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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Holiday Weekends are Meant for Homemade Breakfasts

We don’t get to spend enough time together as it is, so trying to take advantage of the holiday weekend and spend time with each other is a premium for us. This particularly involves any meals that we may have. As it is with most families, it’s pretty rare when all 3 of us can sit down together and actually have breakfast at the same time. So when it does happen, I try to make it something special. This was the case yesterday when I decided we were going to have a completely homemade breakfast. It’s much simpler than it sounds and you can easily do any of these things in moments. I kept it even simpler by just sticking with scrambled eggs, homemade sausage, and home fries. We added in a couple of store-bought items as well, including Taylor ham and English muffins.

Easy Scrambled Eggs

8 large eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the eggs and cook while gently pushing, lifting, and folding them from one side of the pan to the other until they are nicely clumped, shiny, and wet, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked eggs from the pan quickly.

I know it seems kind of ridiculous to actually have a recipe for scrambled eggs since it’s a fairly basic recipe, but I think it’s actually pretty easy to mess these up. Michelle actually makes much better scrambled eggs that I do; her eggs seem to come out fluffier and taste better and I think it’s because she follows this method exactly. Having a hot pan to start with is a key and you also want to be sure that you fold your eggs and push them instead of stirring them. Stirring them keeps them from getting as fluffy as they could be. Naturally, there are many things that you could add in to scrambled eggs if you choose to, such as onions, herbs, various cheeses, hot sauce, ham, bacon – the list seems to go on and on. Make them how you feel most comfortable.

Next up is a very simple recipe for some homemade breakfast sausage. Now there are few ways you can do this, and if you want to make it a little differently you could certainly grind your own pork. It will take you more time to do it that way but if that’s what you’re looking for then you should go right ahead. I chose to just use already ground pork and keep things simple.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

2 pounds ground pork
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons of vegetable oil

Spread the pork out in a large bowl and sprinkle with the syrup, garlic, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and cayenne. Using your hands, gently fold the flavorings into the pork, then portion and shape each into sixteen 2-ounce patties (about 1/4 cup each).

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the patties and cook until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the patties to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out the skillet, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, return the pan to medium heat until shimmering, and cook the remaining patties.

Of course if you’re going to grind your own pork and maybe you even have your own sausage casings you can make breakfast links instead of breakfast patties. It really depends on how ambitious you happen to feel, but this seems to be the simplest way to do it. You could also easily freeze some of the patties between wax paper and have them portioned out for use at another time. Then it is simply a matter of placing them in a hot skillet with a little bit of butter to get them started and then add a little bit of water and cover the pan so they steam first to help them cook, remove the cover, turn the heat up and cook the patties until they are browned. You could also make this with ground turkey instead of ground pork. I actually have a turkey sausage patty recipe that I will post at another time which is a great breakfast alternative.

I also made some home fries to help round out the meal. Home fries are really easy to make, and if you happen to have some leftover potatoes already done you can easily use them as well. You have a lot of options here when it comes to what you want to use. Even if you have a can of diced potatoes around you could use that as well. This recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen, actually recommends that you microwave your potatoes first to help get some of the starch out of them before you do any of the frying. This helps to build up the better crust on the potatoes.

Home Fries

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (4 medium), scrubbed and cut into one half-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper

In a large microwave-safe bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the bowl without removing the plastic to re-distribute the potatoes every 3 minutes. Carefully remove the plastic wrap, transfer the potatoes to a colander, and drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes to the skillet and, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, distribute them evenly over the pan. Cook undisturbed until the potatoes are golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn the potatoes to ensure even browning and add the onion to the skillet. Continue cooking, turning the potato and onion mixture every few minutes, until the potatoes are well browned and the onion is softened, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Again, there are other things you could add to the potatoes if you want to get a little bit of a different flavor. I actually added a little bit of orange bell pepper and some paprika to my recipe and I think they tasted great. I know they do sell frozen diced potatoes, but I think if you’re planning to use them you need to make sure that you thaw them and that they are dried very well to remove as much of the moisture as possible if you want them to cook well. Otherwise they will just steam in the liquid and not get crispy.

