American, Bakery, Baking Recipes, bread, Uncategorized

Pretzel Focaccia

Wow, it has been awhile! Hey hey readers, thanks for showing up to this blog post today! It’s a special one…I made bread! I’ve never worked with active dry yeast before, never baked bread before so it was all a learning curve!

This Pretzel Focaccia from Bon Appétit came out just in time for the Super Bowl earlier this month. Focaccia is a type of Italian flat bread that uses a lot of olive oil and is flavored with different herbs. If you’re a Samin Nosrat fan then you probably have heard about her focaccia recipe that involves a salt water brine that you splash on top of the bread. Highly recommend this focaccia video of Samin with my personal favorite Brad Leone from the BA Test Kitchen!

This focaccia by editor at large Amiel Stanek is everything you expect from a basic focaccia with the addition of a baking soda solution instead of salt water. This chemical reaction creates that super browned exterior and “bitter twang” that you get from a pretzel.

The dough was really easy to work with and this was a great first bread experience. It’s not overly complicated, you just bake it in one sheet and don’t have to worry about shaping the dough or anything. My first mistake was using crappy plastic wrap! When I left the dough to proof the plastic didn’t cling well so a bit of a crust formed when I started to work with it. It wasn’t awful and didn’t ruin anything, but be sure you have good plastic wrap!

The dough was fun to work with and even more fun to bake! When you add the baking soda solution, DO NOT BE ALARMED. It’ll start to bubble when first creating the solution and when you go to brush it on the bread it’ll start bubbling and hissing in the oven. Do not worry, this is part of the reaction, nothing bad is happening!

My only complaint with the final product is that I didn’t bake it enough. I did that thing where you think it’s brown on the bottom, so you take it out and then realize it isn’t done so you try to put it back in but then that doesn’t really work either. Be sure to really let the bottom brown and pry the bottom a little to check. The top will deceive you because it gets so crispy and brown from the “pretzel” part of the recipe, but don’t allow for any soggy, underdone bottoms. The time to bake from the recipe is what I baked it for, so I would go a little extra next time rather than just 10 minutes as it said!

If you’re new to bread baking and find it slightly daunting, this is a great beginners recipe! The proofing is easy, the assembly is easy, and the baking is easy. Even with the underdone bottom, this focaccia was still delicious and had plenty of air bubbles and chew to it. The pretzel aspect was fun and different too! Give it a go, you’ll have so much fun getting your hands dirty with this pretzel focaccia!

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American, Bakery, Beef, boston, Deli, Jewish, Sweets, Uncategorized

Mamaleh’s- Cambridge, MA

Happy New Year, readers!

It has been kind of a hot sec since I’ve been on here! I’ve been fairly active on the Instagram (give me a follow, @critiquingcarnivore!) especially with the start of my own little stories series “Wife Me”. I started it on my personal instagram and my friends loved it so I’m starting to transfer all the content over to the blog now! It’s a good laugh, be sure to check it out!

Back to today’s blog post…as I said it’s the new year which means I’m home with the fam in Boston and since I’m an avid Bon Appétit follower I had a new list of places I had to check out from BA highlights. One of these places is over in Cambridge with piping hot matzo ball soup and beautifully cured meats. We’re trekking out to Mamaleh’s!

I don’t know if it’s solely because it was on BA’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants of 2017 or because watching the new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” had me craving Jewish classics, but either way I was really looking forward to some traditional Jewish dishes from Mamaleh’s.

When walking in, it looks like a fancier version of your neighborhood deli. They have a full bar, something a little extra, but they have a walk up counter with bagels and lox galore, and a sit down dining area all of which surrounds the kitchen located in the back. We were able to be seated right away, we went on a Friday for lunch, and while it wasn’t packed it was still popping. I could see how this would be a favorite lunch spot among Cambridge folks working in the area.

When we sat down our waiter got right to it. We maybe looked at the menu for two minutes (let’s be real, I’ve been looking at the menu for the last month) asking us for our drink orders. I didn’t even have a chance to comprehend half of the options let alone figure out what questions I had. I didn’t know what an egg cream was, or whether I wanted one of their fancy sodas. But with that aside, the team effort among the wait staff was admirable. Everyone came by checking on us, taking our food orders throughout our dining experience.

