Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Smokey Devilled Eggs

Easter is not the same in our family without devilled eggs. And usually its put to either me or my mom to make them.  This year I was asked to make them and I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  I wanted to do something a little different, a little more gourmet.  A few weeks ago I found the perfect recipe from another blog I like to follow called A Couple Cooks.

Their Smokey Devilled Eggs looked so yummy! Of course, you know me, I can't leave well-enough alone, so I made a few minor adjustments when using their recipe. This is the original recipe from A Couple Cooks...

Smoky Deviled Eggs
What You Need 6 eggs
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
1 shallot
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt

1  Hard boil the eggs.
2  While the eggs are cooking, prepare the garnish: thinly slice the shallots. In a small pan, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Test the heat of the oil with a shallot slice – when it sizzles, add the rest of the shallots. Cook until the shallots are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and place on a paper towel to cool. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and reserve until ready to serve.
3  When the eggs are ready, slice them in half and scoop the yolks into a bowl. Smash the yolks with a fork.
4  Finely chop 2 tablespoons of sundried tomatoes (drained of their oil). Then mix the tomatoes with the egg yolks, 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, and about 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste).
5  Spoon the mixture into the egg white halves. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, top each egg with a crispy shallot to garnish.

 I had to double the recipe since we have a large family. Instead of using mayonnaise, I used a combination of honey mustard (2tbsp), cream cheese (2tbsp), and sour cream (4tbsp).  I skipped out on the sun-dried tomatoes (though I'm sure they would've been good). And I actually chopped up half a shallot very finely to put in the egg mixture.

The smoked paprika and the shallots gave it just a hint of heat and spiciness while the combination of honey mustard, cream cheese, and sour cream added the cooling sweetness and a little tartness. Then the salty crispy shallots as garnish gave the eggs a little savory crunch.  I was a little worried mixing up a classic family dish but everyone enjoyed them just the same!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Lamb

Over the weekend Superking and I went to the Organic Butcher of McLean and picked up a leg of lamb to cook for our family Easter dinner. Neither one of us had ever cooked lamb before and we weren't sure how many of our family members would actually try it.  Most of our family is not very adventurous, especially when it comes to trying new foods.  Hopefully we can help them break out of their culinary boxes.

The butcher actually gave us some good advice and cooking suggestions for the leg of lamb but we wanted to get a second opinion from a reputable source we know very well.  So we went to our friend, the Queen of The Red Spoon. She also gave us lots of advice that was extremely helpful.

The leg of lamb we got was about 5 pounds (way more than what we needed but we will enjoy the leftovers for probably a few days). The Butcher sealed it in a nice marinade of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bunch of other spices we haven't been able to identify yet and there it sat for two days. Easter Sunday rolled around, and per our advice from the Butcher and the Red Spoon Queen, we patted the meat dry and rubbed some salt and pepper all over. Then in our largest pan, we poured in some olive oil and let the pan get good and hot to sear the meat on each side for several minutes, trying to achieve a dark brown caramelized crust all over the outside. We had a nice big sizzle when we put the meat in!  It was a large piece of meat so it was a little tricky trying to flip it around and get all sides seared but we managed pretty well.

Then into the 350 degree oven for about an hour.  We poured the remaining marinade over top for extra flavor and juiciness.  The Butcher recommended about 15 minutes per pound and its best cooked medium rare, reaching about 120 degrees for internal temperature.  So we inserted our trusty meat thermometer and waited.  Every 10 minutes or so we'd check on it and baste it with some of the juices in the bottom of the pan.

its interesting the meat thermometer said the lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare...hmm

Finally the timer went off...it was done! But how would it taste? We gently placed the lamb in a dish to let it rest and transport it down the road to my in-laws house where we were having our family Easter gathering.  We unwrapped it and waited with bated breath as I began to slice off the first piece.  Perfectly juicy and medium rare!  We probably could've pulled it out of the oven a little earlier since some of the pieces were more medium than rare. 

