Posts Tagged ‘Recipes’

Red Tomatoes ! Also Grilled Squash recipe

June 21, 2014

In Honor of the First Tomatoes…

First Tomatoes

First Tomatoes

We’re doing a special post in honor of the first tomatoes of the year! Two Early Girls. Picked a bit early because she started fretting that some critter was going to beat us to the totally ripe tomato. These two will sit on the counter for a couple of days to fully ripen before being enjoyed as tomato sandwiches.

The last of the lettuce for the season was cut on Friday. There was quite a bit still in the garden – we’ll be sharing with friends and have plenty for us too. We keep our washed lettuce rolled in layers between paper towels in the refrigerator and find that it easily keeps for two weeks this way, often even longer.

Mound of Lettuces

Mound of Lettuces

We’ve been getting plenty of summer squash and cucumbers. We made three more quarts of refrigerator pickles this week and won’t have to buy cucumbers for our homemade green juices for the foreseeable future. More canning of haricot verts will be happening this weekend. The plants are really productive right now!

More than it looks like - Haricot Verts

More than it looks like – Haricot Verts

The field peas we planted last Sunday had already come up strongly by Thursday. One day there was just dirt and the next day there were 2 inch tall field pea seedlings. It’s amazing how fast field peas grow! Other things planted on Sunday are also coming up (butter beans, flagrano shell beans, more winter squash, and more haricot verts) but they tend to burst forth a bit slower than field peas.

Zucchini, Patty Pan Squash & Cucumbers

We recently tried a new summer squash recipe and really enjoyed it (enough that we made it again just a few days later). So for those of you looking for new ways to prepare your squash bounty, here’s one you might want to try. We make ours in a grill pan on the stovetop but you can adapt the technique to use an outdoor grill if you wish.

Grilled Zucchini with Olives, Cilantro, and Tomato

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 or 3 teaspoons tamari (to taste)

2 teaspoons ground pepper

1 or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (to taste)

2 or 3 summer squash (yellow or zucchini), cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¾ cup diced tomatoes

¼ cup pimento stuffed green olives, drained and sliced

½ teaspoon salt

½ to ¾ cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

 

Preparation:

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil with tamari, 1 teaspoon pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Heat the grill pan on medium high

Brush squash on all sides with the stuff you just mixed.

Sear the summer squash on both sides and then reduce heat to medium and cover the pan so the squash will cook all the way through with just a little bit of steaming happening.

While the squash is cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and brown slightly. Add tomatoes, olives, salt, and remaining teaspoon of pepper. Cook for 3 or so minutes and then add vegetable stock. Continue to cook until volume reduces by one quarter. Stir in cilantro, pour over grilled squash, and serve.

Taqueria Style Pickled Carrots & Jalapenos

May 12, 2013

My good wife made up this recipe from her samplings of other similar pickles and from researching several different recipes.  We started making them because she’s originally from Southern California; when we go vacationing there and in Vegas she always wants to visit two of her favorite restaurants that make similar pickles - Tio Leo’s in San Diego and Roberto’s which seems to be all over San Diego and Vegas.  I highly recommend the mexican food at both places by the way, having been gleefully taken to them by my darling.  Leaving the strip in Vegas and driving out to find a Roberto’s in suburbia is still one of the highlights of one of our Vegas trips.

Finished Jars

Finished Jars

From this point on, it’s all her.

(Can be adjusted proportionally for the amount you want to make – I like to make a big batch because they’ll keep for months in the refrigerator; they’re pickled, after all)

3 pound carrots (large ones, if you have them), sliced on the bias into ¼ inch pieces (I don’t peel the carrots, you can if you want)

½ to ¾ head of garlic, peeled and smashed (I used our frozen minced garlic this time because that’s what I had on hand – you’re just more likely to have a piece of garlic stuck to your carrot this way)

½ of a large sweet onion, diced into 1-inch pieces (more if you like pickled onions too)

10 – 12 whole bay leaves

1-2 tablespoons peppercorns (depends on how much you like pepper)

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (can use regular Italian oregano if that’s what you have)

1 teaspoon salt

4 large jalapenos, sliced (no need to seed, unless you don’t really like any hotness to your food)

Olive oil – enough to cover bottom of saucepan

2-4 cups white vinegar

2-4 cups water

(The vinegar and water should be in a 50-50 proportion.  The amount needed will depend on how much you’re making and the dimensions of your saucepan.  Use enough to cover everything in your saucepan while simmering).

