Archive for March, 2012

March 29, 2012

Mushroom and Leek Grilled Cheese on Rosemary Bread

Last time I took on a grilled cheese was early on in this blog, when I made a Plum, Blue Cheese and Balsamic version that combined sweet, salty and tangy flavors into each bite. This recipe goes the opposite direction, creating a rustic, umami-focused dish.

This grilled cheese is delightful because of its simplicity, which allows each of the delicate ingredients to shine through. Gouda has great flavor but can often be overwhelmed by more prominent flavors. Leeks, less aggressive than their onion relatives, actually have a more nuanced and balanced taste.

Too often these daintier flavors get lost, but by pairing them together they combine into a gooey, cheesy mass of goodness. The mushrooms in the middle wind up lightly cooked with a little raw crunch in the center, providing pleasant textural contrast. Everything is tied together, aesthetically and physically, by the rosemary bread.

This is a great dish for brunch or lunch dish for a lazy Sunday. Serve with tomato soup if it’s hot outside – gazpacho if it’s cold – and enjoy!

Mushroom and Leek Grilled Cheese on Rosemary Bread

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices of rosemary bread
  • 1 crimini mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 ounces gouda cheese
  • 1/4 cup leeks, finely chopped


  1. Using a tablespoon of butter for each slide, butter the outsides of the bread. Assemble the sandwich by layering the mushrooms, cheese and leeks. Heat a skillet to medium and melt the remaining tablespoon of butter.
  2. Place the sandwich in the skillet. Place a smaller skillet on top of the sandwich and weigh it down using a moderately heavy object. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the bread is golden brown, then flip and repeat for the other side.
  3. To serve, cut in half and accompany with a bowl soup
March 26, 2012

Dear Chef: A Tale of Two Cheeses

Two weeks ago I introduced a new a new feature on Rosemary Renaissance, “Dear Chef.” I invited you all to ask me questions, send me recipes to try, or throw down with a culinary challenge. (Go ahead, make my day)

You all gave me plenty to work with, so I’m happy to introduce the inaugural Dear Chef post: tackling a reader question about woes with mac and cheese:

I’ve been tinkering with a stovetop mac and cheese recipe and I had a bit of a problem with it the second time around. Last time I made it, I used medium cheddar cheese, 6 ounces of it, instead of 4 of white cheddar and 2 of pepperjack. The sauce was a very nice semi-thick consistency, but the problem was it wasn’t quite flavorful enough. So this time I used sharp cheddar, 6 ounces of it. The sauce was much tastier, but it had a thinner, almost grainy consistency. I want to be able to use sharp cheddar, and yet get a thicker sauce. What should I do?

Well dear reader, I suspect your problem stems from the fat content of the sharp cheddar compared to the medium cheddar. The consistency of cheese is affected by how much fat is in it. Brie – a cheese with one of the highest fat contents – will basically become a sauce by itself when heated. In contrast, sharper, harder cheeses like Parmesan or Asiago have lower fat content; in order to create a sauce with the right consistency, butter, milk or cream need to be added along with a thickening agent.

Whether my pop-science explanation is accurate or not, that is what you’re going to need to do to solve your cheese conundrum. When you’re creating your cheese sauce, add an additional fat source (it doesn’t need to be much, maybe 1-2 tablespoons) and a thickening agent. The most common ingredient is flour, although it can also result in a grainy and, well, floury, flavor if you need to add too much. The other option is cornstarch, which is more powerful and requires less to accomplish the same goal. Without experimenting myself I’m not sure which would work best, but one of them ought to do the trick.

If not, then you might need call in the air support: tapioca malto-dextrin. Derived from the same tapioca that’s used to make pudding – without any of the sweet flavor – tapioca malto-dextrin is a powerful thickening agent. It’s particularly unique in that it can thicken and even solidify fats and oils, whereas flour and cornstarch are only effective on water-based mixtures. It’s probably unnecessary in the situation, but its a nice card to have up your sleeve.

Now, go forth and make Macaroni and Cheese that has both great texture and great flavor!

