Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Small Indulgence

The morning we were leaving Crescent after my mother's wedding she called and asked me to stop by her house on the way out of town because there was an opened tin of caviar in her fridge. I happily complied and brought the caviar back to Atlanta with me. I haven't always liked caviar and I still don't like all the ones I taste, but I do like this. It comes from Darien, GA and is from wild caught American Sturgeon. This is about as local as caviar comes! So a friend came over for a little tasting before dinner and we had the caviar on wafers with a meyer lemon scented creme fraiche.

Roast Pork

I have so many wonderful food photos and recipes to share, but so little time! This is a pork roast my Aunt made recently and it was delicious. I just got back from having lunch at Star Provisions and while I was there I stopped in to the farm stand and got some beautiful little root veggies (baby turnips, sun chokes, carrots, and sweet potatoes). I think I'm going to go get a pork roast for tonight and cook it with the roots. Photos and recipe for that coming soon as well as the photos of all the great food from my Mama's wedding this past weekend. Yum!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shrimp Two Ways

Oh my goodness do I ever love shrimp. They are so very delicious. I am a lucky girl and my mama lives down on the Georgia coast. I get lots of what I think are the best shrimp in the world on a regular basis from mama's friend, Charlie (Charlie is a commercial seafood captain and not only keeps me in the shrimp, but also provides unbelievable whole fish and bags of the amazing clams he cultivates). I keep vacuum sealed bags of the shrimp in my freezer and they can quickly be de-thawed for an easy weeknight dinner (just place them in a colander and run cold water over the shrimp until thawed through). There are two ways I cook shrimp most often and they both involve a good bit of butter, but it is totally worth it. Trust me on this one. I like to serve the shrimp with rice and broccoli or a simple green salad. The scampi style shrimp can also be turned into a pasta dish if you prefer that to rice.

Scampi Style Shrimp

Approximately 1 lb (20-25 count) shrimp, peeled with tail left on, and deveined if necessary
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
small handful of parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
zest of half a lemon
1/2 cup white wine (honestly I use whatever is open in the fridge)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of butter
* a note on butter - when I am cooking I always use unsalted butter. I prefer to add the salt myself rather than having it built in to the butter.

Heat olive oil in a big skillet that has a top over medium low heat for a couple minutes
you want the oil to get warm, but you are going to add the garlic first and you do not want it to brown
Add in your minced garlic and stir with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, add in pepper flakes, lemon zest, and parsley
Turn the heat up to medium and add in the shrimp, get everything good and coated
Turn the heat up a little more to med high, add the wine and then stick a top on it
Let all that goodness work its magic for about 5-7 minutes then pull the top off
Give everything a good stir, add in the 2 tablespoons of butter and adjust the saltiness
Turn off the heat and at this point either spoon over rice or toss with hot pasta

Shrimp New Orleans BBQ Style (pictured above)

You can make this shrimp either stove top in a skillet or under the broiler in a roasting pan
If making under broiler then just toss everything together in roasting pan and cook at 450 degrees or broil on low until shrimp is cooked through. The sauce will make itself in the pan. Taste and adjust sauce when you take it out of the oven.
If making stove top then follow the steps below
I want to warn you that these measurements are my best approximation. In my experience this is a dish that likes to be fiddled with and adjusted.

Approximately 1 lb (20-25 count) shrimp, peeled with tail left on, and deveined if you like
1/4 cup olive oil (you know the drill...good qual, extra virgin)
4 tablespoons butter divided
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a couple shakes of hot sauce (I like Crystal brand)
juice and zest of one lemon
Start by heating oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat
Add shrimp, garlic and stir
Add everything else except the last two tablespoons of butter
Give everything another stir so that the shrimp is coated in all the yummy sauce and then let the shrimp cook through, approximately 5-7 minutes, depending on the heat of your burner
When shrimp has cooked through and sauce seems consistent add in last two tablespoons of butter and then spoon over rice. I like to serve this with steamed broccoli because the sauce tastes great on it too!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The misunderstood sprout

I think brussel sprouts have gotten a bad rap. When most people think sprouts I'm pretty sure they conjure up and image of a grayish, mushy, steamed or boiled thing. Poor brussel spout! They really are so delicious if you just cook them right! I'd say they are one of my top 5 favorite veggies and in the fall and winter when they are at their best I cook them almost weekly. This is one way to cook them quickly and simply and really bring out the best in these tasty little gems. Do try and grab the smallest ones you see. They are the most tender and they also cook the fastest. Unfortunately I don't have a solid quantity to suggest...basically a handful per person.

