Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Period. End of report.

...are McCormicks.

I posted these a long time ago but the post was sad, the picture was anemic, and the writing was piss poor. I think I said something like "These are great," which is a slap in the face to these cookies.

If these cookies were a woman, they'd be Angelina Jolie, only they'd have waited for Brad to divorce Jen before pouncing. Actually if these cookies were Angelina, they wouldn't have stolen Brad at all but would have single-handedly repaired their marriage out of the kindness of their butter filled-heart. (They might've even thrown in a baby giving Brad the family he so desired without Jen having to mess up her figure.)

But then again, if these cookies really were Angelina Jolie, then Brad wouldn't have been able to resist them and definitely would've tossed Jen aside. So I guess that makes it a fact then. These cookies are Angelina Jolie in cookie form.

By the way - for some reason McCormick changed the recipe a little on their site. Don't fall for it. Use the old one here.

McCormick's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 20-22 super big cookies (use a big ice cream scoop)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes per batch

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups salted butter, softened and at room temp
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use more)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F (actually, my oven bakes them better at 360, go figure.) Mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. Beat butter, sugars, eggs and extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Use a large ice cream scoop to distribute them about 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are browned. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Home Wrecker's Ribs. Saucy, Spicy, and just Sweet Enough to be Dangerous.

Don't you just love when you become completely obsessed with something you thought you'd have absolutely no interest in whatsoever? This just happened to me with the HBO show Game of Thrones. I remember watching the pilot with my husband in the spirit of matrimonial harmony, feigning interest while secretly betting I'd wind up surfing Bluefly. But as soon as the first scene began, I was a gonner.

What is it with HBO? It's like they've shot a probe straight into my brain and created entertainment just for little old me and my perversities. I mean how else can you explain me liking a show that looks like a testosterone-injected version of Lord of the Rings? Jason Mamoa, perhaps...

Anyway, this same phenomenon happened to me with ribs (like that segue? I'll be here all week.) It still amazes me that I went almost three decades turning my nose up at them, thinking them fatty and greasy and messy to finally realize that's exactly what makes them the best things on earth (sorry, thighs.)

And while it's damn hard to beat Martha Foose Hall's Vinegar-Mopped Ribs, I'm afraid sister's got competition with this recipe. And they're even easier to make! Just throw the marinade ingredients into an oversized ziploc, drop the ribs in, marinate overnight and then dump the whole thing - ribs and all - into a roasting pan over a sliced onion for 2 hours. No dry rub, no basting, no grilling.

Just be sure to kick the heat up for the last stretch of cooking so the meat bronzes up around the edges and those bones become nice and pliable, pulling apart without any fight. As Dolly Parton says about ribs in the movie 9 to 5, "That just wrecked my diet but it was SO worth it!"

Home Wrecker's Ribs

2 lbs babyback ribs
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes, or more for more heat
Good amount fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1 large vidalia or Spanish onion, sliced thick
additional salt and fresh cracked pepper for seasoning, just before roasting

Add the marinade ingredients - garlic through the olive oil - to a large marinading bag, squishing around with your fingers and giving a shake to help mix together. Once all incorporated, add the ribs and turn over a couple of times to be sure all sides of all racks have been anointed. Squish out the air, seal and refrigerate overnight turning over midway.

Remove one hour before cooking off.

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a large, rimmed roasting pan with nonstick spray and line with the onions (they don't have to completely cover the bottom - just provide enough lift so the ribs can sit on them and not on the bottom of the pan. Remove the ribs from the marinade bag and place over the onions, fat/meat side up (curved side down.) Pour the marinade all over and around the ribs getting every last drop out of the bag. Season the ribs over the top with a little more salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to the middle rack and roast at 325 for 2 hours, keeping an eye on the bottom of the pan so that it doesn't begin to burn/blacken. If it dries out, add a little water or chicken stock as needed but be careful not to flood the ribs.

After 2 hours, kick the heat up to 375, move the tray up to the top rack of your oven, and roast another 20-25 minutes until the top develops a deep, dark bronze color and the ribs separate easily when probed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Perla's Lobster Roll...

When you eat at Perla's, you forget for a minute that you're in Austin, that you are indeed landlocked, and that it's so hot outside your bra has slid down to your navel while walking down South Congress. The eatery exudes breezy nautical charm with such sincerity, you actually feel like you're in Nantucket...until an aging gent in a tutu and platform wedges walks by and you're reminded exactly where you are.

To be fair Kris said the lobster roll was no Luke's Lobster in NYC, but then again Kris holds Luke's Lobster on the same plane as Jesus and vintage sports cars so take his opinion with a grain of salt.

I, for one, plan on drinking a lot of rose here this summer, eating fresh fish and pretending the deck is overlooking the ocean instead of a steaming stretch of asphalt.

1400 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704-2487
(512) 291-7300

Monday, June 6, 2011

Homemade Margarita Pizza, So Easy An Adwoman Can Do It.

So I work a lot. Have I told you that? Probably (complaining comes naturally to creative types kinda like breathing or going pee.)

Anyway sometimes the thought of cooking stresses me out almost as much as the idea of blogging about cooking (btw this isn't a guilt trip lovelies - just a confession. Fellow bloggers feel me on this, right?)

And sometimes because of aforementioned work schedule I have to resort to making something so simple it seems dumb to even blog about it. Like this pizza. I mean at this point the margarita pizza is practically a cliche of itself. I wouldn't be surprised if you could order one at McDonald's. They're the culinary version of flip flops or hair scrunchies. But I'll be honest. Even a subpar margarita (pizza) ain't bad.

But every now and then you have a really good one and it kind of changes your whole view on life. Reminds you that simple is brilliant. That something as basic as dough, cheese and tomatoes can be so much more than dough, cheese and tomatoes. Especially when the dough is homemade, the cheese is of stellar quality, and the tomatoes are still warm from the summer sun. Oh and boxwood basil doesn't hurt either - little green leaves scattered like confetti over a sea of milky white mozzarella.

Honest to God this pizza makes me want to move to a farm and grow my own wheat, tomatoes and basil. Hell - even milk my own cows. But then again, I do enjoy a good mani/pedi now and then... And bathing. And shaving my armpits. Okay day job - I'll keep you. Along with this recipe.

Margarita Pizza:
*The key to this pizza is making the dough a day or a few days ahead when you have the time, then letting it sit in your fridge to be at the ready when you need it. Or skip making your own dough and use store bought. No one's going to call the cops.
*This dough often turns out a little 'wet' from all the olive oil. If so it's totally fixable, just use plenty of flour on your board and rolling pin when rolling out. This way it will bake up crispy and not soggy.

Pizza Dough:
1/2 of a recipe of Pioneer Woman's pizza dough (follows):

3 large clean mixing bowls (one of which can be your stand mixer bowl if you have one)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon or 1/2 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra flour for rolling out
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on low speed, drizzle in the olive oil until just incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, gently stir in the yeast/water mixture.
5. And drizzle it into the flour/oil mixture. Mix until the dough forms a ball. (You can also mix by hand until it comes together.)
6. Drizzle a little olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough over in it to coat it in the oil.
7. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel (I used paper towels) and set in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. After the dough has risen, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days (it freezes well too) or proceed to the next step if making right away.
8. To prepare the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
9. Divide the dough in half. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray then sprinkle with cornmeal or quick cooking grits.
10. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough (coating the pin and counter with flour to keep from sticking) - the thinner the better and place on the prepared sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then brush evenly over with a pastry brush (or spread with the back of a spoon being careful not to put too much on to make soggy)
11. Put the desired toppings (listed below) over the dough scattering them evenly - the tomatoes first, then the cheese, and a bit of sea salt and pepper and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown - holding the basil leaves until AFTER the pizza is baked, scattering over the top along with more olive oil if desired.

Pizza Toppings:
1-2 balls fresh, best quality mozzarella sliced thinly (pressed dry with a paper towel if overly wet)
2 medium heirloom or vine ripened tomatoes, the freshest you can find, sliced into thin/medium slices and gently squeezed to get rid of excess moisture to keep your dough from getting soggy
Olive oil for brushing over dough and drizzling over baked pizza, optional
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Red pepper flakes, optional
2 big handfuls fresh boxwood or regular basil, for topping after baking