This page includes the Sneaking Suspicions posts involving food and cooking. Each posting
shows the date on which it first appeared, and is also perma-linked to
the original page.
I like to cook.
Periodically I’ll describe here some of the recipes for dishes I enjoy preparing.
For the NCAA tournament this weekend, here’s a simple recipe for steamed shrimp that my family and friends enjoy.
Use a steamer pot, or a pot large enough to hold a metal colander.
For each pound of peeled and deveined medium or large shrimp, in a small bowl make a seasoning mix of 1 teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of cajun seasoning, and one tablespoon of Old Bay® seasoning.
There are several brands of cajun spices that will work well in this recipe. The House of Blues chain sells a version online, and there are other varieties available through online outlets such as Peppers (look in the dry seasoning section).
Pour into the pot a ½ cup of cider vinegar and a 12 ounce bottle or can of beer. Heat to boiling.
As the liquid heats, place a layer of shrimp in the steamer container or colander, and spread a liberal dose of the seasoning mix over the layer. Repeat until you run out of shrimp and seasonings.
Place the steamer container or colander over the boiling beer/vinegar mixture, cover, and wait a few minutes.
Remove the cover, stir the shrimp a few times, and cover again. Check frequently.
When all the shrimp are pink, they’re done. Remove from the heat and pile the shrimp on a bowl or plate.
These shrimp don’t need anything to go with them other than a good beer.
For those who like cocktail sauce with their shrimp, however, a mix of a tablespoon or two of horseradish to a ¼ cup of ketchup also seems to go well with the seasoning.
We sat and shivered this afternoon while watching the Cape Henlopen High School varsity girls’ soccer team win their opening game of the season. The mid-40s temperature would have been easier to take if it weren’t for the 25mph winds.
Both daughters are avid soccer players, and I am without shame in admitting that they have both a soccer mom and a soccer dad. Both girls remind me on occasion of the health benefits of pasta as they practice and play their favorite sport.
They are also keen to remind me that they really love my sausage goop.
Here's how it’s made:
Put at least 4 quarts of water with about a teaspoon of salt in a large pot, and begin heating it to a boil.
As the water heats, brown the sausage in a large skillet over low heat until it is cooked completely. It should be crumbled into very small pieces.
Sausage skins can easily be cut and the same effect achieved if you are not using the sausage sold in a plastic cover.
Add the shell pasta to the boiling water.
Drain the sausage, and in the same skillet add to the sausage the milk, cheese, butter, and celery soup, along with a few dashes of the pepper sauce. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Drain the cooked pasta, and place it in a large pasta bowl. Spoon the heated sausage mixture into the pasta, and mix thoroughly. Grind the black pepper over the top of the bowl, and serve hot.
This recipe will easily serve a family of four, including two famished soccer players.
I should warn you, however, that the goop tends to solidify as it cools.
Leftovers can be used to repair large cracks in sidewalks or other pavement.
This recipe is based upon a shrimp creole recipe in Favorite New Orleans Recipes, by Suzanne Ormond, Mary E. Irvine, Denyse Cantin, 1989 edition, ISBN 0-88289-198-7 (Pelican Publishing Company, 1101 Monroe Street, Gretna, LA 70053).
Brown the sausage in a skillet, and drain. Remove the sausage links from the skillet, and slice the links into pieces ¼ to ½ inch thick. Set aside.
In a large dutch oven or other high-sided skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Sauté the chopped onions for a few minutes, but do not brown them. Add the flour to the butter/onion mix, stirring until the flour browns. Add to the mix all of the other ingredients except the rest of the butter, the shrimp, and the sausage. Stir the mix until it comes to a slow boil, and then lower the heat to simmer. Cover the dutch oven/skillet, and let it cook on simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In another skillet, melt the other two tablespoons of butter, and then lightly sauté the shrimp until they turn firm and light pink. Add the shrimp and all liquid in the skillet to the dutch oven/skillet, along with the sausage. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
Serve over hot boiled rice. A loaf of heated Italian bread, lightly coated with garlic butter, is a nice accompaniment. Serves about 8.
On the way home from work a few days ago, I decided it would be fun to fix up a big pasta dinner with friends this weekend, featuring a spaghetti sauce made from scratch. Since I also planned to play golf Sunday afternoon, I assumed I’d fix everything up and we’d have the bash on Saturday night.
Someone else in the family had a different idea, suggesting I prepare the sauce on Saturday, but we’d still eat on Sunday night. She also said she’d been meaning to try out her pasta machine, which was a very pleasant addition to the plan.
There was also the small matter of cleaning the house that also needed to be fitted into the schedule.
On Friday I started looking on the Internet for recipes, and was surprised to find how many included some variation on this simple phrase:
Open jar of tomato sauce, and pour into mixture.
