Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Iron Chef Nuts Winner: Macadamia Nut Crusted Tilapia

As soon as I bit into Morgan’s dish for Iron Chef Nuts, I knew it was a recipe I’d be making as often as possible. And I had a good idea that it would end up being the winner of the night (which it was). We make a lot of Parmesan Tilapia at home, and this recipe is similar in style, but has a completely different, delicious taste. It’s crunchy and melty all at once. The nut flavor is pronounced but it doesn’t overwhelm. I made this the very next weekend after tasting it, and will definitely be putting it in the regular rotation of meals. I suggest you do the same.

I did find that the topping made by this recipe was way too much for our four filets of fish. Being a fan of the “more is more” philosophy, I still used it all, and I would definitely say that this is one of those situations where you are better served to use less topping. So for the recipe below, I’ve taken the liberty of cutting down the amount of nuts to what seems appropriate to me. But you can find the original recipe here on All Recipes if you want to try it for yourself.

4 (6 ounce) tilapia
6.5 ounces macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper

We buy large packages of individually frozen tilapia at Kroger because they are so convenient and easy to just thaw out when we need them. I would recommend buying the name brand though, not Kroger brand (they tend to taste fishy). And obviously, if you want to buy fresh that will always taste the best. The macadamia nuts I found were dry roasted. I would have gotten regular roasted nuts if I could find them, though.

So, simply mix the nuts, soy sauce, garlic, hot sauce, brown sugar, olive oil and black pepper in a food processor (or blender, but the processor works better in my opinion) until they reach your desired consistency. You could go for a smoother puree, or a slightly crunchier one (which I recommend). Spread this mixture over the top of the tilapia filets, covering them completely. Again, if you end up with some mixture left over, don’t be afraid to throw it away.

The recipe calls for you to broil the fish for 15 minutes, but thanks to the reviewers and my own knowledge of broiling, I realized that would be a big mistake and end in burninating (yes, burninating) the fish. Instead, I baked it at 400 degrees for ten minutes. At the very end, I turned on the broiler for a minute or two, while keeping an eye on it, to give the top a golden crust. And that is that! It’s ridiculously simple for something so good. Congrats on your win, Morgan!

(Click here for a printable recipe)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Iron Chef Nuts: Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake with a Hazelnut Crunch Crust

For Iron Chef Nuts, I wanted to make this cake that I had once before. I believe my mother made it or maybe it was my aunt or both. But, I remember absolutely loving how good this cake was. I think what I remembered most about this cake was the 3 layers and my favorite part the rice krispie crunch on the bottom layer of the cake. This cake is perfect for a holiday especially Christmas, and you can decorate it using stencils or a doily like I did and sprinkle powder sugar over it. The only downside about this cake is that not only is it a 3 layered cake, but its 3 different layers. So, it was a bit difficult to make and it took me several hours to put it all together. Plus, you have to chill it overnight. So, it’s best to make this cake a day ahead if you have the time. I think I will always remember this hazelnut cake and how good it was. This cake was found out of Bon Appetit's magazine. However, I found it online on their website. I hope you enjoy!

• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup sifted all purpose flour (sifted, then measured)
• 1/3 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process; sifted, then measured)
• 4 large eggs
• 2/3 cup sugar
Hazelnut crunch
• 5 ounces imported gianduja bars (hazelnut-flavored milk chocolate, such as Callebaut), chopped
• 1 cup crisp rice cereal
• 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, finely chopped*
• 10 ounces imported gianduja bars (hazelnut-flavored milk chocolate, such as Callebaut), chopped
• 1 1/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
• 1/8 teaspoon (scant) salt
• 3 tablespoons water
• Tuaca (sweet citrus-flavored liqueur) or Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)
• Additional unsweetened cocoa powder
• Powdered sugar

On Bon Appetit’s website, they give suggestions of where you can get the gianduja bars. However, I went to World Market and found the best deal on the hazelnut-flavored milk chocolate bars. I believe the best deal was Lindt’s or World Market’s brand. Lindt’s was 4.4 oz and World Market’s was 3.5, I believe. If your hazelnuts are not already pre-husked and toasted then you can take the hazelnuts and scatter over a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Take the warm nuts and place into a dish towel and rub together until the skin is removed. I was amazed at how well this worked. Chop up the nuts till you have enough for 1/3 of a cup.

First you want to start prepping your cake pan, by taking one 9 inch pan and insert parchment paper so that some of the paper comes out about 2 inches. Take your oven rack and move it to the bottom third of your oven and set the temperature for 350 degrees.
Now, take your butter and melt it in a saucepan over medium heat. This part was a wee bit tricky, but you need to remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for a minute. Then take a spoon and gently remove the milk solids that rose to the top of the butter and discard it. Then take your spoon and dish out the yellow butter liquid into a small metal bowl. Discard the water and and milk solids. Now, add your vanilla to the butter. This is called your clarified butter. Set aside.

