Monday, April 27, 2009

Few Days

Due to a current bout with some sort of bug (hopefully not of the Swine Flu Variety) it will be a few days until the next post


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

My adventure into the previously unknown continued last week with my first shot at grits. The first time I had grits I thought they were nasty (and in retrospect, whoever made them made them taste like paste). The second time my friend Catherine made them (with shrimp) and I loved them. So I had a 50/50 chance with this meal succeeding. Why not?

Grits are a pretty simple concept, just like polenta. Coarse ground corn and water makes yummy food. Well, at least that’s where you start. In the interest of time/my first time I used quick grits instead of the fancy stone ground ones. Next time I think I will try the latter, mainly for their texture and more than likely better flavor. But for anyone making this dish in a pinch quick grits work just fine. Time investment in this meal clocks in at less than 30 minutes.

This recipe is open to interpretation, it really is. That is the beauty of southern food, everyone makes it differently. I like that about some dishes because they really take on a life of their own. For example, instead of water for the grits, I added the intended amount of water into a pot, added the shrimp shells, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme, and salt and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes to make a quick shrimp stock. Nifty.

Shrimp and Grits

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T paprika
½ t cayenne
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried oregano
¼ t cumin
2 t salt
½ t pepper
1 T flour
¼ cup chicken (or shrimp) stock
2 T parsley
2 T lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices bacon, chopped


½ cup quick grits
2 C water
3 oz cheddar cheese
½ t garlic powder
1 t salt
1 t pepper

For the shrimp, combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and mix well, coating shrimp with spice mixture. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet or pot over medium heat and add bacon, cooking until browned. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Add the onion and pepper, cooking them both in the bacon drippings about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with flour and mix until absorbed. Add the chicken stock and cook until a thick sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley and lemon juice, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne for spice. Add the bacon back into the mix in the end.

For the grits, heat the water (or stock) over medium heat until boiling. Add grits and salt, whisk, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally until grits are creamy and plump, about 5-7 minutes. Taste the grits to check their consistency, they should be smooth. If gritty, add a bit more water or stock and whisk in. Add the garlic powder, pepper, and cheese, whisking until the cheese is melted.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Hashing it Out

As promised in my previous post, the roast chicken will more than likely yield some leftovers. This is a happy thing. The idea was given to me (once again by my fiancée's father) to make a hash out of whatever I had leftover. Genius! Potatoes and chicken in a cast iron pan married with some veggies sounded like an idea I wish I had thought of 5 years ago.

The concept is pretty simple. Chop up your leftovers (I had about a pound of chicken and a pound of potatoes left over), add some veggies, season to your liking, and cook. I added a lightly poached egg over the top for some richness, not to mention the runny yolk is great for mixing it all together.

Chicken Hash

~ 1 pound chicken meat, shredded
~1 pound roasted potatoes, roughly chopped
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
garlic powder
1 T butter

Preheat your cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, the goal being to get the pan seriously hot. Add the butter followed by the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for about 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the chicken and potatoes, stirring to combine. Using the back of a wood spoon or other kitchen tool, flatten the hash into the pan so you have a nice even layer. Let this cook for about 3 minutes, then stir it up and press again, cooking for another 3 minutes. This will give the hash and nice crust. Season with salt, garlic powder and pepper. Serve by itself or with a few pouched or fried eggs on top.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roast Chicken

Oddly enough, roast chicken was my favorite dish growing up. It beat out lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and whatever else a kid normally goes for. To this day I love nothing more than a roasted bird with some starch and a vegetable, maybe accompanied by a nice gravy. John, my fiancées father and close cooking counterpart (say that five times fast) passed this recipe along to me last week and I decided to give it a whirl. Delicious is the first thing that comes to mind. Juicy on the inside, crisp skin on the outside, this bird pretty much has it all.

Placing a chicken in a baking dish, seasoning it and roasting it for about an hour will give you pretty good results by itself. Add maybe 4 more steps though, and you can make the penultimate bird. First, start with the bird itself. No stuffing, ever. It will only dry out your chicken. But you also do not want all of the fat and goodness to sit inside of your bird and make it soggy. So before you cook it, flip the chicken on its back and cut a few shallow ridges in the fatty underside, this will allow any rendered fat to be released and drain out (don’t worry, we will not waste it). After you cut some channels, take a thin knife or skewer and poke the chicken in its skin and fat layer all over. This will promote more fat release from the bird, giving the end goal of crispy skin.

The seasoning is pretty straight forward with the added benefit of cornstarch, which gives crispiness but no strange flavor. Roasting the bird in a rotational manner gives even browning and equal doneness. As for all that rendered goodness that we let escape? Potatoes underneath the chicken allow for an easy side dish.

Come back next time and see what to do with the leftovers.

Roast Chicken

1 4-5 pound chicken
2 t salt
1 t pepper
2 t cornstarch
1 ½ -2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 475°F. Prep chicken by cutting channels in the bottom and poking some holes in the skin all over (see above). Tuck the wings and legs in to prevent them from drying out. Combine the salt, pepper, and cornstarch and rub all over chicken. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place chicken left wing side up (it will be lying on the side) on a roasting rack and set over the pan. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes and flip over to other wing side. Roast for 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the potatoes in the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the chicken is done with its wing side roasting, remove the rack and add the potatoes to the pan, tossing them in any accumulated juices. Replace rack with chicken, now set breast side up, and put back in oven. Roast until the thigh registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (about 20 minutes). Remove chicken and let rest on rack (make sure to put a pan underneath to catch any juices). Roast potatoes for about 10-15 minutes more or until browned. Toss with any remaining chicken juices. Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise sauce is the bane of my existence. There is no other way to put it. I love it, I love putting it on food, but I hate making it. No, it's not that hard or time intensive, but it breaks. All the time. And I get so frustrated! Probably not a good thing that I mostly make it at breakfast (I'm probably cranky). I tried clarified butter, cold butter, warm yolks, and ancient rain dancing, but nothing worked. But alas, I think I have finally figured it out. Water! Yes, as I was flipping through all of my cookbooks, I found that the Joy of Cooking calls for some water to be added. This thins out the sauce a little bit and relaxes the strain on the egg proteins. And it was amazing. The sauce held quite nicely and even stayed together on the stove for when people came asking for seconds. Success! Now something else can be my bane.

Hollandaise Sauce (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 T lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper
1 stick butter, melted
4 T warm water

First step, make a double boiler. Take a glass or stainless steel bowl and find a pot that the bottom just fits into. Fill the pot about half full with water and place it over medium high heat until it is just simmering. If you do this sauce over direct heat I can almost guarantee you it will be a disaster.

In the bowl whisk the egg yolks until slightly light and frothy. Whisk over heat and add 1 T water until the eggs just start to thicken, 3-5 minutes. Add the rest of the water 1 T at a time letting the eggs thicken in between. If you feel the eggs are getting too hot, pull the bowl out of the heat. Add the lemon juice. Remove the bowl from the heat and very slowly add the butter, stirring constantly until all the butter is incorporated (if you need to warm up the sauce while doing this place over the boiler for a few seconds). Leave the white solids from the butter (milk solids) out if possible. Whisk in the cayenne, season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a few drops of water. Serve immediately. To keep the sauce warm, place your mixing bowl in a larger bowl with some warm water and cover.

Note- If you want to boost the flavor even more, reduce ½ cup white wine to about 2 T and mix with the lemon juice before adding to the sauce.


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