Buffalo Blasts

Ever been to the popular American restaurant The Cheesecake Factory? Where they not only serve a staggering array of cheesecake that will thrill any sweet tooth (and I don’t even like cheesecake), they have fantastic main course food to boot?  With portions so large anyone is guaranteed a take-home bag?  If not, make it on your to go list.  And no, sadly, I’m not getting any money for saying that.

Being Canadian, we only got to visit this restaurant a few times a year when we crossed the border into Buffalo (although I am told there is one in the GTA-Greater Toronto Area- now).  On one of our visits, I just couldn’t decide what to get……until I noticed that they had an appetizer sampler, where they took five of their most popular appetizers and gave you four pieces each.  I begged my husband to share with me and he obliged.  We weren’t disappointed.  Two of my favorite appetizers from that restaurant were on the platter, including this one.

It truly is amazing, isn’t it, when something with so few ingredients can taste so good?  I made these a few times before I discovered how we like it best.  The recipe below is one of those that has very loose measurements.  The first time I made them I only put a drizzle of sauce inside that that was just not enough for us wing sauce lovers.  So now I chop up the chicken, stir in the sauce and cheese, and fill the wonton wrappers.  You can use more or less sauce as you prefer, just be careful it’s not too wet or else it will leak out of the wrappers and break apart frying.  And use whatever cheese you like, I usually use cheddar, but I’ve thrown in Monterey Jack and even Mozzarella when that’s all that was in the fridge.

wontonfill (2)

Lay the filling diagonally across the wonton wrapper.  Brush edges lightly with egg white, and fold over diagonally to seal.  I use a fork to help seal the edges.

If you’ve never deep fried before, here’s a few tips.  In order to save oil, I usually use a medium size pot.  I pour vegetable oil about 3/4 up the sides and heat.  How do you know when it’s ready?  Insert your wooden spoon into the oil.  If it bubbles around the stick then it is ready to go.  If it is smoking, it’s too hot, which can be dangerous and ruin your food.

I only fry two or three at a time, flipping them over after about a minute, then draining them on a rack or some paper towel.  These are best served soon after frying.  You can serve with blue cheese dip, ranch dip, or more wing sauce if you prefer.

Here’s to restaurants giving us great ideas that we can copy and edit to our tastes at home.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese (Monterey Jack is good too, or a combination)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups panko crumbs
  • About 25 wonton wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

Put chicken breasts in a large skillet of water.  Cook on medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and cool.

Chop chicken and put into medium sized bowl.  Add wing sauce and cheddar.  If you want more sauce, add it now, just be careful to not make it too ‘soupy’ or it will leak.

Lay out wonton wrappers.  Put about 1/2 TAB in center of wonton.  Fold over diagonally.  Seal with a fork.  Repeat until all wrappers and chicken are used.

Heat oil in a medium sized bowl.  While waiting for the oil to heat, brush all wontons with egg white. Pour panko onto a plate and coat both sides with crumbs.

Put wontons carefully in oil with a slotted spoon.  Let fry about 1 minute each side, until golden brown, but not dark brown.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or a rack. Repeat until finished.

Serve immediately with blue cheese dip, ranch dip, or more wing sauce, as well as some carrots or celery.

Makes about 25 wontons.

Hamburger Quiche Bites

I hate how these don’t photograph well.  Actual truth: I need a few thousand lessons on food photography.  Because they. are. good and deserve all sorts of accolades and I had to share them with you no matter what they look like.

I never knew until a few days ago, actually after I originally posted this, that this is actually one of my aunt’s recipe.  My mom never told me!  So this post needed to be updated so I can talk about my auntie.

I don’t have a big extended family.  Growing up, the only extended family that we spent a lot of time with was my mom’s brother’s family and my dad’s brothers’ families.  Although I was closer in age to the cousins on my dad’s side, my mom’s brother and family lived closer and so we spent many a weekend over there.  My auntie was a great cook, even though she would say the opposite.  Her food was classic, consistent, and always good.   I have many a fond memory sitting around their dining room table.  In a family full of people who averaged 5’9 and taller, she was petite, but she could hold her own.  And she did.

She came from a large family with a lot of siblings so perhaps that’s why she was used to feeding a lot of people?  I don’t really know, but what I do know is there was never just one thing to eat at her dinner table; there were proteins and carbs and veggies.  I distinctly remember plate after plate of food being passed by me and I ate every one, whether it was a vegetable I liked or not.  That was the rule in our house, you did not turn down food that was served to you.  It’s a good lesson that I appreciate to this day.

Her family originated from Czechoslovakia, so there were a lot of similarities in the food between her culture and our Ukrainian one.  She made something called holushki/halusky (these Eastern European foods have at least two different ways to spell them it seems).  They are dumplings, plain or with sauerkraut, and hers were delicious.  Nobody else in our family made them, so every time we went over there, I hoped and wished that they would be on the table.  Usually, my wishes came true.  How can such simple foods taste so good?

This quiche is one of my auntie’s recipes, and it’s a great one for a few reasons.  One of them is you don’t have to fuss with individual wrappers, or fill and repeat over and over like a lot of the other mini quiche recipes out there.  You simply press the pie crust along the bottom of your pan, pour in your quiche, and bake. Cut into whatever size pieces you want and off you go.  You could even cut it in 6 large pieces and eat it for dinner.  Go ahead.  I won’t judge.

Yes, I know, it’s not tall and fluffy like quiche is.  You can make it in a smaller pie shaped pan and it totally will be fluffier.  But frankly, I’ve always liked how dense and packed full of ingredients each bite is.  I have made this recipe in pie pans also, but they don’t cut into cute little bite sized pieces.

I used to shy away from making these because I didn’t feel like whipping up a pie crust.  So what I’ve been doing for years is when I do make pie crust, I double or triple the recipe and keep the crusts in the freezer so I can pop them out whenever.  It makes pie making less daunting when the hard part of it is already done.

I promise I’ll work on my photography if you promise to make this and serve it at your next wine and cheese party.  They may not be fancy, but they’ll be gobbled up faster than any of those glittery appetizers.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 TAB cornstarch
  • 3 cups grated cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 double pie crust recipe

DIRECTIONS:

Make double pie crust recipe and put down on a greased 15×10 jelly roll pan.  In a large skillet, brown beef until cooked through, set aside.  In a large bowl, add mayonnaise, milk, eggs, and cornstarch, and whisk to combine.  Stir in meat, cheese, onion, salt and pepper.  Turn mixture into pan.  Bake 35 minutes or until knife goes in and comes out clean.  Let rest ten minutes before cutting.

 

Baked Brie & Caramelized Onion Loaf

Would you like an appetizer that you can make a day in advance?  What about one that takes less than 30 minutes to make?  What about one that people will rave about and ask for every time they come over?

This is all of those things.

This is yet another dish that my mom has been making for years.  I expected it at every wine and cheese party that was planned, and if it was not there, I was highly disappointed.  Not only is it delicious, easy to make, a combination of soft and crunchy (need I go on?), the best part is it used to be so fun watching full grown adults tear apart the loaf of bread when the filling was gone from the bread bowl without my mother noticing and perhaps chastising them for their bad table manners.  (Insert my mother saying that she would never do such a thing, here.  But I know the truth).

briebread4

I used an oval loaf when I can because frankly, when I use the round sourdough ones, there is just never enough.  We always look at it and exclaim we can NEVER finish all the cheese and bread.  And then somehow, just somehow, it is all gone and the partakers refuse to lock eyes in guilty admission of gluten and cheese overload.

Don’t have any sherry?  You can use dry vermouth or dry white wine instead.

If you want to make your gluten-free people happy, make the same filling and warm it in an oven-safe dish, with veggies.  More bread for you anyway, right?

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 white or sweet onions
  • 4 TAB butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TAB sugar
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 12 oz. brie, cut in cubes
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • one round or oval sourdough or other fresh bread

DIRECTIONS:

Peel onions and cut in half, then slice thinly.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add garlic, onions, salt and pepper to season and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about ten minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until onions start to brown.  Sprinkle sugar over onions and cook, stirring often, about 8 minutes more, or until they are very brown, but not burned.  Add sherry and Worcestershire and stir, cook for one minute.  Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine brie, cream cheese, and onion mixture.  Pulse a few times until well combined but you can still see strings of onion.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Take a sharp knife and cut the top off a round loaf.  With a spoon or your fingers, scoop bread out from loaf, leaving about an inch attached to loaf.  Spoon in onion and cheese mixture.

Wrap loaf in foil and warm in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.  Remove the loaf lid and cut into bite size pieces.  (If you find the mixture is not warmed through, remove foil and heat loaf in a microwave in ten second increments until cheese and onion mixture is thoroughly warm).  Serve with reserved bread and vegetables of your choice.