November 04, 2007
I'm sure there are a million ways to make chicken and dumplings, but this is the way I do it, which really works well on a cold day. This recipe is adapted from Southern Living's "Cooking across the South".
5 lbs. of chicken. (dark meat works best)
1/2 an onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, with leaves if possible, chopped.
2 slices of lime (or lemon)
2 bay leaves
6-7 whole peppercorns
Arrange a layer of the chicken pieces in the bottom of a pot. Add about half the onions, celery, a slice of lime, a bay leaf, and some of the peppercorns. Another layer of the chicken, and the rest of the aromatics, and seasonings. Cover all that with water, and bring it to a boil for 10-15 minutes. Let that cool. I usually take the chicken out with tongs, and put it in a collander. Then run cold water over it. When it's cool enough to handle, you want to get the skin off, and de-bone the chicken, returning the meat to the stock. Once you have all the meat back, let it simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Meanwhile, you can make your dumplings. After 2 hours, add the dumplings, and let simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes.
For the dumplings I use:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk with 1 egg mixed in
Mix your dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, and add the milk and egg mixture a little at a time until you have a fairly firm dough. Roll it out to about 1/4" think, then cut your dumplings. I usually use a pizza cutter and cut 1" strips, then cut on a diagonal to get diamond shaped dumplings.
November 02, 2007
My best friend was down this past weekend for a visit. It was good to see him. It's always good to spend time with him. I busied myself Friday morning with sundry errands, and on the way home stopped by the local fish market, and got a pint of shucked oysters, and a dozen blue point oysters. They had Chincoteague, Choptank, Prince Edwards, and Blue Points. The locals here can be particular about their oysters. Seriously. And I'll admit, I've never had an oyster that can compare to an east coast oyster. The blue points I bought came from Long Island, so they're not exactly local, but they're close enough that the trip didn't bother them much. I love it when the fish monger taps the shells, I leave much more confident that all 12 will be good. Next to the fish shack, there's a liquor store. I stopped in and got a 6 pack of Belgian white beer.
That evening, Joe and I stood over the kitchen sink, shucking and slurping some of the most delicious oysters I've had in a while, and washing them back with some delicious white beer. Here's the beauty of these oysters, -- they don't require anything. No sauce, no condiments, nothing but the oyster -- heck, it even comes in it's own dish! It's the essence of simplicity. Good friends, excellent food, no fuss. Friday was good.
June 12, 2007
Some months back at a conference in Virginia Beach, this colleague was making some announcements on the last day of the conference. Among other things he announced that he'd discovered a terrific fish house. His words were "I've been here 4 days and eaten there 4 times." At the first break I admonished him. I said "That was a first-day announcement, not a last day announcement." He mentioned that when he travels, he likes to sample the food for which a region is known. I try to follow that line of thought as well. Among other things, Kurt mentioned that some folks had taken him somewhere for chicken wings, and while he enjoyed them, he thought they'd be better with some "white sauce", and asked if I'd ever heard of white barbeque sauce. I hadn't, but a few minutes on Google and I found that it's quite popular in the northern Alabama region, but not that well known elsewhere. This is a real shame, because it's really too good to be kept a secret. Kurt said the next time he was in Decatur, he'd pick up a bottle and mail it to me, and he was good to his word.
I, being somewhat impatient, tried a few recipes I'd found on the web. It's not that tricky, mostly mayonaise and vinegar, and lots of black pepper. Some variations from there, you might add cayenne, sugar, lime, etc... But the basic sauce is very simple, and very good.
Well this evening, I found my way to Decatur, and got lost trying to get back to Huntsville, but for all the extra driving and stopping to ask for directions, the food was absolutely worth the little inconvenience. Between the three of us, I think we sampled most of what was available. Chicken, ribs, and brisket. I had half a chicken with as much of that delicious white barbeque sauce as I could eat. Exercising considerable restraint, I had the first bite of chicken with no sauce, to see how it tasted on it's own. I could've eaten the entire thing without a drop of sauce. It was that delicious. The ribs were fantastic too. I can only tell you second hand that the brisket was top-notch, because the colleague who ordered the brisket wasn't sharing. But he said it was awesome. He also said before we left, that he didn't care for ribs. At the restaurant, he mentioned that if he could be sure that ribs would always be cooked like these were, he'd be a convert.
I don't have any pictures to share, but you can order this wonderful white barbecue sauce from
Big Bob Gibson's online.
Or you can make your own using this recipe: Alabama White Barbecue Sauce.
May 18, 2007
I think I probably rushed the season a bit, but the herbs and most of the vegetables look like they're going to make it. I'll post some pictures tomorrow, but for now, I can tell you I put cilantro, oregano, basil, tarragon, thyme and rosemary in the herb garden, -- and I have some room left for some chives, scallions, and / or garlic. Over in the veggie patch, we have two varieties of tomato, some onions, some cucumbers, and my counter is holding 10 chile pepper plants, (3 varieties; Anaheims, Poblanos, and Serranos) and 2 tomatillo plants. I hope to put the tomatillos and 7 of the peppers in the ground tomorrow, if it's dried out enough. The other 3 chiles go to my sister. Believe it or not, every nursery I tried around here had the same 6 varieties of chile peppers, none of which I prefer. So I ended up having to order them. I found a site online, called "The Chile Woman" that has tons of chiles. You can't order online, you have to print out the order form, and mail it to her. But she said she ships on Mondays, and only between May 1 and June 30. I sent my order on April 30, and the plants arrived on may 15, in great shape. I'm quite pleased. If any of you are having trouble finding the precise chiles you want, I encourage you to check out the chile woman. Garden pics tomorrow.
