April 2009


Update! So I have been watching my stats to see what is bringing people to my site and apparently I have been attracting people who, like me, cannot spell Avgolemono correctly. Heh. So I thought I would add this and see if I can catch people who can actually spell. And just for kicks lets say “Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup”. HaHA take that Google analytics. 7/30/09

Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Post

In the recent months I have seen numerous posts in the food-blogoverse singing the praises of homemade stock, and I couldn’t agree more. It is an awesome thing to have around, and the feeling of satisfaction I get from making something delicious out of stuff that is pretty much garbage is wonderful. But, I am not going to tell you how to make stock.

Many people have done it much better than I have. For my most recent stock making endeavor I made use of advice from Michael Ruhlman. I didn’t try his oven method, I think that might work for a big manly man like him who doesn’t have a problem moving around a large stock pot full of very hot liquid, but I did avoid allowing any bubbles. I brought the stock up to 180 – 185 degrees and then reduced the flame to low so it would stay there for … oh … 5 hours or so.

Also from his tips, I didn’t put the veggies in until the last couple of hours of cooking. This didn’t seem to effect the flavor and it made the straining much easier because the veg didn’t disintegrate. Speaking of straining, in the past I have tried the flour sack cloth and the cheese cloth and they both end up being a pain in the butt. But one thing that I always have laying around the kitchen is coffee filters. They fit perfectly in my hand strainer and allow me to strain the stock only once. So there, I do have a secret for you. Another little secret that I have is that I like using coriander seeds in my stock. But I do not like straining out all of the seeds and stuff, so I cram it all into a tea ball that I have and let that dangle off of the edge of the pot. Because who has those fancy pants sachets hanging around?

Most of the stock that I make goes nigh on directly into the deep freeze, but I always like to make something a little special to use it when it is fresh. And I never have enough freezer boxes to freeze it all. What can you make that really showcases the flavor of your newly minted stock?

Golden, Liquid Love

Golden, Liquid Love

If you have some dumplings hanging out in the freezer now would be the perfect time to make chicken and dumplings. But I sent my last batch away with the Hubby so he could have some home cooking away from home. So instead I made Avoglemeno Soup, also known as Greek Lemon Soup in Joy of Cooking.

Avoglemeno Soup: adapted from Joy of Cooking

The Hardware:
Saucepan, liquid measure or small bowl.

The Software:
3 C Chicken Broth
3/4 C Cooked Rice or raw Orzo
2 Eggs
2 – 3 T Lemon Juice

1) Put broth in saucepan and add rice or orzo. If using rice, you just need to get it to a simmer, if orzo – cook until tender. If you are using orzo you will probably need to use more stock because some of it will boil off.

2) Make sure you stock tastes good, I like to add some granulated garlic at the beginning to give it time to bloom. I think it makes it tasty, also consider adjusting with salt and pepper to your taste.

3) Put lemon juice into liquid measure (or the small bowl, but something with a spout is really better for this). Break in the eggs and beat with a spoon until a consistent color.

4) Turn the heat off of the soup and stir swiftly. Pour the egg/lemon mixture in a thin, steady stream and try not to hit the stream with your spoon (DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS RAY). Continue pouring until it is all in and the soup has gone all opaque and stuff. Serve and devour.

Hacks:

You can add lots of nummy stuff to this soup. Some people add greens (spinach and the like) and I have been known to put diced carrots in, so that I can pretend that I am eating vegetables. If I am feeling like a thicker soup I have been known to add a third egg. But I love the eggy goodness. Once I even added meatballs – but I guess that makes it some sort of bastardized Italian weddingglemeno soup.

So, what is your favorite thing that shows off your mad Stock making skillz?

