Slow Cooker Dip Week: Spinach and Artichoke

For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP WITH BACON.  This dip, adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe, is easy and fantastically tasty, and we halved it to fit in our 1/4qt slow cooker.

First, cook up a couple slices of bacon.  Drain those on paper towels and crumble them when they’re cool.

Dips Week 10

Dice up about 1/2 a sweet onion and a few green onions, and chuck them in the bacon skillet with a little bit of the bacon fat and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.

Dips Week 2

Chuck those in your 1.4qt slow cooker when they’re ready to go.

Dips Week 16

Roughly chop up the contents of a 14oz can of artichoke hearts and huck those in, as well as about half a drained 10oz box frozen spinach.

Dips Week 11

Chop up a sweet bell pepper finely and chuck that in.

Dips Week 8

Crumble up about 2oz blue cheese and pitch that in too, as well as 4oz package plain cream cheese (that’s half a block package).

Dips Week 12

Add in as well as much minced garlic as you like, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard and give the whole thing a good stir before covering and cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until everything is all melty and lovely.

Dips Week 20

Stir in your crumbled bacon and you’re good to go.

Dips Week 27

It’s the one on the right. Stay tuned for the middle dip on Friday!

Dips Week 30

Deep-Fried Dinner

Deep-Fried Dinner

For the Pie’s birthday dinner, we decided to try deep-frying for the first time.  We’d been putting it off because, well, it’s incredibly unhealthy, it’s a dangerous fire risk, and our kitchen has no fume hood so we’d be dealing with the aromas of cooking oil for several days.

But we needed to learn (in the same way that we need to learn everything else we do here).  So we decided to try two different methods and make Buffalo chicken strips (with blue cheese dip) and some beer-battered onion rings.  Both recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine.  Both recipes involve buttermilk.

Now, though I’m presenting two different recipes here, I’m going to give the instructions to you in the order I did them, because that makes the most sense to me.  In order for you to differentiate the two recipes, I’ll preface instructions for the chicken with BCS and use OR for the onions.

BCS/OR: Turn your oven to 250°F.  Put some cooling racks on top of rimmed baking sheets and put those in the oven.  Those will be your warming and draining trays for your chicken and onions.
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OR: Slice 2lb onions into thick rounds and submerge them in 2 cups buttermilk for about an hour before cooking.  The buttermilk takes the acidic bite out of the onions, making them sweet and tender.  Just a warning: following this recipe results in a heckuva lotta onion rinks, so if you don’t want to fry up a million, I suggest halving it, or even quartering it.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS: Crumble up 1 cup blue cheese (I used 400g here and it crumbled to about a cup) and 1/2 cup buttermilk.
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Stir that around and set it aside.
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Cut up some vegetables while you’re at it, why don’t you?  You’re about to consume pure fat — you should probably add in some vitamins.
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BCS/OR: Plop about 1 1/2 cups flour in a shallow dish and put that near your stove.  That’s for the batterin’.
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OR: Crack two eggs into a bowl.  Whisk ’em.
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Whisk in 1 bottle lager or pale ale.
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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.  Set that near the stove as well.
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BCS: In yet another bowl, combine 1/3 cup hot sauce with 3 tablespoons butter.  Stir well and set that aside for now.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slice up 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into finger-sized pieces.
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Dip them in 1 cup buttermilk.
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Then into that flour you have ready.
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Lay them out on a baking sheet.
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I think we’re about ready to start cooking.  While I’m sure you could do these two dishes at the same time, I am far from experienced with hot-oil cooking, rather prone to accidents, and I only have one large-sized element on my stove.  So I am going to cook the chicken first, as it doesn’t need to be crispy and can therefore sit in the oven for longer.

As a safety note, we had a box of baking soda handy at all times during this, in case of flareups.  Never leave hot oil unattended, and never, NEVER add additional oil of any kind or any temperature to oil that is already hot.

BCS: Heat 1/2 cup to 1 cup vegetable oil in a heavy skillet.  You can tell if the oil is hot enough for frying when a pinch of flour dropped into it fizzes rapidly.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slide a few chicken pieces in, working in batches.
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Cook for about 6-8 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown.  Remove the cooked chicken to the rack in the oven.
Deep-Fried Dinner

This was a very spatter-y process, so I wore long sleeves and kept my face averted from the pan.  My hands kept getting burned from little splashes of oil.  In the end I pulled on a pair of work gloves to protect them and worked happily after that.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Make sure to let that oil cool before you move it anywhere.