While I didn’t make any bacon with our breakfast, I have found that making the bacon in the oven has worked much better and gives the bacon a chance to cook and crisp up much more evenly than it does when you cook it in the pan. You can also cook a lot more of it all at once if you are making breakfast for a large crowd, which is an advantage.

Oven Bacon

1 pound bacon (16 slices), thin or thick-cut

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400°. Arrange the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet (the slices can overlap just slightly) and bacon until crisp and browned, about 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let the excess fat drain off before serving.

If you’re going to cook it this way, you could also consider using a wire rack set inside the rimmed baking sheet so it keeps the bacon from sitting in the fat and allows the air to circulate around it, making it a little more crisp. As I said, I did make Taylor ham with the breakfast because it is one of Michelle’s favorites. It seems to be mostly a Northeast thing, and even more particularly a New Jersey thing to have Taylor ham with breakfast. It is basically a pork roll that you slice and fry for a minute or 2 on each side just to get it crisp. I didn’t have time to make any homemade biscuits or anything like that, but they would be great to go with a traditional home breakfast. Of course I had coffee with mine, and you could certainly have homemade orange juice if you have a juicer or whichever store-bought juice you prefer.

The important thing with the breakfast like this is that it actually brings everyone to the table all at the same time. It doesn’t really matter what you make; you could just each have bowls of oatmeal or bagels and coffee if that’s all you really want as long as you’re enjoying some time together.

That’s all there is for today. Check back again later on in the week and I’ll have some new recipes to share, including a pound cake, oatmeal cookies, a black bean salad, and I do have a few other things planned in for dinner this week including baby back ribs, meatloaf and chicken so check back and see what comes along. Until then, enjoy the rest of your 3 day weekend, and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Breakfast, Cooking, Eggs, Holidays, Potatoes, Sausage

 

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A Moment for Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

It was a cool and rainy day here in our part of New York yesterday. I know parts north of here actually got snow, which sounds ridiculous for Memorial Day weekend, but it did happen. I’m sure that had something of an influence in the type of dinner I decided to make last night. I chose this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for a maple-glazed pork tenderloin. It was very quick to make and would be excellent for a weeknight meal and the time of the year.

Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses, light or mild
2 tablespoons bourbon or brandy
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 pork tenderloins (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375°. Stir 1/2 cup of maple syrup, molasses, bourbon, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne together in a 2-cup liquid measure; set aside. Whisk the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl until combined. Transfer the cornstarch mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. pat the tenderloins dry with paper towels, then roll them in the cornstarch mixture until they are evenly coated on all sides. Thoroughly pat off any excess cornstarch mixture.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium and place both tenderloins in the skillet, leaving at least 1 inch in between them. Cook until they are well browned on all sides, about 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the tenderloins to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the syrup mixture to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, and cook until the mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 2 minutes. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the glaze to a small bowl and set aside. Using the remaining glaze, brush each tenderloin with approximately 1 tablespoon of glaze. Roast the tenderloins until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloins registers 130°, about 12 to 20 minutes. Brush each tenderloin with another tablespoon of glaze and continued to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloins registers 135 to 140°, about 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove the tenderloins from the oven and brush each with the remaining glaze; allow to rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

While the tenderloins rest, stir the remaining 1/4 cup of maple syrup and mustard into the reserved 2 tablespoons of glaze. Brush each tenderloin with 1 tablespoon of the mustard glaze. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Serve, passing the extra mustard glaze at the table.

Rolling the tenderloins in the cornstarch mixture really did make a difference in making sure that the coating and glaze adhered well to the meat. It also helped to give a nice crunch to the outer coat of the meat and glaze. Make sure you use real maple syrup and not the imitation stuff most of us use on pancakes and waffles. The imitation will be way too sweet for this type of recipe. I love the way it all came out and that it did have a little bit of sweetness to it because of the syrup and molasses and you could even taste a little bit of the bourbon in the recipe. I served this with noodles and corn on the cob.

