The Comeback Recipe

One of my most requested recipes is honestly not mine.  Shameful I know but you cannot mess with perfection and Kelsey has perfected this one.  Creamy cheeses perfectly paired and melted slowly together making the best mac and cheese you have ever had.  Bold statement right?  It’s a bold recipe.

Kelsey Nixon’s Skillet Bacon Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 pound of pasta, your choice

1 tsp.  dry mustard

1/4 tsp.  ground cayenne pepper

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

1 cup grated gruyere cheese

1 cup, plus 1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

2 tbsp.  flat leaf parsley

6 slices bacon, cooked reserved 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat

Béchamel sauce ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups hot milk

1/4 tsp.  nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil water for pasta, once boiling please cook until almost al dente and drain.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make béchamel sauce, melt butter in 12 inch oven proof skillet.  Whisk in flour and stir constantly until it starts to bubble, around 2 minute (don’t let it brown).  Gradually add the hot milk and stir constantly until thickened.  Add nutmeg, salt, pepper, reduce heat and cook for a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat.

On a low heat add the dry mustard and cayenne pepper to the béchamel sauce.  Either take the skillet off the heat or on the lowest setting you have and add cheese, stir quickly until smooth (this is key to avoiding that gritty cheese texture).  Add the milk and cream to the sauce to thin it out a bit.

In another skillet brown bacon until crispy, reserve 1/4 cup bacon fat.  Add cooked pasta to béchamel sauce. In a separate bowl mix bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and bacon fat, sprinkle this mixture over the pasta mixture.  Sprinkle another 1/2 cup parmesan on top of the pasta as well.  Bake until top is browned between 20-25 minutes depending on your ovens heat.  Enjoy!

20141212-223545.jpg

20141212-223642.jpg

20141212-223725.jpg

The perfect easy side dish

I’m pleased to share with you one of my families favorite go-to weeknight side dish recipes, sweet potato fries!  The good news is these are quick and they go with almost any main dish you can think of.

Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

5 medium size white sweet potatoes

1/4- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

teaspoon cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:  First preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a standard size cookie sheet with parchment and set aside.  Peel and cut each potato long ways in the shape of fries (or use your über fancy fries cutter).  Toss the fries in the oil and sprinkle them with the cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

I love to serve mine with archer farms mango jalapeno ketchup from Target (it is amazing).  Dinner is served!

IMG_4848

IMG_4846

From our home to yours, happy eats!

 

Must Eats Houston

As anyone who knows me knows, I am always looking for the hottest new restaurants.  Being that I have completely embraced my new home, I wanted to share my picks for must eat if you’re visiting the great city of Houston for the holidays.

These are in no particular order so feel free to pick the ones that suit you best

1.  Coltivare:  This fabulous restaurant was opened by the same owners as the community beloved Revival Market.  All who know Revival and all of their wonderful local groceries are not surprised at Coltivare’s success.  Opening the beginning of last year Houstonians have embraced this local gem.  It has already been named Houstonia magazine’s top new restaurant of the year and was nominated in Bon Appetit magazine’s top 50 new restaurants in America for 2014.  Foodies and normal folk alike are enjoying truly local ingredients, house made fresh pasta, veggies from the restaurants garden, seasonal menu changes, and the best pizza this side of Italy.  I cannot stress enough if you eat one meal in Houston, it should be here.  Come prepared to wait because they are pulling a April Bloomfield on us all, no reservations…  The secret is out and it is completely worth your wait!

2.  Punks Simple Southern Food:  For those of you raised in the South and imported to the big city, you will be pleasantly surprised by this new foodie spot.  Think back to your hometown, the local dive that cut the entire chicken apart, hand breaded, and fried it, the way it is supposed to be.  When I say all pieces, I mean even the coveted “pully bone”, and if you don’t know what that is google it.  Growing up after church on Sundays we would hurry to lunch and fight over the pully bones in the buffet.  My favorite item on the menu is obviously the fried chick, you can order it for 1-2 people or 3-4 people.  Everything comes out family style, served with one of their fabulous made from scratch biscuits, and a new take on your grandma’s mashed potatoes, mashed horseradish (trust me on this one).  The restaurant is plays old country (think Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash), has a fabulous rustic feel, a neon “Southern” sign, and the ceiling is covered with an eclectic mix of chandeliers.  For this Houston import its like taking a more upscale trip back to the dinner I grew up with in small town Arkansas.

