Eat!

Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Butternut Squash Gratin

‘Au gratin’ usually refers to a cooking method that creates a crispy crust on top of the dish.  It can also refer to the dish itself.  The most familiar is probably Potatoes au Gratin, which is layers of potatoes, cheese, and cream baked until the potatoes are soft and a crunchy crust has formed on top.  Thinking about it, I suppose that Baked Macaroni & Cheese is technically ‘au gratin’ as it is baked and forms a crust.  But really you can cook almost any vegetable this way.

I decided to try Butternut Squash au Gratin because butternut squash are in season and crispy, crunchy, crust,-what’s not to love?  Acorn squash, buttercup squash, or even pumpkin could be used with this recipe.  Just adjust the cooking times.  I used rosemary because I have a rosemary bush (small tree) outside my back door.  You could substitute thyme, tarragon, or savory for the rosemary. You could also use onion instead of shallot.

However, if you decide to follow this recipe exactly, you will not be disappointed. All of my recipes are original and I have cooked all of them from scratch, following only my self-taught knowledge of cooking techniques and my taste buds. Therefore, most of the time the first and often the second try is if not inedible then in need of tweaking.  My husband has eaten many (many, many) of my mistakes.  This recipe was delicious the first time.  My grandmother used to say, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”  Allow me to humbly say, “Yum.”

Butternut Squash Gratin


Servings: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 15 minutes; Cook: 1 hour
Hardware: Cutting board and large knife, measuring cups, a veggie peeler, a large spoon, a large pot, a colander, a large skillet that can be used on the stove top and in the oven (cast iron works great), a wooden spoon

Ingredients:
  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 4 cups broth (you can use vegetable or chicken)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 shallot (not more than ¼ cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ + ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ + ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Half & Half
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Put the broth on to boil.
  2. Cut about ½ inch off both ends of the squash.  Peel it.  Being very careful, cut the squash in half.  Using the large spoon remove the squash’s seeds.  Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes.
  3. Put the squash cubes and 2 sprigs of the rosemary in the boiling broth. Simmer until the squash is easily pierced with a knife, but isn’t falling apart. You want it to still be a little firm. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Drain the squash, reserving ⅔ cup of the liquid.  Discard the boiled rosemary.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Dice the shallot and garlic.  Remove the remaining rosemary from the 3rd sprig and mince.
  6. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot, garlic, and minced rosemary.  Sauté, stirring often, until the shallot is translucent, about 4 minutes.
  7. Add the squash to the skillet with the shallots.  Lightly salt and generously pepper the squash.  Turn the heat to medium high and add the reserved liquid.  Gently simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5-7 minutes, stirring just enough to keep everything from sticking.
  8. Stir ¼ cup of the crumbs and ¼ cup of the cheese into the squash.  Pour the Half & Half over the squash.  Top with the remaining crumbs and cheese. Salt & Pepper again.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top of the squash has formed a golden brown, crunchy crust. You can turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes to really create a crispy crust, but be careful and keep a watchful eye on your dish as there is a fine line between toasty goodness and charred awfulness.
  10. Serve warm.
Slightly sweet, slightly savory, very tasty


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Beef Wellington

My husband and I live alone.  No children by choice, so we can wait 'til the last minute to plan our holiday meals and they can be as elaborate or as simple as we want them to be.  I know not everyone is in that situation.  So it may be too late to add Beef Wellington to your Christmas menu.  Or maybe you have 20 people to feed and it would be cost prohibitive.  Or maybe you have children who are not interested in rare steak and mushroom paste.

However, you should find the perfect time and audience to serve Beef Wellington. Beef Wellington is traditionally made of filet mignon coated in duxelles, topped with goose liver pâté, and wrapped in puff pastry.   It is beautiful and delicious.  It isn’t really that hard to make if you use pre-made puff pastry and make the duxelles (DEWk-sell) ahead of time.  You can find foie gras at specialty stores, but let’s be real.  My sister made Wellington for me once and used the Boursin cheese.  Same texture and no tortured geese. I also like the taste better.

