Monday, July 26, 2010

Buffalo Wing Sauce

Being a born and bred western New Yorker is a huge responsibility. When you tell the world that you are from Buffalo, they assume you are guru of all things food, sports and weather. Perhaps you have moved away from the WNY and are enduring a tough winter in your new home state. While trapped at work, the roads impassable, your coworkers simply say “Well, you’re from Buffalo, this is nothing for you.” Because we all know, Buffalo is covered in at least six feet of snow for the entirety of winter. Our Buffalo cars laugh at six feet of snow and ask for more. Buffalo plows are magical and snow flees from their paths as they careen down the highway.

Western New Yorkers are also HUGE sports fans. Home to the world famous Buffalo Bills, we know the glory of victory, and the disappointment of defeat. Let’s not forget our beloved Buffalo Sabres. They are also aware of difficult glory/disappointment cycle. You mention “Wide Right” or “No Goal” to any WNYer and they know, they have a story, they were there.

Buffalo is also world famous for its food. Well, perhaps not world famous, but you can’t go to any Americana restaurant without seeing “Buffalo wings” on the menu. Buffalo loves food. If you love food you should head to Buffalo in the summer, where you can find a food festival every single weekend. Italian, Hellenic, Allentown, German, Scottish, Polish and Canal fests are just the start to the summer festival season. The main event is always the Taste of Buffalo. Touted as the largest two-day food festival in the United States, the Taste of Buffalo is a great place to find your new favorite restaurant.

Now, I’m not sure if I can call myself a true western New Yorker. I can muster very little enthusiasm for the Bills or Sabres, even when the tickets are free, and there is free food. While I can handle a 2WD car in a snowstorm, I would be much happier on a beach. However, I do love to eat. I figure I don’t need to watch sports or live in a snowglobe, but I do need to eat. And why not eat good food?

As a kid, my dad would make the best wing sauce. It could be a hot, humid summer day or a cold blustery winter night. The chicken made with this sauce was perfect. It was never the same, but had the same notes of flavor every time. The sauce came together so quickly, and it was always a mystery. My dad is not a chef, he’s an engineer. He is very good with cooking fish, making a mean PB&J and this sauce. My brother and I would constantly ask for chicken and wing sauce, fortunately my dad wouldn’t always make it, otherwise we’d likely be 400 lbs.

While visiting home I decided that I must know how to make this sauce. If I can’t make a good Buffalo wing sauce, then I might as well renounce my WNYer card, without the love of football and snow I really would have nothing else. We decided to balance out the heavy sauce with healthy chicken tenders, which my mom breaded and baked. The sauce was a little harder to nail down. Other than the very specific one stick of butter, everything else was a squirt of this a dash of that. I’ve done my best to eyeball measurements to help you get the desired result. The quantities of every ingredient can be changed to suit your particular tastes. Play around and enjoy a little bit of Buffalo flavor!

Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 stick butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup ketchup
2-3 tbsp hot sauce
Dash of chili powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp BBQ sauce or Mustard (for a sweet, or tangy sauce)
Dash garlic powder
Dash onion powder
Salt to taste

- Slowly melt 1 stick of butter in a pan over low heat. Add lemon juice. Whisk until butter is no longer transparent and slightly thickened.
- Add ketchup and stir until the sauce changes to a bright orange color.
- Add hot sauce to your desired heat level. This is best tested by smelling the sauce. Determine how much you would like your mouth to burn by how much it burns your nose!
- Add remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk for an additional 2 minutes over low heat.
This sauce will break after a few minutes, so be sure to stir often to maintain a smooth sauce.

Healthy Chicken tenders

1 lb chicken tenders
2 cups bread crumbs (we went with a mixture of crushed whole grain crackers, wheat crackers and panko breadcrumbs)
Dash of onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, salt and pepper
Egg Beaters (or buttermilk for a slightly tangier tender)

- Mix breadcrumbs with spices in a shallow dish or pie pan
- Soak chicken tenders in egg beaters for a minute (30 minutes if using buttermilk)
- Coat tenders with bread crumbs and line on a cooking-sprayed foil-lined cookie sheet.
- Lightly spray tenders with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

Enjoy your chicken with some carrots, celery and blue cheese!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crunchy French Toast

Ever since I moved away for grad school my parents missed me. It’s because I’m so awesome. They decided that they simply had to come and visit. Although I’m not entirely sure that it was just me that they wanted to come and visit, perhaps it was the draw of seeing Wisconsin? The mystery of a state known for Dairy products and beer? Personally I was leaning toward the idea that they were coming to see their favorite (read: only) daughter, but I could be wrong. Wisconsin is not just home to cheese with a love of all things brewed. There is a museum, devoted to one man’s love, of mustard.