That’s all there is for today. I’ll have some more recipes this week, including a few desserts that we made for a classic pound cake and Michelle’s famous oatmeal cookies. We also did a nice homemade breakfast today that included some nice home fries, some sausage and scrambled eggs, a basic breakfast but it was all homemade. Check back later in the week for all of that. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day today and enjoy your meal!002

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork

 

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A Chilly Day Calls for Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

I know it’s not the ideal start to a long weekend when two days ago it was 85° out and I was looking to turn the air conditioner on and then we wake up this morning and it’s 42° outside and windy and rainy. Since the weekend doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better until Monday, today is a good day to do a recipe for a classic spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, is designed if you’re cooking for a large crowd so you want to keep that in mind if you are going to use this recipe. When I do it for just the three of us I generally have to adjust it down a little bit and we still end up with enough sauce and meatballs left over where we can freeze some for another several meals.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

Meatballs

2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 large eggs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups tomato juice
6 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Sugar

3 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons salt
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the meatballs: adjust oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450°. Set wire racks into aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheets and spray the racks with vegetable oil spray.

Combine the bread crumbs and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with a fork, until a smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.

Mix the ground beef, ground pork, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and gelatin mixture into the bread crumb mixture using your hands. Pinch off and roll the mixture into 2-inch meatballs (about 40 meatballs total) and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are well browned, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking process.

For the sauce: while the meatballs bake, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°. Gently nestled the meatballs into the sauce. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meatballs are firm and the sauce has thickened, about one hour. The sauce in the meatballs can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To re-heat, drizzle 1/2 cup of water over the sauce, without stirring, and re-heat on the lower-middle rack of a 325° oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring 10 quarts of water to a boil in a large 12-quart pot. Add the pasta and salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Gently stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups of sauce (without meatballs) to the pasta and toss to combine. Add the reserved cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency. Serve, topping the individual portions with more tomato sauce and several meatballs and passing the Parmesan cheese

As I said, this recipe makes a lot of food. They outline it as having enough to serve 12 people, but if you make the full recipe I think it could even serve more than that. I have always gotten more than 40 meatballs out of the recipe so we always have plenty left over for uses down the road. Their recipe also calls for some prosciutto to be used in the meatball mixture, which I leave out. I do like the way that the meatballs come out when they are baked in the oven and then the entire concoction with the sauce is placed in the oven again. The thickness of the sauce and the taste of the meatballs seems to be a lot better to me. You could easily served this with any type of pasta that you wish and I love to make some garlic bread to go along with it.

That’s the recipe for today. We did some shopping this morning so I did get a few things and to make over the next few days or so. Tonight I’ll be making a pork tenderloin dinner so you can check back for the recipe on that one. I also picked up some baby back ribs and the makings for some meatloaf so will be having those this week as well. I do plan to head up to Adams and see if they have anything else interesting that we might use for dinner this week. Check back and see what we come up with. Until then, enjoy the rest of your rainy day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 25, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Sauce

 

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Ethiopian Stir Fry

I try to make a stir-fry recipe at least once a week now. It is always an easy dinner to make and comes in handy when we may not have a lot of time to put a meal together. I had seen this recipe posted on the website run by Marcus Samuelsson, who many view of probably seen on the Food Network or may have even read his book “Yes, Chef.” As soon as I saw the recipe I was intrigued about how it would turn out in new I wanted to give it a try. It is a recipe for Ethiopian-style beef stir-fry.

Ethiopian-Style Beef Stir Fry

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 pounds hangar steak or beef tenderloin, cut into half-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, cut into quarters
3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped canned tomatoes
2 jalapeño chili peppers, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 red onions, sliced
1/2 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach

Mix all of the dry spices in a bowl and add the meat. Toss well to combine and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to color around the edges, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add the meat, sprinkle with salt, and stir-fry until the meat is browned on all sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Carefully add the tomatoes, jalapeños, peanuts and wine. Allow to simmer for one minute, then season with salt if necessary. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is just heated through and starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve.

