Sweet & Sour Brisket

I have been a busy busy girl the past week or two with the holidays and some other things going on.  Dave and I split our holiday time between our two families so we got to celebrate Passover sedar twice!

I was so excited when my Mommom told me I could make something to help out this year.  I was back and forth as to what to make but finally decided to take on the responsibility of making the Brisket.  This would be a risky choice, having never made it before… but I was up for the challenge.  With the assistance of my crockpot and my handy-dandy Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I made one hell of a brisket!  Yay!

I realize Passover is OVER for this year, but there is always time for a good Brisket.

Sweet & Sour Brisket

Ingredients:

1 4-5lb Brisket (mine was 5.25)

1.5 teaspoons Sea Salt, plus some more for seasoning the meat

Black Pepper

1 cup Beef Broth

3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

4 teaspoons Paprika

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

2 Tablespoons Onion Powder

Directions:

Step 1:  Cook Brisket.  Season the meat with Salt and Pepper on both sides.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Place the meat in a slow cooker, pour the sauce over it, and set it to cook on LOW for 10 hours.  Your house is going to smell phenomenal.

Step 2:  Rest Brisket.  Resist the urge to eat the brisket… it’s going to get better with time.  While the meat is still hot, scrape off any large fat pieces on the edges.  There was a TON on mine.  Transfer the brisket into a baking dish, making sure to keep all of the sauce too.  Chill in the refrigerator for anywhere between a few hours to a whole day.  

Step 3:  Re-Heat Brisket.  An hour before you need to eat the brisket, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Remove the grease that has hardened on the top of the meat and sauce (or not, but it’s really nasty so I recommend it).  Remove the brisket from the dish and place on a large cutting board.  Slice while cold and transfer back into the saucy baking dish and spoon the sauce over the meat.  Bake in the oven until heated through, the sauce should be bubbly on the edges.  Serve immediately.

Recipe from:  the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Note:  The original recipe includes directions for cooking in the oven.  Briefly… Cook the meat in a 350 degree preheated oven in a dutch oven or in a baking dish tightly covered with foil.  Bake for 3 hours.  

photo 4 (2)

Had to stuff this bad boy in there!  It's amazing how much it shrinks though... so much fat to remove.

Had to stuff this bad boy in there! It’s amazing how much it shrinks though… so much fat to remove.

Gettin' Saucy!

Gettin’ Saucy!

This is all I had to dirty while making the brisket... love it.

This is all I had to dirty while making the brisket… love it.

I was SO nervous about this silly brisket!  I really wanted to make something big and new and exciting and I didn’t want to screw it up.  To add to my new recipe anxiety, I was stupid and didn’t read the cooking time until I had already started at 6:30pm on Saturday.  If I did it the right way, that would have meant to take it out at 4:30am.  LOL.

Lucky for me, Dave was out at a bachelor party and I was already waiting for him and awake at 2:30 to finish the brisket up.  Lesson learned:  read directions first.  Duh.

Cooled brisket with the grease scraped off.  Ready to be sliced.

Cooled brisket with the grease scraped off. Ready to be sliced.

It's easiest to slice the brisket when it's cold.  You'll get better slices whereas when you cut it after it's reheated it'll be more fork tender and fall apart.

It’s easiest to slice the brisket when it’s cold. You’ll get better slices whereas when you cut it after it’s reheated it’ll be more fork tender and fall apart.

Once the brisket is cut, I transfered it to my dutch oven to heat up for dinner.  Don't stress if the slices break a little... those will be the best bites!

Once the brisket is cut, I transfered it to my dutch oven to heat up for dinner. Don’t stress if the slices break a little… those will be the best bites!

 

What a great spread... brisket was so good.

What a great spread… brisket was so good.

Despite my nerves and anxiety, the brisket was awesome.  It was so easy to make and turned out absolutely perfect and delicious.  The brisket was so moist and flavorful, it was also the perfect combination of sliced pieces and the fally-apart pieces that sop up all the sauce.  MMM!

