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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #24

"By viewing Nature,Nature's handmaid art,makes mighty things from small beginnings grow." -John Dryden

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thomas Keller and his chicken recipe

One night a few months back,it was just me and a naked chicken in my kitchen.
I wanted a simple roast chicken for dinner and I knew the classic thing to do was truss that naked chicken.
Oh we had a time.

For the sake of the chicken I won't show the before pictures,but the after pictures are just delicious.
Disregard the washing machine dial in the background.I'm short on counter space and that machine makes a great stand in.Soon very soon though I will have more counter space in my kitchen,heck a whole new kitchen to show you.
I digress.

    Talk about that! I mean dee-lish-shuss. The skin was crispy,the seasonings just perfect and good gravy that was some good eatin'.
Before I get to ahead of myself, we need to get the educational side of this bird out of the way.
Trussing a chicken.
It's not too hard and along with measurement equivalents,I am going to memorize this classic culinary skill.
Lord-willing and the creek don't rise.
Now moving right along: Chicken Trussing courtesy of, Chef Michael Ruhlman (this guy can cook and he's got a great blog) and Chef Brian Polcyn .
I watched this video about a million times,put on my big girl boots and went for it.
Like I said me and that chicken we had a time.
The point of trussing a chicken is best explained by Chef Thomas Keller.
       I watched this video about a million times too,laced up those big girl boots and realized if I didn't get with it and truss that chicken we'd be having ramen noodles for dinner and no roasted chicken.
Trussing a chicken is a few easy steps that helps the bird to cook evenly,keeps the legs and wings from flopping around (as legs and wings tend to do) and the breast of the chicken cooks perfectly.
Crispy,evenly browned and did I mention crispy skin...
Oh I did,thought so.
The recipe comes from Thomas Keller,care of I think you should read through it,his instructions make a world of difference in understanding the steps.I love this recipe.I mean c'mon it'simple,calls for simple ingredients and will wow any dinner guests.Heck I was in awe.
Enjoy trussing your chicken and the results of your newly acquired culinary skill.

Friday, March 25, 2011

brown sugar,oh so easy

This is just the bottle section of my pantry...
You have to look a little bit farther back to find the key to homemade brown sugar.
If you look to the right,just past the blue canister of sea salt,the yellow lidded jar.
Ta-da! It's molasses and it's the key to homemade brown sugar.I found the recipe on one of my most favorite blogs! It might be the easiest recipe I've ever made. It sure came in handy when I realized I didn't have enough brown sugar to finish out a cookie recipe.Thank goodness for molasses and oh so cool Joy The Baker,without either of them we wouldn't have enjoyed those tasty cookies.And boy those were some tasty cookies...
I've been on an almond kick lately,who knows why.
I did find a recipe for almond thumbprint cookies.
I just glanced at that recipe and it calls for brown sugar! I'm so in luck! I have almonds and now can make brown sugar...this is gonna be good.
Moving on...
How To Make Your Own Brown Sugar
adapted from
(this list is super long,get ready)
1 cup granulated sugar
1TBL unsulfured  moleasses
Directions: In a medium bowl,mix together the sugar and molasses.Now yo might think,"heck self this is so not mixing well..." stick with it it will work itself out.I started with a wooden spoon then moved to a spatula.Then did this wiping/smooshing motion and sort of pressed down at the same time.And ta-da! you have homemade brown sugar and no cookie recipe will suffer in the future. Woooo,what a relief! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #23

"May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you in a sky thats always blue.

And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through." -Irish blessing

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Parmesan Potato Pancake

He makes the best faces...bless his heart.I love that face :)
If it weren't for this krazy man and the krazy kool food processor in his hand we wouldn't have enjoyed the goodness with in the Parmesan Potato Pancake.Crispy,crusty hash-browny savory goodness that was this potato pancake.