Not what I had in mind.
Eventually, I turned up a scratch recipe called Libby’s Spaghetti Sauce. The site’s four-serving directions became the basis for the following, which will serve at least 12, along with a variation on a separate recipe for meatballs I found in our Fanny Farmer® cookbook:
Chop up the tomatoes and place into large container (At least 6 quart size--really.)
After preparing the other ingredients (a whole lot of chopping will be going on), put a large (10-quart minimum) stock pot on the range, at mid-heat. Put the olive oil and garlic in the pot, and cook the garlic in the oil until the pieces turn a very light brown.
Add the tomatoes and the rest of the sauce ingredients, except for the sausage, and set range to high heat.
As the mixture heats up, brown the sausage in a separate frying pan on mid-heat, after first drizzling the pan with a little olive oil. Turn the sausage once after about 3 minutes, and remove the link from heat after 6 minutes. Slice the sausage into 1-inch-long pieces, and add them to the sauce.
When the sauce begins to boil, reduce heat to simmer.
Then begin making the meatballs.
Combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly (a good squishy workout for the hands and fingers, BTW), and shape into balls about 1.25 inches in diameter. At that size, there will be about 45 meatballs.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, and brown the meatballs for a few minutes, turning at least once for each batch. (Unless you have a really, really large pan, you will not be able to cook them all at one time.) Remove the meatballs from the pan with a slotted spoon, and add them to the simmering sauce.
Let the sauce simmer for at least two to three hours after the meatballs are added to it.
The long simmering will accomplish at least two goals:
After letting the sauce pot cool down, place it in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out a few hours before dinner, and re-heat the sauce as the pasta is prepared and cooked.
Serve over pasta along with a nice loaf of French or Italian bread, perhaps split in half and toasted with garlic butter.
I’ll update this post after dinner tonight and let you know how folks liked it. We tried a meatball last night, just before putting the stock pot in the fridge, and nearly swooned.
UPDATE: After the overnight stay in the fridge and then being warmed up again, the sauce seemed a tiny bit salty. We also became concerned about whether it would be enough, because homemade pasta absorbs sauce more than store-bought. So, we added a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, and about a half-cup of red wine (the last part of an Australian Shiraz), about 90 minutes before serving. Those additions worked out fine.
The gang raved about the whole dinner, as well as my wife's delicious Tiramasú dessert.
I'll post that recipe some other time.
Right now I have to take a nap.
It’s high school homecoming weekend.
On Saturday evening we hosted a group of eight high school sophomores for dinner. This gave us the opportunity to ooh and aah over beautiful young ladies in their little black dresses, take formal group and couple photos in front of the house, and watch young men come very close to being stabbed with needles during the boutonniere attachment process.
Among the side dishes for the dinner, at the request from the sophomore that lives with us I made my mashed potatoes:
Place the peeled and chopped potatoes in a large wide pan (6 qt minimum) with about 1 tsp of salt, and cover with water. Place on range set on high heat to boil the water.
Remove butter from refrigerator, unwrap the quarters, and set within a hand’s reach of the range, along with the milk.
Search pantry and drawers to find electric mixer and its two mixing paddles. These will rarely be found together, and you may need extra time for this critical portion of the process. Once found, set up near the range.
After 8-10 minutes of strong boiling, begin testing the potatoes to see if they’re done.
“Done” means that each piece stabbed with a fork falls apart with little or no effort by the person holding the fork. These potatoes need to be exhausted.
After the potatoes are done, drain the water from the pan and return it to the range, remembering to turn off the heat. Experience tells us that forgetting that little step is not helpful.
Add 1 ½ sticks of the butter to the mixture, along with a splash or two of skim milk. Set mixer to highest setting, and begin whipping the potatoes. Add a dash or two or three of salt while the mixer whirls away.
After a few minutes of whipping, begin taste-testing (others may volunteer—let them).
The goal is to have no lumps. If necessary for this purpose, add the rest of the butter, and perhaps a little more skim milk. If in doubt, add more butter rather than the milk. If the first two quarters just don’t seem sufficient, add more butter. This is a matter of personal preference, but in our house it’s hard to add too much butter to this dish during its preparation.
When the tester(s) approve(s) of the overall texture and taste (listen carefully for the “Mmmms”), remove mixer and place potatoes in large serving bowl. (Remember to turn mixer off before lifting it above the pan rim. Experiences tell us many things, especially those experiences others might describe as “mistakes”.)
This recipe will serve eight high school sophomores, as well as several mothers, aunts, sisters, and others who come to help with the dinner and take pictures. There should be enough left over for fried potato pancakes in the morning.
There is always hope.
One of the benefits of a long marriage is that it doesn't take much for a husband to take a hint from his wife.