The combination of the cardamom, ginger and chili powder on the meat added some great flavor. You could certainly eliminate the jalapeños if you didn’t want them added to the recipe, but I think they add a nice little hint of heat to the dish and go very well with the tomatoes. Also, you could eliminate the peanuts if you have any type of allergies to deal with. I think they added a nice crunch to the meal and added them in. I served this with white rice as I do with many of the stir-fries I make, but you could certainly use brown rice instead. Chef Samuelsson actually recommends serving it either just with some crusty bread or with a side of couscous, which I think would also be quite nice. The whole meal itself literally takes minutes to prepare so it’s great for a weeknight meal.

That’s all there is for today. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday weekend and gets to do some grilling. It’s supposed to rain here in New York for most of the weekend so I don’t know how much grilling will get to do. We’ll have to see what happens. I still have to plan out next week’s menu is so I don’t really have a good idea to yet of what I’m going to try, but check back and see what comes up and what I decide to post. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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An Anniversary Dinner: Pan Seared Rib Eye Steak, Port Wine Sauce and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

Okay, so I probably want a little overboard with dinner for our anniversary last night, but it was certainly worth it. It was a lot of work to get everything prepared and it was an awful lot of food for just the three of us (of course Sean joined us for dinner), but everything tasted great so I had nothing to complain about. I went to the store yesterday morning and picked out some nice-looking rib-eye steaks to make and with a little help from Denise Landis of The New York Times I was able to put together a quick port wine pan sauce to go with the steaks. Both were pretty easy to do.

Pan Seared Rib-eye Steaks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (8-to 10-ounce) rib-eye steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick
Salt and pepper
1 recipe Port Wine Pan Sauce (to follow)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with paper towels and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Lay the steaks in the pan, leaving 1/4 inch between the steaks. Cook, without moving the steaks, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and continue to cook until the meat registers 115 to 120° (for rare) or 120 to 125° (for medium-rare), 3 to 7 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil to rest or while preparing the pan sauce, then serve.

Port Wine Pan Sauce

1 small shallot, minced
1 small onion, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup ruby port
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

In the same skillet that the steaks were seared in, add the shallot, onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan. Deglaze the pan with the ruby port, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and gently swirl into the sauce until well blended, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vegetables back into the pan, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in till slightly thickened about 1 to 2 minutes more. Off the heat, add in the fresh thyme and gently mix. Serve the sauce on the side with the steaks.

The steaks were cooked perfectly and have great flavor to them even though the only spices I added were salt-and-pepper. I actually cooked them for about 2 minutes longer so they were closer to medium, but you want to make them to your own personal preference. The pan sauce was just right for the steaks. I love the taste that the port wine adds to the sauce on it blended well with the shallots, onion and mushrooms. It also tasted great on the mashed potatoes that I made to go along on the side.

And the other dish that I made to go along with the meal was a very simple bacon wrapped shrimp. This doesn’t have to be a messy project or a big production; there are really only three ingredients to the entire recipe and most of the work goes into the preparation and not the cooking itself.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

24 large uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
6 slices bacon, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cover the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Insert a wire rack into the baking sheet. Spray the baking sheet with nonstick vegetable spray. Wrap each shrimp in a 1/4 slice of bacon, being sure to wrap the bacon tightly. Secure the bacon with toothpicks if necessary. Place the shrimp on the wire rack in the baking sheet. Sprinkle the shrimp with the steak seasoning on both sides.

When the oven has come up to temperature, place the baking sheet inside the oven and bake the shrimp until opaque and the bacon has begun to crisp, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

It doesn’t get much easier than this one. There are a couple of notes to take into mind when making this for yourself. First, make sure that you using large shrimp for this particular recipe. The size of the shrimp will take just about as long to roast in the oven as the bacon will to crisp so you won’t end up with any rubbery shrimp. If you are using smaller shrimp such as a medium-sized shrimp, you may want to think about cooking the bacon slightly before you wrap the shrimp to make sure that the bacon will be crisp at the same time the shrimp is done. You don’t have to use the steak seasoning if you don’t want to, although I think it added a nice flavor to the shrimp and the bacon. You could also use a barbecue sauce instead of the seasoning if you wanted to try something a little different. Having the shrimp up on the wire rack in the pan allows the air to get underneath and the heat to get underneath so that the bacon and the shrimp both cook on both sides. You could also put the shrimp on a skewer if you didn’t want to use toothpicks, or if you wrap the bacon tight enough, as I tried to do, you don’t really need any toothpicks at all.

