As previously mentioned, we had a bitterly cold spell here a couple of weeks ago. In addition to the French Onion soup, I also made a Smokey Corn Chowder. I was excited to revisit this recipe because I’ve only made it once and that was several years ago, and it was nice hardy and decadent soup to fight off the chills.
The recipe is adapted from a Real Simple magazine issue from, well, several years ago.
- 16 oz Bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces (the recipe only called for 8 oz, but I had to do something with the other half of the package, right?)
- 1 large Onion, chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 20 oz Frozen Corn
- 3 lbs Potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
- 3 C low sodium Chicken Broth
- 1 C Half & Half
- Scallions, sliced on a bias for garnish (optional, i.e. I didn’t have any)
Over medium heat, cook the bacon in a stock pot until crisp.
Remove the bacon and place on a paper towel to drain. Remove all but 2 Tbs of the fat and return the pot to medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and red pepper, cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the corn, potatoes, broth, and half & half, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
With either a food processor or a stick blender, puree half of the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer soup to bowls and garnish with the bacon and scallions.
I prefer to tailor make up spice mixes as I go. But lately I’ve been trying to use up some of the spice blends that have been sitting around in my cupboard for way too long. What I’ve been doing is looking at what spices the recipe calls for and try and find one that matches the closest. In this case it was Penzey’s Jerk mix. I’ve got absolutely nothing against mixes (in fact, the Penzey’s line is quite superb), I just prefer to make it up as I go. I substituted around 2 Tbs of the Jerk seasoning for all of the spices in the above recipe. It turned out quite well.
As I’ve been getting nearer and nearer to my 100th post, I have been trying to figure out what would be a good one? A retrospective? Too early. The Rhode Island trip? Too long. I have to break that up into quite a few posts. A dish that I’ve cooked? Maybe, but which one? Someplace that we ate? Again, maybe, but still which one? Then I stumbled across the perfect idea.
Lindz and I were going up north to visit Grandma Bert after the Rhode Island trip. As usual, we stopped off at the Burger King in Ramsey, just off of US10. For some reason, we decided to go in and order food instead of going through the drive-thru. While waiting for our food to come up (which took way too long compared with the service that I’ve gotten at other BK’s including that one), I noticed a sign on one of the tables advertising a new dessert.
And that, my loyal followers, is my 100th post.
The more I experiment with trying the stereotypical “high society” food, the more I laugh at that whole cuisine. So far it’s mostly been stuff that I’ve already had before, or really similar to something I’ve already had. Polenta, for example, is the same as the “mush” that Mom made when I was growing up. The difference is that Mom would chill hers after it cooked to set it, and then slice it and fry it. Served up with butter and syrup. This is as near to breakfast perfection as one can get in my opinion. Well, served with bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Like I posted previously, bone marrow reminds me of dipping your bread in bacon fat. Venison? Grew up on the stuff. Gnocci? Terrines? Fancy words for potato dumplings and headcheese, both were regular items growing up. I could go on, but I want to get to my latest addition to this list of peasant food that was stolen and given highfalutin names. Pate. Very tasty, but really nothing more than liverwurst. And I’m sure you’re tired of me saying this, but grew up on that stuff too.
One quick aside before I get to the recipe. A while back Lindz and I went to Andrew Zimmern’s book signing here in the Cities. When he was signing it, I told him that I grew up on a lot of traditional Polish foods and most of what he showed on Bizarre Foods wasn’t all that different from what I ate. He agreed with me and said that as you travel the world you discover that food basically isn’t all different. I’m beginning to understand this. You start to learn to appreciate the nuances in the seasoning and the quality of the cook. And an aside to the aside, if you ever get the chance to meet Zimmern, do it! He’s a great speaker and a genuinely nice guy. We had a blast at the book signing.
Now, onto the pate!
This whole little adventure started with a trip up to Mom and Dad’s. I was rummaging through the deep freeze looking for meat to swipe. Mom was down in the basement with me and asked if I wanted a package of liver. I hesitated for about a half a second and then said yes. At that point, I was just planing on pan frying it with some onions because that’s what you do. After I got home, it occurred to me that I could make some pate. After a bit of digging, I found a really basic recipe that sounded good, also it was one of the very few that called for beef liver instead of chicken.