A few weeks ago, my bride returned from shopping and showed me a bag of dried cherries she bought at the local Harry & David store.
She simply said, "These are for your next batch of scones."
I made them the next weekend, and they turned out great.
The basic recipe is taken from a Fanny Farmer cookbook (the link is to a later edition):
Set the oven to 425 degrees, and lightly butter a cookie sheet (even if it's a non-stick type).
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter, and work it into the mixture with your fingers or a pastry blender until the combination looks like coarse meal. Blend in the eggs, cream, and cherries.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a minute or so. (I like to flatten and fold over the dough at least twice during this part. It seems to help make the scones easily splittable when they're done.)
Roll or form the dough until it's about 3/4 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to create 12 or so triangles, and place on the cookie sheet.
Bake for about 14-15 minutes, depending on your oven.
This recipe also works well with a 1/2 cup of raisins or a 1/2 cup of chocolate mini-morsels.
I make oatmeal raisin movie cookies on the Film Festival Weekend for a few reasons.
First, even though each cookie is fairly large, they are easy to sneak into the theater. Second, the recipe makes plenty to share with our friends, who also prefer cookies to a steady diet of movie popcorn and candy. Finally, the time it takes to prepare them fills up the morning nicely, before traipsing off to an all-afternoon, all-evening session at the Festival.
The recipe is based on one I found in Farm Journal's Cookies, (Galahad Books Edition, 1995).
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Soften or melt the butter, and pour it into a large mixing bowl with the brown and white sugars. Cream the mixture (I use a hand-held electric blender) until it is fluffy. Add in the vanilla, and then, while still beating, add one egg at a time to the mix.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together, and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Then stir in the oats and raisins. (This step alone will give your forearms a nice workout.)
Using an ice cream scoop or similar semi-large spooning device (a thumb at the right time will help release the dough from the scoop), drop the cookie mixture onto cookie sheets that have been greased with the shortening. Each raw cookie should be about 3 tbs. in size, and for a normal size sheet, don't put anymore than 8 cookies at a time. They spread out while baking.
Each batch will take between 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven's quirks. I usually time each batch for 12 1/2 minutes, and have another sheet ready when each batch is done.
Cool on racks, and try to make them all before other folks in the house steal at least one. It won't be easy.
With our ice cream scoop this recipe makes 64 cookies, each one about 4" in diameter.
Today’s Bleat by James Lileks discussed the labeling practices of several brands of items available at his local grocery stores.
The piece was enjoyable, as usual, but it did include this startling segment:
What did he mean, "never use"?
How is that possible?
Perhaps Lileks was only referring to the natives of fashion-conscious neighborhoods in Minnesota. Perhaps he forgot about the years he lived and worked in the District of Columbia. Surely Lileks took advantage of his tenure in the Mid-Atlantic region to eat several dozen steamed crabs, complete with OB and the necessary beer accompaniment.
After all, some of us native Mid-Atlantic types use Old Bay for all sorts of meals. Here are some examples from the last few months of dinners:
OB never-users simply don’t know what they’re missing.
A pity, really.
But he's right about the label.
Well, that turned out nicely.
Last week I attended an afternoon session at the New Orleans School of Cooking, hosted by Kevin Belton.
It was a lot of fun, not least of which because Belton had some great material beyond the ingredients for the dishes he showed us how to prepare.
For example, while patting the middle of his 6’6”, over 300-pound frame, he said, “Around here, this isn’t fat. It’s credibility.”
Pastaletta was one of the menu items, and is a great option for a cold summer supper.
It’s based on the muffaletta sandwich, a classic of New Orleans cuisine, but uses pasta instead of the round loaf coated with sesame seeds.
Here’s the basic recipe:
Muffaletta olive salad is in short supply around here, so I made my own:
Mix the chopped ingredients, and put in a small container. Then fill the container with the olive oil until it nearly covers the mix, and chill.
I also varied from the recipe by adding an additional half-pound of the ham and another 1/4 pound of the provolone.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, and then drain and cool it overnight or at least a few hours before the meal. Add the olive salad to the pasta, and mix well. Then add the ham, salami, and provolone, again mixing well. Top with the sesame seeds and serve with a garden salad and French bread.
The School of Cooking says this recipe is good for 4 to 6 persons. Based on our experience last night, however, that would be 4-6 persons with very hearty appetites. Expect to see some leftovers, which you won’t mind at all.
I have always enjoyed seafood markets.
The sight of whole fish, fillets, crabs, shrimp, oysters, scallops, and clams, resting on beds of ice, almost always brings forth a smile.
A few years ago I spent an hour just watching the folks at the Pike Place Fish Market, as the customers and staff bustled around the huge Seattle store.
