Inspirational Tarragon Roasted Chicken

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Lately, I’ve been a little stressed trying to figure out what to do next. So I’m spending too much time thinking of the next greatest thing. This is like Archimedes and his quest to discover density and the famous Eureka story. If you don’t know it, the movie PI has a great telling of the story by Mark Margolis. The long short of it is simply, relax. You can’t force inspiration, it just happens. 

Among many things, cooking French food for my love is always inspiring. So, L’estragon poulet rôti avec des légumes to the rescue!

RoastedChickenIngredients

For the Marinade

  • French Tarragon (Be liberal)
  • Rosemary (Be liberal)
  • Honey (4 tablespoons)
  • Olive Oil (4 tablespoons)
  • Limes (Lime zest, juice from 1 lime)

For the veggies

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic

First, mince the tarragon as small as you can. Then add all the marinade ingredients into a bowl. Mix it really good. Then wash the chicken and dry with a paper towel and add to a bag or bowl with lid. Add the marinade and let sit for 30 mins to 4 hours… or more. Pro tip* Make sure the marinade gets under the skin.

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Cut the veggies into large chunks and set aside. I found that the garlic I used could have been much more as when ever I got a bite of a chunk, it was magic so use a lot of garlic!

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When you’re ready to eat, set the oven to 400 and add the chicken into the ban for broiling. Add the marinade to the pan and try to coat the veggies and meat. Now when you’re cooking it, you can cook with a lid or without. If you do it with the lid, you’ll get more soft veggies that are more steamed. If you roast with the lid off like I did, you’ll get more of a crisp veggie and they will have some blackened ends as you will see in the pic below. Also, if you want your skin to be more like the roasted part you can see in the center of the pieces below, cook separate from the veggies. If not, the skin will be thoroughly cooked and easy to cut and chew. Both ways are delightful.

Serve with a baguette, goat cheese with cracked pepper and red wine. Bon!

RoastedChickenPlated

 

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Croque Madame avec un Croissant

Ham and Brie Croissant with Fried Egg

A croque-monsieur, or grilled ham & cheese, when served with a fried egg or poached egg on top is known as a croque-madame. Many dictionaries attribute the name to the egg resembling an old fashioned woman’s hat! How fun is that? We were inspired to make this yummy sandwich by one of our favorite restaurants, Coquette Brasserie, and we decided to put a spin on it by using a croissant and Brie instead of the usual Gruyere cheese.

We just set a few slices of cherrywood ham and brie on the croissant and baked it for about ten minutes while frying up a sunny side up egg, which was still a bit runny. To accompany it, we enjoyed fresh salad greens from our garden with a homemade vinaigrette. Champagne white vinegar plus Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning made a perfect dressing!

This was almost too easy for being so fancy. Mangez bien!

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Lovely French Macarons

Magnificent Macaroons - Kendall Totten Photography  

What would motivate a man to make some little pink french cookies that he’s never had before? Well, lately I’ve been learning to code video games, and I’ve been working so hard at developing that craft that I’ve been neglecting my savory hacker duties. So I thought I would switch gears and clear my head. Secondly, they are a gorgeous looking food. Finally, they are French. I’ve never been to France but I’ve been really into French food lately and I wanted to experience a bit of their culture.

I went online and watched Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe on YouTube like 4 times (no joke). If you follow this recipe, I would highly recommend doing the same. She clearly points out pitfalls to watch out for and what results you should look for.

People have been saying how difficult and time-consuming making macarons will be, but honestly after watching Beth’s video, they were pretty simple! This was my first attempt and they turned out fantastic. I did have help from my sous chef (and the love of my life) so that helped too!

Stack of Macaroons - Kendall Totten Photography

As you can see, the texture of macarons when done correctly have these little feet-like bottoms that are all rough. This is key to making sure that the macarons are firm, yet light and easy to chew. Kind of like firm cotton candy. This was my first time having a macaron, so I wasn’t sure what to put in the middle of the sandwich. Beth recommends something kind of tart to balance out the sweet. I didn’t have the time to create the berry filling that she showed, so instead I defaulted to Nutella, french preserves, and frosting. All of these were good but I have to say, they were indeed a bit too sweet. I would recommend taking Beth’s advice and using something tart in the middle.

