Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burgers with Caramelized Onions on Sourdough Bread

One of the highlights of our summer vacation at the cabin were the fabulous meals that were cooked up every night.  Of course, given the environment most of the meals were grilled and throughout the week we enjoyed grilled vegetables, potatoes, BBQ chicken and grilled salmon.  All of our meals were simple yet delicious and each night we thought we had outdone the previous dinner.

Towards the end of the week our friends began to arrive for the weekend and the dinners became more varied with a little of this and a little of that since everyone wanted to make something for the occasion.

One of our friends had recently been on a hunting trip and wanted to share some of the wonderful venison he had brought home.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Much gamier yet leaner than beef, the grilled venison steak just tasted so…natural.  It was organic without the $5 packaging.  I was extremely excited when he was nice enough to send us home with some of the extra ground venison that he had.

The weeks began to pass by and back in the city we transitioned into fall .  In all of the chaos of moving and working long hours, we almost forgot about our special package of venison in the back of the freezer.  But how could something so wonderful be forgotten?  We decided that it was time to enjoy the full flavors of the venison and reminisce over the seemingly long gone summer.

First we used the venison to make a simple ragu served over pasta.  Although a certain unnamed someone thought making a sauce would drown out the rich, meaty flavor of the meat it actually did the exact opposite.  The simple combination of tomatoes, onion & red wine actually created the perfect backdrop for such a bold meaty flavor.

After the success of the sauce, I thought that we might as well try pairing another bold flavor with the venison and see how it would stand up.  That is where the idea for these blue cheese burgers came from.  The blue cheese centers really help the meat stay moist, as it is leaner than most beef it can dry out quickly.  Sourdough “buns” also provide a great crunch to match with the creamy, luscious burgers.

Obviously this recipe can made with regular ground beef but I beg you…give venison a try!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burgers with Caramelized Onions on Sourdough Buns

(makes 4 burgers)

Printable Version

1 1/2  lb. ground venison
6 oz Cashel Blue Cheese*
Salt
Pepper
2 cups sliced yellow onions
8 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Once butter is melted, add sliced onions and season with 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Saute for about 15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until onions are golden & caramelized.

Lightly season venison with salt and pepper.  Begin forming half of a burger patty (about 3 oz.) into a circle in the palm of your hand.  Form a small well in the center and place about 1.5 oz. of blue cheese in center.  Take another 3 oz. of venison and place on top sealing edges together.

Place large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once pan is heated, add burgers**.  Cook 3 minutes each side and place in 350°F oven for 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking.  Keep in mind venison can dry out quickly and is best when cooked medium rare.

Brush olive oil onto bread slices.  Place in broiler for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Slice garlic in half and rub over bread.

Place burger on buns and top with onions.  Serve and enjoy!

venisonburgersApologies for the poor pictures – still trying to get camera set up after the move!

Our burgers were served with a side of sweet potato fries and a chipotle dip (plain greek yogurt, diced chipotle, hot sauce).

* Cashel Blue Cheese is a fantastic blue cheese from Ireland.  I chose it for this recipe because it is creamier than some other blue cheeses and it has earthy notes which mimic that of the venison.  Feel free to use your favorite blue cheese!

** These can also be made on a grill pan or on the outside grill

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NY State Beer & Cheese Pairing, on a Sailboat!

A few months back I bought tickets for a sailing tour around NYC which included a New York State beer and cheese pairing hosted by Chelsea Brewing Company’s Beer Ambassador, Ian Phillips.  The tickets were bought as a birthday present for someone who loves to sail, eat cheese and most importantly drink beer so I knew that we would have a great time and I am happy to report that the trip greatly exceeded both of our expectations.

Imagine

Our boat, the Imagine

We boarded the beautiful schooner Imagine at Chelsea Piers and after a quick intro & safety speech, the sail started as promised right at 7pm.  Using the boat’s motor we made our way into the main waters of the Hudson as our beer & cheese guide Ian began to tell us about our first pairing of the evening:  Checker Cab Blonde Ale paired with NY State Cheddar from Adam’s, NY.  The beer was a wonderful start to the evening.  It was light enough to ease your palette into the beer tasting but strong enough to make you want more.  The beer was a variety of light Kolsch, a German inspired beer which has a distinct flavoring of hops but not so much to overpower the beer entirely.   It’s cheese pairing that evening was a mellow cheddar, aged only one year.  Although the flavor was not intense you could certainly smell how fresh and smooth the cheese would be and it certainly lived up to those expectations.