A monkfish lay nearly completely buried under the ice shavings, with only its head appearing on top. As two small children stared at it, one of the staff pulled the tail of the fish, hidden from their view. The monkfish’s huge mouth opened wide, and the two kids jumped nearly a foot in the air.
I knew it was coming, and I still twitched a bit.
I know I’m not alone in my enjoyment of seafood markets. I think it has something to do with a sense of anticipation. I find myself thinking about all the different ways to prepare the seafood and wondering what would accompany it, long before I make the final selection.
Earlier this summer the Big Fish Grill, one of the most popular seafood restaurants in the state, opened up an adjoining market. I splurged and bought a pound and a half of red snapper fillets. I grilled them on foil over charcoal, with salt, pepper, butter pats, and a light dusting of Creole seasoning.
Of course, red snapper isn’t native to this area, or even an occasional migratory visitor to the Mid-Atlantic as far as I know. For local fish, I tend to rely upon my father, who often brings over some of what he’s been catching, such as bluefish, croakers, or striped bass.
This distinction about seafood and where folks obtain it is the subject of a fine article by Florence Fabricant in today’s NYT. It’s an interesting discussion about fish fads, fish supplies, and meeting the shifting customer demands.
I was somewhat surprised by one aspect of Fabricant’s report, however:
Those who haven’t tried a well-prepared bluefish are simply missing out on a fine meal.
It’s true that not everyone will like it, especially if their primary experiences with seafood tend toward the quieter flavors, such as flounder or farm-raised catfish. Nonetheless, there are some great ways to prepare this dark meat.
For those interested, I suggest obtaining a copy of John Hersey’s Blues. It’s a well-written natural history of this migrating fish that's fun to catch as well as eat, written from the perspective of a vacationer on Martha’s Vineyard. A bluefish recipe concludes most of the chapters, which should have the effect of making readers pause after each segment.
In this case, the anticipation should prove equal to the event.
We found it in a bargain bin at a liquor store in Wilmington over 20 years ago. [Actually, my bride reminded me that it was a gift from some friends of ours.]
We never thought it was worth drinking, though.
I assume that the taste would not have improved since then, although I would defer to wine experts such as Steven Bainbridge on that point.
Two of these collectors' edition bottles are currently on sale at E-Bay, at prices ranging from $3 to $15.
Our bottle is not for sale, however.
Some pieces of history are beyond price.
Janis Gore is not only a fine blogger, but a great cook.
That is the totally unbiased conclusion my family reached after trying out her crawfish pie recipe.
Only, we didn't have crawfish, so we used crabmeat instead.
It still turned out great, both in taste and in appearance.
Here's the recipe as she sent it to me. My notes follow below.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 10-3/4 oz. can cream of celery soup
4 tbsp. tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1 lb. crawfish tails plus fat
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup whipping cream
12 (or so) Dutch Ann (Natchez product tart
size pie shells (You may use any size pie shell. This recipe will fill one deep full pie shell or 12 tart size shells or maybe 2 regular pie shells.
Pre-bake empty pastry shells at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Saute onions, garlic and celery in butter until limp. Add soup, tomato sauce, sugar, and parsley. Cook ten minutes, and then add crawfish. Cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes, and then add mushrooms, salt, and peppers.
Gradually add bread crumbs and mix well.*** Add cream. Mix well and spoon into pie crusts. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
*** Note: This mixture should be creamy enough to dip and handle easily. If not, add whipping cream until mixture is of the consistency to spoon easily, but not run. Sometimes vegetables are dry, and you might need to add a bit of cream.
(Fritz, if you have sensitive ones in your family you might like to reduce the peppers a bit.)
For the crabmeat version of this pie, I substituted a pound of crabmeat. Also, we were out of tomato sauce, so I used 4 tablespoons of Prego pasta sauce instead.
The recipe filled a Pampered Chef stoneware 11-inch pan, in which I pre-baked a single sheet of pre-made pie shell, stretched a bit to fit the larger pan's dimensions. Everything fit just fine.
As for Janis' warning about the pepper, we used them in the amounts called for in the recipe. Nonetheless, I can see how some folks would cut back a little to suit their own taste, perhaps by taking a pinch out of each half-teaspoon.
This dish turned out to be just the right kind of hearty for a cold winter's evening. It's not based on any formal recipe--it's just something I put together while messing about in the kitchen, using stuff we already had in the house.
I had been outside enough today, thankewverymuch.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
8 plum tomatoes, diced
1 small can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. basil leaves
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. filé powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 dashes hot sauce (Tobasco®, for example)
1 bell pepper, chopped fine
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1 cup rice
1 small can (14.5 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
2 whole cooked chicken breasts, diced
In a large dutch oven or other high-sided pan, first make a medium-brown roux with the butter and the flour.
