Monday, February 22, 2010

Episode 6 Putting your stock in Chicken (or Beef or Vegetables)


I got a bit of a blessing last week and so I was able to come up with something to celebrate Fat Tuesday. After trolling the internet for ideas I decided to do a jambalaya.  Now I will tell you that in this last year I have taken up self education myself about the goings on in the kitchen I will admit a large part of what kept me out of the kitchen was the illusion that cooking is hard. What I have discovered is that cooking is a lot easier when you approach it the same way you should approach everything else, with a plan.

Now I am not saying that cooking does not take skill, everything in this world takes skill from pole dancing to picking up loose men on the street (or women for that matter) so some will naturally be better than others but most folks get just a little intimidated at the idea of messing up a recipe. Well I have succeeded as many ties as something has gone wrong and look I am still here to type about it.

But back to Jambalaya and things I have learned. Before you pull out a pot or turn on the stove you need to do your prep work. Prep work as I discovered from watching Chef Conway can take a couple hours to a whole day depending on your menu. I have taken this lesson the heart to the point where I try to have everything prepared ahead of time including spices. Luckily we have enough bowls and containers and such in the house that everything can go in something.

So first you need 4 cups of chopped onions, 2 cups of chopped celery, 2 cups of chopped green onions, 2 cups of green bell peppers, Chop up 1 ½ pounds of chicken breast and 1 ½ to 2 pounds of sausage.   Trust me having all this chopped and ready makes cooking so much easier not just in cooking but in clean up. So go ahead and chop, I will wait here til you get back……
All Done? Good ok let’s begin. First you need a big old pot, one of those granny pots that she threw everything in that looked like you could stick your whole arm in and not hit the bottom. Into that big ole pot pour in ½ cup of vegetable oil and let it warm up on med high heat. Now while that oil is warming up season your chicken pieces with salt, pepper, ½ tsp of garlic powder and ½ tsp of onion powder then  add your chicken to the pot and brown it up. This should take no longer than 8 to 10 minutes but make sure you flip those pieces to make sure it’s all brown. Then add the sausage and let it all cook for about 6 minutes. After six minutes pour all that meat in a bowl. I know it smells great but fight the urge to sample I SAID FIGHT IT!!!!!!

Staying with that med high heat add a drop more oil, really just enough to cover the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching and add your onions, celery, green peppers, and 1 tbsp of minced garlic (see you didn’t have enough time to do all that chopping once we started) and stir in the pot for 7 to 10 minutes. Everything should have a bit of a tint to it at this point now you add 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock.

I got to stop the recipe at this point and talk about stock hence the name of this entry. Every Saturday or Sunday morning Reggie gets up and makes chicken stock. We have a bag we keep in the freezer that gets all the left over vegetable bits that don’t get used in the food over the course of the week along with any chicken bones from chicken we had over the course of the week (we eat a LOT of chicken). I will get if not his, a simple stock recipe and post it. You can get stock from the store but I am just gonna be honest it just aint the same. First the store stuff is LOADED with salt. I think the last stock I bought to augment what we had in the house had a count of 510 mg of sodium and that was one of the lowest I could find. Now as anyone who has read more than two entries knows I am not all about the health, but that is a lot of salt! Yes making your own is a little time consuming but well worth it taste wise and just cause Damn that is a lot of salt!

Ok so add the 5 cups of homemade stock all those meats you have been fighting from sampling...ok go ahead you deserve it one piece of each….
A Tbs. of the following Season Salt, Oregano, & Thyme
2 Tbs. of Italian Seasoning, and Old Bay.  Ok for those of you not near the water, Old Bay is a seasoning used in the south. I have yet to go in a house in Baltimore that didn’t have it. I am not even sure what the equivalent of it is anywhere else cause I never saw it in Chicago. I will put that on my too do list.

Anyway put the lid on and bring to a boil.
Once she has a good angry boil going on add 5 cups of rice to the pot replace the lid and reduce the heat so you get a slow simmer. After about 10 minutes take a long handle spoon and turn the rice. Get down in the bottom and bring all that up to the top. Cook for another 15 minutes. Uncover stir in green onions and sprinkle with parsley.
That is it! Your done. Now if it’s just one ore two of you, well you got good eating for a few days, you can even freeze some. My pot lasted about 12 hours but there are four healthy grown men up in here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Episode 5 Your sweetness is my weakness!

