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Three Ways To Enjoy Bread

20 Aug

I love bread! I don’t discriminate, I love just about every kind of bread. Wheat, Italian, ciabatta, cinnamon raisin, banana, bagels, croissants, sourdough, rye, pumpernickel, rolls, buns, Hawaiian, doughnuts, pizza…pretty much if it has some combination of flour, water, salt, sometimes yeast then I will probably love it. A little over a year ago an awesome friend of ours Alex made us homemade buns and breads while we were at his house. Since I enjoy cooking it was no surprise that Alex’s delicious hamburger buns inspired me to go home and begin making my own breads. Though I am no expert, I am always trying different ways of using bread at home. Everything from basic white loaves to pizza doughs to desserts. This weekend was no exception. Per usual, I was feeling a burning in my culinary bosom. We had a colleague over Friday night and I wanted to do something Italian. Saturday we watched an enticing episode on Food Network called The Best Thing I Ever Made and an episode of Guy’s Big Bites. The weekend resulted in a lot of delicious variations in the wonderful world of bread.

Friday night we decided to make an Italian themed dinner for a colleague of mine and her fiancé. We needed to go get ingredients for my homemade pesto and chicken pasta, bruschetta, garlic bread, and homemade cannolis. We decided this was a perfect opportunity to visit Lenoard Labriola’s Italian market. If you are needing ingredients for an Italian dish, this is the place to go. They have every kind of pasta type you could imagine. I did not make bread for this evening because they have fresh loaves of Italian bread that looked irresistible. Oh and by the way you must get some of their imported Pecorino Romano cheese, it is fabulous. The combination of fresh bread and perfectly aged cheese led to amazing bruschetta, which was made by brushing small slices of the bread with olive oil and lightly toasting them under the broiler. After the toasting I rubbed each piece with a fresh sliced clove of garlic, which add the perfect spice to the bread. Each slice was topped with fresh diced Roma tomatoes and fresh chopped basil. It was finished with a llight dusting of the imported cheese. The four of us ate the entire plate (before dinner).


Saturday morning we woke up and caught the end of the show The Best Thing I Ever Made (this show is guaranteed to make you hungry) and saw the chefs making from scratch, Dulce de Leche churro tots. These deep fried morsels of goodness are covered in cinnamon/sugar and are served with homemade Dulce de Leche. You need to take the time to try these stat!

The highlight of this dish is the homemade Dulce de Leche. The downside of this dish is the homemade Dulce de Leche. Homemade Dulce de Leche is super yummy-its buttery, creamy, sugary; however, it requires a lot of elbow grease. To make Dulce de Leche you have to stir sugar, milk, and baking soda, ALOT! It took over an hour for our ingredients to caramelize, Morgan and I did the stirring in shifts. The downside was that our shoulders were sore the next day; the upside is that we burned enough calories for at least one of the many churros we ate (The recipe is loaded with sugar and butter). I recommend saving the stirring for your teenage son or daughter if they have upset you that day-an effective punishment with a delicious outcome. Let me caution you that when the Dulce de Leche is made, you will want to eat it with a spoon-do so in moderation less you want to nap for the rest of the week. I decided to also make a semi-sweet chocolate ganache (made by melting chocolate with cream that is brought to a boil) to go with the dessert. Also, unless you are making these treats for a small army, you may want to cut the recipe in half. We made roughly 3 dozen churros, many of which had to be thrown out. They lose their crispy goodness after a few days, though they do reheat fairly well. We also had plenty of Dulce de Leche leftover so Morgan made chocolate chip caramel cookies tonight.

Pre-Dulce de Leche

Post-Dulce de Leche (1 hour 15 minutes later of non-stop stirring)

Yes that is butter, yes that is almost two sticks, no its not good for you. ( worry about that tomorrow).

The dough is made by cooking the flour with melted butter and brown sugar. You will want to eat it but just wait it gets better.

Notice the difficult finger dropping technique (its French).



