The Perfect Trifecta: mirapoix, roux, and andouille.
October 17, 2012, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Philosophical, Southern

Ok see, it’s gotten cold here. Coldish, anyway. Enough so that we had to put a quilt (as opposed to a thin cotton blanket) on the bed, and I actually closed the windows a little because wide open was TOO cold.

Anyway, I love Creole and Cajun food. They are similar but not exactly the same. Also, this post is about how I am feeling, due to situations with work stuff, not about a fancy pants recipe that you need to be impressed with…I mean (in order to refrain from offending my English Teacher Friend)…not about a fancy pants recipe for which you should be impressed.

Did I mention that I am on my second pear vodka with mango juice and Pellegrino water? No? It’s good. Equal parts each. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I found this recipe for a gumbo type stew (not actual gumbo as there’s no file’ nor okra…but that’s ok. They are forgiven due to the mirepoix and roux and andouille)

So I fixed it today. It’s cool. The weather is approaching the semblance of cool fall weather that asks one to give up the salads and embrace the stew.

Also? It has beans. Lots and lots of many different kinds. I love beans. They’re cheap and high in protein and wonderful.

Anyway, the roux. It smells like…toast and butter and angels wings and babies after a nap. Throw in some mirepoix and let cook a minute before you add it to the cooked beans and the angels start singing loud songs and warming you with their angel-breath (which smells like butter and toast)

Do I have clever pictures, artistically photographed with stylish bowls and comfortable spoons? No. Of course not.

However the roux with the mirepoix…oh my heavenly saints and angels that smells good. Then, after the whole mess is dumped in the stewed beans and sausage, scraping the pan of the last little tidbits of butter and toasted flour flavored with the onion….happy sigh. So flamin’ good.  I am waiting for the family to all go to bed so I can shamelessly lick the pan.

It’s the kind of thing you want to keep eating even though you’re full. You want to eat it until you throw up so you can eat some more.

Gross? TMI? maybe…but the Roman would do it and I used to think that was weird but now I totally understand why.

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Summer goodness

The weekly visit to L&D Market happened today. That’s the local place that sells locally grown produce, with a friendly 12 year old stocking tomatoes and corn, industrial fans blowing and the aroma of ripe cantaloupes wafting over you.

Today was Grocery Day, the biweekly trip to restock the pantry an reassure myself that, come what may, we WILL eat well for 2 weeks.

L&D did not disappoint, with tiny new potatoes, baby squash, PATTYPAN SQUASH! I LOVE PATTYPAN SQUASH! and big fat tomatoes, begging to be slices and decorated with basil from the garden.

My garden…is there anyone more optimistic than a gardener in February? No, there is not. I bought seeds, and was certain by this time we’d be eating delicious things every night.  We had a good bit of snow peas, that was nice,but by April they were done with. I got exactly 7 pods of English peas…how disappointing, but I tried to make the best of them by adding them to a risotto.  Some lettuce, nothing to get excited about, a few tiny arugulas, but the basil looks good and the tomatoes are trying, I hope it doesn’t get too hot for them before I get a few, but down here, that is not a given.

So,I rely on L&D and the gardeners who are better at it than I.

Oh the potatoes! Tiny tiny red new potatoes, just a bite or two, such a creamy texture, pure perfection.

Oh the squash! I pick the smallest of the yellow squash, and treat them gently and simply.

PATTYPAN SQUASH! It makes me happy with it’s silly shape and mild flavor.

and on…I am waxing rhapsodic because that’s the only way to respond to bags full of just picked vegetables in  the middle of June.

and…pictures. I enlisted my eldest son, gave him permission to use my camera in exchange for acting as photographer.

all the ingredients for dinner

Roasted new potatoes: tossed in olive oil with cracked pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. 45 minutes in a 375F oven

Grilled squash and onions, tossed in olive oil with cracked pepper and kosher salt. Grill on medium for 30 minutes, turn halfway through cooking.

Potatoes above, PATTYPAN SQUASH!! below- toss the squash with minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley and a bit of olive oil. Roast with the potatoes- 375F for 45 minutes.

Dinner!