March 20, 2007
This one comes to you from my youngest. I don't know whether or not I mentioned it, but my one-of-a-kind, can't-be-beat, beef heart and burgundy chili was actually, well, --beat. Soundly. At the church's Chili cook-off / dessert bake-off, there were 15 chili entries, and 9 awards. Which means mine was judged one of the 6 worst. ( I figure the judges hadn't the discerning palate I had previously credited them )
But the evening wasn't a total wash. In fact, we brought home a winner in our midst after all. My youngest, the aspiring baker, made her grandmother's "Candy Cake" and entered it in the dessert category, where there were 18 entries and merely 4 prizes. She, unlike her old man, brought home the goods. And I promised her a spot on the blog with her winning entry.
The really cool part of all this is, though my LCB doesn't like to cook, nobody has made this cake in our house since her mom passed away. (I'm not much of a baker, and I don't really care for cake). So, by Hope making the cake from Grandma's recipe, and the LCB assisting to see if it was they way she remembered, they were both able to bridge across an emptiness that's been too long there. Made the LCB cry, but I think it was the good kind of crying.
OK, enough sappiness, here's how you make these incredibly rich little squares:
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Melt the caramels and 1/2 C. evaporated milk in a double boiler.
1 box German Chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup melted margarine
1 Cup chopped nuts. (We used walnuts)
Mix the cake mix, milk, margarine, and nuts.
Put 1/2 the batter in the bottom of a 9x12 pan.
Bake for 6 minutes at 350 degrees.
Put 1 Cup chocolate chips sprinkled over the hot cake.
Pour caramel mix over chocolate chips.
Sprinkle the rest of the batter on top. (It's more like a dough than a batter)
Bake 15-18 mins at 350.
Cool for 15 mins.
Refrigerate 1 hour.
Cut into squares and enjoy!
March 15, 2007
Some time ago, Mimi posted some recollections on her Memere's potato masher. This evening, a package arrived that my LCB had ordered. It was a beautiful red enameled cast-iron French Oven. (I grew up calling these things Dutch Ovens, but I guess they're French Ovens now. Or maybe there's a difference I'm failing to notice.) Anyway, Mimi's recollections spawned by an artifact, coupled with a brand new cooking pot, brought to mind a story I read somewhere once.
We all have what I call "hang-ons". Not hang-ups, but hang-ons. Things we do and we don't really know why we do them. The story goes like this:
A newlywed couple were in the kitchen, and were preparing a roast together. The bride took the knife and cut off about 2" of the pointed end of the roast, and tossed it in the garbage can. The husband was a bit surprised at this, and asked her why she did it. She replied "That's how my mom always fixed a roast". "But why?" asked the still perplexed husband. So the wife called her mother and asked "Ma, why do you always cut off the pointed end of the roast?" Her mother said, "That's how your grandma always fixed a roast, and her roasts were always so delicious, so I do it the same way." The new wife asked "But why did she do it?" Of course, the mother wasn't sure. So, the next time the woman and her mother went to meet Grandma, they asked her "Grandma, why when you're preparing a roast, do you cut the pointed end off?" The Grandma held her hands about 8 inches apart, and said "That's all the bigger my roasting pan was."
I'm sure you saw that one coming a mile away, but it's still one of my favorite stories. And I wonder what hang-ons we have.
For me, I like to mix the dough for my flour tortillas by hand, even though I have a perfectly good KitchenAid that would do a perfectly good job of it sitting on the counter. I just like the feel of working the flour and the lard together when it's all still warm from pouring in the water.
For the longest time, I resisted getting the KitchenAid. Finally, my LCB bought it anyway. For some reason, I supposed there was something that magically made a better pie crust if you used a pastry cutter and mixed it all by hand. Probably because that's how Gi-Gi did it. Of course, if Gi-Gi had been alive, she'd probably have cuffed me one, and said "you dolt! -- there's a perfectly good mixer standing right there."
Now I have to go figure out what I'm going to fix for the crew tomorrow with my new French Oven. They're not keen on stew, or soups, so I'm thinking something braised and simmered.
March 13, 2007
Last night it was barbeque chicken. We had loosely planned our meals for two weeks, and though I knew it was BBQ chicken night, I hadn't really figured out any sides yet. I wasn't keen on canned veggies, and I couldn't remember what fresh veggies were around. (It's been a busy few weeks, and who keeps their pantry / fridge inventory memorized anyway?)
BUT -- I always have buttermilk pancake mix on hand, and I happened to have some corn meal left over from when I made Elise's wonderful creamy polenta last week. And I seemed to recall that a close friend of ours used to make her cornbread with pancake mix and corn meal. In our recipe box, it's listed as "Aunt Elizabeth's Cornbread". And cornbread always goes with BBQ. Besides, I've been thinking about Mimi's Bisquick Day event, and thought why not another mix? It'd certainly be faster, and the kids will eat it.
Some years ago, I was stationed with the U.S. Marines in the middle east. We'd been eating MRE's for several weeks, and when you're eating MRE's, I can tell you, the novelty wears off about halfway through lunch the first day. So eventually, they assigned us a Marine Cook, who was also an amateur boxer who hailed from Louisiana. I was assigned to KP, which I really didn't mind at all. This guy was sweating it out with us and saved us from the MRE's, I'm only too happy to help him out. He picked up a can of cornbread mix, cleverly concocted by one of Uncle Sam's culinary alchemists, and said "Can you read, doc?" (I was a corpsman a few lifetimes ago) I said "Yes, Staff Sergeant." So he tossed me the can and said "Make this." So I looked at the instructions, and noticed it said "optional -- n Cups sugar." Then I said "uh, staff sergeant...this says you can optionally use sugar." He shot me a Marine Corps Boxer look, rather than a Marine Corps Cook look (and I think the distinction is subtle, at best) and barked -- "NO! You NEVER put sugar in corn bread!! That ain't cornbread, - that's cake!"
