Friday, April 29, 2011

Shrimp and grits

I've had a lot to say about grits recently since Bo (of bosbowl) sent me two packages of them a month ago. It was with great sadness that I learned via his post this morning that he was in the middle of the terrible tornado devastation this week. Apparently he and his loved ones are ok. It's ironic in a way that I started this post before I knew about this. In any case, Bo, all of your many followers send you best wishes and hopes.

Peter and I collaborated on this dish last night. He tended to the stone-ground grits and I to the shrimp. I cooked the shrimp earlier in the day by poaching them in a flavored broth (3 minutes only). I thought most of the afternoon about what else to do. Then it hit me - we had a small can of plain tomato sauce which I heated up with a large dash of hot sauce and some finely chopped fresh rosemary. When the grits were ready (these were the 30 minute kind) I stirred the cooked shrimp into the sauce off the heat. Along with some roasted broccoli this was a very comforting meal. Again, thank you Bo. Be well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gone fishin' for a birthday dinner

I prefer these steaks to salmon filets for one main reason - the thickness is so consistent. See that little white oval in the center? That's the fish's backbone. There's a little bone or cartilege just below that, toward the V-shaped area. Then, above the backbone there is a narrow row of stuff that goes right up close to the skin. There is no reason in the world why it is necessary to remove that stuff. However, I've had a lot of practice at it, and once it's de-boned I will tie it in a circle and saute it in butter and oil. That's all a person needs to know about salmon steak. I leave the skin on until after cooking. Then it slips right off. No muss, no fuss.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little lamb, little innocent lamb

I needed a vegetable, so I invited George W. Bush. Whah, hah, hah, that's funny.

I can tell how "offal"-putting my last post was. I'm back on the straight and narrow now. I can't promise you I won't challenge you again in the future, but for the moment let's just enjoy the residual feelings of joy and satisfaction from Easter weekend and the victuals we shared with our families. My dinner was a simple one. I had a decent lamb loin chop, a baked potato and some sauteed spinach. All in all a lovely meal. I did nothing special with the lamb - got my skillet screaming hot, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a bit of minced dried rosemary. Two and 1/2 minutes per side was all it needed (it wasn't very thick). Of course I got the potato and spinach completely under control before even considering cooking the meat.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How awful is offal? The wizard of gizzard strikes again.

The first thing I have to say is that I am seriously hacked off that my computer lost this whole posting about 30 minutes ago. So I am starting all over. I will skip the part about how many of you won't eat anything but skinless boneless chicken breasts. You have no idea what you are missing. Liver, gizzard, heart and neck (not to mention the little bits in between the backbones - maybe they are kidneys, don't know). If you starve your husband and your children for long enough they will eat what is known as "offal", oddments of animal protein. I bought a package of hearts and gizzards (almost entirely gizzards) this afternoon. I trimmed them up a bit, and browned them in olive oil and butter, and seasoned them with some of my Garcon*. Then I added some homemade chicken stock (oh, first I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine). They need a good two to three hours to tenderize. About half way through I tossed in some leftover corn kernels and half a large jalapeno (seeds included). Near the end I chopped up some whole canned roma tomatoes and put them in. Call me crazy, but keep reading me. In the end I decided to eat this as a soup. I could have made some rice or some pasta. I am, however, "HOME ALONE." So I just do whatever seems right at the moment.

*Garcon will eventually become as well known as Emeril's Essence.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Milanesa for the new millenium

According to Peter, I am the Maestro of Milanesa. I have to agree. I've studied it and prepared it dozens of times in recent years. It is very, very easy. I didn't research this extensively, but it appears that milanesa is usually a slice of beef. Well, I'm here to tell you, I've had beef milanesa in restaurants and I've tried to make it at home. It sucks under all circumstances. I make mine with pork or chicken (and once with turkey breast). Brine it, pound it, flour it, egg it, crumb it, fry it in incredibly hot oil for an incredibly short time.

I made milanesa from some pork loin chops (boneless) last night. They were just fine. There were, however, three pieces of meat. I plan to try a slight variation tonight with the third piece. First, while I did brine it, I'm not going to pound it out. That means I will have to be attentive to how long it needs to be shallow fried (1/8 inch oil). This chop is 1/2 inch thick. It might be a huge mistake not to pound it flatter, but I'll take the risk. I'm going to eat it no matter what.

I have invented a spice/herb combination (heck, I don't know what it is) which I am calling Garcon. Emeril has his Essence, the Cajuns have their Trinity. Well, Stevie now has his Garcon (a combination of garlic powder, celery salt, and onion powder). You will get a lot of exposure to this in upcoming posts.

I did it. I ate it. I'm a happy camper.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not your mother's tomato soup (but with sardines)

The images are just as lovely as the soup was. This was astoundingly easy to make. I had the notion it would need a couple of things that, in the end, it did not need. Prepare to be amazed. I do not remember where this idea came from. It's been in my mental "to cook" list for at least 2-3 weeks. The surprise for me was not needing to use chicken broth with this. I would not try to do this with anything but whole canned tomatoes. Go ahead, prove me wrong, but this was delicious. Add cheese at the end if you would like. Use a bunch of different herbs or spices if you are so moved. There is every reason to consider using a whole can of sardines for each serving. The whole canned tomatoes were so flavorful I could almost not believe it.

Tomato and sardine soup

1 28 oz. can whole roma tomatoes

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

celery salt and cayenne pepper to taste some onion powder (optional)

1 can sardines (in tomato sauce, oil, or whatever floats your boat)

Stand back and observe. Put the tomatoes (sauce reserved) in the food processor with everything else except the sardines. Pulse until there are no pieces of tomato bigger than 1/4 inch. Put this and the reserved juice from the can of tomatoes into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and let it bubble over the lowest heat you can find on your stovetop for 15 minutes. Taste. Adjust. Open a can of sardines. Ladle tomato soup into the bowls. Divide the sardines and plop them into the center of the bowl. Serve. Eat. I dare you to tell me this isn't really quite good.

Friday, April 15, 2011

So ... weirdness in the hen house

This is the way a chicken looks before I bury it. I could have called this succotash chicken, given that the principle ingredients other than the bird are ... wait for it ... lima beans and corn. I got a peculiar itch about a week ago. It was to cook a chicken in a fashion I had never done, never heard of, and never will I be able to sort out where this idea came from. One name for it could be smothered chicken. After all, it gets buried in a whole bunch of stuff. Let's get down to it.

Spatchcock the chicken (which is to say remove the backbone which you WILL save for stock.) Cut 1/2 a large onion into half moons. Get a 1 lb. package of lima beans out of the freezer. Get a 1 lb. package of corn out of the freezer. Get some bacon out of the fridge. Oh, get a chicken. For the first time in modern history I did not brine the bird. Get out your onion powder, garlic powder, dried tarragon, salt and pepper. That's everything you need. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Use a Dutch oven or other heavy oven-proof pot. Drop half of the onions in the bottom. Add some of each of your seasonings. Drop about half of the limas on that - season again. Same with the corn - season again. Lay 4 slices of bacon over the top of this stuff. Put the chicken on top, skin side up. Repeat the layers as before except start with 4 more slices of bacon. Then everything else. Put the pot, covered, in the oven for 3 hours. There you have it.

Given that limas and corn are somewhat starchy, you can consider this a one-pot meal. On the other hand, I have nothing against serving a salad alongside.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So ... wings! (Part 2)

I finally got these "wangs" cooked. They were good. But then you knew that. You don't cook things that aren't good, and neither do I. (Or is it that we never confess our failures?) No matter, we're all adults here. Wings - roasted at 275 degrees for 2 and 1/2 hours after marinating (for 4 days!) in wine, chicken broth, miso paste, garlic and onion powders and black pepper.

Any one of you could cook these wings as well as I did. The great thing about them is (not only are they good) there's lots of them. I got one of those value packs I sometimes talk about as the only sensible alternative to buying whole chickens. Golly, gee, we've been having a great time with the grits Bo sent me. The stone ground ones take 30 minutes whereas the "quick" variety take about 8 minutes. You know what? They are both really good. Cheesy grits - one of nature's miracles. Give me a chicken wing and a bit of baked potato and then just shoot me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

So ... wings!

I got such good deals on a beef roast and some pork things that we have a whole bunch of leftovers. So these wings are just going to marinate for another day. It won't hurt them (it won't hurt me, either). I'll be back on Thursday with the results of this unusual marinade experiment.

I left the drumettes and wingettes attached while they were in a miso marinade. For ease of eating I cut them apart before cooking. I mentioned this the other day, but the marinade consisted of onion and garlic powders (I use them a lot these days), red miso paste (nice and salty), white wine, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and chicken broth. It had been a long time since I baked chicken wings and I had to do a bit of research to remind myself of the best method.

What I found was that I used to make wings with a fairly low and slow method: 275 degrees for up to 3 hours. That worked really well in the past and I saw no reason not to rest on my laurels. Have you noticed that lately I'm not posting actual recipes? No particularly good reason, except that none of us seems to make the recipes. Rather, we all adapt, mimic, whatever. I don't say this as a criticism. Out individual inventiveness is what leads us down this path. Cook on, dear readers. I know I shall.

So ... pork!

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about pork I had bought. Turns out they were "chops" from a hunk o' pig just like the one above. Everything I found via Google convinced me that these were not bits of bliss to be blithely cooked fast. Those of you who said that - thank you. These pork pieces, about 6" x 8" and 1/2" thick looked wonderful. I removed the bone each one had in the center and then folded them in half, put them in a casserole dish and added these things: garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, cayenne, and a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes (I cut them up a bit, about 3 cuts per tomato) with their juice. A 275 degree oven for 4 hours yielded a marvelous result. 'Nuff said.