The tomatoes were just sliced and sprinkled with fresh basil. The cucumbers are poona kheera cukes, an experiment in my garden, and are simply sliced and sprinkled with fresh chopped oregano.

I’ve never grown poona kheera cucumbers before, and they are delicious! The skin it a bit tough so they should be peeled, and the flavor is milder and a bit sweeter than the normal grocery store type. The texture is a lot like a small pickling cucumber.

When my 13 year old asked what was for supper, I told him and he said “what? no meat?” and I replied “no meat.” and he said “Ok, I’ll eat some leftover chicken from last night” and I said that was fine, if he was still hungry. Which he wasn’t…and that is a bloomin’ miracle because 13 year old boys are ALWAYS hungry.

As we were eating I thought “I shoulda got some fresh mozzerella to make a caprese salad…”  then I thought “I shoulda got more potatoes.”  Then Terry said it wouldn’t hurt his feelings one bit if I fixed those potatoes more often. Weekly even.

I am wondering how it would be to roast the potatoes then make a potato salad from them.



Oh Lord this is so easy, and tasty in that “not really made from fresh ingredients” sort of way
June 13, 2012, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Philosophical, Poultry, Quick and Easy, salad, Vegetables | Tags: ,

I live in the Deepest of the Deep South, near Savannah, Georgia. It’s not close enough to the coast to get the breeze off the Atlantic, and not near enough the mountains to enjoy a cool stream. It’s the heart of Wiregrass Country, that means flat, and cotton fields, and pine trees dripping sap on your clothes when it gets hot.  It means that sometimes the thought of opening the oven door or standing over the stove, or even lighting the grill is…well…Not The Thing To Do.  Even changing clothes and going to a nicely chilled restaurant seems too much effort, because the humidity is hovering around 90% and it feels like if you spit it would tip the balance and water would simply fall out of the air. It is too tired and dense to do something as active as rain, it is just apathetic humidity. It does rain nearly every afternoon,around 4:30, when there’s still a solid 4 hours of sunlight left to steam things up again.

Last night, I didn’t want to cook. The very idea of anything more interesting than a huge tumbler of minty iced tea caused culinary ennui.

I keep things in the pantry, canned things, stuff that I usually philosophically scorn as inferior, for just such an evening.

And I was too apathetic to take pictures, too. Surprised?

This is a recipe I got from the person real cooks love to make fun of, with her multitude of color coordinated Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers and gawdawful Tablescapes:

Sandra Lee.

There. I said it. I got a recipe from Sandra Lee and I LIKE IT.  So does everyone else in the house. But what do they know, they like frozen pizza, too.

Anyway, if I lived in Atlanta, and had ready access to The Dekalb Farmer’s Market where I could buy fresh bean sprouts and bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, I would. I am certain this salad would be far superior with such things. But I do not live in Atlanta so I make this the Sandra Lee way. And I am ok with that.

Not Really Asian Chicken Salad

The 1/2 of the rotisserie chicken left over from Sunday (or 2 cans of chicken. Sandra Lee used cans. I might compromise on some things but not on chicken), chopped

1 can each (or a generous handful if you’re fortunate enough to have access to the fresh stuff) bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, sliced water chestnuts, baby corn

1 bag (let’s call it 4 cups worth) shredded cabbage slaw mix (with the carrots in it)

1/2 cup bottled Asian Sesame Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 can of chow mein or rice noodles

a handful of toasted almond slices

Mix together the chicken and vegetables.

Mix together the dressing and mayo. taste it. If you want to, add some soy sauce, rice vinegar and a bit of sesame oil to kind of boost it up, depending on how strong the bottled dressing is.

Mix the dressing with the salad and sprinkle the noodles and almonds on top.

See there, no stove was used in the making of this salad.



All that fresh produce!

I’ve decided to attempt vegetarianism for the Summer. Not out of any real uppity sort of Save The World And The Baby Animals sort of thing, just…I don’t know. An evaluation of my diet resulted in the realization that I don’t *NEED* meat. Sure, I like a steak as much as the next person, if it’s cooked properly, and I LOVE me some smoked bacon…but to need it? No. Notsomuch.