Directions:

Add the oil, garlic, onions, and peppercorns to a saucepan, heat to medium heat, and sauté until onions are translucent but not browned.  Add the carrots and jalapenos and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the vinegar, water, salt, oregano, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the carrots are tender but still a little crisp on the inside.

Simmering Pickles

Simmering Pickles

Ladle everything into quart-sized mason jars.  If you need more liquid to completely cover the food in the mason jars, boil more water and vinegar (50-50 mixture) to top off.  Let the jars cool a bit on the counter before refrigerating.

Keep refrigerated and use a fork or slotted spoon to serve.  Do not eat the bay leaves (but you can leave them in the jars as flavor enhancers).

Vegetable Soup – Basic

February 5, 2012

Vegetable soup recipe.

If you want to read the story around this, head to my recent weekly update post here, this is just the recipe after the fact.

Vegetable Soup Ingredients

Ingredients:

2 quarts of vegetable stock

2 quarts of chicken stock.

1 pint of carrots, chopped

1 cup of celery, chopped, or celery leaves, chopped fine.

2 large onions.  Sweat one with butter, rough slice the other and put it in raw or roast it.

1 pint corn (off the cob)

1 pint green beans (chopped)

1 pint butter beans

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow summer squash, chopped

1 pint of chopped paste tomatoes

2 tbl, tomato paste

Salt, pepper, sweet paprika (1/3rd cup), ground thyme, parsley (fresh, chopped), ground sage, marjoram, black pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar, cayenne pepper.

Bring basic soup stock to a boil (carrots, onions, celery, water, salt), then immediately lower to a simmer (lid on).  Simmer for 45 minutes.

While this is happening, roast the squash, one onion, and the green pepper in the oven (400 degrees for 15-25 minutes), or until they start to turn brown.

About to be roasted

Add chicken stock and all the other vegetables and seasonings except for tomatoes and tomato paste and vinegar.  Bring back to a boil, then Simmer for 45 minutes, then add tomatoes and tomato paste.

Yes, I did use 1/3rd cup of sweet paprika

Add some more paprika (because honestly until the soup is really really red you can add some more:  not hot or smoked paprika, but sweet paprika, and this last time I used 1/3rd of a cup of sweet paprika). Add the vinegar last.   Add more liquid as needed as you go along, it’s bad to not have enough soup liquid to cover the vegetables (very very basic, but very very true).

Simmer until ready to serve.

Cauliflower Soup

January 29, 2012

Before I get to the main event of the week, our minor updates are as follows:

We’re planting broccoli & cauliflower seeds today. Yesterday we made chicken stock from our saved chicken bones & bits. Today I plan on making the soup I talked about last week, and then I’ll report it next week.

And speaking of cauliflower:

One of my favorite food bloggers made cauliflower soup recently on Thursday Night Smackdown (TNS). And this week, after having posted last week on soup recipe designing, I found myself wanting some cauliflower soup, so I thought I’d make some up. I didn’t even try to follow her post or the recipe that she used from the imitable Hugh Acheson.  Once I saw “roasted cauliflower” I was off and running.

Ingredients:

2 heads cauliflower, broken up

1 large sweet onion, sliced

1 quart chicken stock

1 quart celery stock (made from blanching celery this summer in boiling water)

1 pint whole milk

Bay leaves, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, salt, pepper, sweet paprika, potato starch

Procedure:

I broke up the cauliflower heads, drizzled olive oil everywhere, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet, until they started to turn brown.

Roasted cauliflower

While this was happening, I took a page from my french onion soup recipe, sliced up an onion, salted it and then sauteed it in butter until the bottom had fond, scraped it up with a metal spatula, then deglazed and reduced again – eventually most of the onion was a brown caramelized goodness with lots of fond.

Onions starting to turn

I did a final deglaze with the chicken and celery stocks, added in the cauliflower, along with 4 bay leaves, some ground thyme, tarragon, marjoram, salt, pepper, and sweet paprika.  I brought it to a boil, then immediately turned it down to simmer and left it there for 45 minutes with the lid off, checking the liquid level occasionally while I watched it get slowly lower.

