Monday, March 28, 2011

Bo is Bo-dacious

I wasn't going to post today. I hadn't cooked anything worth talking about. But then Peter, heading out the front door for one of his 4-times daily walks, came right back in with a package. Bo of bo'sbowl carried on a brief conversation with me last week about grits. I had some misconceptions, he had some real knowledge. Well, Bo sent me a bag of rough-ground hominy (I hope that's the right term) and a package of Aunt Jemima Quick Grits. Here's an anomaly: the Quaker website doesn't show her grits. They do show the picture I include above. Bear in mind that Auntie's grits are "quick", not "instant". I am beside myself with excitement. I think tomorrow we will be having breakfast for dinner (something Peter always says about, "You know, it's fun having breakfast for dinner.") It will include ham steak with an offbeat version of redeye gravy, grits, and oven-fried okra. Step back and take a deep breath. Bo, I'm here to tell you I am overwhelmed by your generosity. My blogging friends, if you haven't visited Bo yet, it's time, it's past time. Give that boy a pat on the back for being a real mensch. I don't know what I ever will be able to do to return the favor. So maybe I just need to say thank you, thank you very much (channeling Elvis' voice there).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tuna orzo casserole

Try though I did, could not find a suitable picture for this. But then, it's just a doggone casserole, right? I really like the mouth feel of properly cooked orzo. I also always cook my orzo in broth. No particular reason, it's just me. I've found that a proportion of 2 parts broth to 1 part orzo works very well. Basically the orzo is done when the liquid has been absorbed. It's a little like making a risotto. Now, I grew up eating tuna noodle casserole made with elbows. I still like that too. I decided to use 2 cans of tuna (small ones), one that was in oil and one in water. Also, scallions are a nice addition for me. I added some peas just because I could. Cook 1 1/2 cups orzo in 3 cups chicken stock. Drain (there won't be much, if any, excess liquid) and set aside to cool slightly. Saute some onion and mushrooms in butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper and onion and garlic powders if you wish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a medium casserole. Chop 2 scallions, white and green parts please. Open 2- 5 oz. cans of tuna and drain (the kind of tuna is entirely up to you; I had some I got on the cheap). Grate 1 cup parmesan. Run 1 cup frozen peas under warm water to thaw. Put everything into the casserole and toss to combine. Cover and bake 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Serve in heated bowls.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I know I just did this, but ...

I'm settling in to the idea of a different format for my postings. I will not always post an actual recipe. Rather I will share my successes (and failures (as if)) that I deem worthy of your interest. I commented to Peter over tonight's dinner that I had avoided cooking Cornish hens over the years simply because I was never happy with the results (dry stringy little breasts, ok, but chewy legs and thighs). Well, I have completely conquered the little mothers.
I start by cutting down the backbone (not actually removing it) and brining for several hours with salty water and sometimes some other things. It doesn't matter what, because none of you brine anyways. Then, rinse, dry, add paprika, pepper, other stuff if you wish. Melt 1 1/2 tbsp butter in 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Put the bird in the pan skin side down until it's nicely browned. Turn it over, add some stock or wine, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and slowly simmer it for about 30 minutes. You will not be sorry.
The other oddment of today's dinner was spaghetti squash. I was well aware that Peter hasn't been crazy about this stuff. The truth is, with him making a few suggestions, we came up with a really savory result. After baking the squash (1 hour at 375 degrees) and scraping out the "sketti," we threw it in a pan with olive oil, butter, chili garlic paste and some pan juices from the Cornish hen. When Peter's happy, I'm happy. Peter was happy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Choucroute garni

I first had choucroute in France more than 40 years ago. Depending on how many people were being served, some of the platters were freakin' enormous. My version today is very modest. I used homemade sauerkraut (it only takes a few days and very little effort), a kielbasa I got on sale, and boiled potatoes. You can make this with a variety of meats, from corned beef to hotdogs (although maybe wurst is best, LOL). It bears a remarkable resemblance to New England boiled dinner, and is no doubt related genealogically speaking. For a sauerkraut recipe see "Kimchi and sauerkraut", my post from May 15, 2010. I needed to stop by the Georgetown Safeway to get prescriptions for Peter so decided to see what other meat I could find. I did find some white sausages to go with my kielbasa.
I'm not going to post a formal recipe for this. It isn't needed. Boil the potatoes; boil, steam or fry your meats; heat up your sauerkraut. Put it all together on a platter. Invite people over.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Lost" and flounder

Ok, that's a stupid title. I watched "Lost" once during its first season - then I conveniently lost it. We took a break from potatoes (going back to them in one day for choucroute made with homemade sauerkraut) and had some flounder, broccolini and rice. I never tried this before, but I wanted to kind of do the milanesa-style thing but with some delicate fish. Wasn't sure how it would turn out. A 12 oz. package of frozen flounder on sale gave me the opportunity.

Flounder milanesa
12 oz. flounder filets, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Add the cheese, salt and pepper to the bread crumbs and place them on a wide plate.

Dry the fish thoroughly with paper towels. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Dredge in the egg, allowing excess to fall away. Coat with bread crumbs. Place the filets on a wire rack over a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour in order to set up the coating.

Using a large skillet or saute pan, heat 1/8" vegetable oil until very hot. Shallow fry the fish filet (in 2 batches if necessary) for 45 seconds per side. Serve at once.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chiles rellenos

You know, in spite of having to cobble together postings with photos I beg borrow or steal, it's working out ok. These rellenos are precisely, exactly, to a tee, what I wanted. And - I got it! I just had to take a break to Google Mexican peppers. I wasn't sure if what I had were Anaheim or poblano. They were poblano. Now, I hate that whole roasting thing to get the skin off. If God didn't want us to eat skin, why did he put it there? Well, ok, there is the whole banana thing. Let's talk about something else.

Chiles rellenos (2 servings)

4 poblano peppers

Mexican shredded cheese mix

frozen corn kernels, thawed

garlic powder

onion powder

pinch of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs, lightly beaten with a tbsp of water

breadcrumbs (preferably unflavored)

2 mild dried chili peppers (such as guajillo or pasilla)

3 - 4 tomatillos

chile powder, salt and pepper to taste

lemon or lime juice to taste

cilantro, finely chopped

Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop in the poblanos, cover and turn off the heat. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let them cool. Make a slit from the stem down to the end and scrape out the pith and the seeds. Be careful not to break them while you do this.

While this is going on, put cheese, corn, garlic and onion powders, red pepper, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine. Stuff the poblanos with this mixture, being sure you can still close them up for the next step.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a rimmed baking pan inside. Dip the peppers one by one in the egg and then coat with the breadcrumbs. Bake the peppers on the pre-heated pan for 12-15 minutes, until crispy and browned.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Soak the dried peppers in hot water, slice open and remove the seeds and ribs. Tear into small pieces and place in the food processor. Chop up the tomatillos and add to the processor. Add 1/2 cup broth or water. Pulse to make a puree. Place in a saucepan, add chili powder, and maybe some salt and pepper and some lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook very slowly for about 10 minutes.

Drizzle this sauce over the rellenos when you serve them. Garnish with some cilantro.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The leg/thigh man strikes again

I rarely buy chicken parts, unless it's a special bulk deal for legs or wings. I prefer to get a whole bird and break it down. Then I also can make some fresh stock. Those of you who read my blog from time to time know what a brining fanatic I am. Only when you have brined a chicken breast for several hours, pounded it flat, breaded and shallow fried it, will you know why I do it. My legs and thighs were brined overnight, a long time even for me. But a thorough rinse and no added salt during cooking are the only rules you need to obey.

Pan-fried chicken legs and thighs

2 chicken legs

2 chicken thighs

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika (all to taste)

Heat the oil and butter in a cast iron or other heavy skillet until the butter has melted and is almost ready to brown. Season the chicken with all the dry ingredients and place it skin side down in the pan. Leave it alone for 5 minutes. Turn it. Leave it alone for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low. Tent loosely with a piece of foil. Continue cooking about 10 more minutes until juices run clear.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celery soup with other stuff you'd not think of using

Allright, what is he up to now? Oh, about 5'9". When I read "One Perfect Bite" this morning I was taken with Mary's "green" foods. She was one of the only bloggers posting anything remotely related to St. Patrick's Day. One of her recipes was double celery soup (including both celeriac and celery). I don't have any celeriac, but I do have a full head of celery. Then, as I was dismantling a chicken, I got this idea: saute the liver and the tenders and incorporate them in a celery soup. It may sound weird, but it's really good. I was making chicken stock when I got this idea. That's a good thing because I didn't have any broth in the house. If you just can't abide the idea of the chicken liver, leave it out. Nobody's holding a gun to your head!

Thank you, Mary, for the loan of the photo. (Visit her at

Celery soup with chicken liver and tenders
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 chicken livers, finely chopped
2 chicken tenders, finely chopped
garlic powder
onion powder
10 stalks celery, in 1" pieces
4 cups chicken stock
celery salt to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet. Saute the liver and tenders until just cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic and onion powders and a bit of salt and pepper.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer strings from the thickest pieces of celery. Cut into 1" pieces. Place in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer very slowly until the celery is tender, about 20 minutes.

Add in the cooked liver and tenders. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve it right up, maybe with a few pieces of crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An old dog learns new tricks (part 2)

It's been an interesting exercise to post recipes before actually preparing them. The good news: the jalapeno poppers were everything I hoped for - crisp, spicy, and with a creamy center of corn kernels and a Mexican cheese mix. I bumped the oven up to 450 degrees. They were done somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. The bad news: the sweet potatoes were limp and soft - albeit very flavorful. There was just no crispness to them at all. My next post (probably tomorrow morning) will be for a celery soup. Thanks in advance to Mary of "One Perfect Bite" for the "loan" of a photo. "See" you in the morning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Something I threw together (part 2)

These pics don't look exactly like what came out of my big pot when I served up dinner tonight. But it's close enough.

I don't know what possessed me to post a recipe even as it was cooking in the oven. I had a certain sureness that it was going to turn out well. I was right. The fact is I made it 2 days ago, but lamb meatloaf diverted our attentions at dinner time for 2 nights.

One inspiration for my slow-cooked thing is the cost of groceries here in DC. Not to mention gasoline, booze and cigarettes. As a matter of fact, cigs are so expensive I qut smoking a week ago. I'm over the worst of that. But enough about me; here's more about me.

Pork chops, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots - all good things. Put them in a big pot, season them well and bake at 275-300 degrees for 3 or so hours. As happens with slow-cooked things, additional seasoning is necessary at the end. Everything you put in at the beginning seems to get absorbed into the totality. So, more salt, more pepper, more garlic powder - whatever it is you like.
Well, cancel that last. No additional seasoning was necessary. The whole thing was gentle, flavorful, satisfying, comforting. The bottom line: browning is not necessary; stick stuff in the pot, turn on the oven and cook it for a while. How long? How long do you have? No, seriously, 3 hours is enough for practically anything. We divested ourselves of the slow cooker when we left Denver. We never used it. You know what? No one needs a slow cooker. You got an oven? That's all you need. Bye for now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Something I threw together

A while back I fooled around with the old 50's recipe for roasting beef with mushroom soup and dry onion soup mix - updated it while retaining the essential flavors. Well, as I write this, I have just put a great big pot of stuff into a 300 degree oven. The essence of this goes back to that 50's concoction, but it's got some real differences. I'm assuming it will need to be in the oven for 3 hours or so. After the first hour I'll reduce the temp to 250. Photos courtesy of the internet.

Use a pot large enough to hold a lot of stuff (Dutch oven might do it, if it's a big one).

Something for the oven

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Put a tablespoon or 2 of vegetable oil in the bottom.

Add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms, 1 large onion, in chunks, 8 oz. carrots in chunks, 3 large red potatoes, quartered, salt and pepper, onion powder to taste and 2 tablespoons flour (just scattered over the top).

Season 2 1/2 lbs. of whatever pork cuts you can find on sale with salt and pepper and lay them on top of all the vegetation.

Add: about 3 cups of whatever stock you have on hand.

Cover and put the pot into the oven. Reduce the heat to 275 after 1 hour. Leave it alone for 2 more hours after that. Then have a look. Prepare to be surprised. I am.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with an update of what happened with this. Heck, it's got lots of good vittles in there. How bad can it be?

Monday morning:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lamb meatloaf

In years past, when Peter and I lived in DC we frequently ate at a Chinese restaurant called Taste of China. We always had the same things: lamb with scallions and spinach with garlic. That was on my mind yesterday morning when I decided what to do with a pound of lamb stew meat: make meatloaf with plenty of chunks of scallions in it. I just ground the lamb in my food processor.

Now, I doubt many of you have 1 1/2 cups of cooked barley in your fridge, but maybe you have some cooked rice? Barring that, just use some soft breadcrumbs.

If there is a way to make this recipe simpler I don't know what it is.

Lamb meatloaf

1 pound ground lamb

3 scallions, cut into 1/2” pieces

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups cooked barley or rice or soft breadcrumbs

as much garlic as you can stand, finely chopped

cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together and place in a loaf pan which has been sprayed with generic Pam.

