Gimme a roux!
July 27, 2010, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Lunch, Pasta, Southern, Technique

A while back I pontificated on broth. Today, because I want to, is the day for pontificating on roux (pronounced ‘roo’). It’s one of those foundation things that if you know how to make it, you cn make all sorts of things from it, like sausage gravy to go on your biscuits, or a cream-of-something soup, or macaroni and cheese not from a box…anything that wants some thickening, nearly. Mom taught me how to make roux when I was 9 or 10, and it took a bit to get it right, but the ingredients are so simple, if you mess up a batch generally you can do it again without much cost or anxiety.

Here’s a basic recipe, it makes enough to thicken a pot full of cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese, or make cream-of-something soup for 6, or a nice pan of milk gravy.

1/4 cup of oil (or 1/2 a stick of butter. for cream of X soup I use vegetable oil, for milk gravy or mac n chz I prefer butter)
1/4 cup flour
That’s it.
Melt the butter (or heat the oil) and stir in the flour with a whisk. Stirring constantly, over medium-low heat, combine the oil and flour to make a paste, and keep stirring until the flour starts to brown and smell toasty.

Now, if you’re making something like gumbo, the rule is to have the roux the color of an old penny, dark brown. For milk gravy and cream soups, not so dark. Not even brown really, just cook it long enough to start to toast the flour around the edges ot the pot. Stir it constantly so you don’t get bits darker than other bits.

in my experience, the darker the roux, the less it thickens whatever it is you’re trying to thicken.

No, so you can go out and try this, I’m putting up a recipe for macaroni and cheese. It’s almost as easy as making the stuff from the box, and way tastier.

pasta and cheese

1 pound of pasta, cooked (I like shells because they act like cups and grab the sauce)

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
Make a roux as described above, in a medium sized pot. Then add
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)
Stir it all up real good. Then add
1-1/2 cups milk
Stir until it thickens.* If you are uncomfortable with how thick it is, add a bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time. Then add

2 generous handsful (I’m guessing about 2 cups) of shredded co-jack cheese. Throw in some sharp cheddar if you want a sharper flavor, or not..depending on your preference.

Stir until the cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you please. If it seems too thick, you can add a bit of milk.
Mix the sauce in with the hot cooked pasta. Pour into a well greased casserole dish and top with buttered bread crumbs (I save leftover garlic toast in the freezer, and make it into crumbs for topping stuff like this). Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until it’s bubbly and smells good.

*at this point you have milk gravy.You’ll probably want 2to 2-1/2 cups of milk here. You can add crumbled cooked sausage to serve on biscuits, if you want to make someone happy for brunch.


Daube Nicoise (without the hoopdy under the c)
July 20, 2010, 11:39 pm
Filed under: France, James Beard Project, Meat

From The New James Beard: ” The daubes, or wine flavored stews, of Provence derive their matchless flavor from long, slow cooking, traditionally in a daubiere…” He also said “Sometimes the meat was left in one piece, sometimes it was cut up, but invariably it was marinated or cooked in wine, without browning.”

The process started yesterday with the marinade described in yesterday’s post but I’m puttin’ it here too.

marinade ingredients

From the cookbook, with my comments in parenthesis:

Daube Nicoise (probably should feed 6 but in reality fed 4 with leftovers for 1)
Rub 3 pounds beef shin or chuck (I used chuck) and 2 pigs feet (I used 4 halves) with coarse salt. (I didn’t do this step because I have to watch the salt intake). Combine 6 cloves garlic; 1 sliced onion;a pinch each rosemary, thyme, and basil (I used a 2 inch sprig of fresh rosemary, 4 basil leaves, and 3-2 inch stems of thyme);6 peppercorns; and 1 bottle of red wine (cheap merlot) in a pan, bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Cool slightly (well, ok, completely…it was a couple of hours before I got to it); pour over meat and let stand 12 to 24 hours in refrigerator.

Put meat and mainade in a heavy braising pan (cast iron dutch oven. I think a crock pot would work nicely)bring slowly to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer very gently over lowest possible heat or in a 275 degree oven for 3-1/2 hours, or until almost tender. Add 3 or 4 ripe (5 romas) tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I didn’t bother peeling them, as I think it’s a pain in the butt. Seed them by cutting off the top and squeezing the guts into a bowl) or 2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes (this is NOT the seasoned Italian Style tomatoes! I think you could use a big can of diced tomatoes), drained and chopped, and cook 45 minutes.

Remove meat and slice thick. Skim excess fat from sauce, remove meat from pigs feet (what meat? I got like a teaspoon of meat off the 4 splits…too much effort in my opinion, but if you have meaty feet go ahead) and add to sauce. Replace sliced meat and cook 15 minutes, add 1 cup pitted soft black olives (1 can of medium black olives) and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Taste and correct seasoning.

Ok, This was really delicious. The porky flavor from the pigs feet added a something extra beyond the ordinary wine-soaked pot roast. The seasoning was just right- not too much basil or rosemary, nor too little garlic…well balanced, I thought. I would, however, add some fresh ground black pepper at the end, but that can be done at the table.
He recommends serving it with pasta, which is what I did- a whole wheat raddiatore (radiatorre?), because it seemed like a hearty pasta was needed to go with the meat and sauce, and the raddiatore (radiatorre?) shape is excellent for grabbing bits and soaking up the thin sauce. The Thundering Herd enjoyed it and there wasn’t much left over. Next time, tho, rolls will be involved. The sauce kinda begs to be sopped up with a crusty french roll or maybe sliced baguette.

The whole process, from making the marinade yesterday to the slow cooking today, was wonderfully fragrant. You could smell the individual herbs and the meaty, garlicy goodness kind of ticked the nose of the people coming in the back door. “mom, I could smell it as soon as I stepped out o the car” said Will.

ooo the house smells good…
July 19, 2010, 2:38 pm
Filed under: James Beard Project, Meat, Technique

Tomorrow I’m fixing Mr. Beard’s recipe for Daube Nicoiu nicious neeeSHWAAA, which is essentially a neeeSHWAAA style pot roast, but it starts today with the preparation of the marinade, and now the house smells like some fantastic herby winery because the marinade is this:

1 bottle of red wine
6 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion, sliced
sprigs of fresh basil, rosemary and thyme
6 black peppercorns
All in a pot, brought to a boil then simmered 10 minutes and let cool.
and this is what the house smells like.

Later today it will get poured over a 3 pound chuck roast and 2 split pigs feet that have been rubbed with kosher salt, and it will all marinate in the fridge until around 2:30 tomorrow.

Until then tho, the house smells goooooooooood.

*edited to add:
it’s Nicoise only there’s a little hoopdy under the c which I don’t know how to make the computer do it. I am sure someone more sophisticated than I am can do it but there we are.

James Beard’s Southern Fried Chicken
July 16, 2010, 2:49 pm
Filed under: James Beard Project, Poultry, Southern, Supper, Technique

We had friends over for supper last night. They moved here from Chicago and it was my opinion that they needed a good Southern Feast with real honest-to-goodness Southern Fried Chicken. James Beard’s recipe is almost exactly how my mother-in-law makes it, and you don’t get more Southern than her. The only difference is that he prefers it to be fried in lard.

I don’t know how you feel about frying in lard, but as I put the lard bucket in the grocery buggy, all those alarm bells installed by years of indoctrination by health teachers and Government Warnings were banging around in my head, saying that we’d all surely drop dead within an hour of eating. Then reason prevailed, my 98 year old grandmother and Terry’s 101 year old great grandmother didn’t have vegetable shortening…and fried everything in lard, used it in biscuits, all that. And they’d both outlived most of their doctors. My grandmother was recently warned that she needed to cut back on the bacon and eggs for breakfast or she might not make it to 100. She had no comment. Anyway, back to the chicken. Oh, lard: all things in moderation. ’nuff said.

James Beard’s Southern Fried Chicken (my comments in parenthesis)
1 to 1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(1 teaspoon garlic powder. I am constitutionally incapable of cooking chicken without garlic)
Two 2-1/2 to 3 pound frying chickens, cut into 4 drumsticks, 4 thighs, 4 breast halves (sever the wings if you wish), 2 backs and 2 necks
Lard for frying (I bought a 3 pound bucket and used about 3/4 of it)

Mix the flour and seasoning in a (gallon) plastic bag, add the chicken pieces (4 at a time) and shake well, then remove and rub in the flour so the chicken is well coated. Let the pieces stand on a board for 30 (or 45, or a bit longer) minutes before frying.

floured and resting

In 2 large heavy skillets (a cast iron dutch oven, because I was only cooking legs and thighs) melt enough lard to come 1-1/2 inches up in the pan. When hot (stick a wooden spoon in the fat, when small bubbles come out of it, it’s hot)fit the chicken pieces without crowding (a 9 inch pan will hold 5 drumsticks or 4 thighs) or you won’t get an even color. Start the pan of white meat 5 minutes after the dark. Add necks and backs to the pan of white meat after 5 minutes. Cook at a rather high heat, being careful the flour doesn’t burn, until brown on one side. Lift frequently with tongs tocheck browning. Turn and brown other side, then reduce the heat (just a little!!) to cook the chicken more slowly, and keept turning. You don’t want the chicken to stew in the fat but to cook to a delicious crispness. Total cooking time according to how you like you meat done, is 20 to 25 minutes for dark meat, 15 to 20 minutes for white meat, and 10 to 15 minutes for necks and backs. gauge your timing carefully. (I cooked the meat for 15 minutes with the lid on the dutch oven, then turned, and put the lid back on for about 8 minutes, then cooked without the lid for 2 minutes).


Remove the chicken to paper towels to drain briefly, then arrange on a hot platter with watercress. If you want to eat the chicken cold, cover with paper towels to absorb surplus fat, and don’t refrigerate, if possible, as fried chicken tastes better tepid or close to room temperature.

That’s his recipe. Here’s what I did:
I bought drumsticks and thighs, to make about 35 pieces. Since I couldn’t cook them all at one time, after they cooked, they were put on a roasting rack over a pan and into a 200 degree oven to drain and keep warm.

In this house, fried chicken is served with a bottle of hot sauce (Texas Pete’s, Louisiana, or Tabasco)

Now, commentary about frying with lard. Yes, it’s a little scary at first. One thing I noticed is that the chicken seemed to soak up far less of the lard than it would have soaked up of vegetable shortening or oil. In times past, large batches of chicken would have required refilling the pan a time or two with more oil, but that wasn’t necessary with the lard. The chicken browned more evenly and was juicier than when fried in shortening. Strangely, it seemed to stay hot longer as well.

The chicken was aggressively monitored by the Household Quality Control Officers, who announced that it was better than any made in the past. Initially, Officer CJ was dubious about the breading, opining that battered is better than just flour, but his opinion changed with the first sampling. This is a case of simpler being better.

Coming up this week:
July 15, 2010, 1:37 pm
Filed under: James Beard Project

from James Beard
Southern fried chicken and roasted pepper slaw (tonight!)
Daube Nicoise (I don’t know how to make the n with the little whoopy under it)(kind of a fancy-pants pot roast)
homemade pasta with raisin and pine nut sauce
Les Oeuf a la Tripe (hard boiled eggs in onion sauce)

I am finding the easy recipes first, getting the proverbial feet wet.

The Vegetable
July 14, 2010, 6:54 pm
Filed under: James Beard Project, Southern, Vegetables

“I usualy like to bring out the pure, natural taste of a vegetable, and that is best done by adding one other simple flavor for contrast, like an aromatic herb, or a speckling of nuts, or a squirt of lemon juice.” James Beard

Now, this is a philosophy I can get ahold of. There are only a few ‘complicated’ vegetable recipes I like, and even those are pretty basic. When Terry and I were first marred, he worked in a produce department at the grocery store near our apartment. The manager would let him bring home the ‘ugly’ vegs that couldn’t be put out, but weren’t actually spoiled. A couple of times a week we would have Vegetables for supper. Steamed cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, green beans,drizzled with olive oil and some salt, sliced tomatoes with a sprinkling of oil and vinegar, maybe a dip…all tasty and FREE. Awesome, no?

nowadays, I still like a simple vegetable. Tossed baby greens from the garden with some garlic infused olive oil and rice vinegar, crisp snow peas in a bowl, that I sort of waved in the general direction of some hot water. I could eat those like popcorn. Chilled cucumbers sprinkled with fresh chopped dill. A perfectly ripe tomato…now that’s straight from the mind of God.

He has many suggestions for vegetable pairings that I am anxious to try:
Baked beets with onion and orange
Sauteed cucumbers with snow peas
Baked stuffed Greek tomatoes
Spiced winter squash with pecans and ginger
and maybe a couple hundred more.

Tomorrow night I am cooking for some friends, and will make his roasted red pepper slaw. (among other things including summer squash casserole which is not his recipe, but will go with the whole fresh summer garden vibe of the meal)

Fresh Summer Squash Casserole
4 or 5 medium sized summer squash (yellow crookneck, pattypan, both are good) sliced thin
1 large vidalia onion, sliced thin
Steam the squash and onion together, then drain and squeeze out the excess water by dumping them into a kitchen towel and wring it over the sink.
Mix together:
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers+ 1/2 cup set aside (just crush up a whole sleeve and set some aside)
Mix the squash and onions in with the sour cream stuff and pour into a greased casserole dish.
Mix together the reserved 1/2 cup of cracker crumbs with 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I like sharp, but whatever you like) and put on top of the stuff.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or so, until it’s bubbly and the cheesy crumbs are nice and brown.

Thoughts on last night’s chicken
July 13, 2010, 1:04 pm
Filed under: afterthoughts

ok…the roasted chicken was just a roasted chicken. It’s the gravy that made it, and the whiskey flame bit. You could taste it on the chicken skin. The skin itself was slightly disappointing. I dearly love a really crispy skin, and pouring the booze over it, even when it was flamed, seemed to soften it up a little. However, the flavor of the whiskey was really good with the tarragon and butter.

The gravy, however…it was (in the words of young men) “Pretty epic, Mom.”

Mr. Beard recommends serving the chicken with new potatoes. However, I made wehani rice cooked in the same chicken broth used to baste the birds and make the gravy. With the rich flavors in the gravy, the nuttiness of the rice was wonderful.

Now, it was ALOT of work, but that was in large part because I made the Quick Brown Gravy as well as everything else. So, I am thinking the thing to do is make up a big ol’ batch of the brown gravy and freeze it, to have on hand just like the stock. It’s in several of his recipes, and won’t go unused.

I realize I kind of improvised all over the place, using ham stock instead of beef, and beef base, etc, but the results were really tasty. Since it’s not Bean Soup season right now, and there’s a gallon of ham stock in the freezer, I’ll just keep doing it that way. After all, he did say ““My emphasis is on options, my motto is ‘why not?’ and my hope is to provide you with inspiration as well as practical guidance”

The entire meal was thus:
Roasted chicken with “Pretty Epic” gravy
wehani rice cooked in chicken stock
lettuce and parsley salad dressed with garlic oil and rice vinegar

I figured on complicated dish in a meal is enough. The simplicity of the salad and rice complemented the chicken nicely, without competing.