So, Aunt Elizabeth's cornbread, as it's referred to in our recipe box, is being posted as Cornbread Cake, because even though it's been 16 years, -- I still defer to the Staff Sergeant on this one. But it's not a dessert cake, it's a ok-for-the-kids-to-eat-at-dinner cake. And it's tasty besides.
2 Cups buttermilk pancake mix
6 Tbsp cornmeal
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup milk
1/2 cup margarine (melted)
Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Then mix the milk and egg together, and add them to the dry stuff. Mix all that together, then add the margarine. Mix everything together and pour into a greased 9x9 pan. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
You no doubt noticed from the picture, I used a #8 cast iron skillet. As long as it's well-seasoned, it works better than the pan.
March 11, 2007
One of the LCB's favorite things at RL are the cheddar-garlic biscuits we get prior to the meal. So one day, when she was craving those biscuits, but not seafood, I decided to google them. Now, it turns out, they're all over the internet, but at the time there was one or two sites that had them. They're all pretty much the same, because like most good things, they're pretty simple. This recipe came from Cooks.com. When you get right down to it, there are very few things that aren't made a bit better with garlic butter. Here's the recipe:
2 c. Bisquick
2/3 c. milk
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. butter
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Mix Bisquick and cheese; add milk. Spoon on an ungreased cookie sheet (makes about 12). Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Brush with melted butter and garlic powder.
March 07, 2007
Sometimes you just want a good snack. Everyone's gone to bed. Time to hit the recliner, pour a good drink, and TIVO up a good program, or pop in a DVD. When I get those rare moments, I don't usually want to spend a lot of time on the prep. So one night, watching Emeril, he was doing a whole show on late night snacks. He made these Salami coronets, (That's what he called them, I'd have called them something much more sophisticated, like probably -- salami rolled up with cheese) One of the things he mentioned, that I've taken to doing, was that he kept a container of this cheese in his fridge. It's the simplest stuff in the world to throw together, and it's handy to have around. I've used it on genoa salami, hard salami, and pepperoni, and I've stuffed it into olives. It would also make a good stuffing for jalapenos. It's just:
1 8oz container of Ricotta cheese
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese
Some chopped chives
some chopped basil (or oregano)
Mix all that together until it's blended real well, then go find stuff to smear it on. Makes an excellent accompaniment to a classic Clint Eastwood flick, or a black-and-white Bogart picture.
March 04, 2007
Looking around the kitchen, we had some herbs, we always have onions and garlic lying about, and I happened to have a lemon that I meant to use for something or other but never got one or more of the ingredients for whatever it was. Now I love lemon-pepper chicken, or lemon-pepper fish, but the rest of the clan aren't quite the pepper-heads that I am. So I figured lemon-herb, and I've been meaning to try this en papillote method for a while.
En Papillote just means it's cooked in parchment paper. A couple sites I visited said you can also use foil, but I'm not crazy about the idea. Especially when you're using citrus, or any other acidic ingredient. Cooking the meat in paper's supposed to keep all the juices in, so the meat doesn't dry out, and what better to test that with than white-meat chicken?
Well, I want to tell you all, that was some of the juiciest chicken I've ever had. And the presentation is wonderful as well. Everyone gets their own little gift-wrapped dinner, and when you open the paper, the aromas waft up and fill the room with that lemony-herby smell. (mmmm)
I'm going to attempt to explain how I did this, but there's an excellent site that shows the procedure with pictures at e-how.
Mix together some rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory. (I used dried herbs)
Dice one onion, and toss some of those herbs in with it.
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic, and toss them in with the onions and herbs.
Slice a lemon, so you can put 1-2 slices on each piece of chicken. (depending on the size)
Take an (approx.) 18 inch piece of parchment, and fold it in half. Cut a half a valentine shape, large enough to leave a one-inch margin around the chicken breast.
Open the paper, and brush it with olive oil, leaving about an inch margin all around.
Take one piece of chicken, and sprinkle some kosher salt on each side, and a little fresh ground pepper on each side, then sprinkle some of the herbs on each side.
Put a slice of lemon on top, and then a little of the onion-herb-garlic mixture.
Lay it on one side of the valentine. Bring the other side over, so the edges meet.
Starting at the not-pointy-end, roll the edges together, crimping them now and then to seal the package. When you get down to the pointy end, give it a little twist to finish off the seal. (be careful not to tear it)
These packages can go on a baking sheet, or a roasting pan, or whatever you have that they'll fit in, and go into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
When they come out, use some tongs to carefully put one on each plate, and serve it in the paper.
I didn't get pictures of this, because honestly, it's been a crazy week, and besides, I really need to work on my photography. I meant to post a bit on my chicken gumbo, but the picture turned out so bad, you wouldn't have known what it was! I need to spend some time over at Food Blog S'cool.
March 01, 2007
A plethora of choice is just as bad as a dearth of choice. Which brings me to today's rant. Sometimes, I just want to grab a sandwich and get back to my desk.I have too many decisions to make as it is, so when I grab lunch, I want to decide on a sandwich, pay for it, and go back to work. What could be simpler?