Like I said, the duxelles can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 2 months. Duxelles is a classic French preparation of mushrooms, in which you cook the mushrooms into a paste. Doing this serves two purposes.  The first purpose is the process really intensifies the flavor.  The second purpose is it cooks them down.   Mushrooms are full of liquid and if you didn't evaporate some of it then they would release the liquid into your dish and ruin it.  I used porcini and oyster mushrooms.  You can use button, but the flavor is a little bland.  Mix it up.

If this recipe makes too much duxelles you can use the leftovers in a million ways. Here are but a few:  Add a tablespoon to gravy; add a tablespoon to scrambled eggs or into the filling of an omelet; stir them into pizza sauce; top your favorite fish with them, add some Herbes de Provence, some butter, wrap the fish in foil and bake; stir a tablespoon or two into a quiche; roll out the other sheet of puff pastry, top with duxelles, caramelized onion, your favorite herbs, and shredded Gruyere cheese, fold just the edges of the pastry over and bake. 

Read over the recipe before you start.  My recipes tend to have more steps than others do because I am not making assumptions about your experience as a cook.  I want everyone to be able to have fun in the kitchen and not be intimidated by needlessly vague or hard to follow directions.  Beef Wellington looks elaborate, but really anyone can do this.

I served the Beef Wellington with mashed potatoes and a wonderful sauce.  To make the sauce I simmered 1 cup of port wine, I cup of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish, and 1 tablespoon of course ground mustard until it was reduced by half and then strained it through a fine sieve.


Beef Wellington-Easier than it looks
I like mine rare

 

The Duxelles 

Hardware:  Food processor, a rubber spatula, measuring spoons and cups, a bowl, a skillet, a wooden spoon, a container with a lid


Ingredients:

  • Course ground kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces of mushrooms (use a variety)
  • 1 shallot (¼ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ¼ cup of your favorite port (you can substitute beef stock)


  1. Place the shallot and the garlic in the food processor and pulse until they are very fine. Scrape out the processor bowl and set them aside.  Put the mushrooms in the processor and pulse until they are the size of very small (think aquarium) pebbles.
  2. Melt the butter and oil in the skillet over low heat.
  3. Add the shallots mixture and sauté, stirring often, until they are translucent, (about 4 minutes)
  4. Stir in the mushrooms.  Raise the heat to medium.
  5. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have thickened and turned dark (about 15 minutes).
  6. Use the port to deglaze the pan.  Add the tarragon, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring enough to keep the mushrooms from sticking, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the mushrooms are practically a paste. (5-10 minutes)
  7. Transfer to the container and cool completely.





Beef Wellington


Servings: 2


Prep time: 15 minutes   Rest time: 20-40 minutes Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups, a skillet, tongs, a plate, plastic wrap, a rolling pin, a pastry brush (optional), a small bowl, a fork, parchment paper, a baking sheet



Ingredients:


  • Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan
  • 2 -8 ounce beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon)
  • Course ground kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • ⅓ cup Boursin Cheese (Use whichever flavor sounds good-I used Shallot and Chive)
  • ⅓ cup duxelles
  • An egg + a tablespoon of water
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 puff pastry sheet


  1. Set the pastry out to thaw.
  2. Season each side of the filets with fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt.
  3. Heat the olive oil as hot as your pan and stove can.  Sear the filets for one minute per side.  You want just the outside to be seared and the inside still very raw.
  4. Place the filets on the plate. Top the filets with the duxelles.  Press down.  Then top the duxelles with the Boursin.  Both the mushrooms and the cheese are the consistency of clay so this is easy to do with your fingers.
  5. Wrap the plate in plastic wrap and stick in the freezer (or fridge if you prefer your steak medium to well.)  Trust me.  This is necessary to keep from overcooking the steak you skipped a car payment to buy.  Remove after 20 minutes.  If the pastry still hasn’t thawed, place the steaks in the fridge until you need them. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 420°F.  Cover the baking sheet in parchment paper. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.
  7. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour.  Unfold the pastry sheet onto the surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a rectangle large enough to wrap both steaks.  Cut it in half.
  8. Working with one steak, bush the pastry sheet with the egg mixture.  Place the steak cheese side down onto the pastry. Fold the pastry over the beef and tuck the ends as if you were wrapping a package. Keep all the seams on the top side as you are working.  Use the egg wash to seal.  Make sure there are no openings.  Flip the Wellington over and place it seam side down (cheese side up) onto the baking sheet.  Repeat with the second steak.
  9. Brush the pastry with the rest of the egg wash.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chicken Corn Chowder

Soup is so easy.  It can be served for lunch or dinner.  It is usually easy to make.  You can throw in whatever you want, so it is a good way to use leftovers.  And it tastes better the next day.