As I said I’ve been looking at this food menu for a while and pretty much a clear idea of what I wanted to try. First thing that was a must was the matzo ball soup. If you’re unfamiliar with what matzo balls are it’s a Jewish dumpling made from matzo meal. This was my first time having it and I was definitely curious about the texture, since I know some people aren’t big fans of it. I enjoyed the soup, it was essentially just a chicken soup base with the matzo balls. It was very rich in flavor and not too salty and the matzo balls had an even texture and form to them.

The next item I knew we had to get was the latkes. The traditional Hanukkah dish is just grated potatoes fried in a fat of some kind. They are a delicious crispy potato pancake and are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream. Mamaleh’s latkes did not disappoint. They were so crispy; they weren’t overly salty and the fat they were fried in gave them a flavor kick the potatoes wanted. They were packed tightly and had a nice height to them! On top of that the presentation of everything was visually pleasing, so much so I got a plate to bring home.

This next menu item my handy dandy helper (dad) picked out. A tradition knish is a Jewish snack food that is usually a baked or fried potato filled dough. At Mamaleh’s they have both plain potato as well as a meat filled one. We opted for the meat knish which is the savory pastry filled with potatoes and onions along with their corned beef and pastrami. The knish was baked exquisitely, when you cut into it it cut clearly without the flakiness crumbling. The potato filling was so light and fluffy it was like eating clouds. It was yet another dish proving that the kitchen understands how to season just enough, the meat adding saltiness without being overpowering. It was a dish I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. It surpassed the simple matzo ball soup in my book.

Now for the star standout entree. Pastrami and corned beef are both Jewish deli favorites and I wanted the chance to have both. Mamaleh’s well thought-out menu fulfilled my needs with the 50/50 hand sliced sandwich. Half corned beef, half pastrami served on seeded rye bread with deli mustard. Thank you deli sandwich angels. When this sandwich was placed on our table my eyes lit up. From the color of the bread, to the height of the sandwich, to the very simple and straightforward plating I couldn’t wait to get this sandwich in my stomach.

The bread was so springy and had wonderful structure to it, a nice bite and flavor. The mustard was your classic Dijon type with a nice tangy kick. The hand sliced meats melded together gracefully, the brine coming through and the hints of spices tingling your taste buds. It made for a crisp clean chew that was oh so satisfactory. And don’t forget about the height of the sandwich, layers and layers of the juicy brined meats.

While all this food left us full we had just enough space to manage a slice of chocolate babka. It shouldn’t need explaining, the pictures can speak for themselves, but the dense and thick slice was everything you wish a chocolate croissant was. Packed with chocolate, the sweet yeasted dough had lovely pockets of air that made the density less of a highlight. The bake on the outside was almost crunchy in the best bakery way possible.

Mamaleh’s made me feel like a character out of Mrs. Maisel. I just wanted to become family with the staff, learn to make all these homemade meals, and yell Yiddish to everyone. The biggest takeaway for me was just how perfectly seasoned everything was. I was secretly prepared for everything to be so salty I’d loose all taste, but they proved me wrong. It all could’ve leaned that way, with cured meats and chicken soup sodium can make itself the star ingredient, but the kitchen magicians at Mamaleh’s let everything else stand out. Everything came out super fast and the waitstaff kept things moving for us. Coffee cups were never left even the slightest bit empty.

If you’re in Boston you should make the walk (yes, walk!) to Cambridge and make a stop here. I certainly see why they ended up on BA’s Top 50 list and I’m sure you’ll end up verklempt with nachas. 😉

*please be kind at my attempt to use Yiddish words…Mamaleh’s website has a fun dictionary of words to check out!*

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American, Breakfast, Brunch, Fort Worth, Uncategorized

Hot Box Biscuit Club- Fort Worth, TX

If you’ve been in Fort Worth for the last few years, chances are you are aware of what Hot Box Biscuit Club is. If not, here is the quick run down:

Starting as a pop up, Sarah Hooten and Matt Mobley teamed up with the dream of making the best biscuits and fried chicken in town. The club was the hottest ticket in town, starting with 50 people the first month to getting 350 email inquiries in the third month. Each month they opened the pop up and, as a follower for a while, they would be at max capacity in mere hours, even less.

Now they have their own brick and mortar over on the budding S Main Street. Anyone can now stand in line and wait and hope for a hot biscuit.

