Sunday, November 27, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

After watching McDonald's commercials all day on my day off I was craving burgers in a monstrous way. I was thrilled and delighted when P actually caved to my pleadings and went along with getting take out. Was I hearing correctly? Did he really agree to fast food on a weeknight? But then I thought to myself, If you're gonna crack down someones will then sister you best go big. 67 Burger, down the street makes THE best amazing ginormous mouth watering burgers and they come in a box twice the size of a Big Mac. Yes Ma'am! Curly fries AND regular! Feels like Christmas!

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

After my big fat super grateful Thanksgiving food love fest, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself in that kitchen. I was just happy to have it clean again and calm. I had turkey meat for days all tasty and ready to go. But instead of being creative and doing one of these new zippy leftover entrees I'd been seeing all over the web, I reverted back to my git er done style and threw a can of Cream of Mushroom soup into the heated meat along with peas, mushrooms and onions. In Hoosier fashion, I paired it with buttered bread. Cue crickets.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Love is All You Need

Thanksgiving. This year my modus operandi was using common flavor threads, keeping it small and concentrating on making each dish spectacular! My two main ribbons were orange citrus and bacon.

I stuffed the bird with herbs and lots of tangerine wedges, also put the zest in the seasoned butter rubbed in between the skin and put a cup of orange juice in the basting broth. And for the Pièce de résistance, an orange chipotle glaze over top! Get Down!

For dessert I made an upside down skillet apple pie with homemade crust, three kinds of apples and intense concentration. Technically this was still baking because you put it in the oven and baking scares me. There's less room for error.

...but it was pretty fabulous and so tart and fresh tasting. Warmed with a bit of vanilla icecream.....that flaky buttery pie crust and just the right amount of sweet....Yes Sir!!!

I had to make my whacky quacky because well because it needs to be eaten. My secret is to cut the hard chorizo into just the right size bits, fry them up until they get slightly crisp so when you get a good scoop on your chip you get a little meaty surprise that thrills and delights your taste buds upon arrival. And by the way, lots of fresh lime juice.

But the sleeper this year was Fried Pickles! When we visited family last year in St Louis and I found myself nervously sitting at a table of like 14 of P's family, stone cold sober sipping an iced tea while everyone was downing huge pints of cold calm inducing beer. Then as if from the gods a platter of fried pickles arrived with a ranch dipping sauce and all went right with my world at that moment. The perfect blend of fried, sour, Cajun heat and cool buttermilk ranch dressing. Since then I wanted to recreate them and they are so easy and worth it, so worth it! Make these soon and see for yourself. //

Mexican cornbread make with buttermilk, creamed corn and fresh green chiles is soft, slightly sweet and an excellent accoutrement to the roasted bird.

Orange scented smashed sweet potatoes with bacon allow the brilliant taste of the actual sweet potato to shine whilst dazzling it with bursts of zest and tangy juice, savory bacon, coriander, cumin and a bit of cinnamon.
Bacon brussel sprouts ala Emeril Lagasse. Cutting the sprouts in half and browning them created a deeper flavor as well as lots of garlic and onion.

The bird was juicy and very flavorful so I kept my fresh cranberry juice light and very citrusy using lots of fresh lemon and orange juice.

Overall - I'm going to say I was very proud of this dinner. It was a manageable amount of sides. Each one came out shining. The skin on the turkey was crisp and the white meat was juicy. I didn't even miss the gravy or the regular mashed potatoes. Stuffing wasn't missed either because the cornbread sort of took care of that and the biscuits in one shot. I think the actual menu was more balanced than in previous years. There was richness but not too overwhelming.

Lots to be thankful for this year so I wanted the meal to be an expression of that gratitude. Everything seemed symbolic. Citrus is life, amazingly vibrant and cheap too. It doesn't cost anything to laugh and have fun. Using the juice of oranges, lemons and limes is like splashing magic into your dish. Bacon was money. You don't need a lot to get the job done and sometimes less is more with the flavors just teasing you enough but not spoiling your appetite. All you really need is will and love. ....and butter.

You're Still the One I Run To

When your brain is out of order and you're out of great ideas, you need only go reach for the flour tortilla. As most people know, everything and anything tastes good between a warmed flour tortilla. Case in point, have you ever charred a wiener on the stove top and rolled it in a flour tortilla. Its a kind of heaven actually and shouldn't be by any food logic but its delicious!
Cold meat quesadillas are also better than the sum of their parts and perfect for a quick late night supper. Get the pan heat correct, don't burn the tort but get everything inside nice and cheesy gooey. Do put cold pickle-like condiments on the side. Sit down and celebrate sweet simplicity.

Take it to the Limit

I love soups and stews at the beginning of the cold season. After about two weeks, I'm still mildly excited but my soup spirit is waning. I like food in bowls but I like it to be super chunky and full of meats, you know, thick and hearty. At the end of the day I'm not as interested in liquids and slurping up my dinner, unless its big hot Asian noodle soups, then I'm all for it.