Now, take your flour and cocoa and sift three times into a bowl. Set aside. Take your eggs and sugar and whisk together. I used my Mixing bowl. This next part took me much longer than 2 minutes, and to be honest I thought it was kind of a pain. But, they want you to take your egg mixture and place it in a bath of simmering water. They want you to use a large skillet for the double boiler. While the bowl is in the skillet make sure you are stirring continuously. You want the egg mixture to reach a temperature about 105 degrees. Remove the bowl. Add your clarified butter into the skillet to keep warm. Beat egg mixture on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume.

Next, take your cocoa/flour mixture and spoon 1/3 of it into the egg bowl and fold with a rubber spatula. Continue two more times until cocoa mixture is incorporated. Take 1 cup of the cake mixture and incorporate with the clarified butter and stir together. Then take your clarified butter and pour that back into the mixing bowl and combine together. Pour batter mixture into your prepared pan and bake until toothpick comes out clean or until cake springs back when touched about 30 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan on a cooling rack. Then remove cake from pan by inverting onto the cooling rack. Remove parchment paper. Carefully, cut cake horizontally until cake stands around ¾ inch. Take a spring-form pan and use as a guide to cut the cake so it’s around the same size as a spring-form pan. I didn’t have to do much cutting at this point just enough because you are going to have to put this cake into the spring pan.

Now, take spring-form pan and line it with parchment paper. Take your skillet and make sure there’s still enough water to bring to a simmer. Take 5 oz of your chocolate bars and break up into a small metal bowl and place bowl into the skillet. Once melted; stir until smooth. Take your chopped nuts and rice krispies and incorporate into the chocolate. Pour mixture into spring-form pan and spread. Chill for an hour in the refrigerator.

Now, it’s time to make your mousse. Take the remaining of your hazelnut bars and place in a medium bowl. Take the bowl and place into a skillet with simmering water. And, let melt. Take your mixing bowl and pour the heavy cream and salt into it. Mix at medium speed until it starts to fluff but not too much. I think I over-mixed at this point, so I had to add some heavy cream into the mixture to lighten it up some. Once the chocolate is melted, take 3 tablespoons of water and mix into the chocolate. Now, pour this into your mixing bowl and fold in with the heavy cream mixture. Take your spring-form pan and place chocolate cake on top of the rice krispy mixture. Take your frangelico and brush on top of your cake. Now, pour the mousse on top of the cake. Chill the cake over-night or for several hours. Keep chilled.
Bon Appetit says to take a knife and run it in-between the cake and pan sides to loosen it. Then they say to take a hot and soaked kitchen towel; wrung out, and wrap it around the pan sides for 30 seconds. Then, you should be able to remove the pan from the cake. Smooth mousse if necessary. Now, you can take stencils or a doily and place on top of cake and sprinkle with cocoa and then powdered sugar.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef Nuts Recap

The first Iron Chef competition of the year started off on a high note as the last guest to arrive made quite the entrance. In our short history of competitions, we’ve seen some pretty amazing presentations. In Iron Chef Bacon, we were wowed by pig-shaped chicken. For Iron Chef Melon, a watermelon hedgehog took home the prize. And there have been a myriad of beautiful and delicious desserts that looked too good to eat (almost). Jen’s drink, served in a coconut, continues that tradition of going the extra mile for presentation. She sent her new husband all over town to find the coconuts, then they drilled holes and etched cute little phrases on the outside, and rigged a funnel system to get the drink inside. Made with Frangelico (a hazelnut liquor) and an endless list of other ingredients, the drink was tasty, sweet and fit for a day on the beach. Even if a coconut isn’t really a nut (which is still up for debate).

We moved on to two delicious appetizers. The first, prepared by our hostess for the evening, Greta, was a nutty mixture of fruits and pecans wrapped neatly in a phyllo packet. Once again, the number of ingredients was staggering, but it all came together to make a sweet little appetizer that could work for a dessert as well. It was also fun to watch people eat it and get phyllo all over themselves.

In contrast, Kim’s appetizer was deceptively simple. Red grapes, covered in goat cheese, and rolled in crushed pistachios. They were delicious little bites that went quickly and looked beautiful as well. Kim earned the second place prize with her creativity and this is one dish that I’m sure we will see again at other parties.

While the main and side dishes were being prepared, it was time for me to mix up the second drink of the night (with a far less impressive presentation). I also made my drink with Frangelico because believe it or not, the nut liquor world is quite small. I rimmed the glasses with Nutella and crushed almonds, then poured in the drink: the Nutty Irishman. Quite simple, it’s equal parts Frangelico and Bailey’s Irish Cream served over ice. Tasty but not mind-blowing (unless you drink a LOT of them.)

Laura’s side dish came with a glowing recommendation: “It’s probably not good.” It was cleverly made with butterNUT squash and served in a beautiful bowl engraved with nuts, but the star of the dish was the chipotle pepper. Needless to say, it was spicy. In every competition there is usually one dish that doesn’t turn out the way it was intended (like my “cucumber” melon soup). It’s a side effect of trying new recipes, and it only serves to make us better chefs. I’m sure Laura will bounce back with something delicious at the next competition.