To make this soup you can use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, canned chicken (don’t please), or roast your own.  I roasted chicken breast and flavored it heavily with garlic and thyme.  I used baby potatoes so that I wouldn’t have to peel them.  I just washed and halved them. You can add in chopped carrots also, most people do, but my husband doesn’t like them. If the chowder isn’t thick enough for you, you can stir in instant potato flakes or mash a few of the potatoes in the chowder.  Another way to thicken soup is to stir equal parts corn starch and water in a small bowl (a few tablespoons) and stir it into the boiling broth.

After you perfect this recipe, you can experiment and make it your own.  Add green peppers and seeded jalapeños with the veggies, omit the thyme and add in cumin, smoked paprika, and a little chili powder to create a Tex-Mex flavor.  If you omit the chicken, use veggie stock, and add more corn this can be made for vegetarians. You can also replace the chicken with turkey or even shrimp.  Have fun.

Servings: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 30-40 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, A Dutch oven or a soup pot, a can opener, a wooden spoon, a ladle, serving bowls

 Ingredients:
  • 5 tablespoon butter
  • 2 shallots (or a small onion)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ pound potatoes
  • 15 ounce can creamed corn
  • 2 cups defrosted steam in bag frozen corn
  • 1 ½ lbs. cooked chicken-chopped
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garnish:  Crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped chives, chopped green onions, croutons, and/or oyster crackers
  1. Chop the shallots, celery, and garlic.  Set aside.  Depending on the type of potatoes you are using peel and quarter them.
  2. In the Dutch oven, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the celery, shallots, and garlic. Cook until the shallots and celery are soft (5-6 minutes).
  3. Add the flour and stir until it is a paste.  Slowly add the stock.  Bring to a low boil.  Add the thyme, red pepper, salt, and potatoes.  Boil until the potatoes are tender. (20 minutes)
  4. Lower the heat, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until warmed through. (10 minutes)
  5. Fish out the thyme. Salt & pepper to taste.  Serve hot or warm.
  6. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl top with shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, and chives or onions.  Offer your guests croutons or oyster crackers.

Chicken Corn Chowder

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Create a Good Cheese Plate

The holidays are upon us and for the next two months if you are like me you will be invited to party after party and expected to throw more than a few of your own. The way I handle the near constant need for ready to go appetizers is cheese.

Everyone likes cheese, it keeps for a long time and is very easy to dress up.  When creating a cheese plate I usually only use 3 or 4 different types of cheese.  I put out a few sweet accompaniments, a few savory, and 3 or four different types of crackers or breads. The crackers should be plain as you want the taste of the cheese to come through. Always include a variety of olives and grapes. Make sure to slice hard cheeses before serving them.  Soft or crumbly cheeses can be scoped out with a melon baller to make individual servings.  Line the cheese up from mildest to strongest. Make sure to include a few softs and a few hards.  Never serve citrus fruit or spicy sides.  They kill the palate and ruin your cheese experience.   Cheese  needs to be taken out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Here are my favorite combinations:

Blues:  Roquefort, Gorgonzola
Apples wrapped in prosciutto
Praline pecans mixed with honey
Quince paste (ask at the deli)

Soft Goat Cheese: Humboldt Fog, Chèvre
Figs and dry salami
Cherry jam and toasted fennel seeds

Cheddars: Vermont Cheddar, Irish Cheddar
Tart apples
Peppered salami

Parmesan: The good stuff, go to a cheese monger
Good olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (the good stuff)
Olives packed in oil
Figs

Monday, November 17, 2014

Milky Way Cheesecake


We have a ton of leftover Halloween candy. I took a bag of it with me to give to my students.  I have also been trying to cook with it. I made chocolate chip cookies and Twix ice cream. I sprinkled chopped up Snickers onto pancakes.

I was doing all this while trying to get together Thanksgiving recipes for this blog.  So I am killing 2 birds as they say.  I love cheesecake.  Love it.  I have a million fun size Milky Ways laying around. (Okay that is an exaggeration, but not a big one.)  So I did this.  It turned out really well.

You could change this up by using other candy bars.  You could also use hazelnut spread rather than chocolate.  People will give you all kinds of advice for keeping your cheesecake from cracking. (Don’t over mix the batter, allow it to cool in the oven, etc.) I have none.  Mostly, because I don’t care.  Just cover your cheesecake in sauce or whipped cream.  Or let it go.  It’s just dessert.

Milky Way Cheesecake

Servings:  8
Time:  Prep: 30 minutes, bake time 1 ½ hours, refrigerating overnight
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a knife and a cutting board, a food processor, a mixer, a rubber spatula, a 9 inch springform pan, foil, space in the fridge

Ingredients:
  • 26 chocolate cream cookies (I used Oreos)
  • ¼ cup frosted flakes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5-8oz packages cream cheese
  •    cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 fun size Milky Way candy bars
  • ½ cup chocolate spread (I used Heresy’s)
  • Butter flavored cooking spray
  • Milky Ways and caramel sauce for garnish



  1.  Preheat oven the oven to 325°. Place the cream cheese on the counter to allow it to soften.  Melt the butter. Roughly chop the candy bars and set them aside.  Spray the pan with cooking spray.
  2. Put the cookies, cereal, and sugar in the food processor.  Pulse until the cookies are crumbs.  With the processor on, drizzle in the melted butter.  Press the cookie mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lower the temperature to 300˚.
  3. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla on medium speed just until blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed until blended. Don’t over mix.
  4. Fold in the sour cream.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped candy bars in the bottom of the pan and top with ½ the batter.
  6. Mix the chocolate spread into the remaining batter. Spread the chocolate evenly over the vanilla batter.
  7. Bake 1-1½ hours or until the center is soft set. Open the oven door and allow the cake to cool in the oven for 2 hours.  Allow the cake to sit out on the counter, still in the pan, until cool.  Cover the cake in foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least for 3 hours. 
  8. Carefully remove the cake from the pan.  Place a slice of cheesecake on a plate and top with caramel sauce and half a Fun size or a whole bite-size Milky Way bar. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dijon Roasted Whole Cauliflower Head

I tried roasting a whole cauliflower head last week using someone else’s recipe.  It involved Greek yogurt, which I love.  It was not good.  Decidedly not good.  So I asked myself, “What tastes go well together?” “Mustard and fennel,” myself answered.  I added lemon juice and olive oil so that the cauliflower would actually roast.

This was wonderful.  It also looks really cool, so it is fun to serve.  Also important, maybe the most important thing, is this is so easy to make. 

Dijon Roasted Cauliflower
Servings: 6-8
Time: prep: 10 minutes, rest time: 10 minutes, roast: 50-60 minutes
Hardware: Cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a mixing bowl, a pastry brush, foil, a baking sheet, a wooden skewer, and a small microwave safe bowl

Ingredients:
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup light olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon + ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° degrees F. Line the sheet with foil,
  2. Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower.  Cut the stem so that the cauliflower can sit flat.
  3. Chop the garlic.
  4. Mix the garlic, oil, lemon juice, mustard, and ½ teaspoon fennel seeds.
  5. Place the cauliflower onto the prepared baking sheet.  Pour the mustard mixture over the cauliflower.  Use the pastry brush to make sure it is covered. Allow the cauliflower to sit for 10 minutes to allow the marinade to soak in.
  6. Salt the cauliflower and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a long wooden skewer passes through with ease.
  7. Melt the butter with the remaining fennel in the microwave.  Pour over the cauliflower before serving.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes, sometimes called accordion potatoes, were first introduced in the 1940s at the Hasselbacken restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden. This dish is beautiful to look at, simple to make, and delicious.  When cooked this way the potatoes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Like a French fry and a baked potato had a baby.

You can alter these to suit any taste. You could peel the potato if you like.  Instead of butter and bacon fat, you can use olive oil, duck fat, margarine, or any fat you have on hand.  You could also add a variety of chopped herbs with or instead of the garlic. Instead of inserting bacon at the end, you could insert cheese.  And you could change the flavor up by using different potatoes.  You could even do this to sweet potatoes.


Hasselback Potatoes


Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep: 15 minutes;  Cooking:  60-75 minutes
Hardware:  Cutting board and knife, wooden spoons or wooden chopsticks, a skillet, 2 bowls,  8 x 11.5 glass baking dish

Ingredients:
  • 6 medium potatoes, I used Yukon gold per guest  
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 8 cloves pf garlic
  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Coarse ground sea salt for finishing

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 ˚
  2. Cook the bacon until crisp.  Crumble it into a bowl.  Set aside.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
  3. Dice the garlic as small as possible.
  4. Scrub the potatoes.   Slice the potatoes crosswise (like you would slice a hard-boiled egg) into ¼ inch (or smaller) slices. Don’t cut all the way through, leave about ½ inch of the potato intact.  You can use wooden chopsticks or a wooden spoon laid beside the potato to help you not cut through.
  5. GENTLY separate the slices.  You don’t want to break the potatoes. Place them in the baking dish and insert garlic between the slices. Drizzle the bacon fat and 2 tablespoons of the butter over the potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bake until the potatoes are soft inside, 45 minutes to 1 hour. About 10 minutes before the potatoes are finished, insert the bacon between the potato slices and drizzle with more butter.
  7. Finish the potatoes with coarse salt. Serve hot.

I am serving this with Pork Loin Wrapped in Pancetta and Dijon Roasted Cauliflower for Thanksgiving.

Crispy like a French fry
Creamy like a potato

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Herbed Pork Loin Wrapped in Pancetta

At the center of the traditional Thanksgiving meal is a huge roasted turkey.  I do not like turkey and never have.  When I was a child, I just skipped the turkey and piled on the sweet potato soufflé.  When I first moved out and became responsible for cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I continued to make a turkey because it was expected.  Now that I am older, I don’t feel the need to please everyone and have quit cooking a turkey. I don’t like them.  I do like roasted pork loin and you can find the recipe for stuffing one here.  I have also made Cornish game hens and ham.  You can make any of these to go with the turkey.  You can also forego the turkey, altogether. 

This year I am making another pork loin.  However, instead of stuffing it, I am wrapping it in pancetta and herbs.  You can use bacon, but the pancetta makes a better presentation, in my opinion.  This looks complicated, but is VERY easy. 

Serves 4-6
Time:  Prep: 20, cook time: 20-30 minutes per pound
Hardware: Cutting board and knives, a food processor, a rubber spatula, parchment paper, butcher’s twine, kitchen scissors, tongs, a broiler pan

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1½ pound pork loin roast
  • ½ pound thick sliced pancetta

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º.
  2. Place the herbs, garlic, and olive oil into the food processor and pulse a few times.  Scrape the sides of the hopper down and pulse a few more times. Set aside.
  3. Cut off about 5 six inch pieces of twine.
  4. Roll out a large (1’x1’) piece of parchment paper.  On top of the paper evenly space out the kitchen twine, about an inch apart, the length of the pork loin.  Lay out the slices of pancetta on top of the twine.  Overlap the slices so that they cover a square area the length and width of the pork loin.
  5. Rub the herbs all over the pork loin.  You can place any leftover herbs in a line down the pancetta.
  6. Lay the pork loin perpendicular to the twine.  Use the wax paper to help wrap the pancetta around the pork.  Tie the twine snuggly around the pork.
  7. Place the loin onto the broiler pan and roast the pork loin for 20-30 minutes per pound.  Making sure not to disturb the pancetta, flip the roast over about half way through.  Remove the roast from the oven when the thermometer reads 145˚ when inserted in the middle of the roast.
  8. Allow the meat to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Carefully cut the twine and remove it without removing the pancetta.  Because the pancetta, or bacon if you are using that, is salty I have found more salt unnecessary.
I save the pan drippings and mix them with a cup of chicken stock and a few more herbs.  I boil this while the meat is resting, strain it, and serve it on the side.


