Homemade Cheese Coins
November 28, 2010, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Holidays, Nibbles, Quick and Easy

One of my favorite things to make for Christmas gifts are cheese straws. OY! We loves them! This recipe is Paula Deen’s and it’s quite easy and basic. You can fancy it up in a good many ways. use blue cheese instead of cheddar, and add some hot sauce, for a kind of Buffalo Wing thing. David and I came up with that last year. Add a few drops of liquid smoke and a dash of toasted cumin- YUM! Mess around with it! Because there’s a long list of people who get tasty treats for Christmas, I generally go ahead and shred 4 pounds of cheddar, and soften 4 sticks of butter, then make smaller batches of differently seasoned straws. You can also roll them into a log, cover with plastic wrap and chill until you have the time later (I do this DAYS ahead), then slice them into little cheese coins. Roll the log in paprika for a pretty effect…even mix a bit of cayenne in with the paprika for some spark!

Ingredients
——————————————————————————–
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (optional, if the cheese is very sharp you probably don’t need it, in my opinion)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 paprika for rolling it in (optional)
——————————————————————————–

Put everything in a food processor except the paprika, I'm adding a shplorck of liquid smoke

Process until a smooth dough is formed.

Roll into a log.

Coat in paprika or a blend of paprika and cayenne (for SPICY!)

Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or up to a couple of days

slice into coins and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 300 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Ok so there’s no pictures of the finished products. That’s because I forgot to take them and they’re all packaged up and ready to give away.

You can roll this out in a 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut into little strips. A friend of mine used this recipe for a kids party and cut them out in shaped of dinosaurs (she left out the hot pepper) because they taste like Cheeze-Nips! My favorite method is to roll them into logs, roll the log in something pretty like paprika or dried parsley (oo imagine if you used fontina cheese, added a bit of garlic powder, and rolled the logs in dried basil!) (only fontina’s crazy expensive…use munster instead, it’s 1/4 the price and acts/tastes almost the same, in my opinion)…let your imagination run with it, k? Plus you can take the scraps after cutting out cookie cutter shapes, mash it all back together and keep going. Reckon how it would be if you used whole wheat flour? Or put bits of sundried tomato in it?

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Editorial on yesterday’s pound cakes
November 27, 2010, 2:35 pm
Filed under: afterthoughts

DO NOT make them in muffin pans. They come out really ugly. So ugly, in fact, I went ou and bought more loaf pans just so I wouldn’t be tempted to ever try that again. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious and I went on and soaked them in bourbon syrup, but far, far too ugly to give as gifts. We will, however, eat them at home. Like my mother-in-law once said “ugly food tastes the best”
So, it works in theory but not in reality. Don’t. Do. EEET!



Black Friday pound Cake
November 26, 2010, 1:57 pm
Filed under: Holidays, How To Land A Man

Ok. Now it’s the day after Thanksgiving and we’re all suffering Kitchen Overload.The fridge is stuffed with containers of green bean casserole, dressing and gravy, and a huge bag of collards that no one will eat so I’ll just leave them there until they get fuzzy and then throw them out. I have that much of my mother in me. Anyway, It’s Time To Start on Christmas stuff. First on the list: Pound cakes. Ok, Rootie, why do you make them a month (less a day)before Christmas? Won’t they go stale? In a normal universe, yes they would. However, this is The World According to Rootie and no, my pretties, they won’t. Because they are going to be soaked in a bourbon syrup and need to sit for a while. These cakes are Not For Children. If you want to make cakes for children, please refer to the Betty Crocker website. Thank you.

Bourbon Pound Cakes.
First, you start with a basic butter pound cake recipe. This one comes from The Joy of Cooking. Howver, if you have one you prefer, use it. Any pound cake will do as long as it is unflavored and you use BUTTER not margarine.