So when I made chicken and rice soup this week I made it super thick and chunky with tons of vegetables and lots of shredded chicken. Almost like 'souped up Minute rice'. Remember that? Now it seems so primitive but what a great idea at the time. I remember those commercials opening up my mind to bigger ideas. If I could add soup to rice, then what else could I add to it??? Limitless!
We've come such a long way with everyday meals. Due to all these serious as well as whacked out cooking shows, the average person is preparing complex dishes now and its just growing beyond belief.

One of the big Brooklyn accented warehouse guys that knows I cook said yesterday that he wanted to talk to me about ideas for making a mango chutney for his battered chicken tenders. At that moment I had to think to myself; have we gone too far?

You're Gonna Find That You're Beautiful As You Feel

Low cal mini pizzas for P on one side with fresh veggies and just a smidgen of mozzarella cheese. On the other side are my pizzas, what I'm calling So-Cal pizzas. As in, so loaded with calories, double cheese, pepperoni slices, crumbled sausage AND veggies.

I'm not advocating gluttony but my reasoning is that if you're going to eat wonderful foods like pizza, then make them how you like them, sinfully delicious! Just don't eat too much. I think people should generally eat lighter and take steps to cut out unnecessary fat when they can but I don't believe you need to eat sugar-free cookies or fat-free sour cream. If those things make you happy, then have yourself a little cookie darling. If you find yourself buying boxes of cookies, then you gotta shut it down. Like me with liquor. I used to drink non-alcoholic beer and let me tell you, not exactly a party starter. They call it near beer and it usually is, literally but certainly that's where the comparison ends. No thanks. I'll make my own better tasting drink and take a shot at creating my own good mood. We've got but this one life to live. Why take the fun out of it if you don't have to? I'm happier when my pizza has all my favorite flavors. Therefore I appear content and maybe in the right light..... near beautiful.

I Love You More Today than Yesterday

Turkey soft tacos! Just saying tacos make me smile. Tacos of almost any variety spell good eatin'. Dark leftover turkey meat from Thanksgiving dressed up with some cumin, chili powder and fresh jalapenos. Cue angels singing and sunshine blanketing the world.

That's all good. Now to the beans. Beans for me had been a little touchy over the years. I was a tiny timid little kid with a bad stomach from as far back as I can remember. Big mealy beans were way too scary to eat back then and a pinto bean was as big as I was willing to try but only smashed up and disguised. Later my mom made huge pots of pinto beans for refried beans at the restaurant but I'd wait until they were all flavored with bacon and creamed up, completely unrecognizable from their hard state, thank you very much. Small white, like the Great Northern bean - fine. No whole beans for me. Small and soft meant they didn't reek havoc on my tender young gut. Then in California I fell in love with the tiny black bean. Rinsed and put in salads with feta cheese and cucumbers - loved them! I made lots of whole bean soups but always with the small assortments.

But it wasn't until this recent visit with my sister R in Colorado where she brought out the pinto beans that I remembered just how flavorful and rich THAT particular bean could taste. The pinto, the original. The only bean my sister has eaten in all these years. The only bean my mother had cooked with. Why had I gone astray? Before R did her magic and transformed them into refried I snuck a big mouthful wrapped up in a warmed tort with a little cilantro and salt. Meaty yes, but oh so delicious! Perfectly satisfying, just like the taco itself.

So with those soft flour leftover turkey tacos, I served a side of hot unabbreviated whole pinto beans with pickled jalapenos. Don't ever doubt. Pintos are THE ideal bean to use with your next if not all Mexican dishes.

Suddenly Seymour

Scrambled eggs. So simple yet so hard to get the perfect texture. This was a quick breakfast and my focus was not all together there. Afterwards however I came to think of how they could have been better. Lately I've felt like I need to go back and learn the very basics. Finally understand how to do things properly. If you search how to make scrambled eggs you'll get a handful of different ways from the heat of the pan, to adding water or milk but for me the real key seems to be in the rhythm. Once the eggs hit the pan you never leave them to sit, you dance them around the whole show folding and stirring, gently rolling until they are light and happy. The moment they are ready you must whisk them out of the pan and not a minute later.

The other important practice I think is to either have all your added ingredients heated separately in a hot pan and add them together just at the very end or simply put them on top. I've always loved putting lots of fresh and leftover vegetables in my eggs to make the breakfast heartier as well as some salty meat. But I think you do a disservice to the flavor and fluff of the eggs by doing so in the pan while they're cooking.

Cheese definitely needs to be scattered in at the very last minutes of cooking. Herbs and onions can be added to the eggs in the bowl before adding to pan. I've always been a big advocate of adding hot sauce and sometimes soy sauce to the eggs before cooking along with salt and pepper. But I've been wrong. Eggs don't need these flavors and are at their best when you let the richness of the yolk speak for itself. Suddenly I can see more clearly how to let the eggs do their thing.

Some(sub) Saved My Life Tonight

What you NEED to do if you haven't already, is to get your tired ass down to City Sub on Bergen off of Fifth Ave in Brooklyn. Order two toasted specialty subs, one for your honey and one for you. Spring for the big pickle and grab some chips. Drag it home and start forgetting about everyone who pissed you off today because you're gonna eat good tonight!

