Habanero Hot Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Habanero Hot Sauce! Let’s kick things up a notch or two with one of the hottest known chili peppers legally sold in grocery stores. And I mean REALLY hot, compared to the average pepperoncini. The adorable orange lantern with its sweet-looking dimples can be deceiving. Its sting may feel as strong as a viper while simultaneously releasing an endorphin rush that’ll knock you off your feet. This is my fourth batch from the garden harvest. I’m hooked! However, it comes with a few words of caution: Wear gloves and avoid the juices near your face and eyes. While oven roasting, set the exhaust fan on High. When taste-testing, keep a wedge of white cheese nearby. It actually cuts the heat almost instantly. Be brave, my Peeps. Heed these simple rules. Then and only then, will you become the master of your own domain.

HABANERO HOT SAUCE

Ingredients:

16-20 habanero peppers, halved, stems, and seeds removed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1/8 teaspoon lime juice

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Place habanero pepper halves, skin side up in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast habanero peppers on High for 10 minutes, or until black spots appear. Remove. Using tongs, transfer habanero peppers to a covered bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Using gloves, remove any loose skins; discard. Add peppers to a food processor. Pulse to a slightly coarse texture. Add minced garlic, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. Pulse until desired consistency. Season with sea salt. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Serve in dips, as a condiment, paired with ripe fruits in salsas, or on grilled meats.

Old Town Mexican Cafe in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.

Gruyère Onion Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Gruyère Onion Soup! Everyone, sooner or later, falls in love with French Onion Soup, in my opinion. After all, who can resist the savory taste of caramelized onions, buttered croutons, and gooey melted cheese smothered in a beef broth that’s been splashed with a well-aged cognac? I wish I could tell you it’s as easy to make as opening a can of soup, but it isn’t. Don’t hate me. Let’s just say this…..if you are looking for an evening of mystery, romance, and excitement, then read on. This “soup de jour” may be the love potion that’ll woo the night away. Bon Appetît!

GRUYÈRE ONION SOUP

Ingredients:

3 Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 cup white wine

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

10 ounces beef consommé

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

4 ounces Montamoré cheese, crumbled

Splash of cognac

4 slices baguette, toasted

4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

4 slices Gruyère cheese

Parsley flakes to garnish

Instructions:

In a shallow bowl, microwave sliced onions on HIGH for 2 minutes. In a large skillet, melt butter on low setting. Do not scorch. Layer onions over butter. Sprinkle with sea salt and Herbs de Provence. Cover and do not stir for 10 minutes. Remove lid and stir occasionally until onions are dark in color, another 10 minutes. Turn heat to High and add white wine and honey. Cook until wine is reduced and consistency is thick. Reduce heat to Simmer. Add apple cider vinegar, beef consommé, low-sodium chicken broth, and worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes. Ladle soup into four oven-proof crocks placed on a heavy baking sheet. Add Montamoré crumbled cheese. Top with a splash of cognac. Place a toasted baguette slice on top of soup. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Lay one slice of Gruyère cheese over each bowl, with corners slightly overlapping sides. Broil on High for 2 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden. Remove carefully! Garnish with parsley flakes and serve immediately.

Little Room Jazz Club in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Little Room Jazz Club in Key West, Florida! If you prefer to sit on the edge of the party, tuck your legs under a bar stool at a high table in a cozy corner of Little Room Jazz Club. Step back in time to an era of speakeasies and nightclubs. Pay attention as the piano player tickles the ivory keys in the glow of blue neon lights. Every now and then, requests ring out from regular patrons while first-timers absorb the melodic freedom of harmonic jazz enticing a head bob, toe tap, or other bodily motions. For those who like to nibble as they drink, a nice assortment of small bites are available on the menu. Choose an entertaining evening; experience it all.

French Baguettes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: French Baguettes! Ever wonder why the daily baguette, le baguette quotidien, in France tastes so much better than in the US? For one, it is meant to be baked and eaten the same day. After that, don’t be surprised if it goes stale. No preservatives. Well, I can attest that as soon as the aromas filled the kitchen and drifted throughout the house, I had to ask myself, “Why would anyone want to wait?” The crunch of crispy crust, the melted sea salt French butter, and the hint of honey sweetness were enough to be convincing. Plus, I let the bread machine do half the work. Another bonus, the perforated French bread pan “simplifies baking baguettes worthy of a Parisian boulangerie.”* I agree.

FRENCH BAGUETTES

Ingredients:

1 cup water

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Using a bread machine, combine water, bread flour, sugar, sea salt, and yeast. Select Dough cycle and press Start. When the cycle is completed, transfer dough to a greased bowl. Coat all sides of dough with grease. Cover; Place bowl in a warm area for 30 minutes. Dough will rise to double its size. Punch down dough. Place onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 12″x16″ rectangle. Cut dough in half to equal two 12″x8″ rectangles. Beginning at the 12” side, roll dough tightly, pounding out air bubbles. Roll gently back and forth to taper ends. Transfer loaves to a divided and perforated French bread pan. Make diagonal slashes across each loaf every 3 inches. Cover and let dough rise in a warm area for 40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 375°. Mix egg yolk and water. Brush over tops of loaves. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

* I receive no recompense for mentioning the Williams-Sonoma Perforated French Bread Pan.

Red Fish Blue Fish in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Red Fish Blue Fish in Key West, Florida! When you’re wandering around Mallory Square, step off the beaten path a block or so to discover a hidden gem where seafood is prime and the drinks go down easy. Order one of the signature cocktails from Red Fish Blue Fish, made with real fruit and fresh juices. Stay awhile, and without a doubt, you’ll be smitten by the most breathtaking sunset in the Florida Keys. This is cause for celebration. The sheer beauty and passion of the residents is enough to make anyone feel at home once they cross the threshold of this popular seafood joint.

Elegant Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Elegant Chicken! Rummage through your collection of “fundraiser cookbooks” and you’re sure to find this hidden gem. By baking it ahead, you save hours preparing the meal. It transforms an ordinary chicken dinner into a crowd-pleaser, especially with its thick creamy sauce and hint of hickory-smoked bacon. Serve Elegant Chicken over wild rice or buttered noodles. Either way, you’ll wonder how you lived without this classic dish so long.

ELEGANT CHICKEN

Ingredients:

8 5-ounce chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

8 slices bacon, uncooked

4 ounces dried beef, chopped

10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

8 ounces Greek yogurt

Paprika to garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Grease a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with dried beef. Wrap each chicken breast with one strip of bacon. Arrange chicken over dried beef. Blend cream of mushroom soup with Greek yogurt. Spoon over chicken breasts. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake uncovered for 3 hours until chicken is cooked.