Beer & CheeseBeer & cheese pairings for the evening

SailingSails going up

Soon we were cruising and it was time to put up the sails which by itself is entertainment, but was especially exciting on a windy night like we had that evening.  Once the sails were up and everyone found their balance it was time for more beer.  Since the pairings were ordered to get darker as we went along next up was Chelsea Brewing Company’s Sunset Red Ale.  Because most red ales include roasted barely (i.e. malt) they tend to have a toasted flavoring which can be off putting to some.  This beer, however, was very smooth yet had a substantial amount of malt which gave it a hearty taste.  The end finished a bit sweet on the tongue as well which gave the beer more complexity.   Ian chose to pair this beer with a raw cow’s milk cheese prepared in an Italian style known as Caciotta.  A semi soft cheese, it’s rind is rubbed in olive oil and tomato paste which gives it a bright and slightly salty finish.   The cheese is made on Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, NY and served in various stores & restaurants throughout the state.  Check out the Dancing Ewe Farm site to read about Jody Sommer’s wonderful journey into the art of making cheese.

Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty

As our taste buds were delighted by beer and cheese our senses where indulged further by the fascinating nighttime views of the New York harbor and city skyline.  We passed Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty standing tall in the clear night sky overlooking the amazing city she watches over.  A concert was happening over on Governor’s Island and the sounds of music and people’s echoing voices filled the air.  As we turned the corner, the Brooklyn Bridge appeared with an almost full moon hovering above it.  It was amazing to see the city from such an alternate view, looking out across the buildings instead of straight up to the top.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Once the boat started to make its way back, sailing past Battery City and the Financial District, our last beer and cheese of the evening was presented to us.  Perhaps because some stouts have such a rich malt flavor reminiscent of chocolate, I often consider stouts a dessert beer so Ian’s choice of Gotham Stout was very fitting.  The stout was nice and smooth yet was strong enough to hold up to the strong blue goat’s milk cheese it was paired with.  The cheese was Cayuga Blue and is produced by Lively Run Goat Dairy in the Finger Lake area of NY.

As the ship began to dock back at Chelsea Piers I was sad that such a fantastic night was over but excited to have tried so many new delicious things and to learn new ways of thinking about cheese pairings and the possibilities there are with different beers.

New YorkI really do love New York

To learn more about Chelsea Brewing Company go to their site here or check out their beer blog.

If you are interested in touring NYC by boat visit the Classic Harbor Line.

What’s Your Beef? A Wednesday Poll

It’s that time of the week again, when suddenly all of the motivation & energy you had at the beginning of the week slowly begins to fade and you begin to stall.  That’s right it’s Wednesday and it NYC it is a dreary and bleak Wednesday.  It’s hot and humid with not even some sunshine as a reward for our misery.  My mind keeps wandering and focus is certainly not my forte today.

To help stay inspired & upbeat here is a quick poll that hopefully will have you (and me) thinking of the weekend, nicer weather and grilling up some good food.

It’s simple – what’s your favorite cut of beef?  And if you have the time – let me know your favorite way to cook/serve it is  in the comments below.  Excited to hear what you all prefer!

As for me,  I typically bypass the big T-bone & NY Strips for the more overlooked cuts such as flank & skirt steak which are gaining in popularity as of late.  Growing up my father (who’s dad was a butcher) would always cook up flank steak on the grill – even in the middle of winter!  As delicious as it was, it was also easy.  Just a few seasonings, maybe a quick marinade if we had the time and the steak was ready to hit the grill.  Perfect when you have three little children running around the house.

So go on, tell me – what’s your favorite?

And also if you want a healthier option or just a change from beef, check out these fantastic Braised Bison Short Ribs.

Skirt Steak Dinner

Yummy skirt steak dinner with sauteed spinach & couscous with tomatoes.
Made in the broiler instead of the grill and came out delicious!

The Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel

Two nights ago a group of girlfriends and I went to the Oak Room at NYC’s Plaza Hotel as a part of the latest installment of restaurant week (which actually is running for 3 weeks this summer).  Typically, I won’t critique a restaurant based solely on their restaurant week performance but rather use the experience as first taste to what the restaurant offers.

There is so much history and old New York glamour surrounding The Plaza and the Oak Room that spending an evening there is a pleasure, even before the food comes to the table.  Over sized photographs featuring the restaurant’s  famous patrons over the years grace the walls leading into the opulent dining room where carved wood walls & ornate accents climb high up to the extended ceiling.

