Spicy Chicken Wings

So, now that summer’s over, football season is taking over our lives! I dread this time of year. Everything in Neil’s schedule revolves around football. We both went to Virginia Tech, and he’s had Hokie season tickets ever since 1999, which means random wknd trips to Blacksburg, VA. Fantasy football leagues also cut into his time…so much research, you’d think he was writing a paper. But, more importantly, he was born and raised in Pittsburgh, so the Steelers are his first love. I suppose I’m a close second. Personally, I think Steelers fans are probably the most insane of the bunch. Have you noticed that any sporting event you go to, be it baseball, hockey, etc, you’ll spot a random Joe wearing a Steeler’s jersey? Anyways, this is an obsession that I’ll never really understand, so I’ve just learned to accept it. In fact, I have to root for the Steeler’s too, b/c the crappy mood he’s in after a loss is annoying as hell. At least he doesn’t have season tickets to the Steelers!! He’s been on the waiting list for 15 years now….he even put me on the waiting list! But, year after a year, just another rejection letter :) Better luck next year!

The only thing I like about football season is the FOOD! Wings, pizza, burgers, nachos, brats etc…I absolutely love game food! And I absolutely love these spicy sriracha wings, invented by chef Michael Symon. You might remember him from The Next Iron Chef. His recipe is absolutely phenomenal. The main ingredient is the spicy chili-garlic sriracha sauce which you will find on any table in your local Asian restaurant. His unique take on chicken wings packs a lot of heat, tang, and sweetness all in one. Anyone we serve this to has raved about the sauce. This is a must try for a tailgate or on game night. We’re totally hooked!

See Recipe!


Goat Cheese Tart with Basil/Chive Crust

If I haven’t mentioned it enough already on this blog, let me reiterate that goat cheese is my absolute favorite cheese! I love the tang and depth of the cheese. Some are obviously stronger in flavor than others. Neil won’t go near it, so I’ve had to stop making any goat cheese dishes for us. I made this goat cheese tart for a friend’s party. You have to like goat cheese in order to enjoy this tart. I absolutely loved it and could have devoured the whole thing myself. Neil on the other hand almost had a gag reflex after trying it. I seriously think that it’s psychological with him, and little by little I’ll make him a goat cheese lover too. Anyways, paired with a crisp arugula salad, and a glass of wine, this tart makes for a wonderful dinner. If you are one of the “haters”, then try using a different cheese in this tart, because the basil /chive crust is great!

Btw, I found an interesting little tidbit about goat cheese on-line that I wasn’t aware of:

“Goat cheese is less calorie dense then cheeses made from milk from cows or sheep. Fats in goat's milk and cheese are easier to process in the digestive system, therefore some individuals who can not have other milk products, might be able to have goat's milk and cheese”

As if I needed a reason :)

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Fruit Bavarian Cake

Fruit Bavarian was probably my favorite cake growing up, and seems to be a favorite amongst many households. It seemed to be at every party that my parents took me to. Now it’s the cake I make when requested a dessert for a summer party. It’s a very light tasting cake consisting of sponge cake, bavarian cream, fresh fruit, and a whipped topping. Yes, I’m painfully aware that summer is officially over, but I couldn’t help it. My mind is still on summer, and I’m trying to enjoy every last bit of warm weather. Btw, it's still pretty hot out. And I think you can still snag some berries to decorate this cake. I posted a couple pictures of different times I made the cake…just slight variations on the décor.

Traditionally this cake is made with a somewhat labor intensive bavarian cream filling. It requires a crème anglaise base and a lot of patience. Lately I’ve been cheating and just make a pastry cream that I lighten with whipped cream….very close to the original! I’m including the recipe for the lightened pastry cream, as this has been my method in place of bavarian cream. Let me know if you’d like the bavarian cream recipe as well, and I’ll send it your way!

See Recipe!


Tres Leches

Tres Leches or “3-Milk Cake” is what I served on fish taco night. I wanted a Mexican themed dessert. I thought of making churros or sopapillas, but both desserts require on the spot preparation and consumption. I wanted to enjoy the evening...not to mention I down quite a bit of sangria on mexican nights, so making dessert after that is probably not a good idea. I needed something that could be made in advance and taste just as good, if not better when finally served. Tres Leches is literally a sponge cake that’s soaked with 3 milks (and a little "splash" of liquor :) The more time it sits, the more it absorbs. It sounds a little weird but tastes great…not too sweet, extremely moist, and very light tasting. It’s a welcomed change from the typical.


Fish Tacos

Since this post, I've done some more experimenting and I have the following additional tips for even crispier fish tacos:
- Everything should be ICE COLD. Your beer should be cold, and set your bowl of batter over an ice bath.
- Do not make batter ahead of time.
- Use Rice flour instead of All Purpose Flour. Even Cake or Pastry flour work better than All Purpose. The measurement is the same.
- If you prefer All Purpose Flour, don't overmix or it will develop glutens, making a softer/less crispy coating once fried. Also add a little baking powder.
- Fold in an egg white beaten to stiff peaks into the batter right before coating the fish.

- Heat oil to 20 degrees higher than normal temperature- about 375 degrees. Otherwise the ice cold batter will cool down the oil too much.

Well, it's Labor Day...I have mixed emotions on this day, b/c all media marks it as the "official end of summer." How so? It's still hot out! People can still grill, picnic, and simply enjoy the outdoors. There's no need to make such a proclomation and ruin my happy summer mood. Summer's not over for me yet, and my serotonin is still going strong. I plan to make the best of the warm weather that's here to stay for a while. And dare I say it, maybe even wear white shoes!

Enough venting, and on to my next "summertime eat"...fish tacos! Good fish tacos are hard to come by here. East coast Mexican has been overdone and over-run by the “tex-mex”. I do enjoy tex-mex, but I crave the Mexican that I had in Cabo. Real Mexican food should be simple and fish tacos exemplify simplicity at its best, consisting of a tortilla, lightly fried fish, zesty sauce, and a fresh, crunchy cabbage garnish. The textures and flavor is awesome, and it totally hits the spot on a hot day. The only ones I like in this area are served at Guajillo, but they don’t hold a candle to the ones that I’ve had in Mexico. When we were in Los Cabos, fish tacos were a daily ritual, and now a summer ritual at our home on the east coast.

I played around with different recipes after returning from Cabo. Every recipe had a different take on the batter, some having egg/milk, others having beer. The batters w/ egg or milk were a little too heavy and didn’t result in a crispy coating. I found that the crispiest fish came from a simple batter of equal parts beer and flour. The base of this recipe was given to me by my foodie and chef in training coworker. If you have had real fish tacos, I really think you’ll love this recipe. Also, they are extremely inexpensive to make for a crowd!

The picture above also has a carnitas taco sitting alongside the fish taco. I happened to stumble upon readymade carnitas at Trader Joes that day, so tried it. All I added to the carnitas was some sautéed onions, cumin, and a little bit of chipotle in adobo. They were super tasty, and I love having variety on my plate! Neil thinks I’m a freak of nature, because I have a strict methodology to cleaning any varietal plate. I take a bite of the fish taco, some rice/beans, sip my drink, then a bite of the carnitas taco, some rice/beans, sip my drink…. and then do it all over again :) Neil on the other hand will eat his entire fish taco first, then the carnitas tacos, and the rice/beans last. This drives me absolutely nuts!!! Where's the logic in that !?!?!

Anyways, I also made fresh corn tortillas for the tacos. Enjoy!

See Fish Taco Recipe!
See Corn Tortilla Recipe!