I already eat quite a bit of whole grains, bake all our bread (except for the occasional English Muffin someone brings in…and bagels.), and cook with legumes. Now that school is out for the Summer, #4 son (he’s 13) will be released from the concern of digestive side effects from the beans. He doesn’t particularly mind them, but everyone else in the classroom does.

So…vegetarian it is. I will still eat eggs,and dairy (occasionally) in the form of high quality cheeses and yogurt and butter on the breakfast toast. For some (probably hypocritical or poorly thought out) reason I have issues with the chicken farming of birds we eat, but no such sensitivities toward the poor hens that churn out eggs day after day like avian Pez disensers. I also know with relative surety that dairy cows tend to be well cared for…the ones around here are, anyway.  I also know of a source for local yard eggs and have a friend who has a friend with a cow, so it is possible I may have a source of Real Milk.  That investigation is for later. Too much change at one time is upsetting to the balance of the universe, and I don’t want that on my conscience.

Now, I am not forcing this lifestyle and philosophical change on my family.  They are men. They want meat. I know this. They don’t mind the (very) occasional meatless meal, as long as it has plenty of pasta in it, but to tell them NO MEAT for an entire Summer would invite all sorts of hysterics and grumpiness and they are, for the most part, good men and I want them to be happy. Therefore, I will grill them small pieces of meat to enhance the (whatever) was prepared for supper.  I am taking the Asian approach, that uses meat as a side dish or even a condiment rather than The Main Event. Unless there’s steak, which will totally be the centerpiece of the meal and I surely will set aside my principles for that.  And ribs, probably.

Ultimately I would like to replace the farmed meat, bought from the store as red blobs wrapped in plastic, and replace that will real meat, from animals that lived in the woods and ate the abundant flora of the Deep South, and were not inoculated against everything with all kinds of antibiotics and given growth hormones and fed dead stuff.  Venison is abundant here, as are feral pigs, rabbits, squirrels…rabbits and squirrels are nice substitutes for chicken.  There are hunters in the family and friends list, who are currently being bribed with promises of homemade smoked jerky in exchange for meat.

But for now, it is not hunting season, and it’s too hot to be eating all that meat anyway, so I am making tasty salads.  Today’s version is an adaptation (and absolute alteration into being no longer recognizable) white bean salad, that I got the recipe from….I think it was an old issue of Fine Cooking.  Anyway, it uses white beans of some sort. I’ve made it with cannellini beans, but being where we are, I can only find those in cans, and with the salt issues, canned is Not Allowed, so I use dried navy beans.  Also, the local produce market, which conveniently sells  (wait for it….) LOCAL PRODUCE had a buncha stuff, so I bought it, thinking “hey, this would be good,so would that, oo look at these!” and by the time I was done, the recipe was no longer recognizable as the one from Fine Cooking and I really don’t care.  So here’s what happened (pictures? Fie on pictures. I am too busy flinging and chopping.)

1-1/2 pounds navy beans.

a whole pot full of water

Put the beans in the water (after washing them and picking stuff out), put the pot on simmer and ignore it for (hmmmm….how long? Let’s call it 4 hours) When the beans are done, nice and soft, look in the pot and realize you cooked too many, and take out about 4 cups of the cooked beans, and use them to make hummus. White beans make tasty hummus with a wonderful texture.

Drain the rest of the beans and set aside.

Now, you want these:

4 ears of fresh local  (and almost too young to pick ) corn. Cut it off the cob and saute in a little olive oil until it has crusty brown bits on it. Try to restrain yourself from peppering it right then and eating it out of the skillet.  If you can’t, be sure and buy some extra corn.

2 small zucchini, cut into small pieces.

4 roma tomatoes, also cut into bits.

The idea is that you want about the same amount of each vegetable by volume, and about the same amount of beans as you do all of the vegetables combined.

2 avocados, cut into small chunks and tossed with a little bit of lemon juice to keep it from browning.

3 green onions, chopped

a good handful each of flat leaf parsley, basil, and oregano. Fresh, please, not dried.

