Monthly Archives: November 2011

Supping with beauty

I don't know why those leaves are purple...they were green on the plate.

I just wanted to update everyone on the lovely and wonderful supper I made for M today…not only did I make her those fabulous baked chicken thighs, but I also cooked up some crispy chow mein that could kill a man with one look. It’s that beautiful.

Simply put, I wok-fried some sugar snap peas, green onions and split baby bok choy. I cooked the chow mein in boiling water per package directions, then separated it into little bird’s nests, put some hot oil in a frying pan, and cooked them until they were crispy. A little sprinkling of soy sauce and a tall glass of cool water were just icing on the cake for this amazing meal.

I will caution you, however, to invite people over whenever you make chow mein. If you aren’t careful…a one pound bag goes from a meal for four to six, to a meal for two… And, it’s party-friendly. Some wonderful friends of ours, hereon out known as Pippi and Midlander, came over last Saturday night for some boozing and chow mein. It was grand.

So, make chow mein for your next family gathering and watch the compliments pour in. Eat well and smile on, my pheasants!

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Filed under Ethnic

Baked chicken á la M

So, here’s the short and sweet about my love life: I may or may not be cheating on my girlfriend with baked chicken. Yes, you can gasp now as I scream it to the world: I lovebaked chicken! But, another confession: I’d never really, truly had it this way until I moved in with my girlf.

This was tonight's beautiful, succulent supper.

The first night she made baked chicken for me, I whipped up an Asian-inspired glaze with anything I could think of, which she spooned over it, stuck into the oven, and baked per my directions. They looked gorgeous, but even better, they tasted like…heaven! Really, truly, honestly, I about scarfed down two whole thighs myself. Seriously, I may or may not have inhaled them whole. They were golden crisp and dark on the outside, tender, moist and succulent (yes, I said succulent) on the inside. Eat your heart out. I died a little inside when I looked down at my plate and realized those beautiful, tender, moist thighs were no longer in this world.

Well, Pheasant said to me happily, Then we just make more, right?

I was wrong. I wasn’t just wrong: I was erroneous, I was counter-factual, I was absolutely, positively incorrect. Because, you see…I’d made the first mistake that any budding cook learns not to make (barring adding salt before you’ve tasted): I didn’t write down the ingredients. Not a single one. Oh, but you say, couldn’t you just remember? Well, of course! But remembering and know the exact measurements are two very different things.

So, the next time I craved myself a succulent, tender, juicy chicken thigh coated in a most amazing shoyu-honey glaze, I stood myself at the counter, ingredients spread before me, and began carefully, carefully tasting. I tasted for nearly half an hour, y’all. I slowly added more honey, more shoyu, more rice wine vinegar. Everything. I tasted and tasted and tasted, until I could taste no longer. And you guys, it was delicious. It was sweet, salty, slightly tart…beautiful. Now, to put my plan into action. I coated some thighs, stuck them on a Pam’d, foil-lined baking sheet and baked those beautiful chicken parts to my heart’s content. They were gorgeous! Still soft, tender, juicy (can I used those adjectives anymore, in reference to these thighs? I may have used up my quota…) but with that shiny, crackling, “I can thump it with my finger and it makes a hollow sound” crisp skin. Bee-u-tee-full. Here it is, everyone: the lovely, the tender and delightful….

M’s Baked Chicken

3 chicken thighs, cleaned, bone-in, skin on

2 tbsp shoyu (soy sauce. I highly recommend Aloha brand shoyu. It’s not as salty as, say, Kikkoman)

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp rice or red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp pepper (fresh or pre-ground, it makes no difference)

1/2 tsp garlic powder OR 1/2 clove, very finely minced (press it, if you can)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 tsp garlic OR olive oil

PAM

So, you’ll need a little tupperware for this, about enough to hold maybe half a cup of liquid. We’ll be making all of this in the Tupperware! Isn’t that handy? So all you’ll really need to clean up before supper is a little whisk or fork.

Mix all the spices together: garlic powder, curry powder, pepper, and the cayenne, if you’re using it. Mix them, and mix them well. Add in the garlic oil and whisk to form a bit of a garlicky, curry-y paste. Beautiful, isn’t it? If you’re adding fresh garlic instead of powder, mix it in after the oil.

