Monday, December 22, 2008

More on Grits: Nassau Style

Kassie says:

This is (unknown to me until, like, when I tried looked for the recipe for Julia) a recipe particular to my home town. This is our family recipe for it. If I could find the one the old ladies at First Methodist had, I would share that one with you because it's legendary.

Where I come from we eat white grits, I'm sure if you wanted to do it with yellow grits, you could adapt it (I like stone ground grits myself, so I wouldn't blame you if you did).
  • Bacon--this is to taste, do you really like bacon? Then cook a lot of bacon (from a half pound to a pound),
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper (lots of people hate green pepper, so figure this bit out--if you hate it, try to substitute a colored pepper!)
  • 1 cup of ham (or, as above, however much you want) [we always had home baked ham laying around or at least in the freezer, so I assume the taste will vary greatly depending on the kind of ham you use. I would never buy that shrink wrapped ham slab that I've seen at the grocery--what is that thing FOR? anyway, a lot of people have ham at the holidays and wonder what to do with all of it--freeze the shit and thaw it out for tastiness later)
  • 1 smaller can of tomatoes (not the big honking one, the normal to vegetables sized one) OR 1 can Rotel (do it this way, for real)
  • garlic (this you will have to determine yourself as I have no idea how much you personally like garlic) from 1 clove to three
  • 3/4-1 cup uncooked grits

Cook the bacon. Chop the stuff that needs it. Drain bacon and set aside. Drain most of the bacon grease off. Cook the onion and bell pepper in the bacon grease. When the onion looks done enough, dump in tomatoes (with juice), garlic (I cut up whole canned tomatoes with a kitchen knife, my Aunt Nora mushed them with her fingers), and ham. Cook that down while you cook the grits according to the package directions. When the grits are creamy (I pity people who don't already know how to cook grits on the stove because I'm not about to explain that right now), dump in the tomato-ham mixture.

Douse this with hot sauce, stir, crumble bacon over the top when you dish it up. (I'm sure we could find a way to add cheese and at least one more pork product if we tried, but it's great as is, trust me).

Julia says: SO DELICIOUS. When I made it in the picture above, I ended up spooning the tomato-ham mixture on top. My cat almost ripped my face off to get at it.

Grits Two Ways: Yankee and Redneck (with bonus notes on Kraft Garlic Cheese)

Grits is not something I grew up eating. I didn't really know what it was other than some exotic dish mentioned in books set in the South. Eventually I met Southerners who would wax poetic about grits, but also insist you couldn't get the real thing above the Mason-Dixon line. Since I avoid traveling down South, I didn't taste them until a couple years ago when I visited a friend in Atlanta, GA. I had grits with cheese several times and found out I loved it. When I returned from my trip I decided to try making them at home. Alton Brown did an episode of "Good Eats" about grits, and well. My evil plan came together

Alton Brown's "Yankee" Grits

2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded

Place the milk, water, and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is creamy.

Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter, and whisk to combine. Once the butter is melted, gradually whisk in the cheese a little at a time.

I *love* these grits. Strangely my cat also adores them will all but claw off my face to get herself some. I like having grits for breakfast with scrambled eggs and hot sauce on top.

Kassie was born and raised in the South and insists that the Alton Brown's recipe is yankee nonsense and grits are supposed to be baked and shouldn't be made with milk. I've pointed out that Alton Brown is from Georgia, but Kassie countered that she is a redneck and clearly knows best. This is her recipe for grits.

Kassie's Southern Grits

Cook a cup of stone ground grits in three cups chicken broth. As needed, add more broth. You need to cook it at least a half hour, but you can keep adding broth and stirring for a long time. If you're cooking something else just add broth by the half cup as you're cooking other things.

When you're finished with everything else, add either garlic powder to taste (this is the authentic redneck method) or a pulped clove of fresh garlic. If you add fresh garlic, cook about ten minutes more (adding broth and stirring) to cook the garlic a bit. Remove from heat and add two tablespoons of butter.

