Sunday, August 31, 2008

Buttermilk Biscuits

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus additional for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup buttermilk. Using your hands, quickly fold the dry ingredients into the buttermilk until a sticky dough forms. You may need to add more buttermilk.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently fold the dough over itself 3 or 4 times to create layers. Press the dough out to 1 1/2-inches thick and cut with a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter. Lay the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with buttermilk. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.


This one comes from Food Network originally, Tyler Florence to be precise. It is a great, relatively simple recipe. These biscuits come out flakey, tender and rich. They are great for strawberry shortcake, biscuits and gravy or just as a side. Here is how you make them. I got these pictures when I was at my brothers for lunch, we had them with fried chicken. First sift together the dry ingredients. Now toss the chunks of shortening in. Mix it together with your hands or a pastry blender, you want it to look like coarse crumbs. Like this. Now add the buttermilk and mix it together till it's a sticky dough. The recipe says to use your hands, but my brother uses a spoon and they always come out wicked good. Now turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Check out the counter, my brother covered the whole thing with a sheet of glass. It is wicked cool. Anyway, push the dough together into a sheet and fold it in half on itself. Then push it down firmly, (but not too firmly, this is what forms the flakey layers) and fold it again. Then again. And maybe again. Then form it into a 1 1/2 inch thick sheet and use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out circles of dough. When the dough is full of holes, press it together again, form a smaller sheet and cut out more. Do this until the dough is gone. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, brush them with some more buttermilk and bake them at 375 to 20-25 minutes. They should rise a bit, be golden brown and look just amazing.

Pan Fried Chicken

1 broiler/fryer chicken,cut into 8 pieces
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 tbls kosher salt
2 tbls Hungarian paprika
2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
flour for dredging
vegetable shortening for frying

Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Melt enough shortening (over low heat) to come just 1/8 of an inch up the side of a 12 inch cast iron or heavy fry pan. Once the shortening liquefies raise heat to 325. Do not allow oil to go over 325. Drain chicken in a colander. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne. Liberally season chicken with the mixture. Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off the excess. Place the chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center and breasts and legs around the edge. Cook chicken until golden brown, approx 10-12 minutes on each side. Internal temp should be ~180. Be careful to monitor the shortening temp while cooking. Drain the chicken on a rack over a pan lined with paper towels.


So today me and my girlfriend went to my brothers for lunch. He made fried chicken. Fried chicken frigging rules. His recipe is awesome, even if he doesn't put sage in the rub. :P Heh. So I figured I would take some pics and blog the deliciousness. The pictures aren't that great since I was using my sister in laws camera and I'm not used to it (it's fancier than mine...). But I think they still get the point across. The first thing you do is soak the chicken in buttermilk. This helps all the stuff cling to it and form a nice crust. You want to let it soak for at least twelve hours, this time my brother did it for about sixteen. Please, refrigerate the chicken while it's soaking. It's really for the best. Now you want to melt the shortening in a warm pan, then once it's melted turn up the heat to 325. The recipe above calls for a cast iron or heavy frying pan, but my brother has one of these electric fryer/griddle kind of dealies. They are great because you set the heat and don't need to monitor the temperature while you are cooking. Otherwise you need to check the temp every couple minutes to make sure it doesn't go above 325, if it does things will burn. While the shortening is coming to temp drain the chicken and place it on a rack. Mix together the salt, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne and sprinkle it generously on the chicken. I like adding a little sage to it too, but this is my brothers recipe and this is how he makes it. Don't misunderstand, it is really, really good. This recipe doesn't need any changes. But if you wanted to add some sage, that is good too. Heh. Don't be shy with the seasonings, this is supposed to be a flavorful dish. Once both sides are covered with seasonings dredge them in flour then shake off the excess. When the shortening is up to temp place the chicken (carefully!) in it. A splash guard is a good thing here... even if it doesn't quite cover the whole pan. After 10-12 minutes, when the chicken is golden brown or even dark brown, flip it. Let it cook for another 10-12 minutes or until it has reached an internal temperature of 180 degrees. Once it's done take it out and put it on a rack over a pan covered in paper towels. Let it sit for a minute or two to drain off the excess grease and cool a bit. Then eat it. We had it with mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits (I will post that recipe later) and corn on the cob. And for dessert: homemade ice cream cake. Guh. So good. My brother made the cake by taking some homemade brownie bits, turning them into crumbs and toasting them with a little butter (to keep them together, of course). Then he used that as a crust layer in a spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper in the bottom. Then he put softened chocolate ice cream on top of it, then a layer of brownie chunks and hot fudge. Then another layer of ice cream, this time vanilla with jimmies in it. Then he put it back in the freezer till dessert time. Wicked good.