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For the last year or so my toddler has eaten French Toast every morning for breakfast, his Daddy makes it for him. One egg makes 2 pieces of French Toast, so Daddy eats a piece with the E-man, and this has lead to the evolution of a ridiculously cute ritual. The slices are put on two separate plates and both are cut up in bite-sized pieces. Both get butter and syrup, one gets a big boy fork and the other a plastic toddler fork. Daddy sits down at the table and places the plate with the plastic fork in front of the E-man and the other in front of himself. The E-man evaluates the situation and reaches over to snatch the plate with the big boy fork. He proceeds to eat all but the edge pieces of the Toast and then switches the plates back so he can have a go at the middle pieces of his Daddy’s piece. Daddy ends up eating all of the edges and whatever is leftover from the second piece.

I don’t think I need to go into how happy it makes me to peek into the kitchen and see my boys, the big one eating with a plastic fork that barely protrudes from his hand and the small one with a fork as long as the diameter of his head. Of course things have changed, the Daddy has had to take work out of state and I am now in charge of breakfast. In charge of everything in fact.

I have been wanting to change up the E-man’s breakfast with different foods, but have been reluctant to disrupt the ritual. Now, all bets are off, and frankly I have been trying to lose weight. French Toast with maple syrup every morning is not going to assist in that endeavor. Also on the agenda is to get more veggies into the E-man. So I started poking around for a Pumpkin pancake recipe.

I couldn’t find one that made me particularly happy so I ended up making up my own. One of the primary requirements was that I wanted to be able to make the batter up last night so that all I had to do this morning was cook the durn things. They came out pretty well:

Magical floaty pancakes

Magical floaty pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes

The Hardware:

Non-stick skillett or griddle, spatula, lidded mixing bowl.

The Software:

A-Team
1 C AP Flour
1/4 t Salt (kosher)
1 T Baking Powder (can be cut back to 2 t to reduce saltiness)
1 T Brown Sugar
1/2 t Cinnamon
Pinch Allspice

B-Team
1/2 C Milk
1/2 C Pumpkin (canned)
1 Egg
2 T Veg. Oil
1t Vanilla Extract

Butter & Syrup

1) Look through your pantry and realize that the can of Pumpkin that you thought you had in there has magically turned into Butternut Squash. Decide there really isn’t much of a difference and proceed.

2) Combine Team A in a seal-able bowl that you can put in the ‘fridge.  I used a whisk to get some good faux-sifting done.

3) Combine Team B in something else. I used a liquid measure because it makes it easy to, well, measure. To stir I used the same whisk as used previously, because I don’t like to wash dishes.

4) Add Team B to Team A and stir gently to combine, just until you have made sure the flour is worked in. Do not over-stir and do not worry about lumps. The overnight thing will take care of them. Cover and put in ‘fridge overnight.

5) Place skillet/griddle over medium heat and allow to get hot. Once hot, reduce flame (or fancy pants electricity) to low. Take a stick of butter and run the square face of it around the pan, just to get a light coating of butter. Add pancake batter to make 2 – 3 inch diameter pancakes. Don’t poke them. Let them sit there until you start to see bubbles coming up through the batter and the surface starts to get a kinda “skin”. Scoot your spatula under and see if it looks done. If so, flip gently. The second side will not take as long as the first side. Peek with your spatula to make sure it doesn’t burn. Repeat until all batter is used up. I got 9 small pancakes.

6) Serve with butter and REAL Maple Syrup. Yes, I am a snob.

Hacks:

I have 3 pancakes in the ‘fridge and 4 in the freezer as we speak (the E-Man ate one and one had to be for quality control so no, my math doesn’t suck) (well, actually my math does suck the vast majority of the time, but not in this particular instance). I will keep the internet posted as to how the different cooling approaches work out. I think they will be fine. The plan is to warm up a Pancake each morning, this way I have to cook once a week as opposed to every morning. YAY lazy!

I am pretty sure you could double the recipe with very little problems and of course you could use pumpkin if you were so inclined. I also think it would be tasty with sweet potatoes, mmmm.

Update 2/12/11!

