Friday, June 14, 2013

True Blood - Dessert! Ambrosia Ice Cream & Vanilla Pizzelles

Welcome back, Truebies! This is part 3 of 3 posts to celebrate the return of our favorite bunch of Vamps, Weres, Telepaths, Fairies & misguided sexual deviants from the deep, deep South, True Blood! We've made a delicious basket of deep fried amazing-ness as a main course, a boozy concoction to get you pleasantly drunk while watching Billith and his mutant fangs reign down awkward, religious terror on the poor minions of Bon Temps - and now, we have dessert!

Ambrosia Ice Cream with Pecan Pralines & Vanilla Pizzelles

Ambrosia is a salad commonly served in the South. It consists of cherries, oranges, pineapple, coconut and various creamy bases all mixed up with miniature marshmallows. It reminds me of old Southern ladies in giant, floppy hats and floral print dresses and hot summer days. And it's the dish people bring to pot-lucks when they don't feel like putting in a whole lot of effort. You know that guy. You might have been that guy. The following dessert requires just a little more effort but it's still fairly easy to achieve. So, let's get started!

Pecan Pralines

2 Cups Pecan Pieces
1/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
4 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

Pre-Heat Oven to 350º

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Using a spatula, evenly spread the pecan mixture on the parchment paper in a single layer (no piles).

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and stir. Bake for another 10 minutes (for a total of 20 minutes) or until the coating is dry.

Let cool and store in an air-tight container. You'll only need 1 cup for the ice cream but you can eat these delicious pralines plain, add them to cereal or sprinkle on your pancakes and waffles. Delicious!!

Basic Vanilla Pizzelles

3 Eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Melted Butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 Cup Flour
2 TSP Baking Powder

Pre-Heat Pizzelle Press to Medium Setting

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick. I recommend using an electric hand mixer to make life a little easier. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Using a spatula, gradually blend the flour in with the egg/sugar mixture until a smooth, thick batter forms.

Spoon batter into Pizzelle press and cook for 25-45 seconds or until you achieve the desired shade of golden-brown goodness!

Ambrosia Ice Cream

2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 TSP salt
1 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Coconut
1/4 Cup Chopped Mandarin Oranges (canned)
1/4 Cup Drained Crushed Pineapple (canned)
1/4 Cup Chopped Maraschino Cherries
1 Cup Pecan Pralines

In a large bowl, whisk together heavy cream and sugar until foamy. Whisk in whole milk, vanilla & salt. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove from refrigerator and whisk until smooth.

Prepare ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions. When ice cream is at soft-serve stage (after about an hour), add fruit, pralines and coconut and mix until evenly distributed.

Serve with Pizzelles, drizzle with cherry juice and garnish with fresh mint and maraschino cherries.

*TIP I used canned fruit in this ice cream because most ice cream compressors will freeze fresh fruit to the point where eating it can nearly break teeth. Canned fruit is usually packed in a sugary syrup that protects the fruit from over-freezing and makes for a pleasant ice cream experience!

And that's the menu! I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I did! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

True Blood - Cocktail Time! The Fizzy Fang

Welcome back, gentle readers! In case you haven't noticed, I love themes. And I mean, I LOVE themes. If there's a way to tie together my nerdy cooking obsession with my psychotic pop culture obsessions, I am all over it like cheese on mac. And my obsession with True Blood goes back to before the very first episode ever even aired. So, what better reason than the True Blood season premiere to post a super-fun 3-parter?

And now it's time for the fun bit...the boozy part of our 3-parter. Thanks to a certain group of bat-crap crazy Lillith-loving a-holes bombing the crap out of the Tru-Blood factories of the world, I was unable to procure all the ingredients I needed for this delicious fizzy cocktail. But, when faced with adversity, I rose to the challenge and found this at my local VONS grocery store:

...and the Fizzy Fang was born! 


Your favorite Vodka
Blood Orange Soda
Lime Juice (& Lime Wedge for garnish)
Fresh Mint
Maraschino Cherries

In a glass, mix together two parts blood orange soda, one part vodka, about 1 tablespoon of lime (or to taste) and about a tablespoon of Grenadine. Garnish with fresh mint, maraschino cherries and a lime wedge.