Add the honey, mixing until it’s nice and thick. Add the shoyu and vinegar. Stir them up until everything is super-mellow and cooperating nicely.

Now, you can either set it in the fridge and forget about it until it’s time to make the deliciousness that will be in your Pheasant later, or, you can do it immediately. I like to let it sit, because I feel it gives everything time to mix and blend until it’s absolutely perfect, but that’s just me.

Now, when you’re ready for glory, you have two options:

1) Set the oven to 375° F (approximately 191° Centigrade.) Line a baking sheet (jelly roll, or something with a small lip all around) with foil, then spray the foil with Pam (or the cooking spray of your choice.) Spread the thighs out on the sheet, giving them a goodly amount of room. Make sure the skin is extremely spread out so it gets nice and crunchy-crisp. Hey, chicken skin is loaded with fat. You may as well make it taste good, right? Take out your sweet-salty baste, and mix it up to make sure it’s all nice and incorporated. Spoon a bit over each thigh, making sure it clings and coats it well. Then, when the oven is preheated, slide them in. Ten minutes into the cooking process, take the chicken out of the oven, baste it with a little more of the sauce, and stick it back in. Repeat one more time. Proceed to the section sign.

2) Take the thighs and the sauce, and put them together in a plastic zip-top bag. Let them rest for an hour, maybe two, or even overnight. Once you’re ready to cook, set the oven to 375° F (191° C.) Line a baking sheet (jelly roll, or something with a small lip all around) with foil, then spray the foil with Pam (or the cooking spray of your choice.) You’ll still want to spread the chicken out well, making sure the skin is going to be good and crisp. I like to score the fat to make sure it all drains well, because I hate biting into globs of chicken fat (ew…) Once everything’s all set up and your oven tells you it’s ready to roll, stick those puppies in there. Watch them. And…

§ Around the 30 minute mark, you’ll want to take them out and prick each one (under the skin, not through it!) with a fork or knife. If the juices run clear, great! You’re done. If not, stick them back in another ten minutes. Once everything is running clear, take them out and inspect those babies. If they’re brown and crunchy looking, with a solid “thumk” sound when you flick your finger against them, let them sit out as you finish preparing supper. If not, set them under a hot broiler, watching them carefully, until they reach said doneness. This is sugar we’re dealing with, people. Don’t be stupid. Watch your chicken.

Let them sit for at least five minutes to incorporate the juices back into the chicken (you know, if you can wait that long…) and then…feel free to shove as much of it in your mouth at a time as you can. Relish the delight in your mouth!

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Filed under Chicken

Lemon-dill sole and cucumber salad

I apologize for the white on white...I keep telling M we need colored plates!

I love Mediterranean food. Then again, if you know me in person, you probably know that I love every kind of food. But, Mediterranean holds a special place in my heart. I love the fresh, bright, wholesome flavors. And of course, I love the ease of preparation and low fat generally found in Mediterranean cooking.

Whenever I have a need for something fast, healthy and simple, I almost invariably head for Greek or Italian cuisine. It’s simple, satisfying, and oh, so delicious. And lately, I’ve been working harder than usual. Yay for the holidays! Boo for the holiday shopping rushes! So, tonight, I present to you my baked sole, covered in a creamy lemon, dill and pepper sauce. I served it up alongside some delicious cucumber salad and quinoa.

I first had this cucumber salad while staying with my aunt C and her family down in California, about two years ago. It was amazing…I remember she cooked up some grilled chicken, fragrant, delicious rice pilaf and served it up alongside roasted tomatoes, and this cucumber salad. I was in love at first bite. Well, who am I kidding? I was practically head over heels just going off smell alone. It was heavenly. I’d never had anything so simple, yet so beautiful. And that, pheasants, is why I am passing this beautiful side dish along to you. It’s great on its own, or on sandwiches, with rice, or in a gyro. You can make it creamier or less so, depending on your tastes.