So this isn't really a recipe. Mostly because, well, I didn't measure anything. But I can give you a pretty good idea of how to make a good frappe. For those of you not from New England, a frappe is like a really thick milkshake made with ice cream. You take a bunch of ice cream, a little milk, sometimes flavorings and blend it. Then you drink it. It's wicked good. I made some tonight and snapped a few pictures, so I figured I would share. Here is what I did. I started with a pint of ice cream, and just so you know you don't want slow churned or light or any of that stuff. They have too much air in them so they don't really work out well. I like Haagen Dazs. It also has the highest fat content of pretty much any ice cream. That's why it's so good. Heh. You can make it with any flavor you like, but I am using vanilla. You want to let it soften a bit, but not too much. It makes it easier to blend. Now all you really need is ice cream and a little milk. How much milk? Just enough to make it drinkable instead of soft-serve consistency. I added maybe a quarter cup this time around. I'm also adding some chocolate syrup. Again, I didn't measure it. It's kinda hard to have too much chocolate. I am also adding some strawberries, maybe a cup or so. I cut off the stems and leaves and cut them into big pieces to make blending them quicker. Toss it all in the blender and let 'er rip. Once it's smoothish it's done. Don't blend it too long or the ice cream will just melt. Pour it into your wicked cool Indiana Jones pint glass or whatever you happen to have and enjoy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chicken, Ziti and Broccoli

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
3/4 lb mostly cooked ziti
3 tbls butter
3 tbls flour
1 1/2 cups warm milk or cream
2-4 tbls Parmesan or Romano cheese
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
salt and pepper

Put the butter and garlic in a cold sauce pan. Turn on heat to medium-low. Melt butter and cook garlic for a minute. Add the flour and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes. Slowly add the milk or cream, stirring constantly. Add onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a couple minutes, till thick. Set aside. Saute chicken in a couple tbls of olive oil and basil till almost cooked. Add broccoli and cook till it is a little bit shy of how you want it. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add the pasta and stir it around while it finishes cooking. Serve.


So I cheated a little with this post. For one the hardest part, the white sauce, has already been covered in a previous installment. For another the recipe above is changed a bit from what I actually have pictures of. As me and my girlfriend were eating it we decided it was missing something (other than nutmeg! Crap, Gina, I'm a bad blog-guy! :( I keep forgetting.) and I'm pretty sure it was cheese in the sauce. I sprinkled some on top at the end, but it's just not the same. If anyone has any other ideas or tries it, still finds it lacking and fixes it please let me know. I love chicken, ziti and broccoli but this is the first time I have made it and while it was good, it wasn't as good as it could be. Using fresh onion in the sauce would certainly be better, but it was getting late when I was making it and I cut some corners. But anyway, here we go.

So I'm going to gloss over the sauce for the most part since I have a detailed post about it already. The two points I am going to make are one: adding the garlic. Start with a cold pan, put in the butter and the garlic. Bring it to medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted and hot add the flour. Doing it like this cooks the garlic but doesn't brown it, the butter or the flour. Point number two is I used heavy cream. My, but that makes a difference in the richness of the sauce. Of course I probably put on 10 pounds from just dinner, but whatever. If you are worried about calories go ahead and use milk. Or eat it with your eyes closed since everyone knows if you can't see it it doesn't count. That's the way it works right? I'll just pretend you said yes. When you add the milk also add the onion powder and cheese. Once the sauce is done set it aside. If you are concerned about it getting a skin you can put some wax paper right on top of it or float just enough milk to cover it and it won't. Now you want to saute up your chicken in some olive oil and with the basil. You can add other spices too, oregano would be good, so would tarragon or rosemary or some sage. You should cook it in batches (unless your pan is huge) so it browns. I didn't bother, again because it was late and we were hungry. Once it's pretty much cooked (it will cook more, don't worry) add the broccoli. Cook it till it is almost as done as you want it. I cooked it for less than a minute since I like my broccoli crunchy. Now add the sauce in and stir it around. Let it simmer for a little bit, maybe a minute, just to let the flavors mingle. Now add the pasta and mix it well. Let it simmer for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. Once everything has finished cooking it's done. Eat it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomato Sauce With Fresh Plum Tomatoes and What I Did With It

7 or more plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/2 cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch, peel and core tomatoes. Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat, brown the onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes and crush them. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes to 2 hours or more, depending on how many tomatoes you have and how fresh tasting you want the sauce. Less time=more fresh tomato flavor. If your herbs are fresh add them at the end and triple the measurements, if they are dried add them when you start to simmer. Add salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you want your sauce chunky, leave it as is. If you want it medium mash it with a potato masher. If you want it smooth use a wand mixer or blender/food processor.


Ok, the recipe above isn't anything like exact. Not even a little bit. It is just a guideline. The base seven tomatoes I said? That's just how many I had. I'm also not 100% sure how much garlic I used since I cooked three cloves whole and then mashed it into a paste, but didn't use all the paste. Also note I didn't put any sweeteners in the sauce. I found that I didn't need them since the fresh tomatoes are plenty sweet. You might want some. If so, I continue to recommend molasses. I also didn't use any wine or balsamic vinegar. I didn't have wine, or else I would have used some. In this size a batch probably just a couple tablespoons of it would be fine. Maybe just one teaspoon of balsamic. But more tomatoes, more stuff. This is just to tell you how to make sauce from fresh tomatoes and let you know how I seasoned it, you can do it however your heart desires. So, lets get going.