James at Punks

The Hubby enjoying a fried chicken plate at Punks

3.  Ruggles Green:  I add this one to the list because I am still amazed at the number of people who have not been here.  Ruggles was originally started with money that was won from a recipe contest that the owner had submitted his fabulous white chocolate bread pudding recipe to.  You may hate bread pudding, but then you must have never had Ruggles bread pudding.  Trust me when I say they deserved the fund to start these local restaurants.  The original restaurant is in the Montrose area of town but then they have Ruggles Bakery, The Original Ruggles, and my favorite Ruggles Green.  They have several locations, so lucky for you whatever part of this massive growing city you visit you probably have a Ruggles Green with in 20 minute of you.  It is a certified organic restaurant  with the answer to any food allergy issue you may have.  I have literally tried almost everything on the menu and it is all good.  They have everything from burgers and sandwiches to pastas and pizzas.  They work with local  farmers and even for this veggie lover, their salads are probably the best in town.

4.  Americas:  It doesn’t get much more Houston than this except for my next recommendation.  This is a South American restaurant with possibly one of the best steaks you’ll ever eat.  Don’t let people lie to you, skip Taste of Texas, and Vallones, go to Americas.  Especially for the odd ball like me who still must have the have the steak well done.  The steak is always tender and full of flavor.  Do not leave this restaurant without ordering one of their wonderful tres leche cake.  Their tres leche cake is just as iconicity Houston as the Ruggles bread pudding in my opinion.  On a side note the same team runs Churrascos, Arista, and Amazon Grill, all also great restaurants.

Americas

On my Birthday a few years ago enjoying a tres leche cake at Americas.

5.  Hugos:  This is probably the most iconic Houston restaurant and it is a great example of excellent Tex Mex.  Chef Hugo Ortega actually has three fabulous restaurants.  All are equally good, the Tex Mex is just the best example of our local fare.  Backstreet café another of his restaurants has one of the best brunch in town and Caracol (the newest restaurant  of Chef Hugos) has a wonderful authentic Mexican take on seafood.

Backstreet Cafe

The hubby and I enjoying brunch at Backstreet Café .

I know I left many restaurants off including the best donut shop, see here.  So now I have technically given you six options (including my donut pic).  So many great Houston restaurants so little time.

Practicing Pecan Pie

Now say the title of this post three times fast….  Anytime I think of pecan pie I think of When Harry Met Sally and Billy Crystal getting Megan Ryan to say “Peeecan pie” in the most ridiculous voice..  Seriously, can’t you see him saying it to her?

When Harry met Sally

It’s that time again, time that we start practicing our new Thanksgiving recipes.  This year I have found a fabulously unique pecan pie recipe that will have all of your guest’s mouths watering before they even get through the door at Thanksgiving (this will also win over any new significant other’s fam, guaranteed).  I cannot take the credit for this one unfortunately, it is from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.  If you don’t have it, do not hesitate, click here now and buy this amazing pie book.  The book is written by two sisters who somewhat serendipitously fell into their careers as pie shop owners.  All owners of this cook book or patrons of their bakery, thank them for their decision.

I have adapted their Black Walnut recipe to be a Pecan Pie recipe due to what I had on hand.  I’m sure it would be equally as wonderful with whatever walnut or pecan you’d like to sub in.

Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

One single-crust partially prebaked

1 cup pecans

1 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup apple cider

2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons stone-ground cornmeal

3 large eggs

Position one of the oven racks to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread the pecans out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes (depending on your oven’s heat).  Put aside in small bowl to cool.

Combine the sugar, butter, and water in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until deep golden brown or until candy thermometer reads 230 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn the heat off and slowly pour in the apple cider (the caramel will bubble).  Add the vinegar and whisk until smooth.  Pour the cider mixture into a mixing bowl and leave until cool to the touch.  Whisk in the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cornmeal.  Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl.  Slowly pour in 1/3 cup cider mixture into the eggs to temper.  Add cider-egg mixture to the bowl.  Stir the toasted walnuts in.

Place the partially prebaked crust on a rimmed cookie sheet and pour in the filling.  Bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes, rotate the pie about half way through to ensure even baking.  The pie is done when the edges are set and the center is still slightly wobbly (remember the filling will continue to cook after it is out of the oven).  Allow to cool for 1-2 hours, serve at any temperature you would like.  The pie will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

IMG_4842

IMG_4843

IMG_4844

From our home to yours, enjoy!