Lemon Dill Sole

4 medium to large sole fillets

20 large, multicolored peppercorns (or more or less, depending on how peppery you like it)

2 tbsp dried dill

1/2 tbsp sea salt

1 large, rolled lemon (and zested)

1 tbsp fat free sour cream (or yogurt)

1/4 tsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°F (177° C) and line a jelly roll pan with foil. Spray the foil with Pam, and lay out your fillets. Crush 15 of the peppercorns in a mortar, adding in 1 1/4 tablespoons of the dill and half the sea salt. Mix it all together, then sprinkle lightly and evenly over your fillets until the mix is gone. Zest half the lemon, sprinkling the zest over the fillets. Then, cut the lemon in half and squeeze a few tablespoons over the fillets. Place in the oven for ten to thirteen minutes.

While the fish is cooking, take out a small saucepan and put it on medium. Add all the remaining lemon juice and the other half of the lemon’s zest. Add 1/2 the salt left, the sugar, remaining dill, and sour cream. Bring it all to a simmer until thickened. Taste and correct for spices, then set aside to thicken further. I made ours sweeter, because M doesn’t like the bite of lemon.

Once the timer goes off, take the fillets from the oven and set them somewhere to rest for a moment; then, plate them up, spoon the sauce over, and enjoy!

Cucumber Mint Salad

1 whole, large cucumber, ends trimmed

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 tbsp minced red onion

1 small clove garlic, minced fine

6 large or 10 small mint leaves, minced, pureed or muddled

3-6 tbsp plain yogurt

salt and pepper to taste

Halve your cucumber lengthwise and slice it into thin but manageable slices. Combine them in a bowl with the onion, garlic, tomato and mint. Then, add in the yogurt and mix until everything is coated. Salt and pepper lightly, tasting as you go along.

Allowing this to sit for an hour or so will deepen the flavors.

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Filed under Ethnic, Seafood, Seasonal, Summer

A gratin is a terrible thing to waste

You guys, I made this for my family for Thanksgiving. And I didn’t even have time to snap a photo of it.

Pheasants, my family loves Thanksgiving. Who wouldn’t? Family gathered, happiness at the holiday season, and the chilly, pre-Christmas nip in the air that brings people together. Also, who could forget the food? Everyone in our family has a dish that they traditionally bring to the literal and figurative table.

My aunt J brings her pineapple-roasted ham, which is a big favorite with most everyone but me (I don’t eat pork.) My GUE (greatest uncle ever!) brings his take on the classic green bean casserole: green beans, mixed into a creamy, mushroom-y base, sprinkled throughout with garlic and bacon. My dad, bless his soul, brings his roast oyster stuffing. You know, if I ever had a last meal, I would definitely request this. It’s smoky, it’s savory, smooth, crunchy, and just delicious. Dad also usually makes the turkey, because he’s a bird-roaster extraordinaire.

As for me?  I’m usually asked to bring a pecan pie. Nothing more. Years back, my GUE was the pecan pie-bringer, because his were always spot-on: crunchy, sweet, and just delightful. One year, however, I challenged him to a pecan pie-making contest, with the winner bringing the pie the next year. I won, but sometimes, now, I wonder if the contest was rigged…

Anyway, this year, being my first year on my own (as an…adult?) I want to bring something killer. Something delicious, heart-poundingly tasty that will make everyone who takes a bite say, “Mmmm….oh yeah,” from sheer happiness. And I know of only one recipe in the entirety of my autumnal retinue that deserves such high honors.

Imagine, pheasants, a gratin: what is it made of? It can be onions, leeks, celery, or any root vegetable you can imagine. But think of this: sweet onions and leeks, layered together with thinly-sliced potatoes and sharp, aromatic onions, layered in a thick, creamy, cling-to-everything sauce. Sage, Pecorino, Parmesan and garlic perfume the whole of it, turning the potatoes into a fragrant, herb-scented dish that you just want to inhale. It makes your entire home smell like fresh cooking and beautiful days in the French countryside.

I made this dish (all for myself…) a month back. It was better than anything I could ever imagine: the cream melded with potato, onion and leek to exalt and praise one another to the fullest extent. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was heavenly. I guarantee, you will find no other recipe like this. It’s as close to perfect, I think, as a recipe can get.

Make sure that your ingredients are good ones. Regular store-bought rubbed sage will work, but don’t skimp on the cheeses: you want something aged at least a year, although two is better.

