Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Apple Pie

Apple pie...the ubiquitous two crust pie. It is certainly seen all over the place on dessert tables everywhere. But each and every one of these pies, and the ones you can buy in the grocery store all have a problem. I am deathly allergic to cinnamon, and Americans seem to think that if a dish has apples in it, it MUST have cinnamon. I prefer my food not to kill me. But I LOVE apple pie. So, thanks to some lovely cooks in south Oklahoma, I came up with a version that works with my allergy, AND makes all the apple pie lovers in my house happy (including me).

Apple Pie
3 Granny Smith apples
1 cup of vanilla sugar**
pie crust for 2 crust pie
1 egg + 2 TBSP water, beaten together (optional)
heavy whipping cream

1. Wash, core, quarter and slice the apples into approximately 1/4" slices. (We leave the peels on, you don't have to.)
2. In a bowl, put the apple slices, and mix with the vanilla sugar. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours.
3. Put the 1st crust in the bottom of a deep dish pie plate. Gently put the apples in the crust, spreading them around for the best fit.
4. Lay the 2nd crust over the top, crimp the edges of the crusts together.
5. Cut 3 slits in the middle of the pie top, as steam vents. The design is up to you...but these slits are VERY important.
6. Wash the crust with egg wash, if desired.
7. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
8. Pour whipping cream through the steam vents. As much or as little as you want. Allow to sit for another 5 minutes. Cut and serve. You don't even need ice cream, unless you want it as a cool counterpoint to the hot pie.
9. Refrigerate, and its still good the next day. Better, sometimes.

**put sugar and 1 - 2 tsp of vanilla in a container with lid. Mix thoroughly, put the lid on, and shake it some. Let it sit for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

It Was a Rough Week

Well, my youngest hit double digits this week. I baked a cake, made homemade pizza, and pulled pork sandwiches on homemade rolls. Instead of giving you recipes, I'll give you the links to the dough and the cake/icing.

I use the basic Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe at Mother Earth News. I make everything from small rolls to 15" pizza crusts with it

The chocolate cake recipe came from Hershey's. Where else would the recipe for Perfect Chocolate Cake come from? FYI, it's also on the back of most Hershey's Cocoa Powder cans, along with the icing recipe.

Live well, enjoy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bonus Recipe, Fried Chicken

So, recently, there was a terrific buy on some local chickens. $5 each. Can't beat that with a 10 foot pole. We bought 10. We have roasted two, and number three was destined to be fried chicken. These chickens are ALL over 6 pounds, with some being over 8, like the one I decided was destined to become fried chicken.

Ok, I didn't know WHAT I was going to do with it. But we had electrical issues last week, and while my refrigerator wasn't affected, my cooking plans were. Friday, I just kinda decided that this weekends foods were going to be more "fussy." Hence yesterday's acorn squash, and today's fried chicken.

Now, while I'd love to tell you all that "my grandma made the bestest fried chicken in the whole world," I can't. Love my Nana, but cooking is NOT what she does well.

So, as it's been years (yes, years) since I made a batch of fried chicken, I figured I'd better hit the usual suspects for recipes. Food Network, All Recipes and for good measure RecipeSource are the three main places I search for recipes. Recipe Zaar is another fairly decent place to look. I love Recipe Source for ethnic dishes. A lot of inspiration comes from that site. As usual, I came up with several different possibilites, from go-to guys Alton Brown, Emeril Legasse, and Tyler Florence. Poor Paula, didn't have anything I was looking for today. I came up flat at All Recipes and Recipe Source; at least for the kind of recipe I was looking for. We like buttermilk fried chicken. The acid in the buttermilk really helps tenderize the chicken and flavor it. This is especially important since these birds have not been pre-brined at the packing plant.

You know I can't leave well enough alone, so I adapted the recipes to what I have on hand and came up with my version. Each recipe had a different marinading time, so I went half in two and decided four hours sounded good.

Insert Cool Name Here Fried Chicken

1 chicken, cut up into serving sized pieces*
1 quart buttermilk (if you can find full fat buttermilk, I'm all for it)
1 - 2 TBSP Old Bay seasoning
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt, to taste

If you have a whole chicken, cut it up. Serving pieces are usually: 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts and 2 wings. In a large bowl, put the remaining ingredients and whisk them together. Put the chicken in the marinade, and make sure it's all evenly coated. Place in fridge for 4 hours. FYI, I've been known to cut wings of chickens, pre-cook stage, and toss them all in a bag in my freezer....when I have a goodly amount, we get the ultimate treat: Momma's Chicken Wings. Yep, I make four mean styles of those, and we gotta have 'em all at the same time. Takes a LOT of wings.

*The chicken I ended up using was 8 pounds. Yes, EIGHT. Guess what, I cut each breast into two pieces, and the thighs were as big as a "normal" chicken breast. And I ended up having to use my full 1/2 gallon container of buttermilk because believe me, the quart wasn't gonna do it. I did add more of the seasonings when I added more buttermilk.