Sorry for the delay, my HP computer turned out to be defective. HP is selling bad juju. Anyway we are here to celebrate the love and the food.
I have been experementing with different flavors of biscuits. A friend suggested I try Sweet Potato flavored biscuits. Well I did not get to make them for an ONYX meeting I was going to but the day I got home, armed with my new rollling pin, I went at it.

First you buy a couple of nice sized Sweet Potatoes for mashing. now for the record I had never made mashed potatoes from scratch before. Any mashed I made before came from a box or premade ( which I am quickly taking a dislike to when it comes to everything). So for those who like me are new to this, DO NOT THROW THE WHOLE POTATO INTO THE POT!!!! Which I did before deciding to check a few recipes. First wash the potato off then peel it then cut it into small pieces. Throw the pieces into a pot and let boil for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes drain the pot and put it back on the stove. Then you add one whole stick of butter (YES!!!) and you take a spoon and you mash! MASH like you have never mashed before. In about 5 minutes you wil have a good sweet potato mash going.

When you taste it you will get a hint of sweetness but if you need a little more you can add honey or syrup. Then give it about a hour to cool off. I know I know it smells great and you want to dive in but sometimes the main ingredient of alchemy is patience.

Set your oven to 350 and let it heat up. Mix 1 cup of flour with 1/4 tsp of salt and 11/2 tsp of baking powder. As always when I am working with flour I like to run a wire whisk thru it a few times. Get a little air in there and it combines all the dry ingredients a lot better. Then add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil, 1/3 cup of milk. I like to use buttermilk when making biscuits but whole milk works just as well. It does not taste that different. Give everything a quick turn around stir with a spoon, literally just one quick turn, then add 3/4 of a cup of mashed sweet potatoes. Now stir it all together into a dough.

OK now here is where we go in two different directions..do you want the traditonal round biscuit or do you want to drop it like it is hot?

For the regular round toss the dough out onto a floured surface and take a rolling pan to it. Take out your biscuit cutter and you should get 10 good rounds out of it. Now until two days ago I did not have a rolling pan and I still don't have biscuit cutter so I use a plastic cup with a little flour on it to roll and I use a drinking glass to cut the rounds out. Toss em on a baking tray for about 10-12 minutes and your good to go.

Now what I have recently discovered is the love of the drop biscuit. instead of rolling the dough out I just take a large spoon and scoop up some dough and drop it on the cookie sheet. You don't get the traditional round that your use to but you get biscuits with a lot of character. This is actually how Red lobster makes those addictive cheddar biscuits.

With both for a little extra kick sprinkle just a little cinnamon on top of the biscuits before you shove them in the oven.

Now that I am a little more computer stable is there anything anyone wants to see me try?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Episode 4 The heart wants what it wants..even though it knows better!

  The following post is not mine....it was forwarded to me from a friend via the New York Times. Can I just say i am speechless....and I want to try that so badly but I dont want my heart to cease beating.

 

 

 

Take Bacon. Add Sausage. Blog.

Don Ipock for The New York Times
The Bacon Explosion is a rolled concoction that can be baked or cooked in a smoker. More Photos >
Published: January 27, 2009
FOR a nation seeking unity, a recipe has swept the Internet that seems to unite conservatives and liberals, gun owners and foodies, carnivores and ... well, not vegetarians and health fanatics.
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Related

Recipe: Bacon Explosion (January 28, 2009)

Don Ipock for The New York Times
Woven bacon has sausage on top, then some cooked bacon. More Photos »
Certainly not the vegetarians and health fanatics.

This recipe is the Bacon Explosion, modestly called by its inventors “the BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes.” The instructions for constructing this massive torpedo-shaped amalgamation of two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce first appeared last month on the Web site of a team of Kansas City competition barbecuers. They say a diverse collection of well over 16,000 Web sites have linked to the recipe, celebrating, or sometimes scolding, its excessiveness. A fresh audience could be ready to discover it on Super Bowl Sunday.

Where once homegrown recipes were disseminated in Ann Landers columns or Junior League cookbooks, new media have changed — and greatly accelerated — the path to popularity. Few recipes have cruised down this path as fast or as far as the Bacon Explosion, and this turns out to be no accident. One of its inventors works as an Internet marketer, and had a sophisticated understanding of how the latest tools of promotion could be applied to a four-pound roll of pork.

