Friday, November 27, 2009

Scallops a la Stuff

First, an apology: until I get my camera working again, no pictures.  All I need is to find the cord, but that's harder than it sounds.

So, my supermarket had a good sale on some fresh scallops (without shell and tongue, of course) and I decided to risk a seafood sale for once.  Normally I don't buy seafood on sale because it's old and fishy, but the scallops looked fairly fresh, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll eschew an ingredient list on this one because I'm telling you how to make an entire dinner, and it would just get clumsy.  I will say you need Brussel sprouts, pasta, scallops, bacon, and a sweet potato.  Instead prepare for a wall of text!

The assembly of this dinner is as follows.

First, take a sweet potato and dampen the skin.  You can peel it if you'd like, but I love the flavor of the skin.  Mix equal parts sugar and fine salt in your palm and dust the outside of your potato, then wrap in foil and place in a 250 degree oven for about two hours.

So about half an hour before you take the sweet potato out, start yourself some pasta water.  Be sure to salt your pasta water.  It's important later (and not just for he flavor it adds to the pasta).  Also get some bacon out.  You can bacon wrap your scallops if you really want to, but I'm a fan of simple scallops.

You're going to need a large saute pan and a small saute pan.  In the small large saute pan render off the fat of three strips of bacon and remove them from the pan.  Once you have that done reduce it to low heat so the grease doesn't smoke.  Render the fat of one strip into the small pan.  Chopping the bacon makes the fat render faster.

At this point your pasta water is probably at a boil, so go ahead and add whatever pasta you want to use.  Crumble a two or three of the pieces of the pasta toincrease the starch content of the cooking water.

Take about twelve of your Brussel sprouts and slice them in half.  Place them face down in your small pan so they can toast in the bacon grease.  You'll want them in there for about ten minutes on medium low heat.

Add 3 tbsp of butter to the large pan and allow to melt.  You can add two cloves of slivered garlic and an eighth of an onion, also slivered, to the butter/bacon grease to add some flavor.  Sprinkle the scallops with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Crank your heat up to medium high and get your scallops in the pan.  Get them a little brown on each side then remove the scallops and get them into the oven to keep them warm and continue a bit of the cooking.

Ok, now throw some flour into the pan and stir it around.  Let it collect the fat and brown a little bit, then scoot it to the side of the pan and use about a cup of white wine to deglaze the pan.  Look at the container your scallops are in.  They should have released some juices.  Throw those tasty juices in the pan, then add a half cup of the pasta water. and stir everything together then allow to reduce until thickened.  Behold some tasty scallop gravy.  When making the gravy you can add some black pepper, but it will not need extra salt.

Now for that sweet potato.  Remove from the oven and unwrap.  carefully,m while it's still hot, cut into medallions (3 per person).  Keep them thin because it should still be half raw and fairly chewy.  lay your medallions flat on the plate and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.  You can drizzle some molasses on there too, but the heat should soften the brown sugar and spread it around, which was more than enough for me.  If you don't like the tougher character of the sweet potato when purposefully undercooked, lay out your medallions on a sheet pan, sprinkle them with brown sugar, and chuck them in a 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  Throw a marshmallow on each of them even and let them stay in there while you eat.  Then you have desert for afterward.

Drain your pasta and toss with some olive oil, plate everything up and serve.  Gravy goes on the pasta and the scallops, Brussel sprouts take a stingy sprinkling of coarse salt, and the medallions, well i think I've covered them already.  Enjoy.

Filler, Mostly

As you can imagine, H=H.  By this equation I prove that holidays are hectic.  Working as I do in food service, you might expect me to be comatose by the end of Black Friday, but here I am to provide you a very shore nugget of wisdom before returning to serving mediocre food to the unwashed masses.

So, I eat a lot of pasta.  It's just tasty.  Whenever I make it I always have some extra left over, and I usually store that before I add sauce or any other flavor enhancer (except for the salt in the water).  With these habits as my credentials I now set forth to explain to you how best to revivify your Italian boiled wheat constructs after a stay in the fridge.  There are two ccomponents:

1.  Place the pasta in a tuber-ware while the pasta is still hot and damp and seal immediately, but do not place into the fridge.  Let it sit in the container until it has cooled, maybe about 1/2 an hour, then place in the fridge.  This lets the pasta moisten the air so that the chill draws less water out.

2. When you are ready to heat the pasta again, in the microwave (as must be the fate of all suitably scrumptious leftovers), place about 1 tablespoon of broth (any flavor you like) into the bottom of the container.  Microwave the container mostly sealed for 1 minute 45 seconds or until warm in the center of the bottom.  Reseal and let rest for 1 minute, then eat it.  You'll get moister pasta from the steaming, and some of the broth's salt will carry water back into the pasta for you.

