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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shilla: My new Favorite Japanese/Korean restaurant



Besides the pasties, here is my first official restaurant review. I love trying new places and I'm really happy that Tim and I went searching for a good dinner with no ideas. We were traveling down Maple Rd in Troy, not quite sure where we'd end up, when we passed Shilla. I said "The sign says korean - what do you think about Bibimbap?" We immediately turned around and headed in. On our first visit, we both ordered dolsot bibimbap (bibimbap (mixture of rice, assorted veggies, sliced korean beef, with a sunny side up egg on top) served in a hot stone bowl) and a few sushi rolls. I refrained from taking pictures, but the bibimbap was the best I've had in years. We LOVED it and used about half a bottle of that korean hot sauce we love so much (I have to find that in a store somewhere!!)




The sushi was also excellent, I had a Maryland Roll which had tempura softshell crabs and maryland style crab seasoning and it was an excellent, artistic combination. What we took home for leftovers was delish the 2nd time around as well.




On a recent visit, I decided to just go with sushi while Tim devoured his usual bibimbab (which was awesome as usual). They had a special sushi roll, the Godzilla Roll, which sounded perfect and I ordered that plus some typical spicy california rolls. We also tried the shrimp tempura appetizer. Along with our orders, they brought out the typical korean barbecue style "little bowls" with various appetizers.. things like kimchee, spinach, pickled radishes, fried egg, and more. I think the little appetizers vary depending on the day you go.



The tempura was excellent, light and crispy and the shrimp pieces were extra large. Tim ate most the veggies but what I had of the veggies-onion, carrot... it was delish.





The Godzilla roll was out of this world, and was a piece of art. I'd never tried something that looked like that before and I can't say enough about how good it was. As the sign noted, the entire roll was deep fried (may not be authentic Japanese but delicious) and had the BBQ eel I was looking for... the salmon, tuna, crab and sauces were all bonuses! Tim loved it too! We had lots of sushi as leftovers but they did not go to waste, yet again.


I wanted to take some pictures of how beautifully decorated it is inside the restaurant but the 2nd time we visited (when I actually felt like taking photos), the main dining room was booked for a wedding. The sushi room was still beautiful with a big carved out ceiling, and various artistic touches that make you feel like you're somewhere special. I only caught a little snapshot of the ceiling in one of my photos.



Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Summary: I highly recommend going to Shilla for some korean and japanese food. There is a reason it is always packed - but don't worry, it's a big place. We haven't had to wait yet.

A Quick Appetizer: Roasted Pepper, Basil and Goat Cheese Bruschetta



Here's a quick and tasty appetizer that is festive looking, perfect for the holidays and bringing over to some one's house. I've made this a few times, and the first time I tasted the combination was at my friend Ritu's house. Another friend, Sally had brought this roasted pepper and basil mixture, the cheese, and some bread -- all originating from Sally's mother. So, this whole idea is credited to her.

Sally gave me an idea of what was in the pepper mixture and I honestly don't remember what she said. The first time I made it, I roasted the three colors of bell peppers myself, peeled them, and this was a very long and tiring task. I brought this first attempt bruschetta to my in-laws house and it was well-received, and I personally like the combination myself.



Soon thereafter, I saw roasted red peppers in a jar at specialty shops and thought "Yes!" I can skip the whole roasting/peeling step. I may have made the appetizer once more, but most recently I made it a few weeks ago to bring over to my friend Natalie's house. I wasn't sure if they liked goat cheese and had pretty much forgotten exactly what Sally had said, but what I made looked gorgeous and turned out pretty nicely. So, here is what I made most recently:

Roasted Red Pepper, Basil, and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Package of sliced french baguettes or 1 whole french baguette, sliced at an angle once you get home
1 Package (4oz I think) of your favorite Goat Cheese or Chevre
1 Jar roasted red peppers (other colors work wonderful, or feel free to roast/peel your own)
6 or 7 Fresh Basil leaves
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Splash of Balsamic (optional)
Sprinkle of italian or herb seasoning (optional)

Directions
1. Pre-heat the Oven to 450
2. Place the sliced breads to cover a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and italian seasoning to taste.
3. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and keep an eye on the breads. Bake for 5-10 min, until breads are crisping up but still soft on the inside (don't over bake). Should be only lightly brown along edges. Let cool.
4. Dice roasted peppers and place in bowl. Chop basil into small pieces and add to peppers. Add a splash of olive oil and balsamic if you'd like to help bind.
5. Open your cheese and see if it's crumbly or if it is spreadable. If it is a little too crumbly to spread, place all of cheese in a bowl and microwave for 5 or 10 seconds to warm it up.
6. Spread 1-2tsp of cheese on each bread slice, and then spoon some pepper mixture on top.
7. Arrange on serving platter and garnish with extra basil leaves.

