Thursday, November 28, 2013
Usually, the pangs are for ordinary foods which have suddenly been added to my proscribed list, like yeasty honey-wheat bread fresh from the oven and slathered with butter. I can have the butter (in small amounts). I miss the wheat breads. Especially around the holidays, since fresh bread was one of those things that Grandma Helen excelled at, for the festive tables, and we spent many of those holidays, in my yoot, at her table.
But I digress. This does not cry out for yeast breads.
Some foods, she would never have served, simply because she was a nice German-American wife of a Midwestern farmer, and a product of her time. She never heard of salsa, never heard of tomatillos, or cilantro, or jalapeño peppers, or… quite a bit of the stuff we take for granted when we walk into the produce section of a supermarket today. In fact, I've found quite a few people in my neighborhood who still know nothing about these things. But that's probably because I live out here in the sticks, and people here tend to pay little attention to the latest trends from the coasts.
So, I get to treat the people who sit at the Bat's table with the products of my playtime in the kitchen, the result of my spending entirely too much time surfing food porn on the internet.
This particular dish, my relish, occurred because my pop kindly potted a couple of tomatillo plants for me, this year, and I was looking to use the fruits in something besides my favorite chili and your basic salsa verde recipes… I suppose one might eat this on tortilla chips, or on a chicken taco, or some such. But it's just fine as a light side dish, as a sort of salad.
Heck, it's a relish. Do with it what you please.
Fresh Tomatillo Relish
about 3 lbs fresh tomatillos, husks removed and thoroughly washed
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
zest of 1 small lime
juice of 2 small limes
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 small jalapenos, finely minced
Rinse the tomatillos in cold water, peel, and keep rinsing them until they are no longer sticky. Cut away the bit where the stem was attached (pretty much the same way you'd rid most tomatoes of their stem cores). Coarsely chop them (into cubes of less than 1 centimeter) and put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add all the other ingredients, and mix well.
Refrigerate at least 1 day before serving, to allow the flavors to blend.
Can be kept in fridge for up to two weeks.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Fresh from the oven. A few of those cranberries pushed some of those pecan halves around – the big bullies!
But enough of guilty pleasures and schoolgirl crushes.
The problem with pie is, I can't eat wheat any more. And most people make their pie crusts from basic all-purpose wheat flour. I'm also allergic to almonds, and most people who build gluten-free recipes love to make pie crusts with almond flour. This, of course, means I can't eat just any pie. Therefore, I search high and low for crusts and compatibilities.
And, of course, I seek the best way to safely misbehave.
This means, while I get a healthy overdose of sugars, I can at least brag that there's extra nutrition in whatever I prepare. In this case, it's a bit of additional protein. Yes, it's a pecan pie, but it's a pecan-pecan pie. The crust is purely pecans and butter.
Seriously. Pecans. Butter. Crust.
As for the pie filling…well, let's get down to business.
2 cups chopped pecans
4 Tablespoons melted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup dark Karo syrup
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons dark rum
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans, plus some complete halves for decoration (optional)
For the crust:
Coarsely chop pecans. Spread out on jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides), and roast in oven at 350º until slightly darkened (about 8 minutes). Allow to cool.
Put into blender or food processor and chop until only slightly coarser than cornmeal. Place pecans in freezer at least a half hour, to deeply chill.
Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit.
Remove from freezer, add 4 Tbs. melted butter. Mix well. Press evenly into 9-inch pie pan† (you may want to lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the mixture while you work, to keep things tidy. Personally, I like the opportunity to lick the buttered pecan crumbs off my fingers when I'm done). Refrigerate until filling is ready.
For the filling:
In a medium or large bowl, stir the 3 eggs, 1 cup syrup, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 2 Tablespoons dark rum. When the ingredients are fully mixed, add the chopped pecans and the fresh cranberries. Pour into crust. If you wish to get fancy, you may choose to arrange a few pecan halves on the top of the filling, for decoration (and added nutrition, if you want a really good excuse to do this).
Place on middle rack of oven. Bake at 450º F for 10 minutes (if you're working with a convection oven, 425º). Reduce oven temperature to 350º, continue to bake at least 35-40 minutes, or, until the middle begins to set up. Remove from oven, cool on rack.
When fully cooled, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream (I like a rum whipped cream, myself!)
*If you think this doesn't have enough sugar in it, you can always add a little sweetener to the crust, as well. My original source recommended 2 Tablespoons non-sugar syrup, and I've used brown sugar plus cinnamon before. But with this, I don't think it needs any more sweetness, or people's teeth will start to hurt.