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When I was done, I was curious about the insides so I cut a cookie in half. I’m assuming that this is the ideal texture since our photos closely resemble those seen on other recipe sites. These were easy to eat and similar to cotton candy. In the end, even though they taste great and look so pretty, you may think you’d like to make like 2 dozen… but don’t. Trust me, one per person will be enough!

By the way, if you’re anything like us, you may be interested in knowing the difference between a macaroon and a macaron!

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Fun Fall Salad & Butternut Bisque

Pecan & Gorgonzola Salad

This hearty salad pairs great with the bisque. A mix of gorgonzola, pecans, apples, and a homemade berry/vanilla vinaigrette.

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

The recipe for this delicious vegan bisque comes from “Back to Her Roots“, and was modified only slightly. You see I had just bought a large bag of apples only a few days prior so I thought that we had at least 1 apple for this recipe. But Doug had used every last one to make apple crisp a few nights earlier. So I just took a few generous scoops of the apple crisp which already included cinnamon and nutmeg and used it in place of the raw apple. Worked like a charm!

One word of caution — if you’ve never attempted to make a butternut squash anything before, you may want to check out this instructional video about how to peel them. They can be a lot of work, or at least more than I was expecting anyway. At least the results are worth it!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh grated and peeled ginger
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion, ginger and carrots and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add in all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until all vegetables are very soft.
Remove from heat, puree in batches in a blender or puree using an immersion blender. Test for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Doug also added a delightful finishing touch of cool whip on top, which made it even more dessert-like. Try it!!

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Crazy ’bout Crêpes

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If this blog turns into an all-crêpes, all-the-time kind of blog, no one will really complain right? Good. Because I have recently hacked together the most glorious crêpe yet. It’s a slight twist on a basic recipe which involves strawberries, Nutella, and raspberry jam. The magic ingredient is a soft goat cheese which may sound wacky, but trust me it’s amazing.

I used Cana de Cabra which I found at Whole Foods, but I think any creamy, mild goat cheese would do. The light tang of the cheese perfectly balances the sweetness of the berries & chocolate. This is most definitely my new favorite food and I just had to share!

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Crêpes of Wrath

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Recently it has come to my attention that this blog, once a labor of love, has become a place of neglect; forsaken and collecting cobwebs in its tiny corner of the web. But no more! I’m beginning the resurgence of delicious content today with this tempting and savory mushroom & asparagus crepes. Maybe Doug will be kind enough to add his two cents about how it was created so you too can enjoy it, but for now this will serve as our re-entry to the WordPress world and the savory hackers shall continue to forge ahead!


…Hey everybody! It’s Doug and I’m here to do my part to make sure the cobwebs stay clear (Kendall hates spiders, I don’t).

I would like to preface this with a word of advice. This is inspired by my high school physics teacher Mr. Maclom. He always said “Read everything first, plug-in what you know and the rest is all cookbook.” This lesson has held true in almost everything I do in life and is the reason for many of my successes in life and almost all of my cooking adventures. So, with all of that said, read all of this first, it’s all cookbook from there.

For this recipe there are a few requirements that will make this dish amazing. The first and most important is the company. Secondly, you need to have a disproportionate love of all things french. You can see by the shirt that I’m wearing (a gift from Kendall) that not only am I a geek but I love french art!

DSC_0900Ok, now for the Crepe. First make the crepe. This will require the usual, eggs, milk (or alternative like I use), flour and a touch of vanilla and a pinch of salt. This should come out like a very thin pancake batter. Here is a link to a great recipe for the crepe itself.