I think this would also be tasty with parmesean/asiago and other Italian cheese, and I'm sure there's many more options, like the pesto/cherry tomato topping I also used.

The other bruschettas pictured in the photos are the same breads but with Pesto (store-bought) spread on top and sliced cherry tomatoes on top for color. They were my back-up plan in case my friends didn't like goat cheese. Remember to pronounce it "Brusketta" as Mario Batali does on FoodTV.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Experiment in Buttercream

Here is a historical post for you all. I am always looking for the #1 Recipe for White Frosting of My Dreams, and I still haven't found it. Granted, I have only tried making two so far. This was a different kind of recipe that involved using flour in buttercream. I decided to try it out and make cupcakes for my mother's birthday in 2006. Hm.. if it wasn't for her birthday, I'm not sure what it was for. I think some got passed along to my friend Natalie was well...



Nonetheless, here are some pictures since I had realized "oh, maybe I'll want to post this on AllRecipes or something..." This blog is a better idea than that, my reviews won't get lost in a sea of other questionable ones.

I think I just used a regular box cake for the cupcakes, but I decided to dress them up by making a surprise filling of Sander's Hot Fudge. Then I spread a bit of Hero Raspberry jam on the top before frosting. The strawberries were added for some interest on top. The fillings turned out to be really good and stayed a good consistency - I'd use it again. My mom loves yellow cake with chocolate butter cream and raspberry jam layers (like a torte), so this was a pre-portioned cupcake easy-way-out version. I didn't bust out any cake decorating tips, as you can see... oh - that's because I hadnt gotten them for Christmas, yet!

I found this buttercream recipe was OK, but my mom really liked it. It uses flour and shortening, which I was worried about.. I thought you could taste the flour a little. My mom didn't notice, so you may not either. So this one, and my mom's classic recipe are both not the "White Frosting of my Dreams" so the search continues. I haven't tried a 7 minute frosting or meringue buttercream frosting yet, so there's a lot of testing to be done!

I'm not 100% sure (it's been over a year now) but I think the following recipe is the one I used from http://www.allrecipes.com/.


Mom's Buttercream Icing
(not my mom's.. this is from allrecipes.com)

"a smooth creamy frosting, old recipe from the 1940s"

Yields 2 Cups

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. In a small saucepan mix the flour and the milk and cook over low heat until it forms a smooth paste with no lumps. Place in refrigerator and let cool completely.

2. With an electric mixer beat the shortening, butter or margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled flour paste and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Use to frost any cooled cake. Makes enough to frost one 9x13 inch sheet cake or two 8 or 9 inch layer cakes.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

7 Layers of Mexican Heaven

Like the Ultimate Quiche noted below, my brother / sister in law were in town and it was an opportunity to revisit some favorite recipes. The following recipe, 7 Layer Tortilla Pie, was something I originally found on http://www.recipezaar.com/ when looking for an appetizer at my now mother-in-law's house. I don't quite remember the occasion but I do remember being pleased with the outcome and passed on the recipe, however I hadn't had a chance to make it again. Everyone in my family loves mexican so this was a perfect opportunity to have them try it.




It's called a pie because it cuts like one, however it's really just layers of tortillas with different bean and meat fillings throughout. With a decorative topping, this is a party pleaser. I made two for my family gathering of 8 and we had 2 pieces left over.



The following is based off of the original recipe but I have added a meat layer, variety of cheeses, and more personal touches.


Anne's 7 Layer Tortilla Pie
Make it up ahead of time if you want and just put it in the oven to heat through before serving.

1 lb lean ground beef1 pckt of your favorite taco seasoning, or your own mixture1 medium onion diced
3 halves of multiple colored bell peppers (save the other halfs for a salad)
2 (15 ounces) cans chunky refried beans (as seen in the international aisle)
1 cup chunky salsa
2 cloves
garlic, minced (i substitued garlic salt in a pinch, and it was still fab)
2 tablespoons
fresh cilantro, chopped
1 (15 ounces) can
black beans, rinsed and drained (or try the new refried black beans)
1 tsp garlic salt

1/2 cup
chopped tomatoes
7 8-inch flour tortillas, try some colorful variatons and alternate layers if you'd like
1 cup
cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 tablespoons of diced jalapenos (if you like spicy, can be omitted)
1 cup mexican cheese mixture (chihuahua, queso, even mozzerella or colby is fine)
1 cup salsa (for serving)
1/2 cup
sour cream (for serving)
green onions and additional chopped cilantro (for serving)

Makes 6 servings.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Brown the hamburger and add the onions and peppers until cooked through. Drain if needed, add taco seasoning and set aside. Cut decorative long thin slices of bell peppers and save.

