Monday, July 6, 2009

Bacon and Eggs with Buttermilk Biscuits

Well, it's all over. Now that I know I can make buttermilk biscuits from scratch at home with very little effort or ingredients and achieve fantastic results, I may never leave the house again.

When my family relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, when I was in high school, I was hostile about it, to say the least. My knee jerk reaction was to hate everything Southern in order to differentiate myself from the locals. Cute accents? Lame! Mild weather? Boring! Local TV show that covered Friday night's high school football "action" and pre-empted David Letterman by 30 minutes every week? THE END OF CIVILIZATION! The very first thing that won me over was the food. Of course.

I was at the Bojangles on Western Boulevard with my sister and our friend Lauren (may she rest in peace) on a Friday night. "Try the cajun filet biscuit combo with sweet tea," they told me. "But my ulcer...I don't want to get heartburn," I weakly protested. "It's not that spicy, just try it!" Worn down, I ordered. Oh. Mah. Gah. Of course, the chicken was delicious, but the biscuit! I had never eaten anything like it. Light and fluffy, yet toothsome, with a mild flavor and buttery finish. It was my bread-y nirvana, everything I had been searching for but didn't know how to put into words. It has been almost 13 years since that night, and I still feel the same way. So when I saw Adam Roberts' recent post about buttermilk biscuits the other day, I knew I was looking at my destiny.

I followed his recipe exactly, so I'm not going to re-post it here. The finished product was just perfect. As good as any biscuit I have ever had in a restaurant, but even better because I made them myself! I cooked the bacon in the oven in my broiler pan for the last 15 minutes of the biscuits' cooking time. The bacon came out a little crunchy at the edges, but otherwise fine. The eggs were just simply scrambled, nothing fancy.

Rating: This is awesome.

I ate 3 biscuits, and now I'm feeling a little on the wrong side of full. Oink. Be careful--they are rich! I'm going to try freezing the leftovers for quick, re-heated breakfasts in the future. Wei ate his split open with some strawberry jam smeared on the tender interior, and he said it was tasty. I have no need for such flashy adornments!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brined Pork Chops with Polenta and Sauteed Mushrooms

I was very excited to use these crimini mushrooms tonight! They really do look like mini-portobellos, no?

I don't know if I can write about this dinner in my normal way. I think it is more suited to narrative. I had this image in my head, of a pork chop sitting on top of a fluffy cloud of polenta with mushrooms scattered around. I set out to create it, never mind that I had never made polenta before. Or eaten it. Whatever. I was just all about trying my hand at a cheap side dish!

I have no idea if my polenta turned out well, since I have nothing to compare it to. How does it look to you? I didn't use any particular recipe; I just read a few and took components from each one. The method was basic: bring a mixture of chicken broth and water to a boil, add the cornmeal a little at a time and whisk like hell. I threw in some Parmesan at the end.

The flavor was good, but I didn't like the texture very much. I can be weird about textures, though, so it might just be my weirdness. It felt...I don't know...gakky. I think I would have preferred it creamier; we'll see if I can get it there with subsequent tries!

I brined the pork chops for about 4 hours before cooking. The brine was super simple: 4 tablespoons kosher salt and 2 tablespoons sugar dissolved in 4 cups of water. I poured it over 3 boneless pork loin chops, each about an inch thick. I was not sure if it would make a difference in the final juiciness factor; I was skeptical due to the short brining time. However, I think it really did help keep the chops moist and flavorful! They were the simplest, tastiest pork chops I have had in a long time.

To cook the chops, I patted them dry with a paper towel after taking them out the brine and trimmed off some of the fat around the edges. I sprinkled each side with a small amount of grill seasoning--a very small amount since I didn't want to risk having them be overly-salty after their brine bath--and quickly seared them in my grill pan for a couple of minutes per side. Then I put them in a 350 degree F oven and left them there for 15 minutes. I don't have a good meat thermometer, but they were firm with a little bit of bounciness to the touch and light pink in the middle when I took them out. Perfectly done pork in my opinion!

The mushrooms were very easy. I cut 8 ounces of creminis into quarters and threw them in a hot pan with some olive oil and a bunch of minced garlic. I seasoned with some kosher salt and sauteed them until they had cooked down and released their juices, about 7 or 8 minutes. I added a splash of dry sherry and 3/4 cup of chicken broth to the pan and let them simmer at low heat until all of the liquid evaporated. They sat on the back burner while I was fussing with the polenta and chops, so it must have been about 40 minutes until all of the liquid was gone. They were the perfect accompaniment to the polenta: concentrated and rich with a lovely deep, almost meaty flavor.

Rating: This is awesome. It was a hit with me and the hubs.

Hook me up with some polenta secrets, y'all!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Salmon Fish Cakes

I have blogged about these once before here so I won't post the recipe again.

My husband and I kicked off the holiday weekend last night by going to see The Hangover. As you can probably guess, it wasn't Chekhov or anything, but it made me laugh a lot, which I really needed! We also had a coupon for a free popcorn and Coke--score!

We were still feeling hungry when we got home, so I whipped these up for a late night nosh, using the leftover mashed potatoes from the night before.

I think the roasted garlic in the mashed potatoes got a nice meld going on in the fridge overnight, because the garlic flavor was much more noticeable in the fish cakes than it was when I ate the potatoes the first time. In my opinion, that made them even more delicious!

Rating: This is awesome (again)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crunchy Garlic Chicken Breasts

Or, what to cook if you live in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and you want a quiet night to yourself.

