Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Standing Rib Roast

Before last Christmas, every holiday season my family did the same thing for Thanksgiving and Christmas: ham, turkey, rolls, sweet potatoes, green casserole, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, etc. Etc. And then last year we realized that the week before Christmas? WE JUST GOT RID OF THE TURKEY and no one wanted to see another one.

So last year we switched and we're agreed...this is a keeper. It's simple, it's REALLY good and it works. Standing rib roast, mashed potatoes...garlic or horseradish or both, a really good salad, an onion confit/casserole and homemade rolls. Coconut cake and boiled custard because that's what people from waaaay back in the hills of Tennessee do.

Roasted Garlic Standing Rib Roast
8-10 rib roast
4 heads whole garlic
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
*Slice the top third off each head of garlic. Put garlic onto a square of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and seal packet. Slow roast at 300 degrees for 90 minutes; set aside to cool.
*Let meat come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl mash garlic (squeezed out of the skins), rosemary and thyme. Rub roast with garlic paste; salt and pepper. Put in roasting pan and bake 20 minutes at 450, then lower temperature to 350 and bake to an internal temperature of 130 degrees. DON'T cook it any further...130 will give you rare for the rare people and done-on-the-edges for the done people.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beer Cheddar Spread & Hearty Tomato Soup

This went to a party, as a dip, Saturday night and disappeared, and then we used the other half I had kept at home (HaHaHa!) for grilled cheese sandwiches. With hot soup. Ummm.

Beer Cheddar Cheese
2 lbs sharp Cheddar, shredded
2-4 slices smoky bacon
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 can beer
In the bowl of a small food processor finely chop the onion and garlic. Add the Tabasco, paprika and bacon and pulse until mixed, scraping down as necessary. In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, blend onion mixture and cheddar. Gradually beat in beer and mix until blended, about one minute. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

MzJean's Hearty Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1-1/2 teaspoon dried basil
6 ozs room temp cream cheese
1-1/4 cup milk
2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
Melt butter in pan and cook onion and garlic until wilted. Remove from heat; stir in paprika, basil and cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Stir in tomatoes, soup and milk and heat through.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bigos: The Dish of Polish Royalty

No, that title is not supposed to be a joke.

Poland was, for centuries, ruled by monarchs, thankyouverymuch (Hello? Boleslav the Bashful? Vladislav Spindleshanks? What do they teach in public schools these days?)

Ahem. Anyhoodle.

Bigos is a perfect food: Hearty, soul-warming, immensely tasty, easy to prepare and cheap if you have leftover pork in the fridge.

Personally, I use a fresh, lean pork roast because I like what cooking it in the kraut does for the texture of the meat.

Totally de-lish and 100% authentically Polish. This is my recipe, culled and cobbled from a dozen other recipes over the years.

Bigos Dziewczynka z Miasta (City Girl Bigos)
2 lbs Pork Loin, Pork Roast or other whole cut of pork
2 Bags Sauerkraut (Boarshead is good)
1 Kielbasa, sliced into 1" thick pieces
1 Large Onion, sliced
1 oz Dried Mushrooms
4 Cups Hot Water
4 Bay Leaves
1 tbsp Juniper Berries (about 12)
Kosher salt

Salt pork and let rest for 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
Reconstitute mushrooms in water.
Line bottom of small roasting pan with kraut, top with half the sliced onion.
Lay roast on top of onions.
Arrange two bay leaves on top of roast, top with additional onions and remaining kraut.
Nestle sausage slices, remaining two bay leaves and juniper berries into kraut.
Pour mushroom broth - with 'shrooms - into roaster. Cover tightly.
Cook for one hour, turn pork, stir kielbasa and kraut.
Cook for another hour.

Serve with buttered rye bread or - better - potato pancakes.


Note: If using pre-cooked pork, reduce the number of bay leaves to 2 and cook the whole thing in a Dutch oven on stovetop for one hour, or simmer all day.

More Leftover Turkey Stuff

Soup. Plain, minimal-ingredient soup. So good that they ate all but one cupful and The Nice Kid took that to lunch today.

Turkey and Noodle Soup
2 cups chopped turkey
1 can chicken broth
2 cans water
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 bag egg noodles

Saute the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the broth, water and turkey and throw in a couple of bay leaves. I stopped here because The Inmates were at the afternoon symphony, and just let it set. When they got home, I brought the soup to a boil and added the egg noodles...the curly kind because that's what kids like. Cooked until done, salt and pepper to taste, then pulled the hot cornbread out of the oven. These kids luuuhve their mama.

And thank the Lord that was the LAST of the turkey!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Turkey Stuff

The other day I was noticing that there are some things I eat that...probably aren't mainstream. I'm not sure where the cut-off is between family and region...I know other people eat this way, too, but is it because we live in the same area or because we're related? Hard to call.

Campbells Tomato Soup and mayonnaise sandwiches. I eat until I'm sick. One slice bread, slathered with Kraft mayo and folded over. Lots of cold milk.

Cottage cheese with mayonnaise stirred in. (There's a fat thing going on here, I think.) And that's not lowfat cottage cheese.

My sister, my dad and my grandparents like/d glasses of buttermilk stirred with crumbled cornbread. I have been trying to like buttermilk for 50 years and it hasn't kicked in yet and...that doesn't make sense. But I don't like it.

But one of my five favorite things on the planet involves leftover Thanksgiving turkey. This just HORRIFIES The Big Boy, who doesn't eat food that touches, but you better believe ONE TIME A YEAR, we're gonna dig in.

Leftover Turkey Hash (a glorified name)

Chopped turkey
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
Turkey broth
White roux
2 stalks celery
1 medium onion
Sage to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Mashed potatoes

Saute celery and onion in butter until translucent. Meanwhile, in a small pan mix butter and flour and stir for 2-3 minutes...don't let it brown. Mix roux, vegetables, chopped turkey, eggs and 2 cups broth and stir until smooth. Let simmer to thicken. Add sage and salt & pepper to taste. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Ideally, you have leftover homemade yeast rolls, leftover cranberry sauce and leftover green bean casserole. You don't have to eat the green bean casserole (especially since you didn't eat it Thanksgiving), but it looks good on the plate;)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lebanese Chicken

So here's a perfect example of starting out with a perfectly good recipe, reading it through a few times and thinking, "Eh. I can do better than that."

This weekend I finally got around to trying a recipe I ripped out of the December 2005 Goumet magazine...except that I didn't really "try" it - I improvised, as usual.

The result was DE-LISH. Hubster practically licked his plate. Since clove is my favorite flavor (sorry, ginger) I was ALL about this dish.

So if you like spice and are an adventurous cook, here's the list of ingredients and rough instructions:

2 lbs boneless chicken thighs (approximately 8)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp clove
8 bay leaves
Olive oil
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken evenly with cinnamon, allspice, cumin, clove, salt and pepper. Add a bay leaf to the top of each thigh.

Halve onions and slice cross-wise, or French. (Just watch your tongue around the sharp blade). Mince garlic.

Add oil to a hot (med-high heat) skillet large enough to hold chicken comfortably.

When oil is hot, add onions. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until onions are nearly translucent.

Scoot (I learned that term at Le Cordon Bleu) the onions and garlic to the outside of the pan. Add chicken - leaf side down - to the center of the pan. Cover with onions. Lower heat to medium, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn chicken and cook, uncovered, for another 3-5 minutes. Serve over rice.

2 cups basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1 tsp kosher salt

Rinse rice. Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cook 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove stick, leaves and cloves. This rice is AMAZING.

I served the chicken and rice with fresh spinach dressed with extra virgin olive oil (there is no way in HELL you will catch me saying XVOO - sorry) and kosher salt.

Super easy, super fast, super delish.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Not Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread Eggs Pablo

What a stretch for a name. Supposed to be a play on Eggs Benedict but I may have pushed it a bit!

I think there is a Tex-Mex gene, and everyone in this institution has it. We could easily eat Mexican five nights a week, and never get tired of it.

There were five or six pieces of the cornbread (preceding post) left. I split and toasted them, topped each with a poached egg, melted queso from a jar and salsa. Sprinkled fresh cilantro about the plate and we INHALED them.

In fact, it was so good I made another batch of the cornbread for us to have breakfast this long weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread

City Girl and I have antique dealer friends who are also fun cooks. They LOVE putting out a spread, and are very good at it. A while back they sent me a recipe from a client, for Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread. A couple of times after that they made reference to the dish; having used it for a couple of dinners and things. So yesterday, when I had to cook for The Other Family's Thanksgiving, this seemed like a good idea.

Except, I don't like sausage and this recipe had a pound of sausage in it. I like the IDEA of sausage, and I like most KINDS of sausage, but I don't like country sausage. No idea why...this isn't in my genes...but I don't like country sausage. So off we went.