Herbs



Overlap the pancetta
(Step 4)


Rub the roast with herbs
(Step 5)
Tie the twine snuggly
around the roast
(Step 6)



Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Make the Perfect French Fries

Everyone loves French fries.  These instructions make fries that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Rinsing the fries before cooking them is absolutely necessary.  Rinsing and soaking removes the potato starch.  Many recipes call for heating the oil first and then blanching the fries.  I have found my method works just as well, better in fact, and is much easier.

French fries can be a side dish for burgers or they can be topped to make them a great snack or a main dish.  I have given you a list of our favorite French fry toppings.

Servings:  6-8
Time: Prep: 10 minutes Resting: 30 minutes, Cooking: 12-15 minutes
Hardware: A cutting board and large knife, large mixing bowl, a clean tea towel, a deep heavy skillet, an oil thermometer, tongs, a paper towel covered plate

Ingredients:
  • 4 pounds of russet potatoes
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Ice water
  • Salt
  1. Wash the potatoes and cut them into ¼ inch sticks.  Rinse them under cold water until the water turns clear.  Cover them in ice water and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the potatoes and pat them dry with the tea towel.
  3. Place them in the skillet, no more than two layers deep.  Cover the fries in oil. 
  4. Turn the oil to medium or until the oil rises to 325˚. 
  5. Fry until the potatoes begin to soften and they become a buttery color.  This will take about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Toss the potatoes.  Turn the oil up to 350˚ and allow the fries to crisp and turn golden brown.
  7. Remove them to the paper towel covered plate and salt while they are still hot. Serve right away.
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Bacon Cheese Fries

  • Fries
  • ½ cup Ranch dressing
  • 6 pieces of crispy bacon, crumbled
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 chopped green onions
Toss the hot fries with the crumbled bacon and cheese.  Top with the ranch dressing and sprinkle with the green onions.
Bacon Cheese Fries

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Buffalo Fries
  • Fries
  • ½ cup hot wing sauce
  • Four prepared chicken fingers-chopped into small pieces
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ¼ cup blue cheese dressing
  • ½ stalk celery sliced as thinly as possible
Toss the hot fries with the wing sauce, chicken, and blue cheese. Top the fries with the dressing.  Sprinkle with the slivers of celery.

*************************
Breakfast Fries

  •  Fries
  • Sunny side up eggs
  • 6 pieces of crispy bacon, crumbled
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place the fries into serving bowls.  Cover in cheese and bacon.  Add an egg to the top of each serving.

*************************
Rueben Fries

  •  Fries
  • 1 cup shredded corned beef
  • ½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup 1000 island dressing
  • 2 tablespoons sauerkraut-drained very well and chopped
Toss the hot fries with the corned beef and Swiss cheese.  Top with the dressing and sprinkle with the sauerkraut. 

*************************
Devil Fries

  • Fries
  • ½ cup hot wing sauce
  • ½ cup shredded pepper jack
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk ranch dressing
  • 2 tablespoons French fried onions (like Durkee)
 Toss the fries with the wing sauce, cheeses, and jalapeños.  Top with the dressing and sprinkle with the onions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sun Dried Tomato Chicken

Over on my Facebook page, my followers have asked for healthier, easier recipes.  Sun Dried Tomato Chicken is both.  It is also delicious.

You can tweak this recipe by adding mushrooms, prepared artichokes, or diced olives with the onions.  You can add all three if you wish.  I served this over mashed potatoes, but it goes with pasta, rice, or can be served on its own.