Cauliflower Soup before pureeing

Then I turned off the heat, let it cool a bit, then ran it through the blender to puree it all (after removing the bay leaves).  I poured it all back into the pot (no, I did not strain it), and cooked it down some more. Then I turned it off and put a lid on it.  30 minutes before serving, I added 1/4 cup of potato starch and whole milk mixed as a slurry, then the rest of the pint of milk.  Turned the heat back up to medium and let it simmer until it was time to serve.

We served this with some rice I steamed in the rice cooker. I added some harissa-flavored olive oil and some dill to the rice cooker so it came out nicely seasoned, then we ate it as a side dish or just added it to the bowl of soup.

Cauliflower Soup

You could strain this of course, but after browning the cauliflower and the onions I wasn’t really concerned about making a pretty creamy white soup presentation. I wanted to eat something that was nummy, and this was it. Or maybe I’m just lazy. Or maybe I wanted all the nutrition and didn’t want to strain out and throw away good cauliflower/onion bits.  Yeah!  That’s it!

I used whole milk instead of half&half or cream because I did not want it to be any sweeter and I was already worried about making sure the cauliflower taste came through (which is why I also did not deglaze the onion with sherry).

Also, you can vary the stocks/broths, and the ingredients all you want and still come out with some good stuff.  You could use broccoli and have green soup, or summer OR winter squash and have squash soup.  Once you start pureeing stuff you can let your imagination run wild. So, go forth and make soup!

January 22nd, Weekly Update

January 23, 2012

Well, here we are.  I believe this is the nadir of the garden season because I have almost nothing to report.  The onion seedlings are doing great.

I thought instead I’d talk about recipe designing; in this case, soup.  I grew up with vegetable soup being made all around me, and never once stopped and wondered how to make it.  My mother, my aunts, my grandmother, folks I’d visit all made vegetable soups.

I did however wonder often why some were really amazingly good and some were … not.

Lately I’ve been working on my own vegetable soup recipe.  Let me start straight off and say that vegetable soup does not have to be vegetarian.  One of my grandmothers would put a squirrel in her vegetable soup, but overall it was primarily vegetables, so it wasn’t called squirrel soup.  If you want to make a good squirrel soup — I’ll discuss that another day.  A lot of vegetable soups use meat stocks, so that disqualifies the soup from being “vegetarian” right away as well.

Stock:

A good soup base can just be carrots, celery, and onions in water.  I’m going to start with this no matter what else I add later.  I’m going to sweat half the onions with a little butter for 20 minutes on the skillet at low heat (covered) until they caramelize a bit and reduce in size.  The rest I’ll add raw and rough sliced.  Carrots and celery go into the pot chopped rough.  Bring to a boil, then lower it to a simmer and put a lid on it.  Season with salt.  When you have them, chopped celery leaves are just as good as celery.

We have shrimp stock, fish stock, chicken stock in our freezer right now.  You could also make some pork broth or beef stock. Many people would add a ham hock when I was a child to the vegetable soup.

Depending on which stock you use, you can alter the character of the soup.  For my soup I plan to add some chicken stock; it has flavor and character, but it will not dominate the flavor of the vegetable broth I’m making or the vegetables I’m putting in it.

Now we have to decide what vegetables to put in the soup.  The ones I’m most used to are:

Onions, Carrots, Celery (check)

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, Green Pepper, Summer Squash, Cabbage, Mushrooms, Butter beans, Cauliflower, Green Beans, and Beans.

Potatoes don’t freeze well.  If you’re going to freeze your vegetable soup for later, I’d recommend leaving out the potatoes.  If you’re not going to freeze any, then potatoes are a staple.  I plan on freezing some of this, so if I add potatoes it will be on the day I’m going to serve it.  I will do this by boiling some potatoes (with some vinegar added), then chopping them up and tossing them in as the soup defrosts.

I’m going to leave out the cabbage and the mushrooms; there are too many other soups I like to make that I put those into. I’m gonna throw the cauliflower out of my basic recipe as well and add it in the winter sometimes.

Beans.  There are a lot of beans in the world.  I’m not making bean soup today, so I’m going to leave out all the beans.  Except for the butter beans and by butter beans I don’t mean big ole dried lima beans.  I mean nice soft fresh, frozen, or canned baby lima beans that are green and small and tender.  Think of them as a green vegetable rather than a dried bean.

