Cinnamon-Apple Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Irish Raisin Bread with Orange & Fig Jam

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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So, yeah – it was St. Patrick’s Day – for what felt like a week.  By the actual day – it seemed obscene to mention it.  But it is seldom, if ever, obscene to mention melted, cheesy goodness!!

Here is what I had around – post festivities:

Leftover Irish Raisin bread

Leftover Cinnamon-Apple cheddar cheese

Orange-fig jammy spread

Awesome GMO-free, $7 a pound butter

And a powerful amount of indulgent self-pity.

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No photos of the leftover cheese exist except as it sits on the bread in the pan – here:

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My self-pity is very hard to photograph, though I assure you it exists.  I won’t get into what prompted it but I will say that this incredible sandwich went a long way in eliminating it.

The cheese sounds odd but you only taste cheddar at first.  Then – you think, “Hey!  Am I tasting cinnamon?”  And, as you swallow to consider that question – a delicate essence of apple haunts you.  Really quite nice.  But any cheddar will do.

I used this yummy orange-fig spread (usually found near the expensive cheeses) but any regular jam would do.

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So – here’s whatcha do –

You slice up some bread & cut the cheese thin.  Melt some butter in a frying or grill pan over medium heat & maybe spread some on the bread.  Put a slice of bread & cheese in that bad boy.

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Then slap some jammy goodness on the other piece of bread & put it, jam-side down, on the cheesy slice.  Maybe add some butter to the top.  Cover the pan to assure your cheese melts.  In a minute or two – press it together with a spatula & flip it.  Cook each side as long as it takes to get it to the golden-melty place you desire.

If your cheese is stubborn – a minute in a hot oven might fix that.

Slice it up, shove it your face & remember how much tastier it is than that wacky boiled meat people get into this time every year!

Slainte!

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Spicy Extra Crispy Southern Fried Chicken & Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Ok, well, I haven’t eaten chicken since the late eighties & I have never made fried chicken.  I did make a cauliflower version – my Spicy Southern Fried Cauliflower and Delta Dipping Sauce with Smashed Baked Potatoes and White Gravy and Buffalo Mac & Cheese.  I loved it!

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But my chicken-loving boyfriend, Miles, was in town this week & I had promised him for months that I would make him fried chicken on this trip.  So – we went to the amazing Super King and bought 2.5 pounds of chicken for under $4.  I got two breasts & two drumsticks.  After breading & frying, one of those breasts weighed in at 14 ounces!  That is nearly a pound of fried chicken in just one piece.  The drumsticks weighed about 8 ounces after breading & frying.  That amount of chicken could feed 4-6 people.  Crazy.

Anyway, I was somewhat intimidated to make this dish, primarily because Miles is a very picky eater & because I couldn’t try it myself to test its worthiness but – a promise is a promise – so I did it.  And I think it was a huge success!  It came out golden on the outside, moist on the inside & was very crispy.  I was dying to eat it myself but I had my fried cauliflower & Delta dipping sauce with which to console myself and console myself I did.

I included a bottle of Miles’ new favorite sipping whiskey in some photos because the bottle is pretty & because it really was what Miles washed his chicken down with.  That & a Bud Light.

Miles’ contribution to the meal can be seen in the frame with the whiskey – little bowls of the spiciest, pan-fried red potatoes.  They were little bowls because both of us kept sneaking bits out of the pan every time we went near it & pretty much devoured the lot before the chicken was ready to serve.

The Delta dipping sauce is really a spicy Thousand Island dressing but it is delicious & I strongly suggest you try it – even on a salad.  That way – you can maximize the fat intake of a single meal.  🙂  Fuck it.

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Spicy Extra Crispy Southern Fried Chicken

3 lbs chicken

4 eggs

1/3 cup water

1 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce)

4 cups flour

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp each of S&P

2 tsp chipotle chili powder (or smoked or regular paprika)

2 tsp garlic powder

Lots of vegetable oil for frying

1 gallon zip lock baggy (not necessary but it makes life easier)

1 quart buttermilk

1 tsp each – salt, pepper & garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

Put the chicken pieces in a container & cover with buttermilk.  Marinate them like that in the fridge for a few hours.

Blend the eggs, hot sauce & water in a deep bowl.

Blend the flour, cayenne, S&P, chili powder & 2 tsp garlic powder in a Ziplock bag or a deep bowl.

When ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the buttermilk & sprinkle with S&P and garlic powder.

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Heat a lot of oil (I used enough that I could completely submerge a breast & drumstick – and cooked the chicken in two shifts) over medium heat.  MEDIUM HEAT.  If you have a kitchen thermometer – the oil should be 350 degrees.  I do not have one.  If you do not have one either – simply put the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick in the oil to test it.  When it reaches 350, little bubbles will creep up the wood.

Put the chicken in the flour mixture & completely coat it.  Then, dunk it in the egg mixture & coat it again & then back into the flour mix.  The crust should be fairy thick.  Then fry those bitches up!

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My pieces took 20-25 minutes to cook but that was because they were Flintstone-style gigantic hunks of chicken.  Normal pieces should cook in 14-18 minutes.  If the chicken seems to be browning faster than the inside is cooking – lower the heat.  Drain on paper towels.

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For the Delta dipping sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp lemon juice

1/8 cup vegetable oil

1/8 cup sambal oelek (or other chili sauce)

1/8 cup ketchup

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2-3 dashes hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or another brand)

1 garlic clove – minced

DIRECTIONS

Blend together & chill.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Cannoli Tart

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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I had a really brutal holiday season.  Very isolated (right down to a three day stint with no internet or cable) where the only people I saw for days on end were the AT&T techs that came to my house a few times a day for a few days.  I used this as an excuse to drink champagne before noon & cook myself foolish and I ate enough for a small family.