But each piece was tender and juicy and seasoned wonderfully!  We were a little worried at first but it was a complete success! And what makes it even more successful was that at least half our family was brave enough to try the lamb and they all loved it!! Culinary triumph!  A special thanks to the Organic Butcher and the Red Spoon Queen for all your sage and savory advice! We couldn't have done it without you!

the lamb has been conquered!!

Mmmm...now we can have yummy leftover lamb gyros for dinner tonight...:)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Last night I went to a girly party at a friends house where we decorated our own canvas shoes.  It was a lot of fun just hanging out and seeing everyone's designs.  We had a few snacks while we worked. I brought some mini bunny cupcakes.  I have to admit though...I used a box cake mix. :(  I know, I know, shame on me! However, I did add my own ingredients to it to mix it up a bit.  It was chocolate fudge cake mix and I added peanut butter chips and Godiva chocolate liquer.  So that redeems the whole use of a box mix, right??  Anyway, then I topped them with cream cheese frosting and some cute simple bunny faces with sugar pearls and sparkling decorating gel.

my cool cupcake shoes I painted myself!

But while you're enjoying a look at my cute little bunnies, let's ponder a little about Easter.  For most people, Easter means spring is here, time to hunt eggs, eat candy, and buy pretty dresses.  I enjoy all that too. However, Easter has another meaning for me as well.  Its the day we, as Christians, celebrate, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now since this is a food blog, I'm not going to preach a sermon.  But if you've never heard the true message of Jesus, here are a few scriptures from the Bible to read and consider.

For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. -John 3:16

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. -Romans 10:9

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  Old things have passed away and all thing have become new. -2 Corinthians 5:17

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. -Romans 6:23

But God commends His love towards us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8

Christ died for our sins...was buried and raised on the third day...And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is vain and you are still in your sins. -1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, 17

Jesus is my hope and He can be yours too if you believe in His great love for each and every one of us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Organic Butcher of McLean

It always seems like I go through these periods of about two weeks without hardly any food adventures at all to write about and then BAM! I get like six within two days.  This is one of those times. Yesterday I already wrote about our trip to 2Amys pizza shop which was so yummy! But we also went somewhere else food-related that was really cool.

The Organic Butcher of McLean.  Superking and I have been wanting to go there for some time to check it out.  Now we finally had the perfect excuse to go.  Easter is tomorrow and we are having our traditional family Easter dinner at my in-laws'.  Our family usually gets a big juicy ham, which I used to just love.  I still like ham but after reading some info about Smithfield hams and other factory farmed meat companies like Smithfield, I'm very cautious about wanting to know where my ham is coming from.  The rest of the family can enjoy their ham this Easter but Superking and I wanted an organic alternative.

Superking decided on  lamb.  Organic fresh lamb from the butcher shop. Not many other people in our families eat lamb but there will be plenty to share for anyone who wants to be brave and give it a try.  And if not, more leftovers for us!!

So through the rain and cold we made our trek from 2Amys in DC to the Organic Butcher in McLean.  Its a teeny tiny place.  There's maybe 5 parking spaces out front and the back end of your car (especially if you have an SUV like us) is barely a couple feet from the road of traffic behind us.  Needless to say, its a little tricky getting in and out of there.  But its so worth the trouble.

Fresh farm-raised, organic, grass-fed meat straight off the farm right into the hands of a very skilled and knowledgeable butcher.  An amazing quality and variety of meat like you will not see in most grocery stores or anywhere else for that matter.  Just about any cut of beef, pork, poultry, veal, lamb you can imagine.  Plus house-made sausages and specialty meats like wagyu beef, sustainable seafood, and wild game such as boar, elk, buffalo, rabbit, and quail, just to name a few. Obviously they don't have all these meats all the time but whats in season and whats available from the local Virginia farms they work with.

In addition to the meats, they also sell seasonal produce, eggs, milk, cheese, ice cream, marinades and dressings, and wine, also all from local sources that are organic and hormone/antibiotic/chemical free.

