Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A Roasted Chicken for Sandy

April 9, 2009

Spring is official, and to prove it, our friends Sandy and Brenda sent me home with an HEB bag full of spring onions when we visited them in San Antonio last weekend. I love green onions, particularly with fresh spring fare, and even more particuarly with fresh lemons.   Then, I happened to visit the New Flower Farmer’s Market in South Austin, and found a free range Rosie Chicken.

I just finished eating one of the best roasted birds I’ve ever taken out of my oven.  It was seriously loaded with the taste of onions, so you won’t like this if you don’t like them.  It was brined over night, then cooked with a cavity full of Sandy’s spring onions and sliced fresh lemons.  We ate it with a side of roasted beets with wilted greens, and seared Brussels sprouts.

Thanks to Sandy for the onions, and Brenda for the cute picture of her husband and their dog, Priscilla.

Onion grower. Dane lover.  Thanks to Brenda for the picture.

Onion grower. Dane lover. Thanks to Brenda for the picture.

Brine:
¾ cup kosher salt
½ cup pickle juice (I had bread and butter pickles)

Pour salt and pickle juice into a container big enough to hold your bird, but small enough to refrigerate.  I was using a 6¾ quart cast iron dutch oven. Add cool water about half way up the container and stir until the salt dissolves.  Place the chicken, breast side down into the water and then add more water as needed to cover the bird.  Place in the refrigerator for 18 hours or so.

Roast Chicken with Spring Onions and Lemon
4 lb brined free range chicken
olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper
cayene pepper
2-3 cups chopped green onions, white and green parts
2 sliced fresh lemons

Remove the chicken from the brine, and then pat it dry.  Remove any remaining pin feathers, and trim excess fat from the cavity opening.  Cover the bird in about 1 tbs of olive oil, then season with black and cayenne peppers.  Make certain to season the entire exterior, and cavity.  Place the chicken in a large dutch oven or roasting pan with wing tips bent back and placed behind the bird. Stuff the cavity fully with one of the sliced lemons, and as much chopped onions as will loosely fit. Sprinkle remaining green onions around the bird, then squeeze the remaining sliced onions over and around it. Drop the lemon slices in the pan.

Roast, covered at 350°F until the internal thigh temperature reaches 120°F.  This is where having a digital probe thermometer comes in very handy. There’s no need to remove the set up from the oven to know what temperature you’re at.   The chicken I roasted tonight took about 30 minutes to reach this temp.  Then remove the lid from the roaster and bring the temperature of the bird to about 165° and the skin to lightly golden, approximatly 30 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it rest, covered for at least 10 minutes before carving.  The chicken will continue cooking for a few minutes when removed from the heat, and should come to at least 170° before you eat it.

Seafood Gumbo

March 31, 2009

I make gumbo when I have a need to tend to something.  Perhaps if I had a bigger garden, I wouldn’t ever make the stuff.  This batch contained all shellfish.  I love gumbo with catfish as well, though.

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

½ cup butter
½ cup all purpose unbleached flour
3 medium yellow onions, diced small
1½ green bell peppers, diced small
3 Serrano peppers, minced
¾ cups celery, diced small
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1- 1½ quart stock (I’m using chicken bc my grocery store has stopped carrying fish stock)
2 cups okra, sliced
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves,
2 tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 tbs fresh sage, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 dashes allspice (Thanks Sooz!)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp white vinegar (if needed) (Lemon juice would be better, but I’m out)
1 tsp table sugar (if needed)
kosher salt, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 lb crawfish tails, shelled
½ lb gulf shrimp, shelled
½ lb bay scallops

Melt butter in the bottom of a very large, heavy dutch oven over medium high heat.  When the fat is melted, carefully sprinkle in the flour.  Stir and scrape constantly until the roux browns to a chestnut color.  If it burns at all, start over.  This can take upwards of 30 minutes.  If the roux seems too oily add a bit more flour at a time.  Remove from heat if you aren’t ready to add the vegetables at once.