Then in a pan, saute some butter. Like a quarter of a stick or so, doesn’t have to be exact. When the butter is starting to bubble, add some chopped mushrooms, size does NOT matter. Add them and when they begin to give up their liquid and smell amazing, add some chicken broth, corn starch and creme (about a 50/50 mix with some corn starch mixed and not lumpy). let this simmer down into a nice creme. You might want to add a variation like adding pepper, lemon or garlic. I however am a purist and love the taste of the mushroom and butter. Let this reduce while you’re doing everything else stirring occasionally.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now the fun part. When you have your crepes made and you have your sauce prepared, assemble them according to taste. Here is what I did: lay the crepe flat on the plate, add a piece of ham to the bottom, then add the brie on top of that, follow with 2 pieces of asparagus split in half length-wise, then add another piece of ham to the top and roll it like you see above. I did this for all the crepes and arranged them in a pan like a bunch of enchiladas. I then baked them to soften the cheese and get a little bit of crispness on the crepe itself, approximately 3-5 minutes.

Now take them out and lay them on the plate in any visually appealing configuration and top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Ahhh, tres bien!!

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… that’s Amore!

After winding down a fantastic 2 year anniversary, I decided to make my first deep dish Chicago style pizza. I used my cast iron (because I thought that’s what they did at Giordanos in Chicago). This worked wonderfully!

The first basic step is the dough. I’m not going to give explicit instructions because most people have their own preferred methods but I will give a couple of secrets.

  1. The yeast loves sugar, so I add a tiny bit to the luke-warm water used to activate the yeast.
  2. “Luke-warm” doesn’t mean room temp., and you’re not warming the water for a baby. For best results, use the hottest water possible from the tap.
  3. Add a little extra flavor to the dough. I like to add some bread dipping seasonings or even basil to the flour before I add the water and yeast. I also use the “well” approach as opposed to mixing the yeast in the flour.
  4. I only let it rise once. It will continue to rise a little while it’s in the cast-iron pan waiting for the fillings.
  5. Finally, when kneading it, if the dough doesn’t make your arms tired then it’s not firm enough. Add tiny amounts of flour to the surface and knead in. The dough should have the slightest tackiness to it.

Now that you have your dough, you’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the pan, so coat the pan with a healthy amount of olive oil.

Then after rolling the dough very thin, lay it in the cast-iron pan like you would any pie crust. Be sure to press out the air bubbles that will likely form under the dough. Cut off the remaining extra dough from around the edges.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Now comes the fun part, the toppings, or more appropriate for this deep-dish pie, “fillings!”

First start with a thin layer of cheese on the bottom so that the crust will not get ruined by the tomatoes that we are about to add.

Then top the cheese with slices of fresh tomatoes one layer thick. Add some dried basil to the top of the tomatoes.

Now add a good healthy layer of sausage, real or vegan. We like Tofurkey Italian Sausage. I have to admit, I was worried about the sausage breaking down in the sauce and would have preferred the real deal but in the end it worked out just fine.

Then add piles of mushrooms,more dabs of sauce, and some pasta seasonings. Then a layer red peppers and a few more dabs of sauce.

Next add tons of cheese. I mean go nuts with it! If you bought cheep cheese, that’s fine, just don’t go quite as nuts or your pie will be more rubbery than you would probably prefer. I prefer fresh mozzarella.

After you’ve stuffed your pan almost as far as it will go, use the remaining dough to add a top crust to the pie. Be sure to pinch off the border like any sweet pie.

*WARNING* Don’t follow the picture to the right. Bonus points for if you already know why.

What you should do at this point (and I didn’t realize until I was literally placing this 50lb monstrosity of delight into the fires of Mordor) is butter the top of the crust and sprinkle with a little bit of garlic salt. I mistakenly added sauce and cheese to the top before placing it in the oven. This of course burned the cheese on the top early on (but it was still delicious!).

Place your pie in the 500 degree oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, drop the temp by 100 degrees and let it go for another 30 minutes.

5 minutes before removing from the oven, top the pie with a little bit of sauce and cheese. Don’t go crazy with the cheese at this point, just a sprinkle a bit of mozzarella and parmesan.

