Author Archives: lunargrrl

About lunargrrl

I am a chef by nature, a weight watching dieter by protest. This blog does not apply to those rules, naturally.

Infused Vodkas

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Make holiday gifts for your drinking friends.This is for you fellow procrastinators. If you are like me, you think once you get through Thanksgiving that you have a fair amount of time before you are handing out the presents. This is an awesome gift you can whip this up in about 5 days. You should keep in mind you may be getting drunk dials from your friends telling you how much they “love you man” after they try it.

I have done a lot of experimenting with infusing vodkas over the years and they make great, homemade gifts that are inexpensive and dazzle the brain of your drinking pals. Who knows, you could eventually launch a career as a mixologist creating new and exciting flavor combinations (which you should share with us).

Here is the Ninja skill info:

VODKA: You don’t need to use expensive vodka when infusing.  I prefer to buy Smirnoff triple distilled as it is a good clean vodka, and you can buy it in bulk. Sometimes it is on sale around the holidays. If you use cheaper vodka than that, I have heard running it through a water pitcher that has a built in filter three times.  I haven’t tried it, but it sounded like good information to share. If you are in a hurry and want to kill two birds with one stone, a good vodka bottle that you can reuse easily is EFFEN Vodka. You can cut the rubber label off quickly and reuse to decant back into. 

GIFTING: Jars and bottles with attached rubber stoppers are great for gift-giving. You can find them at craft stores or at stores like World Market. Mason jars can be found at dollar stores, grocery stores, antique shops, even garage sales and are cost-effective. You can purchase new lids and rubber rings at grocery stores (most of the time). A quick way to finish off the look is by cutting a thin piece ribbon or kitchen string and make a small folded card on some thicker paper.   Handwrite the ingredients you used or a recipe you like to suggest.  Punch a hole through the folded card and tie around the neck of the bottle. Awesome gift giver…check!

DECANTING: With any ingredients you leave in the bottle, once the vodka level has diminished, the ingredients can mold if exposed. Then, it has to be thrown away. It is a better idea to infuse then decant into a new jar for long-term storage.   This will make the vodka last for months or even a year. Pour slow to keep the ingredients at the bottom, or use a fine strainer to pour into another container.

INFUSIONS:

I will spare you the dramatic details of my failures. Some ingredients will work, others do not and require you pour it down the drain.  You should always use ORGANIC ingredients when possible. Especially with fruit and herbs. A good rule is to not use anything that won’t hold shape in water over a day. Don’t try throwing chocolate or cheese into vodka, it isn’t going to be good.

YUCK!

1. Cherries – sounds great but was horrid.

2. Peaches- I added two ripe peaches and there was no peach taste at all. I am convinced that the only way to get peach flavored vodka is to use artificial ingredients.

3. Just throwing in citrus. It looked pretty but the pith made it bitter…so make sure to follow the decanting directions or you will just be back to the drain.

Feel free to post comments on this post with any trials you have created that may have made this list.

YUM!

1. Citrus: lemons, (Meyer or regular) oranges, tangerines, limes and grapefruit. Just make sure they are ORGANIC as you don’t want a bunch of pesticides in

Investing in a quality zester is recommended.

your drink. Seriously, don’t even bother as you would have to heat up the skins to remove all the wax on regular fruit and it is a pain in the buttocks. Always zest the lemon or it will become bitter because of the pith (the white part between the rind and the fruit).  If you use the rind, you can always leave it in the bottle.

ZESTING NOTES: Zest two-three rinds of the citrus of your choice with a potato peeler or zester and add to a large jar.   You can use a lot more if you want just a citrus blend. Choose fruits that have a smoother rind for easier zesting. Buy extra fruit if you want to avoid the pith as it is better to just use another lemon or orange instead of risking the bitterness. Make sure to avoid all the white on the fruit, especially lemons.  You can add other items like cranberries, rosemary or ginger.

2. Raspberries: Black or red work great but you will have to decant as the color is drained from the fruit and it looks like creepy white brains floating about. Lemon works well with this fruit.

3. Bloody Mary (Savory): A combo or alone – Garlic, Bell Peppers (a combo of color looks nice) Horseradish, Onions, Jalapenos and Basil (If you use basil, make it easy to remove as it looks gross after a couple of days. You can use a spice ball or mesh tea ball  If you use a wide mouth jar to infuse your vodka, you can always remove it and leave the rest in if you wanted, just keep in mind the levels of the vodka keep it from molding.

4. Cranberries: Great addition to the citrus flavors or by itself.

5. Ginger – This makes a great cocktail with seltzer water and lemonade. You can buy the crystallized ginger at places like Trader Joe’s, World Market and Whole Food’s.

6.  Some other combos are Vanilla and Cardamon, Beet and Horseradish and a great list at Martha Stewart’s web site with the number of days to infuse the vodka flavors. I haven’t tried any of these, but they all look amazing, especially the Cardamon, Anise and Chile recipe.

MMM. Vodka.

MATERIALS:

(makes 3 gift bottles or 4-6 jars depending on the size)

  • Large sealed container or containers to infuse the vodka
  • Sterilized jars or clean bottles to decant your finished vodka into
  • Ingredients you want to infuse
  • Large bottle of vodka such approx 1.5 liters

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add vodka to large container or divide if using multiple containers

2. Add ingredients you want to infuse

3. Let sit in a dark cool place for 4-5 days unless you are using a recipe that requires less time

4. Decant into clean bottles

5. For gifts, decorate for a nice finishing touch and include recipes of ways to use the vodkas if they are really unusual combinations
6. If for yourself, a cool way to display on your holiday table check out this additional craft at Martha Stewart on vodka ice blocks made with juice containers. If you use the napkins like she shows, don’t use cranberries as they stain like mad. I like the greenery and oranges…very beautiful.
Drink Responsibly. Do not spill this!
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Savon de Mersailles (homemade soap that rules.)

Happy Holidays, AKA. the time of year you panic about what to get everyone.

Besides being a kitchen ninja, I am also crazy crafty.  I consider this the handmade version of the gift certificate.  It “fits” everyone no matter what the age, religious belief or how well you know them…everyone bathes.

I have experimented with soap making for a few years now.  So, I am sharing it with you in the spirit of the holiday season. I must get the message across quickly, IT IS NOT HARD TO MAKE.

WHY MAKE YOUR PRESENTS?

It is A. ALWAYS better to give a gift that you make,  B. It is fun to make things even if they turn out ugly (your mom will still think it’s awesome) C. Again, more points for giving gifts you made, and finally, D. This is cheaper to make than a gift certificate (unless you are really cheap and give $5.00 gift cards). I have people actually requesting that I make this again for their holiday gift. Unfortunately for me, the “gig is up” on the process. Now, I have to figure out how to do something else for gifts this year. See how much I love my readers?

The Real Deal

SOAP MAKING: Spare me. I know you made soap as a kid (probably ugly soap balls too), but this is GROWN-UP soap with fancy ingredients.