The restaurant week menu at The Oak Room had a diverse offering of items from their regular menu which ensured that all of us were able to find something that we would enjoy.  For the appetizer I chose a delicious Lobster & Sweet Corn Bisque.   The bisque was not heavy yet not watery either and was a great summer starter.  There were hints of cilantro throughout the dish as well which kept it crisp and refreshing.  Others at the table enjoyed Tomato & Fennel soup with a Robiola Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Big Eye Tuna Sashimi with crackling crumbs and uni.

As an entree, I went with the Pan Seared Scottish Salmon with crispy rice, citrus bacon salad & coconut-kaffir lime emulsion.    I must say I was pretty disappointed with this dish.  Although the salmon was cooked well, it had very little flavor and the coconut-kaffir lime emulsion was too watered down to give any taste to the salmon.  The only sign of a “citrus bacon salad” was a single slice of mandarin orange and as for the crispy rice, it was slightly overcooked and over salted.

Luckily, dessert turned things around a bit with an almond tart with vanilla ice cream and chocolate.  The tart was the perfect sweetness paired with the ice cream and chocolate.  Another dessert highlight was The Oak Room’s pistachio ice cream which was delicious.

Overall, our night at the Oak Room was delightful and I look forward to giving their entree’s another try sometime soon.

Review: Panca, NYC

Panca

Panca

92 Seventh Avenue South
New York, NY 10014
212-488-3900

http://www.pancany.com

It has been feeling more like September rather than July in NYC lately and I am certainly not complaining.  Thursday evening was clear & cool and it seemed as if everyone took to the streets to enjoy themselves before the weekend officially started.

The shops and restaurants lining the streets of the West Village came alive with music and people buzzing inside and out.  People sat on benches in the corner park enjoying ice cream cones & gelato from Grom & L’Arte del Gelato as the pianist played to the backup sounds of the water fountain in the center.

It is nights like these when you truly appreciate and marvel at the wonderful city that is New York.

Being lucky enough to leave work at a reasonable hour, we decided there was no better way to celebrate than to have dinner outside and watch all of the activity surrounding us.  Numerous times we have passed by the  Peruvian restaurant Panca and we knew it offered outside seating.  So within moments of asking  “Where should we go to eat?”, we were headed in that direction.

Panca offers Peruvian dishes and although there are many tapas & appetizers options, Peruvian entrees are also available.

When we were seated, our waitress placed before us a large bowl of roasted & salted corn nuts.  I believe this batch may have been overcooked as they tasted a little like burnt popcorn, but I was hungry and enjoy anything with salt and crunch so I had a few to start off with.

Corn NutsRoasted Corn Nuts

Now it was time for some drinks to toast the wonderful evening before us.  I debated getting the traditional Peruvian drink, the pisco sour, but instead my friend ordered it and I sneaked a few sips.  I have to admit, I was nervous about egg whites in a drink but this turned out to be delicious!  Very refreshing, although a bit sweet, it vaguely reminded me of a margarita.  I, on the other hand, ordered Panca’s sangria.  Now, typically I enjoy receiving some of the fruit in my sangria glass and was sad to see this was not how they serve it at Panca.   My disappointment quickly turned to delight, however, when I took a sip and realized how good their sangria is.  My new theory is that fruit in your sangria just means you are getting less of it 😉

Pisco SourPisco Sour

Now that the drinks portion of the evening was underway it was time to decide what we were going to eat.  The menu at Panca is broken up into four sections and features selections of Cebiches, Tiraditos (Peru’s interpretation of sashimi & cebiche combined), Appetizers and Entrees.

In order to try a few different items, we decided that we would stick to the tapas & appetizer dishes and come back again to enjoy the entrees.

We chose Panca’s chef’s signature cebiche, Cebiche 5 Elementos.  The menu stated that it included fresh fish of the day, red onion, key limes, hot pepper and hawaiin pink sea salt, however,  when it came to the table we noticed it came with a few additions such as a slice of yam & hominy.

CebicheCebiche 5 Elementos

The cebiche was good although it lacked any heat which would have been a nice contrast to the acid from the limes.  I could not determine what the fish used was but it was very fresh, sweet and mild. The hominy, in my mind was the star of the dish.  It was slightly tough on the outside but once you bit into it, the inside was creamy and soaked up all of the flavors in the cebiche.

The only dish we ordered that was served warm was the Yuquita Frites, fried yuka sticks which were served with a bright green pepper sauce.  Delicious!  The “fries” were salty and crunchy and the pepper sauce had a touch of garlic which made the whole dish burst with flavor.

FritasYuquita Frites

The biggest success of the evening, however, was the Causa Marina en Trio.  The dish consisted of pureed Peruvian yellow potato dough stuffed with three different seafood mixtures & a slice of avocado.  The first mixture was crab meat which was sweet, juicy and was given a slight crunch with diced pepper.  Up next was the shrimp mixture which was also quite tasty.  The far superior stuffing, though, was olive marinated octopus.  The chopped mixture was briny with hints of smokiness perhaps added by finely diced sausage or ham.  The plate was served with an aji sauce which was also delicious.

TrioCausa Marina en Trio

About halfway through the meal my friend decided to switch from the Pisco sour to a Peruvian beer.  The beer was light and he likened it to our Budweiser but hey, when in Rome.

Overall the meal was fabulous.  As most of our dishes are supposed to be served chilled, Peruvian food seems like it would be a great choice for a hot, steamy summer night…that’s if Mother Nature ever remembers what month it actually is.

Catching Up

Relaxing in Naragansett, RI after a few weeks of craziness

Life has been non-stop these last few weeks and unfortunately most of it had little to do with food.

With a big work deadline looming most of my meals were takeout, consumed at my desk or during a meeting and at random hours of the day.

After my work assignment was over and done with last Friday,  I headed up to Rhode Island again for another fabulous weekend of relaxation which I so badly needed.

A few foodie moments snuck into my schedule lately, however, and here is a quick roundup:

♦ Delicious, cozy meal at Little Owl in the West Village, NYC (full review post to come soon)

♦ A fabulous engagement party for two close friends.  I had great time with all of my friends on a gorgeous day.  And of course the food was delicious! There was a slider “bar” with many different slider varieties including salmon, veggie, chicken and one named for the groom-to-be: Steve’s Sirloin Sliders with Chipotle Mayo.  The assortment of french fries was also incredible!  Both the sweet potato fries & regular fries were good but the Peruvian blue potato fries with truffle oil were out of this world!  Also on the menu were tiny shots of traditional tomato gazpacho and a fennel & onion salad.  Of course for dessert I indulged in a carrot cake cupcake!

yum!

♦ A special someone’s birthday dinner prepared by my gracious RI hosts and enjoyed with great company.  The meal included BBQ ribs & chicken, homemade baked beans (baked for 24 hours!), orzo pasta salad with red onion, grilled asparagus & cherry tomatoes and then a garden fresh strawberry rhubarb pie.

♦ A quiet and delightful birthday lunch picnic before a fun round of tennis (well tennis lesson for me, really).  Lunch was simple deli sandwiches, salt & vinegar Kettle potato chips & of course a Miller High Life to wash it all down.  Such a fabulous day.

View of the tennis courts from our picnic spot

♦ Random recipe ideas which always come to me when I don’t have time to test them! I wrote them all down however, so be on the lookout for them.

And last but not least…

♦ News of Foodbuzz’s first Blogging Festival  in San Francisco!!!! For a few years now I have been wanting to go to S.F. and with this latest development I really think the time has come to make the trip.  Everyone who has been there tells me how much I would love the city and enjoy all of the wonderful food it has to offer.  Can’t wait!

I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the happenings in the blog world but would love to hear what you’ve been up to in case I missed it!  Also, let me know your thoughts on Foodbuzz’s Blogging Festival.  Are you happy it is in San Francisco?  Will you be attending and what are you looking forward to the most?

Cheers!

Rhubarb Strawberry Sorbet

goofy

A few weeks ago I was given homegrown rhubarb from some very nice people. Since it was my first time cooking or baking with rhubarb I contemplated what to do with it. The obvious choice, Strawberry Rhubarb pie, came to mind. The more I thought about it though, a pie just wasn’t what this batch of rhubarb was destined to become.

My memorial day plans included visiting my rhubarb suppliers at their gorgeous home in Rhode Island and I wanted to bring a rhubarb treat as a thank you. I began to think of all the things I love about Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. That’s it! What better way to kick off summer than with rhubarb sorbet! Knowing that I would need to balance the tart flavor of rhubarb with a sweet fruit, I turned to its tried and true companion the strawberry.

It seemed like smooth sailing until I came upon a few obstacles in my sorbet making process. First, most recipes for sorbet called for corn syrup – for the most part I despise corn syrup. Why ruin something so fresh and natural from a home garden with an artificial and mass produced product? Second, I didn’t have an ice cream maker. The absence of both of these items could have led to a less than stellar sorbet consistency. After giving it some thought, I decided to use a simple syrup in place of the corn syrup and add some alcohol, specifically the orange-flavored liquor Cointreau, to reduce ice crystals.

Now I was off and running, I made the first batch of sorbet the Sunday before I left for my weekend in Rhode Island. I had to make the sorbet without a blender since I was not in my own home and did not have one available. Personally, I loved the consistency that the pulp added. The sorbet seemed much more natural and homemade with it included.

The following Friday we arrived safely at our destination and prepared for a fun & sun-filled weekend. Saturday morning we helped in the garden and I saw first hand where my rhubarb came from (there’s so much of it!).

cutting rhubarb

The plan was to have company over that night for dinner and sorbet would be the star of desert. Since I had made only 2 pints back in NY, I needed to make some more before everyone arrived and began retrieving more rhubarb (sidenote: the correct way to harvest rhubarb is to pull it from its roots and then cut off the leaf on top)

rhubarb

cutting stemsThe correct way to cut rhubarb

Unfortunately, the second batch of sorbet was not ready until our other BBQ on Sunday night – but everyone at the dinner party had a taste from the first batch and it was a hit! The sorbet was a slightly tart thanks to the combination of rhubarb and lime zest yet perfectly sweet from the strawberries & syrup. Looking ahead, this sorbet will be a great way to preserve rhubarb into the hot summer months when we are all looking for a cold, refreshing treat.

Rhubarb Strawberry Sorbet
(makes about 2 pints)
3 cups rhubarb, sliced (about 5 medium stalks)
1 lb strawberries, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or other orange flavored liquor)
3/4 cup simple sugar (equal parts sugar & water combined until dissolved)

In a large saucepan combine rhubarb, strawberry, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest. Simmer over medium-low heat until a fruit is soft and becomes liquid forms, stirring occaisonally, about 20-30 minutes. Let mixture cool until room temperature.

Rhubarb & StrawberryRhubarb & strawberry cooking down

fruit cooling downFruit mixture cooling down

Once cooled, stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon lime zest and all of the Cointreau. Begin adding the simple sugar one tablespoon at a time and adjusting to your taste (should be slightly sweeter than you would want the finished sorbet to be).

Place in a shallow tupperware container, cover and place in the freezer. To reduce ice crystals and produce a sorbet with better consistency, stir every hour for the first 4 hours and then freeze overnight. The next day, scrape the sorbet and make fluffy before pushing back down into the tupperware.

sorbet before freezerSorbet in Tupperware before going into the freezer

Before serving, place in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes so that the sorbet can soften. Serve and enjoy!

sorbetPansies are edible 🙂

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

After a long day of drinking mint juleps and watching the races, I decided there wasn’t a better breakfast to enjoy on a rainy Sunday than French toast (and of course some bacon)

I didn’t change the standard recipe for French toast but what puts this one above the rest are the thick buttery slices of brioche bread. I picked this loaf up from Amy’s Bread in the West Village but next time may attempt to bake my own.

My instructions and measurements below are not 100% accurate (that morning was still a bit blurry) so I encourage you to add cinnamon & sugar based on your preferences.

4 thick slices Brioche bread (I cut these about an inch thick)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark brown)
pinch Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
Maple syrup (optional)
Vanilla Greek yogurt (optional)

In a deep baking dish whisk together eggs & milk until combined. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and all of the sugars plus salt.

Heat griddle (or large skillet) over medium-low heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Take one slice of bread and dip in milk mixture until covered. Remove and let drain for a minute (on a plate) before placing on the griddle.

Add more cinnamon to the milk mixture and whisk. Repeat with remaining bread slices, adding cinnamon after each piece and adding butter to the griddle for each slice.

Cook French toast approximately 4-5 minutes each side or until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with fresh berries on top & maple syrup if desired. I enjoyed mine with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt on top but was too hungry to wait for a photo!

Welcome to Blissful Bites!

Welcome to my new (and first) blog, Blissful Bites. I created this blog because I wished to have a place to share my passion for food, cooking & entertaining which I could no longer keep bottled up inside of me!

To explain the blog’s title (which I agonized over forever), there are a few things you might want to know about me.

I am Kristen, a 20-something year old obsessed with food. I love food. I love to eat it. I love to cook it. I love to share it with others. I love to talk about it, read about it and then watch it on TV. I even work on a food brand at my crazy job in a NYC advertising agency. I believe in a balance in everything in life and that is no different when it comes to food. Sometimes I will eat healthy and other times I don’t. Life would be no fun without cake!

Due to the aforementioned crazy job I don’t get as many opportunities to cook as I would like but I with this blog I hope to contribute and share as many “bites” as I can whether it is a restaurant review, a new recipe or maybe something a little off topic.

Food & cooking is what provides bliss in my hectic life and I hope my blog can share this bliss with you.

Kristen

Fried Pickle

Checking out the fried pickle (frickle) placed before me at Brother Jimmy's BBQ, NYC