Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lucky Black Eyed Pea Fritters

Black Eyed Pea Fritters

1 cup cooked black eyed peas
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Vegetable, canola, olive or peanut oil for frying

In a medium sized, deep skillet, heat an inch of oil to 350F. While the oil is heating, place black eyed peas in a medium mixing bowl. Smash the peas, then add remaining ingredients. If you like more onion, add it. I use about ½ a cup, because I love it.
Stir all ingredients together. You should have a rather stiff batter – almost a dough. Shape batter into patties about two inches in diameter, and about ½ an inch thick.
Fry a test fritter – slide a patty into the hot oil – the oil should just barely cover the fritter. These cook quickly – they only need a couple of minutes on the first side, and slightly less on the second. Once a deep golden brown, drain on paper towels. Salt immediately when you remove them from the oil, and serve right away.

New Year's Pork Roast

This is another way I sneak not only 'lucky' New Year's greens into my kids on New Year's Day, but a good way to get greens into the little critters anytime.

New Year’s Pork Roast

1 2-3 lb pork tenderloin, brined
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup of dark greens, such as turnip, kale, collard or spinach*

Preheat oven to 500F.
If using fresh greens, blanch, drain and squeeze dry. If using frozen greens,
Drain loin from the brine and pat dry. Slice roast in a spiral, laying open on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, and pound out roast with a mallet until approximately 1/2 inch thick. Remove wrap, and paint the topside of the roast with first the honey in a very thin layer, then the Dijon. Often I use a bit more Dijon. Spread the greens on top of the Dijon in a thin, even layer.
Starting at one narrower side, roll the roast. Using three lengths of butcher’s twine, tie the roast securely, then place on a rack in a roasting pan, seam side down. Insert meat thermometer into center of roast.
Start roast in a very hot oven for half an hour, then reduce temperature to 350F. Roast for approximately 45 minutes to an hour longer – or until thermometer reads 135F. Pull from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes, with a final temperature reading of 145F.
To serve, cut slices about ½ inch thick. This is allows the pretty contrasting spiral to show.

*If using spinach, omit the honey. Spinach doesn’t have the slight bitter note that the darker, sturdier greens have, and the honey is not only not needed, but just flat tastes odd.

A note on New Year’s Foods…

A note on New Year’s Foods….

There are tons of lucky foods that are supposed to bring luck if eaten at the beginning of each New Year. When I started thinking about posting the recipes for the stuff I grew up with, I realized that I really didn’t know WHY it was supposed to be lucky to eat those particular foods. So I poked around the net, and found all kinds of stuff.

In my research (haphazard admittedly), I learned that the traditional black eyed peas and turnip greens were meant to represent money – the greens for bills and the black eyed peas for coins. So if you eat lots on the first day of the year, supposedly the real thing will follow all the other days of the year to come. Something else I discovered though was that many cultures eat foods that are circular or spiral or round – which I’m guessing shows the circularity of time.

This led me to tinkering with the recipes for the foods I knew, and experimenting a bit with a couple I didn’t. I ended up completely revising the traditional deep mountain Southern meal I knew and loved – and came up with one I think I may love just as much from here on. I took the comfortable (and frankly homely) menu I grew up on, and came up with a quite lovely, elegant menu that fits the celebration of the day. True to form it’s not difficult, doesn’t have to be ‘babysat’ and can be served either to the family or a more extended gathering. As always - it's completely about taste - and it shines. I like this one – try it out!