The theme this week over at iheartcookingclubs was the loyal,dependable (mostly,starch can be a tricky little devil sometimes) potato.It was spud week this week.I chose the recipe for a Parmesan Potato Pancake. And what a great,savory,parmesany choice it was.I will forever make this recipe and enjoy every little bite along the way.I love finding recipes like this one! Hooray.
So if you follow that link to the Food Network site you will notice the recipe calls for fresh basil. Again I say HA! fresh basil hasn't made its appearance just yet,well there may be seedlings at nurseries around town,but not nearly enough for a 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil. Sooooo what's a girl to do...well I went to the herb that is as dependable as the potato and kicks it with me all year round: rosemary! What a perfect substitution for this dish and it sang a fine duet with the parmesan cheese.
The short of the long is this: Brown some chopped onions in a large non-stick skillet,remove the onions to a large mixing bowl. While the onions are browning,peel and shred (preferably in a food processor,but if not I've fought it with the box grater before too,watch those fingertips!) the potatoes and then mix in with the onions. Add in some salt,pepper,the herb of choice ( I think basil,thyme, or rosemary or even if you don't have fresh herbs ,any of those three would work just as well as fresh.) and the grated fresh parmesan cheese.The cheese being fresh makes this recipe,it melts into a velvety,cheesy web within the potatoes. Toss to mix well.
Heat up some olive oil in that SAME large nonstick skillet that you cooked the onions in,no need in wasting the onion deliciousness in the pan. Carefully pour the potato mixture into the pan,gently press the mixture into a flat disc and begin to brown. Brown one side of the pancake for oh say 12-15 minutes.My stovetop is electric and stays hot for a bit,so it only took my pancake 8-9 minutes. Whatever stovetop.
Then check the bottom side of the pancake if its golden brown,carefully invert the pancake onto a plate and gently let it drop onto the plate. Then slide the pancake,not cooked side down back into the same pan. You might need to add more oil cook for a bit longer to get that side golden brown as well.
When it's done get the same plate back out,do the same inverting motion and break out the gravy.Oh wait I haven't told you about the gravy. Yeah scroll back up to the picture with the brisket and potato pancake,yeah that gravy. Onion gravy that has cooked all day...I'm sorry I digress. More to come on the gravy later.
This was a treat of potato and I will be making this again soon.I think it would darn fine for breakfast too. Maybe some scrambled eggs,breakfast sausage and a big ol' wedge of this Parmesan Potato Pancake and oooh it's dreamy. Enjoy!
Parmesan Potato Pancake
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
featured in her cookbook Giada's Kitchen,New Italian Favorites
2 TBL olive oil,plus 1-2 TBL for frying
1 medium onion,chopped
1 garlic clove,minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes,peeled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
**I used about 2 TBL minced fresh rosemary and that was just the right amount***
1. Warm 2TBl of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent,about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until tender and fragrant about another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile grate the potatoes in a food processor using the grating blade. Dump the grated potatoes onto a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess moisture you can. Add the potatoes into the mixing bowl with the onion mixture along with the Parmesan and the basil. Stir to combine and season a little more with salt and pepper.
3.Warm 1 TBL of the remaining oil over high heat in the same pan you cooked the onions. When the pan is hot but not smoking add the potato mixture. Using a spatula press down the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the bottom is golden brown and it can move around in the pan 12-15 minutes. Invert the pancake onto a plate and then gently slide the uncooked side back into the same pan. Reduce the heat if the pancake seems to be cooking to fast in places.You might need to add more oil before sliding the pancake back into the pan. Cook the underside for another 12-15 minutes until it is golden brown and the pancake is cooked through. Invert the pancake once more onto the same plate and cute into wedges and serve.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beef Bourguignon Please

This gorgeous red Dutch oven looks innocent enough,but its the contents of this simple looking red pot that put me in a sort of stupor. Let's go further,hope you're ready.
Oooohhh brown,saucy gravy,big hunks of beef and oh wait is that little pearl onions floating around in the luscious brown gravy.I think so.Now get ready,it's about to get divine in here.
This is the finished product;mushrooms,onions and hunks of long-simmered beef just floating around in the most savory gravy I have ever tasted in my life. Deeee-lish.
This is how I felt after this meal,in a state of awe.I was done for and thank goodness I had done most of the dishes as I went along and only had to wash our plates and silverware.I mean it,OVER WITH.