The other thing in my post yesterday was chicken wings. They are submerged in a miso solution and will stay there until tomorrow. We'll polish off the pot roast (what, you don't remember I made pot roast?) tonight.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Works in progress (wings and butt)

I have long been an annoying advocate for buying whole chickens. It's about economy and just being sensible. However, I've also mentioned many times that a value pack of wings or leg quarters is often a reasonable alternative. A few days ago I got a big pack (mayber 15 of them) of large chicken wings. I'd been thinking about roasted wings for a while and this was perfect. As I write this I have them marinating (what, no brine?) in a combination of miso paste (that's where the salty part comes in), chicken broth, cayenne pepper and white wine. An eclectic mix I admit, but hey I do eclectic really well. I'll let them steep in that stuff for a couple of days and then roast them. I removed the end pieces (don't know what to call them, but they have no meat on them) and set them aside for a broth. Stay tuned for further updates.

Jenn of jennsfoodjourney, my "pen" pal of over a year now, had a "talk" the other day about thin pork chops. Well, I found this package of pork butt slices the other day. They look for all the world like huge pork chops (I mean 6" x 8"). Just imagine the roast pictured above sliced across. I did a little Google research and it seems to me I won't be happy trying to do a quick cooking method for these guys. They've been brining since yesterday and I'll be doing something with them for dinner tonight as soon as I figure out what that's going to be. Again, stay tuned. I'm thinking: cut out the bones and combine them with the chicken wing things in a stock pot. Then maybe rollling up the meat and braising it in tomatoes. We'll see. You'll see. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poached chicken

Those poached chickens above look so lifelike. Oh, come on, it's just a joke. I performed an experiment over the weekend. I brined a whole chicken (backbone removed) for 5 days. Then I got nervous about how to cook it. What if it was too salty? I resolved the question by poaching it. Into a pot it went with just enough water to cover, garlic powder, onion powder, dried tarragon, mustard powder, black pepper and I don't know what else. Brought everything to a boil and reduced it to a slow simmer for 20 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let the bird sit for another 15 minutes. I'm inclined to think that the meat was as delicate and soft as it was due to the brining. In any case we ate only one drumstick apiece, so there's a whole bunch left for other purposes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shrimp and "real" grits

Still camera-less, the photo above is from a recipe I posted nearly tw0 years ago. Nobody read any of my stuff in those days, so I don't feel bad about plagiarizing myself. Bo ( sent me real grits last week. I was in the camp of idiots who think that grits and polenta are essentially the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you're Sarah Palin pontificating on something she knows nothing about, which pretty much covers every topic in the universe). I'm sorry. This is supposed to be about food, not politics. Well, too late now, this cat's out of the bag.

So anyhow - I went in well-armed and determined. I cooked some of the rough-ground hominy grits Bo sent me. What a revelation! A texture I haven't experienced in decades (since on concert tours throughout the south in the 60's and 70's). Do yourself a favor and go to Wikipedia for a tutorial on hominy. I won't presume to impart much knowledge about it here. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid. Leave facts to those who know what they are (not you Sarah).

Peter did the quick grits for lunch today and I did the more ambitious stone ground ones for dinner. They are both good, but the stone ground are creamier, gentler, every -er you can think of.

Shrimp and grits

Cook 1 cup hominy grits according to package directions.

Cook 12 oz. shrimp in whatever fashion you like (I prefer poaching for 3 minutes, or sauteing for about 4 minutes). In this case, however, I sauteed 1/4 of an onion and then the shrimp, generously dousing them in cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Garnish them with a generous amount of chopped cilantro. On top of the grits, they were worth committing adultery for.

Spoon the grits out into a hot bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drop in a generous dollop of butter. Top with shrimp and just try to speak without a southern accent!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Liver and onions

I satisfied a yen I've had for many years. It was to make calves liver that is as good as what I've had in a couple of expensive restaurants over the years. Now I know that liver is not for everyone. I'm thinking that you wouldn't be reading this if that were the case for you. The secret to this was to get my hands on some liver that wasn't cut as thin as what you find frozen at the supermarket. That stuff tastes ok but is so delicate to handle that some of it always falls apart when handled. I called a specialty market earlier in the week and learned that they would have fresh calves liver as of Friday. I asked for 1 lb. cut a full 1/2" thick. Once you've got the right product the rest is easy.

Liver and onions

1 cup whole milk

1 lb. calves liver, cut into 4 pieces at least 1/2" thick

1/2 large yellow onion, cut into half moons

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp butter

more salt and pepper to taste

all purpose flour

Put the liver in a glass dish and pour the milk over it. Put it in the fridge. It can be in there an hour or all day. When you're ready to start cooking, lay the pieces on paper towels and dry them off.

Heat the olive oil. When hot add onions and saute until starting to caramelize but still have texture, 8-10 minutes over medium high heat. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper while they cook. Remove them from the pan.

Add the butter to the pan. While it melts (still over medium high heat), sprinkle the liver with salt and pepper and dredge the pieces in flour. Shake off the excess. Wait for the butter's foam to subside and then add the liver to the pan.

Judgment time. How well done do you want it? I wanted it with just a hint of pink in the center. I'm guessing I gave it 3 minutes per side. After you turn the liver, scatter the onions on and around it. When it's ready, serve it at once.

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