Add the onions and garlic to the roux, cooking over low heat until the onions are softened. Then add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, filé powder and pepper, as well as half of the chopped bell pepper and celery. Stir occasionally as the mixture simmers for 10 ten minutes. Add the rest of the bell pepper and celery, along with the rice and the chicken broth. After ten minutes simmering, add the chicken pieces. Continue to simmer for 15 more minutes, or until rice is done.
Sometimes there’s just no substitute for pounding something into submission.
Last night’s dinner was a pleasant reminder.
While at the local supermarket yesterday, I picked up a package of veal pieces that the butchers intended for stew, and then went to the utensil aisle and bought a meat tenderizer.
Not the chemical stuff, mind you—it’s a wooden mallet, with teeth on square ends about two inches per side.
Thus armed, I returned to our kitchen:
¾ pound veal stew pieces
3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
ground dry mustard
6 oz. Pinot Grigio
3 tbs. parsley, chopped fine or in flakes
Pound the veal pieces (on a safe, flat surface) with the mallet until they are something less than ¼ inch thick. Don’t be shy—after all, it’s therapeutic.
Dredge the flattened pieces in the flour, and set aside. Season the top sides of the veal with the salt, pepper, and dry mustard.
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place the seasoned side of the veal pieces in the butter and oil, and season the tops of the veal pieces with more salt, pepper, and dry mustard as the first side browns. Brown both sides for for a couple minutes, and then add the wine and parsley to the skillet. Cover and simmer for ten minutes on low heat, turning the pieces once about halfway through. Serve with rice when the wine mixture reduces to about half the original volume.
UPDATE: I've added a couple items to this recipe that you might find intriguing.
The other day I bought a few pork blade steaks at the local supermarket.
Somehow I had never before seen that particular cut of meat. After tonight’s dinner, however, I’m glad I bought them.
I based the following on a recipe I found for pork tenderloin at Chef2Chef.
Pork blade steak (approximately 1 pound)
1 tbs. ground double superfine mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. creole seasoning
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup Pinot Grigio white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbs. parsley flakes
Angel hair pasta, prepared per box instructions
(Use a cast iron skillet that can be used in the oven and on a range top.)
Trim most fat from the blade steak, and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, thyme, salt, pepper, creole seasoning, and chopped garlic, and then rub the mixture on both sides of the steak.
Heat the oil in the skillet on the range at medium heat, and brown the steak on both sides. Add the wine and place the skillet in the oven, roasting for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Return the pan to the range top, with the heat set to simmer. Remove the steak and set aside. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to dislodge any pieces, and add the cream and parsley flakes. As the mixture thickens, slice the steak and return it to the skillet. Remove from heat after five minutes or so, and serve over the angel hair pasta.
A couple months ago I posted a recipe that touted the therapeutic benefits of pounding veal as part of the preparation process.
Last night I made a few changes to this recipe that worked out very nicely.
I shredded some prosciutto and fried it until it was crisp. At the point in the recipe where I added the wine and parsley to the browned veal, I put in the prosciutto bits along with a few tablespoons of cream.
We served the result on a bed of couscous.
Several oohs and aahs resulted, which are always nice to hear.
In the recipe proportions used in the February 1 post, I'd estimate I used about 1/8 pound of the Italian delicacy and about 1/4 cup of cream.
I put this dish together a few days ago, and my favorite group of food testers gave it a warm welcome.
1 ½ pounds boned, skinned chicken breast, sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces
¼ pound thinly-sliced prosciutto ham, chopped or cut into ½ inch or smaller bits
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine (I used a Vidalia this time (Oooh—Vidalias.))
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated mozzarella
Place the sliced chicken in a bowl, and lightly grind or dust some black pepper over the pieces.
Fry the prosciutto over medium heat in a non-stick pan until most pieces have a bacon-like crunchiness. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium/low heat and then cook the garlic and onion in the oil for a few minutes, until the garlic begins to turn a medium brown.
Add the chicken to the mixture, browning both sides for about 5 minutes total.
Add to the pan the prosciutto, creole seasoning, parsley, white wine, and cream, and cook until the liquid is reduced to at least half the original amount.
Stir in the mozzarella cheese and remove from heat.
Serves four, nicely accompanied by rice and salad.
BTW, the prosciutto more than makes up for the absence of any salt in this recipe.
We had a Mardi Gras open house this spring, and I knew from past experience that our guests would drink a fair amount of wine during the festivities. I therefore bought several 1 ½ liter bottles, mostly white varietals.
Naturally, our guests then refrained from quaffing anywhere near as much as they had on similar occasions.
Over the last few months, the leftovers have provided several opportunities to explore the potential cooking uses for pinot grigio and chardonnay. I’m happy to report that most of these experiments, usually requiring a cup and a half at a time, have been well-received.
I’m not sure what to call this most recent attempt, but the test subjects liked it very much.