I do have to pat myself on the back once more and mention to you that my Dad who has NEVER tried Brisket in my lifetime not only tried this one… but really liked it.  Whatttttttttt?!

It’s a good thing when there are no leftovers, right?  I’d say next time I’d make a bigger one but this 5.25 lb baby hardly fit into my crockpot!

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Leftovers

Modo Mio, Philadelphia

I don’t even know where to start.

It isn’t often that I brag about how amazing my boyfriend Dave is.

I suppose most of the time it’s in an attempt to avoid bothering and irritating my friends with obnoxious and gushy facebook statuses and pictures… or maybe it’s just that I’d rather complain than talk about how wonderful things are.

Today I’m going to break my own rules.  Today we’re going to talk about how AWESOME Dave is.

Dave and I were unable to go out on a dinner date on Valentine’s Day.  We were too busy celebrating in a less conventional way… at the Circus!!  We had such a fun time.  I recently finished reading Water for Elephants and Dave caught on and bought us tickets for V-Day.  See… he rocks.

Dave and I went to the Circus for Valentine's Day!

Dave and I went to the Circus for Valentine’s Day!

Dave informed me the following day that we’d be going out to dinner next Friday night to properly celebrate Valentine’s Day.  He also somehow kept the destination a secret the whole week despite my incessant guessing and questioning.  (For those of you who don’t know this already, I have some serious menu anxiety and probably spend at least an hour stalking the menu before I go out… or else I’ll NEVER decide)  The only thing I was allowed to know was that the restaurant was BYOB… which just made me even more excited.

I still didn’t know where we were going when I got dressed Friday night, grabbed some wine, headed out of our apartment, onto the bus, and then onto the subway.  When we arrived in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of the city, I still was clueless.  I had a few guesses, but absolutely clueless… that was until we walked up to the door and I saw the logo…

img_modomio_logo

OMG.  So many thoughts rushed into my mind all at the same time… OMG I cannot believe I’m here… How did Dave even find out about this place?  And Most importantly… WHAT ARE WE GOING TO EAT?!?!

Modo Mio has been on my “Philly Wish List” of restaurants to try for over a year.  It’s actually the second one from the top.  I’ve heard so many good things and read so many good reviews, I mean the place has 4.5 stars on Yelp… it has to be phenom, right?  Well… it was.

Our table was ready at the exact time of our reservation.  We had arrived a little early so we had to wait, but it wasn’t for long.  Dave and I were seated in between a party of 4 and a different party of 6.  It’s definitely a little cozy, but this totally added (in a GREAT way) to the whole experience.  Our server, Joe was fantastic.  He explained the restaurant’s Northern Italian style of food, their “Turista” menu option, and wasn’t afraid to make fun of me when he asked to open our wine for us and I handed him a twist-off.  Whoops!

Dave and I decided to go with the Turista where each person gets an Antipasti, a Pasta, a Secondi, and a Dessert, for $35/pp.  This is an awesome deal, since the portions are smaller and the entrees all cost >$15 anyway.  It was a perfect way to try as much as possible.  Which I love.  Obviously.

Our menu selection was swayed when we observed our neighbors receiving their first courses.  They raved about the Octopus and a few other items which we now obviously had to try for ourselves.  We also befriended our other neighbors who shared their homemade Sangria with us.  Loving this place so far!!

For our first course, Dave and I ordered the Octopus and the special of the night which was a Pork Belly Meatball topped with Roasted Tomatoes, a Seared Scallop, and Smoked Maple Sauce.  Smoked Maple Sauce?!  It was absolutely heavenly.  I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was.  I seriously hope they find a place on the permanent menu for this dish.  I’d have to get it every time.  The Octopus was also outrageous, the dish was packed with so many textures and flavors.  The octopus itself was stewed in a spicy tomato sauce but was served piled high with a crispy crunchy Farinata (a thin crispy chickpea pancake), salty sliced olives, capers, and some type of crunchy veggie maybe.  It was drizzled in a rich creamy sauce that brought the entire dish together.