OR: In a large, wide saucepan, heat up 5 cups vegetable oil.  I know, that’s a lot of oil.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer and continuously adjust the temperature of your element to keep the oil at 375°F.  If it gets too cold, it won’t cook the onions all the way through, and if it gets too hot, well … let’s not think about that.
Deep-Fried Dinner

What was interesting was the cool pattern the oil made while it heated.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Take a ring of onion out of the buttermilk and dip it in the flour, then into the beer batter.  Shake off the excess.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slide the ring carefully into the hot oil.  Cook in small batches, rotating halfway through, for about 5 minutes.  Remove to the other rack in the oven to drain and keep warm.  This method of frying was wayyyyy less spatter-y, if you were interested to know.
Deep-Fried Dinner

We had a lot more onions left to cook after we had cooked as many as we thought we could eat.  We figured they would keep until tomorrow and we would try again.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS: When everything is cooked and you are ready to go, take the chicken strips out of the oven and toss them in the hot sauce.  These will be served with the blue cheese dip we made earlier.
Deep-Fried Dinner

OR: For the onions we had a nice tzatziki dip as well as a chipotle mayo.
Deep-Fried Dinner

All told, it was pretty epic.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Bar Night: Buffalo Chicken Strips

The Pie and I went to Buffalo, NY, for a shopping trip once.  We drove past the Anchor Bar, undisputed home of the Buffalo chicken wing, and it was closed.  We never went back.  I regret it to this day.  And when you order wings in St. John’s, you can get them with barbecue sauce or honey garlic, but none of that tangy, vinegary spiciness that comes with the bright orange Buffalo wing sauce.  It’s truly sad.

Out of necessity, therefore, I have had to come up with my own version of that sauce.  It’s not quite right, but it will do in a pinch.

Start with a base of hot sauce, like Tabasco.  Add in a bit of butter, as well as some light barbecue sauce (not the dark smoky stuff).  The sauce I used is the one I made the Pie for Christmas.  Pour in some rice vinegar and some white vinegar to taste.  Adjust your amounts until it’s the way you like it.

Simmer that down for a while.

While that’s cooking down, peel and thinly cut some carrots into sticks.

Cut up some celery as well, and plop your veggies in a bowl of water to await your pleasure.

Get yourself some blue cheese and some sour cream.

Crumble the blue cheese into a bowl and smush it together with some sour cream to make a blue cheese sauce.

Process some bread crumbs until they are superfine.

Slice up some chicken breasts into thin strips.

Dip the strips into buttermilk, then into your bread crumbs.

Repeat until you’re out of strips and thoroughly covered with gooey bread crumbs.

Fry up those strips until they are brown and crispy.

Toss the strips in a bowl with your simmered down sauce until the strips are all coated.

Serve with your vegetables, blue cheese dressing, and, hey, why not some French fries?

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

It’s winter.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  It’s slippery outside.  In short, it’s miserable.

Okay maybe today it’s bright and sunny, but let me assure you that this is rarely the case.  And it’s still cold and slippery.  And winter.Being Canadian, you’d think I’d be used to this nonsense that happens year in, year out.

I prefer to live in denial.

Or hibernate.  And eat lots of carbs.

And cheese.

So that’s what we’re going to do today.  Eat cheese.  And carbs.

This is a twist on the classic fettuccine alfredo recipe, and it’s really not very good for you.  But who cares?  I live in Newfoundland and no one will ever see me in a bathing suit.  If you don’t like blue cheese you can substitute it for something milder.  The key component of an alfredo sauce is that it is parmesan or romano melted in cream, so as long as you have that going for you you’re set.

In a medium frying pan, melt about a tablespoon butter and sauté 3 cups sliced mushrooms until they are brown and tender.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and chuck in enough dry fettuccine pasta for 4 servings.  While your pasta is cooking, melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Add about 2 tablespoons flour to that and whisk it well.

Add 1 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup milk and bring to a boil.  Make sure to stir constantly.  I got interrupted so you can see that my butter browned a bit before I added the dairy.  No matter.  It was still good.

Reduce to a simmer and add 1/2 cup fresh oregano (or 2 tablespoons dried), 2 teaspoons minced garlic, and 1 pinch nutmeg.

Add to this about 3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese as well as 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese.

You can add in your cooked mushrooms now.  You want to do this as late as possible so they don’t get soggy or overcooked and tough.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is nice and thick.

Drain your cooked pasta and add it to the pot, tossing it in the sauce to coat the pasta completely.

Serve immediately, garnished with some more grated parmesan or romano.  Food coma to follow.