The weekend cometh!

August 26, 2016

Chicken gumbo over rice, with yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant. OK, hybrid gumbo-ratatouille.

Chicken gumbo over rice, with yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant. OK, hybrid gumbo-ratatouille.

As a matter of fact, in about 18 minutes, here, I’m about to declare my home in the Eastern Time Zone and pour myself a glass of wine, because it has been a WEEK, can I just tell you? Following close upon the heels of the WEEK before that.

And I still have a powerpoint presentation I need to finish this evening because it’s due by close of business Wednesday, and I am going to be gone Monday and Tuesday. I hate to wait until Wednesday to finish it, but I may wind up doing so.

Because I would rather write about food and such.

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Lunch at home

August 24, 2016

A lunch that's damned hard to beat.

A lunch that’s damned hard to beat.

One of the good things about working from a home office, in addition to being able to cook things that take a long period of inactivity punctuated with periodic tasks, like breadbaking, or doing laundry, is that you get to rummage through the fridge for what can be a great lunch.

Like the one above. I mean, homemade pimiento cheese, bacon, and a backyard tomato, on homemade wheat bread. Just doesn’t get much better than that.

As an aside, one of the great things about being a Southerner is that you’re brought up with pimiento cheese. Not that nasty grocery store kind, either; the real, honest-to-god stuff with cayenne pepper in it that is the stuff of wonders. I need to get my gas grill bottle refilled so I can grill burgers with pimiento cheese on top, come to think of it.

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I’m here. I’ve even cooked.

I’ve also been in the middle of a fairly good-sized project with a short deadline, and I really should be working on it now, but I’ve had two glasses of wine and I could not testify to the quality of my work product.

So.

It’s been a busy week. After the Best Roast Chicken Ever, I did not cook for a couple of nights, and then I excavated the Hawaiian Rib-eye marinated steaks from the freezer to grill because friend Kate had come up for a couple of days. I highly encourage you to click that link, make that marinade, and grill that steak. It’s damn good. There is an enzyme in pineapple juice that does wonders for tenderizing meat, and it worked a treat on this grass-fed ribeye, I am here to tell you.

I marinated it for 48 hours, decided I wasn’t going to cook it, drained the marinade off, bagged it, and stuck it in the freezer, where it reposed for a couple of weeks. I was afraid it would be mushy, but it wasn’t. These are some BIG rib-eyes, and two of them made all three of us were interested in eating.

No photos, because, well, I didn’t think of it, but we had coconut rice (recipe here), Asian cucumber salad (dressing of rice vinegar, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, ginger, soy sauce until it tastes right), and sweet potato fries. These are frozen sweet potato fries I cook in the oven, which I would have cooked in the CSO but for the fact it was busy cooking steaks, because the Godforsaken gas grill picked That Night to run out of gas.  They are, I might add, addictive.

Steak was pretty much perfection. I learned that steam broil at 500F, 5 minutes on a side, will turn out a pretty much perfect steak, a nice little edge of done surrounding a big ol’ hot-pink middle. Cucumbers should have been peeled; the skins were a tad bitter. Rice was excellent.

The next night, as I had been in the middle of this project and had not taken time to plan or prep dinner, I fell back on easy and left-overs. We had chicken left from the roasted bird, frozen green peas, mashed potatoes and gravy.

For once, I aced the the gravy (which is forever my culinary weak point). I had saved the juices and fat that cooked out of the chicken, so I heated those and stirred in some flour, then thinned with some chicken broth and cooked until it was the right consistency. The mashed potatoes were basic mashed potatoes — peeled, cubed and boiled redskins, to which were applied generous portions of butter and cream and a workover with the potato masher. Peas, frozen, were the basic boil for two or three minutes, drain, toss with butter.

We ate until we were just about miserable. It just seemed to hit the spot.

I doubt I shall cook much of anything this weekend, as I will have a house full of grandchildren and will be too busy being KayKay to cook. They get either left-over chicken or chicken nuggets, though I may bestir myself to make overnight waffles for breakfast Sunday morning, and they’ll get grilled cheese for lunch Sunday. With lots of fruit. Must get fruit at farmers’ market!

You n’ y’mama ‘n ’em say a brief prayer for me as I head into a weekend with three young’uns aged kindergarten and below. We’ll see how much fun I can stand.

 

Best roast chicken EVER!

August 14, 2016

An old-fashioned Southern Sunday dinner. Yum.

An old-fashioned Southern Sunday dinner. Yum.

People. Make this chicken.

Now, mind, it will be better if (a) you have a steam-convection oven, and (b) if you have a farm-raised chicken. In fact, the latter may be critical, given that you brine this baby, and I’m not positive you can get a grocery store chicken, even an organic one, that isn’t injected with water or saline solution as part of its processing, and that negates the ability of the bird to soak up brine.

The CSO is helpful, but not, I don’t think, critical. This is essentially the same process, though the recipe is different, that I used to brine the best turkey I ever cooked, back last Thanksgiving, and that sure wouldn’t fit in the CSO, which I didn’t have then, anyway. I think it’s the farm-raised, small-batch-processed, not-full-of-added-fluid that’s key. I mean, look at chicken when you buy it; it’s right there on the package (albeit in small print) — up to xx percent water added by volume.

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M'mm h'mmm. Sweet Baby Jesus, right here. Do this.

M’mm h’mmm. Sweet Baby Jesus, right here. Do this.

Y’all know, if you’ve read much of this blog, that I do dearly love me some German food. Sizzling wursts, heaping platters with sliced sauerbraten or schweinbraten, schnitzels, rouladen, red cabbage, spaetzle, potato salad, kraut, latkes…I could go on and on.