March 24, 2012

The Pint is Mightier: Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro

(Beer Connoisseur Eric Peters contributed to this post)

Ground zero for four of the eight years of our misguided youth (aka college), our next review comes from the great white north of Bellingham, WA.

Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro

Located in downtown Bellingham, Boundary Bay is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Anyone on the street could have told us that what an amazing brewery it was, but asking other people isn’t how we roll. For us, tasting is believing.

First up was the Belgian Trippel. It poured an amber color into a tulip glass with zero head. It possesed a yeasty Belgian aroma with fruity undertones; a definite precursor to the flavor of this beer. The Trippel had many sweet esters and a very fruity taste, while faintest hint of hoppiness lingered on the end of your tongue long after the sip had been taken. It held an interesting combination of hops and malts that emulated a very good old-world Belgian flavor. It was very drinkable and had a good deal of complexity, which became apparent as honey flavors emerged halfway through the pint. In the end we felt the hoppiness clashed mildly with the other flavors in the aftertaste, but overall it was good, complex, and original Belgian style ale.

The Imperial Oatmeal Stout was next on our list. It had a very dark profile, maintaining its opacity even as a thin spindle being poured.  The pint was lightly carbonated with no head and little aroma. The flavor opened robustly, with a strong, dark roastiness that was also vaguely sweet. Despite a strong first impression, the stout unfortunately never moved beyond that single note. The aftertaste lingered, but never developed any additional flavors. Ultimately the lack of complexity in this beer made it rather boring as time went on. The rest of Boundary Bay’s lineup was much stronger; we recommend sticking to their many other great beers.

Speaking of great beers, next in line was Boundary’s Winter style ale: the Cabin Fever. It was dark and completely opaque in color with a surprisingly mild aroma. Upon the first taste we noticed the excellent balance of roastiness and hoppiness, a rare. Winter seasonals from this region usually either play heavily on the hops or heavily on the roast. Although both were strong in this particular brew, they were also wel balanced, setting it apart from others in its class. Overall a delicious beer this is one of the best winter seasonals we have had in our travels.

We rounded out our evening with the Boundary Bay IPA, a mighty good night to be sure. As with all our beers this evening, this pint had no head and has just a bit of carbonation. It was darker than most other IPAs with a amber hue, though the malts were relatively mild. This IPA had a great hop profile that was well balanced between bitter, fruity and floral notes. The lingering aftertaste was leaned more towards the bitter hop flavor, but in an entirely pleasant fashion. Overall this beer was a great medium-bodied, well balanced IPA worth trying whether you’re a hop-head or a hop-hesitant.

Excellent beer, tasty food and cozy atmosphere make Boundary Bay a must-visit for any beer aficionado.

March 16, 2012

Eggs St. Patrick

I like to talk a lot about balance when I discuss the food that I cook, because I generally believe the best dishes are those that marry disparate flavors together in a harmonious fashion. This is not one of those dishes.

This is a rich, decadent recipe. You will feel lethargic after you eat it. You will also feel glorious, but the lethargy is pretty much unavoidable.

The hollandaise sauce is creamy and rich. The poached eggs are tender with silky, rich yolks. The corned beef is hearty, pleasantly spiced and rich. If you haven’t caught the pattern yet, pretty much everything about this dish is rich except the English muffins, and when you get down to it their sole purpose is sop up all the hollandaise, egg yolk and corned beef jus that you can’t get with a fork.

Although it’s a play on Eggs Benedict – typically a breakfast dish – this is perfectly suited for any time of day. And in true St. Paddy’s day spirit, no matter what time of day it is, it should be accompanied by Guinness.