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees
To trim the sprouts take a paring knife and slice off the "root" end. The outer leaves will just fall right off and that's about all you need to do to prep them
If the sprout is super tiny (marble sized) then leave it whole, but if it's a little bigger maybe slice it in half lengthwise
place the sprouts in the dish you intend to roast them in and toss them with a tablespoon or so of good extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. As you toss the sprouts some leave may fall off, but that's ok. They will become extra browned and extra delish
* I think now is a good time to tell you how I feel about salt and pepper. I really don't bother with table salt and that flaky "pre-ground" pepper stuff. I wholeheartedly believe in good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. It makes all the difference in cooking. I have a wonderful pepper grinder that I fill with whole corns, but the disposable, pre-filled grinders you find in the spice isle are great too!
Roast the sprouts at 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until cooked through and browned
If you like toss with a little butter before serving, but I think they will be just fine as is
If you think you don't like sprouts please give these a try. I think you'll change your mind!

Creamy, Yummy Mac and Cheese

Who doesn't love Mac and Cheese, right? I do and I honestly I can't think of anyone I know who is anti-mac. It is the ultimate comfort food and I cook it more often than I'd like to admit. I suppose you could make some changes and have yourself a lower fat version, but what's the point really? If you're going to make mac and cheese you might as well go all out! This recipe makes enough to fill an 8 x 8 baking dish, but you could easily double it for more.

1/2 a box mini penne or elbow pasta - really any shape you like will work. Little shells would probably be great too...or rotini for that matter...i digress...
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour (not the self rising kind)
3 cups milk (i use 2% and sometimes add a little whole, half & half, or cream...whatever is on hand to fatten it up..like it needs it!)
1 and 1/2 blocks of cheese, grated (a nice sharp cheddar is good...so is colby jack or a combo of cheeses..your call! side note on cheese: please buy a block and grate it yourself. The pre-shredded stuff is coated in a waxy something and it just isn't right!)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
set a big pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta (remember you are only using half the box)to al dente perfection! drain but don't rinse
this may entail some multi tasking, but if I can do it so can you!
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat, once melted add flour and whisk to incorporate butter and flour together (ps. this is called a roux and it's the base for a lot of yummy things!)
keep moving the mixture around with the whisk until as my mama says, "the pasty smell goes away", probably 2-3 minutes
slowly whisk in the milk, being sure to combine everything really well (ps. at this point you are basically making a bechamel or white sauce...yum!)
sprinkle in a pinch of salt
turn up the heat to med high and keep whisking every so often, you want to bring this mixture to a boil and as you do it will thicken in front of your eyes! Just like magic!
once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon go ahead and reduce the heat back to med-low. Stir in your cheese, dry mustard and cayenne
You probably want to taste it at this point and adjust the seasoning...add some salt or maybe more cayenne if you like it spicy. Personally I like a dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Combine your cheese sauce and cooked pasta (it may look a little soupy, but trust me this is how it stays so creamy and good) and spread in your baking dish
Now put your own special touch on the dish...extra grated cheese on top...maybe some freshly made bread crumbs...or the favorite in our house crushed Ritz crackers (I am a really bad person and I toss my crushed up crackers with a tablespoon of melted butter so I get a nice brown crust)
Bake uncovered at 400 degrees until bubbly and brown on top. I usually let it sit 5 or 10 minutes before digging in...I don't know if this actually does anything, but I like to think it helps it "set". Seriously this is SO good! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

George's Favorite Dinner

Here is a secret about Mississippi: some of the best food I've had in that state comes from gas stations. A lot of them have kitchens in them and from those kitchens comes some downright delicious meats, southern style veggies and desserts. The gas station near our farm in Scooba, MS where we go hunting in the fall and winter is one of those places. We often stop in there for lunch after a morning in the dove field or duck blind. One of their standout dishes is their fried pork chops. I haven't quite been able to reproduce the perfection of those chops (I have a feeling they may be using a deep fryer), but from time to time I try to make something similar at home. Combined with some creamy mac and cheese and some roasted brussel sprouts and you've got my husband's favorite dinner.

Fried Pork Chops - this is a pretty basic recipe for these babies, but my most recent inspiration comes from the Pioneer Woman on her cooking blog!
1 package thin cut, bone in pork chops

approx 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon seasoning salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt and black pepper

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

If you have a nice, big cast iron skillet now is the time to use it. If you don't have one then take any large, high sided skillet and heat the oil over medium high heat so it's ready to fry some chops!

pat the chops dry and season liberally with salt and black pepper

mix the flour, seasoning salt and cayenne in a shallow bowl

dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture and shake off excess

once oil is nice and hot fry those pork chops, depending on the size of your skillet you can probably do 2 or 3 at a time. You don't want to crowd them. Let them get nice and brown on each side and then set on a plate lined with paper towels while you cook the next batch.