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!!