The daily special- Pork Belly Meatball, Scallop, Pistachio, SMOKED Maple Sauce.  MMM!

The daily special- Pork Belly Meatball, Scallop, Pistachio, SMOKED Maple Sauce. MMM!

Octopus Antipasti- one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Octopus Antipasti- one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Our pasta choices were also delicious, and we ate every single last bite on our plates.  We shared the Lasagna and Butternut Squash Ravioli.  Now, Dave and I are not huge pasta eaters… in fact we rarely order it, let alone Lasagna which can typically be really heavy.  But when I saw the Lasagna description on the menu (fresh pasta sheets, classic meat sauce, fried egg), I was all set.  Fried Egg?!  On Lasagna!?  How could I resist?  The Butternut Squash ravioli was also delish.  The creamy ravioli was topped with a hearty veal ragu– here we are again with the savory/sweet combination… my favorite.

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Veal Ragu

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Veal Ragu

Fresh Pasta w/ Meat Sauce Lasagna topped with the most perfectly fried egg.

Fresh Pasta w/ Meat Sauce Lasagna topped with the most perfectly fried egg.

Moving on to the entrees, we ordered the Brasato, aka Short Rib (red wine braised Short Ribs, crispy Roman Gnocci, pickled Red Onion, Rye, Raisins) and the Zuppe di Pesce (spicy mussels, shrimp, crab, fish, tomatoes, topped with fresh bread smothered in saffron mayo).  Dave and I have an unwritten rule of dining out, where we absolutely have to order Short Ribs when we see them on a menu.  It just ends up happening every time.  We’re suckers for those bad boys… we just can’t turn them down.  The Short Rib dish at Modo Mio was no exception and boy was it amazing.  The meat was so tender and juicy, and I honeslty could not even tell what else was included in the dish… since the entire thing was covered in this deliciously rich sauce.  YUM!!!!!  To die for.  The Zuppe di Pesce was also fantastic- it was loaded (and i mean LOADED) with tons of seafood, including more octopus… mmm!  The best part of the entire dish to me was the broth, a little bit salty, a little bit spicy, with some really powerful flavors.  I could have drank an entire jug of that stuff.

Saffron-Mayo topped Fresh Bread resting on the huge pile of seafood in a delicious broth... YUMMMM

Saffron-Mayo topped Fresh Bread resting on the huge pile of seafood in a delicious broth… YUMMMM

Short Ribs... who can resist them?

Short Ribs… who can resist them?

We were so full by the end, we figured we’d just order the desserts to-go and call it a night.  That was a great idea in theory, but once we saw them… there was no turning back.  Both desserts were absolutely manageable in terms of size.  We picked the Tiramisu and their Caramelito (I think it was called that!).  The Tiramisu may have converted me to being a huge fan of the dessert- something I probably have never ordered in my life.  It was super fluffy and light too.  The Caramel dessert was absolutely fantastic.  It was more like a rich pudding or custard covered in a very thin caramel sauce.  Needless to say, we were very full, but not full enough to stop us from devouring the desserts in full.  🙂

Delicate Tiramisu...

Delicate Tiramisu…

Homemade desserts are so underrated... delish.

Homemade desserts are so underrated… delish.

 

Not only was this a fabulous meal (are you drooling!?  I am!) with top-notch service, but I absolutely loved the ambiance of the restaurant.  We even ended up chit chatting with the couple sitting next to us for a half hour or so after we were all finished with our meal!  When was the last time you went out to a nice dinner and made friends?!

I am still going over this meal in my head and plotting a way to save some money to go back soon.  So, GREAT JOB Dave, you are the best!  Thank you so much 🙂  Love you!