3. In a large bowl, mix refried beans with in 3/4 cup salsa and garlic.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 cup salsa, cilantro, black beans, garlic salt, and tomatoes. If not refried black beans, mash a little with a fork.

5. Place 1 tortilla as your base in a pie plate or tart dish. I used a springform cake pan lined with foil for easy lifting prior to serving.

6. Spread 1/3 pinto bean mixture over tortilla to within 1/2 inch of edge.

7. Top with cheese of your choice, and cover with another tortilla.

8. Spread 1/3 meat mixture, and top with cheese, and cover with another tortilla

9. Spread 1/3 black bean mixture and top with cheese

10. Sprinkle a surprise of spicy jalapenos on top of this layer if you'd like (or any layer)

11. Cover with another tortilla and create the following layers in this order: meat, refried mixture, meat, all the while remember to alternate cheese and tortilla colors if you like.

12. Top the 7th and last tortilla with the rest of your bean mixtures and any leftover meat. Cover with cheese of your choice.

13. To make the top pretty, I like to arrange alternating color pepper slices in a starburst form on top of the cheese. These will bake in nicely and make for a pretty presentation.

14. Cover with foil, and either refridgerate or bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

15. Cut into wedges, and serve with salsa and sour cream, green onions, cilantro, and other tasty sides of your choice. (guac, 7 layer bean dip...)

Feel free to look up the original recipe, especially if you want to do it the vegetarian style! I apologize for the picture above - stupid Meijer didn't have ANY colorful tortillas! Tsk, tsk!

A Breakfast of Champions: The Ultimate Quiche

Because of hunting season, I have been arriving at early hours at my parents house while Tim heads outside to hunt. The last visit was special because my brother and sister-in-law were in town from South Carolina. It was a great opportunity to make breakfast, especially since I'd be awake before most people and have extra time! I decided to make The Ultimate Quiche, a recipe my mother-in-law gave to me. I had it at her house a few times and in my opinion, it is the perfect quiche. If you want a no-fail recipe, rich and classic, this is the one for you. My notes/adjustments are sprinkled throughout the recipe below.



The Ultimate Quiche
A Recipe from my mother-in-law (possibly originally from the Gourmet cookbook, 4th edition)

Serving Size: 8

3/4 pound (12 slices) bacon
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 inch/14 ounce package-- thawed)
6 large eggs
2 10 ounce containers creme fraiche (2 1/4 cups) (or heavy cream or half & half.. or a mixture)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly graded nutmeg
1 cup coasley grated Gruyere (about 4 ounces)


Special equipment: an 8 inch deep dish (2 inches deep) fluted quiche pan with a removable bottom or a 9 inch ceramic quiche dish. (I made a double batch in an 11x17 pan, and it was great - made for a shorter quiche)

#1. Put a baking sheet on middle oven rack and preheat oven to 375 degrees

#2. Cook bacon in a 12 inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towel and drain. * I used a full lb (oops) and it turned out great!

#3. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 13 inch square (because pastry is a square, it is easier it into a larger square, then trim it into a round if using round pans). Fit pastry into dish and roll rolling pin over top to trim pastry flush with rim if using a metal pan, or rim with a knife if using a ceramic dish. I personally folded my extra edge of puff pastry over onto itself and it made a lovely thick crust all the way around. No need to toss out perfectly good puff pastry!

#4. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until well combined, then wisk in creme fraiche, salt and nutmeg just until smooth. Pour filling through a fine-mesh sieve into pastry shell. Use your hands to crumble bacon and sprinkle bacon evenly over filling. Top with Gruyere.

#5. Bake quiche on heated baking sheet until center is set ( it should not jiggle when shaken), 45 minutes to 1 hour. (my shorter/more spread out quiche was plenty done at 45min) Transfer to a rack to cool to warm or room temperature. If using a quiche pan, remove rim of pan before serving. I refridgerated this quiche overnight and kept it heated the morning I served it, and it tasted great after staying warm in the oven for an hour or so.

I hope you enjoy! This is an easy, delicious, make-ahead breakfast well-suited for entertaining or special occasions.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pasty Taste Off: Can Lower Peninsula Compete?