First off, you need fresh plum tomatoes. I got these from my wonderful sister in law who bought them at a local farm. They were seconds there, which means they are better than the best tomatoes you can get at your average grocery store. Plum, or Roma, tomatoes are best for sauce because they aren't too liquidy nor are they, frankly, too good for sauce. You don't really want to spend 5 bucks a pop for heirloom tomatoes and then boil them down to goo. Well, I don't anyway. If you want to, hey, they're your tomatoes. I use plum. So we want to blanch the tomatoes. What is blanching you ask? It's where you boil the tomatoes for a minute or so, just enough to cook the very outer layer. Then you take them out and drop them in cold water to stop the cooking. This lets the skins come off nice and easy, leaving a skinless fruit behind. Then you just pop out the tough core and you are good to go. I usually do them one at a time, but I am kind of anal like that, you do whatever works best for you. I have had the best luck with slicing a very, very shallow slash on two opposite sides of the skin before I boil them. This not only makes it easier to pull the skin off, but it also lets you know when they are ready to come out because the slices start opening up. Once they have sat in the cold water for a minute or two you pull them out and the skin should just slide right off. Cut out the core and you have tomatoes ready for cooking. Now you can just chop them up and if you want a sauce that tastes like fresh tomatoes that is what I recommend you do. Then you brown up your aromatics (garlic, onion, etc) and toss in the chopped tomatoes, let them cook for just a couple minutes and it's done. I, however, am going to do a slow sauce since I don't really like fresh tomatoes. Call me crazy. Many people do. Heh. But, even when you cook them for a long time there is a big difference in flavor with fresh tomato sauce versus one made with canned. First I am browning up the onions over medium high heat. I am doing them really dark this time, I want a nice sweet flavor from them. Then I am tossing in halved (because I needed to take out the shoot...) garlic cloves and letting them get some browning. Then I am reducing the heat to low and I'm putting in my tomatoes, whole. Now I just go at them with my spoon. I'm not too worried about getting them small, they will break down as they cook. But I want them to release their juices so nothing burns. Now you just let them simmer for, oh, an hour or two. It depends on how many you have. You don't want them to run out of liquid, but a nice concentrated flavor is the goal. Don't cover them! You want reduction, otherwise you will have a watery sauce. When the garlic is really soft, pull it out, mash it into a paste and put it back in. Once the watery liquid is mostly gone and the tomatoes have broken down, that's it, sauce! You can leave it as is if you want it chunky like this. Or you can hit it with a wand mixer like I do since I like a smooth sauce. But what do you do with it, you ask? Well, here is what I did. NOTE: This is where the "vegetarian" label stops being relevant. Rebecca, you don't care about it past this point. Unless you use mushrooms or tofu instead of ground beef...

Ok, I found that the seven tomatoes I had only made about a cup and a half or so of sauce. That's not really enough for a decent sized recipe. But, it is a good start. So first I started a pot of water for pasta, I wound up cooking about a half pound. Well, almost cooking. You want it not quite finished so you can finish it in the sauce. Then I browned up some ground beef. I tend to get large packages of ground beef and then freeze it in various sized chunks. I often work with it frozen, which can be a bit of a challenge. Here is the best method I have come up with for getting nicely browned meat from frozen ground beef. First, preheat your skillet. This is key. Add a little oil, I typically use olive but this time I'm using bacon grease since I have some. Mmmm, bacon grease. Now toss the beef in and let it sit for a couple minutes. Now flip it over ( yes, this picture was taken halfway through the process, but hopefully it gets the idea across...) and scrape the browned, thawed upper layer of beef off and push it to the side of the pan. Repeat. You will wear away the chunk of frozen meat in thin layers and build up fond at the same time. Eventually you will be left with just a thin slice of mostly thawed ground beef that you can break into chunks, along with all the strips that have been finishing cooking off to the side. Break it up into as small pieces as you like. At this point I also sprinkled some oregano on too. Maybe a 1/4 teaspoon or so. Now you will want to deglaze the pan. I'm using a nice big shot of vodka. Hey, I don't have any wine. Besides, I'm adding cream later, it's a classic combination! Why do you want to know why I have vodka and not wine? Pfft, look, do you want this recipe or not? Ok? Can we continue? All right then. Once it's deglazed add the tomato sauce. Bring it to a simmer, then add some cream. If you are watching calories you can use milk here, but the sauce won't be as rich.How much? Oh, maybe a half a cup. I just kinda poured a bunch in. Stir it around and let it simmer some more. I then added a little fresh basil, since I had some on hand. Now add the almost cooked, drained pasta. Stir it around and let it cook for just a minute or so. Put it in a bowl, garnish with some Romano and eat it. It's some good stuff there.


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