Christmas night – I accidentally locked myself into a storage closet that is little more than a bunker because I had no idea that the door locked at all – let alone from the outside.  Me & three dogs locked in a windowless room in the deepest recess of my house – a room most of my friends do not even know exists.  A series of UNBELIEVABLY LUCKY breaks is all that stands between me typing this now & me, officially missing, locked in a small room with three pooping & peeing dogs & a case of wine with no wine opener.  The luck came in these forms:

1) I had recently (like – last week) installed a light in there that could be turned on from INSIDE the room.

2) I had my cell phone with me.

3) My phone MIRACULOUSLY got cell service – despite the fact that it hardly gets service anywhere in my house.

4) I had a little tool box in there with a hammer, screwdriver & pliers.

5) The door is hinged on the inside.

So – I called my mother in Boston (at 1:30am her time) and my boyfriend in Arkansas to tell them I was trapped.  I called a local friend, my friend Dave, and told him how to break into my house.  My plan was to just sleep in there & have him bust me out in the AM.  I think it was my mother who asked if I had tools & when I confirmed that I did – she told me to take the door off the hinges which, feeling VERY McGyver-esque – I did.

So – I am not a week of no food thinner, nor are my hands & throat bloodied from efforts to escape or draw someone’s attention to my predicament.  A week long fast might not have been the worst thing – but a week in the dark with three hungry dogs and lots of poop would have REALLY warped my mind.

Anyway – so on December 31, I decided to make a decadent dessert to bring as an offering to the party I was to attend that night.  It would be the first time I did ANYTHING remotely social since Christmas eve and I was desperate for a way to shed the self pity & negativity I had wallowed in for a week.  I had almond bark in the fridge that I had made on Xmas eve.  I decided to break some of that up & use it in a cannoli tart.  I also decided to make the ricotta cheese required from scratch, too.   You can just use store bought ricotta & chocolate chips, though.

After I made the ricotta cheese & the made (and chilled) the cinnamon crust & then the cannoli filling – I assembled and baked this gorgeous tart.  Because the ricotta was homemade – I expected a lighter, fluffier result.  The smells of cinnamon & chocolate filled my house.

I took the tart out of the oven & went to sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  Alas – I had none – so I used some Ghiradelli ground chocolate & cocoa.

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White would be prettier but whatever.  I photographed this guy extensively because I never post desserts & I wanted to get this first effort just right.  I reached into the cabinet overhead for a plate I could transport the tart on.  I selected one & closed the cabinets.  As I popped off a few final shots, lamenting the fact that I couldn’t get a shot of it SLICED, I heard a rumble.  Suddenly, the cabinet doors I had just closed burst open & the cabinet began vomiting a torrent of dishes, both plastic & ceramic, all over my counter & floor.  It was so loud & sudden it nearly gave me a heart attack.  When it was over – I calmed myself & assessed the damage.  Several broken plates, glass everywhere and one DOA assassinated Chocolate Cinnamon Cannoli Tart.

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I almost cried.  The dishes didn’t matter.  The tart!!!  I had worked so lovingly on it.  And there wasn’t time to make another – even from store bought ricotta.  I would have to go to my party empty-handed.  😦

So – at a loss as to what else I could do –  I cut out a nice slice from an unmarred section & took these photos.

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I tasted it, too.  It was incredible.  Just as light & subtle (not too sweet) as I’d hoped.  I kept this slice in the fridge & sampled it last night after a day of chilling.  It took on a more dense, cheesecake-like quality & remained delicious!  So – while nobody else got to taste this baby, I recommend you try it.  With store-bought ricotta & chocolate chips (and powdered sugar) – you could do this fairly easily & it should look as lovely as it tastes.

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Chocolate Cannoli Tart

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

2 1/2 cups ricotta (instructions on EASY homemade ricotta HERE.  It will net you just under 2 cups – so I added 1/2 cup of store-bought. If you are making ricotta you need: 9 cups whole milk, 1 cup buttermilk, salt & white vinegar.)

1 egg

1 TBS sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips – more for melting if you want to garnish with a chocolate drizzle

powdered sugar as a topping – or cocoa – or shave a candy bar (dark or white chocolate) over the tart as garnish – or drizzle melted chocolate chips

CRUST

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 heaping tsp cinnamon

6 TBS cold butter – cubed

1 egg

1-3 TBS milk – or more

DIRECTIONS

Make the ricotta – directions HERE.  Or use store-bought.

Make the crust in a food processor.  Blend the flour, sugar, salt & cinnamon.  Add the butter in pieces & pulse to incorporate.  Add the egg & the milk (one TBS at a time) & pulse until a ball forms that travels around the bowl.  You might need less than 3 TBS of milk – maybe more.

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Roll the ball of dough round & press into a circle.  Place it between two pieces of parchment paper & roll it out until it is big enough for your tart pan.  I made mine kinda too big but I like a rustic look.  Grease your tart pan (or spring form pan) & press your crust into the pan.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

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For the filling – use your food processor to blend the ricotta, sugar, egg & vanilla.  Do not over process this.  Add the chocolate chips & pulse to mix them in.

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Pour this into your chilled crust.  Know that the filling will rise up a bit to do not over-fill your crust.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes.  Mine was done in 30.

Let the tart cool completely.  Then – sprinkle powdered sugar or cocoa over the tart or melt some extra chocolate chips & drizzle them over it or shave a dark or white chocolate bar over the tart.

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