We have been using this recipe now for, WOW, almost a year and a half. It has performed admirably. My son is bigger now and he has matching appetite. We now double the recipe (with the reduced Baking powder) and make more pancakes to get us through the week. I lay them out on a cookie cooling rack and then put them in the freezer flat on a cutting board. Once frozen we pack into an airtight container.

Reheating usually involves a short stint in the microwave @ 50% power and then a quick jaunt through the toaster to crisp them up. Served with maple syrup they are quite tasty. The most common flavor we use is pumpkin, but when pumpkin is not available sometimes pureed sweet potatoes pinch hit.

On occasion, when I am feeling especially virtuous, I substitute white whole wheat flour for half of the flour and it works fine.

The library is my new best friend. I don’t know why I never really used the library before, it just never occurred to me. But do you know that instead of dropping tons of money on buying books you can just, you know, rent them for a short period of time? For Free?

I know, quite the revelation.

Again, I do not know when this little tidbit of information was filed in the old mental Rolodex under “not important”‘ but it was. And then I was over at my Mother’s house while she was preparing for a trip and she asked me if I wanted to go to get some books with her. You know, so that she had something to do on her trip. Always up for a run to the bookstore I was happy to oblige. Actually, she could have said we were going to a car wash and I would have jumped at the opportunity to go sit in a car with her while my Father and Husband got to stay at the house and take care of the Rug Rat. Some times I just need a little “away” time.

Imagine my surprise when we rolled up to the Library instead of a book purveyor. As I was wandering the aisles full of FREE books a light-bulb went on and now … I am like a kid in a candy store. And guess what kinds of books libraries have snuck in there among the oh-so-serious Literature and not-so-serious Vampire Romance Novels? ———-  Cookbooks!

I know, I know.

Usually I stand in front of the  displays of cook books at B&N and finger the weighty tomes like a 15 year boy in Victoria’s Secret. Lusting after the beautiful photos and wondering if they will deliver on their promise. When I get up the courage to buy one it is a long term commitment, it slides into my bag like a ring around my finger and it is mine – for better or for worse. And when I get it home and find out that there are only 3 good recipes I am heartbroken. But not anymore, now I can take them on dates. Which brings me to this:

I took it on a date and now I am ready to marry it. If I can find 4 or 5 recipes that I really want to try in any given cookbook then I pretty much consider it to be a decent cookbook. While reading through this manifesto on International Cuisine I was able to find 4 or 5 recipes in a two page spread that begged me to be prepared, repeatedly.

Does this mean I can quit going to the Library? Hell no. I am still going to date like a dating person in a box marked “The Dater”, but maybe now I can make room for more of that serious Literature during my reading time. Still won’t be reading any Vampire Romance novels tho.

Really, I won’t.

You can’t prove anything.

Well, new to me anyway. In my quest to actually consume leftovers instead of allowing them to languish in my ‘fridge in a misguided attempt to foster the evolution of new lifeforms I have stumbled on a new casserole technique. Now I am confident that many people reading this (assuming that many people will ever read this, which is a pretty big assumption to make) will receive my revelation with a Pshaw! Pshaw I say.

But having grown up on the Ohio River the concept of a Tamale Pie was about as unfamiliar and exotic as the pink sports-coats and palm trees on Miami Vice. And somehow, I remained blissfully ignorant of the Tamale Pie as my culinary experience grew. Possibly it has to do with the fact that some dishes are not considered classy enough to warrant an entry in a “real” cookbook. But here is where my JLC come in.

In my copy of  Talk About Good published by the Junior League of Lafayette, LA there are several versions of Tamale Pie which I have perused with much interest. When I asked my husband what his opinion of Corn Meal mush was, he made quite the face. I am pretty sure if I had told him we were having polenta for supper he would have thought me quite the gourmand.

Having made a couple of Tamale Pies I now feel fairly comfortable in their construction and can safely say that I feel they are an excellent addition to my arsenal against leftovers. So this isn’t exactly going to be a recipe as much as a technique for you to use. I am afraid you will have to find other resources for your science experiments, because your leftovers will not be hanging about much anymore.

