Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Coke O Van

(Believe me, this is an amazing dish...as in dinner party, impress your friends, dish)

Coq Au Vin.  Translation?  Cockerel (Chicken) in wine.  Pronunciation?  Coke o van.  There's your French lesson for the day.

My step-mother, Sue, is an amazing cook.  We are actually a lot alike in the kitchen.  We both like simple foods with great ingredients.  We both find cooking to be therapeutic.  We both keep clean kitchens.  We both love food.  We both like a glass of wine in our hand while we cook.  And I can't speak for her on this, but I would bet that her favorite room in the house is her kitchen.  I make a few of her recipes on a regular basis.  Many of them are my "go-to's" 

There's one dish that my dad ALWAYS raves about that she makes and it is Coq au vin.  I have never tried her coq au vin, but knowing her cooking, it is delicious.  And knowing my dad, he wouldn't talk on and on about something if it wasn't outstanding.  So luckily when he was here, we went to, yep you guessed it...COSTCO and he bought us some chicken thighs.  And so wanting to actually experience this coq au vin I have heard so much about, I decided to make it for dinner.  So I asked her to send me the recipe and she told me that it's actually an Emeril recipe.  And I love Emeril.  I have eaten at 3 of his restaurants, so if his name is attached to a recipe, I'll try it.  And if Sue swears by this recipe and uses it as one of HER "go-to's", I trust that it is wonderful.

Here's The Recipe:

Here's What I Changed:  
First of all, I halved the recipe.  Instead of 2 whole chickens, I used 5 chicken thighs, skinless.  I left out the shallot, just because I didn't have one.  Which is strange, cause I usually have a shallot sitting around.  Seriously.  I used crimini mushrooms instead of white button mushrooms, cause that's what I had. I used a Cotes-du-Rhone, cause it's one of my most favorite wines.  And then instead of serving it on egg noodles, I served it over mashed potatoes, cause I had a potato I needed to mash.   

It was beyond delicious.  The sauce is so rich.  Not heavy and gravy rich.  Rich in flavor.  This is a must try.  And a definite crowd pleaser.  So thank you, Sue.  Feel free to share more of your "go-to" meals!  I have yet to find one I didn't like!       


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bountiful Baskets - Good for Memphis

So...A dear friend of mine turned me on to something GOOD!  Something REAL GOOD.  And I'm here to tell you about it.  It's called Bountiful Baskets.  It's a food Co-op that offers produce baskets, organic produce baskets, artisan bread, sandwich bread and tortillas every other week.  The goal is to offer more produce to families for less money.  And who doesn't like that idea?  It's a great idea.  Look them up.  Sign up.  And fill up.  This is what came in my first organic basket.  Look at those carrots!  And that kale!  And those heirloom tomatoes!

I was so excited when I got my basket home.  When I picked it up, I didn't really take the time to look at what I got, I just threw it in my bag and went home.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I unpacked it and found delicious heirloom tomatoes, kale, butternut squash, peppers, strawberries, apples, bananas, Brussels sprouts and a rutabaga.  Yep.  That rooty looking white veggie on the right is a rutabaga.  At least that's what I think it is.  And so that's how I treated it.

Here's What I Did:  

I peeled the so-called rutabaga.  It wasn't easy mind you.  That thing was a beast.  I then peeled a sweet potato that I had sitting around and I cut them both into 1 inch cubes and I roasted them with some olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Meanwhile, I sauteed 2 pieces of bacon, cut up and set it aside when it was crispy.  Then I added some onion, garlic, jalapeno and mushrooms to the bacon grease.  Shut up.  Bacon grease is good for you.  At least it is if you tell yourself that it is.  I then added in my rutabaga and sweet potato pieces and sauteed them until everything was all nice and browned and crunchy.

Then I topped it with an over easy egg.  Yes, I'm obsessed with the over easy egg.  It's just so damn good.  And I need the practice on making them.  So give me a break.  Then I added in some green onion.  It was really good.  And thanks to bountiful baskets, I've crossed rutabaga off my MUST COOK list.

