Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take That Cracker Barrel...

...I can make my own Chicken Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and White Gravy!

The chicken is coated, first in a light dusting of flour, then dipped in a spicy egg/cornstarch mixture, then coated with a highly seasoned flour mixture and fried in a little bit of oil until crispy. The chicken is then finished in the oven.

After the chicken was fried, I poured out the excess grease, add a bit of butter and some flour to make a roux. Added some milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and served hot, over mashed potatoes and the chicken with a side of corn.


BTW: I'm heading out of town for a quick bit...woo hoo birthday celebration...when I'm back I'll post a recipe for the chicken and gravy. It really was great; something I want to make again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soup and Bread

In continuing the cheap dinners, I made bread and soup. All with items we had on hand, unplanned! No shopping list for these items. Rosemary from the garden. A squash from the last farmer's market...everything else was here.

Rosemary & Caramelized Onion Focaccia and Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque!

A great fall meal.

My first note...I LOVED the bread. The soup was great, but it was missing something...and I know what it was. Continue.

The bread is super easy. Flour, water, yeast, olive oil. Mix, rise, stretch and dimple! Then you add some rosemary and caramelized onions on top with a little sea salt for flavor and crunch.

Back until golden and delish. I would have liked a little more topping, but as it was, I loved it. We ate half a pan the first night and the next day ate almost the rest of it!

The outside bottom crust gets crispy from the olive oil, almost like a pizza crust. It's amazing and paired perfectly well with the soup...

Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque. This was really good, but I felt something was missing. It wasn't salt or flavor, everything was there. I think I figured it out after the fact. I need a hint of some acid. Next time a little apple cider vinegar, I think that will give the POP I was looking for.

Rosemary & Caramelized Onion Focaccia
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small to medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer with paddle attachment and dough hook

Stir together 1 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115°F) water and yeast in bowl of mixer and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups flour, 1/4 cup oil, and 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at high speed until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour. Knead dough 1 minute (it will still be slightly sticky), then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap, at warm room temperature, until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan. Let dough rise, covered completely with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft and they start to caramelize. Stir in the rosemary with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, let cool.

Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then sprinkle the onions and rosemary, letting them pool in the indentations. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia and bake in middle of oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Immediately invert a rack over pan and flip focaccia onto rack, then turn right side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Catch Up & Wine Tasting

Let's play catch-up...again...?!!?? Sorry I haven't been blogging as much lately. It's one of the few things I feel guilty about. I've committed so much time to Eat With Me, that when I let days slide by without posting, I feel like a neglectful baby. Well, such is life and other ongoing projects. I'll keep trucking along and ask that you bear with me...

This week has been about not spending extra money and using what we have at home. To that end, we had some bratwurst in the freezer and those became Sunday night's dinner.

I wasn't up for firing up the grill, so I par-boiled the brats to cook them through. Then they were give a quick fry up in a pan, followed my a nice bath in beer, onions and butter. Heaven on a bun! Oh, we didn't have buns, we had a left over loaf of Italian bread that was purchased over the weekend. All was good.

Monday night I took some frozen chicken thighs out of the freezer and prepped them for a warm, slightly spicy/smoky braise. First, I cooked up a few slices of bacon that was cut into 1/2 pieces. With the fat rendered, I seared the chicken after seasoning it with salt, pepper and a blend of sweet paprika, smoky paprika, dried mustard and oregano. After the chicken was seared, I sauted some onions, red peppers and two medium tomatoes that I had seeded and diced. To that I added about 1 cup of chicken broth. When brought to a simmer, I returned the chicken to the pan, covered and placed in a 300 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Tender, juicy and flavorful chicken. Just prior to serving, I removed the chicken to a plate and simmered the braising liquid down to create a sauce. I returned the cooked bacon bits to the sauce and served over the chicken with some steamed rice and green beans. A very satisfying dinner. I'll make this again.

I felt I needed to get away and get lost this weekend so I took a great drive to the Shenandoah National Park and drove about half of Skyline Drive. What a beautiful day! I got lost in thoughts and reflection on things that have been happening over the past years and just let myself absorb all Mother Nature had to offer. It was a great experience.

On my way back from the Shenandoah National Park, I stopped at three different wineries and participated in their tastings. There was Rappahannock Cellars, Fox Meadow Winery and Philip Carter Winery. Rappahannock was the first stop and best for tasting, they seemed to really know the business of the tasting experience, great service and a nice atmosphere. The thing I think I appreciated the most; the bottle of water included with the tasting fee!!!! You know how often I've had to ask for water at a tasting? I loved it. The wines were all interesting and the guy who helped me out seemed to know what he was talking about and was genuinely interested in what my thoughts where. I left with a bottle of Meritage. Fox Meadow offered a tasting with food pairings. The pairings were tiny pieces of nibbles...I'm talking small, but you got enough to notice the differences with the wines. The most interest was Pinot Gris with rice krispie treats! It was a lovely pairing. I left here with a bottle of Merlot. The last visit was a terrifying experience for me, considering how mellow of a day I had been having. Philip Carter had some sort of special event going on and there were LOUD stinky children running around and screaming...and LOUD drunk adults screaming everywhere. I considered leaving, but I was curious about the wine. Finally, I got someone to help me out and I enjoyed several wines, they were good, but the most interesting here was the Chardonnay, which was oaked and not something I usually like, but the oak wasn't in your face monster oak, I really appreciated it, so I brought a bottle of that home with me! Good times...except for all the loud people!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Simple and Fancy

Seared Pork Chops
with Mashed Potatoes
and a Rosemary-Shallot Pan Sauce.

Unlike the previous times I've made this...last night, the pan sauce was started by deglazing with some Maker's Mark. Yum!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Catch Up

Let's play catch up on what we've been eating at Eat With Me shall we?

Sesame Noodles with Chicken. Very tasty, filling and easy when using a roasted chicken from the store!

Friday night was a night for wine and friends. This was a very satisfying bottle of Sauvignon Blanc!

Really great taco fillings. Skirt Steak and Pork Tenderloin with...Roasted Corn with Chipotle & Lime, Sauteed Peppers and Onions, Avocado and Lime, Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Skirt Steak was seasoned using this recipe.
(Roasted Tomato Salsa recipe is in this link as well)

Pork Tenderloin was mostly jerk seasoning with a plethora of spices thrown in the mix for fun.

Inn-effing-credible. Totally satisfying on all accounts!!!!

A pork roast hash. Leftover pork, potatoes, onions and red peppers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crispy Carnitas Tacos

Mmmm, fried roast pork!

Dinner on Wednesday night was a quick one using leftovers. I took the leftover pork roast from Labor Day and chopped it into large bite size pieces and fried it in olive oil until hot and crispy. Ad the end I tossed in some shallots, cilantro and lime juice. Season with a little salt and pepper and done. Add to a taco shell and top with some sauted peppers and onions. The pork becomes chewy and crispy from the frying process. A great texture and fun flavors. Of course lime and cilantro and best buds and they love to play with pork. All in all, a very yummy meal!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Alsatian Pork and Dijon Mashed Potatoes

I sort of threw Monday night's dinner together, no real recipe and I'm just making up the name. But dang it was good. Needed a vegetable though. Perfect for a rainy, dreary day.

Alsatian Pork Roast
with a Wine & Cider Pan Sauce
and Dijon Mashed Potatoes

The roast is the first part. I bought a 3-4 pound pork butt roast, bone-in. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and season liberally with your choice of mild seasoning. I used a blend from Penzeys, plus some salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 3-4 TB of olive oil; sear both sides of the roast until well browned and with a developed crust.

While the roast is searing, peel 2-3 carrots and cut into large chunks. Peel one onion and chop into large pieces. Peel and smash 3 cloves of garlic and set aside one medium bunch of fresh thyme.

After the second side of the roast has been seared, pour in about one cup of a crisp white wine. Preferably a Riesling if you have it. With a wooden spoon, scrap up what bits you can from the bottom of the pan. As the wine reduces add one cup of unfiltered apple cider or juice, the darker, the better. None of the clear, yellow stuff, you want the brown, thick cider!

Add the carrots, onions, garlic and thyme. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for one hour. At the one hour mark, turn the heat to 300 and check the roast, spoon some of the cooking liquid over the top. Cover and cook another hour. Check the roast again. Cook one final hour. This should be the point at which the bone slips out of the meat. If not, cook longer, checking at 30 minute intervals. When it's done, remove from the oven and let rest for an hour, in the pot.

After the hour of resting time, remove the roast and prep for serving or storage. Remove the bone and clean up any remaining fat and nasty bits. Break the roast into large pieces. Reserve the cooking liquid. Strain to remove the vegetables and other bits. Pour the juice over the roast, cover and store in the fridge...or continue for dinner!