Eggs St. Patrick

  • 5 eggs
  • 5/8 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of corned beef, cooked and shredded
  • 1 English muffin
  • 1 pinch of paprika


  1. Fill two pots with water and bring to a steady simmer. Take three eggs and separate the yolks from the whites.  Reserve one white, combine the yolks and melted butter in a stainless steel bowl and whisk together until thickened.
  2. Add the lemon juice and cayenne to the egg mixture.  Place the stainless steel bowl on top of the first pot, making sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water, and continue to whisk vigorously until the volume has increased by half. Remove from the heat.
  3. To the second pot add the vinegar and bring to a very light boil. Poach the two remaining eggs so the yolks are still slightly runny (see Smitten Kitchen’s how-to if you need instruction on how).
  4. Combine the reserved egg white with the corned beef and form into two patties. Sear quickly on each side, approximately 2 minutes, and remove from heat.
  5. Lightly toast the English muffin. To serve, place a corned beef patty atop each English muffin half followed by a poached egg. Top with a couple spoonfuls of hollandaise sauce and garnish with the pinch of paprika.
March 10, 2012

Cupcake Jello Shots

(This recipe was provided by sweet treats expert Hannah Majeski)

It’s been almost three months since I last posted something that could qualify as a dessert, and twice that since I made use of the “Drinks and Cocktails” category on this blog. So once more I’ve called in the Sultan of Sweets, my sister Hannah, to provide some reinforcement.

You may recall her first guest post where she one-up’d Starbucks by making a delicious version of their cake pops for a fraction of the cost. She’s back this time with a new tasty, and colorful, creation: Cupcake Jello Shots.

Let’s get one thing straight: these ain’t your daddy’s jello shots. What you may recall of jello shots from college (or more recently) isn’t what these little morsels taste like. The consistency is a bit thicker and they have some honest-to-god flavor to them beyond just the alcohol. In this case, that flavor would be cake.

For all the ingredients – coconut, cream soda, etc. – you would imagine that they would taste like an odd hodge-podge with a boozy finish. However, the flavors meld together to embrace the Pinnacle vodka, resulting in a bite sized treat that tastes exactly like cake, even if the texture doesn’t quite match up.

They can be a little tricky to eat (hint: do it in one bite or risk looking very foolish) but these goodies are delicious and fun. If you’re looking to add a little pizzazz to your next party, these cupcake jello shots are just what you’re looking for!

Cupcake Jello Shots

  • 2/3 cup cream soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 drop coconut extract
  • 2 packets plain gelatin
  • 1 cup Pinnacle cake-flavored vodka
  • 2 drops blue food dye (optional)
  • Small cupcake wrappers
  • Whipped cream
  • Sprinkles
  1. Combine the cream soda, coconut milk and coconut extract in a medium pot. Pour the gelatin on over the top of mixture and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Place the pot on a burner and heat on low, stirring consistently, for about 5 minutes or until the gelatin has dissolved. Add the food dye at this time if you would like (recommended, they look a little weird without dye)
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 2-4 minutes (otherwise alcohol will evaporate). Once cooled, add the pinnacle vodka and mix together.
  4. Pour the jello mix into little baby cupcake wrappers of your choosing and stick them in the refrigerator for at least four hours, preferably overnight
  5. To serve, top each with whipped cream and sprinkles.
March 1, 2012

Microbrew Micro-review: Fish Brewing Co.

(Beer Connoisseur Eric Peters contributed to this post)

With Quinn being a frequent patron of the Fish Brewery when he was living in Olympia, his only regret when reviewing it was that it was done over the summer. However, our recent excursion to Bellingham (reviews are on the way!) offered us a shot at redemption – Chuckanut Brewing was featuring Winterfish as their guest tap.

That’s right, it’s time for another Microbrew Micro-review!

The Winterfish Seasonal Ale poured a golden amber color with very little head and a surprising amount of cloudiness to it. The lack of aroma belied a delightfully flavorful brew. The hop profile was robust, with multiple fruity notes and a moderate amount of bitterness. The malt background was subtle but noticeable. The most interested element of the beer though was the yeast strain, which gave it a distinctive, floral finish. The result was a bold, hoppy and unique beer that had both of us itching for more.

While our weren’t overly impressed during our initial visit, the Winterfish more than redeemed Fish Brewing. This ale was the best winter IPA that we’ve tasted, and a standout among every category. Even alone, it’s more than enough of a reason to nip out to Olympia or Everett for a pint. Or two.

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