This recipe is for Savon de Marseilles (say-von-dew-mer-sigh). Marseilles is a region in France, and the soaps they produce are so lovely on the skin. It can be a bit pricy for importing the real deal, but as we are using French clay, it is technically the same thing! I just got back from visiting the south of France, and the photo is of something I picked up in a farmer’s market in Nice. They really are into making soap down there, and it is all fantastic. The percentages are usually how much of it is of oil. I would love to get my hand on the stamps they use, but short of making the reverse in clay and firing them, I don’t know how else to get the special stamps. Stick with simple stamps.

If you want to make this before (INSERT HOLIDAY YOU CELEBRATE HERE), order your French cosmetic clay right now as it will take a bit to receive (give it a week).  Besides, you will procrastinate on the making process, as that is the nature of the holiday. Once you get it all together, it is FUN and easy. I am going over everything just to be clear, but it really isn’t difficult to do.

Unless you drink a bunch of champagne and can’t read these instructions.

MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • Double boiler or electric skillet with a small pot/pan inside
  • Molds
  • Designs for imprinting into the top of the soap
  • Knife
  • Pointy object such as tweezers for pulling off imprints
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Glue dots: if you want to make labels for them

Notes on Materials:

MOLDS: Quart milk cartons make excellent molds for the larger blocks. However, make sure to cut a piece of the milk carton out and put it at the bottom that is the same size as the carton itself. As the carton has a fold in the bottom which will be your soap’s top.  Also, mark the inside with a pour line so you can make sure your mold will be as square as possible. You can only use these molds once so start saving up. If you just want to invest in plastic reusable molds that make individual bars, you can go to a craft store such as Micheal’s and go to the soap making section.

DESIGNS FOR IMPRINTING: Micheal’s craft stores had some basic soap molds. However, I think a lot of them were cheesy but bought them anyway. I liked two enough, so I decided to make smaller batches and just reuse the ones I liked. I also had some interesting metal objects someone gave me. You should secure these down with glue dots as they shift when you pour unlike the rubber stamp ones. In fact, if you use anything that isn’t a soap mold, secure it with something from underneath as it can float up inside if it isn’t heavy and you’ll end up having to dig it out.

DOUBLE BROILER: The good thing about this is it is easy to clean up after this as it is already soaped. I prefer using an old electric skillet with some water in it in which I add the pan into. It is portable that way as well as easily controlled for temperature and never will burn. A double broiler will work (a big pot with some water fitted with a smaller pot inside it which prevents the heat from directly touching the pot inside the big one) just make sure to watch your heat and keep it LOW.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED:

Olive oil-based soap from a craft store.  You can also used cucumber, Shea butter or avocado based soap if you want to have a variance of the actual colors. It doesn’t effect the smell that much. Michael’s sells it in the soap section and each package makes about 12 small bars of soap depending on how you fill your molds. As around the holiday’s it may be hard to get the supplies you want, it is okay to get a few varieties. If it is cloudy or milky in its original form, it only turns greener during the process because the clay is green.

Essential oils – You can purchase these at Whole Foods or health food stores. If you want to order them online, you can buy them from the same folks who I buy my soap from at Mountain Rose Herbs. I found grapefruit, lemon, sandalwood, teatree and rose to be good starter oils. Cinnamon and clove oils are very masculine but should be used super sparingly!
French green clay. I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I only bought one pound and it has lasted me three years making aprox 15-20 regular bars of soap each year.
Himalayan Sea Salt (fine) – can be purchased at a health food store such as Whole Foods and is good to use instead of regular salt…good investment
Warm water – If you want to be really French, get a big bottle of Evian as it is from France!
Base oils – such as jojoba, almond, hazelnut and extra virgin olive oil.

Optional mix ins: Uncooked oatmeal, lemon zest, orange zest, fresh rosemary, lavender, cinnamon and dried flower petals. For each, add to your liking but most likely at least a teaspoon PER BAR you plan on making. Keep in mind, extra ingredients usually act as exfoliates.

DIRECTIONS:

Mold facing up towards you!

1. Prepare your molds & imprints. If you are using rubber stamps, make sure to put them so you can see them inside the mold as you want it to make the imprint goes into the soap. Sounds obvious, but we all are susceptible to forgetting. If you forget, you can always melt it back down. If you are using objects, make sure they are mostly flat on one side and do not have negative space all around…you need to be able to pick out the mold.

2. Your oil soap should break into sections. Break them up into manageable pieces that will easily fit into your pot. I would suggest doing a half package for each batch so you can vary your scents. Heat the double broiler over medium heat.

3. In your double boiler, melt a block of olive oil-based soap. Adjust the heat to make sure the soap doesn’t melt. Stir it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. Once the soap is melted, turn off the heat to prevent the scent from burning off add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon essential oil per pound of soap base.  If you want to use multiple oils, test them beforehand as it can be quite stinky if you combine the wrong ingredients.  Add a teaspoon of French green clay per pound of soap. Add a teaspoon of base oil.Add any add-ins you want. Stir with a wooden spoon.

5. Divide the melted soap mixture by pouring into your molds.  Heights may vary depending on what you are using for a mold or how much soap you have melted. Allow the soap to set until it is cool and hard, at least 20-30 minutes. You can pop out the soap onto a towel and allow for further setting.

6. Add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 1 cup warm water and warm in a pot. Wash the soap bars in this salt-water solution, smoothing any sharp edges from your molds or imprints. Dry the soap completely, then rinse it in plain warm water.

After you are done, you can download my labels to print and cut. Secure the labels around the soap with a glue dot and you are golden! I suggest printing on nicer paper such as linen that you can purchase at an office supply store. You can write the “flavors” on the backs of the soaps with a nice pen.

Enjoy! Send me photos or post comments on your experience!


Organic Bourbon Ice Cream

Wow, has this recipe been an adventure! We tested ten batches to bring you the best Bourbon Ice Cream recipe. The even better news is you can substitute any liquor you want! The best news is that it is easy.

I purchased the ice cream maker when I was testing out the Pina Colada recipe back in July. This opened up a new world of bad adult behavior for me. A reader suggested I try making bourbon ice cream. I must note that I am not a straight whiskey drinker. I like the tasting notes in Bourbon and knew it would blend well with ice cream. I started researching recipes and found almost all of them require eggs, which is really a custard. I don’t really feel like spending a lot of time on making this and want it to be easy. Also, I tried making the custard and it was a disaster. I was chatting with NinJo and wasn’t paying attention. In less than a second the stupid mixture turned to scrambled eggs.  I was furious as I just wasted a vanilla bean which is expensive and time consuming to clean.  I now have sworn custard off completely. I want to make ICE CREAM.

