All posts by DaretotasteJennifer

Sweet Virginia! A Much Needed Road Trip… And Dinner Party!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I lost my patience with the weather in Boston and finally reached my breaking point. I woke up last Friday morning, packed a bag for myself and Truman (the bulldog), grabbed a metal shovel from the neighbor, and carved my Mini Cooper out of a massive ice/snow bank. I didn’t really care where I was going, but I decided to visit a good friend in Alexandria Virginia, who just happens to be the owner of Truman’s best friend, a silver lab named Winston.

With a quick stop for snacks at Walmart, where Truman choked on a Slim Jim (yes, I had to sick my fist down his throat), the ride couldn’t have been sweeter. I legit felt like I had just escaped from prison. So here we are, in Virginia, staying with my buddy who is the biggest “dude” on earth. In other words, cooking is impossible because he has no tools!

My friend asked if I was interested in cooking for him and a few of his friends… and I happily agreed. It’s difficult to cook a full meal when you have zero ingredients in the house, so shopping was a bit difficult because we had to buy stuff like… salt and flour.

Regardless, after six hours of cooking, (yes, six!!) everyone seemed to walk away happy… and full. Here’s what I made and here is one of the recipes I know you can all handle –>

Baked-stuffed shrimp with a seafood sauce, something I had never made before… the sauce that is. VERY EASY! In fact, I’m happy to say I learned how to make it in Culinary School, or the base of it I should say. Baked-stuffed shrimp is easy if you  have the patience and the ability to make a bomb seafood stuffing, which is actually very easy. Basically, you start with chopped onions and garlic that are cooked in olive oil until soft. And of course, salt and pepper at this beginning stage. Then you add any kind of seafood you think you’d want in a stuffing. Remember, you don’t have to follow a recipe if you want to become a creative cook. I mean, I wouldn’t add 8 cups of salmon to a stuffing, but I think you know scallops, lobster, crabmeat, even clams, are the logical kinds of seafood you want to add.

After adding the seafood, you be the judge of how much you want, I like to add a little white wine, about a half cup, for extra flavor. I also add a bit of fresh thyme (about a tablespoon) and a TON of fresh parsley (like a half a cup). I cook that for about 15 minutes and add more salt and pepper.

Finally… add A STICK OF BUTTER… and let it melt! It sounds like a lot but if you’re making say 30 shrimp, you are eating 1/30th of the stick. That’s nothing. Why so much butter? Well… the last ingredient is your stuffing component, which is ritz (I use whole wheat) cracker crumbs and Panko breadcrumbs. How much? Add the crumbs until it’s reached a consistency that sticks together. So… press a little stuffing in your hand and press. Did it stay together in a ball? Yes? That’s enough. Did you add too much breadcrumbs? Just add some olive oil and soften it up. Everything is fixable!

unnamedButterflying the shrimp: On the non-vein side, which you have removed, slice the shrimp down the middle but not all the way through. Place a tad bit of stuffing in the crack to give the heaping spoonful of stuffing you’re about to add something to stick to. Now go ahead, add that heaping spoon of stuffing. Now curve the tail of the shrimp and stick it in the stuffing. (see photo)

Line the shrimp up in rows so they are resting side by side. This way, they won’t tip over and spill. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Yes, I made a huge mess, but from what everyone told me, it was worth the cleanup.

BONUS: I also made a cauliflower casserole with gruyere cheese and buttered Panko breadcrumbs, pan-seared salmon with lemon and sea salt, and asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan cheese. I still get nervous cooking for people, especially strangers, but this was a total success.

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Blanched asparagus with fried over-easy eggs, lemon and fresh shaved parmesan. (Try this instead of hollandaise sauce)
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Pan-seared medium/rare salmon basted in butter with fresh lemon and dill.


My Tater Tot Addiction is REAL

February 15, 2015
1:43 p.m.

The Tater Tot struggle is real, folks. I can’t stop. I’m blaming it on the snow and my cabin fever… which is also real, as all New Englanders are well aware of. Brutal, huh? I just walked 50 feet to Ma Royle’s house to get eggs and cheddar cheese and was nearly blown away by the wind. That’s probably the worst part… the fact that I can’t see five feet in front of me due to the wind blowing all the snow off the cars on Salem Street in the North End.

In any event, as most of you know already, I spend the majority of my time testing recipes and wasting food, which in turn means I’m wasting money as well. But in the end, it’s worth it, especially when it comes to TATER TOTS. Ok, if you don’t love tater tots, something is wrong with you. Fact.

