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Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Red Beans and Ricely yours.

 

We made it. One for the books. Wave goodbye to the last spin around the sun and get ready for the next.

To mark this occasion there is a delicious tradition of serving beans in the new year. Beans represent luck and hope and I being a lover of all culinary traditions decided to go with that traditional southern dish. Red beans and rice. It's a simple dish but with some thought and basic cooking techniques it can be so much more. Get out your Tobasco!!!

I've got a leftover hambone from the holidays, a big pot and some other stuff. Let's do this.

MISE-EN-PLACE

one hambone, ham hock..whatever

1 pound dried small red beans or kidney beans

3 cups ham stock (I'll show ya later)

Holy trinity. 2 parts onion, 1 part each celery, green bell pepper

One clove garlic, minced

A couple bay leaves

2TB Paprika

Salt-pepper

A big deep pot

 

The prep goes fast, the actual cooking a bit longer

Dried beans. Start the night before. Rinse under water. Remove any stones, broken or shriveled beans. Anything that looks like this.

 

Place in large pot and cover with cold water over 3 inches and let soak overnight. Drain.

NOW first thing, regarding that hambone. It really does add the essential guts to this dish. If you don't have one you could maybe use a hamhock, ask your butcher.

The first this to do is to take a knife to the bone. Remove as much fat and flesh as you can and separate them into two piles. Yes really.

If you don't have any ham stock stashed around well then lucky you, make some. We've made stock before.

Start with this-add water. Simmer for an hour, strain out. Done. RIGHT

Ok I'll be nice. Scraps of onions, celery and carrot. One hambone, bay leaf, whole black pepper corns. Enough water to cover by 2 inches. Also, unless you have 2 hambones, you'll want to remove and reserve that one. Continuing.

Chop up that holy trinity.

Grab your reserved ham fat, if you don't have enough, just use some veg oil.

If you DO have enough, heat up your pot to medium and start rendering (melting) that will be our sauté medium. We're getting triple use from that leftover bone ain't we. Turn up the heat to high.

Dump in the trinity. Sweat around, add salt, pepper. Keep tossing.

Add paprika, bay leaves.

Doing good right?

Lower heat and add beans.

And just nestle that bone in there, looks all comfy doesn't it

Add the stock. You need enough liquid to cook those beans. About 4 cups. If you're short then add a bit of water, you'll be ok.

Bring it to a boil and you'll notice a foamy-scummy thing gathering on the surface. It's called a raft and yeah it needs to go away. Just reduce your heat to simmer and grab a spoon or ladle. Gently drag across the surface to remove, dump it.

Cover the nicely simmering pot and walk away. Takes about 2 1/2 hours. Check on it, stir around, let's not burn the beans. During the last 30 minutes, tip the lid and let it reduce a bit. It should be creamy, not watery. Any ham bits liberated way back at the beginning, go ahead and add now.

Like this.

Remove from heat and cook up some white rice. Whatever method you like. Chop up some green onions for garnish. This isn't spicy at all but it's terrific with some Tobasco.

There you go. Good and dense, filling and comforting and it wasn't even that hard. Save that bone, you'll get a couple more stock batches depending on the size.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful 2014!

Cooking poor, eating rich

Get your grub on

Ciao

 

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Christmas Carol. God bless us, everyone.

My friend Mary is the kind of person that many aspire to be. Compassionate, caring and darn pretty.

She keeps her eye on an army of kids aging out of the Foster Care system. Once a year at this time she struggles to throw them a gigantic party. For one night they experience the things we take for granted everyday. Home cooked meal, family at the table, the warmth and light of the season. The other 364 days? Some of these kids are homeless, most are severely lacking of security, support and guidance.

Mary is also a Washington High RAM.

She calls for help, we answer. This is my second year serving as a volunteer. I wasn't alone.

I reached out to my friends at Atlasta Catering again, they came through in a big way. Cambro full of Turkey, I headed out to the church hall, hoping to make some Christmas magic.

We entered the hall, HUGE, dark.

I headed right for the kitchen, my buddy Kevin followed. Lots of work ahead. Luckily we had a big professional kitchen this year. Convection ovens, grill top. All waited to heat and hold all the food the rest of the volunteers would bring. Re-heat, slice and carve. Kevin who was just getting over a cold gave up his Birthday to be there. He got a crash course of slicing Ham and Turkey. Champ.

Our friend Jeff appointed himself as expo, ran food back and forth like a BOSS.

Jamie and her lovely daughter helped keep things from getting out of hand.

 

People given the chance are magnificent. We had a gigamountain of food this year. Kids ate until bursting and we were able to pack to-go containers for anyone who wanted. Grateful they would have food for the Holiday weekend. There was even enough Mary was able to drop some off at a homeless shelter.

The kids are tremendous. All night long they would thank us, hang out with us. Such a tight group.

I know that I'll be back next year. I hope this continues to grow. With the support of our WHS RAMS we can continue to show the kids with the least that they matter.

I still wish we could have more. Next year?

Here's some pics of my friends being RAMS

Another RAM Chef, Patti.
 
lady with the bright smile. Our Cindy.

 

Cindy hugs!

More kids!

All it takes is two hands and a willingness to help. Thank you RAMS! Tom, Jeff, Mary, Mary G. Jennifer (hi!), Jamie, Kevin, Susie, Patti, Cindy and John, and all who volunteered either their time, food, gift-cards..etc. Happiest of Holiday seasons.
Cooking poor, feeling rich
Get your grub on
Ciao

 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jerk. Keep your hands off. Caribbean style.