NINJA LESSONS: 

  • All alcohol should be added in at the end. Otherwise, it does not freeze no matter how hard you pray. It worked in the Pina Colada as there was no dairy in it.
  • Making small batches works much better than large ones. For some reason it became more whipped.  You need to freeze it after you make it unless you prefer the soft serve.  So plan to take a couple days to make small batches or purchase additional crucibles.
  • If you use too much heavy whipping cream, it leaves a buttery film on your tongue. It works in heated dishes because it doesn’t solidify, but in cold dishes it is not a pleasant texture.  I tried substituting more milk for it but it was too icy, eliminating it made it too light.  Organic Valley is my favorite brand for both heavy cream and 1/2 and 1/2 as it is grass fed cow’s milk which give it a much better flavor. Many organic farmers  feed their cows organic corn and we all should know that cows prefer grass!  If you have to use another brand, that is okay, just use organic as it is more humane to cows, and cows are our friends.
  • The last lesson we learned was a borderline annoying amount about vanilla. So much, I am going to write a separate article about it.   In a nutshell, the best vanilla product on the market is  Nielsen-Massey “vanilla bean paste”.  You can pick this up at Williams-Sonoma, Fresh Market or another specialty food store. It is different than their vanilla extract or beans, so look for the paste. Vanilla beans are a pain to clean and storage is not long term. I had a dried up bean which is crazy irritating, considering the cost. Vanilla paste has sugar and actual vanilla bean seeds in it which give the ice cream an authentic vanilla look.  Most vanilla extracts will work but any vanilla product quality is far superior with the Nielsen-Massey brand.  We recently visited their facility and were blown away by how amazing of a company they are.  It took a lot of self control seeing gallons of this sitting around and not just pop open one and do a shot.(Um, yes, it is that good) You can use this product for creme brule’s, coffee and just about anything would use vanilla in. With over 200 tasting notes that not even all have been identified, vanilla is my new favorite ingredient(sorry, had to slip a fact in there).

So, NinJo and I experimented through-and-through to find you an easy, sure-fire method of this recipe. I hope to create more recipes in the future for adult ice cream and will keep you informed. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS: Serves 2-3 depending on your portions.

3/4 cup of organic heavy whipping cream.
3/4 cup of organic half and half
1/4 cup of organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons quality bourbon (we used Knob Creek) Use 1 if you are serving guests who “may” like it, 2 if you know your guests are fans of bourbon.
Optional: 1/4 cup candied pecans

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make sure your ice cream maker crucible is frozen according to your manual.
  2. Mix everything except the bourbon in a measuring cup, (this is important as I found out the hard way it will freeze the ingredients as you put them in and will not mix for you. You will end up with little globs of whatever you added first)
  3. Remove the crucible from the freezer and put it on the turntable of the machine, add mixing insert and put on the lid. (may vary for different machines)
  4. Turn on the machine and immediately pour the mixture into the spout. It is important to do this right away as it will allow it to freeze better.
  5. Let the mixture blend for 15 minutes or until solid.
  6. Add bourbon and pecans if you are adding those and knock off any globs of ice cream from the mixing insert.
  7. Let the mixture blend for another 3-5 minutes.
  8. Remove the insert and transfer ice cream into a covered container and put into the freezer for a couple of hours. Or, eat the entire batch right out of the crucible as we will not judge you.

You Dirty Martini

Ah, the martini…tasty drink inside an impractical glass. I have always been one to subscribe to the idea that martini glasses are there to keep you in check. If you spill it, you should stop drinking it. You may think you look classy holding it, but once you spill it due to over-consumption, you look like a moron. A good rule is that martinis are like breasts, two is enough.

The dirty martini has been around since man could jar an olive. It is not that complicated of a recipe to make, but the ingredients hold the key to the perfect combo.  We tested vodkas, blue cheeses and olive juices. We also tried portions and minor adjustments, and we found the following discoveries.

VODKA
As many of you may know, all vodkas are not created equal. Most are surprised to find that only a handful of vodkas are made from potatoes. Most are made from grains. I tested my favorite vodka, Chopin. It is potato based, gluten free, smooth to taste but very expensive (around 35$ a bottle). For the same price, we tried Boyd & Blair and boyfriend NinJay said it was undrinkable as it was odd tasting. Those tests were poured down the drain.  Since you are mixing it with olive brine, it really isn’t worth cutting it with an expensive vodka. Why not try a less expensive potato vodka?  I enlisted my two favorite dirty martini ninjas, NinJill and NinJose after I had the recipe portions completed. These two ninjas are the connoisseurs of the “dirty”.  Beforehand, I had them do a separate blind taste test on three vodkas, Luksusowa (potato vodka), Cîroc (French grape vodka) and Grey Goose (grain vodka) They both chose Luksusowa as their favorite and commented that it was the smoothest. The Cîroc was their second favorite.  Both nearly spit out the Grey Goose and said it was horrible. I tried later and decided Grey Goose was mostly undesirable straight because it had a very strong alcohol effervescence. The grape vodka was good but the potato was much smoother and half the price of both the other vodkas. The winner was clearly Luksusowa. If I had money to burn, it would be Chopin as it is also tasty and labeled gluten-free.

OLIVE BRINE (WE LOVE DIRTY SUE. SEE OUR UPDATE BELOW)
Anyone who has made a dirty knows that the olives in a jar outweigh the brine (the juice in the jar). You end up with a big jar of olives with no liquid, and if you don’t eat them in a timelyReplenish the olive brine! manner they will mold. If you ate all the olives, your eyes would swell shut and you could get hurt. So, I thought I would try and buy some olive brine products at the liquor store. The Tom Collins brine looked pretty cloudy and I didn’t want to change the look esthetically, so I tried the Stirrings brand instead. If you just use this on its own, it isn’t salty enough. Instead, buy the product and after you use up the olive liquid in the jar, replace it with the new olive brine. Stick it back in the fridge for additional “infusion”. If you must use both, then 1/2 and 1/2 does the trick.  I buy the larger queen olives as there is more brine in the jar. Keep in mind, you need 2-3 shots of olive liquid per drink so this method could save you a lot in olive costs. Jalapeno stuffed olives is also a good addition but I would only use one jigger of the brine and the other regular. Kalamata olive brine is super-amazing, it just tasted different. It was equally as delish. It makes the martini a beautiful pinkish color. Stuffing kalamata olives is not as easy but tastes incredible.

Perfect Olives- every timeSTUFFED OLIVES
Most liquor stores sell olives with no pimientos in them. However, it is more expensive and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to get the red bits out. You can stuff an olive with a few things other than pimiento…blue cheese, almonds, garlic or jalapenos. If you are vegan or lactose intollerant, blue cheese may not be your thing, so try one of the other options.

If you like blue cheese stuffed olives, then I recommend stuffing your own. I am not sure what is in the canned jar types, but it looks like some wild tofu. As blue cheese will disintegrate in a liquid, it is obvious why they don’t use normal blue cheese. I suggest getting a good quality blue cheese and not use the cheap crumbles. The stronger the better. It is easier to form from a brick cheese that is semi soft or from high quality crumbles that you can tell will roll well. I used Amish blue in one batch and Maytag in another. Both were amazing. I find it is best to roll the blue cheese in little turd shapes then wash your hands.  With one hand hold the olive, and the other stuff in the little nugget and smash them in. If you are really neat about it, you can then take a damp paper towel and wipe around the edges to shine them up. You may want to put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to shake. Label the container with a sign that will deter others from eating them, such as “livers” as both times I have put them in the fridge, half are gone due to raids. Make extras. If you can get a premium jalapeno stuffed olive, either mix them in on the toothpick or replace the blue cheese ones for an alternative. DO NOT USE OLIVES FROM OLIVE BARS. They are packed in oil and will make your martini look like an oil spill. You only do that once.

