Brandon’s 2011 Top Picks

The Salted Tarragon Greyhound

As I am sitting here sipping a warm mug of peppermint mocha (homemade, of course) and browsing through each month’s recipes, I can’t help but to smile at all of the yummy things I cooked, ate and drank over the past year from entrees to appetizers, desserts to drinks, and everything in between.  Before I kick off another year of delicious recipes, I’m going to recap some of my favorites from 2011.  Trends that I am noticing throughout my archives include seasonal recipes, signature cocktails, alcohol infusions, balanced bites and Mexican influences.  Below you’ll find 14 of my favorite Kitchen Konfidence recipes from last year.

What can you expect to see on Kitchen Konfidence in 2012?  I will continue to explore both seasonal and Mexican recipes.  In addition to alcohol infusions, I will also be diving into the world of shrubs, bitters and tinctures (that means MOAR cocktails).  And desserts, as always, will be very prominent.  Joining the recipe articles each week will be some new content types including reviews, giveaways, technique videos and roundups.  What would you like to see me post into 2012?  Please share your thoughts below.  Now… on to the picks.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed MushroomsThese Stuffed Mushrooms were one of the first recipes I cooked in 2011.  I just love the contrast of the earthy mushroom and the light, herby filling.  A healthy appetizer that would be perfect at any party.

Mexican Braised Beef Tacos

Mexican Braised Beef TacosBeing that I prepared this braised beef at least 6 times last year, selecting this recipe for my top picks was a no-brainer.  The beef is so tender and packed with flavor.  Plus you can make it in a slow cooker!

The Salted Tarragon Greyhound

The Salted Tarragon GreyhoundThe first of three cocktails in this roundup.  The Salted Tarragon Greyhound is made with home infused Grapefruit Tarragon Vodka, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, agave nectar and flaky sea salt.  Light and refreshing, this drink has the perfect balance of sweet and tart with just a hint of herbaceous tarragon.

Ginger Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Ginger Cake with Salted Caramel SauceSalted caramel.  Nuff said.  But seriously, I was obsessed with salted caramel in 2011 and I am thinking my obsession will continue on until 2012.  Spiced with fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, clove and white pepper, this boldly flavored cake pairs unbelievably well with warm salted caramel sauce and a cool dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Blueberry Hill

Blueberry HillThis is the second cocktail of the roundup and also my first experiment with alcohol and egg whites.  Balanced and complex, Blueberry Hill is made with blueberry infused gin, Dimmi, blueberry puree, orange bitters, lemon, simple syrup and an egg white.  The egg white froths the drink providing a light, airy texture.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Fried Bread Crumbs and Balsamic Strawberries

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Fried Bread Crumbs and Balsamic StrawberriesOf the many ice creams that I made throughout the year, this one was in my top three (along with this one and a maple bourbon bacon ice cream not featured on KK).  Rich, creamy goat cheese ice cream paired with tangy balsamic strawberries and crunchy, golden bread crumbs.  Such a treat.

Bacon Jam Hand Pies

Bacon Jam Hand PiesTo be honest, I just love hand pies in general.  Such a fun idea.  A little pie you can hold in your hand and eat.  So good, right?!  Throw some bacon in the mix and the resulting pastry is tasty enough to trigger a feeding frenzy.  I served these hand pies at a small dinner party with friends.  I remember they entire plate being wiped clean in under 20 minutes.

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and TarragonThis was my favorite salad of the year.  A tantalizing mix of texture and flavor, this Green Bean Salad is utterly addicting.  After making the photograph above, I sat down with a friend to have a taste.  The two of us could not stop eating.  We actually finished about 3/4 of the bowl and had no room left for dinner.

Brooksters [Brownie + Cookie]

Brooksters, Brownie and CookieWhat do you get when you bake a chocolate chip cookie atop a brownie in a muffin tin?  A Brookster.  Fusing two classic desserts into one bite-sized treat is something I need to do more often.  It’s totally delicious.

Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork

Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork Spiced with annatto, cumin, allspice, red pepper flake, smoked paprika and ground ancho chile, this Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork is just packed with satisfying flavor.  The pork is cooked low and slow in the oven, resulting in succulent, fork-tender meat.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar

Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar My favorite soup of the year.  Bold, spicy roasted tomato soup topped with an open-faced grilled cheese sammich.  I would consider this heaven in a bowl (or jar).  I just love the flavor that cheddar takes on when it goes from melted to caramelized.  Very similar to a Cheez-It.

