Around this time every year, I’m usually suffering from sporting event purgatory. Meaning, I’ve got a nasty case of football withdrawal and with March Madness still several weeks away, I’m looking for something to fill the hours.
So now that my normal repertoire of buffalo wings and homemade chicken fingers isn’t needed until summertime, I decided to revert back to a few my personal favorites that are a bit more upscale. Meaning, these dishes can be a bit pricey at a restaurant, but also because they’re a bit more complicated and time consuming to make.
But don’t let names like Eggs Benedict, the amount of time they take to make, or even the half page of ingredients they call for, intimidate you. Most of these really aren’t that complicated, and since you’ve got them on video, you can rewind them as many times as you need.
So if you’re the family type, make this a weekend thing where everyone pitches in and gets their hands dirty. If you’re single, and you want to do something more intimate than the standard dinner and a movie, ask your date to show up at your place at 6pm sharp, pour him/her a glass of vino and let them watch as you show off your (wannabe) chef skills.
It may sound old fashioned, but cooking for your date earns major brownie points. Although, I would recommend that you practice whatever dish on yourself and another friend at least once before making it for your special someone. Don’t want to build up the anticipation of a home cooked meal… only to call for takeout at 9pm!
Eggs Benedict is one of my all time favorite brunch dishes. However, I can probably count the number of times I’ve made it for myself on both hands because it’s tedious to make and very unhealthy by my standards. Then again, everyone deserves to spoil themselves with two sticks of butter, half a dozen egg yolks, and a few slices of pork a few times a year!
Around half of the Eggs Benedict recipes I’ve eaten have included ham, and since I’m in the southern U.S. that usually means a salt cured ham. So even if you can’t get peameal or Canadian bacon, it’s still a worthwhile dish to spoil yourself with some extra fatty decadence.
In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to eat salmon than on a cedar plank and thrown on the grill. It’s super simple, but for some reason, I don’t make it nearly enough considering it’s so rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Around two years ago, I purchased some cedar planks from a higher end grocery store and they’re still going strong. If you feel they’re losing their taste, I suppose you could rough them up with a piece of sandpaper, but I haven’t had to do this yet.
My only tweak on this recipe would be to place the salmon fillets/steaks on top of cedar planks overnight so that “cedar taste” is a bit stronger.
Duck is one of those special dishes that I reserve for special occasions because it’s rather fatty, which doesn’t make a heck of a lot sense considering my favorite way to eat it is with skin on (the only way in my opinion) and letting it marinate in it’s own rendered fat.
Restaurant quality duck confit takes hours, around 18 to 24 hours according to this recipe, so be prepared to do some low and slow cooking, followed up by some additional work prior to dinner time.
Certainly not a difficult dish to make, but one that takes above average patience and planning if you’re not accustomed to working in the kitchen.
Hat tip to Chef John at the Foodwishes.com blog.
If you haven’t tried Jamaican Jerk Chicken, you’re doing yourself a monumental disservice. While it might not meet your classic idea of an upscale dinner, it’s definitely one of eclectic dishes you should know how to make for yourself unless you live down the street from a restaurant that knows how to get it right.
Like any cultural dish, you’re going to have variations on the types and quantities of spices used, but I think this video recipe does a fairly good job at getting the flavor profile correct.
However, I will admit, I skipped the ketchup (few things are “authentic” if they call for ketchup) and substituted it with a dark Puerto Rican rum when the blender needed some assistance chopping up all the onions.
You also get an excellent tutorial on how to butcher a whole chicken, which I always prefer to buy over chicken breasts, because a 5lb whole chicken might cost me $4.00 where a 6 pack of chicken breasts might cost twice that. Just make sure to rub the jerk marinade under the skin, and I let mine marinate for at least 18 hours prior to cooking.
You’re probably thinking… where is the upscale in a bleepin’ burger?
Trust me, these aren’t you’re standard 3am, just coming down off a beer buzz, smothered in ketchup and mayo type of burgers.
In fact, this video is an excellent tutorial of how you can slice and dice your own hamburger meat out of an inexpensive piece of fatty beef without using a grinder, as well as learning how to add lots of unusual flavors like blue cheese stuffing, grilled pineapple, or caramelized onions.
By the way, I would highly suggest you try Gorgonzola stuffed burgers with a healthy dose of cayenne pepper and cumin. Definitely one of my new favorite flavor combos!