Return to heat and add an asston of cheese (this is a real measurement). You don't have to use cheddar (but usually people do), you can use pepper jack or farmer's cheese or combos--go buck wild (sorry but no Kraft Garlic Cheese*, though)! When the cheese is melted, add another half cup of liquid (you can use water or milk or broth, to taste) and some hot sauce (to taste), and dump the whole shebang in a greased (here I will admit to buttering the dish not Paming it) and bake at 400F for like a half hour or until browned or until you can stand it.

Be prepared to fight people off your plate.

*My mom said she couldn't find Kraft Garlic Cheese and told me to go online and order it. Yeah, how about I go on the internet and investigate? [Does so.] Holy shit, they stopped making it and there's a riot all over the internet! WHAT THE FUCK????????? How could they just stop making this stuff? If you aren't Southern (and here I'm being American-centric as usual) you probably have no idea what discontinuation of this product means, but this is disastrous for tons and tons of family recipes. *weeps* Cheese balls are like my treasured most favorite holiday food! (It's disgusting, I know, but I'm sure you have some crap food you love, too.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chilaquiles for Breakfast

In another adventure in breakfast I decided to make chilaquiles with eggs on top. I read about them in Saveur magazine I think and was intrigued. I looked at several recipes online, and mostly used this one from

Breakfast Chilaquiles for Two
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 1 dried cascabel chile
  • 3 canned tomatoes and some of their juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • 10 (6-inch) tortillas (preferably stale), each cut into 1/2 wide strips
  • 1 medium lime, juiced or 1 TB of bottled lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Black beans that have been mashed, or some refried beans (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, whatever)

  1. Fill a medium bowl with 1.5 cups of hot water.
  2. Heat up a dry cast iron pan over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, open the chiles and shake out the seeds. Tear or cut the ancho chile into strips, and roughly tear the other chiles into big pieces.
  3. When the pan is hot, put the dried chiles in it. Gently press on the chiles with a spatula and move them around the pan. You want them to get roasted/blistered but not burned. After a few minutes, remove them from the pan and put them in the bowl of hot water. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and set it aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Wipe out the cast iron pan, and add about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. You want enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan to the depth of about 1/4 inch. Heat the oil over medium high until hot but not smoking. It is hot enough if the oil bubbles vigorously when you dip the edge of a tortilla in the oil.
  5. Cover a plate with several layers of paper towels and set near the frying pan. Not so close that you set the paper towels on fire. Which I have done before. Oops.
  6. Fry strips of stale tortillas in batches of about 5 at a time. Cook about 1 minute per side until crisp and lightly browned, then remove to the paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt when done.
  7. Turn off the heat under the frying pan and let the oil cool.
  8. Return to the chiles which have been soaking. Lift them out of the liquid, and put them in a food processor with the tomatoes, garlic and 1/2 tsp of salt. Add about 1/4 cup of soaking liquid and process until smooth.
  9. Back to the frying pan which had that oil in it. Pour out most of the oil into a heat proof container. You want to leave about 1/4 cup of oil in the pan. Heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully and slowly pour the chile mixture into the pan. It will bubble like mad so be careful. Stir it around until everything smells delicious.
  10. Taste the chile mixture after about 5 minutes. Adjust salt as needed and add lime juice. . At this point, I put half of the sauce into a tupperware container because I was only cooking for two.
  11. Gently stir in the fried tortilla strips so they get covered in sauce. Mix in the beans if you're using them. Let cook for a few minutes.
  12. Crack the eggs into the pan, sprinkle them with salt, and stir the eggs around with all the other deliciousness in the pan.
  13. Sprinkle cheese on top, cover the pan with a lid and let cook for a few minutes. Uncover, and stir everything around. If the eggs aren't fully set, cover and let cook for another minute or two.
  14. When it's all cooked through, taste for seasoning. You may need to add more salt at this point. If you had some cilantro, that would be delicious to have on top. Or maybe a squeeze of lime juice.
  15. Devour!

These came out really tasty. It doesn't look pretty, but oh does it taste great. And as you can see, it is kitty approved.