So thanks Bountiful Baskets!  Thanks for bringing such an amazing thing to Memphis.  Lord knows we need to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables at a lower cost to families in these parts!  Thanks for all you do.  Can't wait for my next basket of surprises!     

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Day Short Ribs

I know it's not the prettiest picture...but this is meat people.  Channel your inner caveman

Well hello there!  I hope everyone is having an excellent day.  Shoveling themselves out of snow storms, trying out the newest in rain gear.  It's been one hell of a cold year.  We haven't gotten much snow in Memphis.  But it's been cold.  And when it's cold I want comfort.  And comfort to me is slow-cooked meat.

My dad came to visit a few weeks ago.  Anyone who knows my dad knows that the man is an avid shopper at Costco.  I mean, he's their most loyal customer.  As in, he will be in an unnamed grocery store's cheese aisle and decide that he's going to drive 20 miles out of the way to go to Costco for THEIR cheese.  Never mind convenience.  Costco's cheese is more economical, and just tastes better.  Costco really should consider him as their spokesperson.  He is their biggest fan!

On one of our Costco trips, we decided to purchase the boneless short ribs.  After looking at a ton of different recipes online, I realized that I could combine a few different recipes and have the perfect storm.  Ok, fine.  The perfect short rib FOR the perfect storm. So for those of you who are experiencing the crazy weather we've been having...stay warm, drive safely if you have to, or just stay home!  And make short ribs. 

Here's What You Need:  

Whole Shortribs  (we used boneless, but you could use bone in, I just find bone in to be ridiculously overpriced)
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup flour for dredging
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
12 cipollini onions, peeled and cut in half
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half 
4 cloves of garlic, minced 
1 cup Red Wine (I used a Chianti) 
32 ounces, Beef Stock
5 sprigs of thyme
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Rosemary 
2 Tablespoons Grainy Mustard 
1 cup Heavy Cream


Here's What You Do: 


Preheat oven to 300

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Generously salt and pepper your short ribs. Coat each short rib in flour.  Sear all sides of the short ribs until nicely browned.  Remove the short ribs to a plate.

Add onion to pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes, just until they have a bit of brown on the outside.  Add in mushrooms and garlic and cook another 5 minutes.  Add in wine and beef broth and scrape up all the brown bits left behind in the pot. Add thyme and return short ribs to the pot.  Bring liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot and place into the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours.  I checked my short ribs at 2 1/2 hours and decided that they were tender, but another 30 minutes and they'd be perfect.  So I went the full 3 hours.
After they are finished, fish out the thyme sprigs and throw them away.  Stir in mustard, rosemary and cream and raise the heat back up a bit until the sauce has thickened.  It's not going to be a gravy, so if it's too thin for you, you can make a cornstarch/water mixture and add that to thicken it up more.

Serve short ribs over polenta.  I used quick cooking polenta and added in shredded Beemster cheese for an added treat (think really nutty parmesan cheese with an aged cheddar flavor - at least that's how I would describe it).  Another cheese my dad will travel far for.  Though, he lives in Pittsburgh, and he gets his cheese at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company.  Which is about 20 miles from his house.  Maybe the man just loves his cheese.  Have cheese, will travel.  Love him.  Did I mention that he showed up on our doorstep with 5, YES, 5 blocks of amazing cheese (Stilton, Beemster, Asiago, Morbier and Piave - look em up if you've never had them)!   

Anyways, dad loved the ribs. And the best part?  The next day, you can make short rib tacos!  Here's to staying warm!  


Monday, February 10, 2014

This Blog May BUG You. Out.

I love you guys.  It's so flattering when people ask where I've been, tell me I need to write something, or encourage me to keep blogging.  I wish my blog was my job and I could devote all my energy into it.  But alas...real life calls.  So here's where I have been...for all of you who wondered.  And hey...thanks for wondering.  Makes a girl feel real special.  

I'm gonna tell you a little story.  It's a kitchen story.  It's a food story.  It's a terrifying story. And it'll bug you out.  But I'm here for you.  And so when I learn hard lessons, I like to pass them along so that you know what to do if you find yourself in my situation.   

It was a chilly Wednesday evening.  I had just gotten off work.  It was around 8:00 pm.  I was hungry.  No. I was starving.  I work in a pretty freakin' delicious restaurant.  And I'm surrounded by good food the whole time I'm there.  I've been there almost 2 years now and I still eat everything.  That says a lot.

Anyways...back to my horror story.  I was starving when I got off work.  So I looked in the fridge as I always do, and I assessed the situation, then answered the same question I always ask myself, "What can I make with what I have?"  Lucky for me, I love good food.  So I usually have some pretty good shit in my fridge.  And this particular night I discovered that I had everything to make some shrimp and grits. So as I always do, I looked up a bunch of recipes, picked out the parts I didn't like in each of them, and combined all the good parts to make a meal.

I'm in the kitchen, Alabama Shakes Pandora station playing on the JamBox.  I'm all clean and showered.  I'm in my pj's.  I'm drinking a tasty glass of red wine.  Life is pretty damn good.  I've got my mixture of chicken stock and milk boiling so I can add the grits.  I've got my grits measured out.  I glance over at the iPad and see this teeeeeeeny, wieeeeeene bug crawl across it.  So I smash it, wonder in my head, "Where the hell did that come from?", and then instinctively looked over at my grits.  And that's when the horror story begins, my friends.

There were VISIBLE bugs, teeny, tiiiiiny BUGS all up in my grits.  So I immediately throw the grits in the sink and run the garbage disposal, all the while running scalding hot water.  I wanted those suckers to DIE.  Once I felt I had run the disposal at the maximum kill time, I thought to myself, "Well, shit. Now I have no grits for my shrimp and grits.  SURELY, I have some more somewhere in my pantry." 

And that's when I searched my pantry.  And I found some more grits.  Yes.  Some more BUG FILLED GRITS, DAMN IT!  So what do I do?  Freak the fuck out.  In my pantry.  I ripped that bitch apart.  I looked in my flour...BUGS, my rice...BUGS, my pasta...my pasta that was an in air-tight (so I thought) container...BUGS!!!! They were in everything.  Everything except the spices, the sugar and the salt.

So I threw EVERYTHING away.  And I did a Google search on pantry bugs.  And I found a few different things that they could be.  Either flour bugs, pantry moths or weevils.  But whatever the hell they were, they are all gone now.  Like I said...I had to throw away everything!  They were in unopened boxes of food, EVERYWHERE.  So I tossed everything.  The whole time doing the freaky bug dance like a maniac and screaming here and there in complete terror!  I tossed everything in a trash bag, then took the trash bag out to the dumpster.  I bleached the pantry so much that my hands cracked from so much bleach use (remind me to get a pair of rubber gloves), I washed any appliance that was in the pantry once by hand, and once in the dishwasher.  I then re-bleached everything in the cabinet.  Then I let it air out, and I bleached everything again.  Then I put bay leaves everywhere in my pantry.  According to something I read, these pests don't like the smell of bay leaves.  And I was desperate.  I would have drawn a pentagram, lit candles and spoke in tongues if that's what I had to do to never be in this situation again.

And then I didn't cook.  For a LONG time.  Because I didn't want to restock my pantry just to throw everything away again.  Have you bought a spice lately?  They're fucking expensive.  And I had about 45 spices.  In my head, that's about 150 bucks worth of spices I had to restock.

You know what else I do now?  I freeze any pantry item I buy for 3 days.  You know why?  Because most likely, the reason I had this issue in the first place, is because bugs lay eggs in flour, rice, cereal, pasta, etc.  And then you bring said item home from the grocery store.  And if you don't use them quick enough, these bugs will grow and mate!  And freak you the fuck out.  I am having trouble writing this right now.  It's such a creepy, crawly story.  Can't stop itching.  

