after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

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bw > tk

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t says: Our newest castmember, bw, has been showing off quite a baking repertoire over the past 6 or so months.  But this time … he made a dish especially for me.  Ok, that’s totally not true, but it might as well have been – look at it:


bacon cheddar scones!

Ok … so … I don’t want to offend bw with this next statement, but I have to say it: it reminds me of a McDonald’s bacon egg and cheese biscuit.  Well – but it’s better!  It doesn’t have that mouth-coating-grease sensation, but packs a wollop of bacon and cheddar in a nice airy scone (and I didn’t even get ’em straight from the oven!).  Now I know what you’re thinking: “t … you like everything with bacon … so this isn’t fair”.    I figured you’d say that … so I brought out the one pig-eating person who doesn’t feel that bacon automatically increases deliciousness: g.  g ate hers in 60 seconds flat.  Afterwards she proclaimed, “wow – this is way better than at Bouchon Bakery”.

WHOA.  Hey there now.  Did she just go there?  Did bw just take down Thomas Keller?  Yea he did.

After her comment, I brought her attention to the truth: bw actually used the recipe from Bouchon Bakery cookbook (probably reproduced accurately here)!  So … bw versus full-time paid professionals … and bw for the win!  We tried to figure out how/why this could happen.  g suspected that it was due to the larger bacon pieces and larger size of the scone, allowing it to have more substance in the center.  I feel that bw’s was seasoned more aggressively, with brighter chives.  Well, whatever it was, we give him an A+!  And … because [according to TK] “you really only begin to learn the second time you prepare a dish” … we eagerly await the second time … although not too soon: my cholesterol levels are still recuperating from the 2.5 I ate this time …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 January 2013 at 3:46pm

Our Philly Diner en Blanc Primer

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t says:  Ah yes.  Diner en Blanc.  Pictures are everywhere.  We have some, too, but a lot of them have our mugs on ’em, so we’re not going to be able to show those off.  Instead, we’re going to treat this kind of like a “how g-&-t-&-a-&-v do Diner en Blanc”.  Hopefully this post will be helpful for our planning next year …

g and I easily sourced our table and chairs, but we had to decide what was going to go on the tabletop.  There were so many options of glasses and utensils that we needed to visualize it.  Fortunately, Dr. Moody (a gift from lc) was ready-willing-and-able to help out:

Dr. Moody lends a helping hand by modeling different dinnerwares …

Eventually, we did decide on our tabletop selections, and everything looked pretty darn spiffy:

our tabletop!

The ONLY regret we had was that our selections were damn-heavy.  The glasses: real glass.  The dishes: real porcelain (and there were two!).  The silverware: real metal.   That bottle our water was in: real glass.  g and I are not World’s-Strongest-Man material – we can say that by the time we got to the site, we were quite pooped.  And we can only imagine what a was going through, as his table was even heavier than ours!  Of course, part of why we were pooped was due to stupid-as-crap route they took us to go from 30th street to Logan Square, but that’s another rant …  (“To the Main Line!”)

The official g & t mascots of Diner en Blanc … hiding under the shrubbery … we should have won “best table” for them alone … nevermind the edited, classy display of properly placed utensils, a single vase, a single candle, real steak knives, antique cheese spreader-thingees, big wine glasses …

The four of us also brought our own home-made food.  There were others who did the take-out thing with some classy-looking foods (table next to us had some sliders, I saw some Italian take-out elsewhere).  I saw there were a lot of people there trying to be “unique” by bringing sushi, but that ultimately ended up being as “unique” as getting a butterfly tramp stamp <re-read this sentence and play the effect at for full effect>.  Ultimately, v and g took it upon themselves to craft a meal that was built especially for DeB.  The food needed to be able to be served at room/outdoor temperature.  It needed to be transportable.  It needed to be light.  It needed to be filling.  It needed minimal number of components (i.e. minimal number of gladware).  It needed to lack any sauces that would dribble everywhere or leak in our picnic basket.  It needed to be pair-able with wine.  It needed to be shareable in case we got friendly with neighbors.  It needed to be eaten with fork and knife (after all, this is a classy event …)  This is what they came up with …

quinoa salad

v made a quinoa salad and it was scrumptious.  v said that it was based on a recipe she found here – except no gouda and a different vinegar; it turned out to be a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.  We paired it with a rose that a picked out from the PLCB and we were in heaven (seriously, this may have been the best rose I’ve had all year … it’s been such a tough year of roses for me – nothing like a legit Bandol to really show the world how to do a proper rose).  I could not think of a more fitting start to an outdoor summer meal.