- 1 lb Beef Liver, cut into pieces
- 1 small Onion, chopped
- 1/2 C Red Wine (did not use)
- 2 cloves Garlic, crushed (used something like 8)
- 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 sprig fresh Rosemary (used about 1 Tbs dried)
- 1 sprig fresh Thyme (used about 1 Tbs dried)
- 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
- 1/2 C Butter
- Salt and Pepper
Saute the liver and onions in a couple of tablespoons of the butter until the livers are browned and the onions are tender.
Add wine, garlic, mustard, herbs and lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has gone.
Cool and blend to a smooth paste in the food processor (or a stick blender like I did) along with the rest of the butter. This is easier if the butter is not fridge cold. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check the consistency of the pate. If it seems dry and crumbly rather than smooth and creamy, add more butter.
Like I said earlier, very, very good, but it tastes just like the liverwurst I grew up on. Good memories.
This happened around a month ago, so the details are a bit sketchy in my brain. I know someone came over and ate with us, I recently went grocery shopping, and I needed to use the chicken because it wouldn’t fit in the freezer anymore. Other than that, make up whatever back story you want. It probably will be more interesting than what really happened. Just for the record, I’m not excluding the possibility of a ninja attack. They’re sneaky like that.
So, the roast chicken recipe is hands-down my favorite one that I have ever done. I try to do it on a regular basis since I can get great birds from Mom (she raises some for butchering every year). The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef, one of my first cookbook purchases way back around the turn of the century. Also one of my favorites that I constantly turn to first for ideas.
- Chicken, whole; about 3 lbs
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tbs each of Basil, Parsley, and Marjoram; mixed together (I use dried, if you use fresh go with a small handful of each and finely chop them)
- 1/4 C Olive Oil
- 1 Lemon; quartered
- 4 Bay Leaves
- 1 Tbs of Rosemary (again I use dried, go with 2 sprigs if you have fresh)
Preheat the oven and a roasting pan to 425 F degrees. Clean up any odd bits of the chicken, i.e. pin feathers, excess fat, anything that got missed inside of the cavity, etc. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, and pat dry. Rub the cavity with salt. I usually use around a couple of teaspoons. Gently grab the skin, breast side, by the neck and separate the skin from the breast. The easiest way to do this is to poke a couple of fingers down in between. Just be careful not to rip the skin. The skin is attached better between the breasts, instead of trying to separate things, I just leave it as two tunnels. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt down in the tunnels, followed by most of the herb mixture and a drizzle of olive oil into each. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, bay, and rosemary. Tuck the wings under themselves and truss up the bird with some kitchen twine. I won’t go into how to truss the bird because I’ve done it numerous ways and still haven’t found a method that I like and works well. I’m assuming that it’s more user error than actual methodology.
Make a three or four shallow cuts into the thighs to help the heat penetrate (dark meat takes longer to cook than white) and rub in the remaining herb mixture you have left. Rub the entire chicken with a little olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Remove the hot roasting pan and add a little oil. Place the chicken on one side, breast down, and put back into the oven for five minutes. Switch to the other side, again breast down for another five minutes. Finally, flip the bird onto its back and cook for approximately one more hour. When the chicken is done, let it rest for ten minutes or so. That way the juices can absorb back into the meat instead of ending up on the cutting board. The skin ends up nice and crispy, while the meat is juicy and flavorful.
For side dishes I adapted two recipes from the book I’m currently reading, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright. I’m only about a hundred pages into it, but so far it is a great history of food of the entire Mediterranean area. There is plenty of emphasis on the food of the poor (which doesn’t get talked about a lot, period) as well as the over the top feasts like when we think of de Medici’s and the like. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in food history. The first recipe I did almost verbatim from the book, the second, well, not so much.
The first recipe that I did is called Salatat al-Malfuf from Syria. It is a pretty basic cabbage salad, but I would like to make some tweaks the next time.
- 1 small head Savoy Cabbage (about 1 lb); damaged leaves removed, cored, and shredded
- 1/4 C Sea Salt
- 6 Garlic Cloves; minced
- 2 Tbs Lemon Juice
- 6 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 tsp dried Mint (I didn’t use this because I didn’t have any, but I think it would be great in here)
Toss the shredded cabbage in a large bowl with the salt and let it sit for an hour. Thoroughly wash the salt off of the cabbage by dunking it in water. Taste a piece to make sure the salt is washed off. Place in a clean bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Serve at room temp within an hour.