(so far)
   What is this pot full o' heaven contain? Beef bourguignon. I tried to make this meal oh say a year ago and failed miserably.I had been to a class at the Viking Cooking School that was based on the recipes of Julia Child.I tried to recreate the meal a few weeks later and well... it was edible.The prep takes some time and quite a bit of cooking time that makes a perfect chance to catch up on most of your prep dishes.The second time around I fared much much better.You live and you learn...and do dishes.
   I think Julia would have kindly enjoyed my first go-round at her legendary dish.She would have probably enjoyed the buttered bread more,but nonetheless I tried.
    The recipe comes from the amazing folks over at Simply Recipes .It is one of my most favorite cooking/recipe blogs and I know it will win your heart too.Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #22

"I do not think there is any other quality essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything,even nature.-John D. Rockefeller

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Artichoke and Spinach Dip,bless you Paula Deen

So it's only Tuesday and I feel I must tell you about this dip. I hear the weather is supposed to be real nice this weekend and well if you have any party/cookout/get-together plans can plan accordingly.
It's that good.
Spinach and artichoke dip or artichoke and spinach dip,either way it's said I love it.And in the last five years or so as I have expanded my culinary knowledge and experience, I have been on the lookout for that perfect spinach/artichoke dip recipe.I think the search might be over.I found the recipe in The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook on page 10 at the top of the left page.Thank my lucky stars I found it.I'm going to make this one again and again and again. What's funny is I have had this cookbook the whole five years or so and it was right there the whole time.
Toss together chopped artichoke hearts and (frozen,thawed and squeezed dry) chopped spinach.
Add in the PHS, some paprika and cayenne pepper.Then stir in the mayo,sour cream and grated Parmesan cheese.
Spray a 2-quart souffle dish or casserole with non-stick cooking spray. Mix together well the bowl full of ingredients and pour the dip into prepared baking dish.Bake for 30 - 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Just a word of caution: The time span between the photo at the top of this post and this photo directly above this sentence was only about 20 minutes . Yep 3 grown adults(who shall remain nameless) were complete gluttons to this delicious dip. Now go plan your parties and make sure this dip is on the table. It's gonna be a hit.
Artichoke and Spinach Dip
adapted from The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook
by Paula Deen
1 10-ounce box of frozen,chopped spinach
 -thawed and squeezed dry
two 13/75 -ounce cans of artichoke hearts,
drained and chopped(I used the marinated artichoke
hearts,the marinade just added a little bit more kick,tasty.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste ( I mixed in 1 tsp PHS,
which consists of salt,pepper and garlic powder.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the artichoke hearts and spinach. Then mix in the remaining ingredients,mix well. Pour mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake for 30 -40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who doesn't love alphabet pasta?