We love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One of the local culinary treats of that region is the pasty. It's a delicious little confection - a savory meat pie, of sorts. Many families and pasty shops across the state have their own secret recipes, and there are a variety of opinions on what makes up the true classic pasty recipe. On a recent trip home from Iron Mountain, my husband and I stopped to try a highly recommended pasty shop - Lehto's - only to find they didn't have enough left! Unfortunately we were almost to the bridge so we had to pick just any ole shop we came across, which happened to be: Suzy's Pasties. We got a pack of 6 frozen to take home and 1 hot one to share in the car, and we had already started our taste test as we climbed the hill of the Mackinaw bridge. Suzy's Pasties were decent (even a "bad" pasty is a tasty meal), and we devoured it in minutes.



History

I should provide a little pasty history before I continue with the taste off notes. While there are a few theories out there, it is said to be true that the Cornish miners brought the pasty over to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. The tin mines in England died down and the copper and iron mines were doing well in the UP. Other ethnicities, including Finnish and Swedish quickly adopted the pasty idea and put their own original spins on the recipe, and thus the pasty became deeply rooted in the region and survived the death of the copper mines. The pasty was a perfect meal-sized pie that miners took with them for lunch. They either stayed warm or the miners heated them on a shovel, over a lamp. I read that miner's wives often put an initial of their last name in dough baked onto the pasty, in case one lost their pasty. Also, sometimes wives would leave a section at the corner of the pasty and put in jam, so the miner had a little dessert. I hope I make it to the Pasty Festival next year in Calumet, MI. One of my favorite UP cities.

The Taste-Off
We had a 6pack of Suzy's pasties from the UP. They were pretty good, better than the ones we had in Escanaba (Dobber's), surprisingly. Not as good as the ones we had from the liquor store just over the Iron Mountain/Michigan/Wisconsin border (go figure, they were EXCELLENT there). After some research, I found that many shops exist in Metro-Detroit.



On the first night, I wanted to try two places and to compare with the UP pasty. First up was Peppy's (a small bakery, pizza shop in Troy). Second up was Marquee Marque Pasty shop in Sterling Heights. At first glance, they all looked great. The Marquee pasty was sort-of a darker brown in color for the crust, and the Peppy's looked like it had a lot of filling. I heated the three up and set my husband up for a blind taste test. He had no idea which was the yooper pasty, or the two other contestants. The results were interesting: The yooper pasty wins! I was sorta surprised, just because the yooper pasty was not the best we've had. So my first thought was that there is a whole new standard of Pasty in the U.P., that the L.P. couldn't touch. The Peppy's came in 2nd place, having a decent crust (but filling not the best.) The third place was Marq.. I was surprised, as their website had a cute story about it being a UP recipe. Nothing could beat the yooper savory filling!



A few weeks later, it was time for another taste test and some more contestants. I read a lovely story about the Milford Bakery who has an original UP recipe for delicious pasties that they only make on Wednesdays. For some reason, it only being one day per week made it sound even more delectable. Further east, in Keego Harbor, I also stopped at Weldon's pasties. It seemed they had three shops around metro-detroit (One in Livonia and one in Sterling Heights), but no website. Heading home, I removed another yooper pasty to pop into the oven along with the two new pasties. At first glance, the Milford pasty looked very plump, golden, with a flakey crust. The Weldon's looked like your average pasty, and didn't reveal any secrets prior to tasting.



Another blind taste-test, my husband and I sat down and got to work. The smell was so wonderful, we couldn't wait. We quickly realized this was going to be VERY difficult. Each pasty was so delicious. It's also amazing how different each one was from the others.. the Milford bakery pasty was very unique. The crust very buttery and flakey, like a rich pastry. The Weldon's pasty had a delicious crust and outstanding filling, your classic savory beef. The Milford filling was a little different, but delicious.. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I tasted some savory herbs possibly, or boullion? The yooper pasty was also pretty good, as usual, though the crust never was my favorite (a little tough/dry). After the final tally, .... Weldon's pasty won!!! It was SO delicious. I also found the Milford pasty to be awesome, but it was not what we felt a classic pasty was... it was a little different. Pretty greasy, too. Weldon's had an glorious moist filling with potatoes, carrots, tender beef, onions, and probably rutabagas... well.. see for yourself.


Is That It? Is the Contest Over?
Well, there will be more pasty tasting for sure. We still need to try Barb's in Royal Oak, and there are some in Livonia and the Grand Blanc/Flint area. However, while all of these places were pretty good ... we HIGHLY recommend you check out a Weldon's Pasty Shop near YOU!