Can you love Leftovers?

Can you love Leftovers?

Cornmeal Leftover Casserole

Basic Cornmeal Mush ratio: this makes enough to top a basic 8 x 8 casserole. Increase the amount based on your casserole size. I would say your standard 9 x 11 would start with 3 C dry cornmeal and increase everything else appropriately.

1 C Cornmeal
2 1/2 C Water or Stock
2 T Vegetable Shortening (other fats might work – I just haven’t tried them)
Seasonings to taste*

Put 1 1/2 C of water, shortening and seasonings in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix the remaining 1 C of water with the 1 C of cornmeal. When the water has reached boiling, add the cornmeal and stir. Reduce the heat and stir, cooking for about 10 minutes. You will have to stir pretty much the whole time, if it gets lumpy discipline it with a wisk.

*Because all of my leftovers for this afternoon were Tex-Mex I used the following seasoning:
1 1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Sugar
1/4 t each Chili Powder and Black Pepper

Before I started the cornmeal mush I assembled the leftovers in a small, greased casserole. Dinner last night consisted of burritos made with black beans and ground turkey taco meat. I mixed a can of diced tomatoes in with the beans and added garlic, Lizano sauce, salt & cumin then dumped it in as the bottom layer. The next layer was some chopped onion and I topped it with the ground turkey taco meat. For some added yumminess I scattered a layer of cheddar cheese on the meat.

And then you pour on the cornmeal mush and spread it all over the top to seal in the goodness. Bake in a pre-heated 350 oven for about 30 minutes and then hit the top with your broiler until it is nice and crispy. Voila! A brand new dish that kinda tastes like last night, but not really. And man will it stretch your servings of meat.

Potential Hacks:

Kinda pointless, I know, seeing that this entire “recipe” is pretty much a hack. But I was thinking about the whole “polenta” thing and it occured to me I could use this to make a casserole from leftover Italian flavored components. Put some Italian Herbs in the cornmeal instead of the chili powder and you could use it to top off … say … a leftover batch of meat sauce layered with mushrooms and mozzerella cheese. Or maybe leftover Italian sausage and peppers … it could get interesting.

note: A true Tamale Pie has cornmeal as both the bottom and top layer, to do this you will simply have to increase the amount of mush make proportionately. The positive part of this is the fact that cornmeal is CHEAP. It is an excellent method of making it possible to have large servings that fill you up – while not breaking the bank.

At least traditional in my family. This is one of the side dishes that make the holiday complete, especially at Easter. My family’s traditional Easter protein is Ham, and really, nothing goes better with ham than CHEESE!

My Grandmother made this dish as does my mother, and I have been known to make it not only for the holiday but for pot-lucks. It really shines at a pot luck, just make sure that you get your dish back, because this cannot be made in just any old casserole dish; it must be made in a souffle dish.

With taste like this, who needs fancy schmancy poufyness?

With taste like this, who needs fancy schmancy poufyness?

When it comes down to it, anyone with a little bit of culinary savvy will read this recipe and say “Hey, that looks like a souffle recipe”. And well, they would be right. But in my family it has always been called a pudding and that is what I am sticking with. I have, on occasion, peered into the oven and seen it rising majestically over the rim of the dish. But who has time for the pussyfooting that a souffle takes when you are trying to churn out a holiday supper for the gathered horde?

If it falls, it falls and it is a Pudding. It tastes divine whatever you call it.

Grandma Willette’s Cheese Pudding

The Hardware:

Round Souffle dish, Stand mixer or hand mixer or masochistic tendencies + a whisk.

The Software:

10 Slices White bread, crusts removed
1 Stick Butter
3 Eggs separated
2 C Milk
1 lb Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 t Salt
1/4 – 1/2 t Ground Red Pepper (also known as Cayenne hoo-ah!)
1 t Dry Mustard Powder

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and slice the crusts off of your bread. If you are doing some kind of traditional stuffing you might want to re-purpose the crusts – or feed them to your dog. Cut the bread into cubes about 1/2 square.