*TIP For a more minty flavor, crush your mint in the bottom of your glass.

Simple, delicious and it gets the job done, honey. I'm pretty sure it would get the stamp of approval from Tara and Lafayette. Be sure to pop in tomorrow when we wrap things up with dessert: Ambrosia Ice Cream and delicious Italian Pizzelles! And remember, drink responsibly, kids! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

True Blood: Southern Fried Basket

Welcome back! This week, we're celebrating the return of the bloodiest, nakedest, Southern twangiest vampire show on television today: True Blood! Today, we're paying tribute to everyone's favorite back-water bar and grill, Merlotte's, with a fry basket good enough to make Lafayette blush. You ain't gonna see nothin' green but the garnish here, honey. So, brace your arteries, fire up that stove and get out that cast iron skillet because we're gonna bread and fry everything but the coffin!

What's in the basket? Well, we have fried chicken strips, fried shrimp, french fries and hush puppies. Don't know what a hush puppy is? Don't panic, it's fried cornbread! Once they clean up the fairy after-birth, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to order something very similar to this in Merlotte's. In this blog, you'll find the recipes and basic instruction for each item in the basket. In later posts, I'll elaborate on technique for those of you in need of more detailed instruction and break each item into a quest for those of you following along with your character tomes.

Basic Fried Chicken Strips

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Cut Into Strips
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for frying
2 Cups Buttermilk
3 Cups Flour
1 TBS Ground Pepper
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Onion Powder
2 TSP Cayenne Pepper

In a shallow dish, soak your chicken in the buttermilk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Pre-Heat Oil in a heavy duty skillet (ie. cast iron)  or dutch oven to 350º  Do not fill the skillet more than halfway with oil; too much becomes dangerous.

Mix together flour, pepper, cayenne pepper, salt and onion powder in a large bowl. Trust your nose! Smell the mixture and if you feel like it needs more seasoning, don't be afraid to add it!

Transfer pre-soaked chicken strips directly from buttermilk to flour mixture and coat well. For a thicker, crunchier breading, coat again in buttermilk and return for a second time to flour mixture.

Fry chicken until golden brown and crunchy, roughly 8 to 10 minutes. Make sure you turn the strips over halfway through cooking. Do not cook more than three strips at a time. Overloading the oil will drive down the temperature and effect the cooking time and greasiness of your chicken. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain grease.

Crispy Fried Shrimp

1 Pound Uncooked Shrimp, peeled & deveined
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for Frying
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp Tabasco Sauce
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
2 TBS Cornmeal 
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Ground Pepper
1 Tsp Onion Powder

Pre-heat Oil in skillet or dutch oven to 350º

Whisk together buttermilk and Tabasco sauce in a shallow dish.

Mix together self-rising flour, cornmeal, salt, ground pepper and onion powder in a separate dish.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. 

Dredge shrimp FIRST in flour mixture, then transfer to buttermilk mixture and coat well. Return shrimp to flour mixture and set aside until all shrimp are breaded.

Fry until crispy and golden brown in small batches, roughly 5 minutes per batch. Be sure to turn the shrimp over halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain grease.

Hush Puppies

3/4 Cup Self-Rising Cornmeal (or 3/4 Cup regular cornmeal + 1 tsp baking powder)
1/2 Cup Self-Rising Flour
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for frying
1/4 Cup minced onion
1/2 Cup Creamed Corn (canned)
1 Large Egg (beaten)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

In a skillet or dutch oven, fill a little under halfway with oil. Pre-Heat Oil to 350º

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl until a smooth, thick batter forms. Let it stand for about five minutes

Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. A good rule of thumb is not to go over a tablespoon per hush puppy. Fry in batches of 5 or 6. Again, overloading the oil will drive down the temperature of the oil and effect cooking time and greasiness. Fry until golden brown and crunchy, roughly 3 to 4 minutes. Be sure to turn the hush puppies halfway through for even cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain grease.

French Fries

5 Pounds Russet Potatoes
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for Frying
Salt & Pepper to taste
Large bowl of cold water

Peel and cut potatoes into sticks. 

