Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fried Chicken And Mashed Potatoes

Ok, if you are from the Western United States reading this, admit it, you were nurtured from a very young age to love fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Sometime you just have to have some. But in these healthy cooking times you may not do much frying  Instead you're more likely to get your fix by surreptitiously snacking on a chicken thigh from behind the deli glass, and you buy those 14 oz, tubs of ready to eat mashed potatoes.

I haven't fried chicken in a while, mostly once or twice a summer and I do it outside with the electric frying pan seated securely on a towel on top of the dock box. Yes, the aroma of tantalizing fried chicken draws sniffs and comments from dock neighbors whose brains are momentarily stimulated back to the simplicity of grade school life and anticipation of noisy and lively family dinners. The kind where you put the black olives from the 'hors d oeuvre' plate on each finger.

Husband had an idea for a yummy side dish and fried chicken seemed the perfect accompaniment. We like dark meat so some Foster Farm legs looked good to me. I brined them for several hours in salted water. Then I dipped them in egg wash, flour/garlic powder, buttermilk and the flour mixture again. then let them set for 1/2 hour.

Fried in hot oil they came out crunchy and delicious. Husband had suggested fresh lemon to squeeze on them, a great idea.

His side dish brought the requisite mashed potatoes up a bit in sophistication.

Parmesan Asparagus and Potatoes

What's cool about it is you can easily keep the required ingreedients on hand for a quick fix for two really hungry people or four normal ones.
It requires a 9 1/2 by 7 1/2 pan with sides
1 14 oz. tub of ready-to-eat mashed potatoes
1  15 oz. can of extra long asparagus (in those tall skinny cans)
Grated Parmesan Cheese, not the fresh, use the dried that's used on spaghetti.

Smoosh the potatoes into the pan until the bottom is covered. Layer drained asparagus spears on top of the potatoes and dot the top with pieces of butter. Microwave them until heated through.

Shake a thick layer of Parmesan over the asparagus with a few more dots of butter and put it under the broiler until the cheese starts to lightly brown.

I know you're saying, "But all that butter" You know you love it and you don't eat like that all the time, go for it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Our Trip To Uwajimaya

Husband and I are munching on Gyoza (pot stickers). We wandered Uwajimaya, his favorite culinary hangout. They regularly carry high quality, unusual meats. It's where he's always gotten ox tails for his unparalleled Ox Tail Goulash. I checked out beef tongue as I haven't made the old family favorite, pickled tongue, in a long time. My mom and grandma would have gasped at the price and they weren't cheap, especially when it came to good food - $21.00! Well, I'm with you mom and grandma, darn. And, looking for a 'sale' on beef tongue might be a bit of a challenge, possibly even iffy. 

Anyway, passing on the tongue, I headed for the "deli" and bought a yummy shrimp croquette (basically a deep fried breaded shrimp patty). Yum City! I shared some bites with Husband and wished they had them frozen. Husband was gathering items for something he had in mind to make. Shitake mushrooms, fresh cilantro, bok choy, Bull-Dog brand Tonkatsu Sauce. We have some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the freezer he'll use. I picked up some rice cookies that I like and the aforementioned Gyoza. 

Cooking away in the (new convection) oven is Hanks dish of three large boneless, skinless chicken thighs. He lightly marinated the meat in, and is now cooking it in, a mixture of Garlic Black Bean Sauce and Tonkatsu sauce, fresh cilantro leaves, and slices of Shitake mushrooms. Twenty minutes on one side at 400 degrees, turned with the sauce spooned over the meat, then another twenty minutes (check temp of chicken from your own oven). 

Hank's Tonkatsu/Garlic Black Bean Sauce Chicken 

Boneless skinless chicken thighs
Bull-Dog Brand Tonkatsu Sauce
Garlic Black Bean Sauce
Fresh Cilantro leaves
Shitake mushrooms

For how many chicken thighs you have, make enough of a 1/2-1/2 mixture of Tonkatsu Sauce and Garlic Black Bean Sauce to fairly well cover the chicken thighs. To that, add fresh cilantro leaves and slices of Shitake mushrooms - enough to your liking. Stir the meat in the marinade until it's well coated and marinate in a bowl or plastic bag for around an hour.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes, turn over spooning sauce over the meat again and bake for another 20 min (adjust for your oven to reach 165 degrees). Slice the chicken in 1/4 inch slices.

You could serve it over rice, but we surrounded it with more of the Gyoza on which we are still munching.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Favorite Breakfast With A Twist

I love potatoes, especially fried. I love bacon. The quintessential breakfast involves both. The 14 Carrot Restaurant down the street serves a plate of fried potatoes and onions served with cheddar cheese melted on top and sides of sour cream and a tangy, vinegary pico de gallo (a chop of jalapenos, onions and bell pepper). Add a side of their thick bacon and leisurely read the Sunday paper, what a treat. 