Tomatoes are wonderful, tomatoes are great.  They provide flavor and color and the main thing to remember about the tomatoes is to add them to the soup last.  The other thing you have to decide is in what form are you adding them? Tomatoes come in a lot of ways.  I’d like to use fresh tomatoes, so I’m going to buy some paste tomatoes, then chop them and throw them in.  Canned tomatoes come in a plethora of types:  whole, diced, crushed, chopped, stewed, etc.  You could even just add some tomato paste if you just want some tomato flavor and color without the tomato flesh.  In fact, while I’m adding the fresh chopped tomatoes I’m going to squeeze in some tomato paste out of a tube.

Seasonings.  Salt and black pepper, paprika (lots of paprika).  Ground thyme is a must, as is parsley.  A little sage and oregano, or maybe marjoram instead of oregano.

And there I think we have it.  Let’s summarize:

1/2 lb of carrots, chopped

8 oz of celery, chopped, or celery leaves, chopped fine.

2 large onions.  Sweat one with butter, rough slice the other and put it in raw.

2 quarts of water, add more as needed to cover the vegetables completely

2 quarts of chicken stock.

1 pint corn (off the cob)

1 pint green beans (chopped)

1 pint butter beans

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow summer squash, chopped

1 pint of chopped paste tomatoes

2 tbl, tomato paste

Salt, pepper, sweet paprika, ground thyme, parsley (fresh, chopped), ground sage, marjoram.

Bring basic soup stock to a boil (carrots, onions, celery, water, salt), then immediately lower to a simmer (lid on).  Simmer for 45 minutes, then add chicken stock and all the other vegetables and seasonings except for tomatoes and tomato paste.  Bring back to a boil, then Simmer for 45 minutes, then add tomatoes and tomato paste.  Add some more paprika (because honestly until the soup is really really red you can add some more:  not hot or smoked paprika, but sweet paprika).  Simmer until ready to serve.  Add more liquid as needed as you go along, it’s bad to not have enough soup liquid to cover the vegetables (very very basic, but very very true).

Conclusion:

I haven’t cooked a thing yet.  This is all just me talking.  I’ll go out and make this sometime in the next month and then I’ll report back on how it went.  I *expect* it to be good.  But if I’m really lucky it will be some kind of platonic jungian archetypical vegetable soup, which is ultimately what I’m aiming for.

20 November – weekly update & Thanksgiving Pre-show

November 20, 2011

Lettuces

Minor harvests this week — lettuce and chinese kale.

Chinese Kale

She sauteed the chinese kale in about 10 minutes and it was delicious.  I’m used to seeing greens braised longer than that, and it was a nice change.

The perverse garden trolls must be reading our blog because the day after we posted about how seed packets lie and the broccoli *still* had produced no heads, a trip to the garden revealed the beginning of the formation of 1 lone broccoli head.

I think it’s because we’re trying to grow heirloom plants instead of modern varieties in an area which isn’t greatly suited for broccoli & cauliflower growth.  It’s also the only explanation I have of how southern California can grow miles of broccoli and cauliflower year-round in an area which does not qualify as “cool weather”.

Covered small boxes

Plant Shrouds

It got down to the mid 20s two nights this week.  We covered up most of our boxes with row cover.  I’m very pleased that the parsley, cilantro, and lettuces on our porch rails don’t appear to be affected, and the smattering of carrots and beets that didn’t get covered up look just as good as the ones that did.

Thanksgiving preparations have begun!  The 20-lb turkey is sitting in the refrigerator on a cookie sheet, slowly defrosting.  We’ll brine it on Tuesday and cook it on Wednesday.  We have the motley collection of stale hardened bread crusts for the dressing (the not-a-stuffing we make), along with lots of dried sage from the garden.  The bread, cheese, and milk have been obtained for the making of the Cheese pudding, and we got the large bag of potatoes for the mashed potatoes.  Later this week we’ll braise the greens.  I still need to get some fresh tarragon so that I can make some bearnaise sauce as a gravy alternative.

