of this book - beautifully done from cover to cover
The Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr, and Lee Hanson is a more recent addition to my collection. Most of my cookbooks tend to not focus on a particular type of food: in this case, French. Balthazar is a brasserie, not a bistro located in the SoHo area of Manhattan. They cook 750 pounds of fries (frites) a day according to the book's introduction. This in itself made me want to own the book - no place that cooks 750 pounds of peanut oil frites can be bad, right? However, what REALLY made me want to own the book is the collection of delicious brasserie recipes: from Roasted Beet Salad to Duck A L'Orange, to Spaetzle and Halibut a la Barigoule (you'll see the Halibut in an upcoming post). They work perfectly the gour-maybe philosophy - great results, doable steps (some recipes more challenging than others) and recipes that you can make your own to a large extent, once you have mastered them. Yes, please!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Basics: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Herb Vinaigrette (From Scratch)

the final dressing. make a batch, then add herbs as needed if you want to use it as a base
Part of the gour-maybe philosophy and one of the commandments is to make any recipe your own and eventually, make your own recipes! Once you've got these "gourmet" basics, they can be a foundation to experiment with new flavors. Homemade salad dressing is a perfect example. Yes, you can buy it, but once you see how easy it is to make, and how delicious the results are, why would you? The only skills you need are measuring and chopping. This simple vinaigrette starts with shallots and lemon and can be a jumping off point for a LOT of variations. You probably have most of the ingredients on hand. More pics and the recipe can be found after the jump!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sow Your Wild Oat-meal Cookies

my logic is, if I photograph it, I HAVE to eat it - because it's been used - wouldn't make sense any other way.

the dark flecks are the cayenne and cinnamon - love a cookie with a kick
I was not born an oatmeal raisin cookie girl - always chocolate chip. I didn't even like raisins until I was twenty-five, but after experimenting with multiple recipes, I created one that I love. It's traditional with a twist: sweet, salty, spicy and easy to make. Using shortening along with butter is another one of my favorite ways to get great results. These stay chewy and moist due to the many dried fruits. Feel free to modify or switch out the fruits to suit your tastes.
Get the recipe after the jump:

The Basics: Salt of the Earth

left to right: kosher salt, sea salt, table salt (maldon not pictured)
Oh salt, how I love you. People (aka my family) have given me a lot of grief throughout my life for my salt consumption. I literally put salt on and in anything. Luckily recent studies (which I believe to be true) show that reasonable salt intake may have little to no negative consequences. YES! I think salt makes everything better. Not all salts were created equal. Given that most recipes call for salt, I recommend adding these options to your next shopping list so you have them on hand:

Kosher Salt - Morton's Kosher Salt (Coarse) - A great basic salt for cooking and seasoning. I use this all the time.

Sea Salt - Maldon's Sea Salt - Fancy pants salt, but really delicious and pretty (can a salt be pretty?) I like this to finish food. Find this at Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma.

Table Salt - Morton's Table Salt - Buy it anywhere, I swear, even a gas station. Don't look down your nose at this super staple, use it for baking vs cooking.

Gour-maybe lesson - Kosher and sea salts have much larger granules that are difficult to distribute well in baked goods. Have you ever tried to sift a bunch of dry ingredients with kosher/sea salt? I have, and it and ended up with large sea salt flakes in the sifter, and the dry ingredients in the bowl. Table salt, or dissolved sea salt often work best. Lesson learned!

Cookbooks A Gour-Maybe Can't Live Without: The Blackberry Farm Cookbook

There are thousands of cookbooks, from really well-known to really obscure. I'll cut to the chase, I rarely follow a recipe to the letter, but I love to learn about food and I like pretty pictures of food. Here are some cookbook essentials, that have made my favorites list, because they guide you to amazing results, but open your eyes to a world of possibilities. And some of them also just look good on the shelf. I'll start with what I think are must-haves for your collection.

Let's start with The Blackberry Farm Cookbook by Sam Beall: Recipes from the #1 ranked resort. As the cover says, this place knows all about the good life. Blackberry Farm has both horses and truffles and is therefore as close to heaven as I think exists. They should invite me to come write about them...right? A girl can dream. I have cooked many recipes from this gorgeous book, and they have all had spectacular results. From the Fig Tart (which is now a family holiday dessert staple) - I added blue cheese and honey - to the Blackberry Farm Biscuits (really one of the best biscuit recipes I've ever worked with) which I have eaten plain, and used as a base for herbs, cheese and other delicious variations, to the Lamb and vegetable sides - I've never had a bad bite. I have been told that the Pimento Cheese recipe is also insanely good. I will try it and let you know. Their seasonal philosophy, attention to detail and insanely inventive approach to food and food quality is unparalleled. Go buy the book, and then go make me really jealous when you take a trip to Tennessee! You should probably buy several, because they are also great gifts. Your friends will thank you.