The Bacon Explosion was born shortly before Christmas in Roeland Park, Kan., in Jason Day’s kitchen. He and Aaron Chronister, who anchor a barbecue team called Burnt Finger BBQ, were discussing a challenge from a bacon lover they received on their Twitter text-messaging service: What could the barbecuers do with bacon?

At the same time, Mr. Chronister wanted to get attention for their Web site, BBQAddicts.com. More traffic would bring in more advertising income, which they needed to fund a hobby that can cost thousands of dollars.

Mr. Day, a systems administrator who has been barbecuing since college, suggested doing something with a pile of sausage. “It’s a variation of what’s called a fattie in the barbecue community,” Mr. Day said. “But we took it to the extreme.”

He bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.

They then stuck the roll — containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat — in the Good-One Open Range backyard smoker that they use for practice. (In competitions, they use a custom-built smoker designed by the third member of the team, Bryant Gish, who was not present at the creation of the Bacon Explosion.)
Mr. Day said his wife laughed the whole time. “She’s very supportive of my hobby,” he said.
The two men posted their adventure on their Web site two days before Christmas. On Christmas Day, traffic on the site spiked to more than 27,000 visitors.

Mr. Chronister explained that the Bacon Explosion “got so much traction on the Web because it seems so over the top.” But Mr. Chronister, an Internet marketer from Kansas City, Mo., did what he could to help it along. He first used Twitter to send short text messages about the recipe to his 1,200 Twitter followers, many of them fellow Internet marketers with extensive social networks. He also posted links on social networking sites. “I used a lot of my connections to get it out there and to push it,” he said.

The Bacon Explosion posting has since been viewed about 390,000 times. It first found a following among barbecue fans, but quickly spread to sites run by outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders and hunters. (Several proposed venison-sausage versions.) It also got mentions on the Web site of Air America, the liberal radio network, and National Review, the conservative magazine. Jonah Goldberg at NationalReview.com wrote, “There must be a reason one reader after another sends me this every couple hours.” Conservatives4palin.com linked, too.

So did regular people. A man from Wooster, Ohio, wrote that friends had served it at a bon voyage party before his 10-day trip to Israel, where he expected bacon to be in short supply. “It wasn’t planned as a send-off for me to Israel, but with all of the pork involved it sure seemed like it,” he wrote.
About 30 people sent in pictures of their Explosions. One sent a video of the log catching fire on a grill.
Mr. Day said that whether it is cooked in an oven or in a smoker, the rendered fat from the bacon keeps the sausage juicy. But in the smoker, he said, the smoke heightens the flavor of the meats.

Nick Pummell, a barbecue hobbyist in Las Vegas, learned of the recipe from Mr. Chronister’s Twittering. He made his first Explosion on Christmas Day, when he and a group of friends also had a more traditional turkey. “This was kind of the dessert part,” he said. “You need to call 911 after you are done. It was awesome.”
Mr. Chronister said the main propellant behind the Bacon Explosion’s spread was a Web service called StumbleUpon, which steers Web users toward content they are likely to find interesting. Readers tell the service about their professional interests or hobbies, and it serves up sites to match them. More than 7 million people worldwide use the service in an attempt to duplicate serendipity, the company says.
Mr. Chronister intended to send the post to StumbleUpon, but one of his readers beat him to it. It appeared on the front page of StumbleUpon for three days, which further increased traffic.
Mr. Chronister also littered his site with icons for Digg, Del.icio.us and other sites in which readers vote on posts or Web pages they like, helping to spread the word. “Alright this is going on Digg,” a commenter wrote minutes after the Explosion was posted. “Already there,” someone else answered.
Some have claimed that the Bacon Explosion is derivative. A writer known as the Headless Blogger posted a similar roll of sausage and bacon in mid-December. Mr. Chronister and Mr. Day do not claim to have invented the concept.

But they do vigorously defend their method. When one commenter dared to suggest that the two hours in the smoker could be slashed to a mere 30 minutes if the roll was first cooked in a microwave oven, Mr. Chronister snapped back. “Microwave??? Seriously? First, the proteins in the meats will bind around 140 degrees, so putting it on the smoker after that is pointless as it won’t absorb any smoke flavor,” he responded on his site. “This requires patience and some attention. It’s not McDonald’s.”

Episode 3 Stuffed and unstuffed

Cheese! There I said it. I LOVE CHEESE!!!! My love affair with cheese started like all the other kids my age, with Kraft imitation slices. There was also the well known and highly heat resistant “government” cheese. Don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about. It came in a block and had that oh so unique taste that I have never found in a cheese again.