When all is said and done we’ll be ready for hot turkey slices, turkey hash, turkey sandwiches, and if we get desperate for a change, some turkey divan

Thursday we’ll be at my Uncle’s house, an annual excursion that we delight in.  On the way we’ll listen to Alice’s Restaurant in the car (like always), and we’ll take mashed potatoes (like always).  My Aunt will have prepared a Thanksgiving dinner that can’t be beat (like always), and we’ll all sip wine and get caught up with one another.  I hope your week is as good as ours is gonna be.

Hot Sauce

September 6, 2011

Yes, it's very hot

Ingredients:
2 lbs hot peppers (I used habanero, serrano, cayenne, and some hot cherry peppers this time)
6 tablespoons pickling salt
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups vinegar
Destem the peppers (please be careful, you can get skin burns).  Puree the peppers, sugar, garlic, paprika, and salt with 1 cup of vinegar.  Add it all to a non-reactive pot (like stainless steel or an enameled pot).  Add the other vinegar.  You want just enough vinegar to make a “mash”, but not enough to have standing liquid.
Cook at just above a simmer for 1 hour.  Ladle into jelly jars and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Hot sauce pepper mash in the pot

The Story of our Madoudou Witch Sauce
We made our “madoudou witch sauce” recently with the abundance of hot peppers we’ve been blessed with this year and wanted to tell a bit of the story behind it.  If you google “madoudou” you will find many links to Ma Doudou and St. Martin/Maarten, a Caribbean island, which is indeed where the story begins.
We spent a week and a half in St. Martin this past April after visiting via cruise ship three or so years ago.  Ma Doudou is a local woman who makes a large variety of flavored rums (great in their own right), some other little things, and a couple of hot sauces.  Her wares are now available at many tourist locations on both sides of the island (St. Martin/Maarteen is half French/half Dutch).  Being folks on vacation and interested in local “stuff”, we wanted to see the actual little shack where the original Ma Doudou products are made and sold out of an old woman’s home/store.  We had printed out some information before leaving home and asked people and got further directions on how to find the place in Cul-de-Sac.  We were assured there were signs about where to turn (roads are not as clearly labeled in some countries as they are in the U.S.; and some “roads” look more like trails or driveways).
We discovered a large part of the island that day as we certainly saw no signs and the road we thought was correct seemed much like a driveway with lots of second-home-looking condos and villas, even though we drove down it for some distance before turning around.  Long story shorter, after spending an hour (St. Martin is not that big!)  and seeing parts of the island that were not on our itinerary (dirt roads, roads that suddenly ended at the ocean, mountainous roads), we decided that the long “driveway” had to have been the right road and we just didn’t travel down it far enough.  So we headed down the driveway-road again.  At the end of the “road”, after going past many developments with code-protected gates, we came to the last code-protected gate that led into a condo development.  There, on the keypad, hung a small (7″x4″) hand-made sign that we decided to investigate.  It said “For Ma Doudou store, press xxxx.”  We had found it!
The young French woman staffing the store and tending to the rums was delightful and we sampled several rums.  We looked at the hot sauces and she told us, in French-style English, that they were “very hot – too hot for her.”  Of course, we bought a bottle of it with its red sauce and all the pepper seeds clearly visible.  A few bottles of flavored rum found a new home that day as well…
As we left the store and headed back to Mount Vernon and Orient Beach, we saw signs posted for Ma Doudou *everywhere*.  Granted, small, hand painted signs, but lots of them.  How could we have missed them all?
In order to justify all this oddness, we made up a story:  We believe that Ma Doudou is in fact a 200-year-old witch who has transformed herself into a 20-something attractive French woman and she shields her sacred place that she refused to sell to developers (which is why it’s in the middle of a condo resort) from all except those who have the perseverance to find it, after which the signs are everywhere to remind those who are worthy to not forget her.
Our Madoudou Witch Sauce is a tribute to the old French West Indies witch (don’t forget, we made that part up) the locals refer to as an endearing Creole patois term meaning “My Darling.”  And the hot sauce we picked up back in April is indeed hot, but not too hot for us :)

Delta Bayou Salsa Verde

August 14, 2011

The same guy who taught me how to make Delta tamales also taught me how to make salsa verde.  I was given the understanding that I was to use it as a “sauce” on things like chicken and pork and enchiladas, but over the years it has been pointed out to me that many folks eat it with chips like regular pico de gallo.

As near as I can tell, there are two main varieties of salsa verde:  Italian and Mexican.  The Italian version has no tomatillos, and reminds me a lot of chimichurri sauce.  The Mexican version uses tomatillos.

