Saturday, February 20, 2010

Frittata Florentine - Spinach, Bacon, Onion and Parmesan

For more information on frittatas and other recipes, check out the full article here!
  • Four slices bacon, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 ½ cups of fresh baby spinach – a couple of big handfuls
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 Tbl cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a skillet with an ovenproof handle (cast iron is best) over medium heat, sauté bacon until crispy.
  3. Once crispy, remove bacon to a paper towel to drain and set aside. Pour off almost all of the bacon grease, leaving just a teaspoon or two.
  4. Add onions to the skillet, and sauté until tender and translucent, about five minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan well to get up all the crispy bits.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and cream.  Season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt – the bacon and Parmesan both are very salty.
  6. Once the onions have gotten soft and fragrant, add in the spinach. It looks like a lot, but it cooks down a ton. Only give the spinach a minute or two – it will shrink like crazy, and continue cooking in the oven.
  7. Pat spinach and onion down into an even layer in the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle the cooked bacon over the top. Carefully pour in the egg mixture. You can stir if you want, or simply continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is set around the edges.
  8. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and set the pan in the hot oven for ten minutes. It should be mostly set at this point.
  9. At the end of the baking time, turn the broiler on. Place frittata under the broiler, and broil until puffed and beautifully golden brown. Serve immediately.
  10. You can serve it straight off the broiler, still in the pan if you wish. That’s my favorite for a family brunch or simple supper. Or you can invert the frittata onto a serving platter, so the fillings are on top and visible. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Either way, simply run a knife blade around the edges to loosen them, and cut the frittata into wedges. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Article - How to 'Blacken" New Orleans Style

I've got a new article up on 'blackening' - preparing fish or chicken according to the style developed in New Orleans by Paul Prudhomme. Check it out!

Boxty - Irish Potato Pancakes

For the complete article, check out Boxty - Traditional Irish Potato Pancakes

1 cup potatoes, Russets, grated
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
Oil, bacon grease or butter for frying
Serve with apple mash or apple sauce, sugar or sour cream
  1. Remove as much moisture as possible from the raw potato. Do this by wrapping in several layers of dry paper towel or a clean tea towel, and twisting to remove excess liquid.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; flour, salt and baking powder. Add eggs, raw potatoes and mashed potatoes. Stir in milk. If need be add a tablespoon or two more of milk. You’re looking for a medium-stiff batter. It will be somewhat thicker than pancake batter. It's best if you let the batter sit for half an hour - the flour will absorb more of the liquid, making the final pancake more tender.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium -low  heat. Add a few tablespoons oil to the skillet. Drop the batter by tablespoons onto the got griddle. Pat them with the back of a spoon to flatten them. Cook until golden brown on both sides – about 8 to ten minutes per side. Make sure you cook them thoroughly - the flour and raw potato takes a bit, but it's worth the wait. Serve immediately.
You know - if you want, you can make this with leftover colcannon - I've done it and it's just fabulous.

Colcannon - Irish Potatoes and Cabbage

For the expanded article, click here
4 large russet or Irish potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup milk, whole preferably
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
½ cup (4 pieces) bacon, crisped and chopped*
4-6 green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, place the potatoes, 1 Tbl of salt, and enough water to just cover the tops of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer until just fork tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. In a second saucepan, place shredded cabbage and 1 tsp salt. Add ¼ cup water, and bring to a simmer. Steam cabbage for just about ten minutes. You want to soften it, but not enough that it becomes too soft. A little resistance or crunch is needed.
  3. Once the cabbage is tender, add the milk and ½ stick of butter. Add several cranks of black pepper. Bring temperature up just until milk is hot and butter is melted. Don’t allow it to boil. Stir in green onion and the bacon or country ham.
  4. When potatoes are tender, drain and return to the hot, dry pot. Reserve a cup of the potato cooking liquid. Mash potatoes, stirring in enough of the hot milk to facilitate. If you need a little more liquid, add some of the potato cooking water. Be careful – the cooking liquid is very salty, as is the bacon/ham. Use up the milk first. Make sure you stir in all of the solids from the hot milk – the green onion, bacon, and cabbage.
  5. To serve, mound potatoes in a serving bowl. Make a well in the center and place the remaining half stick of butter, melted.
*You can also use country ham – the salt cured kind – if you wish. Normally, I wish.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Joey's Sausage Gravy

1 lb pork sausage
3 Tbl butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook sausage over medium heat in a large skillet. A potato masher really helps break up and crumble the sausage as you cook. If you don't have one, just mash it with a spatula as you cook to break it up as much as possible.
  2. Once the sausage has browned, add the butter to the pan. Allow it to melt fully, stirring it into the sausage.
  3. Sprinkle flour over the sausage, stirring to fully incorporate it.
  4. Slowly add milk to sausage, stirring constantly, and bring the mixture up to a boil. Allow to simmer for at least one full minute - then turn off the heat.
  5. Serve immediately over biscuits or dry toast.
For more info, visit

