Fifty Shades of Chicken or Foolproof?

Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies

My friend Eva (at KitchenInspirations) and I have been joking around for a while now that we should start a blog called Fifty Shades of Grey Cooks. I guess that it was only a matter of time before someone connected this literary phenomenon with cooking. It was bound to happen. So, really I wasn’t that surprized when I saw this book in the window of an Indigo Bookstore this week:

A quick google search revealed a few of the recipes that this recently-released book has in store: mustard spanked chicken and learning to truss you. Hmmm, I wonder if my spatchcocked chicken recipe made the cut?

I’m not sure if Fifty Shades of Chicken is going to be on my Christmas list, but this cookbook definitely is:

In fact, I’m positive that my mom is going to get it for me because I found it hidden in the room where she stays when she comes to visit. I couldn’t resist having a peek at the book, and well, when I saw the recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies, I knew that I couldn’t wait until Christmas to make them. Fortunately, the recipe is already online so there aren’t any chocolate smears on the book to give my secret away. (But, please don’t tell my mom that I was snooping!)

The brownies were just as good as I imagined that they would be. They combine Ina’s outrageous brownies with caramel and salt, so really, how can you go wrong?

I’m really excited that I have this book to look forward to. But I’m not sure what other cookbook I should add to my Christmas list. Any suggestions? My husband reads this blog and he never knows what to get me, so I’d really love it if you could point him in the right direction by leaving your cookbook suggestions in my comment section.

Blogiversary Cookbook Giveaway

In fact, as a little incentive, if you make a cookbook recommendation or just leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a cookbook. I’m in the mood to celebrate, since my one year blogiversary is coming up next week (Nov. 19). The winner will have a choice of either Fifty Shades of Chicken or Ina Garten’s Foolproof cookbook — I’ll contact you if you win and you can decide which book you’d like. If you also sign up to subscribe to my email updates from now until Nov. 19th, you’ll be entered a second time.

You can enter until November 19 at 12:00 EST. The draw will take place on November 20th — the winner will be drawn manually by one of the ponytails.

Even if you haven’t read the Fifty Shades books, you really must watch the trailer for Fifty Shades of Chicken by clicking here.

Salted Caramel Brownies

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Foolproof

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces plus 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups + 1 cup)
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • ½ tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 ounces of caramel sauce (see note below)
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt (I used 1 ½ tsp fleur de sel)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9” x 13” baking pan.

Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (see note).

In a medium bowl, sift together ½ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake.

As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt. Cool completely and cut into (12) bars or more, according to your preference.

NOTES:

  • When making the brownies, it is important to ensure that the batter cools before adding the chocolate chips, otherwise the chips will melt and ruin the batter.
  • Ina uses a 9′ x 12″ pan, but I find that the 9″ x 13″ pan is standard here in Canada. The 9″ x 13″ worked perfectly!
  • Ina suggests using true caramel sauce rather than dulce de leche, which has a lot of milk or cream added. She uses Fran’s. (www.franschocolates.com).
  • I used Lyons Caramel Sauce ,which I bought at Pusateri’s. I also really like Starbuck’s caramel sauce, which I have used for years.
  • If you have trouble finding caramel sauce, you can make your own. Please see fellow blogger A. Boleyn’s recipe here.
  • One 350 g bag of chocolate chips is approximately 12.7 ounces. Sissi, you’ll be happy to know that I finally bought a scale!
  • I adapted the recipe by reducing the amount of coffee and increasing the amount of vanilla to make these ponytail-friendly.
  • The giveaway is sponsored by me, not a publisher!

So, what’ll it be Fifty Shades of Chicken or Foolproof?


Chocolate and Black Beans – Original or Common?

You may be starting to sense a chocolate theme in my recent posts. Well, this fascination with chocolate all started two weeks ago when my husband Kevin and I went to dinner at Victor Restaurant here in Toronto. The restaurant offers an Iron Chef dinner option, where you select a feature ingredient and they prepare a five-course dinner battle around that ingredient. Each chef or cook in the Victor Kitchen prepares a different course and you rank each of the courses based on four criteria. At the end of the meal, you tally up your scores and the chef or cook’s dish with the highest ranking wins. Doesn’t that sound fun?

So it’ll come as no surprise that we chose chocolate as our theme ingredient. That’s right—five glorious courses each prepared with chocolate in some shape or fashion. I’m going to summarize each of the dishes at the end of this post, but I want to start by telling you about our first course and how it inspired today’s recipe.

We started with: Chocolate Soup with Black Bean Salsa, topped with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Crispy Pork Belly and Tortilla Strips. As we tasted the delicious soup, Kevin started to work on his rankings and I have to say he was taking it all very seriously. When he got to the “how original or authentic was the dish” category, he started to talk about how the flavours were the same as my chili (which has a bit of chocolate in it) so he felt it wasn’t that original. I countered that it was in fact original for a savory chocolate soup to have those same flavours. Out came his BlackBerry, followed by a Google search on “chocolate and beans.” Well, this resulted in hundreds of black bean brownie recipes—but no chocolate and black bean soup recipes. In the end, Kevin still felt it wasn’t that original because obviously the chocolate and black bean combination was pretty popular in the form of brownies. So tell me, what do you think? Was this an authentic/original dish—or a common one? Which one of us was right?

I decided on the spot that I would make a Black Bean Brownie recipe for you as a tribute to this amazing dinner and our lively dinner debate. I whipped up a batch right away, altering the recipe a bit as I went along. The brownies were super easy to make and surprisingly tasty. The ponytails didn’t suspect for a minute that the brownies were made with beans. There you have it—flourless Chocolate Black Bean Brownies! Who knew? (Apparently the hundreds of people who have blogged about black bean brownies…)

Black Bean Brownies

Adapted from Allrecipies.com (Canada) by Elizabeth

  • 1 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (I used milk and white chocolate swirl chips)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” square baking dish.

3. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a blender and blend until smooth.

4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

5. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of dish.

6. Bake in preheated oven until top is dry and edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Victor Restaurant (at Hotel Le Germain, Toronto)

Iron Chef Dinner — Theme Ingredient: Chocolate

Dish 1:   Chocolate Soup with Black Bean Salsa, topped with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Crispy Pork Belly and Tortilla Strips (Total score 34 out of 40; each of us could award up to 20 points, with up to 5 points in 4 categories)

Dish 2:   Lobster and Scallops with White Chocolate Velouté in Puff Pastry (Total score 40 out of 40; THE WINNER of the Challenge; prepared by the Salad Cook and apparently his 1st win!)

Dish 3:   Duck and Soba Noodles, with Chocolate, Mushrooms and Bacon in a Cocoa Butter Sauce (Total score 33 out of 40)

Dish 4:   Organic Beef Tenderloin, White Chocolate Potatoes Purée, Spinach, Pickled Onion and Beets, with Cocoa Sauce drizzled on the side (Total score 38 out of 40)

Dish 5:   Flourless Chocolate Cake, Brandied Cherries, Chocolate Ice Cream, and Chocolate Truffles with Crushed Praline (Total score 33 out of 40)

Essentially Victor’s five chefs/cooks created this menu just for us, as we were the only ones in the restaurant participating in the Iron Chef dinner that night. It was an absolutely unique and delicious dining experience that we both LOVED. I highly recommend the Iron Chef Dinner Challenge at Victor Restaurant. However, you must book your Iron Chef dinner well in advance when you provide them with your theme ingredient. It was $80 per person for the meal, and $40 per person for the wine pairings.