Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Burger Bliss @ Cherry Cricket

Have you ever seen the Food Network show Best Thing I Ever Ate? Being the food lovers that we are, it's one that we view regularly. Chefs reveal their favorite dishes within a certain theme (best breakfast, best barbeque, etc). I actually don't have a lot of absolute favorites (I like to keep my options open). But if I were on the show about burgers, I'd know exactly what I'd pick. The best burger I ever ate? The Little Cricket Burger at Cherry Cricket in Denver, CO.

The Cricket is a Denver mainstay that's been around since 1945. After changing hands (and locations) a few times, it's still serving up fantastic burgers and brewskis in the chic Cherry Creek district.

What makes the burgers so unparalleled is that each ingredient is incredibly delicious. The beef, which has just the right amount of fat and is cooked to order, sits atop a fresh-baked bun that perfectly absorbs the patty's juices. The menu lists over 20 toppings to choose from so you can customize to heart's content. In the mood for a White Cheddar-Grilled Onion-BBQ Sauce combo? Or maybe you feel like Blue Cheese Crumbles & Sauteed Mushrooms? It isn't easy to decide, but you really can't go wrong.

This time, I went with a Bacon-Smoked Cheddar-Green Chile Strip version and threw on an onion ring for good measure. The result? Absolute burger bliss. Alongside a basket of fries and an icy cold Coors, I experienced burger euphoria.

If you're ever in Denver, it's a must. And if you're not? Well, it just may be worth the trip.

Happy Searching!

p.s. Hats off to Mama & Papa B for introducing me to this little piece of heaven--they're Denver natives and have been dining at the Cricket for years. Muah!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pleasin' Indonesian Chicken

Looking for an easy and flavorful way to prepare chicken? Look no further! Indonesian Ginger Chicken (courtesy of Ina Garten) is incredibly tasty and couldn't be easier.

I wanted to deliver a meal to one of my friends who just had a baby and this chicken seemed perfect. Simple without being boring, the chicken is marinated overnight in soy, honey, garlic, and ginger. Ina's recipe called for 2 whole chickens (cut up), but I just used a mix of what was on sale. I got a package of drumsticks and and a package of breasts (which I cut in half because they were, double Ds).

Put them in the fridge, then put them in the oven the next day. After an hour (and removing the foil halfway to crisp up the glazed skin), the chicken is done. Served with steamed rich and some sauteed veggies, this Indonesian was pleasin'. Easy? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!

Happy Searching,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fish Dish

After the debut of the new Cooking Channel, I was inspired to try a new fish dish. Although I didn't follow the recipe exactly, the final product did not disappoint! Roast Halibut with Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette was the perfect light summer meal.

Now, the recipe calls for you to make your own smoker, smoke your tomatoes, all that jazz...I didn't do that. Instead, I opened a can of tomatoes, tossed them in a few TB of olive oil and a few drops of liquid smoke (potent stuff, so just a smidge), and roasted them on a cookie sheet until their sauce had evaporated.

This method gave me similar smoky, intense tomato flavor without the hassle of a trying to MacGyver a homemade smoker (which would've turned out more MacGruber). Liquid smoke was the key. If you haven't tried it before, don't be scared. It's basically inexpensive BBQ essence in liquid form and is great in marinades, BBQ sauces, etc. And a little goes a long way, so it lasts forever.

After the tomatoes were roasted, I put the them in a food processor, whirred them around until they were smooth and then streamed in some olive oil. Vinaigrette done!

I followed the recipe pretty closely when cooking the fish: a bit of oil in a hot pan, put the fillets in (skin side down) and cooked them until they were golden and crispy. Gave them a flip then tossed them in a 375 degree oven to finish cooking all the way through.

I tossed some spinach and fresh corn (right off the cob) in a bit of the vinaigrette, then plated it all up like this:

First, I poured a bit of vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl (which was actually more like a tomato broth). Next, I placed the halibut in the bowl. Finally, I topped it with the lightly-dressed spinach & corn. Fresh, nutritious, and very delicious!

