Friday, September 16, 2016

Week 36 - Famous Dishes

When the theme for Week 36 came up as famous dishes, it sounded a lot like last year's signature dishes challenge. Iconic restaurant dishes seemed to fit this theme though, so I decided to make something I've been wanting to make for a long time - imitation cheddar bay biscuits, based on the ones they serve at Red Lobster. Those were easily the highlights of most of our past meals at Red Lobster, so I thought for dinner we would have our own Red Lobster night.

Cheddar Biscuits

I started off with this recipe on Damn Delicious for the biscuits, which I had printed way back in 2014 but had just never gotten around to making. I made a couple of changes, but mostly stuck with it to try to get the flavor just right.

The ingredients for the biscuits were:

- 2 cups all purpose flour ($0.25)
- 1 tbsp sugar ($0.10)
- 1 tbsp baking powder ($0.25)
- a little more than 1 tbsp garlic powder ($0.10)
- a few grinds of salt ($0.05)
- a pinch of cayenne pepper ($0.05)
- 1 cup buttermilk ($0.95)
- 1/2 cup butter, melted ($0.50)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese ($1.75)
for the topping:
- 6 tbsp butter, melted ($0.40)
- a couple tbsp chopped parsley leaves ($0.45)
- 1 tbsp garlic powder ($0.10)

The process of making the biscuits was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Using this recipe, it was so fast! I hadn't realized how quick it would be, or I would have done a lot of the prep before I started mixing the biscuit ingredients because the baking time was definitely not enough time to get all of the other parts of dinner done, like I thought it would be. The steps were:

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, garlic powder, salt, cayenne).
- Melt the 1/2 cup of butter in a medium bowl and then add buttermilk, and mix together.
- Add butter/buttermilk to dry ingredients and mix together until batter forms. (I followed her advice and used a rubber spatula to mix everything.)
- Add cheese and fold in until relatively well spread throughout the batter.
- On baking sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop out mixture in 1/4 cup measuring cup. (I was amazed that it made exactly 10 biscuits. Nothing ever comes out that even when I make it!)
- Bake for 12 minutes. (I probably left them in a minute or so too long.)
- While biscuits are baking, melt the 6 tbsp of butter and chop the parsley, and mix both together with the garlic powder.
- After biscuits are done, brush with the parsley butter mixture.

Really easy and so quick! If I knew it was that easy to whip up a bunch of cheddar bay biscuits, I would have done this ages ago.

Overall, the biscuits were pretty good. They weren't exactly like the ones at Red Lobster, because I think those are a little softer and more buttery, but they were definitely good (and better than waiting for 2 hours to eat at Red Lobster). I was thinking I could get even closer to those if in the future, I made these changes:

- bake for 12 minutes and not longer.

- allow the buttermilk to warm up to room temperature before mixing with the butter.

- brush with the butter mixture immediately after pulling out of the oven. When the biscuits were done, I was still chopping the parsley. Once I added it to the 3 tbsp of melted butter from the recipe, we quickly realized it was impossible to brush them with how much parsley was in there. (I thought it was 1 tbsp when I was chopping it, but it was probably more like 2.) So then we had to melt another 3 tbsp of butter and mix it all together. All that time was time that would have been better spent with the butter soaking into the hot biscuits, but hopefully that will be the case next time. Even with 1 tbsp of parsley, I'm not sure the 3 tbsp of butter would have been enough, but I'm glad we did it our way because I liked adding more parsley.

- more garlic powder in the batter, more garlic powder in the topping.

That said, they were good as they were, but they would probably have been even better with those tweaks. I decided to test my theory later in the week since we still had more buttermilk to use up (after using it in both pancakes and mashed potatoes, and there was still some left after those), and make another round of biscuits. But this time, since we were just eating biscuits without anything else, I also added some corn and bacon. They had to bake longer because of the different ingredients, and it made for 12 (well, 11.5) biscuits instead of 10, and we didn't have parsley at all so I just used the 3 tbsp of butter for the topping, but otherwise they came out about the same. They were fluffier, more buttery tasting, and texture-wise, a little better than the first set earlier in the week. Still not as garlicky as we would have preferred or thought it would be from the amount of garlic powder, but pretty good.

Soy Ginger Cod

Originally, I thought about making shrimp scampi to go with the cheddar bay biscuits, but changed my mind and made the rest of dinner a little healthier to offset all the butter and starch in the biscuits. Most meals at Red Lobster consist of seafood + sides + biscuits, so fish and vegetables seemed like a good match. I had picked up some pre-marinated soy ginger cod on a recent Trader Joe's visit, so we made that.

The main ingredients in the marinade were soy sauce, sugar, olive oil, miso paste, ginger, garlic, and rice vinegar, pretty much what you would expect from the advertised flavor profile. I followed the instructions on the package for cooking - 2 minutes on each side in a covered skillet, and then a minute or so uncovered with the marinade added. The fish came out perfectly. It was flaky and soft, and not overdone at all. The marinade was a little salty, probably more salty than if I made it myself, but it was so convenient not having to do that step for dinner. We would get this again.

Quick Sesame Snow Peas

I bought some snow peas to make alongside the soy ginger cod since we happened to be at the store the day before the challenge and I could get them fresh. I didn't really have a plan for them, figuring that maybe I'd just saute them in some olive oil with garlic, but decided to survey some snow pea recipes online to see if there were other ideas that might fit better. I decided to go with these quick sesame snow peas I found on The Kitchn, as it seemed pretty easy and like it would go well with soy ginger cod.

The ingredients were:

- 9 oz snow peas ($2.29)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil ($0.20)
- lemon juice (not sure exactly how much, I just added until it seemed right, which I know is unhelpful) ($0.20)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- sesame seeds ($0.10)

A did most of the work on the snow peas since I was preoccupied with the butter topping for the biscuits and needed to get the snow peas done simultaneously to clear the burner for the fish (the problem with having limited counter space). Basically, you just heat the sesame oil, add the snow peas, cook them for a couple of minutes stirring constantly until "tender crisp," add the lemon juice, remove from heat and cover, let stand for at least 5 minutes (ours sat until the fish was done), add salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and mix everything together. Very quick, very easy, and fit right into the timeline as we could let it sit while the fish was cooking. This was a pretty basic snow pea preparation, and I could see us making it again sometime if it fit what we were eating.

Red Lobster Night

The total for our entire Red Lobster-esque meal was about $14.08 ($4.95 for the biscuits, $6.29 for the cod, and $2.84 for the snow peas). That's not too bad for a meal with so many components, including one being fish, and likely cheaper than eating for one at Red Lobster. We even had a couple of biscuits left over (although they were not as good refrigerated as they were fresh). It was a pretty nice dinner and the biscuits were almost as addictive as they were in the restaurant. We had to stop ourselves from eating all of them that night, which is usually what happens there too. Would definitely do this again.

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