Bake for 40 minutes. Let rest briefly, then eat the whole darn thing in one sitting. LOL.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poached fish balls

Ok, this ain't my fish balls. It's a shareware image. I won't bore you with my camera situation. For the moment though, those things up there actually are fish balls.
We last visited fish balls on the day that the dog, Frida (I misspelled it before), ate them before I could cook them. The trauma of that event has passed and I'm ready to “roll” again. I had a debate with myself for most of a day as to what method I would use to cook them: bake, steam, poach, or wok-smoke. In the end poaching won out, simply because it seemed to me the be the simplest choice. There was also to choice of fish to consider. I think my previous version was catfish and shrimp. This one was tilapia and shrimp. Side dishes included sauteed baby spinach and a turnip puree.

Fish balls
¼ lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 lb. tilapia filet
1 tbsp flour
2 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Shiaoxing cooking wine (optional)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp sesame oil
2 cups chicken stock

Cut the shrimp and tilapia into 1” pieces and place them in the bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except the chicken stock. Pulse to chop the fish and combine everything. Don't puree the fish completely, stop short of that. With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 balls.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Carefully drop in the fish balls. When the stock comes back to a simmer, turn the balls, cover the pan and let it sit for 5-6 more minutes before serving with rice, orzo, or some other favorite thing of yours.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Flattened Cornish hen

I'm still fighting the camera battle. But, as long as I can find some free web photos it will have to do.

This is very similar to my spatchcocked “weighty” chicken, one difference being the flavors incorporated. And of course these little hens don't take as long to cook.

We served this with roasted green beans (12 minutes at 400 degrees) and smallish baked potatoes (50 minutes at 400 degrees).

Flattened Cornish hen (1 hen serves 2)

With a sharp knife, cut straight down through the backbone of the hen. Oops, I almost forgot – the hen was brined for several hours and then no salt was added after rinsing and drying.

Sprinkle with black or cayenne pepper. Stuff lemon slices under the skin.

Brown the skin side (weighted with another pan) until golden (10 min. or so). Remove from the pan.

Add to the pan: ½ sliced onion and more lemon slices.

Place chicken back in, weight it again (using a piece of foil) and cook over medium heat until finished, about 30-35 minutes until thigh juices run clear.

Let rest 5 minutes, cut in half lengthwise through the breast and chow down.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Baked penne pasta

Okay, it's going to take me a couple of days to solve the camera problem (missing cable to connect to computer). I acquired the picture above from a free image site. You're all being very understanding and supportive. Yesterday on Food Network there were not one, not two, but three shows about lasagna. It made me hungry. But I didn't want to have to go out to buy lasagna noodles. So I made “lasagna” with penne pasta. There's probably a name for this but I don't know what it is.

Cook 1 box penne pasta al dente.

Blanch ½ bunch kale leaves for 6 minutes; drain; squeeze out water; chop.

Saute onion, garlic and sausage.

Add 28 oz. tomatoes, bay leaves, dried basil, onion powder, red pepper flakes. Simmer 30 minutes.

Layer the pasta with sauce, penne, kale, ricotta, mozzarella, and then on top, romano cheese.

Repeat layers until everything is used up.

45 minutes in the convection oven covered with foil. 10 minutes uncovered.

That's all folks!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm back - with a soup

At last life has returned to some semblance of normalcy. I've been feeling desperate to get back to posting recipes. So, even though I can't find the cable for my camera that allows me to get pix into my computer, I'm going to talk about tamarind soup even without a photo.

We've had a partly used packet of tamarind soup base in the pantry for years (how many I don't know, but a lot). So I decided to use it. My guesstimate was that it was about half the original amount. That proved to be true because adding it to 5 cups of water gave me a lovely broth. Tamarind is a little sour (I guess that's the word I would use). I found a Filipino recipe which gave me the kernel of an idea.

Soup can be made with virtually anything. I sauteed half an onion. Added several ounces of leftover pork loin, the water, the soup base, ¼ pound of shrimp, a couple of ounces of cooked chicken, half a bunch of kale leaves, a medium zucchini, 2 potatoes, some red pepper flakes, and maybe more stuff I don't remember.

Bottom line: I love making soups and often do so with stuff that's hanging out in the fridge or the pantry.

So, there you have it. I'm back and will be nearly a daily presence again here at theobsessivechef. I've been reading all your blogs, although not commenting much. Scooper, Peter and I are ensconced in a house in NW Washington, DC and nearly unpacked. I now have the best gas range (with electric ovens) I've ever had. I'm pumped!!!

Blog Archive

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along

Foodie BlogRoll