Add onions, peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux.  Mix thoroughly so that the roux is distributed evenly through out the vegetables.  Cook, lidded, over medium heat until the onions become transparent and the vegetables soften.  Add tomatoes.  Slowly stir in stock.  Add spices, herbs, okra, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a bubble, and add more stock if needed to reach desired thickness.  Taste frequently.  If the gravy needs brightening, add a tiny bit of white vinegar (or lemon if you’ve got it). If the acid is overpowering, add a pinch of sugar to even it out. Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours, until the tomatoes fall apart and blend with the soup.

Just prior to serving, add seafood and stir.  Allow it to cook for about 5 minutes until the shrimp and scallops have firmed and pinked.  Remove from heat.  Serve over white rice with a sprinkle of filé on top.  Top with green onions, pepper sauce, lemon wedges…. whatever you like.  I also firmly believe that gumbo should be served with a good crusty bread for slopping.

Mom’s Red Velvet Cake

March 27, 2009
Excellent frosting job by Andy.

Excellent frosting job by Andy.

My mom’s recipe originally called for shortening instead of butter, but I refuse.  She also used a boiled white frosting, but I think any excuse to eat cream cheese should be taken.

Frosting:
6 tbs butter, softened
12 oz cream cheese, chilled
3 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

In an electric mixer, cream butter.  Add cream cheese, one dollop at a time, while mixing.  Add vanilla.  Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until the frosting is your desired consistency.

Cake:
1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 oz bottle red food coloring
3 tbs cocoa
2 1/2 c sifted cake flour
1 c buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1tbl vinegar
1 tsp soda

Cream shortening, sugar eggs, & flavors. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Add to first mixture. Alternately add flour and buttermilk. Mix soda and vinegar in small bowl and add to batter. Blend. Bake in 3 – 9″ or 10″ pans for 20-25 mins at 350. Let cool completely. Cover with frosting.

More soup: Posole

March 16, 2009

My local HEB has started carrying pork products from Applegate Farms.  Finally!!  Pork made from pigs that were practically read a bed time story and tucked in to sleep at night.  This I can eat. http://www.applegatefarms.com/products/hdbs.aspx?fid=100&id=480,938,944

In celebration, I made a large pot of Posole.  Andy had never heard of hominy, so I felt this was a perfect opportunity for expanding culinary horizons.  Traditionally, posole is seasoned with dried red chilés, but I had none, so chipotles stood in place.   The finished stew can be served with rice, avocado, lime wedges, queso fresco…. whatever you think compliments the flavor.

6 slices, bacon
4 chicken thighs, skinned, deboned, cubed
3 small white onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 chipotle peppers, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
kosher salt
cracked pepper
adobo sauce, to taste
1 beer
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed w/ juice
32 oz can yellow hominy, drained
1 lime, juiced
1 quart free range chicken broth
1 cup green cabbage, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

In a very large pot, fry the bacon until crisp.  Remove it to drain, and set aside.  In the remaining grease, brown the chicken, and remove as well.  Then saute then onions in the still remaining grease.  Add garlic to soften, then green peppers.  Add cumin seeds and cook until they’ve become aromatic and started to brown a little.  Deglaze the pan with beer. Add back the chicken, and crumble in the bacon.  Add remaining ingredients excepting cabbage and cilantro.  Allow to simmer on low heat until the hominy is tender, and the flavors are incorporated.  Add cabbage and allow to wilt.  Serve with chopped cilantro.

Tofu noodle soup

March 6, 2009

I lived in Athens, Ga for a little while after grad school.  I guess I really didn’t want to be there for long, because I just about refused to make friends or come up with any kind of social life while I was there.  Instead, I holed up in my little duplex with my dog, and some really good Thai take out.  That year, I fell in love with Tom Yum soups.  The blend of acid and heat is something I particularly love.  The following soup was meant to be a cross between my chicken noodle soup, and my thai favorite.  It relied heavily on everyone’s favorite Vietnamese  hot sauce.

I used the chili garlic sauce.  Lots.

I used the chili garlic sauce. Lots.

1 brick firm tofu
2 tbs olive oil
2 medium white onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head celery (with leaves), chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
2 bottles beer
1 large can fire roasted tomatoes, crushed with juice
3-5 tablespoons chili garlic paste
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1-3 tbs cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup whole wheat egg noodles
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Drain tofu from storage water.  Line one dinner plate with two cup towels, folded in fourths.  Place the tofu block on the towels, then top with two more folded towels, and another dinner plate which faces upward.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours with cans to weight the top plate.  Leave in the refrigerator until well drained.  Remove tofu from fridge, and slice into squares about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on a hot non stick skillet.  Begin to gently press the tofu with a flat spatula.  Water will escape the tofu and evaporate on the hot skillet.  Turn when the underside has started to brown and repeat.  Continue pressing until the tofu is about halved in thickness and has a slightly meaty consistency. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat olive oil in a large soup kettle.  Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic to soften.  Add celery and stir until it begins to soften.  Add remaining ingredients except noodles, pressed tofu, and cilantro.  Allow to simmer, on low, until the carrots are softened.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.  About 20 minutes before serving, add the noodles and tofu and cook unti the pasta softens.  Serve with chopped cilantro.

Brown Sugar Cookies. No Fuss.

January 10, 2009

I made these this weekend: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/brown-sugar-sandwich-cookies-recipe.html but as I have next to no trends towards neatness and care, I made them my own more sloppy way. Instead of building sandwiches, I just dipped the toe of each small cookie in melted chocolate.  I also had no whole wheat flour, so I used a combination of general purpose unbleached flour, and rye flour.
Yum indeed.

Pretty low on the guilt scale too!

Pretty low on the guilt scale too!

Vegetarian Bean Soup

January 6, 2009
Im in the mood for soup, so I thinned this out a bit with more beer. If I wanted chili, Id leave it very chunky.

I'm in the mood for soup, so I thinned this out a bit with more beer. If I wanted chili, I'd leave it very chunky.

This is what I make when asked for vegetarian chili.  I’ve got to say, it’s one of my favorite self generated recipes.  I sort of touched and tinkered on it for a good long while and I think it’s nicely balanced and filling.  I will say this is not something to make on a week day.  The chopping and layering and sauteing take time.  I like to let the vegetables simmer for a few minutes to create their own stock. Then I add the beer, crank the heat and let it reduce a bit before I continue building the soup. I think that makes the flavor a bit more rich.  Take your time, it will pay off.   The recipe makes about a metric ton of soup, so bring home friends.  This will be dinner on Saturday night, along with some sourdough bread. If you’re in Austin please do stop by.

A word about adobo sauce:  It can sneak up on you.  You may taste very little chilè when the soup is first assembled, and then not be able to eat it in a few hours.  I start with adding one or two tablespoons of the adobo sauce, and then taste and work up as the cooking continues.  If you can find them Fire Roasted Tomatoes (instead of plain canned ones) will add something here.

2 tbs vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
4 large celery stalks, peeled and finely diced
2 cups white mushrooms, chopped coarse
2 ear sweet corn removed from the cob
2 chipotle peppers
3 tbs adobo sauce
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (100% peanuts if possible)
Fresh cracked pepper
Kosher salt
1 bottle of beer
1 can whole tomatoes crushed with juice
1 cup black beans drained, washed, juice reserved
1 cup kidney beans drained, washed, juice reserved
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime (optional)

Heat a large stock pot and add oil to bottom of the pan, just to cover. Saute onion until it begins to color. Add garlic, carrots and celery. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, adding a touch of beer if needed to deglaze the pan and keep things from sticking.  Add mushrooms. Cook down, lid on, until mushrooms yield moisture. Add corn. Stir in chopped chili, adobo sauce, cumin, peanut butter, pepper, and salt. Saute for a few more minutes. Pour bottle of beer into vegetable mixture. Add crushed tomatoes with juice. Add washed beans. Stir. Add reserved bean juice as needed. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. Reduce to simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add chopped cilantro and lime juice  just before serving.

The perfect pot for browning a roux

December 12, 2008

I love anything thickened with a roux. I make Béchamel for all my casseroles instead of using canned cream soups. I make a roux for the base of macaroni and cheese, roux for Étouffée, roux for gravy. And then of course, I make a roux for gumbo.  I’ve heard it said that gumbo is actually love you can eat, and I buy that.

