The Picky Gourmet Gets Schooled

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hi ho, Picky Gourmet here (Kermit the frog style.) Those of you who know me in real life have surely heard (incessantly) about the fact that I enrolled in a professional series at a local cooking school. Those who don't know me in real life are hearing it now! In September I started a 20 week course outlining the basics of professional cooking in the traditional french style.  There are 12 students in the class, all of them sweet, smart and supportive and a teacher and a teacher's aide. The class meets once a week for about four hours and I LOVE it. It's given me new confidence in my cooking.

My teacher is a tough cookie but she has imparted so much knowledge and, even more importantly she has hammered home the concept that there are some rules to cooking but there really are no exact recipes (we're talking cooking here, not baking. Let's not go crazy), the trick to cooking is to make it taste good and if the recipe says 350 degrees for 40 minutes and it comes out burnt, cook it less or at a lower temp! If the recipe calls for an 1/8 tsp of salt and that doesn't bring out the flavor, add more! Breaking free from following a recipe to a tee, separated the cooks from the chefs. And I want to be a chef when I grow up! SO without further ado I would like to unveil my NEW blog (don't worry, this one isn't going anywhere.) If you'd like to glean some of the recipes and know-how I've absorbed in class, visit

I hope to see you there!


Inside-Out Potato Skins or: My Masterpiece

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

First, I should make note that my blog does seem to be a bit bacon-centric. I will not apologize for this as I know I am not alone in my love of bacon. Just this weekend I heard a bacon joke on SNL that reminded me that adoration of salty, savory pork is universal (kind of.) This brings me to today's recipe. I did not invent this treat from the heavens, it is the creation of chef Amy Jurist. I was lucky enough to attend a cooking demo at Surfa's where Chef Jurist demonstrated bacon recipes and this one really took the cake

Most bacon lovers enjoy a good potato skin but share the same complaint: why is the potato to bacon ratio so skimpy? This recipe answers the question with a question: what if the bacon was the potato and the potato the bacon?! We start with a bacon cup that mimics the potato skin, holding in all the gooey, cheesy goodness. Next we add crispy hashbrowns, sweet grilled onions, sharp gruyere cheese then top it off with the mandatory sour cream and the optional (they call me picky for a reason) chives. TA DA! This dish is a MAJOR crowd pleaser. I must have made 30 or more of them for my small party and they disappeared in mere seconds.

The bacon cups can be made a day or two in advance and since these get popped in the oven to melt the cheese at the last minute, you can really do most of these steps an hour or two before your party. I hope all my readers out there who discovered me through my candied bacon post will give this recipe a try, it is a bit more time consuming but 100% worth the effort.

- 1 Lb of regular (not thick cut) bacon
- 1 package Roschti Potatoes OR a 12 oz bag of frozen hash browns
- 1 Medium yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 lb Gruyere shredded
- 1 bunch chives or green onions minced
- salt and pepper
- 3-4 Tbs olive or Canola oil

Cut the bacon into 2" - 3" strips. Using three pieces per cup, place the bacon into muffin tin cups in order to make small cups. Be aware that bacon will shrink down but don't let bacon overlap the edge of the cup or it will stick.

Cook the bacon cups in the oven until they are firm. After 20 minutes check the cups and push the bacon back toward the bottom of the cup, unsticking any pieces that are stuck to the rim.  Careful not to let the bacon burn. Total cooking time is usually 30-35 min.

When cooked and slightly cooled, remove cups from the bacon tin and place them on paper towels so they can drain off fat and cool more. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store in muffin tins being careful not to break.

Fry up or crisp potatoes according to package directions and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium high heat, then add the onions and sautee until they are slightly caramelized about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375.

Fill cups with a tsp of potatoes, a sprinkle of onion and a tsp of gruyere cheese. Bake the cups at 375 for 3-5 min to melt cheese.

Remove the cups from the tin with the aid of a trusty toothpick and place on a serving plate.

Put sour cream in a squeeze bottle and squirt on top or dollop with a spoon if you don't have a squeeze bottle. Sprinkle with fresh chives and serve to the drooling masses!