Serve it up with grilled or roasted meat, placing the freshly-sliced bits on top so that their flavor and juices can trickle down and beautify the dish further, if that’s possible.

A Very Pleasant Potato, Onion and Sage Gratin

1 russet potato, cleaned

1 cup cleaned, sliced leek

1/2 a medium yellow onion

1/2 a sharp, white onion

1 block of Pecorino

1 block of Parmesan

1/2 c heavy cream

3 tbsp butter

3 garlic cloves

2 tbsp or more rubbed sage

pepper to taste

Using either a mandolin set to its thinnest setting or a sharp knife, slice your onions and leeks as thinly as possibly. Mince the garlic.

Prepare a large bowl with cold, salted water. A large mixing bowl will do. Slice your potato, unpeeled, very thinly with a sharp knife. You want them as thin as you possibly can. Quickly transfer the potato slices into the water to keep them from browning.

Once they’ve all been sliced, line an 8×8 inch pan in foil and spray with Pam; put down a spoonful or two of cream. Sprinkle a little sage over it, and then set down a layer of onion and leek. Set a single layer of potatoes over that, arranging them so they overlap slightly on all edges which touch other potatoes. You want them to be snug, with nary a hole showing through. Spoon on more cream, sprinkle some pepper, sage, and garlic over it all. Using a microplane, grate cheese enough to cover sparsely the cream. Place nine small dots of butter across the whole thing, spacing them evenly. Start again with a thin layer of leek and onion, followed by potatoes, then more cream and spices, followed by cheese.

For your last layer, you want potato on top. Make sure to carefully arrange the slices so that they’re pretty, overlapping, and look good. Spoon the last of the cream over it, sprinkle some sage and garlic, and dot it again with small bits of butter. Grate some cheese over, covering it evenly and carefully. Cover the pan with tin foil.

In an oven preheated to 400°F (204°C) place the dish. Bake for 35 minutes. Halfway through this, take the gratin out, uncover it, and tip the dish slightly to the side. Spoon cream across it, making sure to cover the whole of it with a new layer, then recover it with foil and place it back in the oven.

After the timer goes off, take the foil off, and test the potatoes with a knife or fork. If they give easily and seem done, replace the gratin. If not, bake, covered, for another 10 minutes. Once they’re soft, return the uncovered gratin to the oven. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the cream is mostly soaked up, the top is golden, and the entire thing smells like heaven. If you like your gratin more brown on top, crank the broiler, and do not leave the oven until they’re as browned as you like them. No one likes a burnt gratin.

Once it’s browned and cooked, take the gratin from the oven. Let it cool for about seven to ten minutes, then dig in. This recipe supposedly feeds four people…but if it only feeds two…who are we to judge? It’s delicious!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal

Why I prefer homemade gifts

No recipes today, pheasants. Let us all sigh collectively before moving on…done? Okay.

I wish we could start a revolution; a revolution where people stop flooding stores after Thanksgiving to buy up as much as their cars can carry. I imagine a world in which the mass populace gives out homemade gifts of appreciation and love to their friends and family. With this idea in mind, M and I settled down to watch a season of Good Eats (my favorite television show of all time, besides maybe Criminal Minds.) We were both immensely excited when a show about pickling came on, and I proposed to her, “Why don’t we give away pickles for Christmas gifts?” She seemed greatly excited over the idea, and I was too.

I don’t actually like pickles, you know. I can’t stand the taste of them. But M is nuts about them, and so are most of my family members. So, pickles it is.

I offer you a challenge today, pheasants:

Make a gift. Give a gift. It’s much more satisfying than buying the newest electronic gadget and giving it away.

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Filed under Pastas, grains and oatmeal

Traditional lamb stew

This is what dreams are made of.

I love lamb. Period. A lot of people don’t like the gamey flavor or the fatty nature of lamb, but I think it’s an absolutely beautiful meat. It’s tender, rich, and oh, so filling. There’s really nothing you can’t do with a few chunks of lamb shoulder and some low, slow cooking.

With that in mind, M gleefully threw a package of mysterious lamb meat into the basket while we were at Ranch 99 the other day. After stashing it in the freezer and mulling the options over for a bit, I looked outside, and we decided that lamb stew would be the best thing for our approaching winter season.