Melt butter in your baking dish and add cubed bread, set aside. Combine your egg yolks with the milk and add salt, red pepper (hoo-ah!) and mustard powder. Stir in the god-awful amount of cheese and then fold into the bread cubes and butter.

Beat egg whites until stiff, using a mixer is preferable but hey if you dig the pain of doing it by hand – who am I to judge? Fold stiff egg whites into the other mixture and bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until set.

The cooking on this one is a judgment call – sometimes it comes out perfect and sometimes it is a bit soupy. This year was a soupy year, but I think that was because my Mom assembled the whole thing early in the morning and then put it in the ‘fridge. Oops.

Busted!

Oooh yeah!

Oooh yeah!

I did not actually prepare the Pudding in the picture, but I did consume it – soupy-ness and all. Not only is it divine with the ham(assemble a fork with ham and then cheese in the same bite) but I poured the soupy part over my broccoli which made it much better.

Hacks:

Watch the red pepper in this, it can get really hot really quick – but some people like it that way. Also, you can easily double the batch and it comes out just fine, just make sure your dish is big enough.

When I made the Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Pork I did not set out to make pulled pork. After it was done cooking I looked at the roast that the original 2 1/2 lb chunk had become and thought “If we eat that in roast form portion control will be a goner”. At 2 1/2 lbs we should be able to get 10 servings (with the 4 oz serving of meat per person rule, technically). But have you ever sat down and carved a piece of succulent, dripping pork and stopped with only a chunk of meat the size of a deck of cards? I mean really? Who does that?

Hence the decision to pull the pork. By pulling it into shreds it filled up more visual space and gave the illusion of a large portion size without sacrificing my budget. I looked upon the mountain of meat I had created and said “It is good”. Apparently the biblical reference was not a good idea because the container in our ‘fridge has turned into a never-ending repository for pulled pork – loaves and fishes have got nothing on us.

Time to get creative, so now I am giving  you a non-recipe – more of an idea than anything else. How to change the flavor of an abundant leftover so that you don’t start eyeing the dog as a scapegoat.

Mmmm, cheesy and porky.

Mmmm, cheesy and porky.

BBQ Pork Pizza

The Hardware:

Actually up to you, I used a pizza pan but some people out there have a fancy pants pizza stone – whatever floats your boat.

The Ingredients:

Leftover Pulled Pork
Bottled BBQ Sauce (what, you thought I was gonna whip up some fancy sauce for lunch, no way. I busted out the bottle of KC Masterpiece lurking in the door of my ‘fridge.)
One small onion
Cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses (or whatever you like/got)
Pizza Dough*

Slice onion thinly and saute in olive oil over low heat until wilted and slightly golden.

Combine the pork with about 1/4 C of the BBQ sauce and set aside. Par-bake your pizza crust for around 5 – 7 minutes at 425 degrees. Apply additional sauce to the par-baked pizza crust to the quantity of your liking. Don’t use too much or it will make your crust soggy.

Attempt to distribute the pork over the sauce with a spoon and then realize that pulled pork just doesn’t cooperate. Get hands dirty and evenly distribute the pork and onions over the surface of the pizza, leaving an edge of about 1/2 inch. Add cheese on top – again to satisfy whatever twisted lactose desires you might have.

Place in oven for about 10 – 12 minutes or until your crust is nice and brown and your cheese is hot and bubblin’. My crust achieved brownness before my cheese achieved bubblin’ness so I turned the broiler on high for a few seconds as I anxiously hovered nearby with the oven door slightly open so that I could monitor the process and prevent the inevitable result of an unattended broiler moment.

Slice and serve. If Wolfgang can put BBQ chicken on his pizza and found an empire, then I can very well put pulled pork on mine and find lunch.