But most of it is cold-weather food. Those braises, those heavy dishes. What to do when it’s nearly triple digits outside?

What I did tonight: Potato salad, cooked ahead and let cool to room temp; red cabbage, cooked in the Instant Pot and frozen in small portions, since I’m the only one in the house that eats it; cucumbers in a sour cream and dill dressing (This stuff? To die for. Must get more cucumbers at the Farmers’ Market.) Knockwurst from the Aldi, which has a remarkably good selection of sausages; two bucks for a package of five, and I got two meals for two out of that.

Truth? I ate the veggies — scarfed them down, in fact — and about three bites of the sausage.

First off, the red cabbage. I judge all red cabbage by what I’ve determined is the Gold Standard: the roteskraut served at the Austrian Village, a long-time German/Austrian restaurant in Huntingdon Valley, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Their red cabbage is nothing short of ambrosial. I can get close, but I don’t know that I’ve ever come up to their standard, which is at the very top of the Sweet Baby Jesus scale.

The batch I made earlier this week was close. I detailed it earlier, but essentially, take a head of cabbage and slice it up into fine ribbons, about 1/4 inch. Saute’ them in your Instant Pot in a little bacon grease until they’re all nicely coated, and then add a third of a cup each of vinegar and water, about a heaping tablespoon of sugar, and either a chopped up peeled apple, or, in my case, because you had it, a half-cup of applesauce, and a sprinkling of caraway seed. Clamp the lid on and give it 20 minutes at high pressure, let the pressure release, turn it to low saute’, and reduce the liquid. When it’s reduced, taste the cabbage, add a little salt and pepper to taste, and add a half-cup of cream. Let that simmer a bit, and there you go.

GOOD, good stuff. Just about the right balance of sweet and sour, and the cream just ties it all together. It may not be AV gold standard, but damn, it’s close.

Then the cucumber salad, a new recipe for me tonight, and I am, can I just tell you, In Love. I will make this the rest of the summer, as long as there are cucumbers to be had; it is that good. It is, if I am not mistaken, the same recipe used by the Steinhaus Keller in Hot Springs for their cucumber salad that I tried unsuccessfully to duplicate on the fly a few years ago, and here some recipe site had done it for me and I didn’t even know.

Here is the recipe: Gurkensalat. If you are serving anything even vaguely middle European in origin, make this salad to go with it. It is, in a word, wonderful. The sour cream, vinegar, sugar and dill combine for the most astonishing taste, combined with the salted-and-drained cucumbers.

Two notes: The recipe advises to salt the cucumbers and let them sit for 30 minutes, then squeeze the water out. Take them at their word, and put a serious squeeze on those babies. I laid mine on a double thickness of paper towels, salted, drained, then put another layer on top and pressed. They could have stood to have been drained a bit more. Also, if your cucumbers are more than an inch in diameter, cut ’em in half before you slice ’em. Easier to eat that way, because there is a LOT of dressing-to-cucumber ratio in this recipe, and it can get sloppy, eating. I won’t have any hesitation in using more cucumbers per dressing recipe next time, either.

Do, as the recipe advises, make this a few hours ahead. It wants to get happy in the fridge before serving.

Finally, the potato salad. I’ve made German potato salad for years, but this is the best recipe I’ve found for it, even if I did forget to chop up the green onions and add them. My fresh dill is long gone, so I used dried dill fronds (not seeds), about a tablespoon and a half, and it was just fine.

Oh. The knockwurst. I picked this up on a whim at Aldi, because I like it for a change every once in a while. My preference is a brat that’s not veal and not processed all to hell and gone, but again, that’s a colder weather dish. Knockwurst, either sliced diagonally or, as in tonight’s dinner, split and fried, with a drizzle of mustard, is quite suitable for a summer version. Chicken schnitzel would’ve been good, but that was too much like work.

So the kitchen’s not overheated, I’m not overloaded, and I’ve had a good German meal. I highly recommend this one to you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em. It’ll make a good change of pace for you while the temps are dragging you down.

 

 

Dinner in 15 minutes

August 12, 2016

Linguine with tuna, capers and Kalamata olives.

Linguine with tuna, capers and Kalamata olives.

You’ve had it happen to you. It’s coming on dinnertime, nothing is thawed, no convenience foods, and  you just don’t freakin’ want to stop and pick up burgers or fried chicken AGAIN.

But if your pantry is like mine, two things you doggoned near always have is canned tuna and pasta. And with those, you have the makings of a meal.

Spaghetti alla tonno” calls, specifically, for oil-packed tuna. I am here to tell you you can make it with the Chicken of the Sea’s generic packed-in-water stuff. It would probably be better with tuna packed in olive oil, but you wouldn’t be nearly as likely to have it in your pantry. Sam’s, on the other hand, sells those 10-packs of the six-ounce cans of CotS, and I buy ’em religiously.

All else that’s required is some olive oil, a lemon, and some capers. Now, I will grant you capers may not be on your pantry staples list, but they ought to be; they add a great punch to all sorts of dishes. (Albeit they make Child A gag, something we discovered tonight. Kid has some odd taste buds.)

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Drying out

August 10, 2016

Jerky. Real, homemade jerky. I feel like Grizzly Adams.

Jerky. Real, homemade jerky. I feel like Grizzly Adams.

I am moderately entranced with my $19.99 dehydrator.

So far, in addition to the maiden voyage with cucumbers and bananas and cherries, I have made jerky. Tolerably good jerky, if I do say so myownself, particularly for the first time I’ve ever tried same.

I’ve never been a huge jerky lover, but I’ve been known to gnaw on it when there was plenty of something to drink nearby (that stuff is some kind of salty, y’all). And it’s a good snack when you’re between meals and need a protein hit.

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