I knew when I started that I was going to substitute chorizo (I like chorizo), but the rest of the recipe was going to stand. Except then, I remembered that there is a black-eyed pea cornbread recipe in the Neiman Marcus cookbook and when I pulled it out...there were some improvements that could be made. Starting with substituting creamed corn for cream cheese.

And THEN...when I got to Aldi on the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving...they didn't have black-eyed peas. But they DID have black beans and...that's 50% of the equation so that's what I went with. A wing and a prayer. And this was SOOO good that this morning, I made breakfast out of the leftovers. That's another post.

Chorizo & Black Bean Cornbread
12 ounces chorizo sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix (around here, that's White Lily)
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated cheese
1 small can creamed corn (I threw away the can, but I think it's 8 ozs. Or so.)
Canned jalapenos, to taste, I used about 1/2 cup and it was warm
1 14 oz can black beans, rinsed

Brown the sausage and onion in a skillet, breaking the sausage up into a fine crumble. Drain well; I put it into a metal strainer and rested it on four layers of paper towels. Just get the grease out.

Measure the cornmeal mix into a large bowl. Add the grated cheese, creamed corn, sausage & onion, and black beans. Don't stir. Put the jalapenos, eggs, oil and buttermilk in a blender and process until the jalapenos are finely chopped. Add to cornmeal mixture and fold with a rubber spatula.

Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mushroom Pate

When we lived in Decatur, Betty Sims had opened Johnston Street Cafe and it was a wonderful place to go. They served this, and 20 years later it's still one of my favorites. She served it on curly red lettuce with Bremner wafers.

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Sherry to taste

Soften the gelatin in the cold water in a small glass cup for five minutes. Place the small cup in a larger cup half filled with boiling water, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Saute the mushrooms in the butter in a skillet; drain well. Combine the mushrooms, gelatin, cream cheese, sherry and garlic salt in a food processor. Process until smooth; chill thoroughly.

(I added the sherry, and it might be smart to let the sherry be part of the 1/4 cup water...so that you can add to taste.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Roux-less Gumbo

And while I would love to say this is my idea...it's not. The original recipe came from the Neiman Marcus cookbook and...it's a keeper. Not cheap, but you can have a LOVELY dinner around this, with a salad, good bread and a special dessert.

Seafood Gumbo

28 ozs crushed tomatoes
8 strips bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
14 ozs stewed tomatoes
8 ozs clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 T lemon juice
1 T fresh basil or 1 t dried
1 T cayenne
Bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 T Worcestershire
1 t salt
1/2 pound cut okra (fresh or frozen)
1 pint oysters, rinsed and cut in half
1 lb scallops, cut in half if sea scallops
3/4 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 lb crabmeat
10 ozs whole baby clams
1 T file

Thaw frozen ingredients. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove from the pot and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in bacon fat over medium heat until golden. Add green pepper, tomatoes, clam juice, wine, lemon juice, basil, cayenne, bay leaves, parsley, Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add reserved bacon, okra, oysters, scallops, shrimp, crabmeat and clams. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in file. Cover and let stand for 10 mintues. Remove bay leaves. Serve hot over rice, with French bread.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fall Weather Soup

Supper is almost ready. And it's 9:18 in the morning.

Last night because the leaves are beautiful, and since this is Alabama we're running the air conditioning in the daytime and the heat at night, we had turnip greens with smoked sausages, black-eyed peas and baked sweet potatoes. And when I got up this morning? I stole an inspiration from Southern Living. I haven't SEEN the inspiration, but it involves soup and my sister-in-law told me about it. (Which is the point at which I realized that this months SL? Is in a pile somewhere.)

The Soup

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
2 cups turnip greens
12 oz smoked sausage
28 oz crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 pkg frozen seasoning blend (onions, peppers, celery)
1/2 pound smoked & shredded Boston Butt

I didn't even get cute...just dumped it all in the pot when I got up this morning, left it on low while I took the kids to school, and came home to heaven. I had a bowl for breakfast. Tonight? We'll have hot soup, crusty artisan bread and red wine.

I just love it when that happens.

I just threw in a can of whole kernel corn. Because.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just a reminder

There haven't been any recipes lately because...WE'RE NOT COOKING. Between the winter-time crud and too many hours at work and holidays and elections...who has time?

But when I looked back over the week I realized...y'all need to make sure you have the baked ham and cheese squares, the ones with the crescent rolls, in your repertoire. For real. Too, too easy and too, too good. We throw them together for dinner once a week...leftovers go great in lunchboxes. (Did you know lunch at the private school is THREE DOLLARS AND SIXTY CENTS? By the time you buy drink and ice cream? It's only $1.25 at the public school but it's inedible.)

The other dependable, and this one we do three to four times a week, is the artisan bread. I just keep it going, in an inverted cake carrier, in the refrigerator. Haven't washed the carrier yet...you just keep mixing in the same container and the little yeasties get better and better. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Well worth the price of the book, but you DO need a baking stone.

Maybe after this holiday weekend, we'll get back on schedule.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Better Baked Chicken

OMG, y'all, I made the best baked chicken last night!

Okay, so it wasn't exactly Coq au Vin and baked chicken is as common in the South as katydids and kudzu.

But really GOOD baked chicken is rare as hen's teeth.

Every mother-in-law has some God-awful recipe to pass onto unsuspecting brides.

Ignore them! Follow this recipe, fix it every-other Sunday (alternating with ham, of course) and your husband will love you forever.

That's a money-back guarantee.

Not-Your-Mother-in-Law's Baked Chicken
1 whole chicken, cut into either 8 or 16 pieces
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, preferably White Lily
2 tsps kosher salt
2 tsps dried thyme
1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika + additional for color
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Put butter in roasting pan. Place in oven and preheat to 425. Watch butter to make sure it doesn't burn.

Wash chicken and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Dredge damp chicken in flour mixture, shake off excess, place on a cooling rack, skin side up. Do this to all the chicken.

Lightly sprinkle tops of chicken pieces on rack with paprika for additional color and flavor.

When butter is melted, place chicken skin-side DOWN in butter. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes. turn chicken over and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the biggest piece reaches an internal temp of 160.

Remove pan from oven and transfer beautiful, golden chicken to clean wire rack.

Pan juices
1/4 cup+ All-purpose flour
1-2 cups Chicken stock

Place pan across two medium-heat eyes on stovetop. Bring pan drippings to a boil, scraping up bits with a spatula. Add 1/4 cup flour to pan and whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in stock until desired gravy consistency is achieved. (I like mine thick so I use a little more flour).

Bask in accolades of appreciative family and/or guests.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coffee Blond Brownies

My friend, Mary, has lovely taste and is always surprising me with the nicest gifts (she and City Girl have this in common). A LONG time ago she gave me The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook, and the original for this recipe came from that. These are always good for a change of pace when you're taking something somewhere.

Coffee Blond Brownies

1 pound brown sugar
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder, or strong instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon hot water
3 eggs
2 tablespoons Madagascar vanilla
2 cups unbleached AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts; stir the coffee into the hot water and stir into the butter. Let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease an 11x8 baking dish. Beat the eggs and vanilla into the cooled butter mixture with a hand mixer. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir into the butter mixture with a spatula. Stir in the pecans and chocolate.

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned...don't overbake, they're brownies and they won't look real done when they are.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bread Salad/Panzanella

I knew The Residents weren't going to go for this and IN SPITE of the fact that it was very good and I ate a lot of it, they didn't. Go for it OR eat a lot of it. In all fairness, I think it's a cultural thing. Wet bread. We be callin' it dressing, I do believe.

But I'll make it again, if just for me. The tomatoes here are on their last legs...we're hoarding them now, and real tomatoes are a necessity here. As is fresh basil.

I had half a loaf of the artisanal bread we're so in love with. I had four medium sized tomatoes. I had a branch of fresh basil, and a medium red onion.

About 30 years ago my grandmother planted elephant garlic, and I have some of it growing in the backyard. When I dug it up this year, I took several cloves, roasted them sweet, and then pureed them with olive oil and put it in the refrigerator. So last night I took a couple tablespoons of the garlic puree, put it in the bottom of a baking pan with a couple of swirls of additional olive oil and heated it up in a 350 degree oven. Cubed the leftover artisanal bread, tossed it in the garlic puree, and then roasted the cubes until they were nice and brown. That was to keep them from getting soggy and it did.

I have a wonderful old McCoy bowl...a dark maroonish color with scallops up the side. Deep. I put in the toasted and cooled bread, the cut-up tomatoes, the finely diced onion and the basil...chiffonaded (?). Poured in about 1/4 cup Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing, a pinch or two of kosher salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Tossed it and let it stand for about five minutes.