1 lb. boned skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces about 1 ½ inches each
1 lb. andouille sausage
¼ lb. butter
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup flour
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine
1 vidalia onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
½ red bell pepper, chopped fine
½ green bell pepper, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
4 medium white mushrooms, roughly cut
12 oz. white wine
1 tbs. parsley flakes
1 tsp. basil leaves
½ tsp. thyme
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. filé powder
Brown the sausage, 4-5 minutes a side, in a large skillet at medium-low heat. Remove from pan and cut links into ½ thick pieces, but reserve drippings in the skillet.
Melt 2 tbs. butter in the sausage drippings. Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and creole seasoning, and then brown the pieces in the butter/drippings, 3 minutes a side, at medium-low heat. Put the sausage pieces into the pan with the browned chicken, and set aside.
In a large sauté skillet, heat the olive oil and 4 tbs. butter at medium/low setting. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until the mixture turns a light gold/brown. Add the onions and garlic, and cook them for about 5 minutes until soft. Add 2 tbs. butter to the skillet, and then stir in the peppers and celery. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Add to the mixture the mushrooms, white wine, parsley, basil, and thyme. Cook over low for about 10 minutes, stirring as the wine reduces. About half-way through this step, stir in the chicken and sausage pieces, along with the drippings from the browning.
Stir in the cream and filé powder, and continue to heat for 5 minutes or so.
We served it over small shell pasta, but I think it would also go well with rice.
And if you can think of a name for this dish, let me know.
This dish will enable you to express your inner Martha, if you are so inclined—and your guests may be suitably impressed.
I’ll explain below.
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine, including most of the tops
1 small or ½ large white onion, chopped fine
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs butter
4 oz white wine
4 oz heavy cream
1 pound sea scallops (about 16-20 total)
1 tsp basil
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Rinse the scallops in cold water and set aside to dry on paper towels.
In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat, until softened. Add to the mixture the wine, cream, and basil, and begin reducing the liquid.
Dust a large plate or similar flat surface with pepper, creole seasoning, and a little paprika until covered. Place each scallop on top of the mixture to coat the bottom surface. Lightly dust the top of each scallop with a little more pepper and creole seasoning. Melt the remaining butter with the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick pan, and sauté the scallops over medium-low heat. I kept the bottom-coated side on the heat for five minutes, and then used tongs to flip the pieces onto the top side for 2 ½ more minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the grated cheese into the reduced sauce, and spoon it onto a large serving plate (this is the Martha part), and carefully place the scallops on top of the sauce, bottom-side up. At my wife’s suggestion, we used a bright red plate we bought from Pier One, and it looked very nice.
This went well with rice and a salad, and served four.
Except for the chocolate, this recipe is the version of the popular candy we were taught at The New Orleans School of Cooking. It’s not available at their website right now, but it was last February when I printed off a copy.
1 ½ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk
6 tbsp. butter
1 ½ cup pecan pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 square (1 oz.) Bakers® semi-sweet baking chocolate
Combine all ingredients and bring to a “softball stage” (238-240 degrees), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Stir until mixture thickens, becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in the mixture. Spoon out onto parchment paper and let cool.
The “softball stage” is a cook’s trick where a small amount of the hot mixture is slid into a glass of water. If the pralines are ready, the stuff should stick to the sides.
This “softball”method has been only fitfully successful for me. I’ve had much better luck relying on a good candy thermometer, and removing the mixture from the heat when it reaches 240-245 degrees.
The one square of Bakers® adds a slight chocolate flavor to the pralines, which also taste great without any chocolate at all. I might add a second square of chocolate the next time.
Using a wooden spoon for stirring yields about 45 pralines, each about 2 inches in diameter.
Leaving the pralines out to cool for more than 15 minutes will mysteriously reduce the total yield, if you don’t also stay in the room to prevent poaching.
When I read about Jared Diamond’s suggestion that Norwegians suffered from taboos about eating fish, I just laughed.
Not everyone loves seafood, of course, but this claim is patently ridiculous.
For example, here’s a quote from page 21 of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (Walker and Company, 1997), which a former client of mine gave me for a Christmas gift several years ago:
How did the Vikings survive in greenless Greenland and earthless Stoneland? How did they have enough provisions to push on to Woodland and Vineland, where they dared not go inland to gather food, and yet they still had enough food to get back? What did these Norsemen eat on the five expeditions to America between 985 and 1011 that have been recorded in the Icelandic sagas? They were able to travel to all these distant, barren shores because they had learned to preserve codfish by hanging it in the frosty winter air until it lost four-fifths of its weight and became a durable woodlike plank. They could break off pieces and chew them, eating it like hardtack. Even earlier than Eric [the Red]’s day, in the ninth century, Norsemen had already established plants for processing dried cod in Iceland and Norway and were trading the surplus in northern Europe.
