Celebrity chef Richard Blais knows a thing or two about whipping up a tasty treat perfect for any occasion. He's not only a cookbook author and the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars, he's also the brains behind three Atlanta restaurants.
He's heating up the Weekend Express kitchen with three recipes that are sure to be a slam dunk at your NCAA championship party: English muffin pizzas, burgers with candied onions and crudites with sri-rancha.
Crudités with Sri-Rancha
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat and salt it generously. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Put a large colander in the sink.
2. Drop the carrots into the boiling water and blanch until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a strainer or slotted spoon, transfer them to the ice water and let stand until cool, then transfer to the colander to drain.
3. Blanch the remaining vegetables separately in the boiling water until crisp-tender, according to the following cooking times: the green beans for 1 minute, the asparagus for 1 minute, and the broccoli for 2 to 3 minutes. Cool in the ice water and drain.
4. Add the potatoes to the pot and cook until a fork easily pierces them, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, transfer to a medium bowl, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over them. Let cool, tossing occasionally until the dressing is absorbed.
5. In a small bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with the remaining vinaigrette. Put the cucumbers in another small bowl drizzle the prickling brine over them, and let stand for 10 minutes.
6. To serve, fill a small glass bowl with the Sri-rancha and position it in the center of a large serving tray. Arrange the carrots, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and celery root around the bowl of dip. Serve, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Burgers with Candied Onions
1. If using top round and brisket, in a large bowl, toss the meat, fat, and spice mix together to combine. Attach the medium-sized die to a meat grinder and grind the beef and fat, then transfer to a medium bowl and mix gently until evenly combined. If using ground beef, form the meat into 4 patties, about ¾ inch thick, and, with the handle of a wooden spoon, make an indention in the middle of each patty. (This will prevent the burgers from shrinking into meatball shapes while cooking). Season the patties on both sides, using 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper for each one.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Place the beef patties in the pan, immediately reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 4 minutes; do not press on the burgers so they retain their juices. With a spatula, carefully flip the patties, and add the butter, garlic cloves, and thyme to the pan. Once the butter has melted, tip the pan and baste each burger a few times, spooning the hot butter over it. Continue to cook, basting often, until the burgers are well browned on the bottom and the meat is medium-rare, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the burgers from the hot pan, top each with a slice of cheddar, and let rest for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, to prepare the bacon: Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the chilled bacon into 8 thin slices and cook on both sides until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
4. To build the burgers, put 2 slices of tomato on each muffin bottom, followed by a burger. Top each burger with 2 to 3 tablespoons candied onions, some bacon, and the top bun. Serve immediately.
English Muffin Pizzas (Makes 18 pizzas)
For the dough:
1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, yeast and salt together until combined. In a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl, stir the milk, olive oil and honey together until combined. While whisking, slowly pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, whisking until the liquid is absorbed and spongy dough forms. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
3. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda and warm water together until the baking soda dissolves. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the soda mixture into the dough until just combined.
4. Cook the muffins: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Grease four 4-inch English muffin ring molds into vegetable oil and dust the interiors with cornmeal, shaking out the excess. Place the molds in the pan and fill each one two-thirds full with dough. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon cornmeal over the top of each muffin, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 12 minutes. With a large spatula, flip the muffins, in their molds, and cook for an additional 12 minutes.
5. Using the spatula, transfer the muffins, still in the molds, to a rack and set the pan aside. Cool for three minutes, then remove the molds, stand the muffins up on their sides to keep them from collapsing under their own weight, and let cool completely on the rack.
6. Meanwhile, heat the pan again over medium heat. Regrease the muffin molds and dust again with cornmeal. Place them in the skillet, fill them two-thirds with dough, and sprinkle with cornmeal, then reduce the heat to low, and cook as directed above. Let cool, and continue making muffins until the dough is used up.
7. To make the pizzas, preheat the broiler. Split the muffins and toast them lightly. Top with your choice of sauce and/or other ingredients and broil until the toppings are hot, the cheese is melted, and the edges are crisp.
Muffin Pizza Suggestions: