Thanksgiving Recipe File: Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

Searching for a dish to jazz up your Thanksgiving holiday table? Close those cookbooks because Sullivan’s has what you’re looking for with this perfect recipe for a grown up, decadent version of sweet potatoes. Save the marshmellows for s’mores and reach for the good stuff to make these delicious Bourbon Sweet Potatoes topped with a Pecan Oatmeal Crumble.

Note: Should the in-laws or a charming sibling begin wearing out their welcome, it is highly recommended to finish this dish with a shot of bourbon for the chef. Your secret is safe with us…

Sound delicious but don’t want to step foot in the kitchen? No worries – just order this and other sides from Sullivan’s by Wednesday, November 21. More details here.

Recipe after the jump!

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes w/Pecan Oatmeal Crumble

Continue reading Thanksgiving Recipe File: Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

Recipe File: Baked Brie and Apple Raisin Compote Crostinis

The holiday season is in full swing, which means festivities galore. One of my favorite winter appetizer recipes to utilize for holiday entertaining is Cooking Light’s Baked Brie and Apple Raisin Compote. These little morsels of goodness are simple to make and always a crowd favorite. As an added bonus, the compote’s spices smell fantastic while cooking. Any leftover apple-raisin mixture pairs nicely with pork or even pureed with butternut squash. The recipe calls for golden raisins, but if you can’t locate any, regular raisins work as well. I have also substituted pears for apples in this recipe with solid results. A good tip for making these more budget friendly is to buy bulk spices since the recipe calls for quite a few.  Enjoy!


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Recipe File: Butternut Squash Ravioli

With cool mornings actually giving some semblance fall is upon us, it is officially time to update the recipe drawer to reflect new seasonal offerings. When I think autumn, any dish involving butternut squash immediately springs to mind. From soups to desserts, this versatile fruit adds a natural richness from its sweet, nutty flavor and thick texture without much effort in the kitchen.

One of the most classic preparations of butternut squash is in ravioli topped with a sage brown butter sauce. Inspired by an order of ghost pumpkin ravioli during a visit to Houston’s Glass Wall Restaurant, I hoped to recreate a similar version using butternut squash. In order to update this classic fall dish, I made a few changes to the traditional filling and sauce, noted below.  More details [expand title= here]

For lack of time and equipment, I did not make my pasta from scratch. Many recipes suggest using wonton recipes, which I have used before, but always feel as if something is missing. I picked up fresh lasagna sheets and used those instead. They did seem to hold up better when cooked, but wontons still are a suitable and budget friendly substitute. The filling was a blend of roasted butternut squash, fresh herbs and spices, onions, garlic and burrata cheese. A tip read a few years back in Saveur Magazine suggested using roasted sage leaf wrapped garlic cloves to the filling for a more robust flavor. Burrata is not traditionally used, but its subtle creamy flavor worked well.

The Glass Wall’s ravioli was excellent, but a candied pumpkin seed topping made it magnificent. While their ravioli came floating in a bowl of pumpkin seed oil, I opted to toast mine stovetop and toss with a less rich sauce butter, caper, and sage sauce. The capers added acidity sometimes needed against the sweet pasta filling. Playing on my inspiration, I toasted pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) with a bit of grapeseed oil, salt and pumpkin pie spice before tossing with grated lemon zest. The pepitas added an extra ‘oomph’ to the dish, but alas still not as special as the Glass Wall’s version.  

This classic dish uses simple ingredients leave for a bit of creativity. Great budget-friendly entertaining recipe! [/expand]


 Recipe after the jump! Served with roasted Brussels Sprouts, recipe here.

Continue reading Recipe File: Butternut Squash Ravioli

Recipe File: Brussels Sprouts w/Parmesan & Cranberries

                Like most children, I grew up with a strong dislike for Brussels sprouts. My first memorable encounter with the bitter vegetable came when my mother tried to convince older brother and me these foreign objects on our plates were merely mini lettuces. Forks down, shaking our heads in disdain after one sample, thinking, how dare she try and fool us?!? We are kids, not morons! Of course, my mother was merely trying to feed her children a healthy home cooked meal using vegetables from her carefully cultivated garden (move to Austin anytime Mom!). More details [expand title= Here]

             Regardless, Brussels sprouts were now firmly on the ‘do not eat that’ list. Fast forward a few years to my grandmother’s kitchen where once again I unsuspectingly ate the dreaded ‘mini lettuces’, this time to different results. Once she explained what I had just devoured, shredded Brussels sprouts leaves topped with beet greens, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the dish. Granted, I love just about anything in her kitchen, so the experience had to be a fluke.