Things I Love: Cypress Grove Chevre - Humbolt Fog

cypress grove humbolt fog
Like I've said, I'm a big fan of cheese. Cheese is to me, what shrimp was to Bubba in Forrest Gump: goat cheese, strong cheese, grilled cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese - you get the picture! I'm a bit of a cheese snob, but I'll get down with a Kraft Single on occasion. Here, we will talk about cheeses that I love and that I have great luck with when entertaining.

I am obsessed - OBSESSED - with the Cypress Grove Chevre. We will talk about them all the time on this blog, because I love every cheese they make, they are the masters of the goat cheese universe. The first cheese I ever fell in love with was their Humbolt Fog. They describe it on their website better than I could, because I'd just say freaking amazing.
Jump for more!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How This Blog Works

Ok, gour-maybe world, I am going to try to keep things in a few basic categories, I don't want to have to go full Dewey decimal system here, so this should make finding old posts and new posts simple.

1. Basics - Recipes that I feel are foundations for you to build on and make your own. These will be easy, and use mostly common ingredients and techniques. These basics will help you make gourmet food easy.
2. Things I Love - These are personal favorites from dish towels to soap to vegetables that I have discovered along the way, and hope you like them too! I might throw a shoe in there.
3. Entertaining Essentials - I love to entertain, but it can be stressful when you are trying new things, or dealing with large crowds. Hey - it can just be stressful anyway! Here you can find info, tips and tricks to make entertaining easier.
4. Cookbooks - I love cookbooks. These days, many cookbooks are worthy of being coffee table books. I am weeding through lots to find the best of the bunch, and the best recipes in each cookbook for you.
5. Blow-outs - We have to keep the "gourmet" in gour-maybe! These will be block-out-some-kitchen-time, hit-up-Central-Market-'cause-you-probably-don't-have-all-the-ingredients, several-words-to-look-up-in-the-dictionary, learn-something-new, killer recipes.
6. Fails - Yes, fails. As my friend's husband said at their wedding, "Hey, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out". Occasionally, there will be massive fails. Here we will see where it all went wrong. Hopefully not too many of these posts.

The Ten Gour-Maybe? Commandments

So here are some gour-maybe "commandments" I try to follow. Let's be honest, I'm a little type-A, and relaxing isn't my forte - I like things to be perfect and pretty, but that's why we need rules: to steer us in the right direction.

1. Do not take your cooking too seriously.
Relax people: almost everything can be salvaged, and hey - if it doesn't work out, at least you've learned something and you have a funny Facebook post. There are wars going on. If your soup doesn't turn out the way you wanted, see #7!

2. Do not blindly follow recipes.
Taste, taste, taste! If it doesn't taste right, it probably isn't. I have seen recipes in well-known cookbooks that result in amazingly strange end products when followed.

3. Do not try untested recipes on the night of an event or special occasion.
I have done this, and I have cried in my bathroom. Leave the new recipes in the book. Who needs the stress?!

4. Do invest in the essentials - proper equipment, that lasts. This includes a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, a nice set of knives, a good cutting board, measuring cups (any kind), a Cuisinart or other Food Processor, a set of non-stick cookware. Cookbooks that will help you grow as a chef! Expensive isn't always better. More about this later.

5. Invest in quality seasonal, local ingredients that matter.
Expensive isn't always better, and seasonal ingredients are often more affordable and better tasting. More about this later. Look what the fabulous Epicurious did! They've made a map for you. It's amazing, use it!

Read commandments 6-10 after the jump!


So what does "gour-maybe" even mean? Since gour-maybe isn't a real word, and this is a question I've gotten a lot, here's my "brief" explanation of what it's all about.

describes both the aspiring gourmet, and the closet gourmet who may have the occasions and/or desire to create gourmet meals, but have absolutely zero formal training in the culinary arts. If a foodie is a person that is passionate about the knowledge of food, a gour-maybe is passionate about creating delicious and gorgeous food of all varieties. (This is the "GOUR" part). However, the gour-maybe also isn't going to be missing a hot date to stay home and watch the bread rise (This is the "MAYBE" part). It's the person with one foot by the custom Viking range, and the other by the electric stove in the apartment they really live in. It's the person who likes to cook a souffle when friends come over, but can also be happy with a "simple" turkey sandwich (note: they may or may not be making the bread and mayo from scratch.) It's the person that buys the wine or cheese, sometimes just because they like the way the label looks or the way the name sounds. It's the person that may want to be a full-time gourmet, or may just want the skills to pull it off every once and a while. Interested? Learn more after the jump: