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Posts Tagged ‘cheddar’

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been taking kind of a hiatus from my writing. As opposed to 2015 where I took an extended break to work through some personal issues, this was more from wanting to do new and exciting things. As I mentioned at the end of last year, I had a few different ideas about projects I wanted to work on and write about, so I wanted to step away from 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. I started working my way through the Mighty Marvel Superhero’s Cookbook, however after a few quick posts I realized that it really wasn’t stimulating in the way that I thought it would be. Part of what I really love about writing is that it gives me a chance to look into new topics or ideas that I may not have thought about before. Making pancakes and frying eggs really wasn’t pushing any boundaries.

So while I dropped that format, I really didn’t have anything to put into its place. I’ve buckled down at work and put out some really fun food, but I’ve still been wracking my brain for something that grabs my interest and makes me want to write again. I looked at the 52 Weeks Challenge subreddit just to see what had been going on in the couple months I hadn’t been participating and it immediately grabbed me the same way it did almost 4 years ago now. I’ve always felt like I do better work when I’m given a ball park to play in. A lot of times it’s hard for me to come up with something out of the blue, but if somebody says “What about [XYZ]?” it seems to get my creativity flowing in one direction or another. So, at least for now, I think I’ll pick back up where I left off. I’ve missed out on nearly half the year, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

The theme of the week is presentation: Practicing one of the most crucial aspects of cooking, certainly in the professional realm if not in the home. Presentation can be as simple or as complex as your ambition permits. It could be as easy as slicing a nicely cooked steak before putting it on the plate or a sprinkling of complementary herbs on top of a lasagna, or you can bust out the tweezers and pipettes a la Chef’s Table.

With little effort, it’s easy to make food look as good as it tastes. It also doesn’t take much make delicious food that doesn’t look at all appetizing. The real skill, it could be said, would be to take food that may not taste all that great and make it look irresistible. Chef Jacques La Merde became an Instagram sensation for that exact approach, and I felt it would only be fair to try my hand at it.

IMG_5465

For all intents and purposes, this is a Lunchable. Ham and Cheddar with Crackers, to be exact. Oscar Mayer ham, Kraft cheddar. I made the crackers myself, only because I had the ingredients and I was a little bit broke, but other than that it’s the same ingredients you’d find in the fridge in the bright yellow box. [Side note: When did they stop putting chocolates and candies in Lunchables? What the fuck?]

I did deviate slightly from an exact Lunchable, so I wasn’t entirely sure how much it would really evoke the childhood memories, but it really, really did. There’s something about the taste of low-quality ham and low-quality cheese that never really leaves your mind.

Cheddar Cheese Sauce, adapted from Chefsteps
makes 1.5 – 2 cups

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pot. Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is fully melted, about 15 minutes.

Ritz-Style Crackers
makes 1 sheet

  • All-Purpose Flour, 2 cups
  • Baking Powder, 3 teaspoons
  • White Sugar, 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher Salt, 1/2 teaspoon, plus more as needed
  • Butter, unsalted, cold, 6 tablespoons
  • Vegetable Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Cold Water, as needed
  • Egg, beaten, 1 each

Preheat oven to 400F. Add flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add cold butter in small increments, and pulse to combine. With food processor running, add vegetable oil slowly. Add water a little bit at a time while pulsing, until dough just comes together. On a floured surface, roll dough out as thin as you can, adding more flour if needed when it sticks. Transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a fork, poke holes across the entire dough. Brush dough with eggwash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake 400F until crispy and lightly browned, rotating every 10 minutes, about 25 minutes. Allow to slightly before breaking into pieces.

 

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Fall is finally here! At least in Vermont it is, and that means it’s time to break out the flannel, read Robert Frost and eat your weight in pumpkin spice everything. By far, fall is my favorite time of the year. Cold, rainy days speckled with days where it’s still warm enough to wear shorts, not to mention the beautiful scenery and foliage. One of the greatest things about fall? Apples are in season! After maple syrup and terrible jam bands, apples are one of Vermont’s most iconic crops and are used in a wide variety of products, from butters and jams to ciders both soft and hard. One of the first things I ever learned to cook was Apple Crisp, as evident by a presentation I did in 7th grade.  Needless to say, I’m more than excited for the 37th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge!