The sauce is hot with lovely complex smokey flavors. Not just punch you in the face heat. The tortilla strips end up getting sort of crisp/soft which is lovely and the eggs just really meld all the flavors together. Despite the fact that I'm brain dead in the morning, I was able to pull this together in about 30 minutes. If I had thought ahead, I would have made the sauce the night before so that all I had to do in the morning was fry up tortillas and combine everything together.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sudden Guest and 45 Minute Dinner

A few months ago a friend IMed me at 4:58 asking if she could come over and hang out. I asked her to bring white wine and bread, since that goes with everything in the summer, and decided to try Spanish Style Spaghetti w/ Chorizo and Almonds that I had seen in one of my favorite food blogs, Je Mange La Ville.

When I got home, I announced to my roommate that we had a guest. She volunteered to make a salad with greens, fresh mozzarella, and homemade croutons. We lept into action. I took the counter by the sink, and she took the counter by the stove. Our kitchen is huge by Boston standards, but when both of us are in simultaneous cooking frenzies, things can get cramped.

Since I was low on cash, and hadn't checked the pantry to make a complete shopping list, I ended up dropping some elements from the dish (I put a strike through items I didn't use). The two of us got a delicious dinner on the table in under an hour. Suck on that Rachel Ray.

Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds
Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, with tweaks by Je Mange La ville. Missing items are entirely my fault and I promise to make this recipe properly at some point
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp crumbled saffron threads
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 package of local Portuguese chourico (1lb)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (we keep on forgetting to buy more)
9 ounces fideos (dried coiled vermicelli noodles) or angel-hair pasta or thin spaghetti, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
1 (14 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup sliced almonds with skins, toasted (bonus points for marcona almonds)
1/2 cup Manchego grated

I put the broth, water, and wine into a small pot on a back burner and set it to simmer.

Then began the grand chopping of garlic. and I go through several heads of garlic a week, so this is a familiar nightly ritual. I sliced up about 8 cloves of garlic and set them aside. I also sliced up my chourico and set it aside.

I snagged my largest pot (about 5 qts) and added about 2 TB of olive oil to the pot. When the oil was hot (as tested by holding my hand a couple inches above the bottom of the pan), I added the sliced garlic. After a minute, of cooking, I removed the garlic from the pot with a fork, and reserved it in a small bowl.

I put the chourico into the pot and let it cook, stirring occasionally. While the sausage cooked, I chopped up my onion, found the spaghetti, and drained a can of chickpeas. The one problem with using a bright red firm sausage, is that it's hard to tell when it's cooked through. After about 8 minutes and paranoid poking at it by myself and, she declared it cooked and I set it aside on paper towels.

Then I added 1 TB of butter to the pan, let it melt and added the onion. Je Mange La Ville made a notation that it's OK to use butter because you're already eating sausage. I think it's OK to use butter whenever you want. It adds flavor to the dish and promotes browning, so why leave it out? After that mental rant, I added salt and pepper to season the onions, and let them cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. I broke the pasta into small pieces inside the pot, so stray pasta bits stayed inside. Then I added the simmering broth mixture, covered the big pot and let it simmer away for 6-7 minutes until pasta has absorbed the liquid.

While that was happening I zested an orange, chopped up the rosemary and parsley, and realized I had no tomatoes. I opened a can of whole tomatoes, pulled two out and chopped them roughly.

I added the chopped tomato, orange zest, rosemary, parsley, chick peas, cooked garlic, and sausage to the pot. I stirred it up and added salt and pepper to taste. I also cursed myself for not having almonds, because those would have been amazing.

I served bowls of this with grated Manchego on the side. Our guest, Span, brought a bottle of "Good Pinot Grigo" which was in fact pretty good and a loaf of Iggy's bread. She had asked me what kind of wine to bring and I asked for anything but chardonnay (which I hate with a passion). made delicious green salads with home made vinaigrette, home made croutons and fresh mozzerella.

