Jake Ludington: October 2008 Archives

Combine the classic slider appetizer, with the gross-out opportunity of a Halloween party and you get this clever spin on the miniature hamburger. Grass-fed beef, white cheddar, and a homemade ketchup seem innocent enough until you garnish with your favorite scare tactics.

Halloween Party Appetizer - Maggot Sliders

Maggot Slider Ingredients
Ground chuck (80% lean max), 2 pounds
6oz white cheddar
1/2 cup cooked white rice (aka "maggots")
12 leaves fresh basil
6 brioche or potato rolls
1 cup ketchup
salt & pepper
olive oil
Dijon mustard
12 wooden skewers

1) Slice cheese into 12 equal pieces. Form small patties around each piece of cheese with the ground beef.
2) Roll edge of sliders in rice then press with fingers to adhere.
3) Heat olive oil in saute pan on medium high. Cook burgers until browned on each side, being careful not to overcook. Should take about 5 minutes per side max.
4) Cut brioche rolls in half and trim into squares. Toast bread, then dab with Dijon mustard.
5) Add one basil leaf to each piece of toasted bread. Top with a burger and skewer.
6) Place burgers on platter and drizzle with ketchup.
7) Decorate platter with plastic flies, bugs, and clumps of rice (aka "maggots").

Halloween-themed candy doesn't have to be nothing but processed sugar and chocolate to taste great, although it certainly doesn't hurt. Fruit can add a slightly different spin on the Halloween holiday, like in these blackberry bat wings, which are basically a homemade fruit leather or fruit roll-up cut in wing-like shapes. The ingredients and cooking process make it simple and kids and adults will both love them. You can use the recipe outside the Halloween holiday to make homemade fruit leather.

Halloween Party Recipe - Blackberry Bat Wings

Blackberry Bat Wings Ingredients
Blackberries, 4 pints
3/4 cup sugar

1) Puree sugar and berries. Strain the puree into a sauce pan to eliminate any seeds.
2) Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until the puree is reduced by 3/4.
3) Place a Silpat or waxed paper on a sheet pan. Spread reduced puree on the covered portion of the sheet pan.
4) Bake on sheet pan at 200 degrees for 1-3 hours until the top is almost not sticky to the touch.
5) Allow to cool for 3 hours. Tear or trim with a parring knife into jagged shapes resembling bat wings.
6) Store in airtight container on parchment to keep "wings" separated until serving.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cup recipe Peanut butter cups have long been my favorite Halloween candy. I'd trade other candies for a Reese's any day. Or I would have until we made these this year. Homemade peanut butter cups beat anything you can buy at the store hands down. And they're incredibly easy to make.

Peanut Butter Cup Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter (all natural)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup ground Graham crackers
8oz bitter-sweet baking chocolate
8oz semi-sweet baking chocolate

Making Peanut Butter Cups1) Crush Graham crackers in a gallon storage bag with a rolling pin.
2) In a mixer with a paddle attachment mix peanut butter, powdered sugar and crushed Graham crackers, mixing until you get a consistency that rolls well.
3) Roll peanut butter mixture into balls and flatten. Each disk should be about the size of 4 stacked quarters. Store these on parchment paper in the freezer until ready for use.
4) Boil water in a medium sacue pan filled three quarters full. Place a metal mixing bowl on top of the sauce pan as a double-boiler. Break chocolate into squares to melt in mixing bowl. Melt chocolate, then remove the bowl from the sauce pan.
5) Stir the chocolate until it's cooled to approximately body temperature.
6) Pour a tablespoon of chocolate into a cupcake foil, tilting the foil so that the chocolate coats the sides up about 3/8-inch. When you get a dozen of these, place a cupcake baking sheet in the freezer to cool until firm. Repeat with a second baking sheet of cupcake foils.
7) After chilling, place a peanut butter disk in the center of each foil, then cover the disks with the remainder of the chocolate. Once you cover the full cupcake sheet with chocolate, place it back in the freezer until firm. Chill until serving.

Halloween Party Recipe - Peanut Butter Cups

After getting a little carried away slicing potatoes for making kettle chips we needed to do something with the left over slices. An easy follow-up was scalloped potatoes, which are easy to make and cook most effectively with uniform potato slices like the ones used for the chips. As I frequently mention, I'm allergic to dairy so I substituted 1/2 cup Silk creamer and 1/2 cup chicken broth for the 1 cup of cream in the recipe.

Scalloped Potatoes recipe

Scalloped Potatoes Ingredients
4-5 medium sized potatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
1 cup cream
1 cup shredded cheese
1/3 cup ham, cubed
1 tsp thyme