THE BREAD WASN'T SOGGY, it was lovely crisp with the juices soaked into it, but The Not Nice Kid wasn't having any of it and when she told The Big Boy that it was wet bread, he didn't even taste it. The Nice Kid ate some straight out of the bowl, but she wasn't crazy about the concept.

And that's the problem...it wasn't the food, it was the idea. My bad. I TRIED to explain that this was about a 200-year-old recipe so obviously SOMETHING about it must be right, but they weren't having it. Wet bread.

But that's okay. They tried it, liked it, chose not to eat it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and like I said, it will be back!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The other baked sandwich square recipe

Okay, I was wrong. Bound to happen sooner or later. This recipe does NOT use frozen dough, it uses the "Sister Schubert" type rolls. Which you can get in 13x9 pans from Sysco. Had it for a family get-together last year and it is REALLY good. Really good.

B's Family's Baked Sandwich Rolls

(Except that they got the recipe out of the church cookbook. These instructions are verbatim from his aunt, so interpret.)

Ham and cheese Krystals (don't know where that name came from)
1/2 pound butter
3T. poppy seed
3T. prepared mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 small onion chopped very fine

Mix spread ingredients together. Beat well. Slice rolls in half. Spread mix on top and bottom layers. Layer ham and cheeses. Bake 30 min at 400 degrees. Makes three pans. Freezes well. That temperature sounds a little hot to me for that extended amount of time.

3 packages party rolls (Paige used Sister Schubert in large aluminum pan from a wholesale grocer--I have not seen in regular grocery) I have used the little rolls in aluminum pans in the bread dept. They are not much larger than your thumb. Pepperidge Farm has some that are more round.
1 pound thinly sliced deli ham
6 oz. swiss cheese

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baked Sandwich Squares

Last year (at one of the two times a YEAR my husband's family gets together) one of his cousins brought a dish with ham and cheese layered with yeast rolls, but the trick was that it used yeast dough from Sysco. I meant to get the recipe, forgot, and then had this recipe Sunday at homecoming at church and it is lovely. Not as good as the yeast roll thing (and I've emailed for the recipe and will share if I get it) but much more do-able...you don't have to track down a caterer friend or restaurant friend to get the dough. We ate a third of this before the nice people got out of church. That'll teach 'em.

Baked Ham & Cheese Squares

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9 baking dish.

2 8-oz cans crescent rolls
1/2 pound sliced salami
1/2 pound sliced swiss or provolone cheese
1/2 pound sliced boiled ham
7 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese

Unroll one can crescent roll dough into the bottom of the dish, pinching together to form a solid crust. Beat SIX eggs and add the parmesan cheese.

Layer the salami, cheese, egg and cheese mixture, and ham...in that order. Top with the remaining crescent roll dough, pinching to form a solid crust.

Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top. Cook for 30 minutes covered with foil, then 30 more minutes uncovered. If you use a glass dish you may need to cut down the cooking time...or cook the full time at 325.

Obviously, you can substitute any luncheon meats, and I've been looking at this since Sunday thinking: Roast beef and blue cheese. Since 1/2 pound blue cheese would be awfully strong for the masses, that would probably work using Swiss AND blue cheese. I'll let you know.

(P.S....I made these this weekend for the soccer/birthday party/volunteering/football/last pool party/shrimp boil marathon that was going on and they were SPECTACULAR. Hit of the party. I did add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the egg mixture.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

Fifty percent of the inmates loved this...that would be The Nice Kid and me. The other two don't eat food if it touches, so that pretty much rules out THIS. Their loss...this was so good the two of us ate it three times yesterday.

Shepherd's Pie

1-1/2 pounds cooked beef
1 package small carrots, cut in half long-ways
1 large white onion
1 can beef broth
8 russet potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter
1 package four-cheese mix

Use the beef you prefer...TNK likes hamburger. For this I used leftover sirloin tip roast, or stew meat would be good. Cook the meat until well-done and tender...season to taste. Set aside.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and add the diced onion and carrots. Cover and cook until tender. Add the cooked beef and the beef broth and heat to a simmer. Stir in a slurry of two tablespoons cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water and heat through. Cover and set aside.

Wash potatoes well. Cut unpeeled potatoes into eighths, cover with cold water and cook until tender. Drain and return to pan with the stick of butter. Cover and let the butter melt; then add buttermilk and cheese and mash with a spoon until chunky and blended.

On a large ovenproof platter or in a 13x9 baking dish, spread the potatoes over the bottom, pushing the sides up a little higher to make a potato "bowl." Spoon the hot beef into the center of the potatoes, sprinkle with extra cheddar cheese if you like, and heat for 10 minutes in a 325 oven.

This was groaning good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chocolate cake in a cup

This is so lame. SO very lame...but it has been the hit of the weekend (and in all fairness? It IS good.)

My mom sent this; I'm guessing some recipe site sent it to her. The point was that maybe the kids would have fun with it, so this afternoon when The Nice Kid checked her email and found it, she decided it was too cool not to try. And it WORKED. It made a mess...it runs over in the microwave and we had to leave the cup in the sink to soak but for the effort involved? This is great. And the Wow! factor is cool.

Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

1 Coffee Mug, lightly sprayed with cooking oil
4 tablespoons flour (that's plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
Small splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. (The mug TNK used is slightly oversized, but nothing special.) Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips if using (TNK couldn't find any so we didn't use them) and vanilla, and mix again. (If you have it, Madagascar vanilla would STAR here.) Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (we have a small microwave and it took six minutes.) The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but that's okay. Allow to cool a little and tip out onto a plate if desired; we ate it out of the cup with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the first bite space.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chicken and Dressing...sort of

It's homecoming at church Sunday and since I don't GO to church (my mom takes my kids and I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT since I spent a large portion of my younger life in that church and it wasn't good) I'm sort of obligated to go to homecoming. Which means taking a LOT of food because...there's that thing about my kids. And how much they eat.

There used to be a tearoom in the town we lived in 20 years ago, and the house specialty was Poulet de Normandy. Now, I'm guessing if you had ASKED, they'd have told you Normandy was a big car manufactured by Ford, but the point is this worked. Really well with a cranberry salad and homemade yeast rolls. (And something else...but I'm blank.) So I think I'll make a grocery run tomorrow and bake up a dish of this. And then we can eat it all ourselves when we get to the dinner.

Poulet de Normandy

1 16 oz package stuffing mix...your preference, we use cornbread
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (or hot water with bouillon)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Grated cheddar cheese

Combine the stuffing mix, butter and broth and set aside. Mix the onions, celery and mayonnaise well, then add it to the stuffing mix and mix well. Spread half the stuffing in a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle with the chopped chicken, then layer with the remaining stuffing mix. Beat the eggs in the milk and pour over the casserole; refrigerate overnight. The next day, take the casserole out of the refrigerator at least two hours before cooking. Spread the top with the mushroom soup. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes; sprinkle with the cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blue Cheese Slaw

Last night I had a roast in the oven, seasoned with Spicy Spaghetti Seasoning and smoked paprika. We had white beans, because I MEANT to make baked beans but I've been hauling mulch and was too tired to grill the ribs that the beans were supposed to go with.

So...beans and roast. That works. But the only fresh green thing in the refrigerator was a head of cabbage, so we had slaw. And it was SO good that we're having it again tonight. With roast beef sandwiches.

Blue Cheese Slaw
1/2 head cabbage
2 carrots (or a handful of small ones)
1 red onion
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 to 3/4 cup blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the cabbage, onion and carrots the way you do it...I use the slicer blade on my food processor. My mother puts it in a blender with water and then drains it. My nephew hand chops everything. Whisk mayo, mustards, vinegar and celery seed. Toss the cabbage and carrots with the dressing and blue cheese. Chill for an hour or so, to let the flavors make friends.

(A little aside here. I had a piece of the Point Reyes blue cheese I got for Christmas, frozen. I used it and while the taste was OUTSTANDING, if you're not a blue cheese person it might be too strong. So do the blue cheese to taste, depending on the quality of cheese you have.)

This was SO good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seriously Good Burgers

In the early 90's, when I was working on that graduate degree I don't have, the health craze of the moment was low-fat. Turns out low fat doesn't work for me, but I didn't know that at the time and since I was spending five or six hours a day in the physical education department, controlling my diet was no problem. I cut lower and lower until I was eating less than 10 grams of fat a day. I was hungry ALL the time, and losing muscle for no reason.

Later on, I realized that my particular body likes low carb. Fat and protein are my friends. At some point in time I hope to convince my MOUTH that IT likes low carb because right now? I'll kill a man over a loaf of good bread. Or pasta.

But a few things stayed around because they worked, and one of them is the hamburgers we eat. Most people have no idea what's in them...just because they taste just like hamburgers, texture and all. But they are a lot better for you.

