Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TIP: Making Simple Sandwiches Fun Again

If you're like me, sandwiches are a typical on-the-go lunch. I typically went shopping on Sunday to gather lunch meat and cheese for the week, but after a few weeks of this ritual it just got too repetitive. I like ham and cheese sandwiches but my creativity can only make so many combinations of specialty cheeses and fancy hams.


When I eat sandwiches at home I can slather my meals in BBQ sauce, mustard and/or mayonnaise, but when they're going to sit in a lunch box for a few hours, it's just not an option. No one likes soggy bread, especially when it's gluten free and already borderline. What I figured out were a couple solutions that add some incredible flavor without adding sauce.

Try adding some cracked pepper and a very light sprinkling of fine salt over the top of your bread before adding meat and cheese. Pepper helps bring out the natural flavor of a lot of spiced hams, especially my favorite, Kroger's Honey Bourbon Glazed Ham. Most cheeses have a good salt flavor already, but it can get lost in the thickness of a sandwich. Adding just a small touch really helps revive the flavor of the cheese.

This quick and easy step will work great with any kind of meat and cheese combination on any kind of bread. They even work when you add things like tomato, lettuce and onion. Never underestimate the power of something as simple as a little salt and pepper!

If you have any questions about this recipe or any others, email me at MPHGourmet3@gmail.com!

bon appétit

Monday, February 25, 2013

RECIPE: Spicy Bacon and Corn Risotto

I was recently in England where risotto rice (arborio) is just as cheap as regular rice, so I figured it there was no better time to perfect my risotto skills. After making every single 'traditional' recipe under the sun, I decided it was time to branch out a bit.  What popped into my head was this delicious risotto with bacon (yes, BACON), jalapeños and corn.

Medium-large frying pan
Cutting board
Sharp chef's knife
Measuring cups (2/3, 1 cup)
Plate, bowl (for prepping)

4 slices of your favorite bacon (the nicer smoked the better)
1 ear of sweet corn, husked
1 shallot
2 jalapeños
2/3 cup arborio rice
2 small cans of your favorite stock (I use vegetable)
Grated (not 'powdered') Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick salted butter
Salt, pepper


~45 minutes

Put the bacon in your sauté pan on medium heat. You don't want to crisp the bacon, just cook it through and render the fat down. After about 5-6 minutes (depending on thickness and your pan), flip the bacon and let it cook for another 5-6 minutes, or until done. While the bacon cooks down, chop the shallot to prepare it for entry into the delicious bacon drippings.

Remove the bacon and place it onto a place to cool. Don't stack it, just lay them flat next to each other so it cools properly. Sauté the shallot for about 2-3 minutes in the rendered bacon fat, then add the rice and mix everything together. Let the rice soak the bacon fat and oil from the shallot for a few minutes, then add a cup of your stock.

The main thing to remember about risotto is it isn't normal rice. You don't 'add 2:1 (water:rice) and cover' but instead add a little stock at a time until it's done. So, leave the pan on medium heat and add stock to the mixture one cup at a time (waiting until the rice soaks up the previous cup, obviously!) until your rice is tender. Be sure to stir your rice immediately after pouring the stock in, then every 2-3 minutes as the rice cooks. Taste the rice after the 3rd round of liquid to see where you're at, in addition to your normal tastes to see how much salt and pepper you need. If you run out of stock, water works just fine. Remember, we're not looking for a Michelin Star, just tasty food!

While your rice is cooking, cut the corn off its cob (CAREFULLY!!), dice your jalapeño and cut the bacon into small strips about 1/8" wide. Add all of these to your pan with your rice (avoid adding more liquid after these ingredients go in!) and butter, then mix everything together over medium-low heat until the butter melts and is absorbed into the rice. The rice will be hot enough to cook the vegetables, but if you're worried about them being too crunchy you can sauté them in oil over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, but I prefer my veggies to have some crunch left.

Once the butter is absorbed, add around a half-cup of Parmesan cheese, a good amount of pepper (6-7 turns of a grinder) and a pinch or so of salt. Turn off the heat but leave your pan on the burner while you get your plate out. Scoop out portions onto the plate, then top with a few shavings of cheese and two grinds of pepper.

There are plenty of things to serve this dish with. Butter-poached shrimp would work very well, as would crab cakes (likely not gluten free!) or even a few spare slices of bacon. If you're a wine drinker, a nice white (normally reserved for cooking a typical risotto) likely pairs well, but I'm hardly a sommelier as I don't drink at all.

If you have any questions about this recipe or any others, email me at MPHGourmet3@gmail.com!

bon appétit