We keep Simply Potatoes Brand potatoes on hand and bacon in the freezer. This morning I fried up some bacon, added a bag of Diced Potatoes with Onion to the pan (yes into the bacon grease). I fried them about two thirds of the way, removed them to a plate. As I like a lot of onion in my fried potatoes, I chopped half of a sweet onion and fried it until soft. Adding the potatoes to the onions, I finished frying them. Hot on the plate I topped with cheddar cheese grated fine. Out of sour cream I used a Cilantro Chive Yogurt Dip (from Trader Joe's if your area has one). Wow, I have to say it was better than the sour cream. Adding a tasty cool creaminess to a bite of potatoes and cheese. If I could figure out how to keep their pico de gallo fresh on hand, it would have been over the top.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Grandma's Pineapple Ice Box Cake

In my growing up years there were certain dishes that were a part of the landscape of any special family gathering. There was one dessert, Pineapple Ice Box Cake, that was the fanciest delectable fashioned by the cooks around me. It's been around so long in my family, the name Ice Box Cake refers to a time before electric refrigerators when large blocks of ice were delivered weekly for an insulated box that served to keep food cold. My Grandma was once featured in our town's paper as having developed this recipe. Whether that was local lore or true, the dessert was certainly claimed by the family as "ours". It remains a beloved favorite in the memories, if not on the tables, of remaining family members. My Grandma Allen, my mom and my cousin Donna, who was raised like a sister with me, are all gone. They were the one's who made the dessert for so many family gatherings, wedding and baby showers and probably a Tupperware party or two. 

I hadn't made it in years as my husband and I rarely dine in a situation requiring a large dessert, and if I made it we would probably end up eating the whole thing ourselves. The idea sounds yummy but. alas, we may eat a bit higher fat food than many but that's over the top. Joining some friends for the Fourth, this year, for an informal meal, the time seemed right for sharing. And, the time is right for featuring the "famous" Pineapple Ice Box Cake here. 

It involves Vanilla Wafers, butter, powdered sugar, eggs, whip cream and pineapple.

I used my food processor, an kitchen accoutrement not available to the original makers of this dessert. It made construction of the layers very easy. No crushing the wafers with a rolling pin. The first layer is Vanilla Wafer crumbs. I split the crumbs equally, half into a bowl and half into a quart Ziploc bag (for more even spreading over the top at the end. Here is the bottom layer of crumbs in a 9X13 pan.

The trickier step, which I found fun is spreading the next layer, butter, powdered sugar and egg blended, on top of the crumbs. I drizzled the goo artistically all over the crumbs then very carefully "painted it" over any crumbs left showing. Below you see that layer with the beginning of the next layer.

On top of the sweet goo of butter, sugar and egg goes whipped whip cream infused with very well drained crushed pineapple. I whipped the cream in the food processor then folded in the pineapple. Below you see that layer nearly completed.

The final layer is the other half of the crumbs. The Ziploc bag allowed me to carefully shake them evenly over the top of the whip cream pineapple layer. See the partially topped dessert below.

Now, the trick with 'ice box' desserts, which are not cooked, is to leave them in the refrigerator over night to 'blend'. Tough to do as you'll want to take a bite. But I covered with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and dutifully stored it over night. I'm afraid we did have some for breakfast and it was as good as I remember it tasting all those hundreds of time I had it growing up.

Grandma Allen’s Pineapple Icebox Cake

1 - 12oz. box vanilla wafers

½ cup butter (one cube)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs (here I have a caveat, I used Egg Beaters as people today are wary of uncooked eggs, though in all of my growing up years no one ever got sick from the uncooked eggs in this dessert. I do have to admit that, at least in the early years, my Grandma had eggs delivered weekly by the local farmer.)

½ pint whipping cream
1 #2 can crushed pineapple very well drained

Process the wafers into crumbs. Divide in half. Spread half of the crumbs in a 9X13 pan.
Cream butter, sugar and eggs. Spread the mixture evenly over the crumbs (drizzling and then carefully spreading over any holes).
Whip the cream until stiff. Add well-drained pineapple to the whipped cream and spread over the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Top with the remaining crumbs. Let it stand for at least four hours.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Ultimate Comfort Food Potato Soup

I have decided that homemade potato soup is my ultimate comfort food. Now, there are rivals, Grandma Allen's Potato Salad with its secret to creaminess, unwhipped whip cream or a BLT with thick, medium cooked bacon, thick slices of on-the-vine or out of the garden tomato and crisp Iceberg lettuce on toasted white bread slathered with butter and  Best Food Mayonnaise (It's gotta be Best Foods called Hellman's back east).