I just stood in the kitchen for about 4 hours, stiring and adjusting, and loving the hell out of a gumbo recipe found on 101cookbooks. com.  I highly recommend that recipe.  However, the best part of the entire meal was browning the roux in my Le Creuset dutch oven.  Andy bought the 6 3/4 quart and 3 1/2 quart models in my favorite blue over the last year. I’ve been using them for every roasted bird, stewed stew, pot roast, or loaf of bread I’ve made since.

Using the enameled cast iron allowed me to brown the perfect roux. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one darker than today’s, and it didn’t burn even a little.  The heat distribution and retention is great on cast iron, so you get an evenly browned mixture. Plus, since the le creuset are enameled, the pan comes perfectly clean as you scrape it with a wooden spatula. Somehow, using this pan instead of my usual cast iron skillet let me cook the roux for much longer (around 50 minutes). It smelled like toasted popcorn and tasted like roasted nuts.

If you have the dime you must pick one up. http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Enameled-Cast-Iron-4-Quart-French/dp/B000EWNXKS/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1229046979&sr=1-3

This was about 40 minutes in. 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of flour. It ended up chocolate brown.

This was about 40 minutes in. 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of flour. It ended up chocolate brown.

Cornbread dressing

November 26, 2008

Cornbread:
1 ½ cups cornmeal
½ cup unbleached flour
2 tbs sugar (Don’t tell…. they’ll kick me out of Texas for putting sugar in my cornbread)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup butter, melted

Set a cast iron skillet (9 inch round) on the stove and heat on high while you make the batter.  Combine dry ingredients, then make a well in which to add the wet ingredients.  Mix, just to bring together.  Place a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (or bacon grease if you’ve only a few months to live) in the skillet and swirl it around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. A little oil should pool in the bottom.  Carelfully pour the batter into the hot pan. It will sizzle as the batter cooks a little.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen, then turn the cornbread out to cool.

Cornbread dressing:
4 skillets of cornbread, allowed to dry for a few days
1 batch buttermilk biscuits (there’s a recipe on this blog somewhere), dried
2 cups white onions, minced
1½ cups celery, minced
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup cooked turkey giblets, chopped (optional)
4-6 tbs poultry seasonings or rubbed sage (I like mine to be heavily seasoned. Back it off if you’d like)
1 tbs kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
3-4 cups sodium free chicken broth (Mine’s free range of course)
1 stick butter

In the largest bowl you own (my grandmother always used her dish pan) crumble together the cornbread and biscuits. The size of the crumble is to your taste.  In my family it’s always very finely crumbled.  Mix in vegetables, and seasonings very well.  Melt butter and combine it with the chicken (or turkey) stock.  A little at a time, add the stock to the cornbread mixture.  Mix it thoroughly as you go.  As you add, pick up a little of the mixture in your hand and lightly squeeze it in your palm. It should hold together when released, but not form a dough at all. It will remain crumbly.  When the consistency is correct, taste the mixture and reaseason as desired.

Place the dressing in one or two 13X9 inch baking dishes. (I reserve some to stuff into my turkey. This would get me disowned by any food microbiology professor I’ve ever learned from, but I love love love the resulting dressing).  Bake the pans in a 350 degree oven until the cornbread is no longer mealy, about 2 hours.  Remove the pans occasionally and stir them to prevent burning.  Add more broth or turkey drippings as needed if the mix looks too dry. You can also add more fat as you go.

For a drier dressing use fewer biscuits and less broth. For a more wet dressing use a higher percentage of biscuits and add more broth and butter.  I serve this with giblet gravy.

My grandmother was in charge of the dressing each year for our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. I find that the way she made it is just the way dressing is supposed to taste to me, but there are endless variations. You could leave your aromatic vegetables much chunkier, add any herbs you wish, stir some oysters into the mix a few minutes before it comes out of the oven, add apples and pecans… whatever you like.  Dressing is a very forgiving dish.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Relish

November 26, 2008

1 12oz package whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp kosher salt
2-3 tbs orange liqueur
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

Combine sugar, water, salt, liqueur, zest, and ginger. Bring to a boil and add cranberries.  Bring back to a boil, the lid and reduce the heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally until all the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens a little. (Approx 15 minutes)  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until needed.