By the way, this method of preservation could also explain why no fish bones were found at the sites Diamond discusses in his book. The bones were, shall we say, processed too finely by digestive processes to make a definitive appearance during archeological digs conducted hundreds of years later.
Hat tip: Jeff Jarvis
During yesterday’s blizzard I started making a double batch of the Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo recipe from Louisiana Real & Rustic, by Emeril Lagasse with Marcelle Bievenu.
It takes about 4 hours to make, from the initial chopping to adding the last couple tablespoons of filé powder, green onions, and parsley just before serving.
I let it sit overnight, and reheated it for tonight’s dinner after the Eagles game.
It was worth the wait, every minute of it.
As long-time readers of this site know, we are band parents.
This not only means that we have attended wretched football games where the highlights were limited to the halftime show. It also means that we frequently buy poinsettias, grapefruit, and oranges in mass quantities. After all, fundraising is just something that comes with band parentage.
We still have several oranges and grapefruit kept cold in our garage since the Christmastime deliveries. This afternoon I figured out a way to use a couple citrus in a dinner dish. My test subjects approved, so here’s the recipe.
2 full chicken breasts (approx. 2 lbs.), boned, skinned, cut into 1-inch pieces, and dusted with Creole seasoning
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
¼ to 1/3 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
½ tsp. ground dry mustard
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup grated cheese (I used Kraft’s Italian blend, Mozzarella and Parmesan)
Cut the oranges in half and juice them to make about 1¼ cups of orange juice. Add to the orange juice enough wine to bring the combination to 1½ cups total.
Zest the orange peel to make about 1 tablespoon, and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium-low heat, and lightly brown the seasoned chicken pieces for about 6 minutes total.
Add to the pan the orange juice/wine mixture, mustard, pepper, and orange zest, and simmer uncovered over low heat for about 10 minutes, reducing the sauce.
Just before serving, remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese.
It went well with microwaved potatoes with green onions.
My bride came home from a college function recently, bearing two gallons of leftover apple cider.
I like the stuff as much as anyone, especially with a few Sweetzel’s spiced wafers.
When there are only two of us in the house, however, some of this stuff could turn into apple jack unless we found some way to use it up.
If you find yourself facing a similar risk, here’s a recipe that could help.
Tomato/Apple Cider Chicken
1 cup dry pasta (I used small shells)
1 chicken breast, boned and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery ribs, chopped fine
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups apple cider
flour for dredging
three tablespoons canola oil
Boil water and make the pasta while preparing the rest of the dish.
In a large sauté pan, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of canola oil, and sauté the onions until soft. Add the chopped celery to the onions, cover the pan, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and cider, and let it reduce for 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, dredge the chicken pieces in flour, and season the pieces with salt and pepper. In another pan, sauté the chicken in the rest of the oil until lightly browned.
When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it and the chicken to the vegetable mixture, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serves two, with a bit left over.
This was time-consuming, but a lot of fun to make. It tasted great, too, he said modestly.
1 bell pepper, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 or 5 green onions, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped fine
1 cup Carnaroli rice (Arborio would be fine, too)
2 small cans chicken stock (about 4 cups)
¾ cup white wine
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 Tbsp. olive oil
Liberally season the chicken pieces with Creole seasoning and black pepper.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy sauté pan, and cook the celery and bell pepper for a few minutes until softened. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and sauté the chicken pieces in the mixture for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
Heat the chicken stock with half of the white wine (3/8 cup) in a saucepan until just below boiling, and lower to simmer.
In the sauté pan, add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil, and cook the onions and garlic together for a few minutes until softened. Lower the heat to simmer, add the rice, and cook for a few minutes until the rice is completely coated. Add the rest of the wine to the pan. When the wine reduces to half its original volume, begin adding the chicken stock to the rice in 1/3 cup increments, stirring frequently as the stock is slowly absorbed by the rice. Wait until each increment is nearly absorbed before adding the next 1/3 cup. This process should take at least 20 minutes.
When the stock is fully absorbed, add to the risotto the seasoned chicken/pepper/celery mixture, along with a light dusting of parsley flakes and paprika. Then mix in the butter and the parmesan cheese, stirring completely. Remove from heat and let it sit covered for a few minutes.
Serve in pasta bowls. This should be enough for 3-4 people, depending on what else is for dinner.
I’m having fun messing around with Risotto recipes, which are well-received during the current cold spells that have been chilling us. The slow cooking and great smells make the kitchen a warm and inviting place. There’s a reason why folks say that Risotto is one of the great Italian comfort foods.
This version is based on a recipe by Karen Walter.