   Ooooh delicious bowl of soup.I mean really delicious. And do ya see the melted Parmesan sprinkled on top?!?!?!  This soup was wonderful savory,tomatoy and it was full of vitamins and minerals and protein.
Perfect combo if you ask me.
What soup is this? Pasta e Fagioli.
It's a recipe from my pal Mark Bittman.
Ok, so we're not pals but I go to his cookbook ,How To Cook Everything  all the time. It's one of my Top 5 favorites cookbooks of all time.I know that's a lofty statement,BUT! I haven't made one recipe out of it that I didn't like.
Not a single,solitary one.
Ok so I am realistic 99% of the time and I know that one recipe might not soar one day,but until that day I will eat soup.
This soup,Pasta e Fagioli.
Hope I made ya proud Mark:
Here are the bulk of the ingredients:olive oil,chopped onion,minced garlic,fresh rosemary,a variety of canned beans,canned diced tomatoes and (drum roll please) homemade vegetable stock !!!! Yep that's the vegetable stock I mentioned a few weeks back and this soup was the perfect stage for it to stand on. What a performance.
So heat up the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and half the garlic.I added some salt,pepper and for fun some red pepper flakes.("It too 'picy MerMer,it too 'picy." As my godson used to say,he's 8 now.He sure was cute.) Ok so soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.Then...
Add the fresh rosemary,beans,and tomatoes. Cook those for a bit,stirring and mashing the beans with the back of your spoon.Do this until the mixture is warm and the tomatoes begin to break down. Break. It. Down.
"Iceberg right ahead!" You know the movie Titanic. The one with ol' Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. The whole ship sinking business and "... never let go Jack!" Yeah that movie. Well the line about the iceberg rang real true once I added the vegetable stock. See I made up tons of stock and then froze it in 4-cup batches.I didn't bother to thaw it before I put it in the pot,sooooo that means that the soup might take a little longer to cook. Not too much longer,about an extra 5 minutes or so,just so the frozen stock has time to thaw.
The soup is called Pasta e Fagioli or Pasta and Bean Soup. Look what kind of pasta I found at the grocery!!! 
ALPHABET PASTA! As you have figured out,it doesn't take much to amuse me,but when I saw this pasta I jumped up and down. Not too high (as other people were in the store) but just enough to remind me how excited I got about this pasta,as a child. I thought this pasta shape was a thing of my past. 
Nope. I used it in this pasta and bean soup. Joy! 
 So after the stock iceberg has melted and the soup has simmered for 10 minutes add the pasta in and simmer for another 10 minutes until the pasta is nearly tender. Add in some parsley,cook some more and now we're ready to serve.
 I originally made this soup for a good friend of mine. She and her boyfriend were coming to my husband's birthday dinner. The main menu item that night at dinner was steak,manly kind of steak. And she's a vegetarian. Well goodness,lets see here...I am not eating steak (only bought 4 for my husband and his three friends) and she doesn't eat meat. What ta do,what ta do...
Lets make a delicious bowl of soup for both of us.Pasta e Fagioli was the best soup ever.It made our night.My friend and I both kept commenting on how rich the soup was and "gosh,this sure is tasty." 
I told her it was the fresh rosemary.
Well yes I'm sure the fresh rosemary made a difference,but about 24 hours later a thought came to me "... maybe it was the homemade stock." Homemade vegetable stock or really great boxed stock,makes this soup,it made my night. Enjoy.
Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)
adapted from Mark Bittman
How To Cook Everything,pg 66
5 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion,chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
3 cups drained,cooked kidney,cannellini,borlotti or other beans or a mixture
2 cups cored,peeled,seeded and diced tomatoes (canned are fine;include their juices)
6-8 cups chicken,beef or vegetable stock,or water,warmed
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 lb tubettini or other small pasta (or larger broken into pieces)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place 4 TBL of olive oil in a large,heavy-bottomed deep saucepan or casserole, turn the heat to medium.A minute later add the onion and half the garlic;cook until the onion softens,stirring occasionally,about 5 minutes.
2. Add the rosemary,beans,and tomatoes, and cook,stirring and mashing the tomatoes with your spoon,until the mixture is warmed and the tomatoes have broken down,about 10 minutes.
3. Add 6 cups of stock or water and a good amount of salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (you can prepare the soup in advance up to this stage. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and reheat before proceeding.)
4. Add the pasta and remaining stock. Simmer until the pasta is nearly tender,10 minutes or so. Add half the parsley and the remaining garlic and cook another 5 minutes,until the pasta is well done but not mushy.
5. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve,passing the cheese at the table.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #21

"The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time." -Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oh but for a little green.

I realize that eventually spring will get here.I am also aware that we have to have a winter to have a spring.It the whole circle-of-life thing. I get it. Sadly that picture was only taken about a month ago when Memphis had it's second "snowstorm" and I'll admit it was rather pretty.
This for now is my only green and hope for spring is very much alive.It has been warm enough for some of the bulbs I have planted to make their appearance.The herbs that live on my screen porch (which is encased in thick plastic for a little while longer) long for the heat of the sun,but are starting to grow and break out of their winter coats. Hibernation is for the bears and I'm so looking forward to spring. The farmers market will start up in a few months and fresh,seasonal produce is right around the corner. Thank heavens.

For now this is the only green I have to enjoy and even better this spinach was a dependable stand-in for arugula a few nights ago.The theme for this week's IHCC challenge was Spring Fever. It's also time to vote for the next featured chef and I won't sway the vote,BUT doesn't Rick Bayless seem like a fine choice,I think so.  
Giada is still the featured chef and her recipe for Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil was enough of spring to tide me over for the next few months.
I hope.
I loved this recipe and the meal it made was so bright,fresh and rich. The lemon-infused olive oil was so rich and really brightened the blah shrimp. The spinach gave into the heat and wilted nicely,real nice. The shrimp made it a "meal." It was healthy,rich and hey I didn't feel so bad after eating it.The marinated and baked feta,that's a whole 'nother story,dang fine though. Moving on...
I love fresh lemon.I have made a number of recipes (featured on this quaint little blog). Me and lemon are becoming close friends.
First things first,get that lemon zest infusing in the olive oil.It makes the dish and takes two seconds.
Get the water boiling for your pasta.
Break out the largest skillet you have (or in this case my in-laws had.I made this dinner this past Thursday night and they enjoyed every bite of it. They are sweet,patient people.I wooed them with marinated,baked feta.It will woo anyone.) Brown up the shallots and garlic in some olive oil over medium heat. Next stir in your shrimp and cook until pink,about 5 minutes. This will go quickly so keep up,the shrimp if overcooked will turn into little pink tires and get a little tough to chew.

