Friday Five: Musing

Friday, March 27, 2015

+ Our apartment is full of fresh flowers and I LOVE IT. There's a mix of arrangements that I made in class last week and other little designs I put together myself. I love when I walk into a room and the first thing I notice is the fresh flowers.

+ I picked up this bottle of Rosemount Cabernet at Trader Joe's over the weekend and I highly recommended it - especially since it was only $3.99! I think it was one of their flyer deals, but for the price, the wine is great. Since it's a twist top, there's a little bit of carbonation.

+ Kentucky trounced West Virginia last night by 39 points. I'm really trying to sit back and enjoy this win, it's just hard to do when you know there are three games left.

+ I'll be spending the next few days out on Folly and I.CANT.WAIT. Adam and I have a lot of family coming in town for a mini-vacation. The weather isn't going to be great this weekend, but it should warm up by Monday. I'm excited to hang out with everything and laze around by the Atlantic.

+ Before we take off to Folly, I'm pumped to celebrate my friend Amber's birthday tonight. We've got a group meeting for dinner and drinks at Muse. Muse is one of my favorite hidden treasure restaurants in Charleston. Should be a great night.

Have a good weekend!

A Rookie's Attempt at Making Jeni's Ice Cream

Thursday, March 26, 2015


When I set out to make ice cream over the weekend, I never knew it would turn into such an ordeal. I have a lot to say about my experience, but my rookie biggest tips would be:



Yes, I'm a dummy and didn't realize that an ice cream machine needs to have been in the freezer for a good, long bit of time before you embark on trying to freeze your ingredients. It all makes sense, but just wasn't something I considered until it was too late.

So, I tried to make ice cream on Sunday - and then I realized that I needed to put the freezer bowl in the freezer (yes, the name indicates in needs to be frozen) for 24 hours. Oh well, ice cream on Monday is a good way to start the week. But wait, apparently my rental kitchen freezer isn't cold enough to freeze the bowl in 24 hours. So on Monday, after 20+ minutes of trying to firm up my ice cream ingredients I realized that my bowl still wasn't adequately frozen. Back in the freezer it went with the temperature cranked down. At this point, I was willing to freezer burn all of my food for some delicious homemade ice cream.

THANKFULLY, I succeeded on my third attempt to make ice cream. The freezer bowl was cold enough and my ice cream achieved the correct consistency. The ice cream still needed to set in the freezer for at least 4 hours, so by Wednesday night it was finally time to eat some ice cream.

Y'all, the wait was worth it.

I embarked on this ice cream journey after receiving Jeni's Ice Cream Desserts cookbook from Adam. The cookbook is full of some seriously incredible recipes; choosing where to begin was a little overwhelming. I decided to start at the beginning: the first recipe in the book and one of Jeni's signature flavors - Sweet Cream.

In addition to the Sweet Cream, I made a berry jam as a filling. The recipe recommended a blackberry jam, but I struggled to find enough blackberries (for the price I wanted to pay) this time of year. Instead, I found a mixed bag of frozen berries containing blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Close enough for me.

The book explains the ice cream-making process extremely well. The process is broken out into four steps 1) Prep 2) Cook 3) Chill 4) Freeze. The breakdown and explanations really helped newbs like me who didn't even know that the machine needs to be frozen. I'm new to the world of ice cream, and really baking in general, but this cookbook is so helpful and is full of enough tips that it makes me feel like I can tackle more complicated recipes.

When we finally sat down to enjoy the ice cream last night, I couldn't have been happier. As complicated as figuring out the machine was, Jeni's recipe was the complete opposite - it was clear and easy to follow. The ice cream was delicious - I had no idea that homemade ice cream could be so good. I guess it makes sense - most things are better homemade, I just didn't know my first time at bat would turn out some great ice cream. Adam and I were both happy campers last night.

I'm already starting to think about what my next recipe should be. I think I want to incorporate some sort of pastry or crumble into the ice cream. Getting real fancy up in here.

Adventures at the Tow Yard

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remember when our parked car was hit a couple weeks ago by a hit and run driver? I had hoped that somehow karma would catch up to that person and teach them some sort of lesson. Well, I think that karma has boomeranged back onto Adam and I.

Yesterday, Adam dropped our car off at the body shop to repair the damage from the hit and run. The shop didn't know how long the repair would take, but our insurance provided a rental Camry in the meantime.

The street we live on requires residential parking tickets and because we didn't fully think about it, we realized late last night that we didn't have a parking pass for the rental car. Instead of getting a street parking ticket, we decided to park at a meter (since meters are generally free from 6pm-9am). We are idiots and realized so this morning when we walked to the rental car and it was missing. Apparently we parked in a 5AM-7AM Tow Zone parking meter. So stupid. So dumb. We didn't notice the tow sign when it was dark last night and in our defense, the parking meter did have two signs with conflicting times.

So we spent a fun little morning chasing our towed rental car around Charleston. Thank goodness for smart phones, Uber, and friends who are police officers - otherwise, our little adventure would have taken much longer. Adam is currently running around town to find our lease so he can get a temporary parking pass for the rental and I am cursing the mysterious hit and run driver.