VERMOUTH
This product was always very intriguing to me. After researching the recipes I found that one bottle of this will last you the rest of your life unless you spill/break it. This bottle is gigantic and you use about a 1/8 of a teaspoon per drink. Some don’t even really like the taste of vermouth. I would say if you don’t have this already then you may get kicked out of the Mad Men club, but you can safely bet most people will not even notice. It sort of tastes like olive brine to me. The vermouth is added into the glass and swirled around and dumped out. Some mixologists spray it with a spritzer on the surface. I think this is all part of the romance of it so if you are going to use it, you can show off with a spritzer.

Things you will need for cocktails for two:

  • A good Martini Shaker
  • 1 oz Jigger
  • 
2 Martini Glasses
  • Vodka
  • Olive Brine
  • 
Ice
  • Stuffed Olives
  • Vermouth (Optional)
  • 
Hot Sauce (Optional for a hot and dirty)
  • 
Excited person to get a treat (Optional)

GLASSES: You can either put the glasses in your freezer if you have room or fill them with ice and a little water to quick chill. (see above photo)
VODKA: If you can store your vodka in the freezer it just makes the martinis colder.

DIRECTIONS: Depending if you want a dirty or extra dirty, add the contents from the recipes below into a martini shaker filled half-way with ice. Right before serving, empty out the water from the glass (into other glasses if you are serving additional friends) and then pour a splash of vermouth into one glass. Swirl around and pour it into another. Dump out the rest into the sink. Crazily shake that shaker until you have FROST on the top of the lid/sides…up and down, side to side for about 1 minute or so. This is cool and exciting science for those watching or listening.  Shake it in front of your friend as it seems impressive and helps with anticipation (even if you have to travel into the next room with the shaker).  When you pour it into the glass, it should have a little sparkle fizz that lasts but a moment.  NinJay always loves to see “the pour”.  He says the combo of the shaker with the fizz that comes out is the end of a long day and the beginning of a good night.

DIRTY MARTINI:
4 jiggers of potato vodka
1 jiggers of olive brine
Garnish with 3 olives

EXTRA DIRTY MARTINI:
3 jiggers of potato vodka
2 jiggers of olive brine
Garnish with 3 olives

HOT & DIRTY: Add three dashes of hot sauce into the glass or on the olives.

UPDATE!!!!

We found an amazing product for olive brine…Dirty Sue! Thanks to them for sending us samples. We have cleared one bottle and are on to the next. They sell them on their web site at www.dirtysue.com in 2 jars at a time. It seems you can use it in our other recipe for Bloody Mary’s too! Seriously, this was just as good as fresh brine out a jar. I have served this up to a few folks and they love it too.


French Quarter Oyster Crawlin’

Felix's

Shuckin' at Felix's - drool

My studio is registering a ridiculous 98°F degrees on the thermostat. I now know what that F stands for.  As I sit and boil, I try to think of places hotter than where I am right now. I certainly would be more miserable in New Orleans heat now, right?

Wrong, it’s five degrees cooler and they have way better food and drinks there.  This did not make me feel better. So, I decided to write a long overdue post about an oyster crawl my main ninja Jo and I created for visits to “NOLA”.

This is the second crawl we designed. In Kitchen Ninja style, we eliminated and added new locations to the crawl. This is a work in progress. Sweet.

NOLA: I am not going to go into my obsessive love for New Orleans. In a nutshell, I have been there a bunch, I love it, it is like drugs  to my soul.   However, I can’t live there. I would get big as a house and get nothing accomplished. This is because I would easily adapt to the lifestyle of 5 hour happy hours. I “do” NOLA in moderation and often as possible.  This is usually an extended weekend trip once a year, “done up right” and then continue to fantasize about the next trip for the rest of the year.  I am still a tourist, I am not claiming to be a native. I am a huge fan. I celebrate their whole catalog.

OYSTERS: The most excellent thing about oysters is that you can eat a ton of them and not get full. The second best thing is there are so many ways to prepare them, and they are all most excellent. Unfortunately, due to the BP oil spill a lot of NOLA oysters are being imported from other locations from the Gulf. This is sad because the local oysters are far bigger and better but what can they do? On the right is a map of the Gulf oyster area.

CRAWL: I have bolded the specialty from each restaurant we recommend. You can do this in one night, but it takes a while so don’t make too many more plans after except maybe a stroll down Frenchman street for some great music at the Spotted Cat. You don’t need reservations to do this crawl. You can do it on your own as you can order half dozen orders at most places. If you are worried about dress code, then you can always sit at the bar. Nobody really judges dress in the French Quarter, but some places like Mr. B’s and Bourbon House have a little more formal looking clientele. I don’t think they really care at all, but sitting at the bar is a great option. Plus, you don’t take up a table because you will be there for such a short time.

How awesome am I? I created a printable Google Map for you to take with you.

Stop 1: Felix’s – 739 Iberville Street •   Tel: 504-522-4440

Ninja Jo

Ninja Jo about to do some damage!

This was our first stop on the first crawl and even though it didn’t go first on the second, I must list them first. This is because if you are only going to one place in the French Quarter for oysters, this is the place. It wins on atmosphere alone as it is a total dive and is the real deal. Both times we were there they served up Louisiana Oysters. They shuck them right on the bar and serve ’em fast. You even get to mix your own cocktail sauce!  Of course, there are plenty of crackers, Louisiana hot sauce and lemons on hand. We only ordered raw oysters on the half shell here, but they do have additional varieties including char-grilled, Rockefeller and Bienville.

A dozen and a half oysters later, we felt like we were done with this stop rather quickly (because it came so fast & went down so quickly), but we knew we had to move along to the next stop, across the street!

Stop 2: Bourbon House – 144 Bourbon Street  • Tel: 504- 522-0111

The trio at Bourbon House

Bourbon House Oyster Rockefeller Trio=heaven

Seriously friendly folks working here. We had this on both crawls and the service here is always over the top with

smiles. The bar is huge, has a beautiful display of ice for the oysters and they shuck them right in front of you if you sit on the round. Each time we visited here, we had champagne, a 1/2 dozen raw oysters (you can order them with caviar if you wish) and the “Trio of Oysters” which is a combination of three types of Rockefeller. Permanently added to the crawl. Oysters Fonseca, Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville make up the trio. A lot of restaurants have their own versions of the Rockefeller and Bienville, but this place offers you a variety which is most awesome. If you are not into raw oysters, this is the way to go! I am sure everything in this beautiful restaurant is fantastic, but we were on a mission!

Heaven at Red Fish Grill

I love you Red Fish Grill BBQ Oysters.

Stop 3: Red Fish Grill115 Bourbon Street • Tel: 504- 598-1200

HELLO! Where have you been all my life oh BBQ Oysters? Wow, talk about fan-tabulous! We sat at the bar, had Abita’s on draft and then ordered the BBQ oysters. The first batch came out a little sad as they were not really hot. However, the bartender was super attentive and quickly rushed us out a second batch and it was like giant hearts blew out of my eyes. Oysters are flash fried and tossed in a Crystal BBQ sauce, served with house-made blue cheese dressing. I am in love. I wouldn’t have posted the bit about the first batch, but wanted to commend the restaurant for its customer service and how it is important that they are hot when you eat them. Sometimes, things happen and it is the difference between coming back or not…or blogging about it! The rest of the menu looked divine, but not uncommon for the area. Discipline is difficult when you have had a few drinks in you.