Happy Searching,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Madam Mam's is Thai-riffic

Do you ever go to a restaurant and order the exact same thing every time? Being the lovers of food that we are, Ryan and I make it a point to expand our gastronomical horizons and sample different dishes. But. I love me some curry. And I just can't seem to make it past the Panang...

Thai cuisine--I know--is much more than just curry. I mean no disrespect to the culture or culinary world by seeming so narrow-minded. But this is one of those instances where I find a good thing and stick with it. Panang Curry is my Thai version of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I order it every single time.

Sure, I'm willing to try other things (usually off of Ryan's plate, since I always order the same thing). It's just that I love the contrast of the spicy red curry, the cool coconut milk, and the sweet Thai basil, all swimming together in a luxurious broth.

Madam Mam's is just the place for my Thai fix. It's a perfect example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover; at first glance, it appears to be a bit rundown. The plywood signs adorning the restaurant have been painted bubblegum pink with red letters.

So when we entered and found these bright, whimsical umbrellas hanging from the ceiling,

our reservations were beginning to fade away. Enter some delicious Panang Curry and they were gone completely!

Ryan ordered some sizzling pork soup that arrived in a giant bowl and had equally big flavor. We also shared an order of Chicken Satay which was awesome--grilled perfectly and served with a savory peanut dipping sauce.

If you're ever in South Austin and feeling like it's time for some Thai, don't let the signage scare you... Madam Mam's is the place to go!

Happy Searching,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pass the Pork, Please!

By now, it's no secret that I am an all-American, red-meat lovin' lady. I really enjoy a good steak, especially when it's accompanied by a glass of Cabernet. However, between high cholesterol and expanding waistlines, something's gotta give (and hopefully it's not the chair). The solution? Pork Au Poivre.

A take on the classic (and highly caloric) Steak Au Poivre, Ellie Krieger's pork version is big on flavor without the added fat. The "Au Poivre" is what gives the dish its bold flavor but instead of encrusting a filet with pepper, Ellie uses pork tenderloin (I substituted thin-cut boneless pork chops which turned out fine). The traditional cognac cream sauce is replaced with an equally luxurious red wine reduction (don't be scared by the word "reduction"--you just pour wine in the pan and let it simmer...easy-peasy).

The pepper adheres to the pork with a light slathering of Dijon mustard, which you barely taste in the finished dish. It just adds a nice depth of flavor but isn't overpowering. Throw some veggies on the side, cook up some rice, and you've got a delicious meal that won't leave you with Chewer's Remorse.  

Happy Searching!

p.s. Try it out with a nice red (you need some for the recipe anyway)! One of our favorites? Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon. A bottle is around $12, but tastes like it's worth a lot more. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cupcake Summer

Today is the last day of school and after my first unofficial year as a teacher (a teacher without a class), I have learned a few things. 

1. Kids are hilarious...I laugh at something crazy they've said everyday. 
2. Teachers are just as excited for summer vacation as students. 
And my favorite revelation? 
3. Nice teachers get treats at the end of the year.

One of the second grade girls I worked with (and her family) surprised me with half a dozen Delish cupcakes that were so gorgeous I actually gasped when I saw them. They were stunningly beautiful--delicately dusted with this edible fairy-dust-glitter and dotted with dragĂ©es (those little candied silver beads).

Each lovely cupcake was different...I got to sample Ginger Carrot, Espresso Cream, and Banana Chocolate among Strawberry, Chocolate, and Vanilla (not all in one sitting, of course).   

So, my final reflection of the year is this: I love my job. Despite the fact that teaching is incredibly hard work (and it is--seriously), I get to laugh everyday with 7-year-old cuties who...every now and then...bring me cupcakes. How lucky am I?!?

Happy Summer! And...

Happy Searching!
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