City Sub Special Combinations

All City Sub Combinations Hot Or Cold Are Served On Our Baked Italian Bread With A Choice Of Lettuce, Tomato, Onions, Pickles, Olives, Sweet Or Hot Peppers, Spices And Spreads All At No Extra Cost All Cold Cuts Are Sliced With The Order To Ensure Freshness And Flavor. We Use Hellman's Real Mayonnaise. Price + Tax
1. Salami with provolone cheese 5.99
2. Ham with american cheese 5.99
3. Roasted Turkey with swiss cheese 5.99
4. Pastrami* with melted provolone cheese 5.99
5. Chicken Breast Cutlet (Baked)* with melted mozzarella cheese 5.99
6. Tunafish with scallions and melted cheddar cheese 5.99
7. Seafood Combination with crabmeat and shrimp 6.49
8. Honey Glazed Ham with american cheese 6.49
9. Virginia Ham with swiss cheese 6.49
10. Salsalito Turkey** with pepper jack cheese 6.49
11. 100% Fat Free Smoked Turkey with smoked gouda cheese 6.49
12. 100% Fat Free Cajun Style Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese** 6.49
13. Peppermill Turkey Breast with monterey jack cheese 6.49
14. Honey Glazed Turkey Breast with muenster cheese 6.49
15. Pastrami Seasoned Turkey Breast with monterey jack cheese 6.49
16. Corned Beef with swiss cheese 6.49
17. Premium Roasted Beef with swiss cheese 6.49
18. Cajun Style Eye Round Roasted Beef** with pepper jack cheese 6.49
19. Ham, Salami & Provolone Cheese 6.99
20. Capocollo, Prosciuttini, Pepper Jack Cheese* 6.99
21. Cajun Style Turkey, Pepperoni And Melted Swiss Cheese* / ** 6.99
22. Smoked Turkey Breast, Smoked Ham And Smoked Gouda Cheese 6.99
23. Roasted Beef, Roasted Turkey And Cheddar Cheese 6.99
24. Chicken Cutlet* with smoked ham and melted mozzarella cheese 6.99
double portion cold cuts 2.00
double portion cheese .60
side or extra condiments .60
$0.50 Less Without Cheese, $1.50. Less Roll Or Sliced Wheat. ** Indicates Spicy Cold Cuts. * Indicates Hot Sandwich Spreads And Dressing Choices: Mayonnaise, Mustard (Deli, Spicy Brown, Honey Dijon), Horseradish Sauce, Creamy Italian French, Russian, Caesar, Ranch, Or Just Olive Oil & Red Wine Vinegar.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Take Me to the Pilot of Your Soul

So Big Ed had also sent in his big bag of pepper tricks, a load of red hot chili peppers. I longed to make a Thai dish correctly. We love curry and my coworker friend had just coincidentally gave me The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook - 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner. This is my attempt at the Thai Coconut Chicken Curry on page 103.
I get a little nervous with Thai because I don't have any 'ins' to secrets and tips. I asked my friend for some tricks and she hands me a book. I felt like my ingredients were staring at me like a crowd at open mic night, doubting Thomasinas. You can't DO Thai they were chanting. I really wanted to do my own curry paste but in the end I chickened out and cheaped out actually. There are a lot of ingredients in that stuff. I couldn't find any kaffir lime leaves OR Thai basil which are probably key and that was another reason to use the paste as they are included. I really didn't want this to turn into an Asian version of Ortega Taco Night at the O'Reilly's. I wanted authentic.

It was right there, right on the cusp of the precise concoction. However, something was missing. That's SO frustrating. We ordered green curry last night and that little something was NOT missing. Ugh! It was so wonderfully there! I will search out the precise ingredients and attempt again. Maybe a particular coconut milk is key? Maybe it's similar to Mexican recipes. When they say 1/2 teaspoon, they really mean 2 tablespoons unless you like your flavors bland. I think its the milk.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Let Me Sleep All Night in Your Soul Kitchen

African Turkey Stew or my name, Guiso del Diablo. I didn't invent it or the recipe.  I just searched for a good way to use habanero peppers and boy am I glad I did. This feels very 'special occasion'. And it was. Just eating it became a special occasion.
And the highlight was the actual aroma and zing of the habanero peppers themselves. 
As usual I took big liberties with the recipe because I feel you can do that with stews and soups. Instead of all smoked turkey legs, I used smoked turkey wings. legs and necks for flavor and then ground turkey for the majority of the meat. Sometimes they have gorgeous smoked turkey wings at PathMark but this week not even cute. I added a few more habbies too because I never think anything will be hot enough.
But the way you make the sauce is like a magic potion and it makes a vibrant color. The sweetness of the red bell pepper stands out and balances the heat of the habbie. I love that most of the ingredients are red. You really eat this stew with your eyes as well as your mouth because of that color. It is festive. It seems like what the Devil himself would make for you down in his soul kitchen when he was feeling celebratory.

But you'd better not stay too long and mind having seconds of this stew. Habaneros like the Devil are not your friend my friend.