Putting in a crop

April 10, 2017

Seedlings transplanted. Manicure shot to shit.

Things are progressing apace here at Keyboard Farms. Over the last three days, we have planted:

  • 38 tomato plants
  • 4 pepper plants
  • 15 lettuce seedlings
  • 15 radish seedlings
  • 20 carrot seedlings
  • 12 cucumber seedlings
  • 15 pea seedlings
  • 12 cabbage seedlings
  • a dozen or so different herbs

And our back is tired. As are our shoulders and our knees. The slings and arrows of advancing age are not kind to a would-be gardener.

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Obligatory good-luck dinner for 2017 on Jan. 1.

Obligatory good-luck dinner for 2017 on Jan. 1.

Well, hey there, all y’all! Didja MISS me?

How it was, was, like this. There were enough leftovers I didn’t cook for three or four days after Christmas. Then I left for Nashvegas to babysit AGCs 1 and 3 while their parents, the bums, were off vacationing in Key West.  Now, tending to an energetic kindergartener and an energetic pre-schooler is NOT real conducive to cooking, though we did manage a couple of things.

Like the above obligatory black eyed peas and cabbage for New Year’s Day. The kids were suspicious about it, but finally agreed they liked fried potatoes. One of them liked the cabbage, the other the peas. I’ll call it a win.

I made the peas as if I were cooking red beans and rice, with turkey kielbasa and tomatoes and onions and spices. They were quite excellent. I used Rancho Gordo blackeyed peas, for good measure. My good luck for 2017 should be well assured.

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Crappy cell phone pic, but it meets all the New Year's requirements. I am replete.

It is officially 2011. I gots my luck with the black eyed peas; I gots my money with the cabbage; I gots whatever you are supposed to get with the pork.

And I gots my mama’s cranberry salad, just Because I Can. My mama did not make this for 30-odd years, and I did not make it for another 20-0dd, for nothin’. This is good stuff.

This cabbage. You need to make this. This is officially Sweet Baby Jesus cabbage. It comes from Food52 participant Fiveandspice, who terms it “suspiciously delicious cabbage.” She does not lie.

You takes you an onion and two garlic cloves, and chops them fine. You commences to saute them in two tablespoons of butter (OK,so I used more than that. Sue me.) whilst you grates up a tablespoon of fresh ginger, which you adds to the skillet.

Then, while that gets all nice and soft and translucent and fragrant over medium heat, you takes you a medium head of cabbage, you cores it, and you commences to slice it thin, thusly:

Yet another crappy cell phone picture, but you get the idea.

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Back home!

April 5, 2009

Well, I’m back, and well-fed, with another culinary adventure in my future next weekend.

Wedding was pretty. Reception food was good, if nothing stunning. The Amaretto wedding cake was pretty stunning, and the won-ton wrappers with some kind of seafood salad on ’em were cute.  Had barbecue for dinner — great barbecue, just smoky enough, good tangy coleslaw, and a nice touch — THREE kinds of sauce (hot, medium, mild) instead of the more common-place two.

Sunday lunch was good — basic Southern fare, creamed corn (fresh-frozen from last year’s garden), butterbeans (ditto), creamed potatos, cole slaw, roast beef. Sliced tomatos. Can’t beat it. Well, you could if the tomatos were in season, and there was okra, but that’s about the only way.

Had promised the kids fried rice when I got home, and I had that thawed tenderloin that had wound up being a teriyaki marinated one that I needed to cook. So I coated it in a liberal coating of five-spice powder and threw it in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes (it was a pound and half tenderloin). Let it rest for some 15 minutes and sliced it into medallions. Perfect! Done all the way through (I just can’t go pink in pork), but still moist and juicy. The five-spice complemented the teriyaki well; it could have used some added cayenne to kick it up a little bit.

Did a riff on the minced chicken lettuce wraps from a few weeks ago. I used:

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
  • 12-oz bag frozen, cooked popcorn shrimp
  • Pad Thai sauce
  • chopped almonds
  • won-ton wrappers

I sauteed the mushrooms and then threw in the ginger and garlic; after a couple of minutes, I added the 2 cups of shredded cabbage and the water chestnuts, let it all simmer until the cabbage wilted a little, and added about 1/4 cup of Pad Thai sauce. It was going to be hoisin sauce, but that has gluten in it and the gluten-allergy child (Child B) couldn’t eat it. I stirred in the thawed, drained shrimp and let it simmer for a couple of minutes while I lined muffin tins with a couple of won-ton wrappers each (corn tortillas for Child B). A spoonful of the shrimp-cabbage mix in each cup, and into the 450 oven for about 10 minutes.

Made the veggie fried rice, and that took care of that. Strawberries and creme fraiche for dessert.

But next weekend’s adventure: Remember Ross and Jake, the Great White Hunters who supplied me with duck breasts back in January? I had gone by to visit their parents while I was up home, and they were home as well, because it’s turkey season. And they are about as deadly on turkeys as they are on ducks. It does not pay to be a bird in their range.

So, I came home with two hefty wild turkey breast halves, which I now have to figure out how to cook. They’re not as gamy as duck, but gamier than regular turkey or chicken, so I I’m thinking some kind of fruit-based marinade (with tamarind! Yeah!) and a fruit chutney to go with them. Roast potatos. Fresh asparagus. M’mm h’mm. Yeah. That.

So said turkey breasts are now brining in my sink, because I DO know enough to know they need to brine, and I’ll peruse the ‘net ‘twixt now and next weekend to see what I do next.