3 Pints of Salsa Verde after pressure canning

Ingredients:

Tomatillos

Jalepenos, Tabasco, Cayenne, and/or other hot peppers including but not limited to Serrano, Chili de Arbol, Habanero or Scotch Bonnet, El Chaco, Bird’s Eye, Peter, etc.

Pimento or roasted sweet peppers

Lime juice

Garlic

Cilantro

Salt, Paprika, and Black Pepper

I was taught to include:   Carrots, Celery,  and Onions when it is fresh salsa.  If you are going to be canning it, I recommend that you leave them out unless you add more of a vinegar brine and pressure can them.  Even without them, I add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to each pint I pressure can.

Tomatillos should provide roughly 50% of the volume of the major veggies.  Other quantities are to taste.  Today I used enough hot peppers to make sure that this is spicy, I used 1 large lime for the juice, a whole head of garlic, and about 1.5 cups of chopped fresh cilantro.  The amount of stuff I used eventually made 3 pints of salsa verde.  As usual, the more variety of peppers you use, the more complex and interesting the flavor will be.

Blanch the tomatillos for 2 minutes in boiling water.  Destem the peppers; prep the carrots, celery, and the onions.  Peel the garlic.

Roast the tomatillos, garlic, peppers, carrots, celery, and onions for 20 minutes in a 500 degree oven

Add the roasted ingredients, the cilantro, lime juice, and spices to the food processor and pulse until you have a grainy purée.  Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Serve as fresh ready to eat salsa, or baste over just about anything you’re cooking.

Summer Squash Casserole

June 19, 2011

Summer squash is one of those yummy vegetables that is best cooked simply, preferably in season.  The problem that some people run into is that they don’t want to eat sautéed squash every night, and when you have squash coming in the garden in the summer, you end up with lots and lots of them.

Yellow & Patty Pan Squash

Squash don’t really preserve well, unless you cook, puree, and freeze them.  They lose their lovely fresh texture no matter what else you try to do with them.

We’ve been eating sautéed squash, roasted squash, steamed squash, and baked squash in the past several weeks, several times a week.

In the spirit of “variety is the spice of life” I am attaching this, my summer squash casserole recipe.  Cookbooks are notoriously unvaried on the topic of cooking squash (see paragraph 1 above, you don’t really need a recipe to cook them).  And squash casserole recipes are often loaded up with milk, cheese, butter, and eggs to the point where you are disguising the squash more than you’re accenting their flavor.

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked rice or orzo pasta

2 large summer squash (or about 2 lbs)

Olive oil (this time I used my mushroom/sage flavored olive oil) (3 tablespoons)

Salt, pepper, sweet paprika (1 tablespoon each)

½ cup whole milk

½ cup vegetable broth or chicken stock

2 italian relleno or other sweet peppers (about 1 bell pepper worth)

1 small onion

Breadcrumbs and/or cornflake crumbs

Preparation:

Grate the onion.  Grate the raw summer squash (large grating setting).

In a mixing bowl, combine the rice, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and stir well.  Add the chopped pepper, grated onion, grated squash, broth, and milk, and stir well.

Spoon into a buttered casserole dish, 1/3rd of the dish at a time.  Put a thin layer of cheddar cheese (I used sliced aged cheddar) across the first two layers.  I put about 2 ounces of romano cheese on the top, along with a thin layer of cornflake crumbs.   Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Squash Casserole Mix

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees for 15 more minutes.  Serves 6-8.

Squash Casserole - out of the oven

Southern Fried Chicken

April 17, 2011

Southern Fried Chicken, a traditional recipe:

Southern Classics:  Fried chicken, biscuits, greens, hoppin’ john, succotash, fried pies.  These are the kinds of dishes frequently identified as indigenous foods to the southeastern regions of the United States.

Many of the dishes I was exposed to growing up on the farm had more than one variety, often distinguished as “every day” and “comp’ny”, like biscuits.  Company biscuits had cream and eggs and other stuff, every day biscuits were made of lard and flour and some baking powder (nothing else).