Add in the cooked linguine,salt and pepper,lemon juice and lemon zest.TOSS CAREFULLY to combine.The biggest skillet in your house might not be big enough (but what this means is you'll have leftovers,yay!)
Turn off the heat. Add in the spinach and that lemon-infused olive oil. The heat of the pan will cook the spinach just enough and allow the olive oil to coat all that shrimpy,linuginey,spinachy goodness. CAREFULLY stir/fold in the spinach.As the spinach mixes in, it will wilt and not be as clumsy in the skillet.(Oh I forgot to mention the shallots and garlic you softened a few minutes ago,the aromas will will sing once that olive oil hits the heat of the pan. Geez.)
Folks really,all I need is the purty mint plants on my screen porch and a plate full of this dish to hold me until spring.I think I shall make it.
Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil
Lemon Oil:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound linguine
2 TBL olive oil
2 shallots,diced
2 garlic cloves,minced
1 pound shrimp(fresh or frozen thawed),peeled and deveined
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
(from about 2 lemons)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 ounces arugula( I couldn't find arugula,so I substituted spinach.Great substitute)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
To make the lemon oil: 1.Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a bowl and set aside.
For the pasta: 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil,salt it and add the linguine.Cook until tender but still firm to the bite,8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta,reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
2. Meanwhile in a heavy,large skillet,warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until pink,about 5 minutes. Add the cooked linguine,the lemon zest,lemon juice,salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the arugula. Now using a mesh strainer/sieve,strain the lemon oil into the pasta;the zest can be discarded. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

go-to seasoning and a Winner!

See that bottle...look right there on the top of the stovetop ledge. The one with the red lid,no not the one with salt in it but the one next to it? Yep that one to the right (with the heavenly light shining down on it). The jar is vintage but the seasoning mixture is fresh as can be.
The vintage jar contains what I list in my recipes as PHS,Paula's House Seasoning.Paula Deen just calls it House Seasoning .I call it perfect. I have a copy of her cookbook The Lady and Sons: Savannah Country Cookbook .Love it,love her and love her laugh,oh Paula.
I saw this stuff called House Seasoning and had no idea what it was.
Until I flipped to the back of the book,page 160 to be exact and to this day I use all the helpful hints she has listed on those few back pages.
Folks now sometimes I make recipes that involve a few.... extra items,oh... maybe say quite a few extra items and some recipes can be a little labor intensive.And thats ok sometimes,but the recipe for Paula's House Seasoning has the shortest ingredient list I've ever used in my kitchen.
Three ingredients...
Yep just three and that's all: salt,black pepper and gahhhlic powder.I meant garlic powder,my southern accent got stuck on the keyboard.
I use this fantastic,three-ingredient mix for general seasoning.I use it in marinades,sauces and salad dressings.It goes with soups,dry rubs and heck even sprinkled over a baked potato.The garlic powder really enhances any recipe that already has garlic in it. Salt and pepper are just the best of friends and really I can't list one by itself without listing the other.Now I know that a big ol' batch of brownies won't call for salt and pepper,but savory dishes are a perfect canvas for this perfect seasoning mix.Break out the funnel and whisk!
And here we go,make your super long grocery list for this recipe and make sure to have patience searching all over the grocery store for this ingredient list.Oh and you don't need a vintage jar to store this in,a mason jar or old jam jar will do just fine.See a few ingredients (staple ingredients in any kitchen) and you can be "green."
Recycle that strawberry jam jar.Go you.
OH OH !!! and we have a winner in the 100th post giveaway from this past Wednesday! Congrats Laura Weaver you have a won a lovely jam sampler pack and I will be in touch with you soon,so I can deliver four jars of delicious,homemade jam! Hooray.
Here's the recipe for Paula's House Seasoning....Oh Paula.
House Seasoning (PHS)
adapted from The Lady and Sons: Savannah Country Cookbook
-Paula Deen
1 cup salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
1. Whisk together in a medium size bowl.Store in an airtight jar/container for up to 6 months.Enjoy!