So here's your lesson.  The next time you buy an item from your pantry.  Freeze it.  For 3 days. Also, put bay leaves on all your pantry shelves.  While researching these bugs, I read serious horror stories.  Like such an infestation that you could see the bugs flying around.  I shudder to think.

I have restocked my pantry since this awful incident and so far so good.  And trust me, I examine everything with a microscopic eye before I cook it now.

Nothing like a good ol' bug infestation to ruin your life!        


Friday, February 07, 2014

Bitchin' Brunch

Sometimes I amaze myself.  I hit a major home run on this brunch dish.  This is how my brain works. 

The other day I bought some mushrooms to make sauteed mushrooms over polenta for dinner.  Then I started feeling pretty crappy and I decided that the only thing I had the energy to cook was a sweet potato.  So that was my dinner that night.  A sweet potato and a spinach salad that was already made.  

The next day I was Pinteresting and I found this recipe that was for sauteed mushrooms and Brussels sprouts with an egg over easy broken open on top.  It looked amazing and I made mental note that I would have to recreate this dish in the near future.

The day after that I wanted to try my hand at making a goat cheese souffle, so I went out and bought some goat cheese.  That night I worked and didn't get home until 2 am, so my dinner was a handful of almonds.  I know, Mom, that's not exactly a good dinner.  But sometimes life gives you rotten lemons that you can't do shit with.  Needless to say, when I woke up the next morning, I was RAVENOUS.  And so I decided to make a goat cheese and scallion polenta topped with sauteed mushrooms, onion, garlic, jalapenos and an over easy egg.  And because today I was craving country ham, I added that to the mix and here you have it.  The best damn meal I have created in awhile.  I mean, it was so good I'd put it up against some of the finer dishes in the best restaurants in Memphis.  NO JOKE!

Here's What I Did:
I made polenta using 1/2 cup of quick cooking polenta and 1 1/2 cups of milk.  Bring the milk to a boil and then slowly whisk in the polenta like a crazy person, avoiding the hot lava explosions that end up erupting when you make polenta.  Stir like a psycho for about 5 minutes, then add in one of those small logs of goat cheese.  Stir to melt the cheese and take off heat.  Add in 2 chopped scallions (aka green onion), green and white parts.

Next, I sauteed half an onion diced, a package of white button mushrooms, sliced thick, a small clove of diced garlic, and half a jalapeno pepper, diced.  I've been using coconut oil to saute things lately because it's much better for you and I have found that I LOVE the taste of mushrooms sauteed in coconut oil.  It's amazing.  Almost sweet, yet still savory. Salt and pepper the mushroom mixture then add in a little chicken stock, just a splash and bring to a boil.  Add in a splash of half and half and mix until sauce has thickened.  In another pan, cook your eggs over easy.  

Put a heaping scoop of your goat cheese and green onion polenta on your plate.  Top with mushroom mixture.  Then top that with your egg.  Sprinkle with a little parsley.  Then break the egg yolk levee and watch as the yolk floods everything on your plate.  Serve with a side of country ham, or whatever meat option you prefer, or nothing at all.  The dish stands on its own.  It really didn't need the ham.  Try it this weekend.  Would be perfect with a mimosa.         

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Food Fail

My sideways photo of banana chips.  Thank you, possessed computer.

Sometimes things don't work in the kitchen.  Like making your own banana chips.  I've been looking for a healthy banana chip, but keep finding that most of them are fried and sugared.  Or sugared and then fried.  But I've yet to find an all natural banana chip.  So what did I do?  I tried to make my own.  I cooked these for about an hour at 240 degrees.  And what did I find?  That homemade banana chips SUCK.  They just don't taste as good as fried, sugared banana chips.  They have a weird texture.  They're chewy and crunchy at the same time and just don't have much flavor.  But I won't be discouraged.  I will figure out banana chips.  I will go buy a food dehydrator if I have to.

Cheers to shit not working in the kitchen.  Don't let it stop you from trying new things.