Mushroom Burgers
1-1/2 pounds hamburger meat (chuck, sirloin, ground round: your choice)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1/4 Worcestershire (or Dale's if you're from around here)

Chop the garlic into 8-10 pieces. Put the rinsed mushrooms and the garlic in a food processor and process until it's finely chopped...scraping down the sides as necessary. Add about 1/4 cup hamburger meat and process thoroughly. Add the mushroom mixture to the remaining hamburger in a large bowl and use your hands to mix in the Worcestershire. Shape into patties (you DO know to put an indention in the center of the patty so it won't puff up, don't you?) and sprinkle with smoked paprika or R.L. Schreiber's Mesquite Seasoning. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then grill to taste.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hush puppies

The Big Boy kept insisting that the dealer who sent the fish left the skin on the portions to be grilled, and took it off the portions to be fried. I suggested that YOU DON'T FRY red snapper, but he was positive. So last night we took the last two small filets and fried them.

It was awful. TBB ate his, but I took one bite and quit. IT WAS FISHY. Waaay too fishy for me, although in fairness it's highly possible that my redneck self only eats fried catfish. (Redneck has nothing to do with it...that fish didn't taste good.)

What DID taste good were the hushpuppies. So good, in fact, that I didn't mind that hushpuppies were all I had for supper.

Really Good Hushpuppies
1-1/2 cups White Lily cornmeal mix
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup corn...I used leftover creamed, because that's what I had
1 large or 2 small peppers...I used banana because that's what was on the bush
2 eggs
Cayenne to taste
Frying oil

Mix everything together, adding the buttermilk to the desired consistency. I used about 3/4 cup...you want it thick enough to stay on the spoon when you scoop it up.

Heat frying oil to 350 degrees, and keep an eye on it. Too hot, the hushpuppies are raw inside; not hot enough and they're greasy. Using a teaspoon, scoop up a portion of batter. CAREFULLY lower that spoon to the surface of the oil and push the hushpuppy off with another spoon. If you drop the hushpuppy into the oil it will scatter off into smaller pieces that will burn. You want to slide the batter into the oil so it firms up immediately. The hushpuppies will float around, happily cooking in the oil and then on their own...they'll flip over. Cook them another couple of minutes, then scoop out onto a platter lined with a brown paper bag topped with paper towels. Serve with ketchup.

You won't even miss the fish.

(A note: This is best done outside, and in the South everyone has a fish cooker. That's a metal stand with four legs and a burner, that runs off a propane tank. The pan you cook in has a perforated liner, so that you just lift it out of the oil. Keeps the house from smelling like old oil the next day.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fresh Red Snapper

We told the kids this wasn't any good, and ate the entire thing ourselves. Luckily for them, there were smoked ribs left over from last night.

The Big Boy was in the Gulf last week, THANK YOU LORD. On business, but because he's such a salesman a lot of his work involves sports and food, and this dealer is a serious deep sea fisherman. So they got in a boat and went 50 miles out and fished all day. Came in, cleaned the fish, packed it on ice and brought it home to me the next day.

It doesn't get any better than this.

I opened the package thinking there was half a fish in there, but there was a half and three filets so the filets will show up tomorrow tonight. But tonight? Oh, y'all. We really ate it all.

Red Snapper with Salsa
1 whole red snapper filet
Cavender's All-Purpose Greek Seasoning
Smoked paprika
2-3 fresh tomatoes
1 small onion (I used a white, and it wasn't too strong)
1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado
1 jalapeno, seeded or not your preference
2 limes

A couple of hours before dinner, season the filet with the Cavender's and paprika, put in a ziplock bag and squeeze out the air and put it back in the refrigerator. When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with olive oil, place the fish in the dish :) and spray with olive oil. Bake to desired degree of doneness: I set the timer for 15 minutes, did another five and then another five and it was PERFECT.

I think I've mentioned that my dad sleeps half the day and is up all night, and we get strange gifts from late night infomercials. One of my things was one of those boxes that dices things with a push and it is AWESOME. Especially for salsas. It gets a lot more use than that AbLounger.

Dice the tomatoes, the onion, the olives (I just put them on the grid and push), the avocado and the jalapeno, and combine in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro, and the juice of one lime. Stir well and leave to get friendly. Thinking about it, I didn't add salt but it didn't need it. Which is strange.

To serve, squeeze the juice of the other lime over the fish. Plate with the salsa spooned over the fish.

It says something, not a good thing, that the Aldi store here has some of the more exotic items to be found in this neck of the woods. And one of the lovely things it carries is bags of small frozen green beans. I melted three tablespoons butter and added 1/4 cup pecan meal and one diced elephant garlic. Browned it a little. Cooked the green beans six minutes in boiling water, drained them and then tossed them in the skillet with the nuts and garlic. Sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

We ate all of them, too.

I wish I had taken a picture. The salsa was lovely.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fried okra

Supper was ready the other night. Shrimp and corn bisque. A loaf of the artisan bread that WE ARE IN LOVE WITH. Salad fixins' fixed. And then the lady across the street called, to ask if we wanted any fresh okra and of course, we did. I had in my mind...dinner the next night.

Y'all, that okra was BEAUTIFUL. And it sat on the counter and just SANG to me until finally...let's do okra. Now, The Big Boy and I grew up with our grandmother's okra and it's still our favorite...you slice the okra into a bowl, pour some milk or buttermilk over it, sprinkle it with flour and dump the whole mass into hot bacon grease and cook it down. When it's done, it's...homogenous. Crispy, one hair short of burnt, the stuff dreams are made of.

But in this day and time, when frying is a special-occasion event, my kids are accustomed to the okra you get in lunchrooms and Cracker Barrel...the individually fried okras. So that's what I did. Appetizer style, and we ate the ENTIRE BATCH before we ever sat down to dinner.

Oooh. This brings us to another thing. I have some buddies who are in Baltimore, working on a nuclear plant. And they come home for the weekend, get ready to go back and have these "altercations" at the airport trying to take back loaf bologna and White Lily cornmeal. Which you can't get up there. And since I don't think you can cook okra without White Lily, you may have to fake it. (Although White Lily just shut down its Tennessee plant and moved to some godforsaken Yankee town like...Cleveland or something.)

Fried Okra
White Lily cornmeal mix
Bacon grease plus vegetable oil

Wash and dry the okra. Slice it into a large bowl, discarding the tops and ends. Pour enough buttermilk or milk over to coat each slice, and let sit for a little while. (A little while would be however long it takes to get the rest of supper started.) If you're cooking it appetizer-style, drain the okra in a colander. Take a gallon ziplock bag and put about a cup of White Lily in the bottom. Add the drained okra, pour another cup of White Lily on top, seal the bag and shake until each slice is coated. Pour the okra out onto a baking sheet, in a single layer.

Using (preferably) a large black cast iron Dutch oven, pour in bacon grease and vegetable oil to about two inches. Heat to 350 degrees, and then fry the okra in batches. When it's done, scoop it out onto a platter lined with paper towels and SALT IT IMMEDIATLY. For appetizers, we use cayenne, or smoked salt, or Tony Chacheres.

If you're frying the old-fashioned way...after you add the buttermilk, just sprinkle the White Lily into the bowl and fold to combine. Then fry, stirring occasionally.

If you can't get White Lily, you can mix white cornmeal and white flour, 2 cornmeals to one flour.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black bean burritos

Supper last night WORKED. Very well. When I bought tomato plants this year, I bought some just because I didn't know what they were. Turns out, it was just a glorified roma and not too interesting. So last night I made salsa. (To go with the margaritas left from Saturday night but that's another post.) And since we were having salsa we obviously needed Mexican so...here we are.

Black Bean Burritos
Tortillas (I do half corn and half flour to please the masses)
1 large can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 package four cheese Mexican blend
1 large can enchilada sauce (red or green)
1/2 cup sour cream

Prepare the tortillas...heat a griddle over low heat and lay each tortilla on the griddle. Sixty seconds first side, 30 seconds other side. Put each one in a covered casserole/tortilla holder as you finish.

In a saucepan, combine the black beans, rice and 1/3 of the can of sauce. Heat just until warm, remove from the heat and fold in the cheese and cilantro. Spoon a line of bean mixture down the center of each tortilla, roll up and place in a casserole dish. Put in a 325 degree oven for ten minutes...just to heat through.

While the burritos warm, put the remaining sauce in a small saucepan and heat just to simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Ladle sauce over burritos as you serve them, with extra sour cream on the side.

In hindsight, a small can of corn kernels would have been a healthy addition.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do you devil?

Eggs, that is? Everyone in this house LOVES deviled eggs; and every time I make them I wonder why I don't do it more often. It's not much trouble and it's AMAZING at the possibilities...my favorite spice company in Fort Worth even sells a deviled egg cookbook. Maybe I should teach the kids how to do it!

Basic Deviled Eggs
One dozen eggs
Dill pickle juice

Put the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and pour in about 1/2 cup white vinegar (it helps keep the eggs from cracking.) Set on a cold stove eye and turn the heat to high. Bring the eggs to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 14 minutes. Remove from the hot water and put into a bowl of cool water, until room temperature.

Peel the eggs. Cut each egg in half longways, put the yolks into a bowl and arrange the empty whites on your egg plate. To the yolks add about one tablespoon mayonnaise, one teaspoon mustard, and the pickle juice a little at a time, mashing with a fork until you have a creamy consistency. Spoon back into the whites and sprinkle with paprika.

The possibilities are endless. Last week we added crumbled bacon, used smoked paprika and topped each egg half with a jalapeno slice. Chopped chives work. Most country people use sweet pickle relish but we don't like a lot of sweet in our regular food, so we stick with the dill pickle juice.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fresh Tomato Salsa

My friend's sister, Mz Pam, used to make us salsa in the summer. She'd make two batches...one with jalapeno and one without and you'd start with your favorite and then finish up the other one. It is, to this day, one of the great pleasures in life.

I started with her recipe, then when we moved to Texas I learned a LOT. And one of those things was that...if it's fresh? It's gooood.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
12 ripe tomatoes
6 large, firm tomatillos
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Peppers...I try to use three different kinds with each batch, one of them jalapeno...to taste
Fresh garlic, to taste
1 large onion
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mz Pam used to peel the tomatoes and blanch the tomatillos but in Texas they said...Don't bother. They were right. But because you're not peeling things, they have to be clean. I actually take a large Dutch oven or clean dishpan, fill it with hot water and liquid dish detergent, and wash my vegetables. Just drop them in the water, swish them around and move them to a basin of cold water. Lay out on towels to drain. I even do the cilantro this way...hold the stems, swish the leaves around in the water for 2-3 seconds and then rinse it under cold running water. (This would be because pesticides are petroleum based and if you're going to get ANY of the poisonous stuff off your produce, grease-cutting dish detergent will help.)

The trick here is to turn some of this stuff to mush while keeping most of it chunky. Take one of your tomatoes, cut it into quarters and drop it in the food processor. Peel and smash your garlic...Mz Pam used a clove, we use the whole head...then quarter it and drop it into the processor. Peel and wash your tomatillas and the onion, quarter them and add them to the processor. This part you want well-processed...process it, scrape down the sides, then process it some more. Empty it into a large bowl.

In the processor, quarter another tomato and then add your peppers. Usually, if you do one bell pepper, a couple of banana peppers and jalapeno to taste, it works out well. Seed if you like, leave 'em in if you're brave. Quarter the peppers and process this until chopped (but with character.) Scrape into the big bowl.

Quarter another tomato into the bowl, add the cilantro and pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped, scraping once. Pour this into the big bowl.

Quarter the rest of the tomatoes and coarsely chop; pour into the big bowl. (Adding one tomato to each processor container gives just enough moisture to make sure everything chops evenly.) Mix everything, add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. It seems to me that no matter how it tastes when I first season it, I end up adding more salt later so taste it again before you serve it.

Sometimes we char the peppers on the grill...if you have time you can char half the tomatoes and get a lovely smoky taste. Fresh roasted corn kernels, cut off the cob, are a neat addition, too. Serve this with good tortilla chips and really cold beer. And a lot of fun people.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

I thought everyone made this every year...but every time I take it somewhere people fall in love. So, here. Make this. When it's time.

Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Fresh Basil
4 large tomatoes, out of your yard or from the farmer's market
Fresh mozzarella balls
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the tomatoes, generous slices but not TOO thick. Slice the fresh mozzarella balls, thinly. On a platter, alternate the tomatoes and mozzarella in a circle around the platter. Julienne the basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes and cheese, then drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you're doing this for guests, fill the center of the circle with basil sprigs.

At home, when I don't have four big perfect tomatoes, we cut the tomatoes and cheese into chunks, mix everything in a bowl and serve it over lettuces. The balsamic vinegar discolors the cheese so while it's not the best idea for parties, at our table it's a favorite.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smoked Chicken Pasta

Truthfully, I did not stage this picture...I'm not that good. I just turned around and there it all was and...life looks good.
When we have the big Branch Parties we fire up the big grill...a major undertaking. It takes four of those big bags of charcoal, that you get at Sam's, just to get going. More than one case of chickens and you're looking at eight to twelve bags of charcoal, plus the hickory wood that has to be cut. And split.
The point is...that meat comes off the grill and it's not smoked, it's SMOKED. It literally screams "I'm smoky! I'm smoky!" And every little tidbit that doesn't get eaten comes home, to show up later as the guest of honor in another dish of something.
Supper this night was the artisanal bread (I am telling you...this stuff ROCKS), mesclun salad from the garden and an apple torte. The pasta was the traditional fettucine recipe, with benefits.
Smoked Chicken Pasta
1 stick butter
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
Freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded smoked chicken
1/3 cup basil, finely chiffonaded (?)
12 ounces pasta
Melt the butter, add the cream and let sit over low heat until warm. Add the cheese in four spaced-out batches, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. (I use a whisk.) Stir in freshly ground nutmeg, just to scent the sauce. Cook the pasta al dente. (I cook my pasta in a pasta pot, which has a liner. If you lift the cooked pasta out of the water and pour it into the cream sauce before it completely drains, the pasta water will keep the sauce from thickening too quickly. You could also just spoon pasta water into the sauce as needed.) Add the chicken and basil and fold to combine. Serve with freshly grated black pepper, and grated cheese for sprinkling.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jalapeno cheese bites

Not for the faint of heart or those who worry about their cholesterol, but these cheese squares have been the hit of branch parties for the past three years. This year, I remembered to get the recipe.

Jalapeno Cheese Squares
1 jar Trappey's jalapenos, drained and chopped (the coarser the chop, the hotter the pie)
1 dozen eggs, beaten
2 pounds cheddar cheese, grated (Chef's comment: This looks like a ton of cheese 'cause IT IS! The is recipe is not for 98 lb. weaklings or those with a cholesterol problem.)

Layer cheese and jalapenos in a 13x9 inch baking dish. Pour eggs evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees. Chef says the recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, but it usually takes 30 to 40 minutes for it to set and get slightly brown.

These go like hot cakes...when the Chef handed the platter to my sister-in-law, SIL took two for herself before she put it on the table!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

That artisan bread thing...

Remember I said I had brought home a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Oh, people. This is SOOOO good. And I'm not going to share the recipe because that's...stealing. Just wrong. And even if I did (share the recipe) I couldn't began to share all the tips and recipes so you're just going to have to take my word for it...go buy this book.

You make the dough once a week. It sits in the refrigerator and when you want to make bread, you get a chunk of dough, let it rise for 40 minutes and have bread. REALLY, really good bread....like bread that you can't make too far ahead of time or there won't be any for supper. (We've done that twice.)

So get thee to a book store. I promise, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Red Onion and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

When my mother was eight years old, her mother died a week after giving birth to her second child. They were in Detroit for the "war effort," so my grandfather loaded up my mother on a train and brought her back to Tennessee, to his in-law's. The newborn stayed in the hospital for three months, and as soon as she was old enough he brought her to Mama's house, too. (Mama was 65 years old when she took in the eight-year-old and the newborn.) At one point, during the war, there were 17 people living in that house. It was a two-story Sears and Roebuck house and they were financially successful merchants but hey...17 people? Rationing? Oooh.

They told the story for years about how Mama liked chicken neck. On Sunday, when she fried chicken, everyone had a favorite piece and Mama's was the neck. It was only years later, when everyone was grown that they realized...Mama liked the neck because by the time she got to eat, it was the only piece left.

I tell that story to tell this story. (That's a direct quote from Ron White and if you didn't know that, well, you ort to.)

We had three tomatoes from the garden yesterday. Now, these are cheater tomatoes because the blooms were on the plants when we bought them and that's...just not right. You have to bloom the blooms yourself. But regardless, the taste of these (after the winter tomato famine) is divine. So here we sit...we have tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. We have home-made bread. This is REALLY looking good except that I birthed these babies and I know...three small tomatoes isn't even going to scratch the surface, so there better be a back-up plan. These kids are going to eat ALL of everything I make with the tomatoes so I'm going to have to have an alternative dish if I hope to get even a single bite. Hopefully, a dish that will let me have a bite of the (chicken breast) fresh tomato.

The back-up plan was SO good that it shared center stage and everyone was fed and happy. I didn't have to do without my share of the fresh tomato and the kids were ecstatic about some onions. Go figure.