And that's the art of necromantic pasta.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quick Breakfast Idea

Quick, easy and delicious, a tasty breakfast burrito follows in the next few sentences.

Take one flour tortilla (burrito size).  To it add one large slice of avocado.  Flatten the avocado with a fork.  Add a slice of bacon (cooked please) and one scrambled egg.  Wrap and eat.

For some calcium add a slice of colby jack or monterey jack cheese.  A piece of lettuce, some ranch dressing, some alfalfa sprouts or some sausage would not go badly either.

See, quick easy and delicious.  A good break from my other long-winded posts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tasty Desert Time

So, I decided I wanted something kind of sweet.  I had an abundance of sugar, and some ice cream in the fridge, but I had no flavor.  I was out of flour, so baking was out of the question.  All I had was a big pomegranate.  The solution formed in my mind: Pomegranate Syrup.

 First I put on a movie and started peeling the pomegranate and depositing the seeds in a bowl.  By the time the movie was over, I was almost done.  You want to end up with maybe 2 cups of seeds from a good sized pomegranate.

Now I covered the seeds in 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and let them macerate for about half an hour, as shown in the picture.

Take two cups of water and throw them into a sauce pan on medium heat.  Let the water heat up, then throw in the pomegranate seeds and another cup of sugar.  Stir thoroughly and reduce to medium-low heat.  Let it go at a low simmer for about an hour, until the flesh of the seeds is soft.  Take the mixture and pour it into a blender.  Blend until you have an even color, maybe 1 minute on a medium setting.

Take your blended concoction and strain it back into the pot on the same heat setting.  The blender should have effectively stripped the flesh from the hard seeds and incorporated the flesh into the syrup.  You should get a bunch of seed debris in the strainer.

Leave the pot on the heat at a low simmer for another half hour and then remove and chill in the fridge for two hours to allow to thicken.  Remember to stir frequently when on the heat.  If you let this burn in your pot, you'll have to spend an hour cleaning it out, and the smell of burned sugar will linger for a few weeks.  Believe me, I know from experience.

And voila, you should have some tasty, sweet pomegranate syrup to pour on your vanilla ice cream.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Cajun" Catfish Sandwich

My local grocery store had a good sale on catfish fillets and I picked up more than I could use on more mundane recipes.  See end result on right.

Catfish is a fairly light fish, but it also has a meaty quality and a fairly distinctive flavor.  It's also usually pretty cheap.  I really like how it interacts with whatever seasoning you use with it.  It's the perfect frying fish, but it also bakes well or incorporates into soups.

The ingredients for this dish are as follows:

1 catfish fillet
1/3 loaf of beer bread
1 leaf mustard greens or Romain lettuce
3 slices Colby Jack cheese
1/2 a lemon
3 tablespoons of corn flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Smoky Sweet Pepper mix (important parts: tomato powder, paprika, red pepper flakes)

The first part will be to make the seasoning rub.  You'll have a fair bit of the rub left over depending on the size of your fillet.  You're going to want to mix the corn flour, the chili powder, the garlic powder, the black pepper, the last and the Smoky Sweet Pepper mix.  The Pepper mix is really just tomato powder, paprika and red pepper flakes.  It's got some other stuff in there, but those are the important parts for the flavor we're trying to achieve.  The corn flour helps coat the fish and hold the moisture in and also makes sure that you don't over-season the fish.

Take the lemon and juice it onto the fish.  Now rub the rub onto the fillets.  Place onto a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut a piece of bread of similar size to the fillet off of your loaf of bread, then slice that piece open.  I used beer bread which is a kind of dark, chewy, bubbly, hearty loaf.  Any crusty bread can work well.  Ciabatta style loaves tend to provide the right size for the sandwich.

Lay three thick slices of Colby Jack cheese on the bottom piece and pop it into the oven for about a minute and a half so the cheese gets soft.  You don't want ti to get too melted though.

Once the fillets are done, place them on the cheesed piece of bread.  Lay the mustard green leaf or Romaine or Red Leaf lettuce leaf on top of the fillet and spread some mayo onto the top piece of bread.

You now have a large, satisfying sandwich.  I served this with a simple chili flavored corn-potato chowder and a green salad.  This recipe works well as a sandwich, but it really relies simply on a well cooked and well seasoned piece of fish.  If you can manage to get the fish right you can use it on its own, accompanied by rice or polenta.  It's kind of like a steak sandwich: the steak carries the sandwich not the other way around.  Absent the bread, cheese and greens, the fillet would be awesome, but absent the fillet, the sandwich would be pretty boring.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Leftover Soup

Soups are pretty easy.  You chuck some stuff together in a pot, season carefully, add some liquid and let it go.  It's also a great way to get rid of some leftovers you might not be able to use.  I made the following soup to clean out some bratwurst and rice that had been sitting in my fridge for a few days.

The ingredients for this dish are:
1/2 an onion
3 Bratwurst or other sausage (cooked beforehand)
3 cloves of garlic
2 small potatoes
1 can of corn, or 1 and 1/2 cups of frozen or leftover corn
1 cup rice (precooked if you have it)
3 cups beef broth
3 cups water
1/2 cup half and half
1 bay leaf (for convention's sake)

The assembly of this dish is as follows:

Pour some olive or vegetable oil into the bottom of a dutch oven or other similar pot.  Turn the heat to high.  Chop the onions, the sausage and the potatoes to the sizes you want in your soup.  I prefer mine a bit on the chunky side so I do a rough chop.  Once the oil in the pan is hot, add the onions.  Salt and pepper them while they cook.  You can add some garlic powder if you have it handy as well.

Deglaze the pan with 1/2 a cup of broth and 1/2 a cup of water.  Add the 1/2 cup of half and half and stir quickly.  Now throw in the sausage and potatoes and allow to come to a simmer.  Once simmer has been achieved, add in the can of corn, juice and all.  If you aren't using a can of corn, instead throw in a teaspoon of sugar and an extra 1/2 cup of water later on when the rest of the liquids are added.  Throw the rice and the garlic cloves in as well.

I used leftover rice for my meal, but if you add an extra cup of water and 12/ cup of broth or so you should be able to just throw in some dried rice without much difficulty.

Once all the important solids are in, toss them around to get a good coating of liquid on them.  Now dump in the rest of your liquids, adjusting as noted above for dry rice or frozen/fresh corn.  Add the bay leaf and stir around to achieve a good mix.  Keep the pot on high heat until the dish achieves a simmer.  Let it simmer for two minutes, then move to medium low heat on a back burner for about an hour.

Serve with a crusty bread and a sharp dry cheese.

This is just a basic soup recipe.  The ingredients aren't as important as the technique here.  If you want to go more in a chowder direction, remove the rice, add more cream and potatoes and cook on a slightly higher heat.  If you want more of a stew, use less broth, add some larger chunks of onion and potatoes,  and cook longer on a lower heat.  If you wanted it to be more soupy, cut back on all of the ingredients and focus on seasoning the broth.

This is really kind of a midpoint between many different soup variations, and learning how to make a soup like this is a good way to figure out how to move on to those other variations.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deliciously Disintegrated Ribs

Everybody and their mother has their own secret to fall-off-the-bone ribs. Well, after this post, my secret will be not so secret.

Two words: marinate and slow cook.

To illustrate, I present you with my recipe for Chili Limeade Baby Back Ribs.
(Warning: this recipe requires overnight marinade, don't count on it for a quick dinner)

The ingredients you will need are:
1 rack baby back ribs (These are always on discount at my local supermarket)
4 cups Limeade
3-4 tbsp chili powder
2 ft tin foil

To assemble this dish:
You'll want to rinse off the ribs under a gentle faucet. The juices that collect in the packing are never particularly conducive to an appetizing dish. Set the ribs in a baking pan, meat side up. Pour your limeade into the baking dish, but reserve maybe 1/2 a cup for later. The limeade shouldn't cover the ribs, and should in fact only come up maybe half way up the ribs. Take 1 tbsp chili powder and rub it onto the meat. At this point, things should look like this:

Now you're going to flip the pork over. Sprinkle a pinch or two of chili powder onto the underside of the ribs. The curve of the ribs on the underside should allow you to pour the remaining 1/2 cup of limeade onto the ribs and have it stay. Once you've done that, cover with saran wrap and put into the fridge overnight.

The long marination lets the pork suck in the sweetness and sourness of the limeade, as well as the bite of the chili. It also gives the limeade ample time to tenderize the pork.

When you're ready to get cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Pull out the dish and season with salt an pepper on both sides. Make sure you get good coverage with the salt because you really need it to balance out the sweet that the limeade brings. Now use the rest of the chili powder to rub all over the meat side of the ribs. Leave the limeade in the pan with the meat for cooking.

Make sure the meat side is face up before you begin cooking. Cover in tin foil and put the ribs into the oven for one and one half hours (1-1/2). When they come out, they should look like this:
So there you are: my secret to fall off the bone ribs.

What really makes them fall off the bone is the fact I'm cooking them with a lot of liquid in a sealed environment under low heat for a long time.

I've got another secret, this one pertaining to rubs on ribs, rather than marinades. Even though it works along the same principles, you'll have to wait until later to get your eyes on that one.

Thanks again guys, and have a great meal.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Sandwich God Quite Definitely Intended

Today, I'm going to teach you how to make this:
This is a Bacon, Apple and Brie Sandwich, accompanied by some simple, oven baked potato chips and a mustard green salad. It tastes wonderful and works wonderfully for entertaining. Better yet, it's a great date meal to cook up because including apple on a sandwich makes you look totally edgy. It's also an incredibly easy meal. In fact, the hardest part about it is cutting everything to the correct widths.

The ingredients for the sandwich are:
3-4 slices tart green apple (Granny Smith's are perfect)
2-3 slices of bacon
1 long slice of Brie cheese (cut from the edge of a good sized wedge)
2 thin slices of crusty sourdough bread
1 pinch flaked sea salt (or other large grained salt)

The ingredients for the potato chips are:
2 small Yukon Gold potatoes
Garlic Powder
Olive Oil

The assembly of this dish is as follows:
Believe it or not, the potato chips will occupy the majority of your time when it comes to preparation. You will need to preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit. You want to cook the chips this hot so that the edge will crisp well and quickly, but the center will be still relatively soft.

Slice the potatoes thin. Try and get the slices between 1 and 2 millimeters in width (1-2 pennies thick). It's actually good if some are thicker than others because it will create a variety of textures in the finished dish.

Lay the sliced potatoes out on a baking dish. Drizzle them with olive oil. Turn them around to get them coated well in the oil. Then sprinkle liberally, with garlic powder, liberally again with black pepper, and then less liberally with salt. Flip them over and repeat the process.

Try to drain off some, but not all of the excess oil before placing in the oven. Put them in the oven for about twenty minutes. You want the edges to brown, but you want the center to retain its golden color.

Once you have that in the oven, move on to the bacon. Put your bacon on a baking sheet and pop it into the same oven for about 4-6 minutes. You don't want the bacon to get super crispy, because when bacon tries to compete, crunch for crunch, with a good apple, well lets just say that bacon is usually lucky to even get bronze in such a contest. Instead, you want the bacon to assist the bread in providing some chew to the sandwich.

While you've got your oven working away, slice your apple. You shouldn't need more than 4 slices of apple to cover the sandwich. Slice the Brie at the same time, trying to get the longest slice you can. If you've bought a wedge of Brie, try and cut it from the point of the wedge in a straight line along the edge. (You definitely need to get the bacon out of the oven by now)

Cut your Brie slices in half and try to align it diagonally on the bread. Place your slices of apple along the alternate diagonal as shown in the picture.

Break or cut your slices of bacon in half and place them in a similar manner. The first layer should lay opposite the direction of the apples and the second layer should lay in the same direction as the apples.

This attention to the orientation of the pieces of the sandwich may seem a bit (read: very) OCD, but it actually has a fairly big impact on the texture of the sandwich, not to mention the fact it keeps you from accidentally ripping all the bacon out of the sandwich with a single bite.

Close your sandwich up and get it on a plate, put your chips on there with it, and you're ready to go. For the plate I showed in the picture I took some mustard greens, bunched them up and ran my knife through them. I then topped it with another slice of Brie and another slice of apple. This would also go wonderfully with a spinach salad. It would also accompany a broccoli-tomato-tortellini salad quite well, so well in fact that I might get you that recipe later.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your sandwich, and maybe even impress someone with it. You'd be surprised what the unexpected inclusion of fruit can accomplish.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Triumphant Return with Prodigal Rice Recipe

Hey folks. Thanks to all of you who are following me. I'm sorry for the . . . lapse in activity after my first post. Due to the title of my blog becoming a lie (yes, I am now employed) I had a sudden lack of free time in which to experiment with recipes or to write. But I'm back now, for a little bit at least, and I bring you the quick and easy way to add some flavor to your boring old rice.

Most people just boil their rice. That's a fine way to cook it, but it leaves it bland and with very little flavor on its own. This recipe allows your rice to stand on its own rather than rely on whatever you're serving it with for flavor.

To make rice you will need:
1 cup of long grain rice
1 and 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of rough chopped onion
2 pads of butter (roughly 2tbsps)
3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce.

To assemble:
You will want to chop the onion ahead of time. You only need a little bit, maybe enough to halfway fill your palm.

