Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Irish Eyes are Smiling ...

... it is because they are eating this stew.  I tested it to serve at our March office luncheon, and I'm thinking "success".  The lamb is sweet, tender, and not gamey at all.  The sauce is rich and oniony, and well it should be with four different sources of onion flavor.  My house smells divine, and yours will too when you prepare it.

The proposed menu also includes green goddess dressing for a salad (made with all fresh herbs and Hellman's Real Mayonnaise, the only commercial mayonnaise worth eating), Irish soda bread with caraway and raisins, corned beef with a marmalade-whiskey glaze, miniature shepherd's pies (gotta have an appetizer), and some other stuff.  I'll keep you advised.

Lamb Chop Dry Rub:
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon celery seed
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon dried Valencia orange peel
1 teaspoon dried California lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all of the ingredients and store in a container with a lid.

Irish Lamb Stew

Gather your ingredients:
2 tablespoons of the Lamb Chop Dry Rub
2 pounds of boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 or more cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 envelope Lipton Golden Onion soup mix (it's gotta be golden)
1 can Campbell's condensed French Onion Soup
1 soup can of water, or more if needed to almost cover the stew
1 1/2 pound tiny new potatoes (use yellow or gold)
1 pound baby carrots
1/2 of a 1 pound bag frozen pearl onions
1/2 of a 1 pound bag frozen baby peas
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

The night before - place the lamb into a zip top bag and add the dry rub.  Close the bag, shake it so that all of the lamb is dusted with some of the spice, then place in the fridge till ready to cook.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add the onion.  Sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.  Stir and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion carmelizes a little bit.  Set aside.

Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, and add the lamb to brown it on all sides.  Stir in the soup mix, the condensed soup, the water, potatoes, carrots, 1/4 cup of parsley, and the sauteed onions and garlic from the skillet.  Stir together, cover the Dutch oven and simmer the stew for two hours, stirring occasionally.

Place the pearl onions and peas in a colander and run hot water over them for a minute to speed defrosting.  Ten minutes before the stew is done, add the pearl onions and peas, stir, cover, and simmer till done.  Add the remaining parsley.

With a slotted spoon, remove the stew to a serving dish or casserole.  Place the pan with the sauce back on the heat, and reduce just a bit until the taste is rich but not salty.  Spoon the sauce over the stew and serve right away.

Looking at this list of ingredients, I'm going to guess you don't need to serve anything else but some bread and maybe a green salad.  Oh, and some beer.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I still aspire to keep up with my cooking blog, but have done a really irregular job of it.  So, like everything else in my life, I am downsizing.  There are around 80 recipes on this site, which will remain open and available.  The links between the blogs will also remain active.

For the future, any recipes, along with the stories that go with them, will be published on the original Inspiration Nation blog.  I hope you will check it out.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Too easy.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray some nonstick stuff into an 8 x 12 x 2 inch aluminum bake pan.

1 package Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs  at room temperature
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Combine cake mix with water, oil and extracts.  Beat on low speed just to combine, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat at medium speed (I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer) for 4 minutes.  Yes, that is four (4) minutes.  Add poppy seeds and stir in on lowest speed.  Pour into prepared aluminum pan.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before adding the topping.

Topping: Stir together 12 ounces defrosted Cool Whip and fresh lemon juice to taste. Spread on the cooled cake.  Store cake in the refrigerator.  Serves 12 to 24.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mushroom Risotto with Sherry and Cream

Despite a reputation of mystical proportions, risotto is not difficult to prepare.  In fact, if you can make Rice-a-Roni, you can make risotto.  The only difference in the preparation is that for risotto, instead of adding your liquid, covering your pan and walking away, you have to add the liquid incrementally - about a half a cup at a time - and stir into the rice until absorbed.

Now a couple of observations - risotto is, to this Jewish cook, a bit like preparing kasha varnishkes.  Pretty easy, not too many ingredients, but requiring multiple pots to put it all together.  Risotto also falls into that category of recipes Alton Brown refers to as "refrigerator velcro" - dishes like omelets and gratins - in which the only limit to creativity is the contents of your fridge.  The basic risotto only requires some broth, a small amount of onion cooked in butter or oil, and the most important ingredient, Arborio rice.  The finished dish is different than any other rice dish you have probably ever eaten.  It is rich and creamy and comforting.  I love long grain rice in all it's permutations, from plain buttered to Savannah red, and I also adore Asian sticky rice, but if you've never eaten risotto, you've never really eaten rice. The best risotto I ever tasted was in Bologna, Italy, over Thanksgiving of 2004.  A curried seafood version which I have managed to recreate at home.  I wouldn't even mind it as my Last Meal, should I ever require the need for a Last Meal.

My favorite risotto is a mushroom risotto, however, and this dish manages to elevate the humble white button mushroom to new heights.  You can certainly use shittakes, which I love but tend to avoid because they are usually seriously overpriced, but I would avoid portobellos and their Cousin Cremini.  I have lots of good things to do with Bella and Cremini, but they are too assertive for this otherwise delicate dish.

1 tablespoon butter
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry sherry (not cooking sherry)
1/2 cup light or heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I have started to use the curly variety rather than the Italian flat parsley)

6 cups chicken or turkey stock

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup minced sweet onion or shallots

1 1/2 cup Arborio rice

First, prepare the mushrooms:  in a skillet over moderate heat, melt the butter; add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn the heat to high and add the sherry.  Cook until reduced by half, then lower the heat and add the cream.  Cook another five minutes until mixture has thickened somewhat.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Next, bring the stock to a bare simmer and hold it there.

And now, because you haven't already used a bunch of pots and pans, heat the butter and oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes, but do not allow the onions to brown.  Add the rice to the same pot and using a wooden spoon, stir for one minute, just until the rice grains are well coated with the butter and oil.  Don't cook the rice any longer than one minute.  Now start adding the simmering broth, about one-half cup at a time.  Stir to prevent sticking, and wait until each addition of stock is almost completely absorbed before adding the next half cup.

When most of the stock is used up, and the rice is tender, add the mushroom-sherry mixture, the Parmesan cheese, and the parsley.  Stir well to completely combine with the rice.

Now, the eating part.  I can eat this all by it's lonesome.  My boys like it as a side dish with some kind of meat.  Northern Italian chefs serve risotto with osso buco, and I personally think they should win the Nobel Peace Prize for that particular combination.  If more people ate well-prepared risotto, they would smile a lot more, and be far less inclined to engage in warfare.  World peace.  It's a good thing.  So is this risotto.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Office Potluck Better than Sex Cake - For the Family, Chicken with Artichokes

First and foremost, how to make "Better than Sex" cake:

1 box devil's food cake mix (plus the ingredients needed to bake the cake)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
caramel and/or fudge ice cream topping
8 oz. (or more) Cool Whip
4 Heath Bars

In a 9 x 13 aluminum baking pan, bake the cake mix according to the instructions on the back of the box.  Let cool just slightly, then poke holes all over (I used a Korean chopstick, which is made of metal and narrower than wooden sticks).  Carefully pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake, letting it soak in.  Once it is all nice and soaked, drizzle the caramel or fudge topping over the top.  I used Smucker's brand, and I used a little of both, because anything worth doing is worth overdoing.  Cover and chill the cake for a while.

Unwrap the Heath bars and place them in a ziploc freezer bag.  Using a wooden mallet, whack the hell out of the candy until it is nice and broken up.  Don't make it too fine, and don't worry about uneven-sized pieces - it just adds to the charm.

Spread the Cool Whip all over the top, and then sprinkle the candy pieces over all.  Serve immediately or cover and chill some more.  I like to chill it overnight.  Awesome.

Sorry I have no pictures, but we ate it too quickly.  And went back to our desks in a much better mood  ;-))

Found this pic on the interwebz.  Yeah, it looked something like this before we scarfed it all up.

Now the chicken dish - very easy, great for a work night.

1 package skinless and boneless chicken thighs - about 6-7 thighs.  Cut them in half, season well with:
Garlic salt, Lemon pepper, Paprika

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan, then brown the chicken on both sides.  When brown, remove the chicken to a baking dish, 9x13 works well.  Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the same pan, then add:

1 large sweet onion, sliced
8-12 oz. sliced white mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

I also had some of those mini sweet peppers in the house, so I quartered them lengthwise and threw them in as well.  When the vegetables are tender, sprinkle on:

1/4 cup flour

and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or until the raw flour smell is gone.  Gradually stir in:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (from a box)

and bring to a boil.  Stir until sauce is thickened.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 cup dry sherry.  Not cooking sherry, please.  If you don't have sherry, use vermouth, white wine, whatever.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, but keep in mind the chicken is pretty well seasoned, so don't go nuts with the salt.  I like to add some dried thyme at this point, and a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce.  I like quite a bit of thyme, but your mileage may vary.  Use your judgment. 

Drain a can of quartered artichoke hearts (not the marinated kind) and spread over the top of the cooked chicken.  I use my hands to break up the artichoke hearts a little more.  Then pour the sauce over the chicken and artichokes (yes, the smell is intoxicating), cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.

This is one of those dishes that goes really well with white rice.  Add a green salad to the menu, and your family will nominate you for sainthood.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chicken Livers with Caramelized Onions in a Sage Cream Sauce - 9/11/11

I always think of chicken livers as being a very Jewish food, but I guess that's not entirely true.  They form the basis of that most quintessential Jewish dish, gehakteh leber, chopped liver.  I grew up on the stuff, although for many years, my grandmother used beef or calves liver and no hardboiled eggs.  Very good, no matter whose liver was being used.  I also loved the thick, sauteed calves liver served at Senior's Restaurant in Cedarhurst, smothered in fried onions.  And as a young married woman, looking for dishes to serve my equally young husband, I relied frequently on chicken livers for a filling, quick, and cheap meal.  Served with my mother in law's recipe for kale kraut ... oh my, that was so good.  Needless to say, I love liver, which is a good thing, given the state of the economy and my hemoglobin count.

My son Cory eats almost everything, including eel, caviar, gator and venison.  He doesn't like pineapple, and he refuses to eat chicken liver ever since a fifth grade biology class taught him exactly what the liver's purpose really was.  I am hoping that this variation will change his mind. 

1 lb organic chicken livers, rinsed, drained, patted dry, trimmed, and cut into quarters with kitchen scissors.
1 very large or 2 medium onions, sliced
4 slices bacon, halved crosswise
2 T garlic oil, plus more as needed
AP flour seasoned with my seasoning blend and some half sweet Hungarian paprika (or use sweet paprika and a touch of cayenne)
Kosher salt, black pepper, and a big pinch of brown sugar

For the sauce:
2 T garlic oil
2 T of the reserved seasoned flour
1-2 cups whole milk
Whole dried sage leaves, crumbled
2-3 T sherry

Start the bacon cooking over medium heat until bacon fat is about half rendered. Add the garlic oil and cook until bacon is crisp and fat completely rendered. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel. Add the onions to the pan and season with salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Let onions caramelize and then use a slotted spoon to remove to a baking dish.

Dredge the liver pieces lightly in the seasoned flour and add to the pan in a single layer. (Do not discard the leftover flour, you will be using it for the sauce.) Sauté until browned and a little crispy on both sides and the livers are cooked through. Remove the livers to the dish with the onions, using a slotted spoon.  Add the last 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, and then add 2 tablespoons of the reserved flour.  Stir and cook to make a roux, scraping up any tasty bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add one cup of milk, and stir while heating until a cream sauce forms.  Taste and season with my seasoning blend, some more paprika, and a good amount of the sage.  Add more milk if the sauce is too thick.

Now return the livers and onions to the pan and heat in the sauce.  Lower the heat and stir in the sherry.  Taste and re-season again, if needed.  Transfer the finished dish to a serving dish or casserole.  Crumble the reserved bacon and sprinkle over the top.

Sweet and Sassy Platanos Maduros - 9/11/11

6 very ripe plantains, peeled and sliced on the bias
My seasoning blend (see below)
Paula Deen's Southern Spice Rub (contains salt, chili powder, ground cumin, black pepper, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, crushed red chili pepper)
1 stick butter
Blackberry honey

Toss the plantains with the seasonings and some sugar, and let sit a few minutes while you melt the butter over medium low heat. Carefully add the plantains to the pan and cook until they are browned on all sides. Drizzle with honey and cook a few more minutes until the plantains have a glazed light brown finish.  Taste and season with kosher salt, Southern Spice Rub and more honey, if you like them sweeter.  Serve with lime or lemon wedges for diners to squeeze over the plantains, if desired.

My seasoning blend:
4 T kosher salt
1 T coarse black pepper
1 T granulated garlic
1 T onion powder
1/2 T white pepper (I like pepper, okay?)

Mix this together and keep in a small covered container.  Similar to Paula Deen's House Seasoning, only a bit more complex.  Very good on steak, chicken, and in scrambled eggs.

2 T. ground cumin 2 T. chili powder 1 T. ground coriander 1 T. kosher salt 2 t. ground pepper 1/2 t. ground cinnamon 1/2 t. red pepper flakes

Sausage and Pepper Cacciatore - 9/11/11

Eat this, it will make you feel better!

Sausage and Pepper Cacciatore

I recommend using a large electric frying pan for this.  I set it on 250 degrees, which was perfect.  Also, the lid has a vent that I opened, which allowed some but not all of the steam to escape.  Also perfect.

2 T. olive oil
8-10 Italian sausages (I used 5 "hot" Italian pork sausages and 4 chicken, spinach and feta sausages)
5 bell peppers, a mixture of red and green, sliced
1 very large or 2 medium onions, sliced
10 cloves garlic, rough chop
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, sugar

Heat oil then add sausage. Cook covered on low, turning once. Add peppers, onions, garlic and seasoning. Cover and continue cooking. After a few minutes, move the sausages on top of the vegetables so the vegetables can make contact with the bottom of the pan. After 7 to 10 minutes or when vegetables are soft and onions beginning to brown, remove the cover and continue to cook. Stir occasionally to ensure that the sausages and vegetables have the opportunity to brown.

1-14.5 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes with garlic, well drained
20 large pitted black olives, drained, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup white wine

When the sausages and vegetables are done to your liking and any liquid in the pan has evaporated, add the wine, stir to deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes and olives. Cover the pan and cook on low just a few minutes until the flavors have a chance to marry.

This particular version of this dish is not about the tomato, but all about the sausage and peppers.  If you would like to serve this with pasta, it should have a sauce of it's own.  Or you can serve it will rice or mashed potatoes.  Heck, is there anything that doesn't go with mashed potatoes?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pecan Crusted Catfish Nuggets and Barbecued Chicken Wings - 8/28/11

Catfish nuggets are odd shaped pieces of catfish, ends and such, that are delicious but esthetically displeasing.  No neat fillets there.  At $3.99 a pound, I had to come up with something tasty.  And I did, using some of the pecan meal I picked up on our last trip to Atlanta.

Pecan meal is just finely chopped pecans, so you can certainly chop 'em yourself, but I like buying the meal because it is just the right consistency for breading fish and chicken.  For a pound of fish, all I do is  take some of the pecan meal and season it with garlic salt, pepper, dried thyme and paprika.  I then melt a stick of butter, and dip each piece of catfish in the butter, then the seasoned pecan meal.  Lightly butter a baking pan or dish, and place the prepared fish on it, single layer.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until the pecans are toasty, then carefully turn each piece over and return to the oven until that side has toasty nuts as well.  Yes, I really wrote that.

And that's the whole dish.

Now, the chicken wings - easy, no frying, but still crisp and juicy.  I like to use whole chicken wings.  Don't cut or separate any of the pieces.  Rinse the wings, don't worry about drying them.  Season both sides however you like.  I like salt, pepper, a little paprika, some garlic powder.  Place the wings on a rack over a baking dish and broil each side until the skin is nice and crispy.  People seem to have forgotten how to broil food.  My grandmother used to broil everything she didn't pot.  Potting is what we now call braising.  My grandmother used to braise her meatloaf.  Quite a gal.  But really, broiling seems to be a lost art, which is sad because it produces a nice char and crispy finish without having to fire up the grill or heat up 10 gallons of canola oil.  Makes clean-up a snap.

While the wings are broiling, set up a deep bowl or baking dish with an entire bottle of good quality barbecue sauce.  For this, I like KC Masterpiece Original.  When the wings are crispy, switch the oven to bake, and at 350 degrees, let the chicken finish cooking and warm the baking dish of sauce - maybe 10 minutes, no more.  With a pair of tongs, move the chicken wings to the sauce and carefully stir or toss to coat.  That's it, that's all you have to do.  Since I don't like spicy wings, this is the best way for me to enjoy them.

I suppose you can use any sauce that suits your fancy, including variations on the hot stuff.  I still don't get the attraction of eating food so incendiary it can blow the top of your head off while you sweat pure capsaicin from your pores.  And speaking of afterburn ... laugh while you can monkey boy, the truth is we all have to use the bathroom eventually.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cindy's Spectacular Jambalaya - 8/21/11

This is totally my version of jambalaya, so I have no one to blame but myself if you find it displeasing.  But if you love one-pot dishes with everything and then some, please try this.

6 slices bacon, quartered crosswise
2/3 cup canola oil, divided
1-14 oz. package Johnsonville New Orleans Brand Andouille, sliced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
10 cloves garlic, chopped
3 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped, including leaves
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
3 stalks of fresh thyme, with multiple stems on each
2 bay leaves
2 cups uncooked rice
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano
1-10 oz. can Ro-Tel Original Tomatoes with Green Chilies
1/2 pound chopped ham
1 quart chicken stock
1-8 oz. container fresh oysters, drained and rinsed (optional, but we love oysters)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Seasoning:  kosher salt, coarse black pepper, Emeril's Original Essence.  No exact amounts are given, so season to taste.  Remember that the sausage and the Ro-Tel tomatoes will add quite a bit of spice to the dish.

1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Slap Ya Mama white pepper blend seasoning

You will need a large, deep, very heavy pot for this dish.  Cook the bacon until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined dish. Add about 1/3 cup canola oil to the pot.   Add the sliced andouille and saute for about five minutes, then remove to the same dish as the bacon.  Season the chicken with Emeril's Essence, using your fingers to distribute evenly, and saute in the same pot till the chicken is no longer pink on the outside, but not completely cooked through.  Remove and add to the dish with the bacon and the andouille.  Crumble the cooled bacon with your fingers.

Add another 1/3 cup of canola oil to the pot and bring up to heat.  Add the garlic, and once it becomes fragrant (within a minute) add the onions, celery, bell peppers, bay leaves and thyme (throw in the whole stalks).  Season well with kosher salt, coarse black pepper, Essence, and 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar.  Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

Add the rice, stirring to coat with the cooking liquid.  Add the tomatoes and the ham.  Pour in the chicken stock.  Add back all of the cooked bacon, andouille and chicken.  Stir, bring up to a boil, reduce to low, cover and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid almost gone, about 25 minutes.  Check about halfway through to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Add the oysters, cover and cook 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook another 2 minutes until the shrimp are pink and the oysters firm.  Discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks. 

Taste to check the seasoning.  I added more salt and pepper, Slap Ya Mama seasoning and some (quite a bit) Tabasco. We like ours spicy but not painful. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cheesy Spicy Garlicky - Cauliflower? - 8/14/11

That's right.  And broccoli.

Here's the skinny on vegetables that may blow off the top of your head.  I bought a bag of Publix's "Alpine" frozen veggies - a simple blend of cauliflower and broccoli, two of my favorite vegetables in the world.  I took my mother's recipe for Italian broccoli, raided the pantry for stuff that comes in a jar, and played loosey-goosey with the spices.  Served this vegetarian wonder along side oven-barbecued ribs, not-so-spicy Buffalo chicken wings, and my home fried potatoes.  I love fresh ingredients, don't get me wrong, but there is something so wonderfully retro about pulling cans and bottles out of the pantry and coming up with a winner.

1 lb. bag of mixed frozen cauliflower and broccoli
canola oil or garlic oil (I use Boyajian brand) to coat the bottom of the pan
5 or more really large cloves of garlic, chopped with abandon
kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, and dried pepper flakes
1-10 oz. can of Ro-tel tomatoes, drained
1 jar of Ragu brand cheese sauce (available in the pasta sauce aisle)

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with the oil.  Add the garlic and the frozen vegetables.  Season with the salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and dried pepper flakes, to taste.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  The vegetables are actually steaming in the water they give off as they defrost, while the garlic cooks in the oil.  Weird, but it works.  If the garlic starts to get too brown, add a few tablespoons of water.  Forget tender-crisp or al dente, you want them nice and soft.  Then add the tomatoes and the cheese sauce, stir, cover, and cook a few more minutes until hot.

Cindy's Home Fried Potatoes - 8/14/11

5 slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1-8 oz. container Incredible Fresh brand diced red onion
1-8 oz. container Incredible Fresh brand tri pepper mix
4 or more large cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
2-14 1/2 oz. cans DelMonte brand diced new potatoes, well-drained
Kosher salt, black pepper, Emeril's Essence and Hungarian paprika

Start to cook the bacon in a large frying pan.  When some of the bacon fat is rendered, add the butter.  When the butter is melted, add the onion, peppers, and garlic.  Season with salt, pepper, and Essence and cook 2-3 minutes, or until the bacon is well-cooked (it will not be crispy).  Add the potatoes and the paprika, stir everything together gently, and cook over medium heat another 5 minutes.  Serve now, or move to a baking dish and heat in a 325-375 degree oven (depending on what else you have in there) until it is heated through and a little brown.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rather Good But Untraditional Clam Chowder - 8/13/11

I had an idea in my head about what sort of chowder I was trying to make.  For some reason I am obsessed with "pink" chowder, a diplomatic compromise between the creamy New England variety, and the earthy, tomato-based Manhattan variety.  I debated long and hard between Worcestershire and Vermouth, and decided that the Worcestershire better represented my seasoning goal in this case.  Except once I got started, I realized there had to be a touch of sherry to finish it off.

It is a rather good, but untraditional clam chowder.

4 slices bacon, diced small
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, medium-diced
3 carrots, medium-diced (about 15 baby carrots)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2-8 oz. bottles clam juice + the juice reserved from the drained clams
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 drops Tabasco sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk, heated in the microwave
3-6 1/2 oz. cans chopped clams, drained, juice reserved
1-6 oz. can lump crabmeat, drained
1/4 cup sherry

In a stockpot, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is well-rendered.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and  add 1 tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat in the pot.  Add the onions and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, celery carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and saute for 10 more minutes, adding another tablespoon of butter if necessary.  Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook another 30-60 seconds.  Add the clam juice, the Worcestershire, and the Tabasco, and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add the clams and heat over low heat while you prepare the roux.

In a small pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, whisking constantly.  Whisk in a cup of the hot tomato clam broth then pour this mixture back into the chowder.  Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.  Add the hot milk and the crabmeat and heat gently for a few minutes.  Stir in the sherry.  Taste for salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  Serve hot.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tomato-Chicken Soup with Chick Peas and Chicken Sausage - 8/7/11

I made soup today with chicken stock, chick peas, fire roasted tomatoes, feta and spinach chicken sausage, and a sofrito of onion, carrot, and sweet bell pepper.  Some fresh parsley.  It was okay.  No umami there, in my opinion, but sometimes my tastebuds get wonky.  I even forgot to take a picture.  Some cooking blog.

I'm in some shape.  There was exactly one egg in the house, and I ate it.  With cheese.  I never run out of eggs.  This is all because I did not step outside this house today, not even to duck into Publix.  Instead I sat with my knitting and watched most of the entire first season of Torchwood.

Here is the recipe, which is probably better than I am making it out to be.  Rob and Cory enjoyed it, and it takes under 30 minutes to prepare, and another 30 to simmer everything together.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
2 chicken sausage links, halved and sliced
1 pound can chick peas, drained
1 pound can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
6 cups of chicken stock

Coat the bottom of a sauce pan with some olive oil.  Heat, then add the onion, carrot, pepper, and garlic.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Saute a few minutes, then add the parsley and sausage.  Continue to cook on medium low heat until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. 

This is a light, brothy soup, so if you like a little more body, add more sausage, or some cooked pasta, like a small shell shape.  Or croutons, I'm a sucker for croutons in my soup.  You can also sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.  Tasty.

Since I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish, I offer instead a picture of my knitting.  Yes, it is a new project - actually, it's the second part to an existing project.  When it's all done, I'm sure it will make perfect sense.

Monday, August 1, 2011

You Get No Bread With Your One Meat Ball - 8/1/11

The waiter hollered down the hall:
You get no bread with your one meat ball.

Little man felt so very bad,
One meat ball is all he had.
And in his dreams he can still hear that call
You get no bread with your one meat ball.

Oh, but what a meatball!

3 1/2 - 3 3/4 pound ground beef (I use Publix market beef or you can use ground round)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
crushed red pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
4-26 oz. cans Hunt's garlic and herb pasta sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly spray the bottom of two casserole dishes, preferably the aluminum 9x13 size with deep sides.

Loosen up the ricotta by mixing it with the eggs.  Then combine all the ingredients except for the pasta sauce, in a very large bowl, take off your rings, and start mixing.  When everything is well mixed, take a small portion of the meat, form a very small patty and cook it in a pan.  Taste the cooked meat and make any seasoning adjustments to the meat mixture in the bowl.

Using a 3/4 cup measure, divide the meat into 16 portions.  Form the meatballs, and place eight in each of the prepared pans.  Place in the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Remove, carefully turn the meatballs over, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, heat the pasta sauce.  Ladle half the sauce into each pan of baked meatballs, cover with aluminum foil, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and return the pans to the oven for 45 minutes.  Check for doneness with a thermometer - it should register 165 degrees internal temperature.  Add more time as needed to finish the meatballs.

Then eat your one meatball with as much bread as you like ... garlic bread for me.

My Chopped Salad - 8/1/11

You have really got to be in the mood to chop, and possess some mad skills with the santoku.  Wear comfortable shoes, you're gonna be standing for a while.

I should call this recipe "Une Salade pour les Patients Gastriques de Déviation" or maybe even better, "Una Ensalada para los Pacientes Gástricos de Puente" because I can read and pronounce Spanish while my French sucks.  Although I studied German for three years in college, I'm not going to even attempt it.  If you like twisting your tongue into a half hitch knot, run it through Babel Fish.  This salad for gastric bypass patients would have certainly satisfied my craving for all things green, which cropped up around two weeks after my surgery.  There was no way my tampered-with digestive system could have dealt with all that glorious roughage, but crave I did.  When the time came my doctor cleared me for salads, I found I still could not easily enjoy any kind of lettuce or cucumber in their raw state.  Even now, 8 years post-surgery, I will dive happily into a big bowl of salad, only to have it return the favor, so to speak, within the hour.

As I worked on developing this recipe, I realized I was chopping the food a lot smaller than in any other similar recipes I had seen.  Loving radishes as I do, I went ahead and grated them, as I did the carrots.  The end result of all my micro-chopping is a delicious salad that is easy to eat.  You certainly have the option of leaving the pieces a little bigger.  Just don't approach that state of chop known as "chunky" and you'll still have an authentic chopped salad.

For the dressing, I used Ken's Lite Northern Italian.  You can make your own vinaigrette, but why?  Just asking ...

1-10 oz. bag of Italian salad mix (romaine and red cabbage), finely chopped
1/3 bag of Angel Hair Cole Slaw, finely chopped
1 large or 4 baby cut carrots, freshly grated
4 red radishes, grated
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 small green or mixed colors of bell peppers, finely chopped (I used about 6 mini-sweet peppers)
1/3 of a large cucumber, seeded and patted dry, finely chopped
8 black olives, cut in quarters lengthwise
8 grape tomatoes, cut in quarters lengthwise
1-8oz. container Cedar's brand Fresh Chick Pea Salad, or 1-7.75 oz. can chick peas, drained and roughly chopped

Thinly sliced Italian cold cuts, chopped - I used hot calabrese, pepper salami and hot capocollo, but you can use whatever you like.  I think I used a total of about 10 thin slices
shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese - to taste
shredded Asiago cheese - to taste.  Again, you can use any cheese you like; provolone is a natural with this, as is mozzarella

Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.  Add the meats and cheeses and toss again.  No doubt you can already see where you might like to make substitutions or revise the amounts uses.  Go for it, this is a virtually no fail salad.

Now just before you are ready to eat, take your portion and place it in a deep bowl.  Drizzle on just enough dressing to moisten the salad, and toss it gently.  Once you have dressed the salad, eat immediately.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gâteau de Pêche dans le modèle de ma Tante Ceil - 7/31/11

That's Peach Cake in the style of my Aunt Ceil.  I have no idea if it is good French grammar, as the last time I studied French was in fourth grade.  I can count up to fifteen, and tell you what my name is, and that the dog's name is Fifi.  If there is an error in the title, please blame it on Babel Fish and not my fourth grade teacher. 

Aunt Ceil with granddaughter Lisa

My Aunt Ceil was my maternal grandmother's sister, and I loved her dearly.  Of course, I didn't have to live with her. I did have to live with my grandmother, and we all know how that turned out. Apparently she and my grandmother had more in common than their maiden name.  But throughout my life, she was a constant positive presence, as we spent most Saturdays with her and my cousin Cary.  Those Saturdays were a chance to drive out to "the country" - which from Brooklyn meant traveling along the Southern State Parkway to Bellmore - and to have dinner out, and then to return to my Aunt's house to spend the afternoon playing with my younger brother and my cousin while the adults chatted or played cards.  We three kids were inseparable back then, and those were good times.

Cary, Elliot, and I, in front of Aunt Ceil's house in Bellmore

My Aunt Ceil, like my grandmother, always set out a nice table.  Food was paramount, and it was important that there was plenty of it, and that it was good.  Aunt Ceil was a fine cook, hostess, and all-around balaboosteh (there's that Yiddish again), but she was one thing my grandmother wasn't, and that was a baker.  My grandmother never baked, except twice I remember her baking Moon Cookies, a very plain, poppy seed cookie which I love but everyone else says "eh."  At least it's not "feh".  Aunt Ceil baked cheesecake to die for, and an apple cake that was both very Jewish in it's use of oil instead of butter, it's lack of icing, it's reliance on fruit, and very delicious.

I have taken that recipe and changed it to accommodate the peaches I picked up in Georgia last weekend.  It actually struck me as rather elegant, so I ran the title through Babel Fish and here we are.

Gâteau de Pêche dans le modèle de ma Tante Ceil

4-5 Elberta peaches, halved, pitted, and sliced (leave the skin on)
2 tablespoons butter
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup of Sun-Maid brand Fruit Bits (raisins, golden raisins, dried apricots, dried apples, dried peaches, dried plums, dried cherries), softened in hot water for 5-10 minutes, then well-drained
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup peach cider

Melt the butter in a large nonstick frying pan.  Add the peaches and saute till lightly browned.  Add the lemon juice.  Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon, and the drained fruit bits.  Let cook together briefly then take off the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or lightly grease a square or round baking dish in the 8-9 inch range.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar.  Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and peach cider.  Beat well with a mixer.  Pour about half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Cover that with half of the peaches.  Pour about half the remaining batter over the peaches; don't worry if it doesn't cover everything.  Repeat with the remaining peaches and batter, and place the baking dish on the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool until close to room temperature, and then serve with some whipped cream

Hungarian Rhapsody - Csirke Paprikas - 7/31/11

So I'm thinking about chicken paprikas and a chopped salad, but first, a trip to my twin food meccas, Publix and BJ's warehouse.  In a perfect world, I could go shopping at the Farmer's Market near Decatur, Georgia, but this is anything but a perfect world.  Hey, I just thought about those peaches I picked up at Lane Orchard.  Peach cake.  Wait for it ...

Having placed some tasty leftovers in the freezer, it occurred to me that it is time for a "Clear the Freezer" party.  A quick inventory revealed Brunswick Stew, Meatballs, Baked Ziti, Burritos, Mousstitsio, Baked Chicken, Fried Chicken, uncooked but perpetually marinating barbecue chicken, Chicken Ratatouille, Barbecue Cups, Little Calzones, and a number of UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) which I believe to be two or three different soups.

First and foremost, the chicken.  The Hungarian name for this recipe is Csirke Paprikas (cheer-ke pah-pree-kahsh), and it is not a dish my mother ever prepared.  Hungarian food in general was a mystery to me until I met my husband, who is Hungarian on his mother's side.  My mother in law is 100% Hungarian, as was her mother, and their cooking reflected that background.  Happily I have garnered a number of their recipes, such as kraut sveckle and kale kraut, and got into the habit of using only Hungarian sweet paprika in my cooking.  Robert remembers his Grandma taking him to Paprikas Weiss on the Upper East Side, when he was a very young child.  As a young married couple we went there as well, stocking up on paprika, kasha, tarhonya, and other Hungarian delicacies.  After we moved from New York we continued to mail order, until one day, Paprikas Weiss closed it's doors.  This left me bereft of paprika, except for a small amount my mother in law brought me back from Hungary, which I have been hording.  Having found Nirvana near Atlanta, I picked up a nice quantity of Hungarian paprika at the Farmer's Market just last week, which has left me with Csirke Paprikas on My Mind.  Maybe I can get Willie Nelson to sing the lyrics, as Elvis has not only left the building, but this plane of existence.  Rest in peace, King.

Here's the funny part, though ... Mom (my mother in law Jeanne) never made the csirke paprikas either.  My introduction to this dish came from a cookbook Robert bought me when we were first married, The Hungarian Cookbook by Susan Derecskey.  Although I have slightly altered the cooking method over the years, it still remains as she described it, "the ultimate Hungarian chicken dish."  Mrs. Derecskey strongly recommends serving this dish with galuska (soft dumplings) and a cucumber salad.  Galuska are not difficult to make, although you may end up feeling like Chef Anne Burrell making fresh pasta during an episode of "Iron Chef", but it is time-consuming.  If you serve this with egg noodles or packaged gnocchi or even mashed potatoes, I promise not to snitch on you.  My preference is to make buttered egg noodles mixed with green peas and poppy seeds.  I plan on making a chopped salad to go with this, and it will have some cucumber, radish, onion, and a sharp vinaigrette to cut through the richness of the dish.

Csirke Paprikas (Hungarian Chicken Paprikash)

6-8 pieces bone-in chicken pieces (I prefer the thighs for this)
Salt and pepper, and some Emeril's Essence
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika or more to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1 green bell pepper (or equivalent amount of mixed colors), cut into strips
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.  Heat the oil and butter together in a large deep frying pan.  Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, and then remove and set aside.  Add the onions to the pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a pinch of white or brown sugar, if you like.  Cook the onions until translucent, then use a large metal spoon to remove the excess oil in the pan. Sprinkle the cooked onions with the paprika and cook until the paprika loses it's "raw" smell.  Do not let the paprika burn or darken too much or it will become bitter.  Pour in the chicken stock and stir, scraping up the tasty bits on the bottom of the pan.  Taste the sauce and season if needed.  Place the chicken, cooked side up, into the pan, and pour back any accumulated juices   Place the green pepper strips and tomatoes on top of the chicken, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir the sauce and turn the chicken over; cover and simmer another 15 minutes, or until the chicken is done.  Remove from the heat and let cool. 

Temper the sour cream by stirring in several tablespoons of the warm cooking sauce.   Slowly pour the sour cream mixture into the pan and stir to incorporate into the sauce.  Just before serving, reheat the csirke paprikas very carefully over low heat.  If the sauce is thin,  remove about a half a cup of the sauce and mix with some Wondra flour to make a loose paste consistency.  Pour this back into the simmering sauce and stir until sauce thickens a bit.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Little Calzones - 7/21/11

This is an update of a recipe I got from my friend Vicki over 35 years ago.  It was called "bambini" a two-bite calzone made with refrigerated biscuits, pepperoni, and ricotta cheese.  I have no idea what possessed me to make these tonight, as I had just run into Publix for matzoh and mayonnaise, but when inspiration hits, all I can do is run with it.  First, a handful of Advil.  Then we run with it.

My version is a little bigger than the bambini, as I make it with Grands flaky biscuits, split in half horizontally.  It's so easy, it's embarrassing.  But very tasty, whether or not you decide to serve it with some marinara sauce for dipping.  I admit to showing off by finishing each calzone with a decorative edge, but you just really need to pinch the edges well, or use a fork's tines to press a pretty fluted look around the edge.  Once it bakes up, you're not going to really see the decoration. 

You can use this as an appetizer, or for lunch with a salad, or for dinner with a side of pasta with red sauce.  Me, I would just add it to a buffet with everything else.  Baked ziti with meatballs, sausages and peppers, linguine with white clam sauce, shrimp scampi on pasta shells, eggplant parmagiana ... you get the idea.  And that's just the Italian stuff.  I have my recipes organized by ethnic origin, in case I want to pursue a theme, or go all international.  I've done the international thing a number of times back in the day when I would invite 40 or 50 people over.  Jewish, Italian, Greek, French, Mexican, Chinese ... and the beat goes on.  A lot of food, a lot of fun.

1 can of Grands flaky biscuits, split in half horizontally
1 cup of whole milk ricotta
1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese
1 bag Jimmy Dean brand sausage crumbles
1 jar of Mancini brand fried peppers
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use a silpat.  On each biscuit half, place a spoonful of ricotta, a sprinkle of pepper jack, a few pieces of the crumbled sausage, and one or two small pieces of the fried peppers.  Fold the biscuit over the filling to form a half moon calzone, and seal the edges by pinching and folding up a bit to keep the edge closed.  Place the little calzones on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush each calzone with a little of the egg, and sprinkle each with a little of the parmesan cheese.  Bake in the oven for 18 minutes or until the calzones are nicely browned on top and bottom.  Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  Makes 16 little calzones.

Clearly you can swap out any cheese for the pepper jack and another chopped up sausage, like pepperoni or Genoa salami, for the sausage.  If you do that, consider seasoning the ricotta slightly.  I didn't need to because of the strong, spicy flavor from the pepper jack.  But you can be creative to suit your own personal taste, and venture outside the realm of Italian flavors. 

Whatever you do, please enjoy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mousstitsio - 7/17/11

As promised, I have developed a recipe which combines, to my mind, the best of the Greek dishes pastitsio (sometimes spelled pasticcio) and moussaka.  This is a big casserole dish, great for buffets and potlucks.  You can put everything except for the sour cream topping together ahead of time.  It is fussy and time-intensive, but if you enjoy cooking as I do, it is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

There are four layers to this dish, and it is easiest to work consecutively rather than concurrently (you know, like Casey Anthony's sentences for lying to law enforcement) to get everything done with a minimum of confusion.

Macaroni Layer:
2 cups of uncooked medium pasta shells
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta (either the garlic and herb or tomato and basil flavor)

Cook the pasta according to directions, then drain and douse with cold water.  Drain very well, then pour over the EVOO and mix with your hand to coat the pasta.  When the pasta is completely cooled, place in a medium mixing bowl, crack the egg over the pasta, and with your hand mix the egg into the pasta, coating it well.  Sprinkle over the parmesan and feta, mix gently, and set aside.

Eggplant Layer:
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick
1 cup all purpose flour, seasoned with salt, white pepper, and a pinch of cayenne (or use Slap Ya Mama blend)
canola oil for frying

Pour about an inch of canola oil into a nonstick fry pan and heat over medium high heat.  Cover your counter or the unused part of your stove top (if flat like mine) with aluminum foil, then place paper towels over the foil.  In a shallow dish, put the seasoned flour.  Once the oil is ready, dip each slice of eggplant into the flour, just so there is a light dusting on each side.  Working in batches, maybe three slices each batch, place the floured eggplant into the hot oil and brown on both sides until the eggplant is very tender.  Use a fork or slotted spatula to remove the cooked eggplant to the prepared paper towels.  Repeat until all the eggplant is fried.  Set aside.

Meat Sauce Layer:

First, gather your spices -
1 tablespoon dried oregano plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon cumin jplus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon garlic powder plus 1/2 teaspoon
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground allspice plus 1/2 teaspoon

Now start the sauce -
2 medium onions, chopped
kosher salt, black pepper, light brown sugar
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1-28 oz. jar Bertolli pasta sauce, Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Cabernet Sauvignon
4 drops of Tabasco sauce (optional)

In a large sauce pan, heat the EVOO and add the onions.  Season them with the salt, pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar.  Saute until the onions are softened and lightly colored, then add the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Brown the meat and then add the tomato paste.  Continue mixing and cooking the meat and tomato paste together until the tomato paste starts to caramelize (you will be able to smell it), but do not let it burn.  Add the water, stir, and then add the first first set of spices.  Add the pasta sauce, and the Tabasco, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Now combine the second set of spices in a little cup and set aside.  After about 10 minutes, check the sauce.  Taste and reseason with part of the spices in the little cup.  Re-cover the pan and finish simmering.  Taste the finished sauce, and use as much or as little of the remaining spices as you like.  Take the pan off the heat and let cool slightly.

You can construct the dish ahead of time, and then about an hour and a quarter before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare the sour cream sauce

Sour Cream Sauce Layer:
1-16 oz. container dairy sour cream
2 cups half and half
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano or a combination plus additional for use when constructing the layers

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, half and half, nutmeg and 3/4 cup grated cheese, and whisk together until well combined.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large deep casserole dish with some butter.  With a ladle, place a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of the casserole.  Layer with half of the eggplant slices, then half of the macaroni.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup grated parmesan over the macaroni.  Then spread one half of the remaining meat sauce over the macaroni.  Repeat with the remaining eggplant, macaroni, and meat sauce.  Set aside while you prepare the sour cream sauce.  Pour the sour cream sauce over the casserole, and carefully place in the preheated oven.  If you are using a disposable aluminum casserole dish, make sure you place it on a metal baking sheet for support.  Bake for one hour to one and a half hours, or until the top is lightly brown and looks firm. 

Remove from the oven and let the mousstitsio sit at least 15 minutes before trying to cut into it.  Once it has set, you can serve it.  Please enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicken and Peaches, and Heretical Kraut Sveckle - 7/10/11

First, the Chicken and Peaches, based on a recipe from Rachael Ray on Food Network

  • 2 tablespoons butter, for cooking the peaches 
  • 5 peaches, pitted, thickly sliced (do not peel)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more as needed 
  • 6 pieces skinless chicken thighs
  • Seasoning for the chicken:  salt, garlic, lemon pepper, sweet paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup peach preserves
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (recommended: Lane Southern Orchard's Peach Hot Sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • grated rind of half of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, for finishing the sauce

  1. Heat a medium skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the peaches and the juice of 1/2 lemon, and cook until tender and lightly golden, 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  2. While the peaches cook, heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken with kosher salt, garlic, lemon pepper and sweet paprika. Cook in the hot oil until the chicken is browned on both sides and almost cooked through.  Place in a 9 x 13 baking dish, and then into a 350 degree oven until the chicken is done, about 30 more minutes.
  3. Into the same pan in which the chicken was cooked, add the chopped shallot, the garlic, and the ginger, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, the preserves, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon rind, and season with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste. You may also want to add more peach hot sauce or a few drops of Worcestershire or a few drops of lemon juice so that the taste of the sauce suits your palate.  Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes to thicken. Stir in the tablespoon of butter for a glossy rich finish to the sauce.  Remove the chicken from the oven and put a little bit of the sauce on each piece, then return to the oven for another five minutes until the chicken is glazed. 
  4. Spoon the cooked peaches carefully around the chicken, then spoon the sauce mostly over the chicken, a little bit on the peaches.  Serve immediately.

Link to the original recipe can be found here.

And now, Heretical Kraut Sveckle:

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 bunch (5-7) green onions, sliced
2-16 oz. bags of regular cole slaw mix (cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots)
1-1 lb. bag of wide or extra wide egg noodles, cooked according to package directions (Mueller's brand is best)
Kosher salt and coarse black pepper

In a large, deep frying pan, heat the butter, and add the green onions, then the cole slaw mix.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, to taste.  Stir to coat all the vegetables with butter and then cook over medium heat, stirring often,  for a year  for an hour  for as long as it takes for the cabbage to wilt down to a deep brown.  Taste the cabbage to make sure it has a rich, caramelized taste to it.  Cook the noodles only when you are ready to serve; drain, do NOT rinse, and immediately add to the warm cooked cabbage.  Now stir carefully to distribute all the shreds of cooked cabbage evenly over the noodles.  Season to taste with more kosher salt and pepper (and this dish will take quite a bit of salt and pepper) and serve immediately.  You may have leftovers and then you may not.  You can serve this as a side dish for any kind of meat or chicken, or as a stand alone snack after everyone else is asleep.

Stuffing-Topped Pork Chops with Chorizo and Pepper Jack Cheese - 7/10/11

6 pork loin or rib chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
Seasoning for the pork:  Durkee's seasoning salt and Slap Ya Mama's White Pepper Blend

2 chorizo sausage (the dry type that do not need to be refrigerated until the package is open; I use Goya brand)
2 really large cloves of garlic, smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing crumbs (I use the Stove Top brand that comes in a canister)
1-8 1/2 oz. can cream-style corn (just stick with me here, okay?)
2 shallots, or 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
Seasoning for the stuffing:  kosher salt, coarse black pepper, cayenne or Slap Ya Mama (optional), herbes de provence or Italian seasoning blend
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the pork chops on both sides and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the chorizo.  Remove the casing from the chorizo and small dice it.  Add to a heated nonstick pan with 2 tablespoons of EVOO.  As that gorgeous red fat renders from the chorizo, throw in the garlic cloves. Cook over medium heat until the chorizo begins to brown and there is a nice amount of fat rendered.

While the chorizo is cooking, place the stuffing crumbs into a mixing bowl.  Remove the chorizo and garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the crumbs.  Pour the cream-style corn over, and mix everything together.  If it seems a bit dry, add a tablespoon or two of stock, broth, or water.  Set aside.

Now, working in two batches, brown the pork chops in the rendered fat, and place them into a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Put the dish into the preheated oven and bake the chops, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more EVOO and saute the shallots or onions until sweet and tender.  Add to the mixing bowl with any remaining oil from the pan.  Season the stuffing mix and set aside to cool.  Once it is cool, add the pepper jack cheese and mix everything together.

Shortly before serving, top each pork chop with an equal amount of the stuffing, then return to the 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Italian Sausage and Vegetable Soup - 7/9/11

This is really delicious, and pretty easy.  There is no pasta in it, and you won't miss it at all.  I made a batch of Grand's biscuits to go with it, brushing the top of each biscuit with melted butter mixed with granulated garlic.
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ cups beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, or more to taste 
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices, or one-half bag frozen Italian vegetable mix 
  • 1-14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, or 1/2 can garbanzos plus 1/2 can dark red kidney beans 
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, if desired
Publix frozen Italian vegetable mix has zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, and baby limas, and works really well in this soup.

  1. Cook the sausage with a little olive oil  in a Dutch oven, over medium heat, until some fat renders.  Add the onion, garlic, some kosher salt, black pepper, a pinch of light brown sugar, and the Italian seasoning.  Continue to cook until the sausage is no longer pink and the vegetables are soft.  Stir in remaining ingredients, breaking up any large tomato pieces. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes or to your taste.
  2. Sprinkle each serving with the Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spinach-Shrimp Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing - 7/6/11

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 4 cups lightly packed bite-size pieces spinach leaves
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (3 ounces)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 pound cooked peeled deveined medium shrimp

  1. Cook bacon in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; when fat had rendered, add the shallots and mushrooms and continue to cook until bacon is crisp. Stir in vinegar, sugar and mustard; continue stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Toss spinach, cheese and shrimp in large bowl. Drizzle hot bacon dressing over spinach mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seafood Manicotti with a Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce - 7/4/11

Lox and manicotti???  Who woulda thunk it?

My niece Mara asked me about an alfredo sauce, and I came across something I used as the prototype for this recipe.  It is not a traditional alfredo sauce in any sense of the word, but it is delicious.  The seafood manicotti was the result of my search for alternate fillings plus a cooking method that did not require me to boil the manicotti shells first.  Because everytime I do, they all break in half.  I know that there are recipes in which the uncooked shells are stuffed and then topped with a lot of red sauce, covered tightly and baked until the shells are tender.  I wanted to try this with a sauce that wasn't tomato based, and I think this worked pretty well.   This takes a full quart of heavy whipping cream, so you may want to be judicious with your portions.  That tomato garnish is not optional, by the way.  It really makes the dish.

Recipe: Seafood Manicotti

Servings: 8-10

  • 18 uncooked manicotti shells
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 of an 8 oz. tub of soft chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 2 drops Tabasco
  • Leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
  • 6 oz. cooked medium shrimp, tails removed and shrimp cut in half crosswise 
  • 1 (6-oz.) can lump crabmeat, drained
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 1 recipe of Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions and garlic until softened, and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese and cream cheese; mix well. Add the egg and mix with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Add the contents of the small skillet. Stir in all remaining ingredients except for the sauce, taking care to be gentle with the shrimp and crabmeat.

Refrigerate for about an hour before filling the manicotti shells.

Using a small spoon, fill each uncooked manicotti shell, but do not overfill. Spread enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 aluminum baking dish. Arrange the filled manicottis in the pan, then pour the remaining sauce over the filled shells.

Cover the pan tightly and bake for one and one-half hours until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle some of the chopped tomato pieces on top of each serving.

Recipe: Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce
(You can find the original recipe here.)

Servings: 8-10 servings

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • white pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Saute the onions in the butter in a pan until clear. Season the onions with white pepper and a pinch of sugar, but do not add any salt as the salmon and cheeses are quite salty. Add the green onions and saute another minute. Add the salmon and saute at medium to low heat for approximately 2 more minutes. Very gradually, start to add the cream. Stir constantly until it starts to thicken. Add both cheeses and stir until melted. Sauce should be fairly thick once you have added all the cream and cheese, but still able to be poured over the manicotti. Top each serving with tomato and parsley.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Italian Pot Roast - 7/3/11

2 - 2 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast (about 1 3/4 inch thick)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 large cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1-24 oz. jar good quality marinara sauce with wine and herbs (Classico, Bertolli, or Barilla brands work well)
1/2 cup of red wine (e.g. merlot, pinot noir, cabernet or burgundy) plus more as needed
A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Season both sides of the meat with garlic salt, onion powder, coarse black pepper, and a Cajun white pepper seasoning blend like "Slap Ya Mama".  Brown the meat on both sides and remove to a dish while you cook the vegetables.

Add the onion, carrots, and garlic to the remaining oil in the Dutch oven, and season with kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar.  Saute the vegetables until the onions are translucent and the edges show some browning.  Deglaze the pan with the half cup of wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits into the sauce.  Put the meat back into the pan, and then pour the jar of sauce over it.  Use some more wine to swish out any remaining sauce in the jar and add to the pan.  Carefully stir the sauce and wine together around the meat.  Add the thyme springs, then cover the Dutch oven and place it into a preheated 325 degree oven for an hour.  Remove the pan, carefully turn the meat over, cover and cook another hour or until a fork can easily pierce the meat, but it still has a little resistance.  Let the meat cool to room temperature, then slice it against the grain into fairly thick slices, return the slices carefully to the pan with the sauce, cover and return to the oven for another half hour or until the meat is very tender.  Serve right away or refrigerate in a nonreactive casserole dish.  If you need to thin the sauce for reheating, you can use wine, water, or a combination of both.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chicken Wings in Cola Sauce - 7/2/11

This must be a southern thing, as I also came across a recipe where turkey legs are cooked in lemon-lime soda before being grilled ... anyway, I happened across this recipe for Wings in Cola while doing a random search, and the rest is history.  Delicious history.  Of course I tweaked it.  So it is a little sweet with a little heat. 

5 pounds frozen chicken wingettes (Cooking Good brand at $2.39 a pound.  Buy fresh if you like, but do the math first.)
Garlic salt
Onion powder
"Slap Ya Mama" brand white pepper Cajun blend, or cayenne pepper, totally at your own discretion
1.25 liter bottle Coca-Cola (use the real stuff, please)
1 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce, to taste (I used 2 glugs, which made it just a trifle spicy, which I liked)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the frozen wings in a single layer in an aluminum baking tray deep enough for the liquid.  Sprinkle liberally with the garlic salt and onion powder, and use a somewhat lighter hand in sprinkling over the Slap Ya Mama spice blend, or use a pinch of cayenne.  Combine the remaining ingredients, whisk together so that the sugar dissolves, and pour over the wings.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven for two hours, turning the wings every thirty minutes.  Uncover the wings, and return to the oven for 3-4 additional hours, until the sauce is well reduced but not dried out and the wings are very tender and glazed.  During that time, continue turning the wings every thirty minutes.

Then eat them right away.  You can reheat them the next day and they are delicious, but like most recipes, these taste best right out of the oven.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pork Chops with Drunken Sausage Gravy and Brown Rice with Mixed Vegetables - 6/30/11

The beginning of my cooking frenzy after being separated from Wusthoff santoku knife for 10 days - inspired by a recipe from Guy Fieri.  I would also serve biscuits with this, as there is plenty of extra heavenly sausage gravy.  If you need to thin the gravy when reheating, use a mixture of milk or cream and vermouth.  This is spicy, but not obnoxiously so. 

4 center cut rib pork chops (about 1 3/4 pounds)
Southern Spice Rub (Paula Deen) or another cumin-based spice blend of your liking 
Wondra flour
1/4 cup canola oil for pan-frying
Drunken Sausage Gravy, recipe follows:
One large onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Garlic powder
2 good pinches of dry sage
1- 9.6 oz pouch cooked sausage crumbles (Jimmy Dean)
1/3 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
In a Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium high heat.  Sprinkle both sides of the chops with the spice rub, and then the Wondra flour.  In two batches, brown the chops in the hot oil.  Place the chops into a very low oven to keep warm.
In the same Dutch oven, add the onions, season them with the salt, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, sage, and sugar and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes . Add the sausage and continue to saute until it starts to brown.  Deglaze with the vermouth, and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the Dijon and sprinkle in the flour. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, to cook out the raw flavor of the flour.
Add 1 cup of the milk and stir until combined. Add the remaining milk and mix until it's just starting to thicken. Stir in the cream and heat through. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, additional spices and a little more mustard.  Thin if necessary with a little more vermouth.
Place the chops in the Dutch oven with the gravy , cover,  and place in a 325 degree oven for at least 30 minutes, until heated through and the chops are tender. 
Serve this side dish with the chops:
Brown Rice with Mixed Vegetables
2 boil-in-bags of brown rice
1-7 oz. can Green Giant Mexicorn, drained, can retained
1 bag or box of frozen peas and carrots
1-2 tablespoons butter
kosher salt
Prepare two boil in bags of brown rice according to package directions for the ten minute cooking time.
Fill empty Mexicorn can with mixed frozen peas and carrots.  During last five minutes, gradually add  peas and carrots to the boiling water in which the rice is cooking.  If it seems to take a while for the water to boil, add a minute or so to the overall cooking time.
Remove rice bags to drain and drain the peas and carrots into the same colander with the corn.  When everything is well drained, combine and add some butter and salt to taste.  Stir gently until the butter is melted into the hot rice.