Monday, January 19, 2015

Allrecipes Recipe Test: Andy's Spicy Green Chile Pork

Everyone loves tacos.  What everyone doesn't love is working a full day, working out, then trying to cook a perfect dinner at 9:00 p.m.  Enter tacos from your Crockpot.  When my Allrecipes daily email included Andy's Spicy Green Chile Pork, touted as a quick and easy way to make tasty pork tacos, I knew I had to try this one out.

Here's the original recipe:
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/andys-spicy-green-chile-pork/

While at Walmart, I picked up the simple ingredient list: pork shoulder roast, tortillas, green salsa, two serrano peppers, cilantro, and an onion.  The recipe called for a white onion, but I used a red onion.  I like red onions better.  I also picked up some cumin since I was out, even though it wasn't on the ingredient list, and some pico de gallo to top the tacos before serving.  Some of the comments to the recipe suggested adding some cumin.  The total cost was just under $12.00.  Thankfully it was inexpensive because (spoiler alert) it wasn't good.

How easy is this?  You probably have garlic salt and pepper, so you'll just need five ingredients, then your choice of how to serve--tortillas, rice, or something else--and toppings if you choose to serve as tacos.

The recipe was insanely easy:

1) Line Crockpot (I added this step).  Makes for easier clean up.

2) Chop the onion.  I also chopped the serrano pepper into thin rounds but removed the seeds.  Per the recipe, it may have called for the peppers to be dropped in whole to infuse.  I couldn't tell.  I like it hot though, so I thinly sliced both peppers.

3) Remove cilantro leaves from the stems.  I find the stems really unappealing.  See this blog entry.

4) At this point, I put the onion, serrano peppers, and cilantro in a tupperware and stored in the refrigerator overnight so I could literally dump everything in the Crockpot in the morning.

Ingredients all chopped and ready to go in the refrigerator.

5) In the morning, I poured the onion-pepper-cilantro mix into my lined Crockpot.  Then I added the pork shoulder roast (I left the strings holding it together on to hold in moisture as it cooks), seasoned with garlic salt and cracked black pepper on both sides.

Line the bottom of the Crockpot with the veggies.

Place the shoulder roast on top.  Season with garlic salt and black pepper.  Flip and season the other side.

6) Last, I added the can of green salsa and dusted the whole thing with cumin.

I purchased the smallest jar of green salsa.  If you're going to use the sauce, or want lots of salsa verde flavor, consider using a larger container.

7) I set the timer on the Crockpot for 8.5 hours and let it cook on the low heat setting.

When I came home from work, I could smell subtle flavors of pork cooking but nothing too spicy.  I opened the Crockpot and cut away the butcher twine.  I also regretted leaving it on since some of the salsa and spices stuck to it.  The pork instantly melted.  When I went to separate it with forks, it pretty much disintegrated.  At first, I thought it was the most tender pork I'd ever seen.  Then I reconsidered...it was too soft!  Even with the two serranos chopped up in the mix, it was not spicy.  Just minimum hints of the salsa verde.

Cutting the butcher's twine off the roast.

Finished product in the Crockpot.  A lot of soft, mush pork.

I warmed the tortillas, chopped a third serrano pepper into thin rings, plucked more cilantro from its stems, and assembled the tacos.  Mine were tortilla, pork, cilantro, and pico de gallo.  Greg's included tortilla, pork, cilantro, cheese, pico, and sour cream.

It almost looks pretty dressed up with the pico, serrano peppers, and cilantro.

I tried to be open minded, but it just wasn't good.  The pork might as well have been ground pork because it was so mushy.  Or old person food.  Or cat food.  The flavor was fine--subtle pork with a little zip from the pico and serrano peppers.  Without the pico or peppers, I wouldn't have been able to eat it.

It's gross--absolute mush!  Kind of the texture of canned tuna.

It was slightly more tolerable without the tortilla--just a few bites of meat on a plate with pico, cilantro, and serrano peppers.

A little better without the tortilla.  But still mushy.