To those outside of the area, this is NOT the crappy chain you may have seen or been to in the past. This is what kept me away the first crawl. Thanks to the kind folks at Bourbon House recommended this for a new addition.

Stop 4: Luke’s – 333 St. Charles Ave.

Luke in NOLA

Can be very dangerously good...happy hour specials!!!

This spot is not in the French Quarter but within a few blocks. You probably need a good walking by now.  If you are doing a full crawl, you should try to come here first perhaps take part of the Happy Hour Specials of $0.50 raw oysters and 1/2 price bar from 3pm to 6pm daily.  All of the drinks are off the charts! They have all the NOLA drink specialties like Sauzerac, Mint Julep and a tasty French 75. We also tried the highly recommended “assiette de charcuterie” plate served with stone-ground mustard, house-made pickles and country bread. They actually raise their own pork so it is super impressive. DIVINE. This is one of the restaurants in the mighty Chef John Besh collection.

Stop 5 (option 1): Arnaud’s813 Rue Bienville • 504.523.5433

This was our final stop on the first crawl for  baked oysters. We mostly stopped because Bananas Foster seem the easiest to go down even if you are full, and it is on fire. We loved that we could listen to some jazz, drink some champagne and watch flames going up all over the restaurant! I would like to start here on the next crawl as they have a great sampler of all of their varieties of baked oysters.

Best Fried oysters on the planet at Mr. B's

If only we could eat this every day. (Sigh) Mr. B's.

Stop 5(option 2): Mr. B’s Bistro – 201 Royal Street  • 504.523.2078

HOLY SHIT. (Yah? Whatever, just try and wash my mouth out with soap) If you haven’t had a fried oyster in your life, then wait until you get here because it is like the holy grail of fried oysters.  They are served on the half shell and topped with bacon-horseradish hollandaise.  Get a dozen if you are only coming here or a half dozen if you are on a crawl with a friend. Even if you are full, this should be the last stop on your crawl if you are looking for a good finish. Sit at the bar and enjoy! The desserts all looked really amazing but we had champagne instead. Everyone who ordered dessert at the bar sent their plates back empty. I did not get a good photo because it was dark and we just wanted to consume it quickly, but if you go to their web site you can see it. Look fast because your stomach may convince you to buy a flight out tonight.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Cochon: 930 Tchoupitoulas St – We didn’t eat here the same night as our oyster crawl because this place is an experience not to be messed

Cochon rules
Oysters so good, I almost messed myself.

with. I have to say the wood-fired oyster roast was the best prepared oysters I have ever had in my life.  Odd for a place that is the French word for “Pig”, but they nailed it! It is a short cab or good walk right from the FQ so you should check this place out!  Ninja’s LOVE Cochon! You will probably need a reservation here, but maybe can sit at the bar. Call ahead at 504- 588-2123

FOR MORE VARIATIONS TRY THESE: We went to Drago’s and it was closed. I have been told they have the best Char-broiled oysters, not the ones with bacon. Also want to check out Royal House as they apparently have some great ones too according to the concierge from the Hilton at Luke’s. We just didn’t have time! Also, try a fried oyster Po’boy at some point on your visit but not on the crawl as it will fill you up on bread!

SKIPS: Acme Oyster House….long line, had the charbroiled oysters which were good but not really worth standing in line for. The atmosphere we a bit bleak and over touristy. If you must go to this place, maybe check out the one at the airport.

Now I know there are more oyster joints than in the FQ. So if you want to comment on this post, keep in mind I moderate and don’t want a bunch of complaints I forgot so and so, etc. Some places we went to on the outskirts don’t count as FQ but it isn’t more than a couple blocks so I listed them anyway. This is our crawl and it is meant as a guide to help other crawlers. If you want to add to the blog about other places in the vicinity (especially if you are local), please send me the name, address or web site and what the best oyster dish or dishes are that you recommend. I will approve comments that contribute!

There may be a risk associated with consuming raw shellfish, as is the case with other raw protein products. If you suffer from chronic illness of the liver, stomach or blood, or have other immune disorders, you should eat these products fully cooked.


If you like Pina Coladas…

Do you likey?

I like getting caught in the rain as well.

Yah,  if you have the Pina Colada song* in your head now, you eventually were going to have it there anyway so don’t blame me. Try writing an article about testing it and see if you can handle that!  I am starting to remix it in my brain at this point. Don’t fret, if you drink enough of these you will end up looking up the lyrics and realizing how that “love” song is extremely disturbing relationship-wise but continue to sing it anyway.  Anyway, I like Piña Coladas.

I am very particular on what a Piña Colada tastes like. More important, I am particular what it feels like. Usually when I get one, it is a twelve dollar drink on some beach in Miami, 15 grams of fat, goes down the hatch quicker than a New York minute and worth every penny. It then is burned into your brain as an awesome experience similar to that slushy you had at the state fair when you were a kid. If it wasn’t so bad for me I would drink them at least once a day as I prefer pineapples over apples any day.

I have tried five times and have finally found the perfect texture. I looked up recipes and the ingredients were pretty easy to get down but the texture was causing me serious trouble. I researched a ton of recipes and found there are really just four parts that needed to be adjusted. Rum, pineapple, coconut and ice.

COCONUT: The first recipe I tried called for coconut milk and cream of coconut. I found the coconut milk to be a weird texture but made it creamy. I liked the cream of coconut (found in the liquor isle) as it was sweet and easy to store in the fridge as it has a shelf life of eternity. Coconut milk isn’t good for long term storage and you don’t use enough to really merit buying it. As I don’t understand it that much as a product, after two weeks it became questionable if I should use it? Who wants to get coconut milk poisoning? Eliminated.

RUM: I used light and dark rum and really liked the blend.  I didn’t even try any other way as it was tasty. The second batch I doubled the rum and it was too strong. My boyfriend liked it stronger, so this is to taste if you want to make it Pirate Style with more rum. I decided on 1 1/2 oz per batch.

PINEAPPLE: When I was in Costa Rica in beautiful Manuel Antonio at the hotel Si Como No, I had the best Pina colada (or six) I have had in my life.  It was made using real pineapples, probably from their neighbor’s yard or something. Most recipes called for pineapple juice over real pineapple. Fooey. I knew I wanted to use real pineapple but was open to change as I forgot to buy some on recipe 3.  It was not as tasty but drinkable. On recipe 1, I just put pineapples in the blender and no juice. I took a lot and was good but it could be quite an expensive drink. Unless you live in a place where they have so many pineapples they leave them on your porch at night this may not be an option. I decided on a blend of both pineapple and preferably a pineapple coconut or unsweetened pineapple juice as it doesn’t need it! The pineapple coconut juice was in the juice isle with the organic juices and fancy stuff.

Rum and ice cream machine are friends.