Chow-Chow Deconstructed

If you aren’t familiar with the term – Chow-chow – then you don’t know about this Southern specialty. Chow-chow is the name of a particular type of pickled relish. Most often made with cabbage, it usually contains onion, pepper and tomato. Actually, I’ve had chow-chow made with almost anything that will fit into a Ball Mason jar.
Chow-chow can be sweet or spicy, but my favorites are the ones that are brain puckeringly sour, and preserved with good cider vinegar. Chow-chow is served with about any excuse – with beans, chilis and stews of all kinds, alongside fried chicken or catfish, or on a perfect vegetable plate. The downside of chow-chow is that it can be a mushy, colorless, ugly blob. Ewww. Not lovely.
I wanted to capture the beautiful bright crunch of great vegetables, without waiting the several weeks the pickling process would take. I wanted the salty sourness from the good relishes, while preserving the intense flavor and texture of the raw vegetables. If you’ve always hated cabbage – give this a shot anyway. I’m proud of this one. Try it. It’s unbelievable addictive.
Serve it with anything that needs a clean, sharp contrast. I like it contrasted with the richness of pork, or fried chicken, or at midnight straight from the bowl in the fridge so you don’t have to share.

Chow-Chow Deconstructed

2 cups thinly shredded green cabbage
2 cups thinly shredded purple cabbage
3 ripe tomatoes, juiced, seeded and diced
5-6 spring onions (green onions or scallions), green tops included, finely chopped
1 tbl kosher salt
1 tbl cider vinegar

Combine all vegetables in a large colander, and suspend colander over a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the veggies with salt, and toss well to evenly distribute the salt. Stash both bowls in the refrigerator, and allow to sit for a couple of hours, tossing the veggies once or twice.
Remove the bowl, and discard the juice.* Give the veggies in the colander a quick rinse to remove most – but not all – of the salt. Drain well and place in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with cider vinegar to taste, and serve chilled.

*Frankly I love salt, and I ADORE this juicy stuff. I discard it by drinking it. I think it would make an incredible Bloody Mary, if I ever had enough to mix a drink with. Hmmmm…

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wealthy Green Vinaigrette

I grew up with turnip greens. I love them. They are earthy, a bit bitter, and have a hint of sweetness unlike any other kind of sweet.. We had them every year on New Year’s Day with our black eyed peas – the greens represented money, and the black eyed peas were coins – so consumption represented wealth for the coming year.
My own kids are less than delighted with turnip greens. I serve them like I do all foods – continuing to offer them and encouraging the kids to taste, but so far only my daughter has decided she likes them as well as I do. This vinaigrette was my way of sneaking in a little New Year’s luck without a battle. The dressing is actually delicious, bright and tangy, with just a hint of sweet from the turnip greens.
I don’t feel guilty at all, by the way, about deceiving the kids about what they’re eating. They’re my children. It’s my job to trick them.

Wealthy Vinaigrette

¼ cup dark greens, blanched*
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 glove garlic
1 tbs Dijon mustard
½ to ¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil and process until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle the oil into the bowl in a slow stream. Adjust seasonings, and serve.

*You can substitute any kind of dark greens you’d like – collards, kale or spinach. Spinach will have the mildest flavor, so be careful with the salt if you use it.

If using frozen greens, make sure you squeeze as much water as possible from them before using. If using fresh, blanch them briefly to preserve the bright, rich color.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ricky's Chicky

I posted the video for this recipe a few days ago - with the holidays I got a little behind posting the written instructions. Sorry about that!

This is for my son Ricky - who adores roast chicken. If you watch the video - which I named "Chicken Snitch" it's Ricky's hand which appears briefly for the snatch!

Ricky's Chicky

1 4-5 pound chicken, brined* and patted dry
2 sprigs of thyme
1 lemon cut into wedges
1 lime cut into wedges
1 small yellow onion, cut into wedges
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 500F. Yes - 500F. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan. Place the thyme, citrus and onion in the body and neck cavities. Truss the wings and legs close to the bird, and drizzle the skin with the olive oil. Rub him down really well so that all the skin is oiled well. Insert a meat thermometer into the thick part of the thigh, aiming for the oyster. If you don't have a rack lay down a couple each of carrots and celery, and a cut up onion. You simply want the chicken to not rest on the pan - as the juices drain you want him up off them so he'll stay crispy. (See Roast Chicken video for Help with this).

