24 July 2011

My Hundredth Post!

Until September, I will writing some posts for America Test Kitchen's Dish It Your Way challenge. Every other week they give a dish or ingredient and two weeks for bloggers to make the dish and write about in their blogs. At the end, the social media team reviews them, posts links to the competing blogs, and picks a winner for an online subscription to Cook's Country. Wish me luck!

How fitting is it that for my 100th (!!) post I get to write about an America's Test Kitchen recipe and enter it into the Dish It Your Way challenge?? Before I get started, let me just say it's been so much fun writing this blog and getting the very kind feedback from friends, family, and even the strangers who actually read what I write. This just started as a way for me to practice writing and keep myself accountable for challenging my culinary skills. So, thank you!

17 July 2011

Camping Food: Part I

This part one of a three-part series about the greatest summer food of all: the stuff you cook by the campfire...or in this case, over the campfire.

The first of our camping trips this summer brought us to Tucker Park, about six miles south of Hood River, Oregon. I found the park by doing some Internet research on lesser-known camping spots and found an Oregonian article from 2008 profiling just such areas. Granted, three years after the article was written it was bound to have increased in popularity, but I figured it was worth a shot. We had been searching for a campsite we could reserve for so long without any luck, I was willing to take the risk.

Like any other weekend, my first thoughts of planning went straight to the food. We started with Shawn's favorite: foil packet dinners. I first heard of these potato-ham concoctions at one of my first overnight trips while I was away at sleep away camp in fourth or fifth grade. Back then it was probably pre-shredded potato and deli ham provided to us by the CYO kitchen. Nowadays, we've gotten ever-so-slightly more sophisticated. I actually shred my own organic potato, use Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese, and (admittedly) buy cubed ham. I know, I know....I don't even want to start to think about what happened to that poor pig when they slaughtered him. Anyway...we learned our lesson about using the proper foil and not overstuffing a packet years ago when we first made them at Olallie Lake. Undercooked potato on top, burnt and stuck to the foil potato on the bottom. Ick.

Using nonstick foil and adding a little butter helps the end product not stick to the foil. For our packets, we using potato, ham, green onions and salt and pepper.

Our cooking source for the night.

Do NOT overstuff these or you'll end up with some nasty raw potato.

Add enough layers to keep the insides from burning.

A nice, hot fire is key...and if you don't have a grate to put over the fire, that's ok, it's cool to stick them right on the fire. Just make sure you use enough layers so it doesn't burn through the foil.

While in the past I've put cubes of cheese right into the packets, this time I bought shredded cheese, added it after they were done and just let it sit for a minute until it melted. 
Of course after a great meal and some beers, it was necessary to make my famous s'mores. Not sure if they've actually become famous yet, but I have some fans.

The key to perfect s'mores? Lots of patience toasting the marshmallows and putting the graham cracker and chocolate near the fire to melt the chocolate before adding the perfect marshmallow.

Pardon my unwashed hair...enjoying my creation.
Next camping trip is at the beach. Shawn has promised that I can cook hot dogs over the fire even though he doesn't love hot dogs. What a guy.

05 July 2011

Fourth of July BBQ

Until September, I will writing some posts for America Test Kitchen's Dish It Your Way challenge. Every other week they give a dish or ingredient and two weeks for bloggers to make the dish and write about in their blogs. At the end, the social media team reviews them, posts links to the competing blogs, and picks a winner for an online subscription to Cook's Country. Wish me luck!

Summer has finally arrived here in Portland and the arrival of the good weather means beer festivals, camping, and of course, more cooking on the BBQ. Shawn and I took advantage of the 80 degree weather and tried our hand at smoking ribs on the grill. The idea for ribs all came from my desire to enter the "Dish It Your Way" challenge from the America's Test Kitchen folks. As soon as I heard about this challenge, I knew I had to enter. Who loves the Test Kitchen more than I do? I even have a label for Test Kitchen posts, for goodness sakes. The week 3 challenge calls for potato salad posts, so ribs seemed like a fitting main dish.

At first the process seemed a bit daunting: making my own rub, two hours on the grill and then another hour sitting, AND making my own barbecue sauce...are you kidding me? But after we broke it down, it wasn't so bad. The instructions and illustrations from Cook's Illustrated always make things just a wee bit easier. The ribs require a little patience--much easier to have when your refrigerator is stocked with good Oregon beers. This is Oregon Craft Beer month after all!

Secret to perfectly cooked ribs...great rub and lots of patience.
I improvised a bit on the barbeque sauce and made the basic sauce and jazzed it up
with  a few of the ingredients for the tangy and sweet sauce.
And what goes better with ribs than a nice potato salad? I have been playing around with an idea for blue cheese potato salad in my head for awhile and finally got around to making it. Since we were already having pork, I decided to skip the bacon idea I had fearing it would get too rich, and instead focused on increasing the blue cheese flavor and adding thyme to the mix. It's a pretty simple recipe using red potatoes and basically the ingredients for a blue cheese dressing. It went very well with the ribs, giving our mouths a chance to cool off from all the spices I threw into the sauce. Perhaps I got a bit too liberal with the Sriracha...

Served in the funky fish bowl Kara gave us.
Use your thyme wisely--it takes a lot to stand up to the strong flavor of the cheese

Have to take advantage of the limited asparagus season!
And there you have it...summer is here, Portland. Take advantage while you can!

Blue cheese and thyme potato salad

1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes (new potatoes would be ideal, but regular red potatoes work as well)
4-5 oz crumbled blue cheese
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sour cream (lowfat works)
1-2 T mayonnaise
White wine vinegar
Green onions, sliced (green part only)
Fresh thyme leaves, minced

Cut potatoes into equivalent, bite-sized pieces and boil gently until cooked through, but not falling apart. While potatoes are cooking, combine half the blue cheese crumbles, sour cream, mayonnaise, shallots, garlic, and a splash of white wine vinegar, making sure to mash the blue cheese into the sauce. If it seems a little too thick, adjust with sour cream and vinegar. Add about 3/4 green onions and mix until just combined.

After the the potatoes are cooked through, drain, place in a large bowl, and toss with enough white wine vinegar to lightly coat the potatoes. Let the potatoes cool in the bowl at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

After the potatoes have cooled, combine gently with already made blue cheese sauce. Toss in the rest of the blue cheese crumbles and top with green onions.

At this point, if you wanted to add bacon, you could throw some fried up bacon bits on top.