ICE: I tried using ice for the first four recipes and by the time I ran it through the blender it just was not right. Too much ice and it made it too watery after the ice melts. It melts fast! It tasted good but I wanted to feel the beach moment again. I tried putting everything in the fridge, but it still didn’t work. After talking to a Tiki master who simply stated I would “know when I got the right consistency” I made a joke about buying one of those fancy Slurpee machines. Eureka! It hit me! Ice cream maker! I stalked Ebay and for about $50 I was the owner of a brand new ice cream maker. It worked perfectly. This is also a dangerous machine because you start to realize you can make LOTS of adult drinks in it. Move over George Foreman grill, this is the new black of must have machines.

If you don’t want to buy this machine, you can always just put it in the blender. Blend everything in a blender,  transfer to a plastic container you can pop it out of (large yogurt containers work well), freeze it until solid, thaw for about 1/2 hour and then put it back in the blender to mix it up . Ice just messes it up so avoid it.

RECIPE – Makes 3-4 drinks or 1 if you are a piggy – no shame, just sayin’:

  • Mix the following: 1 cup of pureed pineapple. Put it in a blender and pulse until it is like baby food or more. You don’t want it too chunky as the fruit will freeze when you put it in the machine. If you want to serve it with straws, then puree fine enough for it to go through a straw. I suggest getting big straws so you can use coconut too!
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice or pineapple and coconut juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces of dark or gold rum and 1 1/2 ounces of light rum. You don’t have to use fancy rum but the higher quality the better
  • 3 oz of cream of coconut. You can find this at the grocery store usually by the liquor

You can watch it freeze!

OPTIONAL: If you do NOT plan on drinking through a straw, add 1/4 of finely chopped sweetened coconut. You can find this in the baking isle. You could use unsweetened too but sweeter is more deliciousness!

Follow the directions on the ice cream machine and run it for 15-20 minutes depending on how thick you want it. 20 minutes it was like soft serve ice cream. It will continue to freeze so don’t assume it won’t because of the booze.  If you want to make some additional batches ahead of time for more people do so and allow to thaw in the fridge for about 15 minutes then stick it in a blender to reconstitute. I froze mine for two additional days and left it out on the counter and it thawed to quickly around the edges.

*note hilarious video to watch after you read my awesome article


Cold Pressed – Iced Coffee

Yummy Goodness

You can have smooth coffee without sugar!

It’s that time again in the city. Melty time! Well, it’s about that time so get used to it so you don’t feel surprised.

I am here to discuss “iced coffee”.  Reader: Throw some coffee in a cup and add ice? Ninja: NO. Bad iced coffee maker! BAD!

First off, if I see one more barista take hot coffee and add ice to it I just might go snapples all over the place. So in my normal ninja fashion, I must go over the mistakes before revealing the recipes.

  1. Do not simply add ice to hot/warm coffee and call it a day. It melts and makes your coffee weak, not like ninja. If you think making stronger coffee will make it work then you will probably just have lukewarm, bitter coffee that hates you.
  2. Do not think that the coffee in your pot that has been sitting there all day at room temp would make great iced coffee and try to serve to friends as the “green” way to reuse your coffee. This includes trying to put it in the refrigerator to chill it.
  3. Do not assume you have to add five pounds of sugar to your iced coffee to make the bitterness go away (it may work for the bitterness in your life but not your coffee). Your coffee still will be bitter and want love.
  4. Do not give up and just go to a coffee shop because you don’t think you can do it yourself.
  5. Follow the Kitchen Ninja and you will be fully caffeinated, cool and have coffee that loves you back.

The answer to all of your coffee dreams is cold pressing or cold brewing. Heat makes coffee taste bitter so by cold pressing you take all the bitterness out of the coffee. I have experimented with making hot coffee, transferring to a large glass jug and then putting it into the refrigerator right away. If you don’t mind the bitterness, then this is fine. You can always add sugar. However, if you prefer smooth buttery goodness, then stop heating!

COFFEE: At this point in my experimenting I have tried many coffees. I don’t think this recipe is going to work with any coffee such as crappy ground coffee from the store but it might. I must emphasize that you deserve quality coffee so go ahead and buy something you enjoy! My favorite coffee in the US is from Bridgeport Coffee here in Chicago where they visit coffee plantations all over the world, bring it back and roast their own coffee. Their “Hardscrabble” is a most delicious Vienna roast.  If you can’t make it to Austria for their off the charts coffee, this is the next best thing. Sidenote: the link is for a pound/ 16 oz. of coffee which is the big bag! If you are in Chicago, you can also get the smaller bag 12oz at the South Loop Whole Foods. Today, I am enjoying the Breakfast Blend coffee I procured in Colorado at the Durango Coffee Company. I think it turned out quite delicious.

Shiny!

CONTAINER: You need to purchase a quality French press. I personally have found that the smaller presses to be a tease so I recently purchased the big mamma from Bodum. This Bodum Columbia beast holds 12 “cups” (6 actual cups as apparently coffee doesn’t apply to real cups) and appeals to my inner-ferret of shiny objects.  I found mine on Ebay for a good discount. Result, lots of iced coffee as this isn’t a quick process and you don’t want to run out! Any french press will work. You can even fill up the fridge with ten of these to get you through the day.

You will need to make sure that your refrigerator can accommodate the press with the pole UP. We want to make sure the coffee and water are mingling about and when the tiny coffee strippers come to visit they have a place to dance.

TIMING: I would suggest leaving the coffee in the fridge for at least 8 hours. If you have time, make it during the afternoon, it will be ready in the morning.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Make sure to clean out your press with hot water and soap. Coffee contains a lot of oils and it will build up and alter the taste of your coffee.
  • Find out how many ounces of liquid your press will hold. Don’t go by cups on the box as mentioned earlier, the math is off in Coffeeville. I like strong coffee, so you can use less if it is too strong but keep in mind, the ice will still melt a bit so you don’t want it to be too weak.
  • For every 4 oz, use a slightly rounded tablespoon and put it in the French press (use MEASURING spoons not the big spoons in your drawer!) SECRET NINJA TIME SAVER MOVE: For the coffee press I use, I put in 3/4 cup in total. If you have a good sized press, the first time just transfer to a measuring cup so you know your amount.
  • Add COLD water to the press to fill up to where the lid and pole can be placed on top. Don’t overfill as you will be pretty PO’d if coffee grounds and water go all over your counter.
  • Stir well
  • Put it in your refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Make this part of your nightly ritual. It is great waking up and not having to make coffee when you need it the most. Sometimes I need coffee to make coffee.
  • Take it out, press it and serve over ice. If you like sugar in your coffee, follow the simple syrup recipe below as iced coffee won’t melt sugar so it will just float around. But make sure to try it before adding sugar so you can sense the smoothness. You can also use agave syrup.
  • Join the ninja coffee club and begin boasting that your coffee is better than the coffee shops.

VARIATIONS:

Spices: One teaspoon of pure quality vanilla extract (or more to taste) added to the coffee is tasty. You can also experiment with adding cinnamon or nutmeg to taste.