Well, at either Subway, or Submarina (the west-coast version of subway) the answer is almost anything. Seriously, at either of these sub-chains ordering a sandwich makes cold-fusion look simple.
You have to specify each and every element and ingredient that goes into your sandwich. By the time I get to the register, I could have made the sandwich myself, and been back to the office. I tried to circumvent their procedure droids once, and it was not pretty. They had a new sandwich, something like a teriyaki chicken sub. I said "I'd like a teriyaki chicken sub, and I want you to make it exactly like it is in the picture." (thinking I'd cleverly found a way around the endless questions.) The clerk said "What kind of bread?", I said "Whatever that bread in the picture is". Then he started studying the picture, until, exasperated, I said "white -- just use white". Then he said, "what kind of cheese?"I responded, "whatever that cheese in the picture is". So he determined it was provolone (round and white). Then -- "You want Olives?" I said "Are there olives in the picture?", he looks at the picture, then at me, then says "uh,... yeah".
I understand that a LOT of people like to customize their sandwiches, I do too. At home. But when I go to a sandwich shop, I expect the folks they hire will know the basics of putting the sandwiches together. For example, I shouldn't have to choose a type of cheese to go on a meatball sub.
I remember as a kid, there were delis around here that would simply tell you "no" if you ordered something wrong. "No, the pastrami comes with mustard, not mayo". (as it should) If one establishment made a killer chili dog, you'd go there for chili dogs, because they made the best. They probably wouldn't make the best if they let the customer specify each and every step in the dog's construction. That's why they're the "chili dog man". They've perfected the process. I'd go to one shop for a cold cut sub, and another for chili dogs, based on their respective strengths.
Not nowadays. Choice is king, even when the person making the choice doesn't know their subject.
When I go into an eating establishment, sometimes I don't even know what I want, but if I can ask the clerk, "what would you have?" and they come back with the specialty of the establishment, I'm grateful. And I'll order that most of the time.
But when I go into an establishment and I have to tell them each and every step, ingredient, etc... what am I paying for? Makes me think I should open my own sandwich shop and call it "Make your own dang sandwich".
Sorry for the rant, but I wanted to get that off my chest. I've actually had some fairly successful experiments this week, and I hope to get some of them posted over the weekend.
February 23, 2007
One of the things I really like about being here in Maryland, is that last year I was able to keep an herb / vegetable garden just outside the kitchen window. Fresh peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, all just outside the door for the picking. As much as I loved living in California, I could never keep a plant alive there.
Well, my LCB, while she doesn't like to cook, does like to surprise me with new stuff for the kitchen. Honestly, if she didn't, I'd still be making pie crusts by hand with a pastry cutter. My LCB bought me a KitchenAid stand mixer, which I thought was just outrageously priced. But now I wouldn't want to be without it.
True to form, this weekend, she surprised me with two more items. She's a bit of a QVC fan. I can't watch the channel for very long at a clip, but she could watch it all day long. So, the other day I saw yet another QVC Package on the porch, and brought it in to her. She said "That's for you". (?) So opening it, I found she'd bought me a brand new Japanese Kohaishu chef's knife!
My chef's knife had lost it's edge a few months ago after 20 years of faithful service. (It's getting sharpened this weekend) But you know, in the kitchen, you can never have too many knives.
The second surprise just arrived this evening. Since it's not quite spring yet, never mind what the groundhog said, I'm still not able to plant my herb garden yet. It'll be another month or so. So to fill in the gaps, she bought me an AeroGarden Kitchen Herb Garden!
I haven't set it up yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so tomorrow. I'm quite anxious, because I haven't been able to snip any fresh oregano since Thanksgiving.
I really do have the best wife ever.
February 19, 2007
1 lb. Ground meat. (beef or turkey)
1 1/4 lbs. cubed beef heart
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, freshly minced
1 can Kidney Beans
1 8 0z. can Tomato Sauce
16 oz. Burgundy
1/3 cup Masa Flour
1/3 cup chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne (more or less to taste)
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
Brown the ground meat and heart along with the onion and garlic in a stock pot. While you're browning the meat, put some worcestershire sauce in with it. I usually go 3-4 turns around the pot with it. This is also where I add about a good pinch of coarse salt, and a few turns of fresh ground pepper.
When the meat's cooked through, drain it, and return it to the stock pot. Add:
chili powder, cayenne, tomato sauce, burgundy, and Kidney Beans. Stir all of this together, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, mix the masa flour with some warm water until it makes a thin paste. (It should kinda glob off a fork) Mix this paste in with the chili to thicken it up some. Then let everything simmer about 5 more minutes. After I add the masa, I usually have a bowl, and let the rest of it simmer for the rest of the day.
February 18, 2007
I'm pretty sure this isn't an "East Coast" recipe, but I first encountered it when we moved back here, so I'm labelling it that way.
One day when I was taking lunch to my LCB, I stopped at a local deli in Havre de Grace, called St. John's Gourmet. When I go into a place and everything (or at least more than 50%) of the menu looks terrific, I usually ask someone who works there, "If you were taking lunch right now, and could have anything on the menu, what would it be?". Well, on this day, the cook told me he'd get the Muffuletta. So that's what I got.
That was one of the best surprises I've had. The sandwich was stuffed with good deli meats, and had a very distinctive olive taste, due to the relish they use. (Actually, the St. John's calls it an Olive Salad, I call it an olive relish.) Apparently it's a creole creation, and I've since seen it on Emeril and also saw Giada feature it on a superbowl snacks spot on one of those morning shows.