People in different parts of The South have had (naturally) different ways of doing the same thing.  A lot of my family comes from northern central North Carolina and Southern Virginia, pretty much for as long as Europeans have been here.  I learned to cook from my father, as I have mentioned elsewhere.  I also learned from both my grandmothers, my grandfather, the mother of the share-cropper on my grandfather’s farm, and several old black men and women (what were called “coloured” cooks when I was just a boy though even then I was pretty much raised by my folks to be blind to the pigment of a person’s skin).  The men were mostly outdoor campfire cooks, the women were mostly indoor kitchen cooks, with the exception of my father, who could do both with equal facility.

What I’m leading up to is that there are almost as many ways to make “real” southern fried chicken as there are towns in the south.  With that acknowledgement, all of the people mentioned above made it the same way, and that way was The Way – so if you want to learn to make it some other way, there are a gazillion sites on the net that will be happy to pretend that you can make it some other way and call it “southern fried chicken”.

This is not deep-fried chicken.  This is not pressure-fried chicken.  This is not chicken with a wet thick heavy batter that you bite into and wonder if you’ve gotten to the chicken part yet.  This is not fancified chicken with all kinds of other flavors added.  It’s not Kentucky Chicken, or Kansas City Chicken, or any other place-name chicken.

You will need a cast iron skillet (or at least a stainless steel heavy skillet), as large as you can put on the burners you have.  A lid is recommended.  A grease screen is also a good idea.  You will need lard, real lard, the kind that you have to refrigerate or freeze in order to keep.  Or you can use peanut oil.  I like to use refined peanut oil, with a couple tablespoons of unrefined peanut oil for flavor.

Fried chicken, when I was a child, was better than it got in the 1980s and 1990s.  I discovered several years ago that the reason was the difference in the flavor of the chickens.  Modern large white commercial factory-farmed chickens simply have less flavor than old-fashioned raised chickens.  They also have smaller wings, legs, and thighs – while the breasts are so large that most old-timey recipes do not account for how long you should cook the individual pieces.  In this regard, chickens are like tomatoes.  Commercial grade supermarket tomatoes are tasteless faux imitations of the real thing.

The only real solution is to get pastured chickens.  If you want to get certified organic chickens that’s fine, but I am telling you that you can get the best “organic” “free-range” “cage-free” “natural” chicken on earth but the flavor isn’t going to be what the flavor of a pasture-raised chicken is going to be.  Now go and do what you will.

Procedure:

Cut the chicken into pieces.  Yes you want bones, yes you want skin.  No you don’t want boneless, skinless, fatless chicken.  I strongly suggest with modern chickens that you cut each breast piece in half, yielding four (4) breast pieces per chicken.

Add a layer of chicken pieces to a large pot, salt them, then pour a layer of buttermilk over each one.  Stack up your chicken pieces this way in the pot. You’re not trying to fill the pot with buttermilk you’re just covering the pieces as you go.  Refrigerate and leave at least one hour, and up to a day if you can plan ahead – longer is better.

Pour enough oil into the skillet to come up 1/3rd (one-third) the height of the chicken piece laying in the skillet.

Turn on the burner.  You will want the oil to get up to at least 300 degrees, but under no circumstances over 350.

Use a shallow casserole dish or even a mixing bowl.  Add 1.5 cups of flour per whole chicken, more if it is a large (over 4 lbs) chicken, or if you run out.  Add 2 tablespoons (at least) of black pepper, sweet paprika, and salt, and mix.  If you have it, add 1 tablespoon of potato starch (I don’t really use cornstarch anymore, but when I was growing up, people used cornstarch).

Set a wire rack next to the skillet, the flour mix next to the wire rack, and the pot of chicken next to the flour mix dish.  Dredge each piece on all sides in the flour, then place on the wire rack.  Fill the skillet with pieces, but don’t overcrowd, you will almost certainly have to do 2 rounds per chicken.  I like to cook the wings and legs together with maybe a thigh, and the breast and thighs together.

Cook for 12 minutes, then turn each piece and cook for 8 more minutes.  Set on another wire rack and let dry and drain.  Serve anytime.  This recipe is as good cold as it is hot, but it won’t be crispy the next day.  It is easy to calculate that in most cases it will take 40 minutes to fry a whole chicken.  I typically fry two whole chickens at once, so we have plenty of leftovers.

In the winter, serve with mashed potatoes and brown gravy, and greens.  In the summer serve with cold potato salad and biscuits.  Bon appetit!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers