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How to Flambe

The word Flambé is one that creates the impression of an extravagant and difficult to prepare meal. Many chefs stray away from desserts or meals that are prepared using this method because they fear that is simply an art that is too difficult to master. That or they are afraid they might accidentally burn down the house.

Flambé (which means flaming when translated in French) is one of the best ways to add an additional layer of flavor to your meal. The flambé method allows the chef to incorporate a flavor of the liqueur without having the harsh bite of alcohol remaining. This can be an effective method for meals ranging from meats to desserts and can create a very beautiful presentation when used in front of guests.

The first step when flambéing is to choose the liqueur to pair with your meal. You will want to use a brandy or high proof liqueur. It is best to choose a liqueur that is 80 proof; as anything containing a higher proof is viewed as too unstable for the flaming process and can yield explosive results (literally). However, liqueurs that are of a lower proof run the risk of not igniting when held to the flame. It is best to add a liqueur that resembles the flavor of the fruit or meat being prepared. A cognac or whiskey can compliment the flavor of a meat and will create a complexity that is hard to rival with other cooking methods.

Next heat the brandy or liqueur in a small sauce pan with high sides as most recipes will call for little more then 4 oz of liqueur (approximately ½ cup). You will want to heat the sauce pan until bubbles begin to form around the edges. This will happen as the liqueur reaches its boiling point of 175 degrees which is much lower then water (212 degrees).

At the same time in a separate pan heat the food that you are planning on flambéing. If the food is not warm when the liqueur is added you run the risk of cooling the liqueur too much and it may not light. It is important when using a gas stove not to poor the liqueur directly from the bottle over the stove as the flame can chase up the bottle and explode, which would not be a good thing. While flambéing can impress your guests a trip to the hospital can also impress them as well, just not in a way you were hoping for.

When both the liqueur and food have reached their temperatures simply add the liqueur from the sauce pan. If you are using a gas stove be prepared as the flame may ignite the fumes and begin the flambé process. If you are using an electric stove or the flame does not light the alcohol as it is added simply use a long lighter or match (like you would use for your fireplace) to begin the flaming process.

From here, simply let it cook until the flame has disappeared which signifies the burning off of the alcohol. As the flame burns simply move the pan in a back and forth motion being careful not to spill the contents over the side of the pan to ensure the burning off of all the alcohol. When finished, remove from the heat and serve immediately as most flambé recipes are meant to be served hot!

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Whats the best way to bake a potato Barbecue Baked Potato

What’s the best way to bake a potato you ask?

Well personally I think that this is dependent upon your time. There are three widely accepted methods of cooking a “baked” potato, each with it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

Method 1: Baking it in the oven.

What I love about baking a potato in the oven is that it seems to have a little more taste then that of a potato prepared by other methods. This is probably because it gets a nice crispy texture without getting too mushy. The downside of this method you ask? Well it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the spud!

Method 2: Microwave!

The advent of the microwave has greatly reduced the amount of time required to cook up many a things. There are both good sides and bad. The good is that a baked potato can be heated up in just 15 minutes. The downsides here come in the form of overcooked ends that become hardened in a hurry and no one wants that!

Method 3: Boiling – The choice of most restaurants.

While boiling a potato takes a little longer than that of it’s microwaved cousin it can cut down overall cooking time by 15 to 20 minutes when compared to the oven baking method. One other nice point is the addition of water to the cooking process allows for potatoes that are softer and because of the salt added sometimes a little more flavorful.

For me the best way to bake a potato really depends on the time in which I have. If I have all the time in the world I bake them in an oven. If I’m pressed for time the microwave or boiling methods work great! I do however; feel that the way in which you bake your potato doesn’t matter as much as how you plan on topping it.

Yesterday I started a series of posts about some of America’s greatest ball park foods. Coming in at my second favorite little league game favorite is the Barbecue Baked Potato! This portable potato is not only quick and easy to prepare its probably the best way to top a potato ever invented.

To begin our barbecue baked potatoes cook your “baked” potato using the method of your choice. Pull it out of the oven/microwave/pot and cut it open. Then using a fork, press the softened potato into a small bowl like so.

Once you have your bowl it’s time to fill it! Put your barbecue flavored pulled pork into the center. Now, if you have all the time in the world you can make this from scratch. Or if you’re looking to save some time I find that Lloyds makes a great BBQ pulled pork that can be heated up in the microwave in 2 minutes flat.

Once you have your barbecue goodness on the potato it’s time to add some cheese.

Now add some freshly cut chives!

Finally, no baked potato is complete without a dollop of sour cream! One thing I like to do is keep it in the tin foil used to bake it with (this is provided you don’t use the microwave or boiling options) to create a little portable dish. If you do choose another method there’s nothing stopping you from putting this innovative plate idea to use once your tater is cooked. See you at the game!