* I would give you a pizza dough recipe but right now my attempts at pizza dough have not been what one would consider to be noteworthy. The crust on this particular attempt was very disappointing in texture, so you really don’t want the details. When I finally manage a consistent and predictable product I will certainly share it with y’all. For now, you are probably best on your own.

There was a 2 1/2 lb piece of Boston Butt sitting in my ‘fridge and I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. One thing I did know is that I wanted to avoid both the Italian and Tex-Mex flavor profiles. Now, I have nothing against Italian and Tex-Mex – quite the opposite – I love them. They are the cuisines that I have the highest comfort level in practicing. I have come to understand them to the point where I can “wing it” without a recipe and be reasonably assured of a tasty supper. But this means we eat loads of tomatoes, oregano, beans and pasta.

And I really didn’t want to go that way with this chunk of meat. Which brings us to standing with a piece of pork sitting on the counter at 10:30 pm pondering the possibilities. Springing into action, I seasoned it with a rub and chucked it into the ‘fridge to plot against me overnight. The best decision is the one put off until tomorrow.

Ceci n'est pas une Barbecue

Ceci n'est pas une Barbecue

The Hardware:

Slow Cooker, Immersion blender, Large Saucepan

The Software:

2 1/2 lb Boston Butt
3 – 4 T Chopped Garlic (I used the stuff in the jar, if using fresh use your judgment)
2 – 3 T Chopped Fresh Rosemary
1 – 2 T Salt + plenty of pepper
1 t Sage, Powdered
1 Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Carrots, coarsely chopped
2 Stalks Celery, coarsely chopped
200 ml Pomegranate Juice (I know, but it is the size of a juice box and it is what I had)
Granulated Garlic

Set up your work space with some prep bowls. Fill one with a combo of the salt and pepper, put the rosemary in a second and the garlic in a third – we are gonna get porky. Rinse and dry the pork and then liberally season one side with salt & pepper, then rub in about half of the garlic and rosemary and sprinkle with sage. Flip the roast over and do the same for the other side. Make sure to rub the seasoning down on the edges of the roast as well. You are looking for some pretty dense coverage – so be generous and add more as you deem fit. Seal in a container and allow to hang out in the ‘fridge overnight.

You can either chop the veggies the night before and put them in the ‘fridge or do them in the morning. I did them in the morning because when I went to bed I had no freaking clue what I was going to do the next day. What I did do was place the veggies in the crock of a crock pot and place the seasoned roast on top. I then busted into my toddlers juice box stash and poured a box of pomegranate juice over top.

I didn’t get around to doing this until about 10:30 and I wanted to eat at 6:00, so I started out on high for a couple of hours and then turned it to low for the rest of the time. If you are setting this to chug along while you are out of the house then I would think low would be fine for the day. After the first hour I flipped the roast and then after the second I flipped it back. I don’t know why I did this. I read on someones blog that they had read on someones blog that they had read in Cooks Illustrated that this is a good thing to do when slow cooking.

I just like fiddling, so it seemed to be the thing to do.

However you cook it, cook low and slow until it is almost fall apart tender. Remove from juices to a cutting board and cover with foil. Realize that the juices are just too good to lose and also have a fit of frugality that will not allow you to discard the veggies. Transfer cooking juices and chunky bits to a large sauce pan and puree with an immersion blender (or do the blender thing – ‘sall good).

Simmer on low heat and season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste. If your toddler happened to leave a half finished juice box laying around and you just happened to stash it in the ‘fridge when he wasn’t looking – well you could use that to brighten the flavor a bit. While the sauce is simmering, pull pork apart with two forks until nicely shredded and then return to sauce – stirring to mix well.

Slow Cooked Pork

Now, what shall I do with the leftovers?

What is this? I have no idea. If the flavors are anything they might be kinda French. Which might make this sorta a French barbecue. But that might be sacrilege. Whatever it was, we ate it with roasted potatoes and a chunk of homemade half-wheat bread.

For the Roasted Potatoes sneaking in from the left of the frame check here:

Roasted Potatoes, We Invented GBD

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