The Muffuletta sandwich is a fairly straightforward sub sandwich. The key points are, the olive spread, a lot of layers, and compress the finished sandwich. Here's how I built it:
Muffuletta spread on the bottom and top rolls. Then two layers each: Peppered Ham, Mortadella, Hard Salami, Pepperoni, Provolone cheese. Then some romaine lettuce. Put everything together and either smush it down, or wrap it really tight in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge for a while to let all the flavors meld.
It's difficult for me to find the relish around here, and when I do, it's very pricey for a small jar of it. So here's a recipe for it that makes a fair amount of it. (I've been using it on a number of things beyond just sandwiches.)
So here's how you make the muffuletta spread:
1 1/2 cups chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
1 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/2 cup fire-roasted red bell pepper (chopped)
5 anchovy fillets, mashed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp lemon juice
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Mix all this up in a bowl, and let it set for a while in the refrigerator.
This recipe made enough to fill two olive jars with a bit left over.
I love frittatas. They're one of those "clean out the fridge & pantry" dishes. The other day I happened to spy a couple cans of artichoke hearts, and thought they'd be good in a frittata with some olives. I didn't have any whole or sliced olives around, so I used the olive relish I made for the muffuletta, and it worked out pretty good. Next time I might use a different cheese, something with a bit more flavor, like gorgonzola. I love gruyere, but it didn't add much to this experiment, and basically got lost in the other ingredients.
1/4 cup chopped Artichoke Hearts
1/4 cup crumbled Gruyere
1 Tbsp muffaletta spread
Scramble the eggs in a bowl, along with the Muffaletta spread.
Melt a Tablespoon of margarine in an 8" cast-iron skillet.
When the skillet is hot, pour the eggs in and cook until they begin to firm up.
Add the artichoke hearts and gruyere.
Move the skillet from the stovetop and put it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Once the eggs are well-cooked, pull the pan out, (using a good hot pad or oven mitt) and transfer it to the plate. A Frittata this size should serve 2 people. (Assuming they both have appetites like mine.)
Friday was my daughter's 16th birthday. So naturally, she got to choose what she wanted for dinner. Ever the California girl that she is, she wanted Chicken Enchiladas and Artichokes. I told her the enchiladas we could do, for sure. The artichokes were a bit iffy. But she did spot some nice-looking artichokes at the grocery, so she had her California birthday dinner after all. In this post, however, I thought I'd cover the Enchiladas.
Enchiladas are amazingly easy to make, and very versatile. They do take some time, but you can make them ahead, and just pop them in the oven when you're ready. The filling can be whatever you like. Chicken, beef, pork, and cheese are all common, and I've seen shrimp and fish enchiladas too. Various places serve enchiladas with a red or a green sauce. My daughter likes the red sauce, which you can make yourself, or make from a seasoning blend, or simply pour from a can. (her favorite is the canned sauce.) And it's the sauce that provides almost all the flavor. We don't season the chicken at all, (although you certainly could) we just let the sauce season everything.
Another thing about enchiladas, you have to cook the tortillas. I've seen some folks try to make them without frying the tortillas first, and it's not a pretty result.
Now my daughter just likes chicken and cheese in her enchiladas, but if I were making these for myself, there would also be some diced chiles and sliced black olives mixed in with the chicken. Maybe some onions too. But following is how we did it for my eldest's sweet sixteenth.
2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless Chicken breasts
20-25 corn tortillas
1 - 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar & monterey jack works well)
1 19 oz can of enchilada sauce. (Better to have too much than too little of this)
We start by boiling the chicken breasts until they're cooked through. Then put them in a bowl and run some cold water over them. When they're cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand. (As an alternative, we've been known to put them in chunks in the KitchenAid with the paddle, and let it mangle the chicken.)
When your chicken is shredded, set it close to your workspace. We tend to set up an assembly line. From left to right: a stack of corn tortillas on the left side of the stove, Oil on the left front burner, enchilada sauce on the right front burner, casserole pan next to the stove, chicken and cheese next to the casserole pan.
Get your oil and enchilada sauce heating in a deep skillet. About 1 1/2 inches of oil, and however much enchilada sauce you're using, the whole can for sure, more if you choose.
When the oil's hot, take one tortilla, and put it in the oil, as soon as it floats, turn it over, then transfer it to the enchilada sauce, turn it over so both sides are coated, then transfer it to the casserole pan. Put your chicken and cheese down the middle of the tortilla, and fold one side over, then fold the other side over that. I should mention, I suppose, that the best way I've found of transferring the tortillas from oil to sauce to pan, is by using two forks. The tortillas get pretty soft by the time you get them to the pan, and sometimes tear. So if you end up throwing 2-4 of them away, don't be discouraged. We always allow for some of them to be tossed.
Once the pan is full, set it aside, and if you have more, start over with a new pan. We usually get 18-20 enchiladas, so I usually use two pans. Once they're all made, pour whatever remaining sauce you have down the middle of the enchiladas, and sprinkle some more cheese on top, along with some sliced black olives, or whatever you like for garnish. Then put them in the oven at about 375 long enough to let the cheese melt. If you made them ahead, you'll want to go a little longer in order to let everything get up to temperature, probably 10-15 minutes should do it.
February 16, 2007
Anyways, I had a hankerin' for soup as well, and since the kids wanted cheap-o sandwiches, I swung by the grocery and picked up a pint of select oysters. There are precious few "comfort" foods that are more comforting to me than oyster stew. The biggest gripe I have with either store-bought or restaurant oyster stew is that they seem to use so few oysters. This is a very simple, but very focused soup. The oysters are the only substantive ingredient, so don't skimp on them.