When I was younger, every year my grandma would take my brother and I out to this one orchard to pick apples and visit the petting zoo. After eating myself sick and not actually bringing any apples homes, we would stop by the farmstand for a cup of cider and maybe a snack for the road. One of my favorite treats we had over the years for an amazing apple pie that they topped with sharp cheddar cheese. When I was a kid, I never thought much of it. I liked cheese,  I liked apples, I liked pie. No further questioning needed. But as I’ve gotten older, especially around this time of year, I always think back to that orchard and I’ve finally decided to see what was up with the cheddar apple pie.

apple galette

There’s an old English saying that goes “An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” Originating around Yorkshire, where apples and sharp cheese are both abundant, the tradition of serving sweet apple pie with cheese has been around since at least the 19th century. While little info is available on exactly how it got started, my guess is that the fat from the cheese was used to help cut the acid of wild apples that are especially tart or bitter. Either way, the combination is here to stay. I started out with a flaky crust, halfway between a biscuit dough and a traditional pie crust. Rather than the traditional sharp cheddar cheese, I decided to go with a raw, 1 year aged, maple-smoked cheddar. The smokiness of the cheese would add another level to the sweet-and-savory contrast that was already going on. A little bit of cheese went into the crust, then set up in the fridge, waiting to be rolled out. As for the star of the show, I like to use a blend of different apples. I have a blend that I use for homemade cider that also worked out quite well for baking: Fuji, McIntosh, Cortland and Granny Smith. Each of these apples carries a different level of sweetness and acidity, as well as breaking down at different rates during cooking, giving the pie a bit more texture and depth than your standard fare. The apples got tossed with cinnamon and maple to marinate for a bit, folded up in the crust, and topped with a healthy dose of cheese. Baked until golden brown and melty, this might just be the best pie I’ve made in a very long time. The crust was tender and flaky, although the cheese didn’t really come through in the crust itself. But what the crust was lacking in cheesiness was more than made up for by the filling. The sweet spices in the apples and the smoky cheese create the ultimate combination of contrasting flavors.

Apple Galette with Smoked Cheddar

makes 1 pie

For the Crust:

  • All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/2 cups
  • Kosher Salt, 1/2 teaspoons
  • Sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Butter, unsalted, 6 ounces
  • Sour Cream, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • Smoked Cheddar Cheese, shredded, 2 tablespoons

For the Filling:

  • Juice of half a Lemon
  • Fuji Apple, 1 each
  • McIntosh Apple, 1 each
  • Cortland Apple, 1 each
  • Granny Smith Apple, 1 each
  • Vermont Maple Syrup, 1 tablespoon
  • Cornstarch, 2 teaspoons
  • Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
  • Smoked Cheddar Cheese, shredded, 1/2 cup, lightly packed
  • Egg, beaten, 1 each
  • Brown Sugar, as needed

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar, mixing thoroughly. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Rub butter and flour together with your hands until the butter is about the size of peas. Add sour cream and cheese, mixing to form a dough. Remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic. Place dough in refrigerator to set, at least 30 minutes and at most overnight.

Juice half a lemon into a large bowl of water. Peel, core and slice apples, placing them into the lemon water as you work. Once all apples are processed, drain the lemon water from the bowl. Combine apples with maple syrup, cornstarch and cinnamon, tossing to coat evenly. Allow to marinate at least 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a circle about 14 inches wide by 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Arrange apples in the center of the crust as desired, and top with remaining cheese. Fold edges of the crust over the apples, leaving the center open. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar. Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes, until crust starts to brown and cheese begins to melt. Lower temperature to 375F and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes, until crust is cooked through. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

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The Vermonter

100 years ago, nobody would have to think twice about buying local food products simply because there wasn’t really any other choice.  Before the advent of refrigeration and industrial shipping, food had a relatively short shelf life and consumers didn’t really have the luxury of stockpiling nonperishable products. Today however, the local food scene is seen by many an exclusive club that only a privileged few can afford to be a part of. Much to the contrary, when you look into it just a little bit, you’d be surprised as to how much food is actually produced in your own community and how affordable to can really be. Luckily, I live in Vermont which was recently rated by NPR as the #1 state in the nation for the local food scene. With almost limitless directions I could go, the 25th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge was sure to yield some tasty results.

 I felt that it would be best to go with something that I’m familiar with and passionate about: sandwiches. The Vermonter Sandwich originated in the 90’s at Sweetwater’s, a popular Burlington bar and restaurant, by Jason Maroney, a cook and waiter. “[The Vermonter] was something we could add that could provide a different element. Not a lot of people do things with apples.” Maroney has said about the sandwich.  Since it’s inception, the sandwich has been adopted and modified in countless recipes. At Basil Tree Catering in Somerville, Mass., The Vermonter is a roast turkey, cheddar and apple sandwich on cranberry bread. At Ken’s American Cafe in Littleton, Mass., it’s two eggs, any style, with bacon, sausage and three pancakes. At The Pizza Joint in Stowe, Vt., it’s a specialty pizza with ever-changing ingredients. Wherever you go though, the staples are as follows: Meat, cheddar, apple and a sweet enriched bread. To celebrate local foods and the history of this iconic sandwich, I made my own version of The Vermonter.

The Vermonter

For the turkey, I got an organic turkey breast from Misty Knoll Farms. I wanted to go with ham to keep it more traditional, but I was also itching to try out my new immersion circulator so I went with the turkey*.  I vacuum packed the breast with thyme, sage, and butter, then circulated at 145F for about 3 hours. Not to too my own horn or anything, but this was seriously the best turkey I’ve ever made. The low, slow cooking process cooks the turkey perfectly without being overdone and dry. Green apples provide a nice tart crunch and Grafton Village Cheese Company cheddar melts the whole thing together. Sandwiched between Maple Walnut bread from Klinger’s Bread Company and slathered with homemade maple mustard using syrup from Nestle Nook Farm. To top it all off, an ice cold Rugged Mountain Root Beer from Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company.  I’ve never made this sandwich before, but it may now be tied with the Reuben as my all-time favorite. The perfect balance of sweet, savory and tart with a gamut of complimenting and contrasting textures and just the right amount of fattiness to tie the whole thing together.

Sous-Vide Turkey Breast

  • Turkey Breast, boneless, 1 each
  • Thyme, fresh, 4 sprigs
  • Sage, fresh, 4 sprigs
  • Butter, softened, 4 tablespoons

Cover turkey in butter and fresh herbs. Vacuum seal** in a heat proof plastic bag and let sit 24 hours. Bring turkey to room temperature. Circulate in a water bath at 145F for 3 hours. Shock bag in ice water to stop cooking. Remove turkey from bag and remove herbs. Sear turkey, skin side down, in a cast iron or heavy-bottom skillet until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and slice thinly  across the grain.

Maple Mustard

  • Whole-Grain or Coarse-Grain Mustard, 1/2 cup
  • Vermont Maple Syrup***, to taste

In a small bowl, combine mustard and maple syrup, sweetening to taste.

*Clearly, most people wont have access to an immersion circulator, but roasted turkey would also work perfectly or even your favorite deli turkey.

**If you do have access to a circulator, you need to vacuum seal your food before you can use it. The home-sized version of the FoodSaver works well, but is a bit pricey. I used Ziploc Vacuum bags which provide a really good seal, don’t appear to degrade with long exposure to low heat, and are also much cheaper.
***As I’ve said before, there is no acceptable substitute for Vermont Maple Syrup. Seriously.

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