When I took mine out, it didn’t stick to the pan one bit and I could spin it around with ease. Let it cool for 5 mins and then then serve. Here’s a tricky serving method (which I don’t recommend!) but I used a plate to flip the pizza out of the pan. Place the plate on top of the pie, press them together, flip the pie onto the plate, then cover with another plate and flip again.

Bingo-bango, you now have a Chicago style pizza, a happy belly, a fantastic smelling house and a beautiful best friend swooning. We enjoyed our pizza pie with some “Betty Faye” wine from Gregory Vineyards. Slightly sweet with a terrific flavor.

Thanks my love for an amazing 2 years! I can’t wait to see what cooking adventures we will have in the years to come!

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Revisiting Some Favorites

It’s been almost a year exactly since we last made our Dr. Pepper pulled pork, so we celebrated the occasion by changing things up and making our slaw with purple cabbage (or “purple nurple” as we call it)! And since summer is nearly over, we thought we’d enjoy a bit more watermelon while it’s still available.

Hope you had a great summer and are ready to kick off fall! Check back soon, Doug has some great ideas for new recipes, plus we’re going to try to make a Raw Lasagna, as served at Pure Food & Wine in New York. I can’t wait!

We opted for purple coleslaw to complement our pulled porkwich

This salad is so different from the usual side salads, and it’s crazy good.

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Caprese of Love

If you have ten minutes and a few fresh ingredients handy, you have time to make this simple yet delightful sandwich. If you want to add an extra bit of cute to sweep your girl (or guy) off her (or his) feet, start with oval-shaped buns and cut diagonally. Then swap halves to make a heart-shaped treat they are sure to love. And love you for it!

Heart shape or not, this sandwich makes me swoon every time!

We like to stick to the basics and just use fresh mozzarella (note: there is a difference between processed and “fresh mozzarella” cheese), tomato slices, basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  The buns were basic local grocery bakery buns. White bread, a bit soft, but sturdy enough to hold up under vinegar and tomatoes without falling apart.

Top it off with some Terra Mediterranean chips, and enjoy!

These little buns were perfect for one of my fav sandwiches.

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Salmon and Avocado Ceviche + Watermelon Salad

When Doug and I lived in St. Petersburg, FL, there was a restaurant downtown called Ceviche, which was named for the dish which we had never tried. If you are unfamiliar, ceviche is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime. It sounded a little “fishy” to us, but being the savory hacker adventurers we are, we decided to give it a try—and loved it!

It’s summer, and avocados are plentiful! Why not add it to salmon ceviche?

Since we moved back to Michigan for the summer, we decided to make it at home. The important thing is to use fresh, sushi-grade fish. That has the best flavor anyhow. :)

I just love the pattern of Salmon, don’t you?

You’ll need about 1/4lb of salmon per person, and a 1/3 cup of lime juice (about 4-6 limes, depending on size). You need enough juice to submerge all the salmon cubes.

Limes are my favorite flavor of the summer.

Cut up 1/4 cup of red onion slices, and 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 tsp sugar, and 2 1/2 tbsp sea salt.  Let the salmon soaking in this mixture for 1-2 hours. How long you let it soak varies from one recipe to another, but if you’re using sushi-grade fish then you are safe, because you could just as soon eat it raw and be just fine.

While you wait, whip up this easy and refreshing melon salad. Just cube some watermelon, toss in feta crumbles, chopped mint, and a tablespoon of olive oil. I wish I had gotten a better shot of it, but it looked so good I didn’t want to wait to eat it!

This might sound wacky, but its so refreshing and delicious!

When the ceviche is ready, drain the excess liquid from the salmon and gently stir in the avocado slices. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and then either serve it up in an avocado shell as shown above, or in a martini glass. This had a particularly nice effect when Doug drizzled the balsamic over it. Light, healthy, and gorgeous too. Oh, and did we mention tasty?

Savory hacker Doug added coconut milk and balsamic to his ceviche

Lastly, if you happen to wind up with leftovers, you can toss it in the frying pan the next day and make some quick & easy fish tacos. These were really too good to be called “leftovers”!

Fry up some red peppers and onions too if you prefer a fajita style taco.

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