Place pan in very hot oven - and set a timer for 30 minutes. This initial high heat will seal the outside of the bird, sealing moisture inside where you want it, and insuring you end up with lovely, crispy skin.

After thirty minutes turn the oven down to 350F. The bird will need approximately another hour. Maybe more, maybe less depending on the size of the bird. This is where a thermometer is so fabulous. It tells you exactly when the bird is done perfectly.

The thermometer should read 160F, and the juices will be running clear. Once the bird reaches 160, pull the roasting pan from the oven and allow the bird to rest - don't touch it! - for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Leave the probe for the thermometer in place as well - otherwise you'll have a juice-escape hole. Don't pierce the skin anywhere else either. Go do something else - make a sauce, walk the dog, call your mom but don't touch the chicken. This resting period allows for the juices to redistribute through the meat - oven heat pulled them to the surface. Don't allow them to escape!

So that's it - this is a wonderful dish - simple and easy. Remember the techniques and it's elevated to heavenly.

*See "How to Make a Classic Salt Brine"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Angel's Roast Duckie

Roast Duck for my friend Angel! Mmmmmm....

Normally the duck you'll find is called Long Island or Pekin. I just call my brother and he walks out his back deck and gets me a couple. Either way the method is the same, although wild duck is certainly wilder in flavor. My usual method is less expensive than most, but even ordering duck is worth it. It's delicious.

I guess one of the main things to keep in mind when dealing with duck is that there is a thick layer of fat immediately under the skin – and this needs to be rendered away from the meat correctly in order to get the tender, flavorful meat and crispy skin that is so yummy. It’s not hard to do – just requires a little attention.

First, remove all the fat you can from the bird and cavity. Rinse it well and place it in a roasting pan on a rack. Pour about two cups of boiling hot water over it – this will help tighten the skin and render the fat. Season the bird very well with salt and black pepper – duck takes all kinds of flavors – root veggies and winter fruits are wonderful if you’re going to use a stuffing – but plain old salt and pepper are great.

Next – prick the skin all over – about every inch or so – with a fork or the tip of a paring knife. Be sure you pierce the skin and fat – but not the meat. Go slow the first poke or two and you’ll be able to tell easily where the fat layer stops and the meat layer begins. The fat is soft – the meat is firm.  This will allow the fat to more easily drain away as well. Poke him good!

Make sure the bird is clear of the bottom of the roasting pan – the last thing you want is for it to cook sitting in it’s own fat. If need be, use a bulb baster to pull from the bottom of the pan.

Roast him up at 375 F – and you’ll want to rotate the pan about every half hour. Yes you have to pay him attention - but he'll pay you pack in flavor and crispy love. The duck will roast for about three hours for a five to six pound bird. The internal temp should read from 165-180 – depending on whether you like medium rare to more well done. My own personal preference is about 175, and then carryover cooking will provide the rest. The juices will be a very pale clear pink at 165.; Pull him out and let him rest.

I love duck – it’s darker, richer and gamier than chicken or turkey. I love deglazing the roasting pan with a little merlot for a quick rich glaze. Deglaze the cook with the merlot too for that matter!

AND - if you really want to knock someone's socks off - make sure you KEEP the rendered fat from the bottom of the pan - as well as any excess skin. Refrigerate it, and you can make a French classic known as confit - the primary ingredient in another classic called Cassoulet. Learn how to do a few things yourself and it'll be as good as a magic want. I'll tell y'all how to do that next...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Basic Brine for Poultry

For more information and the complete article, click here!
Brining lean meats (this works for turkey and pork as well) is a great way to ensure that you end up with a dish that's moist, flavorful and delicious. It's super easy, and the only two required ingredients are salt and water. However, for maximum flavor I like the following:

1/2 cup of salt* (see note below)
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of thyme - or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 -2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon or so of whole peppercorns
2 cloves of minced garlic

Toss these into a saucepan with a quart or two of water. Bring it to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pull off the stove and add to abt 8 cups of ice cubes. This brings the brine down to temperature so that raw meats can be safely added.
All kinds of things can be added to brines depending on what you like. Sage, ginger, onion, vegetable broth - you name it. I like to soak meats in the brine for at least two hours, but I've done less, especially with boneless, thin cuts, such as pork loin or chicken breasts.
At holidays I brine huge birds, and those I do allow to go overnight, but otherwise 6-8 hours is as far as I go.