They are still new and working out their kinks, but the biggest thing I didn’t understand upon walking in was how the seating worked. We stepped up to the front to order and the woman said that two seats were becoming available. It’s almost first come first serve, but at the same time it isn’t. You still have to wait to be seated and you won’t really know the availability until you’re at the register; I’m not sure if you can skip the line if you just want your biscuit to go or if they even do to go orders. In any event, I felt that if they wanted to make it restaurant style seating that they should make more use of their space and create more seating and go completely that route rather than this hybrid. The front register takes up a lot of room that I personally don’t think one or even two people need to stand behind. There’s also space in front of the building that picnic tables could be placed for more seating. Luckily my friend and I went early on Sunday morning before the brunch rush and got two seats pretty quickly.

The menu is pretty much biscuit sandwiches with some starters and sides available. They were accommodating for changes so if you’re not a sausage gravy fan but want the ‘Dolly Parton’ (all of the “Bigs” have fun names) they won’t stop you from making those changes.

I ended up getting the ‘Paris Hilton…That’s Hot’- sugar cane brined fried chicken, their signature tasty dust, hot sauce, whipped honey butter all on a buttermilk biscuit (duh). I’m a huge hash brown fan so I just had to get their tots on the side.

The biscuit-wich was certainly eye catching upon picking it up (you get a buzzer and then go grab your food from the window in the back). Tall and oozing with honey butter and hot sauce it looked delicious, the fried chicken especially. Initially I was a little sceptical of the biscuit because it was so light in color…more on that guy later.

Cutting into the sandwich it kept its layers in tact. I also added cheddar cheese to mine and I’m so glad I did. The chicken was juicy and not overly sweet, nicely fried and not too bready. The honey butter was really good, it was very complimentary with the heat of the hot sauce. I couldn’t tell you what the tasty dust was like, but they do sell it in the front. The tots on the side were scrumptious and I was already excited to bring the leftovers home to devour them a second time later on. The biscuit…was not my favorite. I’m sorry, but I’ve definitely had better biscuits. I wanted it to have a little more color on the exterior, baked a little longer as a whole. I appreciated the salt on top, but in the end when I brought half of my sandwich home I didn’t care to eat the biscuit. The chicken and the tots were the stars in my opinion and I would certainly go back for both.

The biscuit wasn’t so terrible that I wouldn’t not eat it again, but in my opinion there are other places in Fort Worth that have been doing better biscuits for longer (looking at you Montgomery Street Cafe).

Another thing definitely worth mentioning is the staff. Even though it isn’t restaurant “let me take your order” fashion, there was waitstaff constantly moving around the floor. They would check in with you about your food, if you needed another fork or to go box, carrying hot coffee for refills. They were very personable and accommodating for every little thing you needed. One waiter there was so incredible with all the kids at breakfast that morning and it is people like that that make a restaurant or business great and make customers want to come back.

With all of that said, it is super exciting to gain another breakfast/brunch spot in Fort Worth. Brunch is obviously a very popular meal for millennials after a long night of going out the night before and chicken and biscuits is a Southern food staple for everyone young and old. I think I can say that all of Fort Worth is thankful that they can have a shot at eating at Hot Box Biscuit Club and don’t have to anxiously wait to send an email to get a spot in. Everyone is welcome whenever now.

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American, Baking Recipes, Fort Worth, Ice Cream, Italian, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

The Ultimate Dinner Party

Hiya followers!

It has been a minute, I’ve been super busy- life got pretty hectic. One of the reason was because I have been very busy preparing for my biggest cooking moment to date.

I recently got injured at work which has taken quite the toll on me mentally. If you’re new to the blog I’m a professional ballet dancer (#dancerseattoo). My friends have been by my side throughout the last few weeks; each person has played a different role in my recovery and helping me to maintain my sanity. As a thank you I wanted to do something super special for as many of them as I could accommodate.

The menu for this adult, fancy AF dinner party came to me in the middle of the night a couple days after I got hurt. All of a sudden I was ready to take on the challenge and do this for my friends and, ultimately, for myself. Last night’s dinner party truly was a healing experience for me and seeing all of my friends enjoy the food, laughing and drinking the night away, made my heart incredibly happy.

So here it is: the menu. Usually for a dinner party you stick with what you know, cooking dishes you’ve done before and you know are good. I completely threw that philosophy out the door; every dish was a new dish for me (except the Fall Chicken which made its debut a few years ago on the blog). Thankfully each dish came out great, despite feeling like a chicken with my head cut off most of the day!