Asian Chicken Salad

2 Tbl brown sugar
1 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbl vegetable oil
1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 head  red leaf lettuce
1/4 cup cashew nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crispy chow mein noodles
3 green onions, sliced

  1. Whisk together first five ingredients in a small bowl, and stash in the fridge to let the flavors marry for about half an hour. Make sure you whisk again before use - makes sure the sugar hasn't stayed at the bottom of the bowl. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Oil the grill or a grill pan, and preheat to medium high. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken liberally. Grill chicken breast for about six minutes per side, or until cooked through. Set aside to rest.
  3. Cut lettuce in strips, or bite size pieces - your preference. Place in a serving bowl. Top with cashews, noodles and green onion. Pour dressing over salad, and toss to combine.
  4. Slice chicken diagonally, and place on top of the salad. Serve immediately - the noodles will get soggy if you wait too long.
*Frankly - if I'm grilling chicken, I'll make an extra breast or two and stash in the fridge, so a couple of days later I have dinner halfway done for me.

London Broil - Round Steak with Mushroom Steak Sauce

Strictly speaking - a London Broil is not a cut of meat. It's a cooking method. Most of the time, it refers to a flank steak. However, our local grocery had a round steak on sale this week, and they ran the sale as "a London Broil". Hmph. Either way - here's what to do with it.

For the Marinade:
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup coarse ground mustard
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

For the mushroom steak sauce:
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbl Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
2 Tbl reserved marinade (above)
2 Tbl heavy cream
1 Tbl sherry
  1. Combine all the ingredients of the marinade, whisking together in a glass container or plastic bag. Add beef, turning to coat, and stash in the fridge for at least six hours. Overnight is better.
  2. For the steak sauce, combine first seven ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be nearly dry. As it nears the end of the cooking time, stir more often, and reduce heat to low if necessary.
  3. Add sherry, cook for a couple of minutes. Finish with the cream, and keep warm until ready to serve with the beef.
  4. Preheat the grill to 350-400F, medium to medium high. When ready, remove meat from marinade. Discard marinade. Pat meat dry.
  5. Place meat on the hot portion of the grill. Close the lid, and grill for seven minutes. Don't touch it or flip it during this time. At seven minutes, flip it over - once! This is what you're looking for:
  6. Once the second side has had seven minutes (this is for medium rare) remove from heat, tent with foil and allow the steak to rest for ten minutes. 
  7. Once the rest is done, slice on the bias and serve with the mushroom steak sauce.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baby Red Potato Boats

These were awesome - and super easy. They look all fancy. They aren't. Shhhh.

15-20 medium red potatoes, scrubbed
2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl chives, minced
1 cup cream*
1 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, put enough water to barely cover potatoes. Add 1 Tbl salt, and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, and simmer just long enough for the potatoes to be barely beginning to be tender. Do not over cook!
2. Remove from water, and allow to dry and cool enough to handle. Cut potatoes in half. Cut a tiny sliver from the bottom of each half so the potatoes will sit flat.
3. With a place spoon, carefully scoop the inside of the potato out - creating a shell. Reserve the scooped out potato inside in a mixing bowl.
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Place the potato shells on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and several cranks of pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, or just until beginning to show color at the edges.
5. Meanwhile - mix the inside of the potato with butter, and chives. Begin with half a cup of cream. If the mixture is dry, add more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Spoon potato chive mixture into potato shells, and place back in the oven to heat through - about 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Best Roast Beast - Ok, ok. It's Beef Stew

1/2 half recipe Basic Roast Beef, chopped*
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 medium russet potatoes, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
24 oz chicken broth **
1/2 cup red wine (optional, use additional broth if you wish)

1 bay leaf
1 tsp tarragon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 15 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup fozen green peas
1/4 cup freshly parlsey, rough chopped

1. Combine all ingredients except butter beans, tomato paste and peas in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
2. The amount of broth may vary by as much as a cup or two. You want enough to not quite cover the contents of the pan. So add only that much, and reserve the rest in case of need.
3. Bring the contents to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and maintain a bare simmer for about an hour or until carrots and potatoes are tender.
4. Add butter beans and tomato paste. Stir well to combine. Bring back to a simmer.
5. Stir in peas, top with fresh parlsey and serve.

*I like to julienne the beef. It's not going to get more than another hour of cooking time, so it won't tenderize it much more in case it wasn't tender enough from the first roasting. It also makes small, pretty bite size pieces.
**If you have the juices from roasting the beef, use this first, it will be better. I do NOT like the flavor of canned beef broth - even if it is simmered with herbs to 'freshen' it. I frankly think canned chicken broth isn't bad. It has not much flavor - but it also doesn't have the 'canned' flavor you always get with packaged beef broth.

Sweet and Sour Thai Pickles

For 2 servings, or to top 6 Bangkok Breakdown Burgers:

1 Cucumber (I use either American or English hothouse cucumbers)

2 Tbl rice wine vinegar*

2 Tbl white sugar

1 tsp Thai chili powder

2 green onion tops, sliced diagonally
1.Partially peel cucumbers. If you have an American cucumber, peel it completley. English hothouse cucumbers don't come waxed, as their American counterparts do, so the peel is edible.

2.Slice the cucumbers lengthwise. Using a simple place spoon (like for your cereal!), scoop out the seeds and discard.

3.Place cucumber on a cutting board, and slice very thinly, on the diagonal.

4.Place all ingredients in a small mixing bowl, and toss gently to combine. Chill for an hour and serve.

*You can significantly alter the flavor profile of these by alternating the vinegars. I've used Asian black and red vinegars as well as rice wine. My favorite is the simplest: rice wine vinegar, available in regular grocery stores. But give the others a try as well if you can find them. They're delicious as well.

Spicy Asian Slaw

1 cup green cabbage, finely shredded

1 cup purple cabbage, finely shredded

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, left whole

1 Tbl sugar

1 Tbl rice wine vinegar

1 Tbl lime juice
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1.Combine all ingredients except cabbage and red onion. Whisk well to combine.

2.Toss red onion and cabbage together in a medium mixing bow. Top with lime/sugar mixture. Toss well to combine.

As with anything - feel free to adjust the heat to your preference. Add additional red pepper, throw in a dash of cayenne, used crushed Thai chilis - it's your choice!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slow Roasted Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

This one of those recipes I love to pull out when it's been a really long day. A reaaaalllllyyyyy looooong day. Today was one of those - unexpected snow storm, sick cranky kids, school out, temperatures too low to play outside - something warm, cheesy and infinitely satisfying was call for - big time.

This looks like a lot of ingredients - but you're really only making two elements; the filling for the enchiladas, and the sauce, and a lot of the ingredients are duplicated. This one is also easy to drop calories and fat from - if you use reduced fat cheese and sour cream. You're already trimming the roast and defatting the juices, and using high intensity flavor ingredients such as onion, garlic and cumin. You'll never notice the fat loss, the flavor still rocks.

All four kids eat it and ask for seconds, and this makes just the right amount. The little guys eat half of one each - my big guy eats two or three. Throw on a big green salad and you're golden!

1/2 recipe Basic Beef Roast
Reserved juices from Basic Beef Roast, divided
For the Filling:
1 onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 19 oz can black beans
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1/3 to 1/2 cup beef juices
1/4 cup sour cream
4 oz Monterrey Jack, grated
1 1/2 tsp salt
several cranks freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce:
Remainder of the beef broth - about 1 cup
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz Monterrey Jack, divided
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
12 tortillas - I used flour, but corn is great too

1. Trim any fat from the beef, and using a fork, shred it finely. If you follow the grain it should come right apart. It should look like this:
If you started with a 3 lb roast, and you're using 1/2 of the recipe, then you should get about two cups. A little more or less is fine.
2. In a large skillet, add a little oil, and saute onion for about six-seven minutes, or until fragrant and beginning to soften.
3. Add garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
5. In a seperate mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for sauce, reserving half of the cheese. Mix well to combine.
6. Divide filling into eight equal portions. Spoon 1/8 of filling mixture into each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place each rolled tortilla in a 9x13 baking dish. I had to stack them with five on the bottom and three on top. No big deal. Preheat oven to 350F.
7. If using two layers, spoon half the sauce over the first layer, then continue stacking. If one layer, just make sure to let a little sauce between each enchilada.
8. Top enchiladas with remaining cheese. Bake for 350F for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly at the sides and the cheese is melted and gooey.

Basic Beef Roast - Building Block Recipe

I have a large family to feed, and since I don't have unlimited income, I'm constantly watching the grocery budget. I honestly try to keep all meats at under $2 a pound - so I watch for what goes on sale and stock up.

Quite often one of the two beef finds I come across is chuck roast (the other is ground beef of course!). I have nothing against an old fashioned pot roast, but if there was a long running sale or the price was really good - let's just say it shows up on my table a little too often.

Because chuck is a tough cut, it does best when it's braised - slow cooked in a little liquid. In this case the liquid comes from the meat itself. The tradeoff of course is intensely beefy flavor. I began to play with other applications for this cut and came up with several.

This particular recipe is a building block - you use the roast itself in other recipes. You can of course use this to go on to regular pot roast, and I'll post instructions for that. But this blog is simply how to prep for some other dishes - Roasted Beef and Bean Enchiladas, World's Best Beast Stew, Philly Steak Sandwiches, French get the idea.
The other rockin' thing about this recipe is you can do it in a slow cooker, and have more than one dinner. Each recipe uses half of this one - so I plan ahead on having dinner in the bank, so to speak. I've even pulled a roast out of the freezer in the morning and popped it in a slow oven while it was still frozen.
This particular recipe isn't pretty - I almost didn't take pictures since I immediately cut it apart, and never made a 'pretty' plate. However, I will post one to show you what you're looking for in the interim stage.  So give this a try - you'll rely on this all the time.

1 3 lb chuck roast
salt and pepper - about 2 tsp salt, and six-seven cranks freshly cracked black pepper per side of the roast

1. Preheat oven to 250F, or set crock pot or slow cooker to lowest setting.
2. Salt and pepper all sides of the roast.
3. Place in a heavy Dutch oven, and place in the oven. Walk away - don't add anything else to the pot - no liquid, no veggies, nothing else at this point. The roast will produce it's own jus - just a fancy french word for juice. You'll use this jus later - so don't go messing with it now.
4. Slow cook or roast for at least six hours. It can go 8-10 as long as the temperature is very low. Don't open the lid of the Dutch oven or slow cooker - you'll release too much heat, and have to allow an additional fifteen minutes of cook time for each time the lid is lifted. Stop it.

That's it - once done, pull it from the heat. Allow it to rest - or cool completely if you wish. Once rested it's ready to use. Shred it, slice it, chop it - whatever you wish! Make sure you also reserve the juice in the bottom on the pot. Pour it into a fat separator if you have one, or a measuring cup if not. Stick it in the fridge for a bit - the fat will congeal at the top and can be easily spooned off.

The Bangkok Breakdown - Larb Gai Burgers

I adore Thai food - I first encountered it in Birmingham, Alabama at a place called Surin West. It was sublime - and so completely different than anything I had ever encountered. I was enamored to my toes.

One of the dishes that I had there was Larb Gai - a chicken salad done with ground chicken, chilies and limes. It's served hot, and it's unlike anything else.
Not long ago I made some for my children - and it was the simple happenstance of having hamburger buns on the kitchen counter that gave me the idea of mimicking the flavor of Larb Gai in a burger. The first batch was pretty good, but the second was out of this world.

So - Bangkok Breakdown is for the beautiful flavor profile, and for the fact that I 'broke down' the classic dish. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Makes 6 Burgers
2 Tbl Toasted rice powder (see blog entry on Toasted Rice Powder)
1 1/2 lb ground chicken
1/2 tsp hot chili powder*
1 1/2 Tbl fish sauce
zest of 1 lime
2 Tbl green onions, including
1 egg white
3 green onions, sliced
3 Tbl mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbl olive oil
Spicy Slaw and Sweet and Sour Thai Style Pickles (See Blog Entries)

1. Add toasted rice powder, chili powder, fish sauce, lime zest, green onions, egg white and mint leaves to the bowl of a food processor or blender.

2. Blend well - you'll have a loose paste.

3. Add egg white mixture to the chicken and blend thoroughly, but don't over mix. Handling the meat too much will lead to tough burgers.

4. Shape meat into six patties. Cover and chill until ready to grill - can be made ahead by a few hours if you like.

5. Oil grill with cooking spray or a little olive oil. Preheat grill to medium high. Allow it to fully preheat - this is important for preventing sticking.

6. Place burger patties on the hot grill, close the lid and walk away. Don't touch anything for six minutes. At that point, flip once, and only once. Grill another six minutes.

7. Allow burgers to rest at least five minutes before serving. Serve with Spicy Slaw and Sweet and Sour Thai Style Pickles.

*Use Thai chili powder if you can find it - it's wonderful. If not, use a dash of cayenne and a little crushed red pepper flakes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Redneck Cassoulet

I have this redneck friend - wait.

Bahahahaha! Ok - I have hundreds. But one in particular is a foodie. A couple of years ago he got his hands on an older French cookbook, and he developed an obsession with cassoulet - a French peasant dish that has as many ways of making it - and as many claimants to the correct way - as good barbeque does here. If you ever get it made the right way - you'll not only see why, you'll become obsessed too.

If you look up exactly what it is you'll get a variety of recipes. That's ok. The key components are white beans (arguments abound as to type), pork (ditto) and some sort of herbaceous savory flavoring (ditto). I've also seen that cassoulet translates as 'white bean stew', but also that the stew was named after the large, sturdy, conical dish in which it simmers. You know - it doesn't matter.

Randy - my friend - first made it by ordering all the key ingredients from a French online import company. He went with the 'most' traditional or standard means of making it. That means white beans, lingot or coco, garlic sausage from Lanquedoc and duck confit (duck cooked it it's own fat, beyond luscious on it's own). This means of preparation is rumored to have begun during the Hundred's Year War, when starving soldiers pooled their provisions, and a star was born. Sorry - my inner history nerd reared it's head.

Anyhoo - I have to say, the first batch he prepared, with all the French imports, was one of the finer things I've ever tasted in my life, and validated why I love being a foodie in the first place. I don't have to deal with high end restaurants if what I can get at home (or in this case hand delivered by 4x4) is better. It was DIVINE. Luscious. Bombshell. Golden. Rock Star. Everything you could imagine something fabulous being - this topped it. Then he blew it. I was happily munching on what we were calling Duck Chittlins (the skin, browned in duck fat), when he said "Yeah, but $100 is too damn much to pay for a bowl of beans."

Uh - ok. Well. It was lovely while it lasted.

BUT. I should never have underestimated the obsession of the foodie. Lord knows I'm guilty of making 8 different batches of cream puffs in a night to get it just right. (Yes, I really did.)

He kept tinkering with the recipe, carefully looking at each ingredient on it's own, and evaluating what each one brought to the show. (Good boy! That's MY method!) And danged if he didn't tinker until he came up with some just as incredible as the first batch. The really cool thing? He did it all using local stuff. And get this - instead of making confit by slowing poaching duck in its own fat - HE POACHED CHICKEN IN BACON GREASE. Gotta say, that's a certain kind of base cunning there. And THIS bowl of beans sure doesn't cost $100. 

Try this - it's lovely beyond lovely.

1 lb Great Northern beans, soaked overnight in water
1 quart beef stock, low sodium
2/3 quart chicken stock, low sodium
1 large yellow onion, halved
1/2 lb bacon, crisped and fat reserved
5 bay leaves
5 chicken legs
Your entire jar of bacon grease (that just proved this is an Appalachian recipe)
1 lb pork loin, cubed
1 12 inch piece of Andouille sausauge
1 Tbl salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Drain and rinse soaked beans, and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cast iron works better here if you have it.
  2. Add beef and chicken broths, onion halves, 2 bay leaves and bacon grease.
  3. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer just until beans begin to get tender, or are about 2/3 done.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.
  5. Brown the chicken legs in a cast iron or oven safe skillet. Once brown, add enough bacon grease to cover. If they won't cover and you couldn't get your mama or granny to give you hers, then you'll need to turn the legs in the oven and/or baste them as they cook.
  6. Once covered, pop the skillet in the oven, and allow to cook for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F, and continue to cook for another hour, or until the meat wants to fall off the bone.*
  7. Brown the pork loin and Andouille until beautifully golden brown. Set aside.
  8. Once beans have reached the 2/3 doneness stage, add chicken confit, pork, andouille and remaining bay leaves to the pot.
  9. Add salt, smoked salt, pepper and 1 cup of the bacon grease in which you confit'ed the chicken.
  10. Cook in the oven at 300 for another 1 1/2 hours, uncovered, or until beans are tender and creamy.
  11. We never said this was diet food. There's a reasons peasants were rather rotund.
Serve with cracklin cornbread.
*Contrary to all logic - meats confit in fat (even bacon grease) are not the least bit greasy. I don't know why. Don't care. They are tender, moist and succulent beyond belief.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Grilled Potato Salad

This is one of those happy accidents that came out of a search to do something with leftovers. In this case I had potato wedges that I had grilled the night before. The result was a salad that was different, but still creamy and delicious. All four kids ate it, which is the highest accolades I can get for a dish. Not only that - but my pickiest picky eater, my five year old - asked for seconds. Yay potatos!

Ok - first - to grill the potatoes, just scrub them well, and cut them into wedges. Cook in simmering water for about 30 minutes - until for tender, but not falling apart. (I overcooked mine frankly). Drain them and let them cool and dry. When ready to grill, brush or toss them with oil, salt and pepper, and grill until crispy on all sides, about five minutes a side.

For the salad:
About two cups of leftover grilled potato wedges, cut into large pieces
1/2 cup minced onion
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1 Tbl juice from hamburger dills
1/4 cup hamburger dills, chopped fine
1/4 cup dijon
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 dash Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk together all ingredients except potatoes in a mixing bowl.
2. Add potatoes, and toss gently to combine well.
3. Carefully adjust seasonings to taste, as the potatoes will have been salted, and the pickles and juice are salty as well. I added none.

Country Style Ribs

This is a great alternative to baby backs when you're craving the barbecue thing - but don't quite have the means to fund it. Country style ribs are far less than baby backs, yet have great flavor. The slow roast at first insures tender meat, and the rub gives great flavor.

6-8 country style pork ribs
1/2 cup SOB rub (see blog entry on SOB rub)
3/4 cups Memphis style Sauce

  1. Cover each side of the ribs with the SOB rub.

  2. Place in a grill on the lowest possible heat - or in an oven set to 200. Leave them alone for an hour.

  3. Turn grill, or oven, up to medium low and walk away for another hour.

  4. Turn grill to medium high - and coat each rib liberally with sauce. Be careful at this point, since the sugars in the sauce will burn quickly. Give the ribs just another five minutes or so, letting the sauce caramelize, then remove to a plate and let them rest for 10 minutes.

  5. Serve with extra sauce for slopping around.

Memphis Style Barbecue Sauce

I have serious issues with barbecue. Most of them revolve around the fact that not every food I eat is off the grill. I think it ought to be a food group.
I also have this *slight* competitive edge. Just a small one. When I decide I have to perfect something, than by Jackson, it has to be PERFECT. I've doen this for years with barbecue. I've worked most on the Trifecta - ribs, butt and brisket, although I've been known to attempt anything over fire. Yes, Virginia, you can grill cupcakes.
Among my other issues though, two emerged as prime. The first was that I always made my sauces too spicy for my children. (I was after that perfect sweet, smokey, spicy combo). What I thought was mild just showed me I have an asbestos lining in my mouth. Which meant my kids were actually in danger of turning against barbecue. Oh laws!
Secondly, when I started grilling, smoking and que'ing, the Trifecta was still considered kind of junky cuts - which meant they were cheap and I could play a lot with them. Over the past twenty years though, barbecuing has become more and more popular, and just like tri-tip, the cost of these has doubled and tripled.
I guess my final issue was that I wanted ALL styles of barbecue. They're all so nice - how can you pick one? My favorite will always be NC-style - tangy and spicy. But I love the sweet from St. Louis, the zing of Alabama white - the purity of Texas smoked.
This is my answer to all of that - sort of. At least to the issue of my kids. This one is sweet and tangy. You can add a bit of cayenne if you want - but be careful. A little goes a long way. And of course this has honey and brown sugar both in it - so it's a finish sauce for the end of cooking. More than five minutes and it'll start to burn, not caramalize.

1 1/2 cup ketchip
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbl SOB Save Our Barbecue Rub (See Blog on SOS rub)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring well, then reduce to low. Taste - adjust sugars.
  3. Cook at lowest possible temperature for about an hour - if it doesn't quite simmer that's perfect. 

SOB Save Our Barbecue Rub

This is the base, non-spicy rub I use on most of the meats I barbecue. It's just enough to enhance flavors and colors of meats, helping to develop a nice crust, without interfering with the natural flavor of the meat itself, or the smokieness you're trying to capture.

1/3 cup SOS (see SOS Blog entry)
1 Tbl paprika
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
1 dash - barely a dash - cayenne pepper
Blend all ingredients well and use as a rub on ribs, brisket, or butt. A pork butt, not your own. Otherwise, I don't want to know about it.

If you're into heat - go ahead and crank the cayenne, and add a little red pepper flakes too. But be careful - the heat of both intensifies as it sits, AND as it cooks. You can always add more heat, but you can't take it out.

Mock Thom - Thom Ka - Fire Soup - Coconut Thai Soup

Thom Kha is a phenomenal Thai soup flavored with coconut, galangel, kaffir lime leaves and sometimes lemon grass. It usually contains tofu, but I've seen it with chicken and shrimp both. It can be spicy - if you want it to be, and I usually do. My children call it 'fire soup' - because the place in Seattle where we sometimes ordered it served it on a burner.
I can't get most of the ingredients which make the signature flavors in this soup. While I am able to obtain some pretty distinct Asian condiments with which I can replicate some pretty rockin dishes, I can't get the three items that really define Thom Kha. Galengel is similar to fresh ginger, although with it's own distinct flavor. Kaffir leaves are from the Kaffir lime plant, and lemongrass is truly distinct. All three are considered fresh produce, and since all I can do is order things online or make a once-a-month run to the Asian market nearly an hour away - I'm out of luck.

Thai dishes are often named by flavor - so if you can't replicate the flavor, you really don't have the dish. That's why this is Mock Thom. I got as close as I could to Thom Kha, with the ingredients I'm able to obtain. Frankly - it's pretty daggone good. The last few times we've had the real thing - it was no better than this. A little different - yes. But not better.

1 32 oz can chicken broth
2 15 oz cans coconut milk
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, or dried Chinese black mushrooms
1/4 cup dried Chinese black fungus
1/2 15 oz can straw mushrooms
1 pkg extra firm tofu, diced
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, diced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
2 Tbl sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Optional heat ingredients:

  • 4-5 dried Thai chilis, or

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 1 Tbl Sriracha hot sauce, or
    or any combination of the above, or none

  1. Place dried mushrooms and black fungus in very hot water and allow to soak. Do this first - they need about 20 minutes.

  2. In a large Dutch oven, put chicken broth, coconut milk, straw mushrooms, tofu, soy and fish sauces, and lime juice. Bring temperature up to a simmer, then reduce heat. Keep soup at a simmer.

  3. If using heat ingredients, add them now.

  4. Once mushrooms have softened, drain them well. Add fungus to the soup pot. Slice softened shiitakes, discarding any tough stems.

  5. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed - in this case soy and lime. Add cilantro at the last minute. Drizzle each bowl with sesame oil.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

123 Roll Dough

I think I've been playing with this recipe for nearly 20 years. This is also the first recipe I adapted to be a "123" recipe - meaning I tweaked it until all measurements were a 1, 2, or 3. That makes it easier to remember - since most of the time I hate cooking by a recipe or using a cookbook. I'd rather research then wing it, until I get it the way I want it. The I have to write it down or I couldn't repeat it.  Sheeeesh.

I think the original came out of a Southern Living cookbook - but I've made it so long I'm not really sure. What I do know is that this is the easiest, most versatile weapon in my arsenal. It's awesome. The same dough can go sweet or savory - heck, the same BATCH can go either way. You can even make part of a batch into something, and stash the rest in the fridge for a day or so.

Roll little balls and stash in muffin tins and you have a basic dinner roll. Roll it out into triangles, brush with garlic butter and Parmesan, and you have Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls. Roll into a big rectangle, cover with butter, brown sugar, and raisins, and you have Cinnamon Rolls. This  is most certainly one of my favorite tricks. Get this one down -  and it's so easy it's ridiculous - and you'll be a Rock Star for sure.

1 cup warm water
1 Tbl yeast
2 Tbl sugar
1 Tsp salt
2 Tbl shortening
1 egg
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp oil
butter - for brushing

  1. Place water and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Add sugar, egg, and shortening and mix to combine.
  2. Add flour - starting with 2 1/2 cups a 1/2 cup at a time and mixing well. If dough is sticky, add a little additional flour. I usually end up with 3 cups, depending on the weather.
  3. Sprinkle in salt, and knead - with the dough hook or by hand - for five minutes or so. The dough should be smooth and elastic and just a tad bit sticky - but only a tiny, tiny bit sticky.
  4. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, turning it to oil all sides. Cover and allow it to rest for about 1 hour - or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down dough. At this step you can choose your shape. I make mini rolls in a miniature muffin tin, or crescent rolls, sweet rolls - buns - you name it. In any case, roll the dough out and shape to your preference.
  6. Allow to rest, covered, for another hour. Whatever shape you make, brush with melted butter before baking. Bake for 10 minutes at 400F.

The Chickenator - Ranch Chicken Burger

You can tell when I run across a new ingredient - or rediscover an old one. I have a thing with burgers - a slight manic obsession. I ADORE them - and constantly try out new combinations of meat, toppings, sauces and cheese. I buy huge amounts of ground chicken when (IF!) I can find it, because it's a little scarce around here. But I did find tons lately, so I've played with several recipes.
Including some for burgers. My goal was to make a really juicy, tasty, 'chickeny' burger that held together and had tons of flavor. Ground poultry doesn't like to stay together. It does like to get dry, tasteless and fall apart. What to do?
I needed flavor additives that wouldn't overwhelm the chicken itself, and a binding agent. Most of the standard binders were out - wouldn't cook correctly on the grill (yes, it MUST be grilled). Not sure where I got the idea for egg white, but I think it might have been for a recipe for an Asian sausage.  And when I thought of ranch flavors and looked around for ideas, I kept finding the same recipe - calling for crunched up Doritos.
Now I'm not fanatical about nutrition - I believe in moderation - but it did bug me to take a really healthy thing - ground skinless chicken - and add chips to it. I thought that was the wrong approach. Instead I decided to use the little packet of dressing mix (y'all know the one), and crank the flavor with some 'real' ingredients in order to capture the true 'ranch' flavor, but avoid the chemical, processed taste of using all pre-packaged ingredients. The trick was to whiz it all in the food processor - this gave a really smooth mixture that blended beautifully with the chicken without interfering with the texture. It also allowed a mechanism to really get the egg white blended in well.
Anytime all four children plus assorted neices and nephews eat something - all of them - and love it - I feel it came off a keeper. 


2 lbs ground chicken
1 packet ranch dressing mix (not dip)
1 egg white
1 Tbl SOS (see blog entry for SOS)
1/4 cup onion
2 small cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbl fresh parsley
Oil for the grill

To assemble:
1/2 cup sour cream
16 slices thick cut bacon
Red leaf lettuce
8 burger buns (you can use the 123 bread dough for this if you like - it's yummy)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (or sliced something else but this is delicious)

  1.  Put all ingredients except chicken in the bowl of a food process and process until pretty smooth. You'll have a very loose paste.
  2. Add paste to ground chicken, and mix well, but as little as possible. Handling the meat more than necessary will make it tough.
  3. Divide meat into 8 equal portions, and shape into patties. Chill until ready to use.
  4. Cook bacon until crisp, set aside and keep warm.
  5. Preheat grill to medium high. Make sure the temp is nice and hot, and that the grill is well oiled. This is what keeps the burgers from sticking - and helps insure that you'll have beautiful grill marks.
  6. Grill the burgers on the first side - without turning them! - covered for 7 minutes. Flip them - ONCE. The grilling pixies will come bite you in the night if you flip them more than once, uncover them, or squish them to hear the little sizzle sound.
  7. Grill the second side for 6 minutes. Remove to a platter to rest. Top with the goat cheese while they rest.
  8. To assemble - while the burgers rest, grill the buns for just a minute until toasty. Spread the warm buns with sour cream, and add the burgers. Top with lettuce and a couple of slices bacon each.
Get the good napkins out.

Sesame Noodles

So have I mentioned I have a thing for Asian foods? Maybe once or twice?

My kiddos do too - and I started playing with the notion of Asian fast foods. Many of them are incredibly fast - which I adore. I love cranking out something flavorful and healthy when they're trying to convince me they're going to starve within seconds.