†I prefer to use a glass pie pan for this, because I can hold the dish up to the light after I've spread the crust and pressed it in. That way, I can see if I've missed any spots or made an area too thin. Also, the pecan crust seems to crisp a little better in either a glass pan. I think it may be that it continues to cook a little after it comes out of the oven, and the butter finishes it nicely. But don't quote me on that. I'm not a scientist. And I am a little bit nuts.
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Friday nights we have a sort of a family get-together. That is to say, Bat's BFF and her husband come over to decompress, and thereby give the old fogeys in our house a chance to catch up on the latest gossip from my alma mater. This gives me a chance to play a little bit in the kitchen, since, as long as it's only for three of us, sometimes the recipes mean FAR too many leftovers. Having a couple of extra people pitching in on the eating process means less goes into the freezer. That's not always a good thing, but then, the deep-freeze is often over-filled with goodies harvested from Pop's garden, so there is a built-in problem when it comes to extra servings.
I really didn't have to worry about extra, though, this week. Pop, who watches his food intake, and who doesn't care for chicken since the days of the Great Depression (when chicken and Spam were the meats on the table almost all the time), ate two servings of the bird, plus went back for seconds on the 'taters.
In other words, the whole dinner was a success, and I didn't have to worry about freezer space.
And the truth is, it was fairly simple. Much of the preparation can be done hours ahead of time (even the night before), and the cooking is low-fuss. The real trick is to brine the chicken at least three hours before you start to cook. And to use buttermilk (no cheats or substitutions). That's what (a) makes it tender and (b) gives it a little "tang". I also made mine gluten-free, by using garbanzo flour to coat the pieces, which gave it an added distinction in its flavor and texture, but you can go ahead and use an all-purpose flour, if you like.
There is something else to consider: keep the portions in a manageable size. I bought a six-pound package of chicken breasts on sale at the local supermarket, and it contained five pieces of bird. I don't know about you, but a single piece of meat that large is more than I can handle at one sitting, these days. Also, when they're that big, it takes forever to cook them. So, for this recipe, I stripped the meat from skin and bone, and then cut the pieces into sections approximately 1/3 pound in weight (slightly larger than the palm of my hand, not counting the fingers), leaving the tenders whole. If you buy leg portions, you'll want to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Of course, you can buy the pieces already boneless and skinless, if you feel like saving time, but I like the part where I got all six pounds for six dollars, when the prepared stuff was $3.49 per lb.
Also, if you want to fix these two dishes in one meal, it's easy enough to peel & chop your potatoes and chop your onion & pepper while the chicken is marinating, and let them stand in their own separate dishes, submerged in cold water, until it's time to cook them (about the time you put the chicken in the oven). If you do this, drain well before cooking.
At any rate, dinner is served.
We like a little color…
3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken pieces
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cups garbanzo flour (divided)*
1 Tablespoon coarse-ground pepper
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cooking oil (I prefer canola, because it has no flavor of its own)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon slices
In a gallon zipper bag, mix buttermilk, honey, Kosher salt and chicken. Shake well, allow to sit in refrigerator at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 400º F.
Fill a gallon zipper bag with 2 cups garbanzo flour, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and salt.
In a shallow bowl or smaller bag, put remaining 1 cup of garbanzo flour
In another wide, shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs.
Remove marinating chicken from refrigerator and pour away the buttermilk mixture. Pat dry the pieces of chicken.
Dredge each piece through the plain flour, then through the egg, finally dropping it into the bag of seasoned flour. Shake thoroughly as each piece is put into the bag, so as to cover the chicken completely.
In a 9x14x2" roasting pan, pour oil, place in oven to heat up. When oil starts to shimmer, remove from oven, add butter.
Carefully place the pieces of floured chicken in the pan, fitting so they do not overlap.
Place in oven, bake about 10-15 minutes, remove from oven, turn pieces over, return them to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until they are lightly-browned.
Allow to stand and cool about 5 minutes before serving (they are also tasty served chilled).
*you can substitute your favorite flour, or whatever you have on hand.
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 4 cups)
2 cups sweet corn, fresh or thawed from frozen
1 medium sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced (Vidalia or Texas Sweets are best)
1 Tablespoon coarse-ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (approximately)
In a large frying pan or wok, heat olive oil with onions at medium-high temp until the onions turn transparent. Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, remove the onions from the oil, replace them with the potato chunks, salt and pepper. Cook until they begin to turn brown and slightly crisp, flipping with spatula occasionally.
Meanwhile, in another frying pan at medium heat, melt butter, sauté the corn until some kernels begin to turn golden-brown. Add peppers and stir until just mixed. Stir this and the onions into the potatoes. Let cook on medium heat for a few minutes, for the flavors to blend. Serve hot.†
†Leftovers of this can be reheated in a frying pan & mixed into eggs, for a tasty breakfast. It's even more awesome when you add freshly-cooked, crumbled bacon to the eggs…