First Course- Arugula and Fig Salad: this was so easy to put together and was tangy and delightful. It will definitely be a dish I make again!

Second Course- Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup: perhaps my favorite dish of the evening. I bought a Dutch oven just for this recipe. It was the easiest and most perfect tomato soup. Six ingredients, that’s it. I opted for whole milk in the recipe (no heavy cream here!) which was great because it didn’t make it too thick. Truly one of my new fall favorites!

Third Course- Mushroom Carbonara: Is it a dinner party without a Bon Appetit recipe on the menu? This carbonara was super delicious and the recipe was perfect as a pasta dish. Read the recipe beforehand and get yourself all set up and prepped- it all happens pretty fast and you’ll want your ducks in a row before starting. Molly Baz is my pasta spirit animal.

Main Course- Fall Harvest Chicken with a Fennel and Apple Salad: This chicken recipe was the main component and overall inspo for the evening. It even ended up being a cool evening in Texas to feel extra fall like. When looking for a side to go with it I stumbled upon this salad recipe from (duh) Bon Appetit and was intrigued by it. I had never worked with fennel before but loved the idea of pairing it with apples, serranos, and limes. It ended up being really good, those peppers were hot! It all meshed and ended up being a well balanced. I will certainly revisit this recipe again in the future.

Dessert- Chocolate Lava Cakes: My mom makes these lava cakes for holidays and they are always a crowd pleaser. They are so simple to put together too and only need to bake for seventeen minutes (that was the sweet spot for my oven anyways!) They are rich and gooey and are a chocolate lovers heaven! I was excited to be able to use my Guittard Dutch processed cocoa rouge (a brand that the Bon Appetit chefs love working with!) This cocoa is such a rich, dark color it is what really drives the dish home! And what’s a chocolate dessert in Texas without Blue Bell ice cream?!

That is it. My Ultimate Dinner Party. #wifeme.

Each recipe has been created by some great chefs and bloggers and each recipe has thorough, well written instructions- some videos even for visuals! Home chefs like me certainly appreciate that! Now it’s your turn: challenge yourself to find new recipes that push you. If you’re a lover of cooking or baking I urge you to do some research and have a fun night with friends like I did. Food is so special; it’s a universal language that brings people together and it is one of the best ways to say thank you and I love you.

I appreciate you, reader, for following my blog (check out the Instagram @critiquingcarnivore) Happy cooking! Cheers!

*major shoutout to my friend Hannah who took ALL the photos used in this blog post! This #wifeme chef was so busy in the kitchen photos completely escaped her. I greatly appreciate you, girl! 💕

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American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

Broccoli Bolognese

Hey readers!

This Critiquing Carnivore has been busy! Not to worry though, I blocked out an entire evening to whip up a spectacular dish that was created by none other than Adam Rapoport, editor in chief at Bon Appétit! Shall I remind you that I’m obsessed with Bon Appétit and their test kitchen?

So this recipe was actually published almost two years ago, but it resurfaced recently when Rapoport and chef Molly Baz made the dish for the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. Aside from the recipe itself, the energy and whit between these two in the kitchen was hysterical and electrifying! So naturally I was inspired to make this “Brocco Bolo”.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking of the red meat sauce that is typically seen when you order a bolognese. Rapoport’s reasoning for calling it a bolognese? Because it sounds better for a magazine…well he isn’t wrong. Let’s say that in the case of this recipe we consider it to be a bolognese because the base is still a creamy, meat sauce. Then with the addition of your steamed and chopped broccoli it really starts to thicken up, add that butter and cheese and it resembles a bolognese!

This recipe is right on point when it gives cooking times. I steamed the broccoli for exactly three minutes, as written, and it was perfect. With the end result the broccoli wasn’t overdone or super mushy. Same with the pasta, for that perfect al dente I cooked it for only nine minutes in the heavily salted water (my new favorite ingredient is pasta water- watch Bon Appétit pasta videos to understand!) because when you throw it in the pan at the end it still continues to cook and you don’t want over cooked pasta.

I probably could’ve broken up my sausage more like they did in the video and as shown in the photograph on the recipe’s website, but I definitely prefer bigger chunks of my sausage- literally just a personal preference; you do you!