This one is like the fried rice I rely on all the time as well - additions are simple. In this case I used a little egg, but all kinds of veggies work as well, as do other proteins or nuts. Think along the lines of Lo Mein or Chow Mein - and you'll see how adaptable this can be. So if you can't manage takeout (or don't want to bother with takeout!) - knock this out instead.

1 lb fettuccine, cooked
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp black or rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbl sesame oil
2 tsp olive oil

  1. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add egg to wok, and scramble until just barely set. Remove from heat, and break into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Return wok to heat, and add garlic and ginger to wok. Immediately add noodles, soy sauce and vinegar.
  3. Toss all ingredients well to combine and stir fry for about two minutes. Return egg to the pan and stir fry another minute.
  4. Add sesame oil, and toss well to combine and heat through.

Chicken Love for Leigh

Really - I don't think in my head that chicken soup will actually do anything for you physically if you're sick. But in my heart of hearts I do know that it does do two things.  First - whoever gets it feels better because someone loved them enough to make homemade chicken soup. Second - it actually lets you DO something for someone who is under the weather.

Tradition is that chicken soup will help fight a cold, and there is some evidence that garlic has some natural antibiotic properties. I'm a firm believer in the longheld Chinese belief that fresh or pickled ginger will help an unhappy tummy. I like to use strong flavors just because if you have a cold, you often can't taste flavors as strongly.

I make this for my daughter all the time. She told me once that she likes being sick because of the soup. Not bad.

Recently a long-time friend was feeling punky, and I was really stuck. Not only was she feeling bad - she was too far away for me to do much. So I made her a long distance pot of love. One day I'll deliver a fresh pot in person!

1 32 oz can chicken broth (homemade is better if you have it!)
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ginger, grated
1 cup cooked chicken, diced
8 oz medium egg noodles
1 Tbl salt
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tbl olive oil

  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch overn over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and carrot for three minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, thyme and bay leaf and saute for another three minutes. You should have a great fragrance by now, with the veggies becoming tender.
  3. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Add egg noodles and slightly undercook according to package directions. For example, if the package says to cook for 8 minutes, then go for 7 once added to the soup. Add salt and pepper at this point. 
  5. Add chicken to the pot and stir well to combine. Adjust for seasoning, and re-season if necessary.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Black and White Oreo Trifle

My original intent for this was that it be a pie - somewhere along the lines of a French Chocolate Silk on steroids and Oreos. Somehow though chocolate liqueur snuck into the mix. Not necessarily a bad thing - in reality - just the opposite - if taste and texture were the only considerations. But it did cause some issues with structural integrity. That might actually be seen as a larger metaphor for something - if you think about it real hard.

So I put the word out - and got this awesome idea from my friend Jackie. So it's a trifle - which I think is brilliant. Kept all the fabulous flavors and textures from the original disaster pie. Mmmm - and it's better than it looks. Sure it makes a mess - but who cares?!? All will be forgiven when you get the first taste. Only trick - keep your 'layers' at room temperature until it's assembled, then stash the trifle dish in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

25 Oreos
½ stick butter

2 8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate liqueur

6 Tbl cocoa
2/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
2 Tbl butter
2 tsp vanilla

2 cups whipping cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup chocolate liqueur

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process cookies and 1/2 stick melted butter until reduced to a very fine crumb. Divide the batch in half. Put 1 half in the bottom of a trifle dish, pressing down until it's tightly packed against the bottom of the dishes, and against the bottom 'corners' - resembling a crust. Reserve second half for the next layer.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment (or by hand if you want a workout!), beat together cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of the chocolate liqueur. Divide the batch in half, and spread half carefully on top of the crust in the trifle dish.* Reserve the other half for the second layer.
  3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together cocoa, 2 cups sugar, and flour. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolks. Add milk/egg mixture to the cocoa/flour mixture and whisk well.
  4. Set saucepan over medium heat, and stirring often, bring just to a simmer. Simmer for a minute, or until thick and glossy. This won't take long. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Stir well to incorporate, and set aside to cool. This cools faster if you set the pan in a larger container of ice and stir it well until cool, or if you simply remove it to a cooler plastic container.
  5. Back to your mixing bowl - combine the 2 cups whipping cream, vanilla, remaining 1/2 chocolate liqueur and 1/2 cup sugar. Beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form - they'll stay put, but be jiggly.
  6. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, but not 'set', spread 1/2 on top of the cream cheese mixture in the trifle dish. Top this with 1/2 the whipped cream, and repeat. You won't be able to pat down the Oreo layer at this point, just make sure you work each layer to the sides of the dish so they show cleanly and clearly. The middle doesn't matter a speck.
  7. Repeat with the cream cheese, chocolate and whipped cream. You can garnish this or not - either form soft peaks in the final whipped cream layer, use another crushed or whole Oreo, or simply a few chocolate curls. This one is Rock Star status.

*For a really pretty presentation, keep the inside of the trifle bowl exceptionally clean by wiping off any smudges with a paper towel. This keeps the layers more crisp and distinct.