It seems a little weird telling someone how to make oyster stew, because around here, it's kind of like telling someone how to make toast. I think everyone in this part of the country knows how to make it. But I'm listing it anyway. It's one of my favorites.
1 pt. select oysters (with the liquor)
1 cup milk
4 Tbsps margarine
First, you'll want to pour off some of the liquor, and save it.
Bring the milk and margarine to a low boil, just until the margarine's melted. Then turn it down to a simmer.
Add about 2 good pinches of salt, (I use kosher salt, but use what you have) and a few turns of fresh ground pepper to taste.
Now add your oysters. Stir all this gently, and taste the broth. If it's real milky, add some of the liquor, a little at a time, until it's got a good oystery flavor. You'll want to simmer this until the edges of the oysters begin to curl.
That's all there is to it! Put it in a bowl, sit in front of the window, and enjoy a good hot bowl of oyster stew while you're watching the weather do it's thing. You really can enjoy winter around here.
February 14, 2007
One of the greatest things about spending the day in Mexico, is the food. My daughters and I loved getting fresh tortillas from the tortillarias down there, and "street tacos" from the vendors. Nothing can compare to a freshly made tortilla with a little butter. Of course, tortillas are a staple in Mexico, and they're used for tons of different dishes, but they're also delicious by themselves when they're right off the griddle. Around here, we can find some commercial corn and flour tortillas, but it's nearly impossible to find un-cooked tortillas. And sometimes, that's what I want, so I can cook the tortilla myself. If you try that with store-bought tortillas, they'll either burn, or get over-crisp, like a cracker.
So I headed to an old standby of mine, Allrecipes.com and found exactly one (1) recipe for Whole wheat flour tortillas. Looking that over, and remembering what I saw those wonderful Mexican ladies do, I adapted the recipe for regular flour tortillas which were surprisingly easy to make. Some of these, hot off the griddle, with a dab of butter, and some mariachi music in the background, and for a few minutes, I was able to forget about the wind, snow, ice etc... Felt like being back in Mexico for a bit. Here's the recipe:
5 cups flour
1/2 cup lard
2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Put the flour, lard, and salt in a big mixing bowl. With your hands, rub the mixture until it's the consistency of a coarse meal. (when I say "rub the mixture", I took it between both hands and just rubbed it together in the bowl until I couldn't feel any more lard.)
Make a loose mound with a well in the center. Once the water's boiling, pour it into that well, and with a wooden spoon, mix it all together until the dough is smooth.
Roll the dough into golf-ball size balls, and set them on a tray. Once all your dough is rolled, flour your surface, and take one of the balls, and pat it flat. (the original recipe says to let them sit for an hour or so, but I wasn't that patient) With a well-floured rolling pin, roll the tortilla out as thin as you like, I like them to be almost paper-thin. You'll have to keep changing direction with the pin, in order to keep the tortilla round. Another thing I've learned, is you'll want to start in the center of the tortilla and roll towards the edges. Otherwise it'll wrap around the pin. You have to keep flouring the pin too.
Once you have the size you want. Take it right over to a hot, cast-iron skillet, and let it sit there until little bubbles start to form. Once they do, turn it over and cook it for about 30 seconds, then turn it again and cook 30 seconds on that side. Move it to a plate or a tortilla warmer, and start on the next one.
I cooked about 6 of these, and rolled out the rest. The un-cooked ones I put in a zip-lock bag and into the fridge to use later. Now we'll be able to have fresh tortillas anytime we like. I'm just beside myself.
I think I should probably apologize, as I didn't take pictures of this as we did it. But it turned out so well, that I guarantee we'll be making them again, and I'll get some pics posted then.
February 13, 2007
When we lived in San Diego, I worked with a lot of Filipino folks. Occasionally, there'd be an event of some sort, and everyone would bring a dish in. My Filipino friends often would bring in lumpia (LOOM-pee-uh), which is a kind of egg roll. Unlike other egg rolls I've had, these were much narrower (about the diameter of your index finger) and longer, about 6 inches or so. They also had a lot more meat than veggies. I'm always a bit disappointed when I bite into an egg roll and find it's mostly cabbage, with a speck or two of meat.
Since we moved to Maryland, I know one Filipino person. Actually, I don't really know her, my daughters know her daughters. But we've met. Anyways, -- I can't find lumpia around here, so I figured I'd have to learn to make it. The recipe I found for lumpia is from Allrecipes.com, and it's pretty good. The filling is amazingly good. I just can't seem to get the wrapping quite right. It's not bad, but it's not the way those folks in San Diego made it. My egg roll wrappers come out of the oil all blistered, whereas theirs were never blistered. And the color on theirs was a perfect, even, golden color. Like a perfectly toasted marshmallow. But even if I haven't perfected the technique yet, I think the end product is enough to satiate my cravings from time to time. I'll let you all click over to the recipe, and I'll describe the wrapping. These aren't hard to make, but they do take some prep time. If any of you have any pointers, I'd be delighted to hear them.
The filling - pork, cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, salt & pepper.
I usually start by arranging the wrappers in a star pattern, so they're easier for me to pick up. The first time I tried this, I kept getting double wrappers and not realizing it. So now I separate them first, and alternate them.
You'll put a wrapper in front of you, then put 2 Tbsps of the filling on it, making a line that goes from corner to corner. The recipe calls for 3 Tbsps, but that makes them real thick. Of course, you might prefer them that way, I dunno.
Then you'll take the corner closest to you, and fold it over the meat filling, kinda inching the meat up tight against the back of the wrapper. Fold those corners in, and roll it the rest of the way. Before you get to the end, put a drop of water on the tag end, then roll it up. That water will help the wrap stay closed.
Once you have all your lumpia put together, just deep fry them in whatever kind of oil you prefer, until they're nice and golden brown. Drain them on paper towels, and serve. You'll like these.
February 11, 2007
Anyways, I kept forgetting to pick up egg roll wrappers. And I also needed some cabbage and green onions. So I went to our local grocery to get the items I was missing, and while I was reaching for the green onions, the spritzer went off. That brings me to my plea.
If you are a grocer, or the manager of a grocery -- please, Please, PLEASE -- stop soaking the produce!! I don't know where this absurd practice started, but it really needs to stop. Water doesn't make produce fresher. Nobody believes you just brought it in from the field out back, still holding the morning dew. One grocery store I frequent even plays a recording of thunder, and flashes some lights before the spritzer goes off. Like I'm witnessing a thunder-mist-storm. How empty headed do you think I am?
The only thing wet produce does, is spoil faster. Which is why I think they soak it. So I have to buy it more often.
Alright, --my apologies readers, tomorrow I'll tell you about our lumpia, but this evening, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Now I feel a bit better. Until I have to buy more produce, at least.
February 09, 2007
You ever try a recipe, and it's so simple, and so delicious, that about 2 seconds after you savor the last bite, you think to yourself -- "I bet that'd be good with..." Well that's what happened to me. I thought I'd swap out the lemon zest and parmesan for some fresh minced garlic and crumbled gorgonzola. Oh, man! It really turned out good. So here's my take on asparagus with a nod to Elise over at Simply Recipes for the inspiration.
1 bunch fresh Asparagus
2 cloves freshly minced garlic.
2 Tbsp crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
Break off the tough ends of the asparagus, then cut the spears on a bias in about 1-2 inch sections.
Put the asparagus sections in the boiling water for no more than 2 minutes.
After 2 minutes, drain them, and put them in a big mixing bowl.
Add the Olive Oil, garlic, and gorgonzola and toss it all together.
Transfer all this to a serving bowl, and you're good to go.
Tinker around with this and try some different variations. I'm sure there are a lot of ways you could fix this. The real key, is to only parboil the asparagus for a couple minutes. After that, you can pretty much let your imagination run with the fixin's.
February 07, 2007
When we first moved back here, somebody told my wife about crab pretzels. I hadn't heard of any such thing, but there are a lot of things I haven't heard of. So we went to an Italian place nearby, called "The Olive Tree". It's quite popular locally, for good reason.
One thing about living on the Chesapeake -- every eating establishment makes the "Best crabcakes in Maryland". It doesn't have to be a seafood place. I've seen the signs at bars, family restaurants, truck stops, Italian restaurants, Greek restaurants, you name it. Well, the Olive Tree is no exception.
But a friend of my LCB told her that their crab pretzels were "to die for". (I always hated that phrase). So we went, and she tried it, and of course, she loved it. It's a soft pretzel, smothered in a very rich cheese sauce, with lump crab meat all over it. I enjoy picking the crab meat out of it, but the whole thing is way too rich for me.
Anyway -- I have a recipe for a hot crab fondue, and after trying this crab pretzel, I thought, -- That's not so different from the crab dip I make. If I used a heavy cream in lieu of the wine, it would be just like this.
My recipe for crab dip comes from Recipe Source, and instead of the cayenne, I use Old Bay. So here's how we make the crab pretzel:
Use your favorite soft pretzel, and fix it according to the directions, then put it in a pie pan.
8 oz. cream cheese
1 jar cheddar cheese spread. (like Olde English)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb. good crab meat. (none of that artificial stuff here)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce.
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning.
Set up a double boiler, and melt the cheeses together. Once they melt together, and are nice and smooth, add the cream while stirring. This will thin it out just a bit. Now you can add everything else. Once it's all heated up, pour enough of it over the pretzel to cover it, letting it drip into all the spaces. Now if you like, you can sprinkle some shredded cheddar, or grated parmesan over it, and pop it into the oven at about 400 until the cheese melts. If you're not adding any more cheese, just put it in there for a few minutes to let everything heat up together. When it comes out, just use a spatula to slide it onto a plate, and get all the sauce on there.
This is a really easy dish, and folks will love it.
February 02, 2007
Well I promised a west-coast treat, and this is one of my favorites from a grocery store in Alpine, Ca. Daniel's Alpine Creek Market. We always just called it the creek. They had a great deli section, and one of their fish folks used to mix up a type of salsa they called "Seafood Ranchero". I could eat a whole tub of it in one sitting if I wasn't careful. It had teeny tiny shrimp in it, they called them bay shrimp. But here on the Chesapeake, I've never seen them. Maybe they're from the San Francisco bay. Folks here like big shrimp. Shrimp aren't used so much for an ingredient here, as they are the main dish, or a snack food. Around San Diego, they use those tiny shrimp everywhere. Shrimp burritos, shrimp dip, and of course, my favorite salsa. It's all good.
There's something else about this recipe that might make some Marylanders cringe. I use artificial crab meat in it. There's a good reason though, I picked some up today, I believe it was about 3.50 / lb, maybe less. A pound of good lump crab meat on the other hand, was going for around 27.00 / lb. Now you're putting this stuff into salsa. The other flavors are going to wreak havoc on that delicate sweetness that the real crab meat has. Use the fake stuff, it's mostly for texture.