That said, I’m givin’ it up for tonight. I’m whipped. Tell y’mama ‘n ’em to send me wild turkey recipes. (Or just Wild Turkey.)

Those folks that won the world championship duck gumbo contest? They knew what they were talking about.

It takes a damn long time. It’s a lot of work. But it’s worth it. Add German red cabbage to it for a sweet counterpoint, and serve it with some crusty, toasted French bread with butter, and it’s DEFINITELY worth it.

Three significant steps, and three notes to the recipe I’ll post in a minute. Step one is to boil the ducks (it calls for boiling whole ducks, then discarding all but the breasts; I had duck breasts, so I eliminated the carcass step) with onion and bell pepper and salt and pepper and bay leaves. I boiled mine in my big stock pot in the steamer basket, actually, since it called for straining and reserving the broth; that way I just pick it up and plunk it in the sink. I’m so smart I scare myself sometimes.  Step two is making the roux (the heart of all gumbos), and Note 1 to the recipe is that if you use soy flour, as I did because of Child B’s gluten allergy, you will have to use some additional cornstarch to thicken things up during the simmering phase. The fat portion of the roux is the rendered fat from a half pound of bacon and some smoked pork sausage, in which I had also sauteed more onion and bell pepper. Note 2 to the recipe is that I sauteed the smoked sausage and veggies before I dumped it them the broth just because I like it better that way. I also added celery, because I don’t like okra in gumbo and it needed some more green. Step three is to throw everything back into the duck broth along with the seasonings and simmer it for an hour or so. Note 3 to the recipe is that it doesn’t tell you how much water to cook the ducks in originally, and I used more than I needed; consequently, my gumbo was too thin (along with the non-thickening soy flour). Next time, I’ll use about half the broth to start, and add more if it gets too thick.

I started at 2:30 and it was ready to eat by 6:30; part of that time was simmering duck breasts and then simmering gumbo, so it’s not really that labor intensive, just time intensive. But a good weekend dish. Real good.

Here’s the recipe, from the Food Network’s All American Festivals show:

Ingredients

Broth:

  • 5 to 6 ducks
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 2 large bell peppers, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Water, to cover the ducks

Roux:

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil (if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Gumbo:

  • Reserved duck broth
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mango-tamarind spicy Jamaican pepper sauce (recommended: Pick-a-Peppa brand)
  • 1 large package smoked pork sausage, diced and browned
  • Reserved chopped duck meat
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped reserved bacon
  • 1 package frozen okra, cooked to package directions, drained
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons gumbo file
  • White rice and French bread, as accompaniment

Directions

Broth:

To a large stockpot, add the ducks, onions, bell peppers, garlic, bouillon, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and enough water to cover the ducks. Bring to a boil and cook the ducks for about 1 hour, until tender. Remove ducks and pull the breast meat from the bones and chop them into small pieces – use only the breast meat and discard the rest of the bird or save for another use. Strain the broth and save. Set aside the chopped duck breast and broth to use later.

Roux:

In a large, deep, black skillet or kettle, fry the bacon and sausage. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease in the pan.  (Here’s where I added the saute-the-veggies step.) To the hot bacon grease, slowly add the flour, if the mixture is of a paste consistency, add more bacon grease or oil until it’s loose and easy to stir. Stirring constantly, flour-grease mixture should cook on medium heat until a dark caramel color is obtained. Add the salt and pepper and stir. As soon as the salt and pepper are stirred into the roux, add the remaining ingredients to make the gumbo.

To the hot roux, add broth, then the onions, peppers and tomatoes. Add the seasonings. Then add sausage, duck, bacon pieces and okra. Next add the shrimp, cook until shrimp is pink. Finally, add the gumbo file and stir. Let gumbo simmer for about 1 hour. The longer it simmers, the better it gets.

Serve over white rice with hot French bread.

If you’re into German red cabbage, here’s that recipe as well.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium head red cabbage, cored and sliced
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water DIRECTIONS
  1. In a Dutch oven, toss cabbage, apples and onion. Add water, vinegar, sugar, butter and salt. Place the peppercorns, allspice, cloves and bay leaf on a double thickness of cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and stir with kitchen string to form a bag. Add to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/4 hours.
  2. Discard spice bag. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir in cabbage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

I left out the cornstarch and water. Didn’t see that it was needed. And for what it’s worth, a Fry Daddy doubles quite handily as an electric kettle when both your stock pot and your Dutch oven are in use.

Finally, here’s my very own lemon icebox pie recipe, honed through years of cooking them for an ex-husband who loved them a lot more than he did me. The kids still like ’em pretty well.

Lemon Icebox Pie

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

1 cup lemon juice

2 large eggs

graham cracker pie crust, either your own (with a sleeve of crushed graham crackers, a quarter-cup sugar, and a quarter stick of melted butter) or a prepared one

Beat eggs, condensed milk and lemon juice until smooth and well blended. Pour into pie crust. Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Chill. This will make more than enough for one pie and not enough for two; either make two at a time with three cans of milk, a cup and a half of lemon juice and three eggs, or bake the leftover filling separately in a ramekin for the kid with the gluten allergy.

If you like meringue, you can separate the eggs, put the yolks in the pie and beat the whites with a tablespoon of sugar to make it. I don’t, so I don’t. I top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream.

Pig out, load the dishwasher, crash and burn. Tell y’mama ‘n ’em to come on down the bayou for some gumbo.