Admittedly, I'm confused.  The Allrecipes reviews are almost completely good.  Either everyone likes mushy food or something went wrong with this.  I'd consider making it again, but roasting it to try to get some firm edges and soft pork in the middle.  The flavor was pleasant enough--subtle--but nothing to warrant all the four and five star reviews.  That or I've developed a really discerning palate!

Insider tip: don't make this.  Or make it in the oven so you can keep an eye on it after browning the outside and getting some really roasted edges.  Or make it if you lost your dentures.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cooking Light Recipe Test: Nor-Cal Veggie Sandwich with Hazelnut Butter

Here's another food I saw on Instagram and instantly wanted.  It's a vegetarian sandwich.  While I'm not vegetarian, I appreciate a meatless meal.  I usually feel less weighed down and in need of a nap without the meat.

How amazingly fresh does this look?  I was suckered in by the pretty picture.

As it turns out, this should be called the $30.00 PITA sandwich.  Whether it was worth it is certainly debatable for me.  The ingredients sent me on a scavenger hunt around Indianapolis.  The sandwich was a considerable amount of work and it was very expensive to make.  I may be a foodie at heart, but by the time I finished all this, I think I just wanted a meatball sandwich from Subway.

Nevertheless, here's the original recipe:
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/nor-cal-veggie-sandwich

And here's the journey it took to get to the finished sandwich.

It all started with finding hazelnut butter.  While I was in the grocery section at Target, I checked just in case.  They had almond and peanut butter, but no hazelnut butter.  I wasn't surprised though, so I called Fresh Market (no, and was hung up on in the process) and Whole Foods (also no).  I could order it on Amazon for about $14.00, but then I'd have to pay that much and wait for it to be shipped.  I decided to follow the instructions in the recipe to make my own.

The next time I was at Marsh, I tried to buy hazelnuts.  They didn't have them.  So off to Fresh Market.  I purchased .7 lbs of pre-packed hazelnuts and artichokes for about $14.00.  But Fresh Market didn't have sprouts.  So off to Whole Foods for the rest of the ingredients--another $15.00.  And a fun adventure through pillaged aisles since there was snow coming that night.

Evidently the first thing they run out of at Whole Foods before a blizzard isn't milk, bread, or eggs...it's bagged salad!

I also ended up swapping sweet pea shoots for the radish sprouts since my husband isn't a big fan of sprouts--he thinks they feel like hair in his food.  The stems are slightly wider than radish sprouts.

Four stores later, I had the ingredients (finally), it was time to begin.  A little online reading turned up a useful nugget of info: if you're not used to natural nut butters, leaving the skins on hazelnuts can make the final butter too bitter for your palate.  And toasting the hazelnuts imparts a nice flavor.  With that info, I started to peel the hazelnuts.  It was impossible.  The skins refused to move.  More online reading turned up this tip: boil the hazelnuts for a few minutes with a few tablespoons of baking soda.  This worked well.  The skins released easily afterwards.

If you use the boiling water with baking soda method to remove your hazelnut skins, don't be concerned when the water, your pot, and your utensils turn black.  It left ashy residue on everything.  Here are some of my hazelnuts taking a bath in boiling baking soda water so I could peel them.

After peeling the hazelnuts, I toasted them for about 15 minutes at 350.  They had a nice golden color.

After they cooled, I added them to my blender and proceeded.  The final product using a blender was not as smooth of a butter as I prefer.  It wasn't a terrible texture, but it wasn't creamy.  It definitely tasted more "natural."  The flavor itself was fine.  If I do this again, I'll use less mayo,  I'll either use a tiny bit, or perhaps just a drizzle of oil.  I noticed the mayo too much for my taste.  Definitely don't forget to salt the butter.  I tasted before and after, and liked it much better after some salt.

The final product using .7 lbs. of hazelnuts was a softball-sized glob of hazelnut butter.