There was also the cheese in the can. Yeah that was tasty! And then at some point I started getting introduced into actual cheeses. The Cheddar brothers mild and sharp and their sister extra sharp. Colby, Colbyjack, Perpperjack, Swiss, and even hog’s head.


But the subject of today’s cheesy post is French toast which sometimes uses one of m favorites…Cream Cheese! You have your usual run of the mill restaurant quality stuffed French toast.

As I said before, when beating Cream Cheese into submission I always find it best to nuke it for a few seconds to soften it up. So 1 package (8 oz) of creamy cheese and 1 tsp. of Vanilla extract whipped into a froth creamy frenzy and set aside.

In another bowl crack 4 eggs. As always I do my eggs first just in case you get a little shell in there. It is easier to get out if it’s all just egg. Beat slightly with a fork and then add 1 Cup of whipping cream ( yes who knew all this whipping violence went into making French toast?) ½ tsp of both vanilla and nutmeg.

Alright now here is where you can go one of two ways. If you’re feeling footloose and fancy free get yourself a loaf of French bread.

Did you know that while the exact origin of French toast can’t be traced it has been around since at least the 4th century? And just like chitterlings it seems that every culture has a version of it. Anyway take 1 loaf (16 oz) French bread and cut it into 1 ½ inch slices. Cut a pocket in the top of each slice and add the cream cheese filling. Then place the piece of bread in the egg mixture. While the bread is soaking up the eggy goodness get your grill and or pan good and hot. Add a little BUTTER and place the piece of bread in the pan.


Make sure you use tongs and be careful not to squeeze the filling out. Cook until golden brown.

Now if you just woke up and decided clear out the blue you want some French toast and you don’t have any French bread in the house, well I just use white bread. You do everything above until you get to the cutting the French loaf. You just take a couple of slices of your favorite slices and make a sandwich. Then you throw it in the skillet and fry both sides to a golden brown…..

Next you add a little more BUTTER, some syrup and perhaps a little powdered sugar and go to town.

Now I have a diabetic in the house who does not care for large amounts of bread. So for him I soak the bread in the egg mixture in single slices and serve them up. I leave a little cream cheese mixture if he wants to use some but it is not stuffed.

A last thought for those with sugar issues or those watching their figure… I recently discovered Neufch√Ętel cheese, which is much like Cream Cheese but has 33% less fat content.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Episode 2 Eggs are Bi and versatile!

Next to butter I think my favorite ingredient is eggs. Eggs are a cornucopia of versatility and one of the few ingredients that makes an appearance easily at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even that midnight snack. This post while not about eggs is all about one of my newest favorite things to make.


Savannah Cheesecake Cookies…

I wish I could take the credit for these but they are the product of the southern goddess, The Lady Paula Dean. I was downtown one day and decided to stop by the library and see what books they had on baking and of course an hour later I was straining my back carrying home a load of books. One book in particular was The Lady & Sons Just Desserts: More Than 120 Sweet Temptations from Savannah's Favorite Restaurant “


Now I am gonna be honest, one of my very first dishes I ever attempted was a cheesecake. I was scared and sweating and 12 different kinds of nervous. I had heard all kinds of horror stories about cheesecakes gone wrong and since this was for someone’s birthday I didn’t want to mess up. After driving myself into a frenzy however I discovered that this was not calculus but simple chemistry (a subject I really enjoyed in high School).

Anyway I am getting way off subject. While the cheesecake was simple these cookies are even more so.


You start with the crust. You need a 9x14 pan. Something with sides cause the cookies (which are actually squares) are going to bake up. You mix in a large bowl 1Cup of Flour (all purpose), ¼ cup of brown sugar. Now it is probably better to use an actual ¼ measuring cup instead of the big Pyrex glass measuring cup we all have in the kitchen. I tell you this because you want to pack that brown sugar in that cup. Brown sugar gets a little what I call “”airy” so you have to use your fingers to push it down and make sure it is packed in that cup. Next you add one stick of BUTTER!!!!!!!!!