I also served a side dish of roasted asparagus for the vegetable. Overall, I think it was a pretty good meal and we all seem to enjoy it. There were some leftovers of course but will be able to re-purpose them for another meal.

That’s all there is for today. Check back next time this see the recipes I use for dinner tonight. I’m hoping to get to the Ethiopian stir-fry tonight; I’m curious as to how well that one will turn out. Check back and see how it goes. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Sauce, Seafood

 

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Getting Fancy with Scallops with Carrot Cream, Pickled Carrots and Herb Oil

I came across this recipe thanks to Food Republic, who had posted it on their site about a week ago. The pictures of it looked great and it sounded simple enough to try out myself so I thought I would give it a shot. It doesn’t take long to make at all, so you can even do it for a weeknight meal without any trouble.

Scallops with Carrot Cream, Pickled Carrots and Herb Oil

Carrot Cream

1/2 pound carrots, cut into a large dice (about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Pickled Carrots

1 large carrot, sliced into short ribbons using a vegetable peeler (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar

Scallops

1 pound sea scallops

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Herb Oil

3/4 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the carrot cream : Add the carrots and salt to medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Drain the carrots and add them to a blender along with the cream and a pinch of pepper to taste. Blend until the mixture is a very smooth puree and set aside.

For the pickled carrots: In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the rice wine vinegar. Marinate the carrots for at least 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the vinegar for another use, and set aside.

For the herb oil: In a blender, combine the parsley, marjoram, olive oil, vegetable oil and the salt. Blend until the oil turns a vibrant green color, about 3 minutes. You can strain the oil through a fine mesh strainer or leave it alone if you like it with some texture to it. Transfer the oil to a bowl or a squeeze bottle.

For the scallops: Dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels. Place them on a plate and season them generously with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and, when the skillet is very hot, carefully add the scallops to the pan, being careful not to splatter oil on yourself or crowd the pan with too many scallops. Cook the scallops for 2 minutes on one side without disturbing them, or until they are caramelized, then flip them over, cooking the other side for a minute or so more.

To assemble the dish: Gently re-heat the carrot cream, then spoon some on each plate for serving. Top each plate with several scallops. Drizzle some herb oil around the scallops and garnish with a sprinkling of pickled carrots and marjoram leaves.

This dish looked very nice and tasted fantastic. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I loved the combination of the carrot cream and the pickled carrots with the scallops themselves. The herb oil added a nice contrast to the dish with the parsley and marjoram. It seemed like a perfect combination. I also had plenty of oil left over to use for other dishes down the road. I served this with some white rice and broccoli to round out the meal.

That’s it for today. Tonight is our 20th anniversary and I have a nice dinner planned, so check back for the menu for that one later this week. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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A Down Home Meal: Fried Chicken and Cornbread

As soon as I saw this recipe in a recent version of the Dining section of The New York Times a few weeks ago I knew I was going to have to give it a try. It’s a very basic recipe for fried chicken without all the bells and whistles of breadcrumbs, crushed cereal, saltine crackers, and various spices. This is just good, simple ingredients that you don’t need much to do. All you need is a good cast-iron skillet, a cut-up chicken, some flour and some oil and you are good to go. The recipe almost sounded too easy and I wondered how good it was actually going to come out. I was not disappointed in the results. While the recipe was posted in the newspaper a few weeks ago, it actually comes from Southern Living.

Southern Living’s Best Fried Chicken

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon salt
1 chicken with skin, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup bacon drippings (or use more oil)

Combined 1 tablespoon of the salt with 3 quarts of water in a large bowl or container. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.