Servings: 4-6
Time:   Prep: 5 minutes; Cook: 20 Minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a heavy bottom skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet), a wooden spoon, tongs

Sun Dried Tomato Chicken

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Olive oil to cover bottom of the skillet
  • ½ cup onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomato pesto (I used Classico)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Salt both sides of the chicken. Roughly chop the onions and garlic. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium. Add the onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring often until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken.  Sauté the chicken for 4 minutes per side.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until cooked through.  Flip the chicken half way through.
  5. Adjust the salt and pepper.  Serve warm over pasta or mashed potatoes.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shrimp Scampi

Everyone loves Shrimp Scampi, but everyone prepares it a little differently.  I have tweaked this recipe a million times.  This is where I am now. I like pre-cooking the shrimp a little in the liquid, before I bake it.  I think it keeps it moist.  I also use less butter than most of the scampi dishes I have tried, because it can be a little greasy.  You can use more or less crumbs depending upon your preference. You can sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top for garnish.

I served this to some friends.  They loved it.  From beginning to end, it only took me 35 minutes.  Fast, beautiful, and delicious. 

Servings: 4-6
Time:    Prep: 15 minutes; Cook: 15 Minutes
Hardware:  measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a skillet, a small bowl, a slotted spoon, a wooden spoon, a glass pie plate or other shallow casserole dish, a large pot                  

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb -21/25 count shrimp-cleaned with tails removed
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 8 ounces
  • Salt
  • Parsley for garnish

  1. Wash the parsley and basil and roughly chop them. Crush the garlic. Squeeze the lemon. Generously salt the shrimp
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚. Put salted, pasta water on to boil.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan on medium. 
  4. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until you can smell it (a minute or so.) Toss in the shrimp, parsley, basil and red pepper flakes.  Cook until the shrimp just turns pink. This should take no more than a minute.
  5. Add the wine and lemon juice and turn the heat to medium high.  Allow the liquid to come to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat.
  6. Remove the shrimp to the glass dish with the slotted spoon.  Add about 2 tablespoons of the liquid to the shrimp.
  7. Mix the crumbs, cheese, and Italian seasonings together.  Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the shrimp. Bake the shrimp scampi until the crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.
  8. While the scampi is baking, boil the pasta according to package directions.
  9. Serve the scampi over the angel hair immediately. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley on right before serving.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pork Carnitas

Carnitas means ‘little meats’ in Spanish. These little chunks of goodness are a popular ingredient in tacos, burritos, or just served on their own.  Think of them as Mexico’s version of pulled pork. I wait until pork shoulder or butt are on sale to make them.  So, this is inexpensive.  I don’t remove the fat from the meat when I’m preparing it, since it renders off in the braising process. I also make sure the oil is very hot when I fry the meat, because I just want to brown the outside while leaving the inside moist and juicy. You can double this recipe using the same amount of liquid, but doubling the spices.  If you want you can add a chopped chili to the liquid.  I love heat, but prefer my carnitas savory instead of spicy.

I always serve carnitas in warm, soft tacos with refried beans and Spanish rice.  I offer my guests chopped tomatoes, avocado tossed in lime juice, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños and sour cream to dress their carnita tacos.

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a large Dutch oven (or other big pot with a heavy bottom), a wooden spoon, a heavy skillet, a slotted spoon, tongs, a bowl
Time:  Prep:  10 minutes    Cooking: 3 hours   Active time: 20 minutes


Pork Carnitas Tacos



Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds pork butt or shoulder
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 large, thin-skinned orange
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Oil for frying
  1. Cut the pork into 1 ½ inch cubes.  Leave on the fat. Wash the orange carefully. Quarter the onion and the orange. Smash the garlic.  Toss the meat, orange, and onion with the seasonings in the Dutch oven.  Add the shortening and turn the heat up to medium.  Let the shortening melt. Then add everything but the frying oil. Allow the liquid to boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer without the lid.  Stir occasionally.  Simmer until the pork is tender, 1 ½ -2 ½ hours.
  3. Remove the pork with the slotted spoon.
  4. Heat the oil in the heavy pan on high.  The oil should be deep enough to cover the pork pieces and you want the oil to be very hot. Fry the pork pieces until they are crispy, about 2 minutes per side.
  5. You can make these on the weekend and serve them up to three days later.  Serve warm.