Sweet Onion Bruschetta
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Roasted garlic
Good blue cheese
I heated a cast iron griddle, poured in some olive oil and let it get hot. I added the sliced onions (I love me a mandelione) and turned the heat down. While I was fooling with the other stuff, I let the onions wilt, stirring them occasionally. After a while I poured in about two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, sprinkled some kosher salt and black pepper and stirred. I left the onions on low heat and stirred them every now and then.
I sliced the bread I had about one-half inch thick, smeared it with roasted garlic and then brushed it with olive oil. Toasted it just until it was no longer soft and then topped it with the onions. I sprinkled the onions with blue cheese (this was the last of the Point Reyes I got for Christmas...I had frozen the last handful) and toasted the bruschetta to soften the cheese. When we got to the table I realized...I'd been a little stingy with the cheese so we added more and popped them under the broiler again.

Oh, Lordy. I should do this more often. Summer time and the livin' is easy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fresh Berry Cobbler

Southern Living published a recipe for an easy blackberry cobbler in the July issue, which came last week. We have ACRES of blackberry bushes, which is what happens when you have a farm and you don't...farm. Every year, one weekend day, we pack up and go pick blackberries. Picking real blackberries off wild bushes is NASTY...everything bad you ever read about it is true. There are chiggers in them thar bushes. There are mosquitoes above them. There are snakes lurking in the depths...the saving grace is that when you have a pack of kids, the snakes tend to leave as soon as they hear the commotion. Those that are too dumb to slither off make themselves fair game for the dogs...and that's a whole 'nother entertainment committee.

ANYWAY. The recipe in the magazine looked interesting...I hate that cobbler topping where you take one cup milk, one cup flour and one stick butter, mix it all together and pour it over a dish of canned peaches. I HATE that stuff. This topping, however, had more of a crumb texture so we decided to give it a try. (For a family that doesn't usually do dessert, this season is a LOT of fun.)

Problem is, blackberries won't be ripe until the week of the Fourth. We have some bushes in our side yard, and they're pretty loaded, but only with bright red (re: not ripe) blackberries. So we took the last of the peaches from the peach farm, about 1/2 cup raspberries the fat little toad next door hadn't poached, and about...12?...ripe blackberries and made a cobbler. Nice, very nice. Not nice enough that when we pick the first real batch of blackberries I won't have to do that double crust, prebaked interior crust, lattice thing, but still really...nice.

Easy Fruit Cobbler
Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish and fill with four cups of assorted seasonal fruit. We had peaches, raspberries and blackberries. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir together 1 egg, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup all-purpose flour, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (I added a couple of gratings of fresh nutmeg into the topping because...that's what I do.) Sprinkle over the fruit and drizzle with 6 tablespoons melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. We served ours in a bowl, with a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream alongside, slowly melting and seeping into the fruit.

Summer is good.
(The picture is one The Not Nice Kid drew of the blackberry bushes when she was four. We use it on the labels when we make jam.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Zabaglione...and raspberries

Sometimes everything just...comes together. And supper last night was a meeting of all things good. Fresh mesclun greens out of the garden. The artisanal bread thing is LOVELY...I'll get into that in a couple of days. And then, for dessert, we had fresh peaches and raspberries off our bushes...with zabaglione. Heaven in a dish. The small children actually groaned.

6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup champagne (or white wine, but if you use champagne then you have to open the bottle and if you open it, well, then...you have to drink it.)

In a double boiler (or a metal bowl set over a pan) over simmering water, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Add the champagne and beat until mixture coats the back of a spoon. That's it. The only trick is NOT to let the water boil...the eggs will scramble and it's not even passable. You can also add, with the champagne, a spoonful or two of Grand Marnier, or a couple of gratings of orange zest. I added a couple of turns of fresh nutmeg, just because I put fresh nutmeg in almost everything.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Roast Beef Sandwiches for everyone!

Even though my kids will eat anything, they still have preferences. Which, occasionally, conflict with mine...and roast beef sandwiches are one of those conflictions! So we compromise when we have them, make everyone happy, and give the participants the opportunity to change sides with each meal!

Roast Beef Sandwiches
1 3-4 pound chuck roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can coffee
2 cups sliced onions
1 jar Cheese Whiz
Optional: 1 batch homemade sandwich buns

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven/heavy covered roasting pan. Let it get hot, then brown the roast on both sides. Sprinkle with the onion soup mix, then spread the cream of mushroom soup over that. Pour in one soup can of coffee. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about four hours until fork tender, adding additional water if needed.

For the adults: When the roast is done, remove it to a plate and tent with foil. Melt four tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan, add the onions and saute over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir one tablespoon cornstarch into 1/2 cup COLD water, then stir that into the leftover juice from the chuck roast in the roasting dish. Heat to boiling, to thicken. To serve, spread buns with mayonnaise, top with shredded beef and then sauteed onions. Use roasting juice for dipping.

For the kids: Pile roast beef on bottom half of bun. Spread the top half with a liberal tablespoon of Cheese Whiz (these are mini-buns, regular ones take a little more), top sandwich and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave for 20-30 seconds, so that the Cheese Whiz oozes down into the roast beef.

We got all about some homemade sandwich/hamburger buns this spring, and make them about once a week. That recipe is in a previous post.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I may take over the world

There are about...six or seven...blogs I love to read. I have a rule, Monday's and Friday's. I check blogs ONLY on those days because if I don't have a rule well, I'm sitting here all day frantically waiting on one of these brilliant people to post.

And earlier this week, over in Badger World , she mentioned her new favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. And since I'm still sort of...confined...and looking for alternatives to watching the same Monk episodes three times a day, I bought it.

I love it. I left the house this morning to deliver a kid somewhere and on the way home I stocked up on unbleached all-purpose flour and jar yeast.

I am on a mission from God. (That's a Blues Brother's quote and if you didn't know that, you don't need to be here.)

You need this book.

(Maybe City Girl can make that picture bigger. I'm not fooling with it.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spinach quesadillas

I am temporarily a semi-invalid, and while everyone's been great about keeping the residents fed, last night we sort of stalled. And while The Big Boy means well, his shopping skills just SUCK and the raw materials list around here is sadly lacking. So, dealing with what was available, we ended up with one of the better meals this week...thank you very much. We had, straight out of the box, Zatarain's Dirty Rice. I had half a pound of real pork sausage from Smith Farms in Cullman, seriously smoky so that made the box stuff a real treat. And in the bottom of the refrigerator was a bag of baby spinach, contemplating going bad.

Spinach Quesadillas
8 small flour tortillas
1 bag fresh spinach
Shredded mozzarella
Fresh nutmeg
I have a lovely cast iron griddle...just a round, flat pan. Beautifully seasoned and even The Not Nice Kid knows...hot water and a scrub brush. You will die if you put detergent on Mama's cast iron. (I once fired a housekeeper because she put my grandmother's cast iron cornbread skillet in the dishwasher.)

I sauted the spinach in a little butter, then squeezed it as dry as possible. I smeared the griddle with a little butter and put a tortilla on to heat...about 15 seconds on medium heat. Flipped it and sprinkled it with 1/4 the spinach. Sprinkled that with about 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella because that's what was here...preference would be Monterey Jack) and grated a dusting of nutmeg over the cheese. Topped it with a second tortilla and flipped it and let that heat about two minutes. I made four quesadillas, holding each one on a cookie sheet in the oven on warm until I was finished. Cut them into quarters and we ate them plain...they didn't really need any assistance!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The OTHER baked beans

And I promise you...no one will care you didn't soak those damn beans for an hour.

Third time this week. I have to take beans somewhere. And I am just beaned out so here...Bachelor Guy...for you. Beans to make everyone happy.

Best Easy Baked Beans
1 restaurant size can baked beans...doesn't matter what brand
1 package frozen seasoning blend (onions, bell pepper and celery)
1/2 package smoky bacon
1 can beer
Your favorite barbecue sauce

Pour the beans into a colander and rinse off all the boughten sauce. Chop the bacon, put it in a big pan and cook it crisp. Add the seasoning blend, stir, cover and cook for ten minutes. Pour in the rinsed beans, the beer and enough barbecue sauce to taste. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I LOVE Cattlemen's Barbecue Sauce. Traditional.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can I really do baked beans?

There are only two or three nights a week we come home from school and...get to stay here. So on those nights, I sort of make an attempt to keep everyone happy and what makes people happier than hotdogs on the grill with homemade baked beans, eaten outdoors?

This recipe, as happens so often, started out as Emeril's. But while Emeril gets to have people buy him what he needs, I tend to make do with what's here. And oh, people, this made-do very well!

Homemade Baked Beans
1 pound white beans
2 slices smoked bacon
6 ounces Harpers country cured ham pieces
1 package frozen seasoning blend (onion, green pepper and celery)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup brewed coffee
1/2 to 1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cone piloncillo sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Pepper to taste
8 cups water

Rinse the beans, put them in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for an hour. Drain. Snip the bacon into small pieces and saute in a cast iron Dutch oven until crisp. Finely chop ham pieces and add them to the rendered bacon...cook until crisp. Add the frozen seasoning blend and garlic, cover and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, thyme, celery seed, coffee, barbecue sauce (I love Cattleman's) piloncillo, mustard, molasses and hot sauce. Add pepper and water. Stir well and bring to a boil. Place Dutch oven in a 300 degree oven for two hours, undisturbed. Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and stir the beans. Recover and bake one hour. When the beans are tender, remove the cover and cook until you have a thick, sauce-like consistency. Adjust the seasonings and serve warm or room temperature. (An adjustment: when I made them again the next day, for a picnic, I added 1/4 cup brown sugar and a large can of tomato sauce. Because.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leftover Barbecue=Barbecue Quesadillas

The leftover Boston Butt was supposed to be barbecue sandwiches. It was, after all, a FIVE POUND roast. But alas, between the really good Schreiber seasoning and the really good butt rub and six hours in a low oven and an hour on the grill...there's not enough meat left for sandwiches. I hate it when that happens.

A mom-friend told me about this a couple of years ago and I was...skeptical. This doesn't sound right. She had found it in Southern Living, and swore by it. I just sort of blew it off; but then last year, it turned up in the best of the best of all-time recipes so...why not? It is a hit. The kids love it, The Big Boy loves it and it's easy. Doesn't get any better than that.

Barbecue Quesadillas
1 pound pork barbecue
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro
Grated cheese...your choice
1 package flour tortillas
Heat a griddle over medium heat...I use a cast iron skillet. You can spray it with Pam, but we like to brush melted butter on the flour tortillas. Mix the pork with the barbecue sauce, and spread half a flour tortilla with the meat. Sprinkle with cilantro and cheese and fold over. Grill on each side until lightly browned. Because I can't keep up with the appetites, I go ahead and make all the quesadillas and hold them in a warm oven. That way, I get to eat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sconcigli who?

The high end grocery store in this town is...a WalMart. And I HATE me a WalMart. But they opened an Aldi here last year and while I can't do it...I just don't get the diggin' around mentality...The Big Boy loves going to Aldi. So on Saturdays, while he's chauffeuring small children round and about, he usually makes an Aldi stop. And he finds some really cool stuff...stuff I could have sworn wasn't even in the store. And one of his finds this weekend was an Italian pasta called sconcigli. "A tricolor blend of tomato, spinach and traditional pasta." The pastas look like a cross between a cornucopia and a nautilus shell...imagine that. Which means the ends will hold sauce well.

So for supper tonight, we're going to use the recipe on the box as a starting point and have Crawfish Sconcigli.

4 tablespoons butter
1 package frozen seasoning blend (onions, celery & green pepper)
Finely chopped garlic...to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
7 ounces crawfish meat (I buy it frozen in bags)
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh thyme

Melt the butter, add the seasoning blend and garlic and let it sweat for about ten minutes. Add the tomatoes (use whichever size can suits you...we like tomatoes so I use a big can, with a squirt or two of tomato paste) and the sugar and simmer another five minutes. Add the thawed crawfish and simmer just until cooked through, then stir in the chopped fresh thyme. Cook the pasta according to the package; serve the pasta with the tomato sauce and crawfish and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tomato and basil biscuits

One of the nice things about this weekend was brunch with friends Saturday morning. My friend Mary recently remodeled her house, to the tune of "Let's see how wonderful we can make this." It is the perfect house/kitchen for entertaining. So we went to Whole Foods Friday night and then Saturday morning, had fruits and cheeses and steaks with red pepper/feta omelets and these biscuits. Oh, and I drank an entire bottle of champagne because my phone died. But that's another blog.

Mary's Tomato and Basil Biscuits
2 cups self-rising flour (if you live here, it better be White Lily)
1/4 cup butter
2/3 to 3/4 cup cream
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Cut the butter into the flour until you have coarse crumbs, then add the cream to form a soft dough. Fold in the tomato and basil. We couldn't find a biscuit cutter so Mary just patted out the dough into a rectangle and we cut them into squares. You have NO IDEA how good these were.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Smoked Chicken and Sausage Gumbo OR Part 2 of "Failure Builds Character, My Ass"

(Tuesday) I'm sitting here staring at the computer because I'm making roux. I put it on about 8:30; it's 10:41 now. At first, I just left it to cook on low heat and stirred every now and then. It's the color of peanut butter now, so I have the timer set and every five minutes I go in and stir. Since I'm going for the really dark roux, the next hour promises to get tricky...that timer's not very loud and in a little bit I'm going to have to stand there full-time. That's okay...when The Not Nice Kid had her birthday party this year, I had it at a smokehouse restaurant and there was chicken left over...not just smoked chicken, but smoked chicken. This has potential.

Is it talking to you? Because it is sooo talking to me.

(Wednesday) This is the first time in 22 years I've made something that was totally inedible. I've made things we didn't like, but this wasn't just bad. It was AWFUL. It was beautiful, everything seemed to be working and the only thing I can figure is that I used too much roux. I know it wasn't burnt, and everything else that went into the pot was top notch so I'm guessing...a couple of tablespoons was all I needed. But nooooo, I was so damn proud of that beautiful caramel toasty mass that I used it all.

Live and learn. Just live and learn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Asparagus Pasta

The salmon was good...not absolutely positively over-the-top good but as good as frozen grocery store fish can be good.

THIS, however, was great. The Big Boy rolled in from Aldi Saturday with asparagus...lovely tiny frozen ones and slightly larger fresh ones. (Remind me sometime...I just can NOT get the Aldi thing down. He does great...fresh German sauerkraut, with real German knackwurst a while back. Ninety-nine cent pineapples. Twenty-four cent cucumbers. I go in there and can't get past the stacked boxes and and the influx of people from Wayne County.) A while back he bought a box of Italian fusilli. I meant to do it with chicken in a cream sauce but...I didn't. It happens.

Asparagus Pasta
1 pound pasta...I used fusilli because it was here but I think bowtie would be nice
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup water
1 bouillion cube (dissolved in the water)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh thyme
1 cup grated hard cheese...I used Asiago; Parmesan or Romano would be nice
1 cup toasted pecan pieces
Cook the pasta just until done...rinse and set aside. Cut the asparagus into bite-size pieces, minus the ends, and saute in olive oil/butter for about four minutes. Add the red pepper and garlic and saute another two minues. Stir in the bouillion water and simmer another two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together the asparagus, pasta, cheese, thyme and pecans.

On the way to the grocery store I swore I wasn't going to pay $3.50 for a red bell pepper. Got there and lo and behold! There was one in the sale bin! Still had to pay $1.40 but when the dish came out, it was well worth it. I also used fresh lemon thyme, because that's what I put on the salmon. This was very good the next morning, cold out of the refrigerator. If I were going to serve it cold, as a pasta salad, I'd throw in a splash or two of balsamic vinegar.
(I know that picture's blurry and...can't help it. Don't know why. I'll worry about it later.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Plank Salmon

When we lived in Texas, The Big Boy went to Alaska every year...actually, British Vancouver, I think. To go salmon fishing. They fished salmon and flounder (flounder? that may not be right. It was a flat, tasteless fish with a lot of bothersome bones) but after the first year we realized...we ain't messin' with the flounder. You fished for a week, lived in a cabin with full-time chefs, and ate everything cooked over a fire. Chocolate chip cookies cooked over a fire that to this day, he swears were heavenly. Everything was flash frozen on the boat as they caught it and then on the day you left, your fish was overnighted to your house...there were years the fish got there before he did. After the first year, he always traded out his flounder for salmon and they would mail me 90 or 100 pounds of real, out-of-the-creek, salmon.
This is how they cooked the salmon, creekside. The first time TBB told me how to do this I was doubtful...this sounds like too much seasoning for fish, even if it IS salmon. But after the first time we made it at home I was hooked. THEN, along came the cedar plank craze and it's like beer butt chickens...it's a keeper. Yesterday I was in another town (one with real grocery stores) and I bought a whole salmon fillet, plank included. So guess what's for supper tonight?

Cedar Plank Salmon
Salmon...steaks, fillets, your choice
Dried thyme
Seasoning salt
Rinse the salmon in cold water and pat it dry. Put it on a baking sheet or platter and sprinkle with seasoning salt and thyme (tonight, because I have it and it looks so pretty, I'm using fresh lemon thyme from the garden). Sort of pat the salt and thyme into the flesh, then sprinkle liberally with Worcestershire. Set aside. Submerge the cedar plank in salt water and soak for an hour.
Heat up the grill. Remove the cedar plank from the water and arrange the fish on the plank. Grill until your preferred doneness...most recipes call for flaky but we like it one hair short of total flaking. Serve with a crisp green vegetable and pretend you are surrounded by whales and icebergs.
HALIBUT!!! It was halibut and it was awful.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green beans dressed from the yard!