                With most Austin restaurants committed to using seasonal, sustainable produce, Brussels sprouts have made quite the comeback and hence, very hard to avoid. I have since found myself actually enjoying these once loathed vegetables. However, since most restaurant versions, example here, come with ample amounts of bacon, butter and other sinful flavors, it’s hard to determine if what I actually enjoy on the plate. 

                In all my years of cooking, I have never experimented with Brussels sprouts for obvious reasons. However, with the very welcomed fall season finally here, what better time to experiment. As an accompaniment to toasted butternut squash ravioli, recipe here, I would serve roasted Brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese and cranberries. My guest for the evening is a Brussels sprout fanatic so she would make for a fitting test audience. However, she is also a vegetarian, and I was without a bacon crutch to rely on. Additionally, I try to limit the amount of butters and oils I use cooking, especially during the week. The results of my first attempt showed a promising recipe with a few lessons learned.  First, I would highly recommend soaking the Brussels sprouts in water or broth before roasting to prevent them from drying out, especially if you are not adding much fat. Secondly, I wanted to recreate my grandmother’s technique of separating the leaves. I used a food processor to chop some, but hand hacked others. The processor delivered too finely chopped leaves even with just a couple of pulses which cooked too quickly. Recipe below, with my adjustments included. Feel free to share your tips as well! [/expand]


Served alongside butternut squash ravioli, recipe here.

Continue reading Recipe File: Brussels Sprouts w/Parmesan & Cranberries

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/Sweet Pepper Relish & Peach BBQ Sauce

After a trip to the Farmer’s Market, I left with a bag of sweet peppers and peaches, amongst other items, and with no set plan on how to use them. I already had pork tenderloin I needed to use, and after some brainstorming, I decided to make pork tenderloin with sweet peppers and peach BBQ sauce. Originally the plan was to serve the relish as an accompaniment but I wanted to try stuffing the tenderloin since it was a technique I had yet to try. By adding the stuffing to the meat, it seemed to keep the lean tenderloin from drying out. The subtle heat from the peach BBQ sauce balanced the sweet relish. I had also planned to grill it, but instead opted to bake the stuffed loin. I simply marinated an additional tenderloin in the BBQ sauce for the grill, which was simple and very good. It may not have been the most beautiful stuffed pork tenderloin, but everyone who tried it seemed to enjoy it!

The sweet pepper relish would make a nice addition to chicken or beef, burgers, salads, or even grits or a baked potato.  I served this dish with cheese grits and a green salad. Peach BBQ Sauce Recipe can be found here.


Farmer's Market Sweet Peppers A little 'family' dinner

  Continue reading Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/Sweet Pepper Relish & Peach BBQ Sauce

Peach BBQ Sauce

 After a lifetime aversion to peaches, I have suddenly found myself a full on peach convert recently. Growing up I avoided the pitted fruit despite Texas’ outstanding crop of peaches. In fact, I grew up with a peach tree in my own backyard and despite numerous attempts to become a peach fanatic, it didn’t take. This was a fairly cruel dislike for me to have as I regularly walked into my kitchen growing up to find my mother making batches of chutneys and jams with her bumper crop of peaches. My grandmother, whose hill country garden produces peaches galore, makes homemade, from scratch, peach ice cream every summer, and it was a travesty I never enjoyed it as I should.

With Austin’s local restaurant scene fully immersed in the farm to table movement peaches are a regularly featured item as some of the best peaches come from the Texas Hill Country just a few miles away. No longer contained to cobbler, peaches are now a central ingredient in salads, savory meat dishes and margaritas. In my own kitchen, I have started using peaches as if they are the new tomato by playing with flavor profiles and inverting them into my dishes any which way I can. This Peach BBQ Sauce is the first in a series of recipes representing how my life has become one giant peach in Summer 2011.


Farmer's Market Peaches



Peach BBQ Sauce

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Recipe File: Seafood Paella

There is something about Sundays which inspire the home chef in me to spend a little more time in the kitchen than usual. Eating a comforting home cooked meal with friends is the perfect way to bookend a weekend and stave off impending anxiety about the arrival of Monday morning madness. Feeling inspired by the flavors of Spain, this particular Sunday I wanted to try my hand at paella. I had never tried my hand at making paella, but I have fine tuned my risotto skills and assumed it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. While risotto rice can be used in paellas, I found a direct divergence between the two dishes in how the rice is treated. While risotto requires consistent stirring, paella is hands off once the rice is added, which makes it an even better choice for company. Serve with a light salad. Recipe after the jump!


Paella with shrimp, clams, scallops, chicken and sausage

 When scouring the web for a good paella recipe, I came across everything from traditional, time intensive recipes to simplistic, deconstructed versions, but had a tough time finding one great recipe that was somewhere in the middle. Instead I focused on the technique and worked off of a few recipes to draw inspiration from while experimenting with my own version. The final result was successful, but next time I will wait even longer to add back the seafood to prevent overcooking. I also didn’t achieve a perfect socarrat, a slightly toasted crunch on the top and bottom of the rice, and next time I will keep a thinner layer of rice and finish a bit longer in the oven to hopefully get that extra bit of texture. Similar to the regional variations of Spain’s most famous dish, there really is no wrong way to build paella. However, what I did discover through my research are a few crucial steps which are imperative to creating flavorful and traditional paella.

Tips for a Perfect Paella [expand title=Here]

1.       Start with a paella pan.

I immediately broke this rule because I didn’t have the right pan. Instead I started with a large cast iron pan, but after it proved to be too small on the sides shifted to another large saucepan. My dish was very dense, and while it still came together well, it took a little longer to cook and didn’t get the extra bit of crispness paellas usually have. The larger pan would have made it a thinner layered dish.

2.       Steep the saffron

When I have used the king of spices, saffron, before I have just directly added it to the broth or pan instead of steeping it separately. For this dish, I placed the saffron strands in hot water for 15-20 minutes before adding it to my broth which allowed the aromatic saffron to open up and release more flavor.

3.       Create a flavorful sofrito

Along with the broth, the sofrito base is the crux to good paella. A sofrito is the basic vegetable base of paella. Unlike risotto where vegetables are cooked alongside the rice, the sofrito is created prior to adding the rice. For my sofrito, I used tomatoes, onions, garlic, smoked paprika and olive oil all cooked in the same pan where I had cooked the meat and seafood, which created a natural flavor base as well.

4.       Cook the protein before adding the rice

The first step to beginning the cooking process is to cook the chicken, sausage and seafood (besides mussels or clams) and remove once cooked about 2/3 through. The chicken and sausage can be added with the rice, but the seafood is set aside until just before completion. The sofrito is then cooked in the leftover liquids, creating layers of flavors in the dish.  

5.       Don’t stir the rice once the liquid is added

Once the liquid is added to the rice mixture, it is mostly hands off. The only recommended step is to move the pan from burner to burner to help create a consistent cooking temperature all the way through.

6.       Allow the dish to rest before serving

After the paella is finished cooking, cover and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. [/expand]

Continue reading Recipe File: Seafood Paella

Recipe File: Shrimp and Roasted Corn Panzanella

Inspired by the delicious corn panzanella I enjoyed during a recent foray to Second Bar + Kitchen, I created my own version for a recent weeknight get together. While it wasn’t as good as Chef Bull’s version, it did get rave reviews from my guests. Instead of a side dish, my version was more of a hearty salad as I added shrimp and black beans. Not only was it a simple and quick dish to put together, but budget friendly as well. Because one of my friends has a milder palate, I didn’t add too much spice to the dish, but I included a note about how to kick it up a notch as well.

 Shrimp and Roasted Corn Panzanella

Shrimp and Roasted Corn PanzanellaThe Inspiration

Full recipe after the jump!

Continue reading Recipe File: Shrimp and Roasted Corn Panzanella