Have all your ingredients at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 300F
Grease (use butter) and flour 4 small (y’know, those little bitty ones) loaf pans OR 1-6 cup tube or Bundt pan OR 1-6 cup loaf pan

Measure:
1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour (it’s finer than regular flour, tho I have used regular flour with good enough results, just be sure an sift it really well)
In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds:
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
Graduallly sift in and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 4-5 minutes:
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar

Beat in 1 at a time:
3 large eggs

Beat in:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla I’ma gonna go all Ina Garten on you and say “use GOOD vanilla” in other words, do not use imitation vanilla extract. Just…don’t.
Gradually add the flour, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Scrape the batter into the pan(s) and spread evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

50 minutes for the small loaf pans or tube pan, 55 to 60 minutes in a large loaf pan. I thought I’d try muffin pans, and the results were specacularly ugly. Stick with loaf pans.

Muffin pan cakes. Poor fings, tasty but wow...no.

Meanwhile, combine in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture comes to a simmer and all the sugar is dissolved:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup bourbon (or rum, brandy, scotch)
As soon as the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool.

Now, when the cake is done and still warm, (I am going to assume you’re making small loaves in throw-away foil pans because that’s how I do it and it’s easier in my opinion) use a skewer and poke holes all in the cakes. Pour 1/4 of the bourbon syrup over each cake, wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap and put them in the back of your refrigerator and forget about them for at least 2 weeks. If you are making a large loaf or bundt cake, do the same thing but slip it into a gallon (or larger) zip-loc bag, and carefully mash or suck all the air out of it, and put it in the fridge.

You *can* serve it right away, but in my opinion it benefits from the quiet time.

If you’re very observant you’ll notice that there’s more than 4 cakes. That’s because I doubled the recipe when I made these. Make it exactly as it is above, and you’ll get 4 lovely mini loaves, perfect for gift giving.
Also, these are in the “How To Land A Man” catagory, because menfolk love them, what with the bourbon and all.



Homemade green bean casserole
November 24, 2010, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Holidays, Technique, Vegetables

Who doesn’t like it? Only…I can’t eat things from a can much so I am making it from scratch. Everything else on the menu is either crazy simple (cranberry sauce, collards, sweet potatoes and apples) or already made (smoked turkey, dressing). So I don’t mind making a little effort on the green beans.
It involves making your own cream of mushroom soup. Not hard, but it does take some time and attention. I don’t do the fried onions on top, either.

Green Bean Casserole
For the sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1 medium onion, diced
some garlic, minced (how much? I DON’T KNOW! SOME!)
some black pepper
some salt
be sensible…add a bit of salt and pepper, less than you think you might need, you can always add more later.
In a nice big pot, saute the onion until it’s soft and starting to brown. Then add the garlic…oh I don’t know…maybe a teaspoon or so, or a little more if you like it like I do. Saute a little bit longer, just a minute or two. you don’t want the garlic to brown because it will get bitter.
Add a bit of salt and coarse black pepper. Then stir in:
6 oz fresh sliced mushrooms. What do you like? I like shiitake or baby portobellas. Button mushrooms are fine. Whatever. It’s about 2 cups worth, maybe a bit more.
Stir all this until the mushrooms start to soften just a bit. Then add:
1/4 cup flour
Stir until everything is nicely coated. Then add:
1 cup chicken broth (Homemade if you have it, please don’t use canned. Please? ok… if you must.)
2 cups heavy cream (WOAH! HEAVY CREAM?!) yes, baby, heavy cream. or half-and-half. Don’t be a wimp. It’s Thanksgiving and calories don’t count.
Turn the stove down low.
Stir until it starts to get thick, then stir some more until it’s nice and thick. Set aside. you can taste it now to see if you want more salt in it.

Prep your beans-You will want about 2 pounds. cut off the ends…ok I am assuming you’re using fresh. Frozen is fine. Do not use canned. What a waste that would be.
Blanch the beans (if you’re using fresh. Skip this if you’re using frozen, but rinse the frozen beans and pat dry.) in hot water then rinse in cold water and pat dry on a towel. Now, bean aesthetic is a personal choice. i like them longish and fancy. You might prefer them cut short. It’s your choice.
Oh yeah- to blanch beans, bring a pot of water to boiling and drop the trimmed beans into it. Bring the water back to boiling, count to 20 and drain them. They will be bright green. Then rinse them in cold water.

