Did you know that your sense of taste is directly connected with your sense of smell? That’s the reason why you can’t taste anything and don’t really crave anything to eat when you have a cold. The same thing applies to scents of foods and your memory of eating them, or feelings are brought back to mind once you smell certain things cooking.
There is one combination that always stands out to me; the scent of onions sautéing in butter. No matter what kitchen or setting I’m in, when I smell butter and onions, I’m automatically taken back to my childhood and the memories of Velveeta cheese dip. My mom would always start this recipe by sautéing a Vidalia onion with a little butter. I knew, as soon as I smelled that combination, that soon, I would have hot, comforting, cheesy goodness.
I’m writing about this because I actually made some cheese dip this past weekend while watching football. It’s obviously a culinary delicacy that chefs can’t resist. Don’t judge! I can tear down on Pigs in a Blanket, too.
What food scent brings memories (good or bad) back to you?
It’s that time again! Our annual Customer Appreciation Day is this Saturday, November 9th, from 10am to 4pm at Lincoln Square. Not only is almost everything in the store discounted by 20%, but I’ll be cooking turkey three ways for you to taste! Smoked, fried and roasted are the cooking techniques that will be showcased and all you have to do is decide which one you like best. The turkey cooking times will be staggered throughout the day to ensure there is turkey to be had at all times.
The first time I had deep fried turkey was when my grandfather fried one for Thanksgiving. It was the first turkey that I actually enjoyed eating. No more dry turkey! The meat was so moist and tender and the skin was crispy and delicious.
Chef Jeff’s Smoked Turkey
I’m pretty sure my grandfather was responsible for the first smoked turkey I had for Thanksgiving as well. Nothing compares to the flavor of smoked turkey. There are numerous benefits to the slow and low cooking times and temperatures. Also, the options for brines, rubs and glazes are endless.
Then, there are the traditionalists. Rub that turkey with some herbed butter lovin’ and you’re all set! When roasting a turkey in the oven, I like to start at a high temperature to ensure browning and crisping of the skin, and then continue to cook at a low temperature until done. Always, always be methodical about basting the turkey during the roasting process. This will keep the white meat juicy and aid in the browning of the skin.
I know I’m teasing you with these little bits of information. That’s because I want to personally see you and tell you more this Saturday. Leave me a message here about your favorite way to cook turkey, then, stop by our Lincoln Square location for Customer Appreciation Day and let’s talk turkey!
It’s been a little over a year since I’ve blogged about one of my favorite foods: pizza! I can safely say that I eat pizza at least two or three times a month and sometimes more. There are so many great places to get pizza in Chicago, but there is nothing like making your own.
Melinda and I enjoy having friends and family over for dinner, and we’ve found that it’s always fun to be able to have our guests participate in creating or building their meal. It’s interactive, they get the exact pizza they desire, and the ingredients serve as beautiful décor.
Through trial and error, I now have the process down of how to pull off a pizza making party for 6-8 people with only one oven and one pizza stone. Parchment paper is essential! Inevitably, we make Melinda’s pizza first for demonstration purposes and she doesn’t mind if hers isn’t uber hot when she eats it. I typically make mine last so that everyone can begin eating while mine is in the oven.
I put the first pizza on the top rack in the oven while we roll the dough and build the second pizza. Once the second pizza is ready to go, I shift the first pizza to the bottom rack and place the second pizza on the top rack.
There’s a couple of reasons for this:
Rotating the pizzas ensures a more evenly cooked product.
The bottom rack of my oven is hotter, so the crust gets crisp quickly but doesn’t burn from being on the bottom shelf the whole time.
I know which pizza has been in the oven the longest and needs to come out first.
If you feel you will be crunched for time the day of the party, you can always make your pizza dough the night before and let it proof in the refrigerator overnight. Just make sure you have the dough in a bowl that is large enough to contain it as it will almost double in size. That’s a mess you don’t want to clean up!
About 30 minutes before the guests arrive, I divide the dough into individual portions, place them on a tray and cover with a damp towel so that they won’t develop a dry, crusty layer on the outside.
Get crazy with the toppings! Here are some of my ‘go to’ ingredients and the last whole wheat pizza dough recipe I used. Toppings: garlic grapeseed oil, pizza sauce, pesto, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, spinach, artichokes, green peppers, red onions, caramelized onions, fresh basil and oregano.
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Yield: 4 – 12” pizzas, or 12 individual pizzas
3 cups warm water (105° – 115°)
4 ½ t active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
3 ½ cups bread flour
4 T olive oil
1 T salt
2 t sugar
In a bow of your electric mixer, add the warm water and yeast. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and is slightly bubbly.
Add the olive oil, flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of your electric mixer. With the dough hook mix the ingredients on low to medium speed until all ingredients are incorporated and the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead by hand for another minute. If the dough is sticky, dust your work surface with extra flour and continue to knead until the dough forms a ball.
Rub the dough with a small amount of olive oil and place back into the bowl, and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough rise for approximately one hour in a warm place.
Once the dough has risen, punch the dough down and divide into appropriate portions.
Dust your work surface, dough and rolling pin with flour and roll to desired shape and thickness. Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment paper dusted with cornmeal.
Add ingredients to dough and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes at 425°.
*If you like a crispier crust, you may bake the dough for approximately 8 minutes before topping with desired ingredients.
Does anyone remember a movie from the 80’s where one of the opening scenes is a kid packing his duffle bag for camp, when he decides to dump all of his clothes out and fill the duffle bag with candy? I’ve been trying to figure out what movie this is for several days now to no avail. If you have any clue what I’m talking about, please post in the comments. That scene kept playing over and over in my mind as I was preparing for a couple of camping trips this summer.
I’ve never considered myself a camper, but I do spend as much time as I possibly can outside. But I apparently have a flashing neon sign on my forehead that attracts every mosquito in the vicinity toward me. I typically go camping once a year, but this summer I was able to go twice. I had completely different experiences for both trips.
Yearly trip = no campfires for cooking, vegetarian meals provided and mostly vegetarian friends
Second trip = campfires allowed, no meals provided and mostly carnivorous friends
A few of my essential snacks carried over between the two trips. One of my friends made enough trail mix to last 3 months for our first trip, so that went with me on the second trip and there is still some left. Cheetos white cheddar cheese puffs, hummus and veggies, monster cookies, bourbon brownies, Alpine sausage from Gene’s, nice cheeses and crackers are also staples.
For the veggie trip, I have to be strategic with the items I take to cook because I only have a small, two burner camp stove. Yogurt and granola with fruit is my go to breakfast, but this year a new tradition of RumChata French toast, mimosas and bacon was born. (Much better than Lucky Charms and RumChata – yes, that also happened!) I always make Quinoa Black Bean Burgers (one of The Chopping Block’s favorite recipes) a few days before I leave so I can freeze them for longevity.
The Labor Day weekend carnivorous camping trip had some of the same snack items, but the other gals on the trip weren’t messing around when it came to meal time. The usual hot dogs, cheddar brats and hamburgers were on the menu, but one friend actually brought some lamb T-bone steaks that we cooked over the fire. Whole potatoes and corn were wrapped in foil and thrown into the coals to roast. We even made quesadillas a couple of times.
I’m looking for more ideas here. I’m already excited about the next camping trip, and I want as many ideas as possible from y’all. Give a girl some options for fire and non-fire camp snacks!
When you are 90 years old, you can have any type of birthday party you want. That’s what my Grandmom did on July 6th. I took a quick weekend trip to Alabama to celebrate this milestone birthday with her. She is my heart; I love her more than words can express!
One of her favorite things is a good, old fashioned fish fry. So. that’s how we celebrated with her. Catfish (which she loves to catch) and bream are the fish she enjoys eating, so we fried a mess of those and had coleslaw and hushpuppies as the accompaniments. Of course, there was cake and homemade ice cream for dessert.
Have you ever heard that you aren’t supposed to drink milk or eat dairy after you eat fish? Supposedly it will give you an upset stomach. Maybe it’s just an old wives tale, but I remember Grandmom always saying that when I was a child. Regardless, my dad (her son), and my brother-in-law ate bowls of homemade ice cream as big as their heads! There’s always room for ice cream, right?
I am so thankful that I was able to travel home and be with her on her special day. I love you Grandmom!
Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.