The main dish had a lot of flavor which, had permeated the pasta (because the spaghetti was cooked in the sauce). I really liked the bit of sour/sweet from the orange and rosemary, and that the sauce had some creaminess from the pasta starch being released into it. Best of all it also reheated well the next day for lunch.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pork Shoulder Cooked Forever and Faux Tamale Pie

Yesterday during a boring staff meeting I decided I wanted to cook pork w/ orange juice and incorporate it into enchiladas or possible fauxmale pie.

Into the crock pot went 1 bottle of beer, 1 cup of orange juice, about 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped fresh ginger, 1 head of garlic (cloves smashed and paper removed), 1 tsp of 5 spice powder, 1 tsp smoked serrano chile, 1 tsp of dried ginger. I use both fresh and dried because I think they taste different. The dried has a more mellow warmth while the fresh is brighter.

I cut most of the skin of the pork shoulder, salted it, seared the exterior in a frying pan and put it into the crock pot. Then in the pan which had held the pork, and was filled with browned bits and pig fat, I sauteed 2 chopped onions. Once they had some color I tossed them into the crock pot.

I started this in the evening, and it cooked for about 12 hours on low. When I woke up my apartment smelled AMAZING. The pork shoulder had completely collapsed into deliciousness. I spooned the meat out into a container to chill in the fridge. I then strained the liquid into another container. I wanted the liquid to chill so I could degrease it later by just lifting the solidified fat off the top.

I went off to work gloating over the porky deliciousness in my fridge. When I got home I shredded the pork (removing any stray bits of fat or weirdness) and removed the fat from the liquid. Lifting a congealed solid layer of fat is kind of awesomely gross. The liquid had also turned into a jellied mass, which means it is filled with deliciousness (and collagen). The pork was flavorful, but also a little "dull." Probably from the long cooking. I stirred in some chile paste, cumin and ginger powder which brightened the taste.

I decided I wanted to make a sort of pork tamale pie with polenta on top (like in the fauxmale pie).

  • Cooked polenta (make it yourself or get a tube of premade stuff)
  • About 1.5 cups of shredded pork
  • 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from the pork (or chicken stock) which has been warmed.
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I love Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes, but any kind without seasonings is fine)
  • 3-4 TB masa harina
  • 9x9 baking dish, or larger if you feel like it.
Preheat your oven to 350.

Get out your baking dish and spoon in enough porky goodness to fill the pan half way up. Add 1/2 cup of cooking liquid (or broth) and one 28 can of diced tomatoes. Then slowly stir in in 3-4 TB of masa harina. You want the liquid to thicken up, but not solidify. Then drop spoonfuls of polenta on top, or crumble the premade stuff on top.

Bake the whole thing at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and delicious. This also reheats well the next day for lunch.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Delicious Iced Beverages: Hibiscus Tea

I have to confess. I do not deal well with heat and humidity. When summer kicks into high gear, I hole up in the a/c and whimper. One of my obsessions this summer is making tasty iced beverages. My roommate has engaged in inspiration/instigating in this area. One of my favorites she has made is iced hibiscus tea.

The first thing you need to know is that this tea is the most beautiful deep reddish pink color. The second is that and I cleaned the local co-op out of hibiscus flowers making this. Third, I purchased a pound of dried hibiscus off the internet, and I've gone through half of it in a month. Fourth, it is a natural diuretic so guzzling it right before bed will lead to you getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Repeatedly.

Right then. Iced hibiscus tea. It's tangy, delicious, cooling and refreshing. The flavor has a tang similar to pomegranate or cranberry juice. Hibiscus is the "zing" in Celestial Seasonings zinger teas. In Mexico it's called Jamaica (pronounced ha-MIKE-uh), and you can find dried hibiscus as "flor de jamaica" in your local bodega. You can also find dried hibiscus flowers at natural food stores, Whole Foods and other places where you buy bougie foodie nonsense. Since and I cleaned out our local establishments, I bought organic fair trade hibiscus from Montain Rose Herbs (along with dried rose petals, but that's another post).

Remember how I mentioned the gorgeous color of hibiscus tea? It also stains like a mofo, so if you're a klutz like me don't wear white while making it. Get a large pot and boil about 6 cups of water. When it comes to the boil, turn off the heat and add about 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus (Or 1-2 handfuls) and a half cup of sugar. Give everything a stir, cover the pot and let the mixture steep for about a half hour. Add 1/4 cup of lime juice and 2 big spoonfulls of minced ginger (I use Ginger People's jarred minced ginger. I used to make a face at for being too lazy to mince her own ginger, then I noticed how this stuff is insanely cheap and easy to use. Now I buy it as well). Then dip a ladle in in the pot, stir it around and have a taste. Adjust lime and sugar levels to taste. Serve over lots of ice and near a cool breeze. This is also tasty with a slug of rum or mixed with white wine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Puff Pasty Shennanigans Pt 2: Raspberries

My trials and tribulations with puff pastry have not stopped me from taking it on again. This time, however, I was successful. I made delicious mini raspberry tartelette things. said they were delicious versions of hand pies.

Frozen puff pastry (1 piece)
1/2 c. Raspberry jam or jelly
1 c. frozen raspberries, defrosted
2 TB maple syrup (sub. equal parts water and sugar if you don't have real maple syrup)
Raw sugar
1 TB of milk or 1 egg, beaten

Parchment paper
Cookie sheet
Pastry brush

Heat the oven to 400 deg.

To defrost the puff pastry, take it out of the freezer, unwrap from its packaging and put it on a cutting board covered with a tea towel. It should defrost in about 15-20 minutes.

Cut the puff pastry into 6 rectangles. You can use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Stab each piece several times with a fork. Put the pieces on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Leave about 1 inch of space around each piece.

You can defrost your raspberries either by leaving them on the counter for a half hour, or by microwaving them for 30 seconds and stirring them. If they're still mostly frozen, microwave for another 30 seconds.

Microwave the raspberry jam in a small bowl for 30 seconds, or until it becomes warm and liquidy. (Be careful not to get this hot or let it boil. Hot sugary products can become culinary napalm. )

Spoon about 1 TB of jam onto each rectangle, and spread it out with the pastry brush leaving a 1/2 inch border around the outside edge of each rectangle.

Put two spoonfuls of raspberries on each rectangle, and spread them out to cover the jammy surface. Add any leftover raspberries where it seems appropriate.

Brush the bare edges of the pastry rectangles with either the milk or beaten egg. Then sprinkle the entire rectangle with raw sugar (sprinkling some extra along the borders).

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden. Let cool somewhat before eating. These make a delicious dessert and a spectacular breakfast.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Puff Pasty Shennanigans Pt 1: I hate Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is one of my cooking TV boyfriends (Mimi only started loving him when he chubbed up, but he's always been in my harem), and I can't help finding his accent and ridiculous hair charming. On a recent episode of "Jamie's Kitchen" he had this "dead simple, quick easy" recipe to make little flaky crispy pastry things (part of the Quick Rhubarb Fool recipe). Basically you defrost a packet of puff pastry, and then cover a cutting board w/ powered sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the top of the pastry w/ more powered sugar. Roll the pastry out until it is thin and then cut it into big pieces. Cook in a hot dry non stick pan until brown on each side. Quick, crisp and delicious. I had visions of eating these flaky, buttery, cinnamony treats along with homemade ice cream. Mmm...

The reality was very different. The first batch burned on the outside and were raw on the inside. Which led to me cursing mightily, sprinkling more powdered sugar everywhere, and re-rolling the dough (not rick rolling it) so the puff pastry was quite thin. I also had find a cooling rack so the finished little crispy things wouldn't get soggy.

I eventually managed to get the puff pastry to cook through, and crisp up somewhat. Of course that happened about 30 minutes into the "quick and easy" "done in five minutes" enterprise. Worst of all, the little cookies didn't even taste good. The cinnamon got burned and bitter, and the sugar got gummy (quite possibly because US powdered sugar has cornstarch, while UK icing sugar does not).

I ended up covered in sugar, grumpy, hot, sticky and filled with scorn for Jamie Oliver. Clearly Alton Brown is the blond cook I should trust.