One more look at this bad boy….. Oh yeah!

Barbecue baked potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large baked potatoes
  • 16 oz pulled pork (preferably Lloyds)
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh minced chives
  • 2 oz sour cream

Directions:

  1. Bake your potato using method of your choice. Using a fork create a bowl within the baked potato.
  2. Warm pulled pork according to directions and fill the bowl created in the baked potato.
  3. Top pulled pork with cheese, chives, and sour cream.
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How To make The Perfect Croque Madam

I am on a mission…..

And when I’m on a mission nothing can stand in my way. Not even the sacred traditions of what time certain meals are to be enjoyed.

Heck who am I kidding? I love to do breakfast for dinner all the time! Maybe it’s the kid in me but there is something about it that is comforting to me when you take a traditional breakfast meal and make it for dinner (like French toast).

But this week was a little different not only was this inspiration part kid it was also part MacGyver of me as I try to clean out my fridge (the very important mission).

Why is this such an important mission? Well in two weeks I will be taking a 1 week long vacation! I’m going to be heading north to Minnesota to stay at my family’s cabin in an effort to escape the heat of Texas.

Well I’m actually going because…well….I need a vacation…. Don’t we all?

As I was on this mission I noticed that a had an unusually large amount of Gruyere cheese left that desperately needed consuming (at least that’s what I told myself) as well as a couple dozen farm fresh eggs. Now when I say farm fresh eggs were talking strait from my parents neighbors farm where the chickens run free and peck at your feet as you collect your eggs fresh. I can’t even begin to tell you the difference these eggs make when you are baking (or in my case making Croque-Madames).

What I love about the Croque-Madame is the fact that it takes the already super delicious Croque-Monsieur and slams a fried egg on top to improve the already super nutritional meal. I can’t help but feel when the Croque-Madame was invented the very talented chef was on a mission to clean out his/her fridge as they were on their way to vacation.

I can even hear them in the kitchen going…. Gruyere…. Ham….Bread… well I could definitely do a Croque-Monsieur ….but what the heck am I going to do with all those eggs? I’m leaving for vacation in a week…. Hum… this gives me an idea!

To being our Croque-Madame we in fact start by creating a Croque-Monsieur. In a small saucepan melt some butter over low heat. Then add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook stirring for two minutes to create your (yup you guessed it) roux. What I love about a Roux is that all great sauces tend to begin with one!

Next we whisk in our milk and bring to a boil. The sauce will begin to thicken as we reduce the heat and allow to simmer for five minutes.

While the sauce is simmering shred a ½ cup Gruyere cheese. Add this and the mustard into the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted.

Remove this form the heat and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. You now have a classic Mornay sauce (Which is one of the best parts of the Croque-Monsieur/Madame).

Now it’s time to build your sandwich. I know the recipe says to place the sauce on first but I find this difficult and confusing. Begin by buttering one side of our bread and placing it butter side down on a pan. Next spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce over your slices.

Stack your sandwich high with ham and some moderately thick slices of Gruyere. Don’t go skimping on the Gruyere here (you’ll thank me later).

Butter the remaining slices of bread and place them butter side up on top of the Gruyere. Allow these to cook on your skillet for a few minutes on each side until each side is a golden brown.

Spread the remaining Mornay sauce and place these in a broiling pan. If you don’t have a broiling pan don’t panic as it’s not really necessary here as this will not need to drain anything. Broil your sandwiches until the Mornay sauce begins to brown (about 2 minutes). While these are browning quickly fry up some eggs to place on top. When the Croque-Monsieurs come out of the oven allow to cool for 10 seconds and then make them Croque-Madames by placing the fried eggs on top. Bon Appetite!

Croque-Madame
A slightly altered recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
8 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded
¼ pound thinly sliced ham

Directions:

Make the Sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy sauce pan over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk and bringto a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop enough cheese to measure ½ cup. Whisk chopped cheese and mustard into sauce, then whisk until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg. Cover with wax paper placed directly on surface to keep warm.

Make The Sandwich:

Lay 4 slices bread on work surface. Divide ham and remaining cheese slices among them. Spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce evenly on each of remaining bread slices and invert over ham and cheese. Spread half of remaining butter evenly on top of sandwiches and transfer, buttered sides down, to an oven proof 12 inch skillet. Spread remaining butter on top of sandwiches. Cook over low heat, turning ounces, until both sides are golden, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Preheat broiler. Leaving sandwiches in skillet, spread tops of sandwiches evenly with remaining Mornay sauce. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in patches, about 2 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to plates.