Happy Hump Day?

P.S. - If your car is towed in Charleston, the city uses Jennings Auto Sales.

A French Themed Supper with Charleston Cooks

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A few weeks ago, Adam and I attended a cooking class with Charleston Cooks! at their downtown Charleston location. The class was French Supper themed. 

I've taken a few demonstration-type cooking classes before (you watch the chef and eat as they cook), but this was my first time in a participation-style class. Let me tell you, participation is the way to go. This class exceeded all of my expectations. The class was structured in a way where every student was in some way involved in each course. We weren't split up into groups and limited to working on just one course, we all worked together throughout the entire class to prep the five-course meal. I also have to give props to the group that was in the class that night; we had such a friendly and fun cooking group that I'm sure it influenced how much I enjoyed the class. Everyone was so welcoming and willing to learn, it was a lot of fun - especially when we all sat down to eat at the end.

Another plus to the participation style was the amount of hands-on learning that happened. Throughout the evening, Chef Michael gave us tips and tricks on techniques, choosing the best ingredients and his favorite kitchen tools. He was such a great resource to learn more about cooking.

The most important lesson I gathered from the class is the importance of having all of your ingredients prepped and ready before you being cooking. If you want to get fancy, this is called mise en place. Having your ingredients ready before you begin a recipe makes perfect sense in theory, but I am routinely lazy and just assume I can grab things as I go. This is normally where all of my cooking disasters happen: my garlic burns because I didn't have the stock ready, my onions cook too long because I didn't chop my asparagus in time, my oil smokes because I didn't mince my garlic, etc., etc., etc.

Another stupid simple tip the chef stressed was reading through the recipe before you begin cooking. Heck, even reading through it twice. Of course this makes sense, but I can't even tell you how many times I've just skimmed a recipe to find out later that something needs to set for more time than I have or that I need to use a kitchen tool that I don't have.

Both of these tips seem like the simplest recommendations, but I bet it's where a lot of cooking mistakes happen. At least it is with me.

But to the food! We cooked the most delicious, traditional five-course French meal. Our meal consisted of beef bourguignon, an asparagus quiche, steamed mussels, a potato gratin and a chocolate souffle. Everything was so delicious and absolutely decadent. The French know their cream and butter.

I've posted the recipes below if anyone is interested in recreating the meal. I can highly vouch for each and every course. I would, however, not recommend tackling everything yourself - unless you have an industrial kitchen. There were about 8 of us that evening cooking this meal, I can't imagine doing it all myself. My kitchen would surely be a disaster by the end of the evening.

Bon appetit! 

Asparagus Shrimp Guice Lorraine with Mixed Green Salad

Serves 12

1 bunch asparagus: trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 ounces thick-cut bacon, sliced into lardons
18 shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or peeled and grated
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
12 mini pie crusts, par-baked (recipe follows)
6 ounces mixed greens
18-20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic cream

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place 12 silicone baking cups on a Slipat-lined baking sheet.
2) Spread bacon in a large saute pan and place over medium heat. Cook undisturbed until browne d on the bottom, about 10-15 minutes. remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.
3) Add the shrimp in a single layer in the bacon drippings and let cook undisturbed until only a small amount of gray remains on top. Remove from pan and set aside. The shrimp will not be fully cooked at this point. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the shrimp.
4) Add the shallots, garlic and asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is bright green in color and slightly tender. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
5) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside.
6)Divide the shrimp among the pie shells and top with the asparagus mixture. Use a ladle to pour the egg mixture over each. Top with Gruyere cheese.
7) Place in the oven and bake until the filling slightly jiggles, about 15.20 minutes. Remove the quiche from the oven and allow to rest for 5-7 minutes.
8) In a mixing bowl, toss together the mixed greens, tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the quick over the mixed greens salad and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Pie Crust

Makes 12 individual par-baked pie crusts

1 stick unsalted butter, cold
1 1/2 cups flour
One pinch kosher salt
Whole milk, about 2/3 cup

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a slipat liner or parchment paper and line with 12 silicone baking cups.
2) Stir together the butter, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas.
3) Working in sections around the bowl, add milk one splash at a time to the flour and stir. Continue adding the milk until the dough retains the shape of your hand when squeezed. On a floured surface, divide the dough into thirds, stack, press down, and repeat. Continue to fold the dough onto itself 3-4 times. Wrap the crust in plastic wrap and flatten into a rectangle.
4) Chill dough for at least 10-15 minutes.
5) Divide dough into 12 pieces and using floured thumbs, press each one into a silicone baking cup, making sure to take crust slightly above the top; the crust will shrink when it bakes.
6) Place  a small square of parchment paper or foil in each crust and fill with pie weights. Bake the unfilled shells until firm to the touch and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Classic Gruyere Potato Gratin