Flavored Coffees: If you are looking to try some variations that may replace sugar I would suggest only using a little to enhance. You could add a portion of chocolate or vanilla coffee. I tried using 1/4 ground cherry coffee from Michigan with the rest being regular coffee. It was pretty intense at first so I would suggest starting there and working backwards. I am going to try with 5 beans instead next time as it was crazy strong and that is no joke. If the coffee SMELLS strong like the flavor, it probably tastes that strong. I tried adding a little vanilla (1tsp) to mellow it out. If you have some ratios that you are trying out, then post something and share!

SIMPLE SYRUP: (makes one cup)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water and bring to a boil. When the sugar is completely dissolved remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a spouted bottle or container for pouring.


Spicy Elitist Bloody Mary

Sugar Free/ No Corn Syrup

Sugar Free / Atkin's friendlier

I call this drink the Elitist only because it is perfect.  I will try and write this fast because I am drinking my Bloody Mary as I type this which also means I will be tipsy when editing. No judgy.

I know there are about a bagillion recipes of Bloody Mary’s out there in blogs. Why is the one I am perfecting any different? Well, every commercial Bloody Mary mix out there contains sugar or corn syrup. I was a bit perplexed as isn’t a good Bloody supposed be spicy hot goodness? What is the point other than to spike crazed insulin rampages making you drink four instead of one? Nonsense!

First, I must confess I did not like Bloody’s until about three years ago. I was more of a Rum drinking sort of girl but as the years pass by I gain layers of cush like rings on a tree. Sugar drinks BAD. Vodka drinks GOOD. So if you are on the Atkin’s Diet, Weight Watchers and of course the “I’m not an idiot, I should know better than to put that in my face” diet then this is a great drink for you to drown your diet sorrows in.  Regardless of the diet, no-no on drinks like the Mojito and anything with Bailey’s Irish Cream in it are tasty but will give you a hangover or a sugar coma. Some know that Atkin’s low carbo diets there is NO unnatural sugars allowed. So you can thank me later for getting this figured out.

Here in Chicago, we like to put a lot of “stuff” in our drinks. My favorite Bloody at a restaurant has to be at the Twisted

It may not look pretty but it sure is tasty.

Spoke here in Chicago. I am not going to say much except that it is like lunch in a drink including a “sidecar” of beer which is a small glass on the side. That was actually the first Bloody Mary I ever made it through as I liked switching back and forth with my variety of drinks.

I have experimented by making my own Bloody Mary infused vodka  (recipes coming soon) but you can use any vodka. The key is to make this in batches as they are rather time consuming when you make them drink by drink due to the number of ingredients. It is a great drink to take to the laundry mat and really is much more entertaining than pop machine. If planning on binge drinking, make this ahead of time in your fridge as adding is hard with a hangover.

This is a recipe for 4 large drinks depending if you put it over ice. I like medium spicy, so this is for my taste. If you want it hotter, increase parts of the spice portion of the recipe. This recipe uses spicy vodka which will alter the taste quite a bit.  You can mix this in a large container with a wide mouth and plastic lid if you plan on taking it somewhere. I like reusing the tomato juice containers.

In the container:

  • Mixture for Bloody Mary Recipe
    Make it in bulk so you don’t have to think about it!

    5 shots of vodka. I made my infused vodka with poblano peppers, onions, garlic cloves, basil, habanero hot sauce and olives(big vessel sitting for a month). If you use spicy vodka then you will probably want to adjust the spice section of the recipe to taste. I would only adjust the horseradish and hot sauce as it may get too salty otherwise.

  • 4 cups of low sodium V8 or tomato juice. I like the V8 but ifyou are watching carbs, use the tomato. Make sure it is low sodium as the spice mix has a ton of salt in it. Otherwise, it gets to be too salty and I love salt.
  • 1 1/2 shots of Worcestershire sauce.
  • 2 shots of any olive juice

*SPICE SECTION*

  • 8 TBSP of horseradish. Increase this if you want to have more “bite”
  • 20 Dashes of any regular hot sauce. I prefer Cajun Sunshine but any Louisiana Hot Sauce is good.
  • 4 TBSP of Bloody Spices  (recipe below)

SHIT TO PUT IN YOUR DRINK
Olives Celery, Pickle spears,(Pickled Okra, Beans or Asparagus also work well and often served in the South) Beef sticks, salami on a toothpick, lemons and even shrimp. Steer away from sweet pickles or carrots as they have sugar in them.

BLOODY SPICES (I make this in bulk so I don’t have to make it every time) I just keep it in an air tight dispenser.

2 parts Celery salt
3 parts Cajun Seasoning. (I like the Weber Grill spice mix New Orleans flavor- I would experiment)
Stir Well
This can be used on your glass rim as well.

Use a lemon as water won't work for sticky rims.

To assemble:

  1. Chill 4 pint glasses
  2. Cut a lemon into wedges
  3. Take out the glasses and squeeze a wedge into the glass. With the remainder of the lemon, drag it around the edge of the glass. Dip the rim into a flat bowl or wide ramekin filled with Bloody Spices to coat the rim. Take the lemon and spear it onto a toothpick if desired.
  4. Stick the celery in.
  5. Add ice to 2/3 of the glass if serving with ice
  6. Spear any of the things above to put in your drink Make sure everything can be accessed from the top of the glass. Don’t let toothpicks float to the bottom as it is unsafe if your guest doesn’t see it!
  7. Shake the jug of mix and then pour into the glass.
  8. Smirk (as you just made a bad ass drink)
  9. You can serve with a side car (small glass) of beer with it to drink in-between

A side note is that with the new points system by Weight Watchers(TM) This calculates to be only 4 points per drink if you don’t put meat in it. Virgin’s only are 1 point! As for low carb watchers stay away from any sweet pickles as they are high in carbohydrates due to sugar content. I don’t know the carb count as I am currently on WW as of yesterday.

Enjoy my ninjas ~


Chocolate Candied Bacon

Bacon is probably the most perfect food on the planet. I also believe it is a magical word. I sometimes just put the word randomly in my Facebook status updates (such as “Going to go to the store for some pants. Bacon.”) to see if I got more responses. It usually works.

I recently tried chocolate with bacon in it from a famous Chocolate maker here in Chicago. Even though all of my being wants to love it, I wasn’t  impressed. After I started complaining to others about my desire to like this concept, chocolate covered bacon started to pop up in conversations more frequently. One friend told me they even experimented with it but hadn’t figured out the right consistency. Another friend suggested skipping the chocolate and trying candied bacon. I knew there had to be some perfect combo of  both. I looked online and couldn’t find a recipe that had both chocolate and candied methods.

Let it be known I am a bacon snob. I only buy one bacon at this point in my life. Wellshire Farms.  Do not even bother trying to persuade me otherwise.  For my chocolate, I purchased some dark chocolate chips from Blommer Chocolate Company in Chicago. You want to get good quality chocolate made for candy as you don’t want the candy part to melt when you handle it. You don’t want to get anything with wax in it either(as if!). Order it online from a quality company if you don’t have access. No excuses please.

Here were the experiments:

Experiment 1. Dark chocolate covered bacon. I wanted to try three bacons to see if it made a difference. A. Thicker bacon from Jimmy Dean B. thin sliced bacon from Oscar Myer C. Wellshire Farms bacon
Experiment 2. Candied Bacon with all three bacons
Experiment 3. Chocolate covered Candied Bacon with all three types of bacon

WINNER! #3 with Wellshire bacon. ps. I was very sad when it was gone. See the bottom note for how to make the combo.