I let the hazelnut butter sit overnight--at that point I'd done enough work!  I also used the artichokes for double duty--made Moroccan chicken with charmoula that night and served the artichoke as the vegetable.  My husband had never eaten artichoke petals before, so it was an adventure for him.  I kept the hearts for the next day.

Double duty artichokes: dinner the night before included the petals.

The next day was sandwich day.  I began by pan frying slices of the artichoke hearts in the olive oil as instructed.  I ate one slice and really liked it--I never realized how yummy artichoke hearts become with some crispy, golden brown edges!  Then I assembled the sandwiches--the hazelnut butter, golden artichoke heart, dressed arugula, avocado, and pea shoots subbed for the sprouts--on Silver Farms Squirrelly sprouted bread.  I served with a side of veggie chips since sandwiches and chips just go together.

My sandwich, served with veggie chips.

Close up of the side of the sandwich.

The final product was alright.  I would've liked this sandwich a lot more open faced.  The delicate veggies got a little lost with that much bread.  I figured this out halfway in.  Beyond this too much bread issue, the sandwich was nutty and fresh but nothing special.  I think I probably enjoy a sandwich or wrap with cucumbers, sprouts, some bell peppers, olives, and some pesto or chipotle mayo more because there's more crunch and moisture.  I'm glad I tried this...and now I have leftover hazelnut butter for breakfast, sprouted bread for toast, arugula for salad, and pea shoots for something yet to be determined.  But overall, it was a lot of work for a sandwich that was just okay.

If I make it again and do some modifications, I'll update this review.  But for now, I think my next sandwich will be something more straightforward.

Insider tip: buy the hazelnut butter.  And call your grocery to make sure it has all the ingredients, or you'll be on a grocery scavenger hunt for awhile.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fountain Square Area Donut Throwdown: Rocket 88 Doughnuts versus General American Donuts

If you recall, last July I went to the first day General American Donuts opened.  I wasn't exactly thrilled.  I waited in line over 25 minutes, didn't get a donut (but did get a parking ticket), and felt lukewarm about the place.  Yet I keep going back.  I've found what I like there--the coconut donut is fantastic (crack-level addictive quality!) and the lattes aren't bad; and what I don't--I've gotten two under cooked donuts now.  Even with my mixed feelings, I find myself craving the coconut or the hippie donut (chai tea-flavored with granola on top).  And the people are genuinely nice--they offered me a dozen free donuts as an apology for the donut that was runny inside.  I went back and changed my urbanspoon from "doesn't like" to "likes" because General American Donuts has steadily grown on me, and I like having them in the neighborhood.

Coconut donut from General American Donut Co.  This is my kryptonite.

Recently, when Rocket 88 Doughnuts opened, I was ready to try something new.  For months, I'd been aware of their Kickstarter campaign that raised over $10,000, and there was a steady buzz about them coming to Fountain Square.  I was excited and ready.  I walked up with my husband one Saturday shortly after they opened.  There was a short line--we were served in less than 10 minutes.  The place has much more furniture than General American and magazines, and is somewhere I'd actually want to hang out for awhile.  General American's furniture is more sparse, and in the summer, it's really hot inside.  There's a big fan inside General American to try to cool things down, but it generates gale-force winds.  I usually grab my donuts and go because it's not very comfy.  And my house is close enough that I can walk or drive in a flash.

Donuts in rows at Rocket 88 Doughnuts.

Plenty of places to sit inside the cozy Rocket 88 Doughnuts.

We picked four donuts and an order of lemon ricotta fritters, and walked home to dig in.

The standout was the vanilla chai donut ($1.50).  It was sweet and pleasant in both its scent and taste.  This was the only donut I'd want to eat again.  It's also the only donut we finished.

The lemon ricotta fritters (2 for $1.00) were okay, if you're expecting really moist.  They seemed wet to me.  I have an aversion to soggy food, so it was a miss.  My husband was pretty ambivalent--he didn't really like, but he didn't dislike.

Lemon ricotta fritters from Rocket 88 Doughtnuts.

The Old Fashioned ($1.50) was pretty standard--slightly crumbly vanilla donut.