“g surprise”

g whipped up a pasta dish inspired by something her mom crafted the other day.  The main idea was pasta and cheese and chorizo and wilted spinach and multi-colored bell peppers for some crunch.  g’s still got it!  And, of course, we microplaned some more cheese at the table.  For this course, a pulled out a delightful red he found at Moore Bros.  I was worried at first that it was going to overtake the summery pasta, but the tango was pleasant (there was a good amount of cheese in the pasta, so there was some richness and flavors in there to compete with the red).  The pairing probably wasn’t “perfect”, but of course a also had no idea what was going to be in the pasta, either (we literally called it “g surprise” when we made up the sample menu).

cheese plate

For the cheese plate, we had some Pecorino Fulvi, a triple creme goat/cow blend from GTC, and garrotxa.  This was accompanied by garlic dulce de leche (not pictured), some pistachios, prosciutto, and fig.  It was a very interesting assortment of mild cheeses – fun to mix-and-match with accompaniments and wine.  By now, we moved on to Erath “Le Jour Magique” White Pinot Noir … it rocked my socks again.

dessert …

We finished with an apple tart that v made (recipe here).  It was beautiful (and somehow we managed to transport it still intact).  I topped it with some crushed heath bar, and we would have had some diced cherries had I not forgotten them at home (my one actual regret!)  Nevertheless, the tart was bold enough to stand on its own, proudly proclaiming its appleness and showing off a crust that kept me coming back for more.  The dessert, combined with a Vouvray bubbly (NV Francois Pinon Brut, of NYT fame) was a solid outdoor sparking wine (not that I could drink the bubbly … but I’m told!).  I heard so many positive things that I bought another bottle!

In all, DeB was a great time.  We liked our food choices.  We liked our wine choices.  The “lows” of the evening were probably the lugging of our stuff to Logan Circle/Square and trying to manage a cracked cork without spilling red wine everywhere (I hope a’s official DeB attire is ok!).  The people around us were nice enough.  Fun was had by all.  Can’t wait for next year!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 August 2012 at 12:39am

w’s bash

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 t says:  w’s thoughtful and loving fiance threw her quite a party in celebration of a milestone in her career.  I have to admit that I was pretty tired that evening (i.e. I was working that weekend), so I wondered whether I could find a gracious way to bow out – sleep was very desirable.  Boy am I glad I did no such thing … cuz then I would have missed this:

Lord of the Flies, anyone?

w’s fiance wasn’t kidding when he said he would supply “lots of meat”.  g and I were thinking, “charcuterie platter?”  No – this was WAY better.  And it didn’t just have shock value – it was a damned tasty pig.  Super-succulent.  And it also had a gallon of what I can only imagine are pig drippings in case you wanted to have some jus on the side.  (Speaking of which: kp, did you freeze that stuff?).  This was perhaps one of the most brilliant moves I’ve ever seen at a potluck-y celebration – so much so that I will certainly steal it.  If anyone knows where the pig came from, comment on the bottom and I’ll add it.

There was a LOT of other food there – and it was all spectacular.  g whipped up her nana’s potato salad, which seemed like it had some pretty fervent supporters.  Stay tuned for a post in the recipe section for more details on how to make it.

And finally, there was a ton of great homemade desserts.  The one that caught my tongue the most was this one:

[a melting] key lime pie

It’s totally not fair to say that this was “the best” dessert – but I am a sucker for key lime (really – I love key lime pie) and I’m also the one behind the keyboard, so bam! I just did it.  It was made by an adsz-lurker (and I mean “lurker” as in “person who reads but doesn’t make their presence be known”, not “super-creeper-we-need-to-get-a-restraining-order”) who confesses that it was a particularly easy pie to make.  I don’t know if it was how refreshingly zipping it was in comparison to the unctuous pig I had just eaten?  Or maybe it was its light creaminess that I liked on a warm summer night?  Whatever it was – if she sends up the recipe, I’ll surely post it here.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 August 2012 at 8:18am

An Ode to Rice Cookers (and white rice!)

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t says: Time for number 2 on the list.  Meet “Li’l Red” … our rice cooker.

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that ..."

g and I love starch.  If we had to go Atkins, we’d be really really grumpy – our meals need pasta, bread, or rice.  Of the three, I’d argue that rice is the most versatile.  Bread requires effort to make and gets hard quickly.  Pastas might be quicker to make than rice, but are seldom served plain.  Rice, on the other hand is very simple to make, cannot be overcooked in a rice cooker (unless you put too much water in it), and goes with nearly every meat and veggie.  It also tastes wonderful on its own.  Actually, one time, when k was over, we made white rice – she was surprised by its flavor and asked if we doctored it with anything.  As you might guess, we go with rice quite frequently.  And, using a rice cooker, it doesn’t take up valuable space on our stovetop and is foolproof.  g also likes that it’s red …

Li’l Red was cheap (<$20) and makes enough rice for 6 servings.  Making 2 cups of rice (which inflates to about 4 finished cups of rice) works out well for me and g to have enough rice for 2 meals, each.  So critical is a rice cooker for successful rice cookery that I’ve even added this post to our “recipes”.  Some tips and tricks:

1)  Prepare the rice according to the rice cooker’s instructions.  g made it once following rice’s instructions – yea – it was not good.