4 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced into fine disks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8-10 medium white mushrooms, sliced
1 pound Andouille sausage
2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups chicken broth (I used a reduced sodium brand)
1 cup white wine
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the broth and ½ cup white wine in a saucepan, and set to simmer.
In a large heavy sauté pan set at medium, heat the oil and then sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots for a few minutes, until the onions and celery are softened. Then add the mushrooms, and continue to sauté until they begin sweating.
Add the remaining ½ cup white wine to the pan, and then add the rice, mixing well and cooking for a minute or so. Reduce the heat to low, and then begin adding the heated stock/wine mixture, a ladle or two at a time, to let the rice slowly absorb the liquid. Continue occasional stirring and adding liquid to the mixture, which will take a good 25 minutes or so.
During this absorption process, brown the sausage in another pan, and then drain and slice the links into pieces between ¼ and ½ inch thick.
By the time the stock is fully incorporated, the rice should be creamy. Add the sausage and the Parmesan cheese to the mixture, and let it sit covered for a few minutes.
Serves four, with perhaps a bit left over. A well-made beer, such as Yuengling's Chesterfield Ale, goes really well with this dish.
This whole thing started out because I was looking to make a remoulade sauce, and I needed to find some Creole mustard.
Even though we’re about 1,ooo miles from New Orleans, I figured I’d have no real problem finding the stuff, a necessary ingredient in most of the sauce recipes I’d found thus far.
Five supermarkets, a hot sauce store, and a couple other places later, it was pretty obvious that nobody around here had any. On the other hand, Emeril Lagasse, in Louisiana Real & Rustic, suggested that a stone-ground brown mustard would be a perfectly acceptable substitute.
I told Mrs. Schranck that I was saving this fairly expensive mustard to make a sauce, and put the jar in the pantry.
A few days later, according to her and our daughters, some leftover beef tenderloin from Christmas dinner was really lonely, and needed company.
The next time I looked at the Fallot jar, there were only a few tablespoons left.
Meanwhile, a couple chicken breasts needed cooking, so I came up with the following well-received dinner for the four of us.
Mustard Chicken with Roast Potatoes
4 medium potatoes, cut into ½ inch thick pieces (I used Yukon Golds)
1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 or 4 green onions, sliced fine
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
6 oz. white wine (I used Chablis Blanc)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons Fallot Seed Style Mustard
Set oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the cut potatoes evenly in an oblong glass pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, and season them with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place on middle rack and roast for 45 minutes or so. They should crisp up nicely when finished.
Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy sauté skillet over medium/low heat. Once the oil’s ready, sauté the onion, green onions, and garlic for a few minutes, until they’re softened and about to brown. Move them to the side, and lightly brown the chicken pieces for a few minutes a side.
Stir the onion/garlic mixture into the browned chicken, and add the wine to the pan while reducing the heat to a low setting. Let the wine reduce to about half its original volume, and then stir in the cream and the mustard, mixing well.
Let it reduce for about five minutes, or until the volume is about half what it was when the cream was added.
Serve with or over the roasted potatoes. A side dish of petite peas also goes well with this combination.
I still plan on making that remoulade sauce. The next time, however, I’ll buy the jar and hide it.
Columbus Day is one of my favorite state holidays, for admittedly self-centered reasons.
When my daughters were in public schools, Columbus Day was just another day at school. For my wife, Columbus Day is just another day of teaching at the community college.
For me, it’s a day off, by myself.
Naturally, this also meant that I would fix dinner.
I decided to try an experiment with pork, apples, apple cider, and cream.
It was very well-received, so here’s the recipe.
1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds boneless pork chops
2 cups apple cider
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Creole Mustard (I used Zatarain’s, but any stone-ground mustard should be fine)
2 Macintosh Apples, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 cups of cider until it comes to a gentle boil, and let it reduce to a cup. Stir in the cup of whipping cream and the mustard, and let the mixture reduce again to about one and a quarter cup of sauce.
While the cider is reducing, in a sauté pan heat the peeled apple slices in the butter until softened and falling apart. When the cider cream mixture is fully reduced, stir the sautéed apples into the sauce.
Season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper, and broil them.
When the chops are done, spoon the cider cream sauce thickly over them, and serve.
This makes enough sauce to serve four, with perhaps a little left over.
This morning I was in the middle of making scones with dried cranberries, when my wife came downstairs. She suggested adding some dark chocolate, so I mixed in something between an eighth and a quarter-cup of crushed chocolate drops.
As it turned out, this was a very, very good combination.
Messing about in the kitchen on
a cold winter evening
(Chicken with Tomatoes, Rice, and Spices)
Some fun with
white wine and cream
(Pork blade steaks)
right kind of mustard
(Mustard Chicken with Roast Potatoes)
No brag, just fact
(Cranberry Chocolate Scones)
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE 19969
Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.
That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.
© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2007