The Maple Pecan ($2.50) had that bourbon-scent to the icing that's enticing.  But the donut itself was dense and not memorable.

The Orange Sprinkled ($1.50) was the biggest disappointment.  I love orange anything, so I was really excited.  It smelled nice and orangey, but the outside skin was tough.  It was not a tender donut.  And compared to General American, I felt like I had been cheated on sprinkles.  General American coats their donut in sprinkles.  This donut looked sprinkle-anemic by comparison.

 
Left: General American sprinkle donut (from http://bigcity.littleindiana.com/food-trucks-of-indianapolis-general-american-donut-co/); Right: Rocket 88 orange sprinkle donut.

My soy latte was very nice--the espresso was smoother than the espresso at General American.

Bottom line: I'll probably go back since I'm all for second chances and the coffee is good.  It makes me happy to support local business, and most new places need to get the kinks out early on.  General American is a prime example of this--I think they've worked out many of the issues I saw in the beginning.  But I hope Rocket 88 makes the donut skin more tender, the inside lighter, and don't skimp on the fun part of the donuts--the frosting and toppings.  The clear winner of this throwdown is General American Donut Co.  While the donuts are about $1.00 more each at General American, the flavors are more creative and they never skimp on the quality ingredients that make their donuts special.  

Our sad box of butchered donuts from Rocket 88.  The only memorable one was the vanilla chai.

Rocket 88 Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

General American Donut Co. on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chef John Recipe Test: Smothered Pork Chops

I've been really lucky.  I try a lot of recipes, and I tend to be quite pleased with the results.  If you read my blog often, you probably think that I love every recipe I make.  This one left me feeling quite "meh," which is a surprise since I thought Chef John is god's gift to pork chops.  I crave his Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze all the time.  So here's this recipe.  Take it or leave it with my thoughts.  I don't think I'll make it again, but perhaps it's something that will look like your cup of tea.

You can find the original recipe here:
Smothered Pork Chops

It's all quite simple prep.  Only changes: I made two very thick chops instead of four.  I also omitted the buttermilk since I don't tend to feel so well after dairy.  Instead of buttermilk, I used the entire 14.5 oz. can of chicken broth and the gravy consistency was fine.  Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly.  Like the Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze, it took longer than anticipated to get the sauce to reduce enough.

The onions caramelized quickly and nicely.  At this point, I thought it was going to be a winner.

Took longer than expected to reduce.  

Chops in to coat and get warmed through while gravy finished reducing.  At this point, it didn't look so bad.

Enter "cat vomit" appearance with the translucent gravy.  See below.

This angle didn't make it look any tastier.  Nor did the sharpening in Instagram.
 
The final product was a bit "old person food"-ish.  I will say that the onion had mellowed quite nicely.  But otherwise, it was bland and unappealing looking.  When I instagram-ed the final products, one of my girlfriends said my dinner looked like cat vomit.  (Insert sad face here.)

Yes, my dinner was called "cat vomit."  She kind of has a point though.  This one isn't a looker.


For a juicy pork chop and some smooth tasting onions, this will do.  I'd punch it up with some more poultry seasoning and pepper if I had to make it again, and even consider dropping in a spring of herbs like thyme or a bay leaf.  Anything to amp up the taste.  The appearance of the plate won't change though.  Perhaps less gravy on the pork chop would help lessen the "cat vomit" look, with the remainder served on the side for ladling on as you go.  I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots, which were a nice accompaniment.  The crisp edges made a nice contrast against the softness of the onions in the gravy.

I'll post something else soon that's a bit better than this one, or show you what it's like to make the Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze.  That recipe's a winner.

Insider tip: if these are the flavors you like, make this alone.  Your date probably won't be impressed since this dish isn't a looker.  This wasn't an epic fail like the time I made cheeseburger soup (it was gross), but it left me disappointed.  Which is too bad since I have two other ways I make these giant pork chops that are almost $5 each, and both of those preparations are fantastic.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chicken Sausage Hash Recipe (just five ingredients!)