Here are the results:

Bacon: The Welshire bacon won hands down out of the three bacons. The second best was the thin bacon. The bacon was nice looking the day I made it, but after you put it in the fridge it started to look a little waxy.  The other thick bacon was too chewy. After a couple of days all of the bacon became chewy. It also looks unattractive whatever you do. We dipped half the bacon length-wise and it looked the best. If you dip the whole thing, it is too much chocolate to bacon ratio.

Chocolate covered bacon: To make the chocolate, I baked all the bacon until crispy in the oven. Not burnt, still bendy without breaking. Then cooled it and dipped in dark chocolate over a double broiler. I then moved it to a wax paper lined cookie sheet to cool and be handled easily (freezer is nice too)

Candied bacon:  For the candied bacon, I followed this recipe and instructions exactly. This looked great, tasted amazing, and looked nice a few days later. It was better than the chocolate bacon cold. It was off the charts when hot. I can see why the chef says it would be great for a BLT.  If you want to skip the chocolate part, this also a great recipe to just eat outright. My boyfriend Jay said he was at a party recently that served them rolled and stabbed with toothpicks which made it look nicer. The photo below looks like the edges are burnt, but it was not. It should be evenly colored as possible and crispy on the outside edges. Try not to eat it all before dipping it in chocolate.

For future reference here is what the ingredients are in case that site goes away:

Ingredients:
1 pound thick center-cut bacon (Wellshire is best!!)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup (QUALITY syrup is a must. I prefer this tasty stuff from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Cotton Tavern Syrup 603-569-1138)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
black pepper to taste

I baked the bacon at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then started by basting the tops of the bacon and flipping and then repeating every 5 minutes (USE A TIMER) until it was crispy and cooked. I think we ended up working for about 40 minutes total. The bacon will stiffen once it cools so don’t overcook it!

NOTES ON CANDIED BACON:

  • Make sure you line your baking sheet with aluminum foil. This will make it much easier to clean. That candied stuff is like tar. (see the photo below after we finished cooking…let it cool over night, then just take all the foil out and throw it out.
  • Buy a cookie cooling rack and dedicate it to this as you will not be getting it clean.
  • Eat before you make this to prevent you from eating the whole batch.

WINNER Instructions.

Follow the candied bacon recipe above exactly. Watch the video, it is really easy. Allow to cool by putting it in the refrigerator for a half hour until you can pick it up without it being sticky. Heat the chocolate candy chips in a double broiler until melted. You could use a crock pot if you were using a LOT of chocolate but for a pound, don’t bother. Dip length-wise.

Allow to cool, and then watch your house for break-ins. Do NOT brag about this to your friends as they will be sad if you didn’t make them some. Share this link on your Facebook page if you make that mistake so they can make it too!


Peanut Sauce but really Sweet & Savory Sauce

If you get a Buddhist drunk enough, they will tell you what you want to know.

If you have ever been the the Magic Kitchen in Springfield, IL, you probably have realized this is the best Thai restaurant on the planet. This is a family owned joint, operating out of a remodeled gas station from 1970-something. It is not fancy, it is mostly full of extremely loud white people drinking beer out of coolers. I am from the Springfield area so I was one of those loud people for a long time. Don’t bother posting anything about me being racist, there are loud obnoxious people of all races, but here, mostly white people.

There are several items on the menu that are absolutely a must when you visit. Thai egg rolls, chicken satay, bao buns, bame noodle soup, pad thai, basil squid, ginger chicken, the list could go on and on.  All have a spice range of mild, mild plus, medium, medium plus and hot. The prices are extremely cheap so it is not a big deal to over order and take home the rest. I would eat the cold leftovers off the middle of Lakeshore Drive well after the five second rule, with a huge grin on my face.

The one thing that people rave about is the “peanut sauce”.  After moving to Chicago and experiencing other peanut sauces, is actually missed-named. Traditional peanut sauce is made with coconut milk and peanut butter and probably will kill you on the spot if you ate too much of it. This sauce is dark brown, clearish and vinegar based. It has peanuts floating on it, but it is NOT peanut sauce. So cracking this recipe was hard to figure out.

I finally found something sort-of-like the recipe called Sweet and Savory Sauce in an excellent Thai cookbook. I decided to use this as a base. I went to my Thai grocery and bought everything and anything I could that would possibly be an ingredient. I drove to Springfield, bought a pint of the sauce, drove back to Chicago and set up my lab. I am not joking when I say lab. I take this very seriously. I tried eight different recipes. It looked exactly the same, but couldn’t get the taste right.

Months later, at a holiday party in Springfield, my foodie prayers were answered. The ONE guy who worked there who was not family nor Thai, but was a Buddhist, happened to be at the same party! I strategically stalked him, watching the drinks flow into his body and then I made my move. I started a friendly chat about how I recognized him from the restaurant, and how I was trying to crack the recipe for the sauce. Awkward laughing. I asked him if he could tell me. He politely said no. More awkward laughing. I then joked a bit and told him how I have tested it extensively and all my fruitless labors. He seemed intrigued. I then told him about how I swear there must be deerblood in that or some other magical ingredient because I tried everything from Sprite, etc. He looked impressed… I put on my serious face. I then just flat out asked, if I tell you what I THINK goes in it, will you tell me if I am right or wrong. He agreed. Merry Christmas Buddha!

Then instead of Yes, No, he corrected me under his wine veil. Brown sugar? NO, dark brown sugar. Heart racing. Vinegar? NO, apple cider vinegar! Light headed. Chili paste? NO, tamarind paste! Near fainting from excitement. The sugar part? PINAPPLE JUICE! I got the peanut part right, yay!

I actually wanted to leave the party at that point, drive back to Chicago to make it right then. This was like the getting the missing link for us Springfield people. Ironically, I didn’t live there anymore.

So I tried the recipe again, this time much closer but it just wasn’t right with the proportions. I had my friend Jen up to visit to unveil the sauce, but it just wasn’t right. We drank a little too much wine, and then I got mad and poured a ton of juice into it out of spite. The next morning, we tried it and it was perfect!!! (It took a couple more tries to figure out what I did after that wine incident) but here is what I can confidently send you out into the world with. It is best with FRIED STUFF or a spring roll.  Do not substitute anything. Do not try and use this if a recipe asks for peanut sauce because it IS NOT peanut sauce.

Base
1/2 c Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 c Dark Brown Sugar

In a small sauce pan, heat the vinegar up on medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until melted.

Then add to taste:
4 tbsp Tamarind Paste
At least 4 small cans of Dole Pinapple Juice
Deerblood. Just kidding.
Crushed Unsalted Fresh Roasted (if you can get them) Peanuts ADD after it cools

This stores for about 2 weeks in the fridge as it is basically vinegar and sugar. The trouble is that no fried foods are as good as those tiny magic gem eggrolls! If you find out how to make them please return to me with recipe. Sorry, I don’t have a photo. Next time I make it, I will post one. Or, send me a photo if you make it!


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