Transfer potato sticks to bowl of cold water and let soak for at least 2 hours. Why? Well, soaking the potatoes (fries) in cold water gets rid of a lot of the starch and helps achieve delicious, crunchy french fries. You can soak them all night if you feel like it. But I recommend at LEAST 2 hours. Also, if your water isn't cold enough, add ice cubes and stick it in the fridge.

Remove from bowl to a paper towel lined baking sheet and pat dry, removing any excess water. 

Get ready! You're going to fry these bad-boys twice for maximum crispy deliciousness!

Pre-Heat Oil to 300º in a deep skillet or dutch oven

In small batches, fry potato sticks until tender. Test them with a metal spatula or knife. When you can easily slice through a stick, pull them from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined pan. Pat away the excess grease with a dry paper towel. Repeat until you have lightly fried the entire batch. 

Increase oil temperature to 375º

Again, in small batches, fry the potato sticks until golden brown and crispy. About 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain the grease. Season with salt and pepper or other seasonings (garlic, cayenne, onion powder, etc.).

And that's the fry basket in a nutshell!  Don't fix it too often or you might find yourself wheezing the next time you're running from a hungry vampire. Be sure to pop in tomorrow because I'll be posting my special True Blood cocktail, the Fizzy Fang. And Friday, we're turning a traditional Southern salad on its head with Ambrosia Ice Cream! 

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh, Doctor, My Doctor!

Welcome back, Apprentices! Today, we're taking a break from the kitchen to talk about one of my favorite subjects: Doctor Who!

It was confirmed on Saturday by BBC that the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, will soon leave us in this year's Christmas special. The announcement has spawned all sorts of reactions from fans across social media ranging from understandable sadness and confusion (announcements from just last month had confirmed him for the eighth season) to the ridiculously childish and hostile lashing out on Twitter to impassioned debates over Steven Moffat's competency as a story-teller and show-runner. But that subject is neither here nor there for this Whovian. That debate is for another day.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me to say good-bye to David Tennant as the 10th Doctor. He was my first Doctor as we got to know each other one fateful day when I was at home, sick with the flu and BBC America was airing a second series Doctor Who marathon. I was immediately pulled in through my feverish haze and when the marathon ended, I sought out the first series and have been hooked ever since. I was a sobbing, snotty mess when Tennant left. His last words, "I don't want to go," always resonated with me because Tennant was very clear about how much he loved Doctor Who. He'd even mentioned in interviews that watching Doctor Who as a child made him want to be an actor saying,
"I can only have been three and I was just enthralled by Doctor Who. But I was quite clear that I didn't want to be a Time Lord, I wanted to be the person who played a Time Lord." 

And it was obvious, in those last heart-wrenching moments, that he, David Tennant, did not want to go. But it was his time. The time comes for every Time Lord when he must surrender the mantle and regenerate into a new version of himself.

Over the past four years, I have slowly grown to appreciate Matt Smith's quirky portrayal of The Doctor. He gives him a strange mixture of youthful naiveté with his innocent, confused reactions to River Song and barely contained simmering rage on the brink of exploding all over whatever baddie was dumb enough to put The Doctor in a trap.

But most of all, I will miss his humor; the twinkle in his eye and his crooked smile as he gazes with awe and appreciation at a creature that would scare the socks off anyone else. It's hard not to smile and laugh along as he shouts "Geronimo!" and dives, head-first into the fray, saving the universe with only his sonic screwdriver in hand and his Companion at his side.

Matt Smith's incarnation has given us bow ties and fezzes and cowboy hats (oh, my!) and some of the best Companions the show has ever seen. Watching Rory grow from being an over-sized boy to The Last Centurion during his travels with The Doctor was truly one of my favorite story lines. And River Song showing him up behind the wheel of the T.A.R.D.I.S makes me giggle every time.

And although the announcement has been made and speculation has begun on who will be the next Doctor, I will look forward to watching Matt's final appearances in the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special and have my box of tissues ready for a weep-fest during the Christmas Special.

So, thank you, Matt Smith, for making me laugh, giving me a new adventure to look forward to every Saturday night and knowing how to rip out my heart and break it into a million little pieces. Best of luck as you dive into the fray of your new adventures. Geronimo, Doctor! 

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