My potato soup has to be the best I've tasted, even in restaurants where I would always order at least a cup if it was on the menu. I'm super fond of potatoes in general. Maybe it was the influence of my father's very good luck with potatoes each year in his garden. My love of vegetables, in general was, I'm sure, formed by my parent's enthusiasm and love of all things vegetable shared in an earlier blog post titled, Raised Green. My goodness, I had a grandfather who planted and harvested a city block-sized garden ripe with every imaginable vegetable from beets with their requisite greens (which Grandma loved with a little vinegar) to rutabagas.

Throughout life I've wavered when asked to be definitive about a favorite or best anything. When we are younger we have so much yet to discover. My lifelong fondness of potato soup, though, just grew stronger over time. Now that I am finding pleasure in cooking, I have the freedom to refine it to my taste. I can make it the way I truly like it and recreate it whenever I'm so inclined.

I was so inclined this afternoon even on this wam sunny day. I had the potatoes, chicken broth, bacon and onion. On the way home from errands I snagged the needed celery and Half and Half. On went the bacon to cook (to medium not crispy) in my favorite pan, a stainless steel Faberware electric frying pan that a friend suggested as the best (I was fed up with the coated light weight ones and she'd used one in Alaska when she cooked on a fishing boat and actually found one for me in a thrift store. When the bacon strips were draining on paper towels, into the bacon grease (with a little bacon grease added) went a large onion, chopped, and two stalks of celery thinly sliced. I browned them slowly and when they were soft I removed them and added a can of chicken broth and 1/2 can of water. After deglazing the pan, I added five medium Russet potatoes that I had peeled and cut into 1" chunks. I slowly simmered the potatoes in the broth until soft but still intact. I added the onion, celery and bacon strips (now chopped into small pieces). To my simmering potatoes and goodies I added two cups of Half and Half and 5 shakes of Johnny's Seasoning Salt. I thickened it with 3 Tablespoons of flour with some of the soup liquid blended in my Magic Bullet blender. It simmered until thickened and heated through.

Without bragging, my Ultimate Comfort Food Potato Soup is so delicious that I can eat the whole batch by myself. That Half and Half might not be the healthiest but hey it's vegetables!

My Ultimate Comfort Food Potato Soup

5 medium Russet potatoes
1 large onion white or yellow (I used a sweet onion)
2 stalks of celery
4 strips of thick bacon
1 14 1/2 oz, can chicken broth
1/2 broth can water
1 pint Half and Half
5 shakes of Johnny's Seasoning Salt (or your favorite)

Peel and chop the potatoes into 1" chunks and place in a bowl of water to cover. Chop the onion and celery and set aside. Fry the bacon and drain on paper towels, when cool chop in small pieces. Add the onions and celery to the bacon grease, adding more bacon grease if needed (I keep some in the freezer). When onion and celery are soft, remove, add the chopped bacon to them and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and water and add the potatoes, simmering until the potatoes are soft yet intact. Add the onions, celery, bacon, Half and Half and Seasoning Salt. Turn onto a low simmer. Blend well 3 Tablespoons flour with some of the broth to make a thickener. Add to simmering soup. When soup is thickened, enjoy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Quick And Easy Meaty Breakfast

Quick and Easy Plan-Ahead Meaty Breakfast

I love Seattle's Voula's Offshore CafĂ©’s Hobo Omelet’s. It's so large and substantial you can eat it for a couple meals. And, with sour cream on the side and toast with blackberry jam, yum city! Maybe it's how I grew up, but a substantial, meaty breakfast is so comforting and enjoyable.

Recently, because of need to be away for a week with the power off, I had to complete clean out my top- of-the-refrigerator freezer. I took some to my sis-in-laws, but got rid of a lot that hadn't been used in the time it should have been. I've been carefully and slowly restocking the freezer trying to use things quickly. I can now see what's there and am cooking a lot more from the freezer. I'm thinking about the things that are in there rather than the old "out of sight out of mind" relationship I had with my stuffed freezer. I've come up with a great way to make a quick substantial breakfast or "breakfast for dinner" without tearing up the kitchen and taking a lot of time.

Quick and Easy Plan-Ahead Meaty Breakfast
1 lb. of sausage (I use Safeway brand Country Style Pork Sausage)
1 med sweet onion, chopped
1 package Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns (I like Southwest Style)
4 mushrooms, sliced
(6 1/2" flour tortillas, eggs, cheddar or other cheese, sour cream for varying dishes.)
Chop onion and fry in oil until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms about 1/2 way through. Remove to a plate
Fry the package of potatoes as instructed. Remove to the plate with the onions and mushrooms.
Fry the sausage until done. Drain on paper towels. Return all sausage, onion, mushrooms and potatoes to the pan. Stir together and fry a little bit while mixing.
Cool the mixture and pack snack sized Ziploc or other zipping bags. Place all the bags in a large freezer Ziploc bag and freeze.

