Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Decorative and Delicious!

Today's gem of an idea comes courtesy of the "Cream of the Crop" Floral Park, NY Junior League of Mercy Hospital Cookbook-Spring 1963 (which I picked up for $1.) 

Christmas Cauliflower
Cook head of cauliflower in large can of tomato jucie instead of water, add salt and pepper to taste.  Decorative and Delicious!
Kay Weis

Note there is no photo of above mentioned dish because I have no intention of cooking something so gross in my whole life.  More recipes from this exciting cookbook in the coming weeks...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Livin' In High Country

High Country Boil that is!  You've heard of a Low Country Boil right?  Shrimp, Sausage, Corn, Potatoes...I've made it MANY times from this recipe of Paula Deen's.  (I always add a sack of Shrimp or Crab boil seasoning to mine.)  It's a great, easy, go-to recipe, esp when you need to feed 6ish people.  But...if you are looking for a great, kicked up version, try the following recipe-courtesy of Chef Todd Richards of Rolling Bones BBQ.  Mr. Richards taught a great class around Super Bowl time down at Salud Cooking School where I volunteer as an assistant and this recipe was hands down a winner.  This past weekend was the first chance I have had to try it at home and I was very pleased with the results.  Here is the recipe (I'll note my adjustments in parenthesis):

High Country Boil
  • 1 Whole Chicken, cut into pieces (I used about 6 boneless, skinless thighs instead, I'm not big on bones in my boil)
  •  2 lbs Andouille Sausage or Hot Italian Sausage-cut into bite size pieces (I used this brand of Andouille, it's hot, I like it hot, oh and I only used one pound)
  • 2 large Carrots-cut into 1" pieces
  • 6 ribs of Celery (I used maybe 4)-cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 White Onions-cut into 1" pieces
  • 4 Bulbs Fennel (I only used 1 and thought it was plenty, you could go with 2, but I wouldn't use 4-too much veg, oh and you don't use the tops, only the bulb.)-also cut into 1" pieces
  • Fresh Thyme Leaves (maybe from 1/3 a bunch?)
  • 8 Garlic Cloves-smashed but not chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 8 Bay Leaves
  • 8 Star Anise (Might be tough to find-you need whole ones, not the crushed or powder-try the Hispanic grocery area)
  • 4 Bottles of Beer (I used 3 as I felt it was slight beer sacrilege to use more)
  • 2 lbs. Fingerling Potatoes (if they are large cut them in half)
  • 1 jar or can of Baby Corn-drained
  • 24 clams (I used about 16 as this was how many was in my package)
  • 24 mussels (I used maybe more like 30, once again this was how many came in the little sack)
  • Crusty Bread
And here is where things get interesting because the recipe handout is a little sketchy and since I was helping with the class and not actually sitting watching it, I'll give you a run down of the cooking part...

Step One-go ahead and prep everything.  Really, you should.  It looks like a lot of work and it is, but then you can just dump and run...
(Oh the clams and mussels came from Buford Highway Farmers Market, a truly magical place, I need to do a write up of it soon!  If you are not used to dealing with live bi-valves do a little online research to see the best way to keep them alive in your fridge until you use them-I wouldn't try for more than a day or so.  Make sure to scrub the clams (mine were sandy) de-beard the mussels (if they are not cultivated) and discard any open "dead" ones.)

Preheat a large stockpot (I like a "stick one" instead of a non-stick so you get more color on the chicken and sausage.)  Add sausage on med-high heat and cook until some of the fat renders and the sausage is a little browned on the outsides.  Season the chicken (well that is what it says in the recipe, but it doesn't say with what) soooo... used a little (ok a lot) of Emeril's basic stuff.  Remove sausage from pot and use the rendered fat to brown the chicken on both sides.  When you are done, remove the chicken.  No need to cook it all the way through as it is going back into the pot later.  See below-browned Sausage and Chicken.

You should still have a little fat in the pot (as well as a fairly filthy, browned bottom of your pot.)  If you do not, I would add a bit of oil (veggie or canola), then dump in the carrots, onions, celery and fennel.  Recipe says to "brown" the veggies (but not for how long or anything.)  I went about 10 minutes on med/high.  The bottom of my pot started to burn a bit more than I wanted so around 5 minutes in I added half of one of the beers.
They don't really get "brown", think more "softened".  Next up add the garlic, thyme, star anise and bay leaves and stir, then toss back in the chicken and sausage.
Let that hang out a couple minutes and then dump in the beers.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of your pot (beer is a nice pot scrubber.)  Then add 2 quarts of water and it says "simmer until chicken is done."   Since I used smaller, boneless pieces I actually brought mine to a light boil and let it go at a "high simmer" for around 10 minutes and then I added the potatoes and let it cook about 15 minutes more.  These steps may need adjusting depending on the size of your chicken pieces and your potato pieces.   This is also when my company showed up and I forgot to take any more pictures (oops!)  I tested one of the potatoes and it was still a little firm but mostly "done" so I added in the drained baby corn and topped the whole pot (which was now about 2/3 full) with the mussels and clams, cranked up the heat and popped the lid on.  It only takes around 5-6 minutes for the shellfish to die, I mean cook ;)  Lift the lid and if the bi-vales are open, you are good to go!

I served directly from the pot into large bowls with crusty bread for "dippage" as my brother would say.  I also attempted to fish out the star anise (it's just not great for eatin), the whole garlic cloves and the bay leaves as I put it into the bowls.  I even forgot to take a picture of the finished product until we were done eating-so I fixed another bowl just for presentation sake.

In closing, don't be afraid to adjust the seasoning, (as in add more.)  This recipe makes a lot of liquid and I cut back slightly on the spice when I made mine on Friday and wished afterwards that I hadn't.  The amounts called for above are from when I had it the first time and the broth was much more flavorful.  Everyone enjoyed dinner and I'm eating leftovers today for lunch!  Enjoy living in High Country!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feeling Rather Sheepish...

I love to cook.  I would never have thought that growing up I would enjoy something that as a child seemed like a chore for anyone having to do it, but I flat out really enjoying cooking.  I'm a true foodie.  I love reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows and reading cooking magazines.  All of that being said one of my favorite things to do is to try a new recipe.  Two weekends ago I found a recipe in the Atlanta Journal here.  I had never fixed lamb in any way, shape, or form.  Apparently leg of lamb was Andy Griffith's favorite dish so of course I decided I should try it out. 

First slight derailment included learning that boneless leg of lamb isn't cheap.  It ran about $7 a pound at Publix and was questionable looking.  So when I made my journey down to the Buford Highway Farmer's Market (the subject of another blogging day) I found one that seemed to be about the right size for two people and while still expensive ($6 a lb.) it looked to be of good quality and the butcher down there tied it for me and everything.  It was about 3 lbs (not the 6 called for in the recipe.)

I followed the recipe to a "T".  I marinated the meat overnight, cooked it to the proper temperature using a meat thermometer.  It looked perfect.  A stunning roasted leg of lamb...
But...it just wasn't that great.  It wasn't terrible or anything.  But the flavor was just sort of blah and it was a little tough and chewy.  (The veggies on the other hand were excellent.) But I was pretty disappointed.  It was edible of course and we ate it two nights. 

I was discouraged but saw that this past weekend lamb shanks were on sale at Publix (around $3 a lb.)  Do I dare try again so soon?  Was I destined for lamb failure?  Armed with 4 shanks and a new recipe (here) I was ready to try again!  After about 90 mins of prep and around 3 1/2 hours in the oven at about 325 (temp in the recipe seemed too high for me for long cooking time.)  I ended up with...
 Not the prettiest in the pot but look at it on the plate!
A whole pile of "Shanky" goodness!  Success never tasted so yummy!  Baaaaaaa.  This one's a keeper!

 (A couple of notes, I omitted the Gremolata in the Shanks recipe and served it with this recipe for polenta.  The polenta recipe while very flavorful I believe has an error.  I think it is 2 cups of milk OR half and half-not both, this was confirmed when I happened to have Ina's episode making it on the DVR.  As you can see my polenta was not able to be "fried up" since it was sort of a runny (but extremely tasty) mess.)

Oh and P.S. the pot came clean with just a little soaking ;)

Monday, March 22, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
 How can you not get pumped about spring when seed packets are half off??  I'm trying not to get too overly-excited though as planting is still 4-5 weeks away.  So many things to consider...where to plant what this year (being careful about crop rotation and such.)  Also still trying to decide the best way to tie up the green beans this year-as you usually have to construct the lattice or towers as you plant the seeds so you do not disrupt the roots.  I have laid awake debating different structure types and materials and the costs of everything.  I know, only I would lay awake thinking of how to tie up the beans.  Last year it wasn't an issue as I did bush type beans but they were such a pain to pick that this year I went with climbers.

I'm also debating mulch in the garden, I have read so many pros and cons to this and still the jury is out.  Some experts say it helps with soil moisture level and weeds of course but I have also heard it can stunt the growth of some plants.  Also then when you till the garden over the next year if the mulch is too big it can get caught in the tiller and cause nitrogen issues as well.

So while I consider all of the above you can feast your eyes on last July's gardening bliss...