The main course was the Iron Chef Nuts winner. Morgan made a delicious macadamia nut topped tilapia that melted in our mouths. You could taste the nuts (straight from Hawaii) yet they didn’t overpower the delicate fish. In the photo the topping got a tiny bit burnt but it didn't affect the taste at all. This is definitely a recipe we are all going to be hounding Morgan for, so don’t worry—you will see it here! Great job, Morgan and congrats on your win!

We ended the evening with two delicious desserts. The first, from Cara, was a nice cheesecake with a macadamia nut crust and a caramel topping with mini chocolate chips and nuts. Though she had some trouble serving it, we all had no problem eating it. This one definitely disproved the theory that you eat with your eyes.

Emily also had trouble serving her dessert, as the bottom of three layers was crispier than the rest. But her intricate powdered sugar design on top made the presentation quite beautiful (and on theme for February a week before Valentine’s Day!). The nutty flavor came through well and everyone had her favorite layer (mine was the top!).

Overall the evening was successful and everyone was very creative with her use of nuts. We covered a lot of ground in the nut world like pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and hazelnut liquor. We even had a few puns with the coconut and butternut squash. And I may be mistaken, but I don’t think anyone used the easy out—the peanut. Here’s hoping our next competition will be just as delicious. The date hasn’t been finalized, but we are hoping to go with a “green” theme for our March competition. In the meantime, good luck to all the chefs out there, iron and otherwise.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lemon Garlic Shrimp

One of the simplest, quickest weeknight meals to make is shrimp. I often buy a bag of frozen shrimp at Kroger and just keep it in my freezer for a night when I get home late or don’t feel like putting much energy into my meal. And this recipe takes that ease even further because you don’t even need to thaw your shrimp! I mean, you can’t get much easier than that.

I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks a long time ago, but we have another spicy shrimp recipe (also on this site) that we like a lot, so it took some effort to try something a little different. But I’m glad we did! I don’t think this recipe will replace our other one, but it’s nice to change things up once in awhile. I actually made half this recipe and served it over spaghetti, but if you’re just going to be eating the shrimp with a few friends, I would make the whole thing.

2 pounds Raw Shrimp, deveined (shelled or shell on, up to you)
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic
¼ cups fresh parsley
½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
Juice from one lemon

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Rinse your shrimp just a bit to separate them, and lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Get out your food processor and throw all the other ingredients in. The cold butter in chunks, salt, garlic cloves, parsley, red pepper and lemon juice. Combine in the food pro until it forms kind of a crumbly mixture (cold butter is key). Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the shrimp and bake until they are done and the butter is melted and bubbly.

If the shrimp is completely frozen, it could take about 20 minutes. We started with semi-thawed shrimp and cooked it for about ten minutes (which may have been slightly long). Obviously with completely thawed shrimp it won’t take long at all, maybe 6-7 minutes. The Pioneer Woman suggests serving it with bread, but as I said, Steve and I like it over spaghetti.

And there you have it. I feel like I should write more, but it’s really just that simple.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Hungarian Red Stroganoff

I’ve got to start this recipe off with a confession. Steve and I totally made up this name. The original name of the recipe was “Pork with mushrooms, paprika and sour cream” from Kayln’s Kitchen. And I know you’ll agree with me that our new name is much better. More exciting. It kind of sounds like some sort of Viking meal. And I think the name is actually pretty accurate. We used Hungarian paprika (which is apparently sweeter than normal paprika). It was definitely red (more so before we added the sour cream). And if you look up the definition of stroganoff, you’ll find that this recipe fits. So, Hungarian Red Stroganoff it is!

1 lb. pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (divided)
2-3 T olive oil (depending on your pan)
8-12 oz. crimini or white mushrooms
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup sour cream
Salt & Pepper

Start with all your prep work to make the cooking process simpler. So trim up your pork and cut it into cubes. Toss it in a bowl with one tablespoon paprika, salt & pepper. Wash and slice your mushrooms and dice your onion. Now you’re ready to start cooking. Heat some olive oil in a deep skillet or saucepan and brown the pork over medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the meat or it will get dry.

Once the meat is browned, transfer it to a bowl. Add more oil to the skillet if you need to and brown the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Then move the mushrooms to the bowl with your pork. Next, add the onions to the pan and—you guessed it—brown them! It shouldn’t take too long. When they are slightly brown, add in the garlic, paprika and thyme. The original recipe called for caraway seeds to be added here but we omitted them and didn’t miss anything.

Cook for about a minute then add the chicken broth and the can of tomatoes (including the juice). Deglaze the pan, getting up all the tasty browned bits, and simmer for about ten minutes. Add the pork and mushrooms back in and simmer, covered, for another ten minutes. Then take it off the heat and stir in the sour cream. We needed to add a little more salt at this point, so taste it and adjust as necessary. We served it over rice, but it could easily be eaten with noodles. And there you have it: Hungarian Red Stroganoff! Sounds good, doesn’t it?

(Click here for printable recipe)