Here are some dishes I make from the mixture (I also added a bag to a ‘Leftovers Soup I threw together in the crockpot the other day).

Breakfast Burritos

Scramble a couple eggs with salt and pepper. Fill flour tortilla with some of the mixture, scrambled egg, and cheese. Roll tight and heat for around 10 min in oven or toaster over (watching).

Hobo Omelets

Whisk two eggs together with 1 Tablespoon milk. Place the mixture from the bag into a heated frying pan with some butter. Pour eggs on top and mix egg into mixture. Fry until egg done and heated. Turn off heat and top with cheese. When cheese is melted, remove and serve with sour cream.

Regular Omelets

At a rummage sale I bought an unopened Nordicware microwave omelet pan  (available on Ebay for under $2.) Living in a smaller space I’ve experimented with numerous unusual microwave cooking accoutrements, some with success, some not. I decided to give a microwave omelet a try. Instructions were to whip together 2 eggs with 1 Tablespoon of milk. Pour half into one side of the omelet pan and half into the other then, microwave on high for two minutes. (I topped one side with part of a bag of the sausage mixture defrosted plus some grated cheese). Flip the unadorned omelet side on top close the pan and microwave for one more minute. Viola! A perfect omelet with no frying mess. I love the omelet pan and use it regularly serving with sour cream on the side or ketchup for my husband.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Light Yet Substantial Vegetable and Ham Soup

It’s a rainy Saturday in Seattle (almost a clichĂ©, though inaccurate as both New York City and Chicago both have more rain than we do). After being away for 3 weeks, emptying and turning off the refrigerator, we’ve been rebuilding its contents from scratch. I can’t believe how efficient I’ve become with cooking. The freezer is so organized and because I can clearly see what’s there, I’m actually using the items.

Cooking is now a creative activity for me for me.  I could never have believed it earlier in my adult life. Today I knew I had a chunk of Trader Joe’s carnitas, there were a couple stalks of celery, some mushrooms, some bacon, most of a sweet onion, some baby carrots, fresh garlic and a partial carton of beef broth let over from last nights pot pies. I’ve been learning to use and enjoy the herb thyme lately due to its use in a pot pie recipe I’m fond of.

A light soup sounded just right for the day. I put a couple pieces of thick sliced bacon on to fry in my trusty, can’t-live-without, Faberware stainless steel electric frying pan.  I then did what Madher Jeffery, the noted Indian cookbook writer, implores - I focused completely on each task I was moving through.  I carefully sliced the onion and celery into almost perfect ¼ inch chop. Then I very thinly sliced each baby carrot piece and mushroom.  For the two large garlic cloves, I sliced them thin then chopped them by cutting the other way across the slices. Then I turned to the carnita chunks dispatching them into ¼” chop.  Each item had its own pile on the cutting board. The thyme nearby with the opened cans of diced tomatoes and lima beans, I was ready. The soup came out light and delicious. I've had two bowls.
I used to be afraid of or at least intimidated  by concocting dishes, it certainly would not have been relaxing. Now it feels like indulging in art or crafting. Learning how to cook Indian cuisine and practicing often has helped me to gain confidence with herbs and spices and how to prepare the ingredients so they come together nicely.  The steps below might be second nature for good cooks but for me they are things I wouldn't have done before.  I often felt frustrated, even overwhelmed  by cooking and certainly never tried anything without a recipe.
  • Frying a small amount of bacon and using it's grease for flavor in frying the vegetables softening them for the soup.
  • Unleashing the fragrance of the herb used by frying it for a bit in the vegetables.
  • Preparing all the ingredients ahead so they are smoothly and easily added when their time comes.
Light and Tasty Vegetable Soup with Ham
A substantial but light soup heavy on the vegetables but meaty enough for dedicated meat eaters.

2 pieces of bacon, fried and crumbled
A good sized handful (about 1 cup) of ¼’ chopped carnitias ((or other left-over meat)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 baby carrots, sliced thin
½ can lima beans (just beans)
½ can diced tomatoes (just tomatoes)
3 cups beef broth. (Could use more)
Two good pinches dried thyme

Put the bacon on to fry. Chop up meat, onion, celery and thinly slice the carrots and the mushrooms. When the bacon is done, remove it and, when cool enough, crumble it. Leave the bacon grease in the pan. Add more cooking oil if needed. Fry onion , celery and carrots until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, and carnitas and crumbled up bacon. Sprinkle with the thyme and fry to open the fragrance of the thyme. Spoon in the tomatoes and lima beans and pour in the beef broth.  Let simmer on very low heat for ½ hour.