Our first trip to Madison, Wisconsin was the conclusion of one very long road trip. Well, I suppose it was the conclusion of the trip for me, they still had to make the return trip (winner!). Fourteen hours in two cars, covering six states, our arrival in Wisconsin occurred around ten o’clock at night. The bed at the Marriott was certainly welcoming and, most importantly, stationary.

The next morning we were greeted with a beautiful summer day. If you have never spent a summer in the Midwest, please take a moment to imagine… The sun is blazing down, the temperature is a warm 80 degrees and the humidity made it feel like you were swimming. August in the Midwest is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Today, it would be the latter, because today, we were moving furniture.

Nothing can take away from the fact that this was to be a BIG day. Moving into my first apartment, by myself, in a state that I had previously only spent two days. It was just going to be a HOT big day, as temperatures were to slowly creep into the low nineties. Luckily I was only moving into a first floor apartment (just a half-flight of stairs to climb) and my dad and I have enormous muscles. 300-lb desk? Sure, one arm. Boxes full of books? Just pile those on top of this couch and I’ll handle it. We’re huge, really.

After taking a mere four hours to move everything from the U-haul to the fabulous apartment, we took a moment to admire our work (read: collapse on the nearest piece of furniture). Taking another moment to drink a few gallons of water and eat a whole chicken (gotta feed those muscles) we were finally ready to enjoy Madison. Wait, perhaps a nap first…

Many more Madison stories are in your future, but the first thing you must do when getting to Madison, it have some ice cream at the terrace (if it’s past noon, you can have a beer). Nothing is more fantastic after a long days work than getting a bowl of UW ice cream and enjoying the breeze off lake Mendota. The boats sail by, the ducks play in the water and the sun sparkles across the lake. Eat your ice cream, get a little sunburn and relax.

The following morning, after our huge muscles screamed at us for a bit, we decided to hit the restaurant and refuel. This was the beginning of a wonderful tradition, Crunchy French Toast. Every Marriott across the country serves this awesome recipe. Listed as a “healthy option,” one can trick themselves into eating the whole plate (do not do this, eat half, save some for tomorrow). On their subsequent returns to both Madison, and Colorado, my parents and I enjoyed many, many plates of Crunch French Toast.

This is a take on the Marriott’s recipe for Crunchy French Toast. While I know someone who has the exact recipe, they were unwilling to divulge the hotels secrets. I’ll have to try harder next time. The original dish is served with bananas and strawberries, while I decided to serve it with a lemon-raspberry sauce. While these are a good attempt, I will still find myself at the Marriott, eating plates and plates of their Crunchy French Toast.

Crunchy French Toast

4 slices of whole-grain bread approximately 1-inch thick
1 cup Corn Flakes (crushed)
1 cup Egg Beaters
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint raspberries
1 lemon
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan combine raspberries, water and sugar. Heat over medium-low until raspberries begin to break down. Add zest of half a lemon and cornstarch. Turn up heat to medium-high and heat until thickens. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and heat until desired thickness.

Mix Egg Beaters and vanilla in a shallow dish. Coat bread with egg mixture, allowing to sink in for a few seconds. Coat bread in Corn flakes, pressing down so they stick. Place coated bread on griddle and weigh down with a grill press (or Panini press or weighted pie pan). Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side (or until crunchy and golden-brown).

Drizzle 2 tbsp raspberry lemon sauce over French toast. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar if the raspberry lemon sauce is a bit too tart for you! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chocolate buttercream & Peanut butter cream cheese frosting

Making frosting is a very messy process, especially when you are the proud owner of a possessed hand mixer. The settings on the mixer range from 1-6. Now one would assume that 1 would be a nice slow speed and 6 being cement mixer speed. My hand mixer has a system all to itself, most likely due to the fact that it is possessed by some angry baking spirit.

Setting 1 – Whoa! Your flour just went all over the counter!
Setting 2 – Seriously, you wanted your ingredients to stay in the bowl?
Setting 3 – Similar to setting 2, but with a nice burning smell
Setting 4 – Considerable burning smell, insane mixing velocity
Setting 5 – Off
Setting 6 – Still Off

It would seem that my mixer tires itself out by setting 4, and decides it’s not going to try anymore after that. By then you haven’t got any ingredients left in your bowl, so why would you need a fifth or sixth setting. However, after considerable fighting with the hand mixer, delicious frosting was the result. Enjoy my hard won battle and go make yourself some frosting for those cupcakes you made the other day.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Elinor Klivanis – Cupcakes!

