Cro-Nutting: The Privilege of a Great Houseguest

cronuts trader joe's frozen croissants dessert

Cro-Nutted Croissants

Cro-Nutting, v. The Art of Frying That Which Should Not Be Fried.

Truth – I don’t like to fry, deep fry, stuff in my apartment. A few good reasons…

  1. cronuts kitchen frying

    Coffee Tin

    It’s a bit messy and the hot oil can escape the cauldron and dirty surrounding cabinets and counters.

  2. When the frying is over and after you’ve overindulged in a good fried treat, you’re left with a large vat of used oil and no where to dispose of it…OK, you’re supposed to put in into an empty coffee tin and freeze it before throwing away…But, I think you have to go back to 1985 to find an empty coffee tin.
  3. The frying leaves a certain odor – note, not really aroma, but odor – in your tiny living space and on your furniture, walls, carpets, floors and towels.
  4. OH, yeah….and technically frying anything is super fattening.

So, I only fry during away games. Listen, I’m a great house guest. Someone even recently named me guest of the decade. I mean, I keep a clean room, cook, entertain people’s kids, run errands and always wash my sheets and towels before my departure. So, letting me do a little frying in your kitchen seems like a small price to pay.

On a recent visit to the middle – that space between New York City and LA where my brother and his people live – I decided to entertain my two favorite teenagers with a frying bonanza.

Prior to my arrival, I emailed the kids with some culinary options that we could deep fry in their large suburban kitchen.

But the only thing they wanted was….Cronuts, the croissant/donut hybrid that is all the rage in NYC right now, a treat that is not yet available in Cincy.

The attention span of any teenager is similar to that of an ant – even my incredibly intellectually advanced niece and nephew. So, I knew that creating cronuts from scratch wouldn’t be an option. I did some research and decided the best way to go would be to cronut frozen croissants from Trader Joe’s.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Don’t deep fry in your apartment for reasons already outlined above
  2. Do be the best guest to earn the privilege to deep fry when guesting outside of the city

Cro-Nutted TJ’s Croissnts (servings…really, no one should eat any of these, so at a serving size of one bite, this’ll make about 24)

Ingredients:

  • trader joe's frozen croissants cronuts

    NOT mini

    1 Box Trader Joe’s frozen croissants – they come  8 to a box – AND the box says ‘Mini’…but, they are not mini

  • 1 Large Cauldron of vegetable oil – about 1 1/2 – 2 inches deep
  • 1 Candy Thermometer – I’ve been trying to find the one that has the temp taker attached to a long cord vs the glass one that clips to the side of the cauldron…but, haven’t found it yet. LMK if you have any ideas
  • 1 Fry Spider kitchen tool – readily available everywhere and a kitchen must
  • 1 Tub of Dolci Frutti Chocolate hard chocolate shell OR A Jar of Nutella Hazelnut Spread

1. The night before you want to make these ridiculously caloric and fat heavy treats…You have to take the frozen Trader Joe’s Croissants out of the package, separate, set on a plate and let sit out overnight. The frozen croissants magically rise while you’re sleeping and double in size – again, not mini

2. Pour 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil into a large, deep cauldron….Or big pot

3. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. OK, maintaining 350 degrees is tricky – so, heat the oil higher, then turn it way down. Oil must be between 325 – 350, so keep checking that now dangerously hot glass candy thermometer that’s clipped to the side of the cauldron and adjust the stove as needed

4. Using a tiny (1 inch) biscuit cutter (remember, buy the full set of biscuit cutters that nest) cut the croissants into little bite-sized pieces

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Biscuit Cutters

5. Gently…very gently….using a spider or other good frying tool…lower the croissant cut-outs into the scalding oil

croissant cronuts trader joe's frying with kids

Gently frying away

6. Fry each side for about a minute – you’ll know when to flip cuz they brown up nicely

7. Remove the friedness from the oil and transfer to a paper towel to blot the excess oil – this is a step that just makes you feel better…but really, these are fried, so get over it.

cronut recipe trader joe's croissants

Fried Goodness – light, flaky and….FRIED

8. While frying, in the microwave melt up some of those Dolci Frutti chocolate shell chocolate chips

dolci frutti chocolate dip cronuts trader joe's

Find in Produce Section

9. Once the Cro-Nutted Croissants are quasi cooled – hand them along with the melty chocolate to your niece and nephew who can then spoon chocolate-y goodness over the deep fried delight

10. Eat….But eat only one, seriously

I always gain about 500lbs when I go to the middle…Or does just the fat go to the middle, whatever. But, you can’t put a price on entertaining kids with the art of deep frying. And, if you want to feel a little better, Cro-Nutted Croissants are technically vegetarian. Just remember to be a good guest and clean up. You don’t want to lose your fry-privileges.

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Improvisations: No Rolling Pin? No Problem.

Paula Deen Beef Wellington's

Thank you Paula Deen!

A Chorus Line

Best. Musical. Ever.

When I was young, A Chorus Line was my favorite play. After school my best friend and I would stand proudly on the ledge of her large bay window and belt out songs from the show for our audience – her parents. Imagine her very catholic father’s surprise as we belted the lyrics to ‘Tits and Ass’ out of our 12-year old mouths.

In seventh grade, I auditioned for the school play with the character Morales’ song ‘Nothing’. In the song, Morales is learning how to do improvisations ala: ‘now you’re on a bobsled, it’s snowing out and it’s cold…OK Go!

I never hesitated about the words and delighted the director as I sang ‘I felt nothing except the feeling that this bull shit was absurd!

I got a small part and the shock of my peers.

This past weekend I learned even more about improvising.  I was upstate at a friend’s home. We were hosting a dinner party for 12 – in part because another good friend was visiting from San Francisco (please don’t call it ‘Frisco’) and also so that our group could meet the host’s new boyfriend.

At the host’s request, I agreed to make Paula Deen’s Individual Beef Wellingtons in a Sherry Cream Sauce. Even though I’ve made the wellies a dozen times or so, I’ve had to improvise each time for one reason or another.

  • I couldn’t find the right pastry
  • The supermarket had no baby bella mushrooms
  • I was cooking for 4 not 12
  • This oven is too hot or not hot enough

This past weekend presented yet another improv challenge – ‘You’re making wellingtons, you have to roll out pastry dough, you don’t have a rolling pin. OK Go!

Individual Beef Wellingtons in a Sherry Cream Sauce (serves 12)

Note…After making this so many times, I think with the sequence of steps below, I’ve finally found the best way to ensure that dinner is deliciously delivered to the table on time.

Ingredients for the wellies, sauce ingredients to follow:

  • 12     1 1/2 inch thick beef tenderloin fillets
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter – it’s Paula Deen after all
  • 2      8 oz packages of baby bella mushrooms minced – Improvisation: I bought 2 10oz pkgs of pre-sliced shrooms at Trader Joe’s – $1.99 each! Math isn’t my thing and I just used most of the mushrooms, not all.
  • 1 large shallot minced – Improvisation: I used 2 smaller ones
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream – again, it’s Paula Deen just go with it
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Dufour Puff PastryThe recipe calls for 2 packages of 17.3oz frozen puff pastry (aka: Pepperidge Farm) But..Improvisation: I used 4 packages of Dufour Puff Pastry Dough – they carry this at Whole Foods and it’s worth every penny of the $11.99 per package.
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten – I needed 3

Here are a few things you need to know before you start:

  • minced baby bella mushrooms

    Shrooms & Shallots Mise En Place

    There’s some chopping – mincing of the shallots, mushrooms and chopping of the parsley take time – prepare ahead

  • The meat needs to chill for at least an hour after you sear it – don’t start cooking at 5pm for a 7:30 dinner. Actually, I usually sear the meat and make the filling the night before
  • The puff pastry is frozen – you will need to either thaw by putting in the fridge the night before, or you can take it out :40mins to an hour before you need it, unwrap it and thaw it on the kitchen counter
  • The sauce takes about :40 minutes – you can make the sauce while the meat is chilling and just reheat it when you’re ready to serve.

1. Sprinkle the fillets on both sides with 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. In a large skillet, melt all 4 tbsp of butter over med/high heat

butter

mmmmm….butter

2. Add the fillets (probably in batches as I’m guessing you might not have a skillet large enough for all 12 at once) and sear on both sides – about 1 1/2 mins each side

Searing the Meat – One side done

3. Put the seared meat on a tray, cover and chill for at least an hour in the fridge

CREATING THE Wellington filling…AKA The YUMMY GOODNESS

4. In the same pan, in the meat juices, add the mushrooms and shallots and cook over med/high heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Shrooms & Shallots

5. Add the sherry, cream, parsley and 1 tsp of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until all the liquid is absorbed – this takes about 12 – 14 mins

baby bella mushrooms Trader Joe's

The Yummy Goodness

baby bella mushrooms trader joe's beef wellington filling

Yummy Goodness Complete

6. Put the yummy goodness in a bowl, cover and refrigerate

————————————————————————

Use the chilling time to: Make the Sherry Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Sauce 1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter….Add the garlic and saute 3 minutes

Sherry cream sauce

Saute The Garlic

Sauce 2. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 more minutes to cook out the floury taste

creating a roux

Creating the Roux

Sauce 3. Whisk in the broth and sherry…BTB / RTS (bring to boil, reduce to simmer) and simmer for :10 mins

Adding the beef broth

Beef Broth & Sherry & Boil

Sauce 4. Whisk in the cream and simmer another :20 mins. The sauce is very thick even without the cream…so, you can skip the cream or add a lot less – but, at this point, you’ve already soaked the meat in butter, so why not add the cream?

heavy whipping cream

Just add the cream

Sauce 5: Transfer the sauce to a small sauce pan and cover to keep warm

————————————————————————

Back to the Wellie Assembly

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper

7. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet to about 12x10inches and cut in half

NOTE: if you don’t have a rolling pin – Improvise…We used a washed and floured Diet Coke can – Oh! The irony!

Diet coke can

Rolling Pin

8. In the center of each half pastry sheet, place a heap of the yummy goodness and gently press down to about 1/4 inch thickness

baby bella mushrooms beef wellington filling

A Heap of Yummy Goodness

9. Place a seared fillet on top of each heap of yummy goodness

10. Paint the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg

paula deen dufour's puff pastry

Painted Edges

11. Pull up the corners of the pastry over the meat and seal with additional beaten egg

12. Flip the meat package over and place on the rimmed baking sheet

13. Repeat until all 12 fillets are wrapped

14. Brush each package with the beaten egg

15. With the left over puff pastry, cut out seasonal shapes and place onto the wellies. Since it wasn’t yet Thanksgiving and certainly not Christmas, we decorated with fall leaves and acorn shapes.

16. Give the decorated wellies one more brush of the egg wash and place in the oven

beef wellingtons

Stuffed, Sealed, Decorated & Oven Ready

17. Bake for :20 -:22 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.  When you remove from the oven, let the wellies rest for at least :08 mins. The meat should be a perfect medium rare

18. Each guest will have his/her own perfect package with a generous pour of sherry cream sauce

individual beef wellingtons

Perfect Package

Life is full of opportunities to improvise. The trick is not to be thrown by them.

Generally, I don’t share meal prep improvisations with my guests. I mean, no one had an allergy, so did they need to know that we used real flour not corn starch to flour the pans in which we prepared a meant to be gluten-free cake? And, when you think about it, improvising with the diet coke can as a rolling pin for a fabulously fattening Paula Deen dish is not only ironic, but may be just a little bit brilliant…

The Sandy 15: Part 2 ‘During’

This is part two of how one can gain 15lbs during a weather disaster. [click here for Part 1]

Part 2

Monday, October 29, continued

Sandy15 hurricane NYC Trader Joe's

These are great…btw

The lights had flickered and though I do have a gas stove top, I thought it best to make a quick dinner before I ended up in the dark. As previously noted, I have a deep seeded fear of starving to death – though have never been out of food – or even in any remote danger of starvation. I decided on a Trader Joe’s frozen turkey burger – quick and easy and would, hopefully, be done before the lights went out.

power outages nyc sandy hurricane

The beginning.

Right around 8:30pm I had heard from my downtown friends that the power was out. Half of Manhattan was in the dark and though the wind was whipping up here, I realized for the first time how lucky I was.

Friends who live outside but near the evacuation zone (Zone A) were now living in the dark as their streets flooded with rushing water.

NYC hurricane Sandy

Washington at 12th St – photo by T Schultz

I clutched a flashlight in one hand and as my windows continued to bow with the pressure, I prayed the winds to stop. And thanked goodness for every watt of electricity that powered my apartment.

By about 12:40am on Tuesday morning the winds had died down a bit and I felt OK about going to bed.

Tuesday, October 30

In the morning, I ventured out for a quick walk. There were passing showers and some wind – but nothing like the day before. Save a few downed trees and some debris in the streets, the upper west side was in really good shape. We were so very lucky.

Downtowners are brave. As noted in several blogs over the past week, they seem cooler, they are more fierce and younger than the typical upper west sider. That said, it was cold and dark downtown. There were no stores open. No traffic lights. No heat. And, we had everything they needed just a walk away.

The migration north was on.

While waiting for our friends to make it uptwown…at about 11:30am something happened. Something good. For just a brief moment, a small hole in the sky cleared and the light bounced off of the clouds that still loomed overhead. And, there was a rainbow – a beacon calling the power-free to the well electrified upper west side.

hurricane sandy rainbow uws

A beacon of hope – the view from my 14th floor apt

As uptowners, we prepared for our guests. I cleaned and made sure I had sheets, towels, water and, of course, wine. [I had gone to 67 St Wines the afternoon before. The line was long, but people were patient.]

Still, I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood was prepared for the influx of people coming to the lucky land of electricity.

Crowded Streets nyc uws abc7

The migration

Once they arrived, the eating frenzy went on…The downtowners were here in full force. We tried to go to Cafe Lux – they had tables available, but not enough staff to serve. We gave PJ Clarke’s a try – but it too was jam packed with people and they told us it could be up to an hour wait for our party of five. Ultimately, we ended up at Shun Lee West and were fortunate to arrive just as they opened the doors at 1:30pm.

Inside, the iconic NYC Chinese restaurant looked like it did on a Lincoln Center Saturday night. Packed with people, waiters bustling to get everyone what they needed.

Shun Lee West nyc

A nighttime crowd at 1:30 on Tuesday

After a lunch of tres fattening grand marnier prawns, crispy beef, some veggies and …wine, we took our guests home and let them settle in.

We passed the afternoon watching the reports. It was so bad and we hadn’t even heard the worst of it yet. The mayor, all three governors (NY, NJ and CT) were holding constant press conferences updating the media on deaths, power outages, floods, rescues etc.

Sandy coverage dominated the airwaves and…we watched. And watched. And watched. All afternoon.

With not much to do, we started strategizing our dinner plans. A lot of the neighborhood restaurants were closed – because although we had electricity, there was still no public transportation and the staff couldn’t get to work. The tunnels and bridges were closed with few exceptions…it was a mess.

Most of the crew of six decided to stay in. We were an equal mix of the UWS residents and the displaced. Two of us though went to my fave Italian spot, Bello Giardino on West 71st. Nick, the owner, had personally driven to pick up each member of his staff and was going to drive them home after the dinner rush.

I love Bello Giardino – it’s a longtime neighborhood spot with a very personal feel. I think Nick knew how important being open would be to his regulars.

Bello Giardino uws

Nicky’s Famous Meatballs

bello giardino uws

Della Nonna Della-Licious

And, we ate. More fat food…I had spaghetti and ‘Nicky’s famous meatballs’ and my downtown guest enjoyed the ravioli della nonna.

No dieting going on. At. All.

We had survived Day 2. The Manhattan displaced were happily entrenched in the warm, electrified safety of uptown.

The downtowners were settling in. There was no news as to when power might be back on.

We watched more coverage…until we just couldn’t watch any more. And, went to bed.

Hurricane Sandy dangling crane

After

By the way, that crane collapsed in the winds early on in the storm…

……………………………………………….More tomorrow