One last thing -- I've seen holy wars break out on the internet over salsa. What makes a "real" salsa, what something should or shouldn't be called. I should tell you up front, -- I don't care. If you think this is more like Pico de Gallo, call it that, you won't hurt my feelings. If you think it's something else, call it that. Heck, for all I care you can call it french-fried apple danish. I really couldn't care less. -- But DO make it and try it. It's really delicious, and one of the things I missed the most when I first moved away from Southern California.
1. I run two of the three tomatoes through a chopper to get a better texture.
2. Chop the onion by hand. DON'T run it through the chopper. Don't chop it too fine, either. A food processor or mechanical chopper will cause a lot more cellular breakdown in the onion, causing more of the onion juice to be released, and the salsa will end up bland.
3. the serrano peppers should be chopped really fine. Use the chopper for them if you like.
4. I can't remember the count for the shrimp, but they should be really small.
5. You can add other seafood to it if you like. Fish, scallops, whatever.
OK, here's the recipe:
3 Big Tomatoes
1/2 - 1 onion
1/4 C. chopped cilantro
3 Serano peppers (seeded!)
1/2 - 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
2 tsp. cumin (more or less to taste, I probably use more)
juice from 1 Lime
1/2 lb tiny shrimp. (bay shrimp or salad shrimp)
1/2 lb imitation crab meat
Dice your tomatoes
Dice the onion
chop the peppers
quarter the tomatillos and put those through the chopper.
Take 2/3 of the diced tomatoes and chop them further in a chopper or food processor. Put the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, peppers, lime juice and garlic in a bowl and stir it all together.
If the shrimp are small enough, (about the size of your thumb nail) put them in whole. Otherwise, cut them in half or thirds, then put them in the bowl.
Put the imitation crab meat in a chopper or food processor and chop it up. Put it in the bowl.
Add the cumin
Stir everything up again.
Cover and put it in the fridge. The longer it cools, the better it gets.
February 01, 2007
They lived right behind us in a gorgeous fieldstone house, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas we'd go over for dinner. It was quite the event. Gi-Gi would roast a terrific turkey, complete with all the sides. My favorite side dish was the oysters.
Being from Maryland, I grew up to love oysters. We had blue crabs in the summer, and oysters in the winter. I'd have fried oysters, scalloped oysters, oyster stew, and sometimes you could buy some oysters from a guy selling them out of the back of a pick-up, and take them home, shuck them over the sink, and slurp them off the shell. Winter in Maryland has some horrid weather, but it's pretty much off-set by the fact that you can get fresh oysters in any month that has an 'r' in it.
Anyways, back to Gi-Gi's. Sometimes I'd try to forego the turkey and just fill up on oysters. They were that good. Gi-Gi never looked at a recipe the entire time I knew her. (that I know of) And she surely didn't write anything down. So I asked my sister one time if she knew how to make some of Gi-Gi's dishes. Of course she didn't. Gi-Gi didn't like much help in the kitchen. So we were left to try to figure it out on our own. It took me a while, but this past Christmas I finally figured it out. It's incredibly simple, and I thought I'd use it for my first contribution to this site, as it's a quintessential Chesapeake dish.
For this dish, you'll want to get good oysters. What I mean is, don't try it with those cans of smoked oysters, or other canned oysters that they sell next to the anchovies and sardines. Hoof it over to the fish counter, and look for pint jars of oysters, probably on ice. These oysters are in a briny, viscous liquid, which is called the "liquor". I don't know where it comes from or why it's there. I don't really care. (there are some things it's best not to know) But you're going to need that, so don't get rid of it. When you get ready to put it all together, pour the oysters into a strainer or collander, and collect that liquor in a bowl or measuring cup under the strainer. The directions I'm going to give you will make enough of Gi-Gi's oysters to fill an 8x8 or 9x9 casserole dish. If you have a 9 x 13 dish, you'll probably want to double up. OK, here it is:
1 - 2 pints of good oysters (enough to cover the bottom of your casserole dish)
2 cups of milk
2 sticks of margarine
Preheat your oven to about 350.
Drain the oysters in a collander, and reserve the liquor. Then put the oysters in the casserole dish. In a saucepan, heat up the milk and margarine until the margarine is melted. Once the margarine has melted, pour in some of the liquor, but not too much. Probably about 1/4 cup. You'll want to taste it as you're adding it. It should have a definite oystery taste, but not overpowering. (I made that mistake). Add some salt and pepper to taste. Once this broth suits you, pour it over the oysters, until they're just covered. You'll probably have some left over. Now, take out a sleave of the Saltines, put about 4-5 in each hand, and crush them over the oysters. Do that until the crushed crackers cover the oysters about 1/4 inch thick. The cracker bits should be about dime-sized, not crumbs. Now put them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. All you want to do here is heat up the oysters. If you cook them too long, they'll shrivel up to itty-bitty things like you see in those cans. (I made that mistake, too) The crackers on the bottom will have soaked up some of the broth, and taste kind of like oystery dumplings. The crackers on top will be crisp, and the oysters -- oh man, the oysters will be like a taste of heaven itself.
Eventually, I'll post some pictures of this. Eventually, I hope this will be a proper food blog. But for now, I just wanted to get things going, and this was always one of my faves. I was so excited when I finally got it right, I had to phone my sister and tell her. You'd have thought I won the lottery.
So that's my first contribution from the Chesapeake, where we currently live. Next I'll post one of my favorites from the West Coast.