It's possible I need to do some research on growing sage...that little plant is bearing definite resemblance to something blobby from outer space, as it attempts to take over the entire bed in which it is planted. It's getting ready to bloom, too, which sort of makes you wonder if James Arness is going to show up in the next couple of days.
The Big Boy came in last week with frozen green beans...small delicate beans he found at Aldi, of all places. Last night, after vacation and take-out for ten days, we ate "real" food...center cut pork chops, wild rice and green beans. But since going to the grocery store STILL hasn't renewed its appeal, I had to work with what we had. So...bacon and sage. I'd eat cardboard if it had bacon and sage.

Bacon and Sage Green Beans
1 pound fresh/frozen thin green beans
3-4 slices bacon
1/4 cup fresh sage, julienned
Salt, pepper and as a last thought, balsamic vinegar
Dice the bacon and cook until crisp. Throw in the sage, turn off the eye and stir. Set aside. Plunge the green beans into boiling water and cook for six minutes...I timed this from when I put the beans in the water as opposed to when the water came back to a boil, and they were a lovely crisp-tender. When they're done, drain well. Put the bacon/sage back onto an eye, turn it on high and wait just until mixture starts to heat up. Dump in the green beans and toss to combine...heating just enough to dry out the last bit of cooking water on the beans. Season with salt and pepper. After we got to the table, I splashed a little balsamic vinegar onto my portion and then...dressed the entire batch. Good!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tomato Bites

My aunt in Columbus sent this recipe, and the first time I made it I messed it up every which way from Adam. And it was WONDERFUL!! These are yummy, and open to interpretation...I'll bet a couple of spoonfulls of corn would be good...or chopped tomatillos, simmered just until soft, instead of the tomatoes. Or a few black beans. So much food, so little time.

Tomato Bites
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 green onions, white and green part, finely chopped
4-6 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
1 can Rotel, drained
1-1/2 cups four cheese blend
Mini phyllo shells or extra-flaky canned biscuits
Mix mayo, green onions, bacon, Rotel and cheese. Spray mini-muffin tins with Pam. If using biscuits, separate each biscuit into three layers (This was a little tricky because I was trying too hard to keep the layers equal. Just do the best you can.) and press into mini-muffin cups. If using phyllo shells, just set them into the cups. Spoon filling into each cup and bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes. (This made 30 bites, with about one-half cup filling left over...so if you added some corn or beans, you could probably fill 60 bites which would be two cans of biscuits.)

First time I made them...got halfway in and realized those weren't green onions in the vegetable bin. I chopped a small red onion and it was fine. The recipe called for a package of Oscar Meyer Real Bacon Bits, but why? It also called for Hellman's, but I don't LIKE Hellman's so I used Kraft. AND, after I mixed up the filling and opened the biscuits I realized they were...cute biscuits. Too small. So I refrigerated the filling for a couple of days, until I remembered to buy the right kind of biscuit, and just spooned it cold into the shells.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Real Pie Crust

One of the things I'll pay for, when the time comes, is not appreciating the things my grandmother did for us. And right up there on the top of that list is...pie crust. Looking back I now know: that pie crust was a work of art. Heaven in a mouthful. But, at the time, I just didn't realize that getting a pie crust right? Can't be done. Just flat out...can not be done, the way my grandmother did it. I've tried.

Having said that (!), this comes pretty close and in this day and age...works a lot better. It makes five single crusts. You freeze them. You can use the food processor. I can do that.

Anne's Pie Crust

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1-3/4 cup shortening
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
Mix unsifted flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Add shortening, in chunks, and pulse just until crumbly. In a small bowl, mix water, vinegar and egg. Add to dry ingredients in food processor, just until mixture forms a ball. Divide into five portions, wrap in wax paper and chill at least 30 minutes. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cabbage and Polish sausage

This is one of those dishes that...happened. And since I wrote it down, will happen again.

My friend, Ann, had been telling me about cooking cabbage and Polish sausage. She layered them in a baking dish and baked it. And that was it. Layer it. Bake it. Well, maybe.

So when they came for St. Patrick's, she brought the dish and it was...surprisingly good! She drizzled the top with a little olive oil, covered the dish with aluminum foil so the cabbage sort of steamed and then cut it into squares. Served it with sour cream. Interesting.

But because we had a TON of food, there was about half the baking dish of cabbage and sausage left over. I scooped it onto a sheet of aluminum foil, wrapped it and put it in the refrigerator. And then?

A couple of days later I took it out and since it was chilled, it was solid. I chopped it into small pieces, put it in a dutch oven with some olive oil and sauteed it. Chopped an onion and added it. After everything was steamy and well-acquainted, I added a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. A chicken bouillion cube and some extra water. And then about 12 ounces small, cooked tortellini. It looked really good, but I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan on general principal.

It was a hit! A great hit! I served it with hot cornbread and butter, which I guess worked with the rustic theme.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hawaiian Brie

This weekend is the first weekend...ever...that we don't have three million things to do. Best I can figure out as of now, other than a junior high dance tonight, we don't have to do anything anywhere. I am overjoyed.

So on my way out this afternoon I'll pick up goodies for the weekend, and for breakfast tomorrow, we'll have brie. The guy who taught me how to do this only used the bread and cheese; and he and his wife would open a bottle of wine and eat this and pears for supper, in front of the fireplace. I'm guessing he got lucky.

Tomorrow we'll have this for breakfast. I'm even thinking there's a cold bottle of champagne left over from something.

Hawaiian Brie
1 round loaf Hawaiian bread
1 round Brie
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup slivered and toasted almonds
Turn the bread upside down and slice the bottom off. Hollow out a circle in the top half, the size of the cheese. Set the round of cheese into the indention, pour the honey over the cheese and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Place the bottom half of the bread on top of the top half, and wrap the entire concoction in aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes...you want to soften the cheese without totally melting it. To serve, unwrap and place on a round platter and slice into wedges. Serve with pears. And champagne. And good company.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Center Star Chicken Stew

Chicken Stew is a Center Star staple...all fundraisers, get-togethers and family reunions include a pot of chicken stew. GOOD chicken stew comes out of a black cast-iron kettle, over an open fire. That, however, also involves a lot of beer and an entire Saturday so sometimes, we fudge.

My mother grew up about 25 miles north of here, in another state, and she never heard of chicken stew. I moved to Fort Worth, in the middle of nowhere, and no one in my neighborhood had ever heard of chicken stew (although they all consider it a staple now.) I have NO concept of life without chicken stew...it fixes a lot of ills, it's really good and it's really simple. There is only one rule to follow and that is: Five Things. You only put five things in chicken stew. Get cute, add some other stuff and you have sinned and God will get you. Just mark my word.

The basic ingredients are chicken, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and corn. That's the five things. The proportions vary by family, and by occasion. If you're cooking for home? Half as many potatoes as chicken. Cooking for a crowd/fundraiser? Equal chicken and potatoes. No one will notice.

Center Star Chicken Stew
5 pounds chicken...whole, packaged, all-white, all-dark, your preference. Best is whole chickens, where you stew them, let them cool, debone and de-little black things and return the meat to the broth. This method also requires a Friday night before the Saturday. Next best/easiest is a bag of boneless, skinless breasts and a bag of boneless, skinless thighs.
2-3 pounds cubed potatoes
1-2 pounds diced onions
2 28-ounce cans diced or pureed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can corn
Chop the chicken, put it in a large stewpan and cover with water. Add a bay leaf or two and the onion. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer at least until done and an hour or so if you have the time. Peel and cube the potatoes and add to the chicken...no salt and nothing else. (For some reason at this point, if the other ingredients are in there the potatoes won't get done before Christmas.) When the potatoes are done add the tomatoes and stir well. Then add the corn and simmer for about 20 minutes to let everyone make friends. Salt and pepper to taste. (And if someone says, "This needs pepper," don't pour in an entire red and white can of pepper because if you do, the next day we'll have to pour out the entire kettle-full.)

Individuality...My sister-in-law likes tomato soup as part of the tomatoes. I like half whole kernel and half creamed corn. My sister doesn't like the smell of corn (I didn't make that up) so she uses shoe-peg, but that gets expensive for a crowd and besides...well, never mind.

When you first make this, it's all this stuff sitting in a pot. After it's cooked for a while everything melds...at a Chicken Stew (the event) there are no chunks of potatoes, they've all cooked down. And there are no chunks of chicken...just strands of meat throughout the pot. You eat this with slices of white bread or saltines. You season each bowl with Tabasco. You have a lot of cold beer.

And life is really good.
(Last year I paid...over $200...for this house-friendly black cast-iron pot. Number one, because I could make chicken stew at home and still have a semi-kettle, and number two because it came from a foundry that used to operate here.)