Its an adorable little shop that takes you back in time to when everyone went to the butcher shop for all their meat. They boast over 80 years of experience behind the counter and can provide you with all the information you need about the meat, including the best way to cook and prepare it.

We decided to buy a bone-in leg of lamb as our ham-alternative for our Easter dinner.  The butcher gave us some advice on cooking it and even put it in a marinade for us before sealing it up.  Can't wait to cook it up and see how it turns out!  Stay tuned for that next culinary adventure...

Friday, April 22, 2011

2 Amy's

No, this post is not about a person or even two people named Amy. Its about a pizza.  A special pizza.  A Neapolitan pizza authenticated by the Italian government. Sounds like a pizza spy movie.  But its not. Its real. Very real and very yummy pizza.

Superking and I decided to head into DC for lunch today since he had the day off for Good Friday. And we were in desperate need of a food adventure. He found this little pizza shop called 2Amys.  Apparently they are well-known for their "pizza d.o.c."  What is this you ask?  2Amys website says this...
       "In 1998 the Italian government formally recognized Neapolitan pizza as a traditional food worthy of preservation and granted it D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status, which specifies the legally permitted ingredients and methods of preparation necessary to produce authentic Neapolitan Pizza."

pizza authentication all in Italian
crazy wine menu
regular menu: simple and yummy

These pizzas can only use very specific ingredients and be cooked in a very specific way, making it, what the Italians believe is, the best way to make pizza.

margherita pizza

One of these d.o.c. pizzas is called the Margherita.  Very simple ingredients...tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, with a little sea salt in the dough, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top.  The pizza is just big enough for either one very hungry person or to split between 2 people who also want to share an appetizer.  The crust is light, thin, and almost flaky.  I'm one of those people who generally does not eat the leftover crust. I figure once the cheese is gone, whats the point? However, this crust was worthy of eating, even by me. And the entire pizza just had this fresh, clean essence to it.

beautiful slice with a whole basil leaf

In addition to the pizza, we decided to get a small cheese plate and a small charcuterie/meat plate.  Let's begin with the cheese. You may have remembered I'm a huge cheese-head! Absolutely LOVE cheese of all kinds. I haven't met a cheese I didn't like yet. And today was no exception.  I had never even heard of most of the cheeses on the menu! The two we chose were gorgonzola with chestnut honey and barilotto (a kind of semi-firm, ricotta-style buffalo cheese). Gorgonzola, I've had before. I've even had it with honey. But this was amazing. The entire world stopped on my first bite.  The barilotto was really good too. It had a soft mild flavor similar to fresh mozzarella and was lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Bread, cheese plate with round crusty breadsticks, charcuterie

delectable cheese (gorgonzola on the left, barilotto on right); honey also had pieces of apricot

For the charcuterie plate, we chose lomo, lardo, and boar cacciatorini.  Obviously, we all know what boar is.  This boar cacciatorini was very thinly sliced salami.  Nice salty meaty flavor.  But lomo and lardo? Lardo, you can probably take a good guess.  Its basically pure fat.  Like down in the south people cook their beans with fat-back.  This is kind of like that, but just a strip of fat on a plate.  I have to admit, I wasn't a fan. To me it tasted like I just had a spoonful of Crisco.  But Superking enjoyed it, so good for him! Thats why we call it a food adventure!  Lomo is cured pork loin, sliced paper-thin, you can almost see through it.  Light porky and salty flavor. Delish!

Left: lomo; Middle: boar; Right: lardo

gorgonzola spread on the bread...yummy

The whole atmosphere of the place was adorable. There was this old-world European charm to it, from the wooden tables to the single brick wall and the quaint little bar area with its wall of wine.  Even the bathroom was charming and clean.  Located in an area of DC called Cleveland Park, not far from Georgetown, it was definitely an Italian neighborhood gem.  When you're in DC and have a craving for pizza, this is the place to go!

there was even a hostess with pink hair