Note * Kosher salt can be hard to find here, so I use table salt often. However, if you have kosher - use it. Increase the amount of salt to about 3/4 cups. The crystals are bigger so there's more 'Note * Kosher salt can be hard to find here, so I use table salt often. However, if you have kosher - use it. Increase the amount of salt to about 3/4 cups. The crystals are bigger so there's more 'dead' space in the measure between crystals.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to Roast a Chicken_0001.WMV

How to Make a Brine for Poultry.WMV

Here We Go...

After a couple of years of using Face Book as a pseudo food blog, I finally had several people tell me to just go ahead and jump in for real. I was a wienie for a while, (not knowing how to start) but jumped in over my head this past weekend. I decided to teach people how to cook like I do.

I love food. I grew up with a Mama and Granny who could cook, and my Daddy just LOVED food. That combination meant I sat on the kitchen counters when I was three, sticking my hands into everything I could and asking questions, and simultaneously was introduced to some very fine food in restaurants across the country and in Europe. In a nutshell, I was lucky.

I don't know why I was bitten. But I was - early and hard. I remember trying to write recipes when I couldn't have been older than 7. I actually still make the first 'real' recipe I ever created - something the family calls Potato Pancakes, and which is a combination of hash browns and traditional potato cakes.

I never went to culinary school. For some reason, it simply never occurred to me to pursue a professional career as a chef. I have however, been a student of technique for years and years now - how many is none of your business. But for a while. I love all food and classic cuisines - and I often go through phases, working my way through a technique until I have it mastered. Southern, French, Japanese, Californian, Indian, Chinese - I adore it all.

The result is I began picking up the 'why' of food, instead of just a collection of recipes. A few years ago I realized I no longer had to open a book to cook something, that I could taste a new food and analyze ingredients and cooking methods pretty accurately, and that I had a wealth of information rattling around in my head. My background is Southern, so of course that's a specialty. But to limit myself! The horror of never having a to-die-for pot au feu, or pot stickers, or tikka masala?...


I have a tight budget. I have four children of my own and four to six more that are huge presences in my life at any one moment. I have two dogs, including a baby ten week old puppy. I have brothers and a sister, their children, my parents, and an INCREDIBLE group of friends and neighbors. I'm extremely busy to say the least. And because the children might want to build a tepee (right Tara?), or a snow fort, or forget to put on pants before they go outside, I can't normally tackle anything that has to be babysat on the stove or watch an oven carefully. I have to do things that are relatively easy AND on top of that - with ingredients and tools available in a tiny town in upper East Tennessee. That means real-world ingredients and no gourmet markets or supply stores.

So - I'm starting with some basics that several people have asked about. You'll see me do a lot of double duty meals - getting leftovers on purpose - but they'll never appear leftover. I'll show a lot of my favorite tricks and techniques - and of course I'll provide the recipes. The first couple are going to be a perfect brine and roast chicken. Simple - but with the clues to why the simple things are often the more difficult ones.

It took me a while to come up with a one sentence summary of how I cook. It came from a nickname a friend and neighbor gave me one night when I had "Frenched" some Southern-style green beans. French-delicious and Hillbilly became the Thrillbilly Gourmet. Classic technique to everyday food - but that's what it is. Most people have a dog underfoot and kids in and out of the kitchen while they cook. Or their sibs, spouses or parents. Friends and neighbors - and you'll meet all mine. Life is about distractions - and I wouldn't trade mine for anything. I cook good food. And I hope to teach you a little of what I know.