1) Turn oven on to 375 degrees. Slice potatoes either by hand or to 3mm with a mandolin and keep in water until ready to layer in baking dish.
2) Saute diced onion and garlic in butter.
3) Add flour to butter and cook for 1-2 minutes
4) Add cream, stir to thicken
5) Grate cheese and add 1/2 cup to sauce. Add ham and thyme to sauce. Stir sauce until cheese melts.
6) Layer half potatoes on bottom of 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour half of sauce on the potato layer. Add rest of potatoes on top of sauce, then add the rest of the sauce on top of your second potato layer.
7) Top with the other 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake covered for approximately 30 minutes until bubbling. Remove cover, sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and cook until the top has a golden brown crust of breadcrumbs and cheese.
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Serves 2-4

choice-peppermint-tea.gif We try to source most of the food in our house as close to home as possible. For meat, vegetables, and many berries, this is easy to do in Washington. The wines and beers produced in the state are excellent too. Finding coffee and tea with ingredients sourced in the United States is almost impossible. I'm not ready to give up either beverage anytime soon, so the next best option has typically been to seek out roasters who use Fair Trade beans and leaves whenever possible. Recently, Choice Organic Teas, based in Seattle, started sourcing peppermint and lavender for some of their herbal teas directly in the state, creating what I believe are some of the only U.S. grown teas. Certainly they are among the only U.S. grown organic teas. In a product category where buying local has typically meant buying from South America, it's nice to see there are finally some options available from the U.S. too. Bonus for those of us who live a mere two hours from some of the crops.

Hat tip to Green LA Girl for a great round up of Fair Trade Tea.

Between our regular grocery list and trips to the farmers market, we ended up with too many potatoes in the house. An obvious solution - make some potato chips. Sure, it's faster to buy a bag of Kettle brand chips from the store, but they never taste as fresh and you're limited to the standard seasonings and flavors. Making your own potato chips allows you to choose the type of oil. While I used the canola oil we have on hand, I considered tracking down some California Rice Oil Company oil, after recently reading in Cook's Illustrated that the smoke point is much higher than canola or peanut oil. You can also use seasoned salts like truffle salt or fennel salt to subtly enhance your potato chip flavor. At Robin's recommendation, a two-staged frying process was used to achieve a crisp golden brown chip.

How to make kettle potato chips

Potatoes, sliced
24oz Canola, peanut, or California rice oil
Truffle salt

Cast iron dutch oven
Mandolin slicer

Potatoes Sliced for Chips Blanching Potato Slices

1) Heat oil in cast iron pan, with thermometer in oil to make sure temperature reaches 300 degrees.
2) As oil heats, clean your potatoes and slice with mandolin slicer set to approximately 2mm. Place sliced potatoes in a bowl of water to keep them from turning brown.
3) Remove slices from water and pat dry on paper towels, place enough slices in oil to have one layer covering the surface of the oil.
4) Allow slices to blanch, cooking until they turn from a shiny color to a more matte appearance. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place in a pan lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
5) After blanching all potato slices, increase the temperature of the oil to between 350-375 degrees.
6) Repeat process of layering chips in the oil, this time cooking them until they turn a golden color (or until crisp with purple or blue potato slices).
7) Remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil, season with your favorite salt while still hot.

I'm a huge fan of the flavor combination of Brussels sprouts and bacon. This pasta dish, with the wide pappardelle noodles is a variation on that theme, substituting my love of American smoke-cured bacon with the flavorful salt-cured pancetta.

Pappardelle with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

Fresh dried papparadelle pasta - 8oz
Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved - 1 pound
Pancetta, thick sliced cut into small pieces 6oz
Fennel - 1 bulb, sliced
Garlic, 3 cloves, sliced
Leek, halved and sliced
3-4 sage leaves, julienned
2 sprigs thyme
Handful of parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Red pepper flakes
White wine (Chardonnay or Chardonnay Blend)
4 Tbl Butter
2oz heavy cream
pinch of nutmeg, fresh grated
1-2oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Start with a pot of water for boiling pasta. Add plenty of salt to the water. While waiting for the water to boil, trim Brussels sprouts and work through preparation of other ingredients. In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, add pancetta and a little olive oil, cooking until brown. Add Brussels sprouts and saute 2-3 minutes. Add fennel, leeks and thyme. Brown vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to water at this stage. In the saute pan, add red pepper flakes and garlic. Toss saute pan several times, then add white wine and deglaze by scraping the bottom of the pan. Allow to reduce until liquid is almost gone. Add sage and parsley, along with butter, stirring until butter melts. Check pasta at this point (if not ready, turn down the saute pan and wait for the pasta), add the cream, salt & pepper to taste, allowing to bubble and thicken. Add pasta to saute pan and toss all to coat the pasta. Grate nutmeg and cheese into the saute pan. Squeeze lemon over the entire pan and serve.

With damp cool weather starting to kick in here in the Pacific Northwest, it's time to start making some of my favorite soups. I like a number of different ham and bean soups, but I think this particular recipe, which couples smoked ham hocks with cannellini and great northern white beans. A little Swiss chard added at the end adds a flavor like an intense spinach that tempers the comforting rich salty flavor of the soup.

Ham and White Bean Soup

1 medium onion (diced)
3 whole carrots (chopped)
3 celery stalks (chopped)
1 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 Tbl olive oil
2 ham hocks
1 cup white wine
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
2-3 Cans northern white beans or cannellini beans
Swiss chard

Warm your stock pot to medium heat, then combine sweat diced onion, chopped carrots and celery, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, in olive oil. Add wine to sweated vegetables allowing it to reduce by half. Add water, ham hocks, bay leaves, and thyme. The water should cover the hocks in the pot. Simmer till ham hocks are falling apart, which will take several hours. Add cannellini and great northern beans, simmer an additional 20 minutes. Just before serving, add the chard to the pot allowing it to cook lightly. Finish by serving in bowls garnished with sour cream or plain goat yogurt and chives.