When I was looking for the orecchiette pasta, at first I couldn’t find it. To compromise I was going to go with a fusilli or bow tie pasta for looks. Then I found the orecchiette and I’m so happy I did! As explained in the video, this “little ear” pasta is fantastic for a recipe like this because the pasta picks up some of the broccoli bolognese base in its tiny cup; you aren’t having to fight to get a good mix of everything in one bite. I did find this pasta in my standard grocery store, Barilla brand pasta to be exact so you should be able to find it. Let me know if you don’t and what shape you ended up trying this recipe with!

I tried to cook everything simultaneously and, while I am obviously not a professional chef with a lot of the tools they suggest to use, I wish I had done it all more in separated steps: handle steaming the broccoli, let it cool, then it chop it. Then go over to the skillet with the garlic and handle the sausage. I was close to burning myself and was running from station to station trying to accomplish everything while each ingredient was cooking faster than I was actually prepared for. It still, obviously, worked out and tasted amazing, but if you get frazzled in the kitchen easily you may be better off doing everything in its exact step.

I really hope you get the chance to try this recipe! It is definitely one that I’ll keep in my recipe book for future family dinner nights, it would be quite the crowd pleaser at any dinner party! Bon Appétit!

*Another tip: taste it before seasoning! Since you are heavily salting that broccoli/pasta water and using it as your secret ingredient, it does bring a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would say I maybe added a pinch more salt and then black pepper at the end.

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American, Baking Recipes, Savory, Uncategorized

Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

Ever find yourself perusing Pinterest looking for a super simple, delicious, and healthy side dish? A side dish that isn’t just a salad or pasta or even green beans you threw in the microwave?

Well readers do I have a treat for you!

This Ramen Noodle Salad is an extremely refreshing take on “the side dish”. It is tangy and acidic while remaining cool and crunchy. It is the easiest side salad you could possibly put together and, guess what, it tastes better a day or two after it’s made. Yup, you can let this puppy sit for 24 hours before eating it giving you plenty of time to just throw it all into a bowl and not worry about it until later. Whoo hoo!

So here it is, my mom’s (and now our whole family’s) favorite side dish:

1 package of coleslaw mix

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup chopped scallion

1-2 packages of chicken ramen and seasoning packets

Sliced almonds

Sunflower seeds

3-4 shakes of soy sauce

Just dump it all into a large bowl, eyeball the scallions, almonds, and sunflower seeds adding as much or as little to suit you preference!

I’ve tried this recipe using one packet of the chicken seasoning and two- I’ll be honest that I didn’t notice a huge difference so depending on how much you’re making if it is a smaller portion go with one, larger then use two!

I also do a mixture of breaking up the “raw” ramen into small and large bits. I think the large bits soak up the olive oil and white vinegar while still giving the salad that awesome crunch! Experiment with it to see what ratios you like!

Seriously though, this recipe is delectable and it is great for family nights and parties!

Happy Cooking!

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Baking Recipes, Sweets, Uncategorized

BA’s Best Cheesecake

Hey girl heyyy!

Followers, it has been a hot sec! I’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things (aka life) but I managed to squeeze in a little baking time! As you probably know from my last post and my Instagram (@critiquingcarnivore) I’m pretty obsessed with Bon Appétit Magazine. I had promised some friends a cheesecake a while back and where else was I going to go to look for a recipe?! Here it is: BA’s Best Cheesecake.

Aside from it being from BA, I fell in love with this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it. Firstly, it’s super simple. No water filled trays, no crazy additional ingredients. Simple, clean and elegant. I also loved being able to use fresh vanilla bean. It’s a little extra out of the pocket for this ingredient (World Market sells one pod for $7.99) but it really elevates the taste in contrast to plain old vanilla extract. It also made me feel like a badass chef cutting into it and scraping the vanilla seeds into the mixture!

Again this recipe was so easy to make and I highly recommend it! For the graham cracker crust the recipe says to use nine ounces. I don’t own a scale as of now so I did a bit of Googling and eyeballing and I roughly used nine sheets of graham crackers, or one sleeve from the box. I think next time I would use one and half sleeves as I didn’t have as much of a crust on the sides as I would have liked, however, if you’re not into that much crust, then stick with one sleeve!

This cheesecake was for a birthday so I wanted to decorate it and make it look extra pretty so I whipped up some basic cream cheese frosting with the last half of cream cheese and piped a cute design around the cake and accompanied it with blueberries for color. You could do strawberries, make a fruit sauce or jam, or leave it plain to shine on its own! Either way this recipe is fantastic as a clean canvas for whatever you’re feeling! Dress her up or down, either way she’s the best!

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