First off, I will say that my roasted garlic mashed potatoes in the picture didn't really turn out how I wanted. One would think that since I had never made mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, I might look up a recipe as a reference point to make sure I got the garlic to potato ratio correct. I did not. So I will not be posting a recipe for the potatoes!

The chicken was inspired by this recipe for Moist Cheddar-Garlic Oven-Fried Chicken Breast on RecipeZaar.Com. The end result was fantastic--tender, sharp, and crunchy. It reminded me a bit of the Shake 'n Bake that I mastered as a child, but so much tastier!

2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons very finely chopped garlic (I just pushed the garlic through my garlic press)
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (or a teaspoon each of salt and pepper)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place a metal cooling rack in a rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Mix the butter, garlic and seasoning or salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Smear one side of each of the chicken breasts with about one-quarter of the butter mixture. Spread out the bread crumbs and cheese in a shallow plate, tossing with your fingers to disperse the cheese evenly.

Press the buttered sides of the chicken breasts into the bread crumbs, and smear the other side of the breasts with the rest of the butter mixture. Turn the chicken over and dredge in the bread crumbs, patting all over to ensure a good crust. Lay the chicken on top of the cooling rack and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil to make the top extra crispy. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Rating: This is awesome.

So delish and easy. I'll definitely be making it again!

Meal Plan

It has been a while!

I feel like I have been losing my mojo in the kitchen a bit lately. I just haven't felt motivated or inspired. Two days ago, I came home from work really tired, and my husband said he would make dinner while I snoozed on the couch for a little while. How sweet! I woke up hungry and wandered into the kitchen to see what he had made.


I am not joking! This is what I get for being lazy with dinner ideas!!

For the record, I ate them. They tasted intensely, deeply meaty. Not bad! But after a while, the texture started to creep me out and then I was like "Uhmm, I am biting into an entire heart right now" and I had to stop. I think I could have hung in there longer if they had been chopped up, not whole.

Today I made a meal plan and shopping list for the next week. I have to get back with the program--no more surprise organ meat nights!! I'm hoping to post all of these as I make them:

Wed: Crunchy garlic chicken breasts with garlic mashed potatoes
Thur: Salmon cakes with stir-fried broccoli
Fri: Steak and bell pepper stir-fry with rice
Sat: Brined pork chops with polenta and sauteed mushrooms
Sun: Chicken curry with rice
Mon: Bacon and eggs with buttermilk biscuits
Tues: Salisbury steak with egg noodles
Wed: Pork Dumplings
Thur: Chicken satay with peanut sauce and roasted carrots

I've blogged a few of these on here before, but I will post pictures of the finished dish anyway. My husband recently got a fancy new camera, and I want to get some practice taking food pictures with it.

Stay tuned!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Salmon Fish Cakes

I got this wonderfully comforting recipe from Nigella Bites, and it is a delicious way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. She suggests using canned salmon instead of fresh, so I bought a can of the stuff for the first time tonight.

Man, it was a great deal! 14.5 ounces of wild salmon for $1.50. I'm not suggesting that it's an adequate substitute for a freshly grilled salmon filet, but if you need some cheap protein and a quick hit of omega-3 fatty acids I don't know if it can be beat for the price.

Nigella uses matzo meal in place of bread crumbs to fry these fish cakes, but I used panko instead since I had it in my cabinet.

For the fish cakes:
1.5 to 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
14.5 ounces canned salmon, drained
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled (optional--only use if the mashed potato hasn't got any butter in it)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 egg
Salt and pepper (season cautiously--remember that the canned salmon will be salty and the potatoes have already been seasoned!)

For coating and frying:
2 eggs
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs or medium grain matzo meal
scant 1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, mix together all of the fish cake ingredients with clean hands.

Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Form palm sized patties of the mixture, and place on the baking sheet. I got 7 cakes out of my mixture, but I think it will vary on how much potato you have. Set the baking sheet in the refrigerator and leave the cakes to firm up for however long you can wait--at least 20 minutes. To save time in the evening, you can mix up the patties first thing in the morning and leave them to sit in the fridge all day until dinner time.

Even with this time in the fridge, you will have to handle the fish cakes very delicately during the dipping and frying process. I had one fall apart on me!

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and spread out the breadcrumbs on a plate. Dip each fish cake into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Warm the butter and oil in a large pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and starts to fizzle, fry the fish cakes on each side until golden brown and the centers are warmed through.

Rating: This is awesome

Leftovers rule! Even though the fish cake mixture smelled like cat food before I cooked it, it tasted fantastic once it was done: crunchy exterior, mild and soft interior. It wasn't overly fishy or potato-y; everything melded together nicely.

My Omnivore’s Hundred

Yes, I know that I'm very late to the party on this. No, I don't expect this to be of interest to anyone but me.

For the uninitiated, the rules are:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (I did a wine tasting at Florida Orange Groves and Winery in St. Petersburg during my senior year spring break. I forget what all I tried, but it was tasty!)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries (We had a blackberry bush behind my house in Maryland when I was growing up.)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I think the heat would make me insane in the membrane. I am such a wimp with spicy food.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I don't see this happening. Not for any particular reason; I just don't see it happening)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (Again, the spiciness and I don't mix)
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (No food is worth dying for, especially since I've read that fugu doesn't even taste very good)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal (Not out of snobbiness; I just hate their special sauce!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (I'd rather have a dry vodka martini, thank you very much)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Maybe if I were starving?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (I hate hollandaise sauce)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (I wish. I did eat lunch at one though.)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

49 out of 100. Ohhh, I've got a lot of livin' to do...