Toss everything together, then make the dressing (O so COMPLICATED…)

1/2 cup olive oil (if I were Ina Garten I’d say Good Olive Oil which translates into $20 per 1/2 pint…but I am not…so use what you have)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon minced garlic (next time I’m roasting a head of garlic and using that. The whole thing)

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Put this stuff in a jar with a lid and shake it all up.  Pour over the salad and stir well. Serve it all with some crusty fresh bread that’s all warm and lovely.

Now tell me, who wouldn’t want to eat that in lieu (thanks to Ruth for telling me how to spell that properly) of some lump of factory raised meat that might make a man grow boobs?

Also…you could totally use cucumber in there too. however, Terry is allergic to to them so I sub with the zucchini in these sorts of recipes.



How to deal with a pig
March 30, 2012, 11:51 am
Filed under: Meat, Philosophical, Pork, Southern

Yesterday I got a phone call from my son. “Mom,I shot a pig, can you help?” said he. You see, he works at a place with a 2000 acre property of hardwoods and a river. There are Pig Issues- feral pigs that are threatening certain parts of the property, and permission has been granted to hunt said pigs. I offered to help him if he shot some, in exchange for half the meat. These pigs, on this property, are fortunate pigs, because it is hardwood forest of oaks and hickories. That means nuts and mushrooms. The pigs have a steady diet of acorns, hickory nuts, sweetgum balls, mushrooms, berries….delicious things that result in delicious, sweet, lean pigs.

You see,however, Thursday is My Day Off. It is the day I do only exactly what I want to do, and never has it included dressing and processing a pig. It never even entered my thinking that this is something I would do on a Thursday. However, I told him I would and so I did.

It was a lovely little sow, about 75 pounds. Perfect! I told him not only would I not process a boar, I would not let him use any of my equipment to do it himself. But this nice little pig, it was covered with thick, curly black hair and was exactly the right size. Not too small (thus causing the desire to roast the whole thing) and not too big (to fit in the smoker).

You see, we all have the philosophy that if you’re going to shoot a wild animal, you must eat it. None of this trophy hunting nonsense. No bucks, no boars.

So, processed it was. 2 lovely small hams (maybe 5 pounds each), 2 lovely shoulder roasts (maybe 2-3 pounds each) 2 slabs of lean ribs, 2 delightful backstraps (those are SO going to be grilled, or maybe I can talk him into grilling one and turning the other one into Canadian bacon), and 2 slabs of what, if this were a fat farm raised pig, would be bacon, but reality is that they are far too lean for bacon, and will be made into jerky instead.

Now, I am going out of town for a week. Otherwise I’d try my charcuterie (non)skills out, however,I am going out of town so the ribs, backstraps and non-bacon are in the freezer until I get back.

The hams and shoulders went into the smoker. That’s right. Within 3 hours of this pig staring down my son and meeting it’s demise, that pigs meatiest parts were merrily smoking with cherry wood and an herb rub. Pictures? Of course not. I was too busy trying to get the other parts packaged up so the dogs would quit looking at it like it was Christmas.

By 5pm, because they were small meaty parts, the meat was done, a vinegary sauce was made, and it was all chopped and tossed and made into amazing pork barbeque, Southern Style.

There was,of course, a bucket of guts,skin, and a head in the bed of my son’s truck. I let him deal with that. His girlfriend, (and this event raised her esteem in my eyes by about 6 notches) never once said “OH GROSS” but instead opined that she’d like to go hunting too, and learn how to dress a pig, and maybe I could teach her how to cook it.

And this is how you deal with a pig. You treat it with respect, and make it as tasty as you possibly can.



Cold Remedy Chicken Soup
September 29, 2011, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Philosophical, Poultry, Quick and Easy, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

No pictures because dangummit, I HAVE A HEAD COLD. You’ll have to trust me on this one. besides,chicken soup doesn’t look like much. Oh I know, all the good food blogs use lovely pictures that make their food look flamin’ AMAZING and that’s the big part of their appeal and unless I get to crackin’ and learn how to take decent pictures I’ll never have the following of Smitten Kitchen or whatever. O STINKIN’ WELL. I have a head cold and I DON’T CARE ABOUT PICTURES.