Fry time

2 - 3 cups flour
salt to taste
1 - 2 TBSP paprika (it does help bring out a pretty color)
1 - 2 TBSP Italian seasoning
Enough of your choice of frying medium to make about a one to two inch depth of fat in the bottom of a large skillet like object*

Put flour and seasonings in a gallon sized ziploc baggie. Shake vigorously, until mixed. Pull out one or two pieces of chicken from the buttermilk marinade(depends on the size of the pieces, really. On Godzilla-Chicken, one is all I can do) and let excess liquid drain off. Put the chicken in the ziploc baggie, shake it all about till chicken is coated. Pull out of bag, shake off excess flour, and put on a rack over a cookie sheet (mess cleaning made easy). Once all chicken is floured, warm your oil. Note, I said AFTER it's all floured up. The flour will have time to kinda soak up the buttermilk and help keep your coating ON the chicken if you give it this time to rest. Plus, it's coming to room temperature, a good thing when working with hot oil. Get the temperature of your cooking medium to 325F. Some say 300, some say 350. For me, 350 is too hot, 300 not quite warm enough. When you add food to the oil, it will cool down the oil, and oil temperatures below 300 (as will happen if that's the temperature you start at) can leave the food excessively greasy. When the temperature is right, add the chicken to the pan. Put the dark meats (legs and thighs) in the middle, where it will be a bit hotter, and the light meats (breasts and wings) around the edges. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes until golden, flip and cook for another 10 - 12 minutes.

You can put a lid on the whole thing. This does 2 things. It keeps oil from gracing your oven top and kitchen walls and it keeps the heat in the pan, cooking the chicken instead of heating up your house. If you use a lid, be aware that the chicken MAY cook faster than the times listed above.

*I don't care if you use Crisco, peanut oil, veggie oil, canola oil or motor oil. Really. Use what you feel is right for the health of your family. I think olive oil's smoke point is too low as well as adding a flavor I'm not sure is complimentary, and I am pretty sure they'll look at you funny if you use motor oil.

Serve this with fries, smashed taters, salad, whatever you like.

We like it hot, can ya tell? Add some Franks Hot Sauce (or your preferred brand) to the buttermilk.

Use the Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix in your flour mixture (this will make your fried chicken taste pretty close to that national brand).

I never make anything the exact same way twice. (Well, except.....wait, I change that around too, nevermind.) But we enjoy the variations, and I always have the recipe skeleton to use as guide, so I don't get too far off base.

Oh, and the reason this is Insert Cool Name Here Fried Chicken is because I couldn't come up with a cool name. So, call it what you want!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bonus Recipe, Stuffed Acorn Squash

so, last week I was doing the grocery shopping and came across a terrific deal on Acorn Squash. I bought two, knowing that we'd eat 1/2 each, stuffed with.......something.

Well, today was the day to figure out what the heck to do with that squash. As it happens, I had about 1 1/2 pounds of ground pork in the fridge, for this very reason. So, I was faced with 4 halves of Acorn Squash, 1 1/2 pounds of ground pork, 2 hungry kids and 1 hungry husband. Nothing like a little pressure right?

Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 Acorn Squash, halved stem to point
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
Kosher Salt
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Garlic Powder
Apple Cider Vinegar
Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup water

1. Scrape the seeds out of each half. If you are feeling adventurous, dry the seeds, and use them in the garden next year. You may get some nice acorn squah, then again, you may not. I'm not sure if Acorn Squash seeds can be toasted like Pumpkin seeds. If anyone knows, please let me know.

2. Line a small cookie sheet with foil, and spray with Pam (or your choice of anti-stick stuff). Lay the squash cut side down on the sheet, and put it in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until a knife slides easily through the flesh.

3. When squash is done, turn off oven, but leave the squash in there. It will keep it all nice and warm till we are ready for it.

4. In a handy pan of whatever dimension you have that will hold 1 1/2 pounds of ground pork, put the pork over medium heat to begin cooking it. Season with salt, garlic powder, and any other seasonings you'd like.

5. In a separate pan, place 1/2 cup water, about 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Gently boil this until it is the desired consistency.

6. When meat and sauce are done, get the squash out of the oven. Serve one half per person, put meat in the cavity from the seeds, drizzle the sauce over it, and put in front of the lucky person!

Jim really loved this one, although he did say it might be a *touch* too sweet. I'd like to use apple juice and/or apple sauce instead of vinegar, but I didn't have any. The vinegar was in the sauce to cut the sweetness with a bit of a bite, but not too much.

I like tangy sauces, and therefore, my experiments tend to start that way, and even my creamy sauces have some zing somewhere.


Friday, November 6, 2009

What a Week!

Well, it is Friday again. Happens every week, right? It's been a heck of a week. Last weekend, we put two pigs into sub-primals for cooling. Yesterday, my mother and my kids and I put our pig into usable cuts. I'm no master butcher, but I cut that pig into 170# of pork cuts for our freezer in a manner that allows us to get the best use out of it.

If you want to know how much room that takes up, I'll tell you. It takes up 2 large coolers and 1/2 of a Wal-Mart cooler bag. Then we unloaded it all into the deep freezer. I struggled finding places to put all those packages that didn't stack the meat too much on itself. Packing it tight is a very bad idea because it won't allow the meat in the middle to freeze.

But I managed, and now it's in the freezer, and all is well. Now I have to find a way to cook it all! I didn't make sausage yesterday, but I did grind up almost 26 pounds of pork for ground pork. Guess what we are eating tonight, lol!

In light of the magnitude of pork in my freezer, I'm tossing a pork recipe at you all today!

Italian Sausage
2 pounds ground pork
2 - 3 tsp salt
3 - 5 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP fennel sead
pepper, to taste.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight. You can then make patties, meatballs, mini-meatballs for pizza topping or just fry it up loose.

I use this to make little 1/2-inch meatballs for my homemade pizzas. I make meat sauce for spaghetti with it. I use it in any recipe that calls for Italian sausage.

If you don't have the means to make sausage links (and I don't), you can hand-form links fry them up in a saute pan or frying pan.

It's a very versatile recipe, and just like everything else I put up, please take them and make them yours. Adjust the seasonings, add what you want, take out what you don't.

In order to make this Hot Italian Sausage, add some cayenne or hot pepper of choice to the meat mix before you put it in the fridge.