Friday, March 28, 2014

Snack Madness

Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws

If you are looking for a salty-sweet snack to serve party guests, look no further than the Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws artfully arranged in the mug! Most of the ingredients you need to make these addictive treats can be found in the Dairy and Frozen Food departments at Jungle Jim's International Market. Usually we recommend the thick applewood smoked bacon, but for this recipe you will need thinly sliced bacon. Jungle Jim's brand bacon comes in both thick and thin sliced varieties, so make sure to pick up the thin type. Thin bacon strips will result in a perfectly crisp, fully cooked puff pastry straw your guests will gobble up! The Cooking School staff sampled the freshly baked straws and enthusiastically noted that they pair exceptionally well with any beer on tap at the Tasting Bar!

Working with puff pastry is easy. When you purchase puff pastry, keep it in the freezer until the day before you are ready to use it, then take it out and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Have all your ingredients and utensils assembled before you are ready to make the straws before you take the puff pastry out of the refrigerator. You will find that chilled puff pastry is much easier to work with. Unfold the puff pastry into one flat sheet, brush lightly with the beaten egg and then sprinkle the desired amount of cayenne pepper over it. We didn't give you a specific amount of cayenne to use because each person has their own definition of "hot or spicy."

Sprinkle the finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese over the cayenne and then gently press the cheese into the puff pastry with a rolling pin. 

Cut the cheese-covered puff pastry into long 1/2-inch wide strips. Fold them in half on top of each other and then pinch the ends together. Gently twist them several times.

Tip - once you have all the twists made, refrigerate them for 30 minutes. They will be easier to handle for the next step.

Mix the brown sugar, minced fresh rosemary, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Gently coat each twist with the brown sugar mixture and place on a greased rack that sits on a foil-covered baking sheet. Give the straws some space - at least an inch and a half. They will expand while baking. 

Place the coated twists in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Depending on your oven, we recommend checking them at 30 minutes. They will look crisp and browned when they are done. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the rack; then take a thin metal spatula and move them a bit so they don't stick to the rack. Cool another 10 minutes and then eat.

Because these twists were immediately devoured by the staff, we can't say how long they will last or how to store them! Please leave us comments with instructions on how to store them if you happen to have any left over. We didn't try this, but we think the twists would freeze well before coating with the brown sugar. Just remove the twists from the freezer, roll in the brown sugar mixture, place on the prepared rack and baking sheet and bake. Enjoy!

Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws
Yield:  26-28 twists

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
Cayenne pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
13-14 thin slices of bacon, cut in half
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with non-stick spray.

Open one sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board. Brush the surface lightly with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with your desired amount of cayenne pepper to taste (see photo above). Sprinkle surface with 1/2 cup of cheese to evenly cover entire surface. Dust a rolling pin with flour and then roll the rolling pin over the cheese to gently press the cheese into the puff pastry.

Cut the puff pastry into long 1/2-inch wide strips and then fold in half and then pinch the ends together. Twist each strip several times.

Take a piece of bacon and wrap it around the twisted pastry. Place on the rack. Repeat with the remaining twists until everything has been used.

Mix the brown sugar, minced rosemary, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Carefully take each bacon wrapped pastry one at a time and dip it through the brown sugar mixture - coat completely. Place each coated twist back on the rack.

Bake the twists for 35-40 minutes. Check them at 30 minutes to make sure they aren't burning. Once the bacon is cooked and the twists are browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Use a thin spatula to carefully lift the twists off the rack so they don't stick. Allow them to cool another 10 minutes to firm and crisp up before serving.

Tip: refrigerate the uncoated twists for 30 minutes to firm up before coating with the brown sugar mixture. They will be easier to handle.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Brownie Madness

Fudgy Chocolate-Raspberry Brownies

March Madness basketball has the nation gripped with excitement, but here at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market, a brownie madness has the staff enthralled. We want to share this easy, crazy-good recipe for brownies. If you rely on boxed mixes for your chocolate fix, please consider making these fudgy brownies as a superior alternative. You'll please the people who love fudgy centers and the folks who fight for the edge pieces. It's a one-pan winner! 