2)  There are actually different kinds of rice out there.  We like short grain rices – our favorite is koshihikari short grain rice (we like Tamaki Gold as pictured, but there are other good ones out there).  My mom’s favorite, which is also delicious, is Kokuho Rose (it has a pink emblem on the package).

3)  Mom sometimes adds other things to white rice to make it more nutritious.  For instance, you could use barley, beans, peas, or even brown rice!  Brown rice might change the cooking characteristics – I don’t know – I’ve never tried it.  If you want to be a purist, add nothing to rice – no seasoning, vanilla, or even oil.

4)  If you’re making white rice, you must wash the rice thoroughly before cooking.  Basically you need to rinse the rice in water as many times as it takes for the water to run very-nearly-clear.  Basically, do it until you think you’re done, and then rinse it three more times.  I’ve done it by hand in the included rice pot or using a fine sieve – the latter works faster.  No matter what you do, this super-secret step is super-vital.

5)  When the rice is done cooking, fluff it with the included paddle and then replace the lid until ready to eat.  To “fluff” the rice, drag the paddle across the surface of the rice (kind of like how you would scrape a water ice with one of those wooden spoons) and lift up gently.  Keep doing so to get a nice fluffy pile.  When fluffing the rice, you want to avoid packing it together (e.g. you don’t want to do what they do with Chinese takeout white rice).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 March 2010 at 1:17am

Bacon Bacon Bacon!

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t says: This past weekend, g said, “I want some mac and cheese.”  A quick trip to google led me to Ina Garten’s recipe.  I was psyched to use bacon – but the same ‘ol “problem” came up: the recipe called for far less bacon than one can purchase in a package at the supermarket.  So what should I do with the rest? I made it my mission to use the entirety of the bacon to complete the meal.  This is what I did …

Step 1 was to cook nearly all of the bacon (I’m saving some for some eggs this weekend) in the oven as per Ina’s recipe.

9 went into the oven - only 8 made it to the picture ...

3 of the strips of the bacon would serve as the 4-oz required by Ina’s recipe (which I also modified a little – upped the cheddar by an ounce and lowered the blue cheese by an ounce – a good thing, too cuz that blue cheese I got was kickin’ – g thinks it still has too much oomph!).

What next?  Well, I figured that I needed a side dish.  But what could I make that incorporates bacon?  As I sat there looking at the dirtied pan, something shiny caught my eye … I knew what I had to do …

The grease says: "Don't forget about me!"

Through some crafty aluminum foil bending, I reserved the liquid gold ...

Inspired by Tyler Florence’s “Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts” that I must have seen 57 times around the holidays, I used the bacon grease to coat some halved Brussels sprouts, which I then seasoned with salt, pepper, Cayenne powder, and garlic powder before roasting in the oven at 400 degrees (turning every 5-10 mins).  The end result was one appetizer and one side.

Main and Side ... both with bacon!

I didn’t originally intend to use bacon grease for the Brussels sprouts, but when I realized I used the last of the oil in the house for our eggplant parmigiana-lasagna, I had little choice.  I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the color of the Brussels sprouts – I got a bad bunch so I had to prune way a lot of the dark green outer leaves – so what I used looked a little pale.  They were also kind of small – so they were tender before their leaves got nice and brown – I guess a frying pan would have given me the char that I wanted, but I didn’t want to deal with high heat frying tonight – I was having a lazy day).

Ok, so you probably see where this is going …  I have several strips of cooked bacon … and a need for dessert … I had the perfect solution …

A while ago, a friend of mine and I attempted bacon-chocolate-chip cookies.  They were phenomenal – but quite annoying to make (you had to make the bacon ahead of time and incorporate it into the dough).  I wanted to do something similar, but all of my cookie dough was already made and sitting ready-to-go in the freezer; incorporating bacon pieces wouldn’t be easy.  The solution?  Well – one time at Talula’s Table, a component in the dish called “Asparagus, Asparagus, Asparagus” featured bacon “powder” (which was genius).  And there I had it – I’d dust the cookies with some bacon powder (or very tiny bits – I didn’t want to bring out a food processor to actually get a powder).

Bacon bits in a baggie - ready for cookies!

Pig and chocolate - before the oven ...

Savory and sweet, in one luscious package ...


So, I obviously still have bacon bits left over, but I’m going to rim the drink of a margarita glass like I saw on Iron Chef America recently.  Can’t wait to see how that’ll taste (I’m hoping for a melon-based mixed drink so it’s like prosciutto-wrapped melon).

And … there we go!  Three courses and a drink incorporating bacon!  I must confess that I didn’t make the cookies the same night as the sprouts and the mac-n-cheese – I was just too full!  But I could have!  And isn’t that what really matters?

Oh … and a complete freak coincidence … a day or so after I thought of dusting my cookies with bacon (and didn’t tell anyone!) – look what lc sent us in the mail:

Pig and chocolate ... in bar form!

Can’t wait to try it!