Serves 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 slices bacon, diced
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced into half moons
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated: divided
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1) Preheat over to 400 degrees. butter a 9x9-inch baking dish and set aside.
2) In a medium pot, heat cream, milk, and sliced potatoes over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are slightly tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg; set aside.
3) Spread bacon in the bottom of a large saute pan. Place over medium heat and brown bacon on one side, about 10 minutes. Flip and brown on the remaining side. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside.
4) Add the leeks, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with the bacon drippings, and cook until the leeks have softened, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
5) In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the bacon and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.
6) Spread a layer of potatoes onto the bottom of the baking dish, reserving any milk/cream. Top with a layer of the leeks and half of the Gruyere cheese. Repeat another layer, drizzle with reserved milk/cream, another layer of Gruyere, and top with bread crumb mixture.
7) Bake until the potatoes are tender and the gratin is bubbly and golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Steamed Mussels in Shallot Thyme Cream Sauce with Toasted Baguette

Serves 12

1 stick unsalted butter
12 slices baguette
4 garlic cloves, divided
Olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
30 black mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 cup dry vermouth
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups seafood stock
2 cups heavy cream

1) Peel all 4 garlic cloves. Set 2 aside whole; use a ribbon grater to grate the remaining 2 cloves into thin slices. Set aside.
2) Place the butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Allow the butter to melt and being to foam.
3) Once the butter has browned, add the sliced baguette to the pan in an even layer. Allow to toast on each side.
4) Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the crostini from the pan and immediately run with the whole garlic cloves. Set aside.
5) Return the pan to medium heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.
6) When the oil is hot, add the shallot and saute until the shallot softens slightly.
7) Add the garlic and thyme. Stir just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
8) Add the mussels and vermouth. Cover the pan and allow the mussels to open, about 3 minutes.
9) When the mussels have opened, remove the mussels from the pan. Discard any unopened mussels. Divide the mussels among serving bowls.
10) Add the lemon juice, stock, and cream to the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until heather through, about 5 minutes.
11) Remove the pan from the heat. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
12) Serve the sauce over the mussels accompanied by the toasted baguette.

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 12

6 strips bacon, cut into 1/4-inch thick lardons
3 pounds top sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots, scrubbed and diced
1 bottle red wine, such as merlot, cabernet, or Chianti
2 cups beef stock
1 can diced tomatoes
1 herb bouquet (8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 4 whole cloves, 3 large cloves of smashed garlic, wrapped in a cheese cloth)
Olive Oil
2 cups fresh pearl onions, root end trimmed off
3 cups button mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons flour

1) Spread bacon in a Dutch oven or wide pot. Place over medium heat and let cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes, before stirring. Once bacon has browned, remove from pan and set aside.
2) Season the beef on all sides with kosher salt. Add a handful or two of the beef to the pan, leaving about 1/2 an inch between each piece. Take care not to over-crowd the pan. Let sear undisturbed on one side until brown. Flip and brown on remaining sides. Remove browned beef from pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining meat.
3) When beef has been seared and removed, add onions. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
4) Add wine, beef stock, diced tomatoes, and herb bouquet. Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any bits. Return the beef and bacon to the pot. Increase heat and bring to a simmer. Ounce simmering, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer until beef is tender, about 1-2 hours. Alternatively, at the point the stew can be placed in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.
5) Meanwhile, blanch, peel and brown the pearl onions: bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, generously salt with a handful of kosher or sea salt; the water should taste of sea water. Fill a bowl with ice water and set aside.
6) Submerge the onions in the boiling salted water and cook until just slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the onions from the boiling water to the ice water. Let cool in the ice water for a few minutes, then use your hands to squeeze the onions so the papery outer layer slides off, leaving a peeled onion. Repeater with remaining onions. Pat dry with paper towels.
7) Place a wide saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions, shake the pan to coat, then let the onions cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan and brown on remaining sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
8) Return the pan to medium heat. Add more oil as needed. Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally, until much of the moisture has been cooked out and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Set aside.
9) Mix together the butter and flour. Knead until well combined to create a beurre manie.
10) When the beef is tender, remove herb bouquet and discard. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms. Season well to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
11) Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the beurre manie. Whisk well to combine and cook until slightly thickened.

Chocolate Souffle with Warm Cherry Sauce

Serves 12

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering dishes
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for dishes
10 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 12 (4-ounce) ramekins and coat insides with sugar. Place ramekins on a baking sheet lined with a Slipat liner or parchment paper.
2) Combine chocolate, cream, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
3) Whisk egg yolks into cooled chocolate mixture.
4) Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl until soft peaks form.
5) Carefully fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions.
6) Divide batter among prepared ramekins.
7) Bake until souffles are puffed, but still moist in center, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately with cherry sauce.

Warm Cherry Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 pound cherries fresh or frozen; pitted if fresh
Pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon brandy
1 orange, zested and juiced

1) Melt the butter over medium-high heat.
2) Add the sugar and allow the sugar to dissolve into the butter.
3) Add the cherries, salt and orange zest. Cook until the cherry juices are bubbling.
4) Remove the pan from the heat. Add the brandy. Carefully return the pan to the heat.
5)  Add the orange juice and allow to simmer to desired consistency.