It's another five ingredient dinner!  If you have kale leftover from the copycat version of the Cheesecake Factory Fresh Kale Salad, here's a great way to use it up.  This is also a really economical dish that's great for lunch leftovers.  The added plus: this is another five ingredient meal!

I was inspired to make this by the Food and Wine magazine Instagram.  I saw this photo:

How easy and tasty does this look?

I've made this three times now, each time a little differently.  The first time, I bought six chicken sausage links from the deli case at Fresh Market.  They were on sale, so they were about $6.  This was the cheapest rendition.  The next time, my husband was headed to the grocery.  I told him we should make this again, so pick up some chicken sausage.  He came back with breakfast links.  Instead of criticizing (and the possibility he'd just not go to the grocery next time I asked), I just worked with it.  The recipe actually turned out fine, but a little "breakfast-y" tasting.  He remarked it wasn't as good as the time before, but I let it slide.  The last time, I was at Kroger and they didn't have sausages in the case like Fresh Market.  I used packaged sausage, I think it was Al Fresco brand.  If you want to have leftovers for lunch, use six to eight deli sausages, or two packs of packaged sausages.

 

The best option is to use deli chicken sausage.  If you can't find any at your grocer, note the difference between the breakfast sausage and the larger apple sausage links.

You're going to love how easy this is.  For four servings, all you're going to need is three strips of bacon, about eight ounces (half a package) of baby carrots, the sausage, a green apple, and as much kale as you'd like to add (at least two leaves!)

Seriously--all you need is five ingredients.  How simple is this?

To get started, determine if your chicken sausage is pre-cooked or not.  If you get it from the deli case or a meat market, it probably isn't.  If it's pre-packaged from the cold cuts section at the grocery, the package will likely say that it's pre-cooked.  

If it isn't, use a skillet and a sautee pan.  If it is, you'll only need the skillet.

If not pre-cooked:
1) Chop your bacon into lardon-sized pieces (rough chop it into bites) and your carrots into small rounds.  Add the bacon to a hot sautee pan.

2) Place the sausages in the skillet and pop in the oven to bake at 350.

3) Once bacon is approaching crispy, add the carrot rounds.  While you're waiting, chop the apple into small pieces about the same size as your lardons.

4) Once the chicken sausage begins to brown, remove the pan from the oven and cut the sausage into rounds.  Return to the oven and switch to broil to speed the browning.  Once the pieces turn golden, add the carrot-bacon mix from the sautee pan.  

5) Once the carrots begin to brown on the edges (about five minutes), add the apple pieces.  While you wait, tear the kale into bite-sized pieces.

6) When the apple pieces are beginning to brown, and the carrots and sausage have deeply brown roasted edges, add the kale by sprinkling it over the top of the contents of the pan.  Spread out the kale so you don't see any of the contents underneath.  As it browns, it will shrink.  

7) Remove from oven once the edges of the kale are getting deeply brown and crispy.  Spoon into bowls and serve.

If pre-cooked;
1) Set oven to bake at 350.  Add bacon lardons to skillet.  Bake for about 10 minutes, check to see if they are golden.  Once golden, add the carrots.  Bake for about five more minutes.

2) Add the chicken sausage, already chopped into rounds.  Turn oven up to broil.

3) Once chicken sausage pieces are golden on edges, add chopped apple.  Broil for three to four minutes.  Chicken should have deeply brown edges.

4) Add the torn pieces of kale, spreading to cover all the contents beneath.  Remove from oven once the edges of the kale are getting deeply brown and crispy.  Spoon into bowls and serve.