I like the idea of this recipe, but letting the cabbage sit that long with that much salt wilted the hell out of it. I think the next time I do this, I will go lighter on the salt and definitely lighter on the time it sits. Also, I think the “dressing” of lemon juice and olive oil could be cut in half because there was a lot sitting in the bottom of the bowl when everything was eaten.
The second recipe is called Col-i-flor from Catalonia (the very northeast corner of Spain). Surprisingly enough, this is a cauliflower recipe.
- 1 lbs Potatoes; peeled and cut to the same size as the cauliflower florets
- 10 oz Cauliflower florets (about one small head)
- Salt to taste
- 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tsp White Wine Vinegar
Place the potatoes and cauliflower in a large saucepan and cover with two inches of slightly salted cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until both are easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving dish. Mix the oil, vinegar, and salt to taste. Pour over the cauliflower and potatoes and mix, breaking them up a bit. Serve immediately.
So that’s the recipe from the book. Here’s how I did it:
- I skipped the potatoes and just doubled up on the cauliflower because I had a very large head
- I added a pound of fried and chopped bacon because everything is better with bacon
- I ended up using 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar just to give it the punch I think it needed
Assuming that you just didn’t skip down to the end, here’s your reward for reading this really long post:
A couple of weeks ago, our friend Erin (a.k.a. Ringer) came over for a visit and some food, cuz that’s how we roll. A very quick aside, she found a different all-you-can-eat sushi place that we are going to try at some point in the future. Anywho, I was put in charge of making supper for the three of us. I know, big surprise. I had run across a recipe for bacon wrapped fish fillets and I wanted to give that a go (a Jamie Oliver recipe of course). This was one of those situations where I took the basic idea and did all the details on my own. Naturally, there was one or two flaws that happened in the process, but I’ll get to those later.
First off, the ingredients. I had some nice cod fillets that I had bought a few days prior that would work perfectly. Also from the freezer was a pound of bacon. For seasoning, I used a dill dip blend that I had sitting in the cupboard for way too long. It may be my Polish background, but in my ever so humble opinion, dill goes great with fish, especially cod. As a final ingredient, some extra virgin olive oil for a little binding action for the seasoning.
I mixed the dill blend into some olive oil and drug the fillets through the mixture for an even coat. The next step was to lay out four slices of bacon side by side and lay a fillet on top of it. Then the bacon came up, over, and finally tucked under. I found that it worked a bit better to do the wrap at a bit of an angle because it fit around the fish better. I repeated with the remaining fillets. I took the last bit of oil/dill mixture and smeared on top of the bacon just to help round out the flavors. Here is the first thing that I will change the next time I cook this. The bacon didn’t crisp up enough by the time the fish was done, so I’m thinking that if I partially cook it before wrapping the fish that will help it crisp up as well as helping the second issue which I will get to in a bit.
I put the fillets on a baking sheet and popped them into a 475 F degree oven for around ten minutes. Basically long enough for the fish to firm up throughout. The near disaster started about five minutes into the cooking process when the bacon started to render and the fat was pouring onto the heating element in the oven. Amazingly, I didn’t set off the fire alarm with the amount of smoke that was coming out of the oven. Which is good since we live in an apartment complex with hard wired alarms. We had a string of fire alarms several months ago because people kept burning food. Fortunately, I didn’t have to become a hypocrite for swearing at those people as well as doing the walk of shame out of the building. Which brings me to the second thing I would change. Put the fillets on a half-sheet, or any kind of pan with sides! Despite the chaos and mess, the fish turned out really well. The only downside was the not-so-crisp bacon.
Ringer’s favorite part of the meal was the tomato salad that I literally whipped together in three minutes at the very last second because I needed something else to go on the plate. All it contains is diced tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch or two of salt to bring everything together. Ringer liked it so much, she finished hers, what was left on the counter, and what Lindz left on her plate. I’m taking it as a compliment.
The silver lining to the oven fiasco is that it finally motivated me to clean the oven like Lindz has been asking me to do for quite some time. I’d call myself a procrastinator, but I think I’ll have time to do that later.