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Jambalaya

I LOVE New Orleans.  Love love love.  Dave and I traveled there a few years ago on a mini-vacation during Halloween.  I don’t think I’ve ever gained so much weight in such a short period of time.  We walked everywhere, exploring and of course eating (and drinking) our way through the city.

In honor of one of my favorite cities and to celebrate Mardi Gras, I cooked up a pretty sweet Jambalaya recipe on Fat Tuesday.  I think this is one of my best ones yet!

The recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s “Kicked-Up Jambalaya” from way back when in 2000.  I was really excited because he included the recipe to make his Cajun Seasoning… and I actually even had all of the ingredients!  I made a whole batch and have a little baggie of leftovers for another time.  YUM BAM!

And please, let the records show that I was an Emeril fan long before his “Emeril Live” show even aired its pilot.  My Aunt and I used to watch “The Essence of Emeril” and “Molto Mario” when I’d sleepover back in the late 90’s.  How is this the first recipe of either of their’s for me to try?!

Let’s kick this up a notch and get started… 

Jambalaya

Recipe adapted from Emeril’s Kicked Up Jambalaya

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Emeril’s Creole seasoning (See below)
4 Thin Sliced Chicken Breasts (1 pkg)
14oz Andouille Sausage, cut into slices
2 cups chopped Onion (1 large)
1 cup chopped Celery
1 cup chopped Red Bell Pepper
2 Tablespoons minced Garlic
3 Bay Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Thyme
1 (14oz) can Diced Tomatoes, partially drained
6 cups Water
2 cups Uncooked Brown Bismati Rice (Quick Cook)
Salt & Pepper
1 cup chopped Green Onions
1/2 cup chopped Parsley

Directions:

1.  In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium-high heat.  Cut Chicken into 1-inch strips or pieces and season with the Emeril Creole seasoning.  Saute until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove and set aside, reserving oil and all the good juices in the dutch oven.

2.  Add sausage and cook for a few minutes.  Remove and set aside.

3.  Add Onion, Celery, Bell Pepper, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Cayenne and Thyme and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the veggies have softened.

4.  Add the can of Diced Tomatoes and Water to the pot.  Season with a pinch of Salt and Pepper.  Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.

5.  Add uncooked Rice to the pot, stir well and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for another 10-15 minutes (Check at 10).  Most of the liquid should be evaporated and cooked into the rice at this point.  Add in the Sausage, Chicken, another sprinkle of Emeril Creole Seasoning, Green Onions, and Parsley.  Cover, and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Let sit off of the heat for 10 minutes before serving.  Remove Bay Leaves.  Garnish with extra Green Onions and Parsley.

Emeril’s Creole Seasoning
2.5 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon of each:  Black Pepper, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Oregano, Dried Thyme
Mix in a bowl and reserve leftovers… add it on top of chicken, seafood, or even popcorn!
Emeril's Creole Seasoning... you can make it with the recipe here or buy it in the grocery store

Emeril’s Creole Seasoning… you can make it with the recipe here or buy it in the grocery store

A new skill I learned while I was visiting my friends in Fort Wayne, IN!  Bob taught me how to cut a Bell Pepper in one swoop!  YAY!

A new skill I learned while I was visiting my friends in Fort Wayne, IN! Bob taught me how to cut a Bell Pepper in one swoop! YAY!

Before adding the liquids

Before adding the liquids

I could NOT believe how much liquid was soaked up by the time I opened up the lid.  I love parsley and green onions... mmm!

I could NOT believe how much liquid was soaked up by the time I opened up the lid. I love parsley and green onions… mmm!

I realize this recipe has a lot of ingredients.  But read over… it really isn’t that bad!  You can use the veggies for other recipes if you don’t already have them in the house.  You can also use Shrimp instead of the Chicken if you’d like and any type of rice too!  The Jambalaya is just so flavorful without being overly spicy.  If you wanted it to have an extra kick… add some Cayenne.