By Sunday we had topped bread, fried and dipped bread–so I guess all that was left was to stuff bread. I am big fan of Guy Fieri and he has an excellent Stromboli recipe that I wanted to try. The dough is very basic and easy to make just give yourself enough time to let it rise. I varied the recipe just a bit. I decided to use pepperoni, salami, and deli ham as the meats. For the cheeses I decided on mozzarella and Amish pepper cheese in lieu of pepper jack. The Amish pepper cheese is similar (Though I think its a little hotter). Its made with a white cheddar instead of Monterey jack, which gave the sandwich a really nice creaminess and a bit of spice.
I also added a tad bit more basil and a bit of sugar to the marinara sauce, which is very easy to make. The marinara is great left over for other dishes like pasta for lunch the next day.


A word of caution, the pepperoni is an oily meat. When baking the Stromboli the oil has a tendency to leak from the bread and can make the oven smokey. Or in my situation, it can make the smoke alarm go off. Luckily, the taste of the the Stromboli was not effected by this small mishap. I blame myself for overstuffing the Stromboli, but hey who doesn’t love meat and melted cheese? The Stromboli reheats very nicely and is a wonderful dish to add to the rotation.

Cutest sou chef ever! Everyone gets involved when making delicious food.

I hope you are now very hungry, so go and indulge in the carby goodness that is bread, Atkins is overrated!

Mix It, Crank It, Eat It

6 Jul

So we have all been there, laying on the couch one evening watching a stimulating episode of Chopped or Masterchef on the television and you think to yourself, “Hey, that looks easy I can do that!” I think we all have moments of inspiration where we think we are a James Beard award winner or the recipient of a few Michelin stars. I had one such moment this evening. I have been wanting to make homemade pasta for the longest time. So what does any future award winning chef do? Google, “How to make Pasta”. A great, informative website appeared before me, complete with pasta recipes. As I was reading the recipe, I could hear the music from Lady and the Tramp playing in the background.  I knew spaghetti was in my future. After the cannoli from Moio’s this week, I have officially turned our home into Little Italy. Needless to say I began looking for pasta machines. I started by looking for an attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I highly recommend as a kitchen staple for any aspiring chef. After a quick Internet search, I learned that the attachment costs somewhere in the realm of $200. Plan B, go to Target. So Gray and I loaded up the station wagon and headed off to Target (we needed to go to Trader Joe’s anyway so it worked out). We fought through the heat and the traffic only to discover that this Target does not carry pasta machines. They do have a device so that you can make your own soda, though. (Man I have so much to learn as a chef!). We got back into the car to Google search Plan C. I knew there was a William-Sonoma in Shadyside. Well according to their website they sell a nice, pasta machine for approximately $80. Lets consider a Plan D before we jump in with the $80 option. Back to Google (this search engine has saved me thousands in culinary art classes)–Bed, Bath, and Beyond boasts a $37 pasta machine. Plan D it is! I totally will buy generic. Go to BBB, find a coupon for 20% off–Yes! Pasta machine for less that $30. Gourmet and Thrifty! Plus I get to be more intimate with my pasta by utilizing a hand crank system versus the electronic version–quite rustic!

So I will include lots of pictures this post and let you experience a dinner at the New-burgher’s residence. I made a simple chicken parmigiana on top of a homemade spinach spaghetti finished with Trader Joe’s tomato-basil sauce. (I know store bought sauce on homemade pasta–I had to cut a time-corner somewhere).

Spinach Pasta Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz. Fresh Spinach
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Chicken Parmigiana Ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken breast, butterflied and sliced
  • 1 Egg wash (1 egg with a little water, beaten)
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of Italian Bread crumbs
  • Oregano
  • Garlic Salt
  • Clarified butter
  • Mozzarella
  • Trader Joe’s Tomato-basil sauce