Melt the butter on medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Make sure yo use a pan with a lid. I'd suggest one with a clear lid to allow you to watch the rice without releasing the heat. Once you have the butter melted, throw your onion in and saute for maybe a minute. Do not allow the butter to burn.

Once the onion has turned translucent, you want to add in the rice. Immediately add three or four dashes of your chosen hot sauce (Tabasco being my preferred). Stir the rice around so that you get it coated with both the butter and the hot sauce. You're goal is to let all of the rice spend at least 20 seconds on the bottom of the pan, toasting/sauteing it to both enhance its own flavor and to incorporate the flavors of the butter and hot sauce into the rice.

After you've gotten your rice coated and ensured that most of it has gotten at least a little heat, you need to drop the heat to low. My stove has a 1-10 scale and I find 3 is the perfect setting.

Now you add the water and cover. I use a 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice ratio because I've always found that, with the butter and hot sauce, the rice is unable to absorb as much water. You'd basically end up with mush.

It will take about 25 minutes to cook the rice. Try not to disturb it during that time by taking the lid off or poking around in it. If, after 25 minutes, the rice is cooked but still damp, you can leave the lid off to allow evaporation to take the rest of the water. It's a sloppy and inelegant method, but effective.

So there's my secret for awesome rice, passed down at least one generation in my family. I've got no idea where my mother got it, but it's served me in good stead and I hope it will serve you likewise.

Thanks again guys, and sorry for the lack of pictures.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Opening Course

Hello all and thank you for giving my Blog a try. I hope both my recipes and my writing do not disappoint. I've been toying with the idea of getting this Blog together for a few weeks, and in the middle of cooking I finally decided to whip out my camera and start working on it.

The key words of that last sentence are "in the middle of cooking." What I'm preparing this time is a very straightforward Rosemary Garlic Baked Chicken. Now my standard operating procedure will be to show you photos and explain the steps you see in each of them. This first post will include fewer pictures because I didn't get my camera out until the chicken was oven-ready.

The ingredients for this dish are fairly straightforward:
One whole chicken
Two teaspoons fresh or dried rosemary
One tablespoon garlic salt
5 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 pound sausage
2 slices Bread
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup chicken stock

The assembly of this dish is also quite simple. Chop your rosemary finely and divide the pile in half, as half the rosemary will go to season the chicken and the other half to season the stuffing. Remove the giblets, heart and liver from your chicken. Place it in a baking dish and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a saucepan, break your sausage into small pieces, dime to quarter size.

Sprinkle a pinch of regular salt onto the sausage. Turn the heat under the saucepan to medium and add one teaspoon of the rosemary and a pinch of black pepper to it before it begins to cook. Once some of the grease has come put of the sausage, throw the /14 cup peas into the saucepan. If using frozen peas, let them defrost before removing from heat, otherwise remove from heat after 15 seconds or so. The stuffing has to cool down, so this would be a good point to cut your bread into dime to quarter size pieces and add to the saucepan. Give it a quick stir.

Now the temptation was strong for me to season the chicken while the stuffing was cooling to the point I could handle it, but if you get the seasoning on the chicken before you get the stuffing in, all the handling you will have to do getting the stuffing in will rub your seasoning off. The easiest way to get the stuffing in is to turn the chicken so it'd body cavity faces upward and just drop it in. If you prefer a slower yet more dignified method for stuffing the bird, be my guest.

Once you've stuffed the chicken, it's time to season it. Sprinkle the rest of your rosemary over the chicken. Do the rosemary first because it's leaves will have a hard enough time sticking without the garlic salt soaking up all the surface moisture. Once the rosemary is on, sprinkle the garlic salt over the chicken, followed by a light sprinkling of black pepper.

Now the final bit of seasoning is the "trick" to this recipe. There should be a small recess on the center of the breast of the chicken. Place a clove of garlic in the recess. Simply let it rest there. Take your other four cloves and stick them between the drumsticks and the body, and between the wings and the body. (see picture below for reference)

See the liquid in the bottom of the pan there? That's the chicken stock. Pour it into the bottom of the pan. After that, cover the entire thing in aluminum foil and get it into that preheated oven. Cooking time depends on the size of your chicken. For a 4 pound chicken, do about 2-1/2 hours. For a 3 pound chicken, 2 hours should be good. Don't go below 2 hours no matter how small your chicken is.

And here's what it looks like when it's done.

I suggest serving this with rice and broccoli. You can use some of the ample drippings on the rice to add some flavor, but don't overdo it. Don't forget to serve the garlic cloves as well.

Thanks for reading and come back later for my next installment: How to Cook Rice and Make it Interesting.