Now I am gonna be honest with you. I don’t have any electrical or mechanical aids in the kitchen. Everything I stir. Chop, blend, mix, and fold is done by hand and elbow grease. So I will usually throw my butter into a cup and microwave it for about 30 seconds. It’s good and gooey if not downright liquid. Last you need 1 cup of chopped pecans…now you could use walnuts (I have tried both) but I think I enjoyed the pecans better. You mix this gooey sweet smelling concoction together until you can’t see anymore flour. Then using your fingers (yes you can taste them after) press that dough down into the pan until the bottom is covered. Don’t worry if it is uneven cause this dough is going to mold itself to whatever you put it in. then you shove it into a 350o oven for 12-15 minutes.



Now hear is a non secret about me. I HATE washing dishes, but I have found that if I wash while I bake it goes by a lot quicker. Plus if you are baking more than one thing you will need some of this stuff again. So wash the bowl and spoon, knife, and measuring cup. It should only take about 5 minutes. Give the bowl a good swipe with a paper towel and prepare to make the cookie filling.

When making this dish try to get the standard cooking cream cheese squares (ignore that fat free writing it was the only pic of the size package I was talking about). The recipe calls for 16oz which would be two packs. I have found that the store usually has some kind of two for or three for sale on these things. So get a few and make French toast one morning (I guess French toast is next). Again you don’t have to do this but when using your own hand power I find nuking the cream cheese for about 30-45 seconds helps break it down and beats it into submission. Next you add the sugar. Now normally I don’t care what order you add ingredients but this is important. Sugar will help liquefy that cream cheese. I don’t know why (see that’s why you need schoolin) but a few turns of the spoon and it is free and easy. Next you add 3 eggs, now I normally open my eggs into a small bowl instead of putting them right in the mixture. It helps when you need to pick some shell out; c’mon you know you get some shell when you break eggs sometimes! No? Just me?? Ok well that is what I do. After the eggs but before the stir add 1 teaspoon of Vanilla or Almond extract, though I guess if you decided to use walnuts instead of almonds you may want to use that vanilla after all. Stir all that yummy goodness together. Those eggs and that cream cheese will do a thing together, not a big thing just a smooth mixing thing, in fact it will all look like vanilla pudding.


Then you just wait for the crust to come out. What 12 minutes was up already??? My how time flies! Ok let the crust cool for a minute. No really just a minute. Now pour that sugary smelling, vanilla looking batter right on the crust (see why you need something with sides) and shove it back in that 350o oven for another 20 minutes.


Yes clean!!!!!!!!!


Ok 20 minutes are up….looks good don’t it? What, it still looks a little loosey goosey? Yeah I would not move it around to much or turn it upside down or anything. In fact, why don’t you set it aside for about 20 minutes to let it cool down then shove it in the fridge for a couple of hours, let’s just make it an even 3. Now if you put it in the fridge right away the pan might burn a shelf and the top of the cookies will probably crack. It won’t affect the taste; it’s just not as pretty.

3 hours later take a knife and start cutting squares. If you want to be real fancy you can place a small berry of some kind on top of it. But trust me; she is tasty enough by herself.


I have made these about 4-5 times now and they ALWAYS go over well.


Oh yes I wants to mention that I don’t normally grease my pan on this one. The butter in the crust and the fats from the cream cheese will normally keep everything from sticking.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Episode 1 Quick Breads for New Years!




A quick bread is a bread that is made from baking soda baking powder, or cream of tartar. It differs from standard loaves of bread because they don't use standard yeast which takes a couple hours to rise (hence the name quick bread). One of the most famous of the quick breads for all the folks out there who think they have never had any before, is banana bread.

Most quick breads are made from five simple ingredients. flour, Baking powder, Eggs, Fat, and Milk. Everything else you throw in is for taste and flavor and the options are endless.



Last night I made a Jamaican Jungle Bread which had almonds, cinnamon, pineapples, and bananas. You suppose to make a glaze for the bread, which I will be perfectly honest i questioned because with those pineapples I thought the bread might be sweet already, but the baking process gave you the taste without the usual syrup taste that pineapples bring.



I also made a bread of my own concoction I called "Sissy" bread. cinnamon, walnuts, almonds, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a little vanilla.

Let me just state if your trying to make a quick bread yourself (which is very easy to make) that the more wet ingredients you add the longer the bread takes to bake. this can get tricky cause you don't want to the bread to over bake and dry out or burn. This was the case with my "sissy" bread. After an hour and some change the toothpick was still coming out a little moist, so after taking the bread out of the oven I covered the top and side with foil. Seemed to work really well cause an hour later the center was quite firm.

Since this is my first entry and a food blog is new to me, you guys tell me if i should add the recipes (or just take orders....kidding).