Stir together the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture evenly over the chicken. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine the remaining pepper mixture and the flour. Add two pieces of chicken to the bag and shake well to coat. Remove the chicken pieces, shaking off any extra flour, and set them aside. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

Take a large cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer, for which you have a lid, and fit with a candy or deep-frying thermometer. Add the oil and bacon drippings and heat to 360° over medium heat; the oil will ripple and possibly give off a few wisps of smoke.

Using a pair of tongs, immediately add chicken pieces, skin side down (work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan). The oil temperature will drop to about 325°, where it should stay; adjust the heat so that the oil is bubbling gently around the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and cook for 6 minutes; uncover the pan and cook for 9 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces; re-cover the pan and cook for another 6 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for another 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. If necessary for even browning, turn the pieces over a few times towards the end. Remove the pieces and drain on paper towels or in a paper bag. Repeat the process with any remaining chicken pieces. Allow the chicken to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

There are a couple of notes that go along with this recipe that they pointed out in the article that I think to make a difference to the way the chicken comes out. First, if the chicken is larger than 2 1/2 pounds, you should cut each breast in half so that you have a total of 10 pieces. This will help for more even cooking and keep the pieces to a smaller portion size. Also, I would not use olive oil for this recipe as a substitute for vegetable oil. Olive oil tends to leave a particular taste on the food that you are cooking in it, and this is not the type of meal where you want that to happen. The article itself actually recommends using grapeseed oil, but I do not have any grapeseed oil and I find it to be very expensive to purchase. I simply used the vegetable oil, but you could also use peanut oil or canola oil instead. I did not add the bacon drippings and used more oil instead since we don’t make bacon very often around the house anymore and I didn’t see the need.

Brining the chicken for this recipe does seem to make a good difference in the flavor and the moistness of chicken after it is fried. Not everyone always has the time to do it, but if you are planning ahead and you know you’ll have the time and the space in your refrigerator, I would recommend doing it. Finally, the article highly recommends using a cast-iron skillet for this recipe. I keep mine on the stove pretty much all the time to use for a wide variety of recipes and it was perfect for the chicken. It is plenty deep enough for the amount of oil that you use (and I actually use less oil than the recipe called for and I think it turned out fine), but you do want to make sure that you have some type of cover to put over the chicken.Overall, I loved the crunch of the chicken and there was not too much crust as often happens with fried chicken that has a thick batter. The chicken itself was very moist and cooked perfectly.

To go along with the recipe, I did make some mashed potatoes and coleslaw. I also had some extra cornmeal laying around so I decided that it would be a good opportunity to try and make some cornbread. I’ve made cornbread before and posted the recipe on this blog, but in the past I have made Southern-style cornbread that is made right in the cast-iron skillet. Since I was already using my cast-iron skillet for the chicken, I needed to find a little bit of a different recipe to use. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has a good, general all-purpose cornbread recipe that you could easily use for this or use as part of a stuffing if you are going to want leftovers for that purpose.

All-Purpose Cornbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400°. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with the vegetable oil spray. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined; set aside.

In a food processor or blender, process the brown sugar, corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the eggs and process until well combined (some corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.

Using a rubber spatula, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the wet ingredients into the well. Begin folding the dry ingredients into the wet, giving the mixture only a few turns to barely combine. Add the melted butter and continue folding until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface with the rubber spatula.

Bake until the cornbread is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow the cornbread to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto the wire rack, and turn right side up and allow the cornbread to cool until just warm, about 10 minutes longer, and serve. Leftover cornbread can be wrapped in aluminum foil and re-heated in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Adding the extra corn in with the cornmeal gave it up pretty nice flavor, and the combination with the light brown sugar really did give some extra sweetness to the bread. I also like the golden crust that came out on this bread. The recipe recommends using Quaker yellow cornmeal and I guess that is what the recipe was designed for. I only had a stone-ground cornmeal on hand, and the bread did come out a little bit drier, just as the recipe had indicated it might.

Those of the recipes for today. Next time out, I’ll be posting the recipe that I used just last night for some scallops with a carrot cream. Check back for that one and see if you like it. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Breads, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry

 

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Jennifer Probst

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Laissez Faire

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