So the first thing you want to do is open your pasta machine from the box. Stare at it for a few seconds while the light bounces off the stainless steel and you imagine the throwing down of food in which you are about to partake. Oh yea, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After you have prepared yourself mentally,  you want to begin to prepare the dough. First, sauté the spinach in a skillet. I cooked mine in a little bit of clarified butter. Now for those who do not know what clarified butter is, its unsalted butter that has the milk fat removed. I do this myself by melting butter in a pan and skimming off the milk fat that floats to the top. The left over golden yellow liquid is phenomenal. I love it because it has a higher burning point than regular butter so it is great for sautéing and browning (amazing sear on chicken) on high heat.  After the spinach sautés, quickly cool it under water and then strain it. I am sure a rice cloth or something similar is great. I cut another corner and used a multi-layer paper towel system. The goal is to get as much of the liquid out prior to putting it in the food processor. Once the spinach is strained put it all in a food processor. Pour in the 2 eggs, the salt, and the olive oil. MIX! Prepare the 2 cups of flour by dumping it on the counter. Make a well in the center of the flour for your spinach mixture. Pour in the wet ingredients until it forms a beautiful, green ball. Now this will take a few minutes. Also, this will get sticky. Flour your hands before diving in. You may want to use a fork at first, then your hands. Also, the dough will feel tougher than bread dough that is ok. Cover the emerald dough ball and let is sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

While the dough is resting and radiating in all of its greenness, butterfly (a technique where you cut the breast length wise-kind of like an oreo cookie-and stop a few centimeter from going all the way through. This creates a nice heart shape for your chicken) and slice your chicken breast. I have found that when you butterfly you get more portion out of the chicken. This is a way we control our portions at home, yet I get more bites out of the same amount of chicken. I decided to slice the chicken into strips so that it would cook faster and I could eat sooner.

One the chicken is cut, begin to heat a skillet on medium-high heat with 2 T of clarified butter. Prepare the egg wash and the bread crumbs in two separate bowls. Start by dipping each strip in the egg wash and then the bread crumbs. For less of a mess, I use my right hand for egg wash dip. Drop into bread crumb and then use left hand to coat. This way I am not breading my fingers for frying. Once breaded begin placing in the frying pan to get a nice pan sear. You are just wanting to get the crunch. Don’t worry about cooking all the way through, you will finish it off in the oven.

Once you have a nice golden brown crust on each side of the chicken strips, coat the bottom of a small baking dish with a tablespoon of sauce. This will prevent sticking and, I think, drying out. Place the chicken on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with oregano, garlic salt, sauce, and mozzarella cheese (in that order). Place in the over for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked and cheese melted.

Now prepare yourself for fun in the kitchen.

Take your dough out of the refrigerator. Starting with the widest setting on your pasta machine begin rolling out your dough, each time passing it through a thiner setting until you reach the desired consistency. I went all the way to the thinnest setting. Have a knife or rolling cutter on hand because the dough is going to start getting really long. Cut it into segments to ease with the rolling. For those with children, this is a great activity to get them involved in the kitchen. Though Gray is only 16 months, he was still trying to turn the crank. Really all you have to do is turn a crank, so let your little ones have in on the fun. This is a great family activity. Plus, when they eat this delicious spinach pasta they are getting some (not all, but some) of their vegetables. If your child is like mine, he loves carbs and sweets but does not care for vegetables. So I hid it in the carb and, voila!..a small serving of spinach. Once you have rolled your dough, let it rest for a few minutes to dry out a bit so it doesn’t stick. Once rested, it is time to cut. My machine came with a fettucini cut and a spaghetti cut. I went with spaghetti cut.

Now you are going to get something that resembles seaweed or witch’s hair. I recommend cutting the noodles into small sizes. 1) Its easier to handle. 2) It helps with cooking 3) It helps with eating. It can get tough to eat a 3 foot long piece of spaghetti. So use some cooking scissors and cut it down. Place your post in a pot of water that has reached a rolling boil. I seasoned mine with salt and olive oil. Mine cooked in about 2-3 minutes, very fast. Cook what you want. You can refrigerate un-cooked pasta for 3 days (because of the eggs) or you can dry your pasta to resemble the store bought kind and keep it for longer. However, I cooked all of it because I was so excited.

Once the pasta is cooked, plate it with the red sauce for a delicious meal with beautiful colors. Pat yourself on the back and make sure you gloat in your accomplishments. Feel free to present you dinner to your family by listing out all of the ingredients and how it was prepared. That is how you make it sound gourmet. “Tonight we have a butterflied, pan-seared chicken breast parmigiana that is served atop of a homemade spinach pasta that has been cooked al dente. A savory tomato sauce finishes your dish”

Thanks for stopping by for dinner, you can take the leftovers home with you. Please wipe the drool off the screen.

Note: I need to thank Instagram for making my meal look more vintage.

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