The secret to the fresh, ripe raspberry flavor is Clearbrook Farms' seedless red raspberry jam. It is packed with raspberry goodness and a perfect pairing with chocolate. If you haven't been introduced to Clearbrook Farms' products, we highly recommend them. They are locally produced in the Sharonville, Ohio. The Cooking School is offering a class on Thursday, April 3, using Clearbrook Farms' jams and preserves. Our students will get an introduction to the products in the class menu and will enjoy a gift to try at home.

Once you have your jar of jam, prepare the other ingredients - most cooks have them on hand in their pantry or refrigerator. Measure out a 1/4 cup of jam and stir with a spoon to loosen it up.

Melting the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl saves on time and dishes. Microwave the chocolate and butter for 45 seconds. Remove and stir. Microwave in 30 second segments until the chocolate is just melted. Stir until smooth.

You can add the remaining ingredients (minus the jam) into the bowl and stir until combined. No lumps should be in the batter and it will be thick. Scrape the batter into a greased 8x8 pan.

With a spoon, distribute the jam on top of the brownie batter. You can use a dinner knife or a paring knife to swirl the raspberry jam around through the batter. 

Place the pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The aroma of baking chocolate and raspberry is fantastic! Find the willpower to allow the brownies to cool completely. They cut more easily and the texture will be perfect. If by some miracle there are brownies in the pan the next day, they will be even better! The recipe says to cut into 12 pieces, but somehow 9 pieces seems more reasonable for chocoholics!

Fudgy Chocolate-Raspberry Brownies

6 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup raspberry preserves, stirred well

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a glass bowl and microwave in 30-45 second intervals, stirring each time, until melted and smooth. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour and salt and mix well.

Spread batter into prepared baking dish. Drop spoonfuls of preserves over batter; pull a knife through batter to create a swirled effect. Bake 35-40 minutes or until brownie just begins to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Makes 12 brownies

Friday, March 7, 2014

Simple Seafood

Cod - An Easy Weeknight Dinner

The Seafood Department at Jungle Jim's International Market is teeming with fresh, frozen and fabulous fish. Cod is a mild, flaky fish that is a great choice for an easy weeknight dinner. You can buy frozen cod in blocks, but the fish counter boasted a fine display of fresh, skinless fillets that would work well for our Spanish Baked Cod with Chorizo. A simple preparation will have dinner on the table in under an hour - give it a try!

This baked cod recipe serves 4 people; however, it can easily be halved (if you are cooking for 2 people) and that's exactly what we did today. You'll need a pan that can go from stove top directly to the oven. We used a 9-inch Le Creuset pan for a half recipe. For the full recipe, use an ovenproof 11 - 12-inch skillet.

Yukon Gold potatoes can be purchased in bulk or in bags. We used small bulk potatoes and sliced them 1/4-inch thick. Leeks should be well washed of grit. Cut off the dark green top. Slice the leek in half lengthwise and then thinly slice into half-moon shapes. We used Goya brand chorizo that we thinly sliced - a little less than 1/4 inch. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and then saute the chorizo for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. 

Add the potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and lightly brown. Add the leeks and everything but the cod; stir gently to mix. 

Arrange the cod on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put the ovenproof skillet in the oven and bake 18-20 minutes. The cod is done when it flakes easily. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and enjoy!

Spanish Baked Cod with Chorizo

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes with peel, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 leeks (white and light green parts), sliced into thin half moons
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
¾ cup dry sherry
Kosher salt and pepper
1 1½ pound cod fillet
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet or shallow casserole over medium heat. Add sliced chorizo and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes.

Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the leeks, saffron, sherry and salt and pepper to taste; stir gently. Arrange cod on top of the mixture in the skillet, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cod flakes easily, 18-20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Serves 4