I was nervous to try my first Emeril Recipe but this one was super simple and SO delicious.  The best part is that you will probably have leftovers like I did… and it only got better after being reheated.  BAM!
Delicious Jambalaya!

Delicious Jambalaya!

Challah Bread Stuffing

It was recently brought to my attention from my co-worker Dana that not everyone knows what Challah is.  Like, really?!  I realize I’m Jewish and it’s a Jewish kinda thing, but I just figured everyone knew what it was.  You know that heavenly French Toast at your favorite brunch spot?  Probably Challah.  See, you knew what it was all along and love it just like I do.  And Dana, prounounce it like “Holla” not “CH-ah-lah”.  You’re so cute for messing that one up 🙂

Just to set the record straight, Challah is a Jewish braided egg bread and is sooooo delicious.  You can pick one up at most bakeries or supermarkets.  Trader Joe’s variety is SO GOOD too.

Normally, I’d tell you to eat Challah with just some butter, or make French Toast with it… but today I’m going to teach you how to use Challah in STUFFING.  Can I get an Oy Vey!?  This is the dish Donny taught me how to make during Friendsgiving, and that I made to bring to my own family’s Thanksgiving this past week.

Cut up my Challah! Ready to rock & roll.

Donny’s Challah Bread Stuffing

Ingredients:

1 large Challah Bread  (cut into 1 inch cubes and made stale by leaving it out for a few days)*
2 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped fine
2 tbsp Fresh Sage, chopped fine
1 lb Loose Sage Sausage (or regular sausage)
1 small Onion, chopped 
2 large stalks of Celery, chopped 
3 cloves Garlic, chopped or crushed
1/2 cup Dried Currants & Dried Cranberries (or raisins)
Softened Butter, for the pan
Salt, Pepper
2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup of Milk (I used 2%)
1 quart of Chicken Stock

*Make sure you buy the Challah at least 2 days before you want to make the stuffing!  It needs to sit out and become stale.  

A Note from Donny:  You’re basically making a savory bread pudding souffle here.  Temperature is important here because of the use of eggs. Make sure that anything you add to eggs are cool enough that they won’t cook the eggs (until the final oven stage).

Directions:

1.  Put the stale cubed bread on a baking sheet.  Toss with the fresh herbs.  You want to dry them out in the oven so you’ll only cook them at 200 degrees.  The recipe calls for the bread to be toasted for only 15 minutes, but since mine was so fresh it took more like 30.  They shouldn’t be toasted or browned too much, just dried out.   Remove from the oven and  let the herby bread cubes cool to room temperature.

2.  Meanwhile, cook and chop the sausage over medium heat.  Once the sausage is cooked through and thoroughly chopped, drain fat and remove into a bowl to cool to room temp.  
3.  Using the same pan you cooked the sausage in, cook the onions, celery, and garlic over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  When soft, add to the sausage bowl and let it cool.
4.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the milk. Add the (now cooled) herby bread cubes and mix. Then add the cooled sausage mixture.  Fold everything together with chicken stock, trying not to turn the bread into total mush.  It should be completely saturated with the stock.
5.  Grease a large baking pan or dish with butter and add the stuffing to it. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. (If you are making this more in advance, you’ll have to add more stock because the stuffing will dry out.)
6.  Let the stuffing come to room temperature before you cook it at 350 for 30 minutes (I cooked mine for more like 40, but I think that’s because there was so much other stuff in the oven).  Serve warm, “with or without turkey”.

Chopping up some herbs

… and some veggies

 

Dried out Challah croutons & toasty herbs mixed into the egg and milk.

Cooking up and eating this stuffing twice in two weeks should prove to you just how amazing it is.  I have always been one of two people in my family to request a nice box of Stovetop for Thanksgiving, as any other kind of homemade stuffing was never as good.  This Challah Bread Stuffing recipe puts Stovetop to shame and will forever change my mind about this favorite Thanksgiving Side.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break and weekend!  I know I did 🙂

My thanksgiving plate! YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Thanksgiving cousin love ❤ Aidan and I

Dani is the cutest!