1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (chopped)
1 ½ sticks butter (room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup heavy cream

. Melt chocolate (I like to use the microwave at half power), set aside to cool slightly
. Mix together powdered sugar and cocoa powder
. Mix in butter until smooth (about 2 minutes using possessed hand mixer)
. Add Chocolate and mix until evenly colored
. Add vanilla and heavy cream, mix until light and fluffy and frosting has lightened in color

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

2 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup heavy cream

. Mix together cream cheese and peanut butter
. Add in powdered sugar and mix until smooth
. Add vanilla
. Slowly add heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

(This is a smoother frosting than the chocolate buttercream. I piped a chocolate buttercream retaining wall on the top of my cupcakes, then filled them in with peanut butter frosting.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Indian Chicken Curry

I know you wait patiently for those cupcakes to be covered in frosting, but I think you should eat some dinner first. Enjoy a trip into my not-so-distant past.

My fourth year in grad school, my roommate K and I moved across town to the west side. Close to K’s new job, right on the bus line and minutes from the gym. The most important thing about our new place turned out to be its proximity to Swagat. Unknown to us, we had moved across the street from one of the best Indian restaurants in Madison. Day after day, I would ride the bus home from the lab and be greeted with amazing smells, floating on the wind, emanating from the restaurant.

For weeks I allowed Swagat to sit quietly on the corner, until one evening we got together with some friends for dinner. The d├ęcor was understated, to say the least. Small tables covered in white linens with a single candle in the center. An unused buffet sat in the corner of the space and paper hearts hung from the ceiling (which seemed unusual since it was October). The menu was expansive, featuring choices from both the North and South of India. The only problem was; I had never eaten at an Indian restaurant. Here I am, twenty-three years old, and a curry virgin!

Browsing through the menu I settled on their chicken curry. Start simple, that was the plan. My friends also decided to get an order of cheese naan. Our quiet and polite waiter took our order and brought back these wafer thin crackers with a trio of sauces; sweet, mint and mango (I quickly became a big fan of the mystery purple sauce). The freshly baked cheese naan also went well with the sauces. The cheese naan is quite simply cheese-filled flatbread baked in a tandoori oven. Oh yeah, and it’s fantastic. Stop reading now, go find yourself an Indian restaurant, and order yourself some. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’ve got some cheese naan we can continue. Onto the main course, my chicken curry. Our waiter brought out heaping bowls of rice and our dinners. Each bowl of curry, masala and vindaloo came in a little golden bowl, placed atop a flame. Adorable. And fantastic. I couldn’t believe that it took me so long to try Swagat. The curry was sweet and spicy, bright and delicious.
Over the next two years I frequented Swagat more often than I can remember. I’m fairly certain I tried everything in their chicken section of the menu. In fact, if it had not been for Swagat, I would have starved while writing my thesis. During the middle of a particularly fierce snowstorm I actually walked there for dinner (I could see the OPEN sign from my bedroom window). I still dream about their vegetable pakoras and cheese naan.

After leaving Madison I was left in a curry slump, until I discovered Pensey’s Maharaja curry powder. Now my curry powder and I can live happily ever after. Just a word of warning, proper ventilation in necessary when cooking curry in an apartment, I recommend cooking curry in the summer months.

Chicken Curry

1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Fresh ginger, 2 inch segment, cut into matchsticks
1.25 lbs chicken breast, cut into cubes
2 tsp Curry powder of your choice (Pensey’s has several good ones to choose from)
3 peppers, chopped (I like to use a variety of colors, because it’s pretty)
1 tsp salt
¾ cup coconut milk
2 roma tomatoes, cored and diced

- Heat a pan to medium-high heat and cook onion and garlic in a little bit of oil until lightly browned (3-5 minutes)
- Add chicken and curry powder and allow chicken to brown on all sides (5 minutes)
- Add peppers and cover with lid for 3-5 minutes
- Add salt and coconut milk and allow to come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked thru (5-7 minutes)
- Remove chicken pieces into another bowl and add tomatoes. Allow to bubble for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- The sauce will be slightly thicker and you should add the chicken back to the pan
- Serve over rice and enjoy!

And be sure to go get yourself some cheese naan, because unless you have a tandoori oven, it’s not the same. (Although I’ve found some at Wegmans that is pretty darned close)

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