Pumpkin and Apple Cider Fizz

Pumpkin and Apple Cider FizzThe last cocktail of the roundup.  Simply mix vanilla vodka with pumpkin puree, apple cider and ginger beer to make this seasonal beverage.  Its like pumpkin pie in a glass.

Roasted Pineapple Tamales with Riesling Poached Raisins

Roasted Pineapple Tamales with Riesling Poached Raisins My first tamal making experience.  To a classic sweet tamal batter, I added chunks of vanilla roasted pineapple and Riesling poached raisins.  The aromas associated with this recipe are just unreal.  As the pineapple roasted in the oven, my entire kitchen smelled of sweet vanilla.  And when I first lifted the lid off the tamal steamer, the smell of cake batter escaped from tamales nestled below.  So good!!  This recipe also has a special spot in my thoughts because of the special person that helped me make them :)

Grapefruit Infused Rum

Grapefruit Infused Rum I’m finishing with this Grapefruit Infused Rum for two reasons.  First, this infusion has some serious yum factor.  I’m sure you can tell by now that I like grapefruit in my drinks :)!  Second, this photo is one of the many I took for my first book project, The Home Distiller’s Handbook.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!


  1. says

    Brandon truly a remarkable post!

    I love the recap b/c I had forgotten about some of these. That soup. Cheeze It like cheese? Bring it!

    And the brookies.

    The lovely detail on the greens in the green bean salad, the ginger cake…omg where to begin.


    Have a question for you regarding some photo stuff. Email me back if you have a second :)

    • Brandon Matzek says

      Thanks Averie! I had forgotten about some of these as well. I am really craving that Green Bean Salad right now :)

  2. says

    SO glad that I started reading your blog this year! But sad I missed out on all your posts from earlier in 2011! That green been salad looks BEAUTFUL! The idea of technique videos sounds awesome to me! Especially since I love to bake but need some help preparing things OTHER than dessert :) Additionally, I’d love to hear more about your thought process in coming up with your amazing and novel flavor combo’s. You seem to have such a great instinct for it, which I would like to also foster. :) 2012 is going to be great, I can feel it!

    • Brandon Matzek says

      So glad you did as well Ann!! Funny you should mention the flavor combos. I am going to be running a little series where I highlight seasonal ingredients and what pairs well with them!

  3. says

    The beef tacos look mouthwatering. I used to like tacos (before this incident at this overnight camp where I was so hungry (because the rest of the food they served didn’t taste so good) that I ate like four tacos and then rode a bus for two hours and felt like puking the whole time), and your picture has revived my love for tacos. Great round up! Everything looks delish.

  4. RoChele says

    I’d love to see a something vegan! Using a vegetable as the main course? Or your take on a killer tofu stir-fry? I love finding GOOD vegan recipes to make for people so I can watch their amazement when I tell them. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record. I just like to give people a little variety. Eating good food is fun but it’s even better to find out the magic behind it is unconventional. :)

    • Brandon Matzek says

      Vegan is certainly a challenge, but I will look into it! I do love serving vegetables as a main course though. I made this Chanterelle Bread Pudding again this year. Very hearty and satisfying. If you can’t find chanterelles right now, you could use other wild mushrooms.

  5. says

    So glad you revisited these. It has inspired me for some pre-planning for Super Bowl Sunday! Look forward to everything you create in 2012!

  6. says

    Now, this is the first time I’ve come across your site and this is a great post to show me what you’re all about. I was particularly taken with the grapefruit rum; I’ve made many home-made liqueurs this past year (sloe gin, crab-apple liqueur, etc) so think I’ll be coming back to this site pretty regularly for more ideas!

  7. says

    WOW – This 2011 wrapup has me drooling and dying to try one of this cocktails! Once I go through all of the recipes listed here, I’m going to have to travel through your entire archives! Happy 2012!

  8. says

    Wow, Brandon. I just found your site. Beautiful. I am your newest fan. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again as I start trying out your recipes.

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