Insider tip: have two plastic containers waiting by the stove.  When you take the skillet out of the oven, spoon equal servings into two bowls and the two tupperware.  This way, you've pre-measured two leftover containers and will resist the urge to go back to the skillet to get more to eat!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Copycat version of Cheesecake Factory's Fresh Kale Salad

Earlier this month, my husband and I had dinner at Cheesecake Factory at the Indianapolis Fashion Mall.  Instead of ordering a fattening appetizer or gorging on bread, we decided to split the Fresh Kale Salad from the Small Plates and Snacks section of the menu.  According to the description, the salad was going to contain apples, marcona almonds, golden raisins, and green beans tossed with buttermilk-black pepper dressing.  We were expecting a little side salad.  When it arrived, it was a mountain of kale and ingredients, although the apple was conspicuously absent.  As it turned out, the salad didn't need the apple--it was perfect as is.  The golden raisins gave the right amount of sweetness and the marcona almonds were pleasantly salty.  I like kale salads because the greens are firmer than spring mix.

My husband insisted that I make this salad for him at home.  I didn't mind because with five ingredients, and a little salt and/or pepper to taste, you have a nice light meal or a fantastic side dish.  And the best part?  This copycat version tastes just like the real thing.


All you're going to need:

fresh kale
green beans
marcona almonds
golden raisins
Ken's Steakhouse peppercorn ranch dressing

The marcona almonds will be the most difficult ingredient to locate.  They do not sell them at the two Marsh stores closest to my office, so I purchased a container of them for about $6 at Fresh Market.

Start by washing all the produce.  Trim the ends from the green beans.  Using kitchen shears, cut them into a microwave safe container in small rounds.  I used two handfuls of green beans for two salads.  Once green bean circles are sliced, top container with water and microwave for three minutes.  Taste the green beans.  They should be blanched but still firm.  If they are the desired firmness, immediately drain in colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Here's what the little green bean rounds look like.  The smaller the better.

While the green beans drain, tear the kale into small pieces.  I used about four huge leaves.  Omit out the ribs--just tear the leaf away from the center of each leaf and any coarse veins.  Add these to your colander of green beans.  Using the kitchen shears, give the kale a few chops to make sure all your pieces are really small.

Add one handful of golden raisins to your colander.

Transfer one handful of marcona almonds to a ziploc bag.  Cover with a towel and crush with mallet or back of a large spoon.

To cut down on dishes, I did not move the contents of the colander to a bowl for the next step.  The holes in my colander are small enough that nothing fell through.  Next, this step is a matter of preference.  Add one to two tablespoons of the Ken's Steakhouse peppercorn ranch dressing to the colander and stir everything around so the dressing is distributed.  I do not like a wet salad, so about two tablespoons was just right.  You may want more.  Just remember to add dressing sparingly.  You can always add more, but once you put in too much, you have a soggy, ruined salad.

See--nothing is falling through the colander.

Last step, add the crushed marcona almonds and stir.  Again, they didn't fall through because they stuck to the dressing.  Taste a bite--if you really like the peppercorn flavor, add some fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  (I did.)  I usually salt salads lightly, but this one did not need it because of the almonds.  If you need a pinch of salt, add it now.

Serve by piling the salad into a high pyramid.  Enjoy!

My finished product!  It looks and tastes just like the Fresh Kale Salad from the  Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Copycat version of Chef Gerald Chin's apple salad

Early this fall, I saw the most beautiful salad on the Food and Wine magazine Instagram. Per the photo, it was an apple salad with endive, radicchio,toasted pecans, white cheddar, and a maple emulsion made by Chef Gerald Chin.  Chin is Executive Chef at Chef Michael Mina's Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Bliss in my Instagram feed.

I immediately knew that I wanted to try this with the apples in the overflowing bowl of produce on my kitchen counter.  My husband and I had just driven from Indianapolis to where he grew up in Evansville for the town's annual fall festival.  On the way, we stopped at Slater Farms Market, a cute farm stand alongside U.S. 41 outside of Terre Haute, Indiana.  Outside, there were rows of mums and bins of pumpkins for sale.  Inside, there were all kinds of fruits, vegetables, preserves, and cider.  I didn't even know there were so many types of Indiana apples!

Rows of mums and pumpkins greeted us at Slater Farms Market.  Stop by for a visit!  They're located at 15102 U.S. Hwy 41, Terre Haute, Indiana 47802.  Call for hours since they're open seasonally--(812) 696-5122.

Almost ten kinds of Indiana apples for sale at Slater Farms Market.

More Slater Farms Market scenery--mums and huge pumpkins.

Loads of pie pumpkins, just $.79 each at Slater Farms--last time I bought one, I paid about $3.00 at Kroger.

Huge pumpkins at Slater Farms Market.

We ended up buying a butternut squash, cooking pumpkin, a zucchini, big bag of Granny Smith apples, a tutti frutti candy stick (for me), and a root beer candy stick (for my horse) for less than $10.00.  In hindsight, I wonder if something was rung up incorrectly because that much produce would be more like $30.00 at Fresh Market.  The apples were begging to be transformed into the gorgeous apple salad, so I got to work on my imitation.  With more methodical cutting of the produce, I could have better mimicked Chef Chin's dish.  Regardless, mine tasted amazing.

I started by washing all produce, preheating the oven, and whisking together a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of maple syrup, and a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar.  I adjusted the proportions to taste slightly, then repeated to double the amount of dressing.  Last, I added a dash of salt and white pepper.  While my version of maple emulsion sat on the counter for the flavors to meld, I started on the salad.  I put a pan of crushed pecans in the oven to toast for about five minutes at 300 degrees.  After trimming away the bottom of the apple and stem, I sliced horizontally in thin slices.  The seeds and core were visible in the center of the slices.  With more patience, I should've tried for thinner slices.  I was hungry though!  Then I cut away the center of each slice to remove the core and seeds.  It looked like a donut of apple when I was done.

Next, I tore the endive and radicchio leaves into small pieces.  To the novice cook, here is an important note--don't substitute red cabbage for raddichio.  When I went to Marsh for ingredients, they didn't have radichio and endive, so I ended up making a stop at Fresh Market.  The difference matters.  Radichio has a clean but bitter-ish flavor and delicate texture.  Red cabbage is thick and waxy.  I added these to a bowl and chopped a few chives into the mix.  Then I grated some white cheddar--just a little bit--about one ounce.  Last, I added the pecans and two spoonfuls of the dressing and combined the ingredients to make sure the dressing was incorporated.  I diced up the little remnants of apple and a slice that went awry so they wouldn't go to waste and added them to the mix.

To assemble the salad, I drizzled a spoonful of the maple emulsion on the plate.  You can't see it because our plates are red, but it was a very pale yellow.  Then I added some salad mix, topped with an apple slice, and built the salad using a smaller slice of apple each time.  Last, I added an extra sprinkling of chives over the top of the salad.  The presentation was pretty, architectural, but invitingly fresh.  Be sure to include a knife in your place setting so this is easier to deconstruct.

My husband was impressed.  We both enjoyed the light sweetness, punctuated with the flavor of chive or the white cheddar.  We enjoyed this so much that I made it again a few nights later, but with some butternut squash soup.  This is definitely a first course or snack, not an entree salad.

The finished product--my layered apple salad with maple emulsion.  Chef Chin's was definitely prettier.  How it could taste better is beyond my comprehension though since this was amazing, even with my non-chef touch.

Beautifully bright and fresh.  This would be beautiful on a white plate so you can appreciate the pale color of the maple emulsion.

The next time I made this, I served it with a big bowl of butternut squash soup.  It isn't enough for a meal.

Also of note, I tagged Chef Gerald Chin and Chef Michael Mina in my photograph of the imitation version of the salad.  I was a little worried they wouldn't take me trying to copy them at home so kindly, but it was quite the opposite.  They both responded with follows and kind words, which made me a little starstruck.  Yes, you can be chef starstruck!  It also made me happy that they took my imitation as flattery.  I bet they're really nice guys in person.  One of my new travel goals is to get back to Vegas so I can go eat at Stripsteak now.  

Insider tip: use your sharpest knife and cut the apple slowly, or you'll end up with slices that are too thick to be aesthetically appealing.  If you're having vegan guests, omit the white cheddar.