Now, in a great big bowl, mix the beans and the cream of deliciousness soup together and put it all in a buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until the whole thing is bubbly and maybe browning a touch on top.

Ok now, the cream of delicious soup…use it for anything you would use the canned stuff for. Casseroles, whatever. Or just eat it from a bowl all by itself.



World’s Easiest Cranberry sauce
November 24, 2010, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Fruit, Holidays, Quick and Easy

Oh come ON people! Cranberry sauce from a can?? When it’s so flippen’ easy to make it from scratch and everyone will be wildy impressed? Here’s how:
(makes enough for 6-8, or 4, depending on how much people like. I like alot.)
1 bag of cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
dash of salt.
See? Nothing complicated.
put everything in a pot, stir it up a bit and simmer on low until the berries have all popped and it’s thick like jam. Actually, it *is* jam. Whatever. Put it in pretty bowls and chill until you’re ready to serve it.
Bam. That’s it. Want to fancy it up? Add some orange zest and a teaspoon of dried ground ginger. But you don’t need to, it’s pretty excellent just like that.



Smoked Turkey
November 23, 2010, 7:54 pm
Filed under: How To Land A Man, Meat, Philosophical, Technique

Smoking takes a little bit of skill. Not alot, just a bit and some specilized equipment. ok fine I’ve seen Iron Chef enough to know that you can fake it with a foil packet of chips and a blowtorch…but in the words of someone I forget who…”bitch, please.”
That is not smoking. That is making some smoke and blowing it on the food so it tastes sorta smoky. Smoking take a LONG time. It takes a smoker, or a smokehouse, or a smokebox. I have a smoker. I had a smokebox but decided a cheap little Brinkman smoker is better. I want a smokehouse. I want 100 acres of forest and fields and a 200 year old farmhouse, too…but instead I have a $60 Brinkman smoker. Seriously y’all, it’s all you need (other than some good charcoal and a chimney starter) to make yourself some fine, fine smoked meats.

Today, I am smoking the turkey for Thanksgiving. Because we are having over the entire Ethiopian population of Bulloch County and some Philipinos and a transplant from Ohio, it’s a huge turkey weighing in at 22 pounds…in fact it’s so big I realized it might be too big to fit into the smoker but I prevailed and with some tucking and cursing it fit in. So, here’s how I am smoking it:

First, get the smoker set up according to the manufacturer’s directions. Light a chimney full of charcoal using paper/pinecones/whatever. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID. It would make your turkey taste like kerosene. I know this. I’ve done it and it’s a tragedy. Use hardwood lump charcoal NOT briquets (sorry Kingsford). Briquets will also make your turkey taste like kerosene. When the coals are red hot (you can tell, trust me) dump them over into the bottom of the smoker. DO NOT put the rack over the coals. You will need to be able to access them. Put some chunks of smoking wood in a bowl or can or something full of water so they can soak. They need to be wet so they’ll make smoke. Get chunks, not chips.

Second, set up the water pan. This goes in the smoker and helps keep the heat even, it also provides moisture so the meat doesn’t dry out. It’s important. In the pan of water, add a couple of oranges, cut into 1/8ths. Slice about 2 inches of ginger root nice and thin (you don’t have to peel it) and put that in the water pan too.

Third, clean the turkey up. Take the fresh (or thawed) turkey, you want it pretty close to room temperature. Wash it off and dry it with some paper towels. Get all the bits of plastic off of it- that popup thermometer thing, the whatsit that holds the legs in, all that. no plastic on your turkey. Cut up a couple of oranges and slice some more ginger. Stuff all this up in the body cavity of the turkey.

4th. Make the glaze. Mix together the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate (do not dilute it! Scoop it right out of the can of frozen into the bowl)microwave it 30 second to thaw it, or use already thawed, whatever.
1/2 cup vegetable oil (NOT olive. you want an oil with no flavor to it)
1/2 cup honey
2 heaping tablespoons of dried ginger powder
Mix all this together to make a gloppy mess.
Flip the turkey back side up and smear it with the stuff.
Flip it breast side up and do the same. Go on, use your hands. Don’t get all precious on me and want to use a brush, hands will wash, that’s why God invented soap. Make sure the turkey is nicely coated. I used about 2/3 of the glaze on a 22 pound turkey so you should have plenty.

Now, it’s time to set up the smoker. The Brinkman smoker (link above) has little rests in it for the water pan. You’ll want to set the pan in it BEFORE you put the smoker over the coals. Otherwise you’ll burn your hands. After you’ve done that, set the smoker unit on top of the base filled with hot coals. Then put the rack on the top and set your smeared mess of a turkey on the rack and put on the lid. Soon the thermometer will indicate “ideal” which is the temperature you want to keep it at. t’s a range, not a specific temp. If your smoker has a thermometer with numbers, you want it at about 200 degrees.

Now, let it do it’s thing. Check on it every 2 or 3 hours to make sure the temperature is staying in the “ideal” range. If it starts to drop, once it gets to the low end of “ideal”, start another chimney full of charcoal. You’ll need to do that on a concrete or brick slab, or even on a grill if you have one. When the chimney coals are hot, carefully set the top part of the smoker to the side (you might need help)-be careful with this because the water pan is in there and you don’t want to slosh it. Add the hot coals into the pan with the other coals, and throw a couple of wet wood chunks in there with the coals. Carefully put the top part back on the coal pan, and check the temperature every now and then to make sure it’s hot enough. It’s OK if the temp gets up into the “hot” part of the gauge, you just don’t want it in the “warm” bit.

It will take about 8 hours to smoke a 10 pound turkey. 4 hours for a couple of chickens, 2 for pork chops, maybe 3 for a beef roast.
I am not entirely sure how long it will take to smoke a 22 pound turkey, but I am anticipating having to get up with it in the middle of the night to add coals. That’s ok. I might, instead of nursing the smoker all night long, take the turkey out and put it in a 180 degree oven, covered with foil and a bit of the water pan water in the bottom of the roasting pan. If it’s done in the morning, great, if not, I’ll cook it in the smoker tomorrow without the wet wood, just kind of gently bake it over the coals.

The glaze combined with the smoke will make a deep brown bird with a distinct ginger-sweet flavor.

Now, a word on woods for making the smoke. I like to use mesquite, because I am from Texas and wish to retain my right to visit there. However, oak, hickory and pecan are WONDERFUL for smoking. So are any kind of fruitwoods. We have these horrible weedy plum trees that invade all the time, and they make for wonderful smoking wood. We also have a butt-ugly (even tragically ugly) maple tree in the front yard that is always dropping limbs, and those make great smoking chunks. There are myriad peach orchards around here, and when they prune he trees in the winter, they sell the trimmings for wonderful fragrant firewood…and amazing smoking wood.o you live someplace where there’s apple or cherry orchards? Go for it! So, in my experience, trees that grow nuts or fruits or have some kind of culinary value generally make for good smoking wood. Do not EVER under any circumstances use pine or cedar. Gross. Your meat will taste like turpentine or furniture polish. How sad would that be?

Also, snooty charcoal advice…i’m serious about the hardwood lump charcoal for smoking. Briquets are fine if you’re grilling hamburgers, but smoking is like this long term relationship the meat is having with the charcoal and why invest in a long term relationship that’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth? Terry was pondering getting all Mountain Man on me and making our own charcoal out of the butt-ugly maple tree in the front yard, and I think that would be kinda awesome, but we live in a Golf Club Neighborhood and have already fielded some ridicule for the White Trash backyard aesthetic (I swear we got rid of the truck on blocks *and* the blue rubber swimming bowl) and I just don’t know how a Dakota hole would go over with the Country Club set. So, for now we buy the stuff in bags, and it works really well. you know what? It lights faster than briquets, too. And seems to last longer when lit. Go figure.

P.S. I promise to put up some pictures, but I can’t find the cable for the camera and the computer that will accept the chip from the camera is in use by someone who is giggling maniacally and I don’t want to get involved.



Quite possibly the world’s perfect food
November 21, 2010, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Holidays, How To Land A Man, Poultry, Southern

I’m talking about my mother-in-law’s chicken dressing. It’s simple, requires no great skill, no fancy technique and it definitely a case where the Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of It’s Parts. Make it way ahead of time and freeze it, then bake it the day you want it. Take my word for it, it’s delicious.

You need
1- 9 inch pan of cornbread (I use a 9 inch cast iron skillet because I have decided that the crust is part of the dressing’s charm)
Use your favorite cornbread mix or recipe, only I don’t recommend Jiffy because it’s kind of sweet. Just make it by the recipe.
1- recipe of biscuits, as per on the box of biscuit/baking mix. I use Jiffy Baking mix but Bisquick is fine. Use the recipe that calls for
2 cups of mix, to make about a dozen big biscuits. Make drop biscuits because they’re crustier.
Make these breads up, you can cook them at the same time in the oven. If the instructions on the box says cook them at different temperatures, don’t sweat it. Cook them both at 400F degrees and you’ll be fine. Cook them a little bit longer so they’re a touch browner than you may like, this is good because you want them CRUSTY. When the breads are done (20-25 minutes) take them out and let them cool.
While the breads are cooking, do this:
1 whole chicken, cut up (I actually found an already “country style” cut up chicken cheaper than a whole one)
1 tablespoon dried onion bits
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
All this in a pot and filled with water. Boil the chicken and seasonings until the chicken is completely done. Take the chicken out of the water and let it cool. DO NOT DUMP OUT THE CHICKEN BROTH! You’ll need it in a bit.
Into the boiling broth you just took the chicken out of, put in
10 eggs. (in the shell. You’re making boiled eggs here)
Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then fish them out of the broth and let them cool.
While the eggs and everything else are cooling:
Chop up one medium sized yellow onion and saute it in a little vegetable oil. I use the skillet the cornbread was cooked i, to keep from having to wash yet another pan. Cook until it’s starting to brown.

Now you’re ready to assemble the dressing.
Get the biggest bowl or pot existing. A turkey roaster is a good size for this.
Crumble up the breads into the bowl. Small bits, and mix them together.
Pick all the meat off the chicken and chop it up small. Throw that into the bowl with the breads.
Add the cooked onions to the bowl.
Peel and chop up the eggs kind of coarsely. I have one of those fancy egg slicers and use it, but however you do it is fine. Add them to the mix.
Then add:
about 1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
Mix it all together until everthing is well blended.
Start pouring in the broth. It will take about 6 cups of broth, maybe more. You want to add and stir in the broth until the whole thing is a wet soppy mess. Wetter is better here. It might take all the broth, maybe less, but you want it good and wet and soggy. Not damp. Soggy. Sloppy and like something out of an Army movie where they glop something unidentifiable onto the recruit’s plates. *SPLAT* like that.
When it’s all mixed together and kind of gross looking, put it over into 2- 9×13 casseroles. Cover with foil and freeze until you need it, or go ahead and bake it at 350 degrees (or whatever the temp is of the oven because you’re probably baking other things right now as well). Whe you take it out of the freezer, bake it covered with the foil for an hour or so, then take the foil off to let it finish and get a nice crust on top. Frozen it will take about an hour and a half to get hot (at 350 degrees). Unfrozen (I guess if you have the space you can let it thaw overnight in the fridge. I never have the room)

I’m telling you, this stuff with a blob of cranberry relish is heaven in a bowl. Throw some high quality home-made turkey gravy on top. It’s the bet thing about Thanksgiving, in my opinion.