Mommom and I ❤ She’s the best!

 

Cranberry Sauce (Donny Style)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s probably no surprise that this is one of my favorite holidays.

I wanted to share one of the recipes Donny gave me during our Friendsgiving Celebration last week… it is the easiest recipe ever!  Seriously, anyone can do it.  This Cranberry Sauce tastes absolutely amazing and will beat the giggly stuff with the can marks ANYDAY!

Are you ready for the ingredients??

………………

You’ll need TWO cans… only one pictured

Yup… that’s IT.  You’ll need 2 cans of Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, 1 bag of Frozen Raspberries, and 1 packet of Red Jello (we chose Raspberry).  

Directions:

Open the can of Cranberry Sauce and plop (I was going to say pour, but it’s definitely a plop) the entire thing into a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in the frozen raspberries.  Stir often but not constantly until the raspberries are thawed.  Finally, add the jello packet and stir until dissolved.  Put into a tupperware container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  That’s ALL!

This cranberry sauce was a hit at our Friendsgiving.  It seriously is so good.  I’m going to make it again later on in the year… who needs Thanksgiving to eat cranberry sauce?  Not this girl!

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving & Black Friday Shopping!  I will be back next with a recipe for Donny’s unbelievable Stuffing that I’ll be cooking up for my family’s dinner… get excited.

Friendsgiving

This weekend marked our FIRST appearance at Donny’s annual “Friendsgiving (formally known as Pre-Thanksgiving)” dinner and celebration.  Friendsgiving is a potluck dinner where everyone signed up to bring a different Thanksgiving themed dish or dessert.  All the perks of a Thanksgiving dinner without all the family drama… what a great idea, right?

Donny had Dave and I over all weekend and we got to help him prepare his dishes, have his help with the mashed potatoes I signed up to bring, and the best part of course was our trip to the Farmers Market in Baltimore and our 4-mile walk around the Harbor.

Donny is amaaaaaaaaaazing at cooking, and I had the best time ever learning from him and getting to use all of his fancy kitchen tools- including an infrared thermometer which is just about the most fun thing ever.

We got to try so many recipes… Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potato & Apple Soup, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Brussels Sprouts, Pies, Cookies, Cupcakes, and SOOOO MUCH MORE!  Check it out:

Sat night dinner… leftovers from Donny’s DELICIOUS Cassoulet… amazing

Retro Potato Ricer… so much fun… sooo messy!

Super yummy and easy recipe for Cranberry Sauce from Donny’s family

Our Mashed Potato-Butternut Squash Swirl w/ Sage Butter

Working hard!

So much yummy produce at the Farmers Market

Where else would you split a Falafel at 8:30am?!

The stuffing went so fast!

 

Heidi and Donny carving the turkey

What a spread!! (and that’s only half of it!!)

 

MMMM!!!

What are you making for your family’s Thanksgiving this year?

Anniversary Things

This weekend, Dave and I celebrated our 4 YEAR anniversary!  I love celebrating our Anniversaries because there can never be too many days spent being happy to have one another 🙂

Starting the weekend off with these surprise beautiful flowers at work just made my day!  Dave is the best!

We spent the weekend downtown, puppy-sitting for this little cutie, Marty.  He kept us busy and we could not get enough of his fuzzy little face!  I love him!

Of course we ate tons of delicious food… drinks… and even got to meet up with my favorites, Allie (of All I Eat Food) and Jay for dinner on Friday night.

 

Despite a few setbacks (broken leg, flat tire, missing dinner reservations…) we had an absolutely amazing weekend together.  Thanks Dave for the best 4 years I could ask for!  

 

Oh, and here’s our VERY FIRST pic together!  This was taken just after the Phillies won the World Series 🙂