So I’ve been playing around with this recipe for weeks. To precook or not precook the potatoes? To add Cheddar or Parmesan cheese? To use Panko or regular breadcrumbs? To use seasoned or unseasoned breadcrumbs? To pan fry or deep fry? I mean… who would have thought the tater tot process could be so complicated???

Well, I finally mastered it. And since I don’t plan on writing another cookbook anytime soon, I figured I would share this recipe with you all. And as you know, sharing recipes is not one of my favorite things. Yes, I’m very selfish.

Ingredients:
4 Russet Potatoes peeled and shredded
1/2 C Flour
1 C Cheddar Cheese shredded
4 eggs beaten
4 C Panko Breadcrumbs seasoned or unseasoned
1 T Salt
1 t Pepper
Canola Oil for frying

1. Peel the potatoes, soaking the peeled potatoes in cold water to avoid discoloration (also known as oxidation.)

2. Once the potatoes are peeled, shred/grate the potatoes on the large setting or side of the grater. Again, soak the finished shredded potatoes in cold water. This not only avoids oxidation but it removes some of the excess starch you don’t need.

3. Boil the potatoes in salted water BRIEFLY… about 5 minutes. Let cool.

4. In a large bowl, GENTLY mix the shredded potatoes with the flour, cheese, salt and pepper. Allow to chill for at least 20 minutes.

5. Roll about 1 tablespoon of the potato mixture in your hands… dip into the egg followed by the panko breadcrumbs. At this stage, you can shape the potato ball any way you’d like… classic tater tot or keep in round.

6. Rest the tater tots on a baking sheet with parchment paper and let chill in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

7. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Drop 4 potato balls into the oil at a time. If you fry too many at a time, you will lower the temperature of the oil and end up with greasy, oily, and soft (not crispy) tots.

8. Fry each batch until golden brown… about 3-4 minutes.

9. Salt immediately after frying. Serve with ketchup!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Two Yummy Super Bowl Recipes!

What are you cooking Super Bowl Sunday? That is the question!

There are so many options when it comes to Super Bowl food. For me, I prefer to make things that people can eat without putting their drink down. I call these, “one-handed bites.” This way, nobody loses their drink, forgets where they placed it, or takes a sip of the wrong cup. Makes total sense, right? Exactly.

I also like to avoid using and buying PLATES. I think plates are useless. To me, plates are just an unnecessary stop between the food platter and your mouth. Why does food need to make an extra stop on a plate when it can go directly into your mouth? I’ll never understand…

When you’re throwing a Super Bowl party, or any party for that matter, you want your guests to walk away saying ONE thing: “The food was amazing.” Why? Well for one, their team may lose. So you may as well give them something to be happy about if that’s the case. Personally, being a lover of everything food, I think the food should be the star of every gathering. Have you ever heard anyone walk away from a party and say the soda was flat or the vodka wasn’t your favorite brand? No. Everyone talks about the food… EVERY TIME. Bank on it.

One more reason why I like to avoid plates… make the cleanup as easy as humanly possibly. Your goal is to not want to fall over and die of exhaustion at the end of the night. You want to enjoy yourself as if you were the guest and not the host. There is nothing worse than walking around your own party stressing about the trash and the amount of dishes you have to do or recycling you have to gather. Buy a lot of heavy napkins… they are a great replacement for plates. Just sayin.

Onto the food. As most of you know from my Twitter, I don’t give recipes away. I write my own recipes and sometimes they take five tries — and by tries I mean multiple trips to the grocery store, loading and unloading the dishwasher, spending enormous amounts of money on food that’s likely headed into the garbage disposal, and then of course my time… which honestly, I have plenty of, so don’t let me fool you into thinking I’m THAT busy. But I have a couple of recipes I can give up that will be sure to be hits at your Super Bowl party tomorrow. Before I post those… Here are some of tips that should help you when planning your menu:

Wooden skewers are your friend. You can buy a bag of 100 skewers for literally $1.99 at your local grocery story or even The Christmas Tree Shop (for New England residents). Skewers are the best way to serve food because there is no plate involved and it is a one-handed bite, which is what we are always going for.

Caprese Salad Skewers

You can put grilled chicken, sausages and pepper chunks (in my first cookbook), fruit, Caprese salad (mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes — also in my first cookbook), and so much more. Buy the skewers and be creative. Mini meatballs sandwiched between two cubes of French bread… Holy crap, you have a meatball sandwich on a wooden skewer! Yes, I just came up with that. It’s that easy.

Avoid soups. Nobody will eat it… because people are drinking! Nobody wants soup and beer in their belly. Period.

Do not make a crudité a.k.a. a veggie platter with dip. That is so 1980. If you absolutely have to make one… be creative and make individual ones. Buy some plastic shot glasses and fill the bottom with about 2 Tablespoons of veggie dip, then fill the glasses with various vegetables. This is the best way to avoid those disgusting double-dippers, too. Let everyone eat their own saliva, not everyone else’s.

Fried foods always win. This is the one day, besides Thanksgiving of course, you can stuff your face as if it’s your last day on Death Row. Enjoy it. Fry! When frying, however, I have learned that the “let rest on paper towels after frying” is the wrong way to go. I found that it only makes your food soggy. Place your friend food on a metal rack (the ones you rest your baked cookies on) to keep the food crispy.

You only need ONE dessert. Don’t go nuts with seven different cookies and nine types of cupcakes. Chill on the desserts. But have fun with it. Maybe make caramel apples. You’re welcome!

Here are two recipes that are SURE to be a hit at any party, especially one celebrating a sports event… total DUDE FOOD!

FRIED CHICKEN BITES

Ingredients:
4 Chicken Breasts with skin
4 Chicken Thighs with skin
2 C Flour
1 Onion quartered
6 Garlic Cloves
1 T Paprika
1 T Mustard Powder
1 T Cayenne Pepper optional
2 T Honey
1 Half Gallon Buttermilk
1 Bunch Parsley roughly chopped
Canola Oil for frying
Salt & Pepper

1. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into 2-inch chunks. Make sure you keep the skin on! Season each piece with salt and pepper.
2. In a large bowl or large zip-lock bag, combine the onion, garlic (press/smash it first), paprika, mustard powder, honey and parsley with the buttermilk.
3. Add the chicken to the seasoned buttermilk and soak for at least a couple of hours in the fridge. If you have time, overnight.
4. Heat your oil to 375 degrees.
5. Season the flour with salt and pepper. (You can add more paprika, cayenne and mustard powder for extra flavor.)
6. Coat the buttermilk chicken with the seasoned flour and drop in the hot oil. Note: Do not fry too many pieces at once or it’ll bring the temperature of the oil down significantly, leaving you with oily, greasy chicken.
7. Fry the chicken pieces for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown.
8. Let the chicken rest on a metal rack (put a paper towel on the counter UNDERNEATH the rack to pick up the excess oil) and season immediately with salt.

CLAMS CASINO

Ingredients:
24 Little Neck Clams
8 Slices Bacon or Pancetta diced
1/4 C Parsley chopped
1/2 C Breadcrumbs Italian
4 T Parmesan Cheese
2 Shallots chopped
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
4 T Olive Oil
4 T Butter
2 Lemons wedged

Clams Casino

 

1. Shuck those clams! Using a thick towel to hold the clam, with a clam or small butter knife, find the soft spot of the clam and wedge it open. Note: You can steam the clams until the open SLIGHTLY if you are not comfortable with this process.
2. Discard the top shell. Loosen the clam from the bottom shell . Place the 24 shells with the clam on a baking sheet.
3. In a pan, saute the bacon or pancetta until rendered… about 5 minutes. Note: You want the fat to melt down and the meaty part of the bacon/pancetta to slightly crisp.
4. Add the Olive Oil.
5. Add the shallot and garlic. DO NOT BURN.
6. Add the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley and just warm through.
7. Spoon the mixture over each clam.
8. Melt the butter and drizzle over each stuffed clam shell.
9. In a preheated oven (375 degrees), bake the clams for about 10 minutes. Note: You do not want to overcook the clam… and the breadcrumb mixture is already cooked.
10. Finish with lemon drizzled from the lemon wedges.

Go Patriots!!!



My first Stage… and a trip to Phoenix

January 31, 2015
10:30 a.m. ET

The weekend is finally here… and we are ONE day away from Super Bowl Sunday! I’m currently in Maryland waiting for my best friend to finish his day… and we have a flight to Phoenix at 5:45 p.m. out of DC. Yes, this will be my fourth Super Bowl and quite possibly the one I’m most excited about. I saw the Patriots win in Houston, I saw the Patriots lose in Arizona, and I saw the Steelers defeat the Cardinals in Tampa. I’ve been extremely spoiled when it comes to Super Bowls, and this may be my last one.

I tell everyone this… If you have the chance to go to a Super Bowl, DO IT. It is by far the greatest show on earth. Not the circus, the Super Bowl. It truly is an amazing experience from the opening ceremony to the confetti when the clock reads 0:00. The energy at a Super Bowl is impossible to match and there is nothing like watching your home team compete 3,000 miles away. Is Arizona that far from Boston????

In any event, I’m excited to attend the game with my best friend — who I don’t get to see very often. Though I have to admit… selling our tickets for $20,000 has certainly entered my mind. That is literally my rent for the rest of the YEAR. While I find this number staggering and extremely scary at the same time, I have to say… it makes me feel bad for the average NFL fan that they will never be able to enjoy such an extraordinary event because of ticket price inflation. Sure, it’s great for brokers and people who want to make a quick buck, but I just wish the Super Bowl was more about the average fan than the independently wealthy.

Regardless, this will be a nice break from culinary school and cooking in general (Oh, and the snow!) and I’m planning on laughing for the next three days. I did promise my buddy I would cook Monday and Tuesday for him and his brother… so I’m not taking a total break from cooking. I already know what I’m going to make so stay tuned for photos… and even the recipe, which as you know I NEVER give away!!

Speaking of cooking, the stage on Thursday went well, but it definitely could have gone better. I walked away feeling a little discouraged about my knife skills, which comes with experience, and experience only. One of the fingers on my right hand was a shy short of bleeding and it still hurts to hold a pen. Unfortunately, this is part of my new career and something I’m going to have to get used to. I know cooking isn’t glamorous, and I don’t want it to be since I am FAR from a glamorous person… but I felt like I was given a new pair of sneakers to run a marathon. Does that make sense?

In any event, I know I have a lot to work on and I’m ready to put the work in. The good news is, I always fight for what I want and I NEVER give up regardless of how hard the task it. With that being said, I am going back on a busy Saturday night when I won’t be chopping as much and literally risking losing my fingers (not quite).

I’m so humbled and honored that major restaurants and chefs are giving me these opportunities and are willing to take a chance on me. I hope viewers learned something from me on The Taste… if you stay true to yourself, give 100 percent every step of the way, always keep your eye on the end goal, and refuse to be discouraged along the way… you will always end up a winner!

Enjoy your Saturday! (Blog #2 with Super Bowl snacks coming up later today!)


Welcome to “Dare To Taste” Blog!

January 28, 2015

https://daretotaste.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=273&action=edit#edit_timestampJust when I thought I was done writing and blogging, I decide to get reacquainted with my keyboard and start a blog page on my “Dare To Taste” site. So… thank you all for reading my first post. Here is what you’ll find on my new blog:

– Cool new recipes that won’t be included in any of my future books
– New food ideas for social gatherings, dinners for one, and more
– Personal appearances/fun food events I’ll be hosting as well as cookbook signings
– Mailbag questions and answers to your food/cooking inquiries
– Contests where lucky winners will receive a copy of my cookbook

… and much, much more.

Today is Thursday and I’m headed to stage at a fairly well-known restaurant here in the Boston area. For those of you who don’t know what stage is (pronounced stazhje), its an unpaid shift in a restaurant where you’re thrown into the fire for a full day to basically audition for a job. Staging is important because accepting a job in a restaurant has to work for both parties involved. Not only is it an opportunity for the executive chef/owner to see if you’re a good fit, but it’s a time for YOU to decided if it’s a good fit for you as well. Make sense?

I’m really looking forward to today’s stage because I’m CURIOUS. I have lived my entire life/career with the motto, “sometimes the only way to figure out what you want, is to figure out what you DON’T want.” I have a job waiting for me here in the North End if this doesn’t pan out, so I’m ready to get this new career of mine started!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, if you’ve ordered my new cookbook, they’ve all been shipped. The mail out of Boston is very slow due to the recent snow storm so please be patient. The only thing I ask is that you send me a photo of where you placed the book in your house. And of course you MUST send me a photo of everything you cook!

If you have any questions about any of the recipes or you’re stuck on something… you can reach me at Jen@Daretotaste.com. I’ll be happy to answer any of your cooking questions!

Enjoy the day!
xo


Available Now! “Dare To Taste” Cookbook

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMAVAILABLE NOW FOR PURCHASE! Jen Royle’s second cookbook, an 8×10 soft cover creation filled with over 35 easy and delicious recipes, is a perfect holiday gift for any home cook.


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