If you are making mashed potatoes, here's the steps, in case you haven't done this before, it's a little different than cooking most vegetables.

1) peel the potatoes (if you want, if the peels are thin, you can leave them on, just scrub the spud).
2) cut the potatoes into about 1-inch pieces.
3) put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water.
4) season the pot of water/potatoes with a hefty tablespoon of salt.
5) bring to a boil.
6) cook until a knife or fork easily slides into the potato, and out of the potato.
7) drain and return to the cooking pot.
8) add butter first, mash, add the cream or milk, mash more. season with salt and pepper, mash and mix more. Taste. Adjust butter, cream, salt and/or pepper.
9) for Dijon Mashed Potatoes, depending on your mustard preference, add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of a grainy Dijon. Stir in. If you happen to have some fresh parsley, chop finely and stir in. Serve warm!

Now the pan sauce.
In a medium to large skillet, saute one large shallot with butter and/or reserved, rendered pork fat. **see note at the bottom of this post. When the shallots are soft, add about 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir until the flour is coated and starts to smell nutty. Add 1/2 - 1 cup of the same white wine you used earlier with the roast. Stir until combined. Add about 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Add the large pieces of cooked roast. Simmer over low heat until ready to serve.

The pork and the sauce.

Potatoes ready to mash.

All served up. This was an incredibly rich and really delicious meal. My grandparents would be proud. The Dijon flavors played really well with the cider/wine flavors in the pork and sauce.

**Note on the cooking liquid and fat. After you strain the bits out of the cooking liquid, you will start to see a lot of fat rise to the top. You'll want to separate that fat, so you have the option to use it. If you have a fat separator, you're good. If not, chill the liquid in the freezer or fridge. The fat will solidify and can easily be removed. Alternatively, you can carefully spoon the fat off, bit by bit. When you go to make the pan sauce, we're making a roux, so you do need some fat and the flour. I used about 1 TB of pork fat and 1 TB of butter. This was a nice flavor combo, but not necessary. After you add the wine to the butter/flour combo, make sure to add the remaining cooking liquid. Lots of amazing flavors in there, wine, cider, seasonings, thyme...all very good.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Saturday night's dinner was delicious. We ate a ton of it. Very satisfying. Filling and just all over good. A Pasta Frittata is a great way to use up leftovers, if you have them. This is virtually the same version as the last time I made only. Almost. The recipe called for marscapone and creme fraiche. I subbed in cream cheese and sour cream. Perfect. I used a variety of fresh and dried herbs as well. The chicken was from a few nights ago when we had pesto. Basically, all I had to do was boil the pasta, toss it all together and bake it for 25 minutes. Yum.

The tomatoes were not perfectly ripe. That was the one downside. After I diced them, I set them on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkled them with salt. The salt did two things that I think added to the final awesomeness. 1) some excess water was drawn out, this will keep your dish from getting too wet during cooking. 2) the salt directly enhanced what flavor was in the tomatoes. If I hadn't done that I think the tomatoes would have been water bombs in this casserole and not appetizing.

This is a keeper.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Two Meals

Two fairly tasty meals the past two nights. The first was one I realized I never put the recipe up...again, I don't have the recipe in front of me...but it's really. Braised chicken thighs with shallots, fennel and bacon. This time I added some potato for some starchy goodness. VERY GOOD. This will be an amazing meal in the winter!

Thursday night's meal was also a recipe I've made before, Pepper Steak. This batch was a bit on the spicy side, but at the end of the day, you want some of the extra spice to cut through the sweetness of the Asian sauces.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


This summer was crappy in the garden. 1) We didn't grow any vegetables. We made the decision not to after the massive failures last year. 2) But I did try my hand at some basil, in addition to my rosemary. Someone--THING--had a field day with the basil and at most I had a small handful here and there. Not enough to do much with.

So I sucked it up and bought basil. Finally, I was able to make a batch of pesto! This was a good batch...

The true Green Goddess sauce!

Tossed with some fresh fettucine and some quickly seared chicken breasts, a perfect fast meal. The only downside, I underestimated the salt in the parm and over salted the pesto. That's ok, I like salt...but this was a touch much!

In other great news, the fridge is here and working. I went grocery shopping yesterday to start restocking...spent a hefty sum of money, but at least half of the cash went to replacing goods we had to toss and restocking the freezer. I did manage to rake in over $40 in savings with my Giant card! Woo hoo!