Ok, so a long time ago, a Jewish friend of mine sent me the recipe for Jewish Penicillin and let me tell you it is delicious. It also take 24 hours and some work to make. When I get sick I don’t ahve 24 hours to sit around and wait and scoop schmaltz off the top of slow simmering soup. I just don’t want to and there’s no one else in the house who wants to either. If I get sick and whine “chicken soup” their interpretation is to open a can of Campbell’s (after driving to the store to get it because I don’t keep it in the house, How very UnAmerican) but I don’t want that. I want my own version,and naturally, even though I am feeble and weak from disease, I have to make it myself. Because they NEVER put in enough garlic or black pepper.

So here’s how I do it. First, I get some frozen chicken legs out. There are always chicken legs in the freezer because I prefer dark meat and I can get those 10 pound bags for $5 and I’m stunningly cheap.
4 chicken legs, nice and meaty.
The biggest pot I have, I reckon it’s about 2 gallons. I’ve never checked. Fill it with water and put the frozen chicken legs in.
Add a couple of BIG HEAPING spoonfuls of minced garlic. Or perhaps a whole head of garlic, smashed. I buy the minced stuff in the jar. I’m talking BIG HEAPING spoonfuls. I would even hazard to say it’s close to 1/4 cup worth.
Put in several nice long stems of fresh thyme. I reckon if you stripped the stems and measured, it would be about 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves. Or maybe 1/2 tsp of dried? I never use dried so I’m guessing there.
Likewise, several nice long stems of fresh oregano. I stripped it off the stems and chopped it. Definitely about 1/4 cup. Probably at least a tablespoon of dried.
Several generous grindings of coarse black pepper. I’m going to call it 2 teaspoons, maybe more.
Bring that all to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer until the chicken is falling off the bone. Scoop out the chicken and bones and stuff and set it aside to cool. Skim off the fat. I have one of those fancy fat skimmer things that makes it easy, or you could use a ladle or something. But get the fat out of it (blech, chicken fat…yuck)
Bring it back to a low simmer.
Add a big heaping spoonful of Better Than Boullion chicken base. It’s nice and salty.
Taste the broth to see if you need MORE SALT! I love salty stuff when I have a cold. It makes my throat feel good.
Grate up 4 carrots. Throw that in. Add some chopped parsley*.
*if you don’t grow parsley, buy it fresh from the store and cut it off the stems, then freeze it. Then you can crumble off however much you want, and it’s like having fresh, almost. It’s not garnish-worthy, but definitely cooking-worthy.
Add some form of carbohydratey sort of thing. Rice, noodles, yeah whatever. I like brown rice because it holds upwell for leftovers. Noodles turn to weird pastey stuff, so does white rice. About 1 cup of brown rice. Do you have leftover already cooked rice? Go for it, throw that in.
Shred up the cooled chicken and add that back in. (after picking out the bones and skin)
Sit on the couch, propped up with cushions and a dog at your feet, watch some Netflix Bollywood movie and sip the soup out of a mug. You own’t feel that much better right away, but everyone will get the message that you need to be left alone, at the same time being wildly impressed with your awesome culinary skills because I’m telling you the house will smell fabulous.



May 31, 2011, 11:40 am
Filed under: afterthoughts, Not The Best idea, Philosophical

Upon reflection, it looks like I chewed, slurped and gnawed my way through the long weekend. Which I totally did. Between masaman kai (that i found a recipe for, and will replicate soon) and 2 slabs of falling-off-the-bone BBQ pork ribs (I did not eat them entirely on my own) and laab gai and bagels and waffles with turkey-apple sausage and figuring out how to make lychee mojitos…well…

This week’s menus are going to be altered. I am going to eat a head of cabbage today.

A bag of carrots tomorrow

and a bunch of broccoli on Thursday. I actually don’t like broccoli very much.

I need fiber. Lots of fiber.

TMI? Too bad.

My gut is saying NO MORE! And frankly, rich and spicy foods are not very appealing. The menus (planned 2 weeks ago) read something like this:
lime chicken tacos (ugh)
BBQ pork sandwiches on grilled corn flatbread (UGH!)
…then it’s time to make more menus.

I don’t know yet what they’re going to be changed to, but you can bet your sweet bippy there will be no lime chicken or BBQ pork.