Seriously, pheasants, it’s been hailing like Mother Nature is trying her best to unload all her hail supply before the snow comes in for the season. It’s madness. Pouring rain, driving winds, and snow is predicted for tomorrow…snow. In November. We never get snow in November!

So, tonight, we’re hunkering down with a crackling fire and some piping hot apple cider to enjoy our evening, while this delicious, beautiful stew bubbles away. The best part? This is a crock pot recipe. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Rainy Day Lamb Stew

1 to 1 1/2 lbs lamb (bone-in, trimmed of fat {which you reserved, yes?})

2 russet potatoes, cut into chunks

1 red onion, sliced thin

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

4 Crimini mushrooms, quartered

2 carrots, cut into chunks

1 tbsp pepper, divided

1/2 tbsp salt

1 tsp dried thyme

3 sprigs rosemary, minced

1/4 c flour

3/4 c water

1/3 c port wine

In a medium frying pan, place two to three larger chunks of lamb fat on medium.

Place the flour in a small bowl, then mix it with salt and 1/3 tablespoon of pepper. Dredge the lamb in the flour, and, when the fat has adequately melted, crank up the heat to medium-high and sear the chunks, turning them periodically to sear all sides. Transfer the seared pieces directly into your crock pot. While the lamb pieces are searing, add the potatoes, carrots, garlic and mushrooms to the crock pot, using a ladle to mix everything up fairly well.

Once all the lamb is seared and transferred, turn down the heat to medium and place the onions in the pan. Brown them, making sure to get all the pieces well. Once they’re done, pour in the port and deglaze the pan. Add the rosemary and remaining pepper, then cook the wine down until it’s about reduced to half, then add the water, bring to a boil, and pour the onion-wine-water mix into the crock pot. Set it to low and let it go for 8 to 10 hours.

Before serving, skim off any excess fat from the stew.

Serving this with some hearty, crusty bread is good to soak up all the delicious, rich juices. This is definitely a hot, delightful dish for the winter season.

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Filed under Red meat, Seasonal, Winter

Midnight Cowboy Muffins

Mmm...can you see those huge, beautiful bits of pepper?

Pheasants, you’re in for a treat tonight!

You see, I’ve got a mad craving. This morning’s spicy shirred eggs didn’t take the edge off it, either…I’m still mad about all things spicy. And so, in honor of that, I’ve decided to make some Midnight Cowboy spicy chipotle muffins.

I also made some sweet honey ones, but mostly, these are just what they sound like: sweet corn muffins with a spicy, smoky kick from the chipotle. I added a roasted red pepper for sweetness, and mixed in some cheddar for ooey, gooey pleasure, and they made these muffins beautiful, savory, and absolutely out of this world.

I served them all (sweet and spicy alike) with my quick chipotle compound butter. Pair them with barbecued meats, beans, or rotisserie chicken. Or,  you can do what I did, and just eat them warm from the oven, with a smile on your face. This, pheasants, is truly what dreams are made of.

Midnight Cowboy Muffins

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c sweet cornmeal

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 egg

3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 chipotle pepper, minced or pureed

1/2 tsp adobo sauce

1/3 large roasted bell pepper, seeded and minced

3 tbsp finely diced cheddar

So, I split my muffin recipe to make two sweet and four spicy. You don’t have to, but if you want an entire batch of sweet muffins, just mix in 3 tbsp or more of honey after the second paragraph.

Butter and line with cornmeal six average-sized muffin tins. Preheat your oven to 375°F (191°C.)

Mix all your dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, sour cream and vegetable oil. Mix wet into dry and stir to combine.

Add in the chiles, pepper and cheddar, stir to mix well, and place into 6 muffin tins. If you like, drizzle them with honey and pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until done. Let cool, and enjoy with my Chipotle Compound Butter!

See how warm they were? Mmm. These didn't last long at all!

Chipotle Compound Butter

1 1/2 tsp adobo sauce

1/2 tsp honey

1/2 stick softened butter

Mix them together. Roll up into a piece of saran wrap and refrigerate until firm, or just use as is!

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Filed under Baking