I love jerk. Truly. Sweet, spicy, peppery and smokey. Easy way to transform a basic protein into something unforgettable. A close friend brought me a jar for Christmas. Good thing too, I was almost out.

I'm also getting tired of Holiday leftovers. Seems like a good day to fire up the grill. Along the way I'll show ya some Sweet Potato Pudding and Collard Greens. Ja man.

First a little history (you knew this was coming) Jamaican Jerk is a miracle. It's a blend of Allspice, Scallions, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Vinegar, Black Peppercorns and Sugar. That's just the basic formula, there are many variations. It can be a dry-rub or a wet marinade. It's applied to meat and grilled. Today I'm using Chicken thighs but it's also really great with pork, goat, lamb..etc.

It came about after the British invaded the Spanish colony of Jamaica. The African slaves; rather than be recaptured, fled into the mountains and joined the native tribes. Surrounded by deep forests where game was plentiful they used whatever they could gather and their own heritage to transform humble meals into something wonderful. Truly cooking poor, eating rich.

Mise-en-Place

Today I used Chicken thighs, 'cus it's good. I took the skin off and the bone out

Jar of Jerk (this can be tricky to find) look for one that is more paste like than sauce.

 

4-5 White Sweet Potatoes, peeled

Jar of Pineapple chunks

Four large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Pinch of ground Nutmeg

Salt and Pepper

 

2 big bunches Collard Greens, stems removed and rough chopped

4 pieces Salt Pork, cubed

1-2 Jalapeño chopped, seeds and all

One whole Clove

Salt-Pepper

2 cups water

 

It's so easy

Smear a good heap of Jerk onto Chicken. Wear gloves, you do NOT want to touch anything with Scotch-Bonnet pepper in it. Turns your hands bright red and burns.

Set aside for at least an hour.

 

Onto the Collard Greens. It's a relative of Kale, has smooth leaves and a mustardy, spinach kinda thing going on. Very fibrous so it takes time to make it tender.

 

Heat up a deep pot.

Plop in the chunks of Salt Pork. Render the fat out. That'll be our Sauté medium.

Mmmmm pork fat

Add those Peppers, season. Wilt for a bit, it will shrink some. Add your water, whole clove and bring to simmer, cover and wait. Takes about an hour, I'm not kidding.

 

Next let's tackle Sweet Potato pudding.

pre-heat the oven to 375F

Peel spuds and chop into equal chunks. Place in deep pot and barely cover with salted water. Add some ground pepper in there too. Bring to boil and simmer until soft all the way through.

Once done, drain all water and put the pot back on the stove and shake it until all steam stops. Water equals lumps. Neat trick right?

Think of regular mashed 'taters.

Now, off heat add butter, Nutmeg. Use a fork and mash around, should be real easy. Add the milk. Still beating? Good, switch to a sturdy spoon. Add the eggs, mix, now empty the entire contents of the can of Pineapple chunks. Mix.

Dump the whole thing into a Casserole pan, sprinkle with a little Paprika if you like. Throw it into the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, check it. It will puff up some. Done? Good, remove from oven.

 

 

Check those greens ok? Maybe pull one out and bite it. Tender? Yes! Good, remove and drain. Done.

 

Heat up that grill, 500. Fast and smokey.

 

Keep your heat consistent. Flip once. Remove to plate and let it rest.

It's great just the way it is but I always like to hand chop it first. Simple right?

Knife and cutting board...done

Doesn't need any garnish. It's great, trust me. Scoop of pudding for sweet, greens for bitter and jerk for heat. Try it.

 

 

Cooking poor, eating rich.

Get your grub on

Ciao

 

Friday, November 22, 2013

What the dickens is "left-over wine?"

My favorite kind of project. Making something for the people I love.
My dear friend Becky Sue Cook gave me this idea. She can bake me under a table and is a terrific example of someone who cooks poor, eats rich. Plus she's a fellow WHS RAM. Kudos love!
Most of you know that I make a little jar of something for gifts at Christmas. The brilliance of this project is it combines two of my favorite things. Hockey and Doctor Who...no, wait I meant COOKING and WINE. Yeah, those two.
Great use of any leftover wine. Simple stuff. Nothing you haven't seen before, I've done at least one jar project every year.
Wine jelly
MISE-EN-PLACE
3 cups dry wine. Red or white. I picked a nice fruity Merlot from Washington. Just about one 750ml bottle.
4 cups sugar
1 3.78 ounce package of Pectin. They used to be labeled straight 4 ounces...bastards. It's ok, it works.
One big pot for sterilizing jars and lids
One pot for jelly process.
Pair of tongs
Ladle.
And yes, they do sell special equipment just for processing jars. Do you need it? Well, no. I'm a professional and I don't. I'm not the kind of person who spends money on stuff I'll only use once a year.
Anyway....
Put all jars, lids and rings into your large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil. Sterilization. Just let it go. Make sure your tongs and ladle are in there too.
 

In your other pot over high heat dump in the wine and pectin. Stir gently until it comes to a boil.

Dump in all the sugar. Stir until dissolves. Keep stirring and boil hard for one minute. Lower to simmer.

Now you're going to notice a wacky, foamy scum gathering on the surface. You'll want to remove that. Just use a small spoon and dump it.

If you want to test your batch, easy. Grab a small plate or bowl. Dribble some onto it and count to 10. Turn it upside down. If it's perfect it will set and not drip.
 
 

Ok? All good? Time to process.

Using the tongs, grab one jar and fill where the ring screws on. Wipe rim with a paper towel dipped in the hot water, this will insure a tight seal. Grab one lid (that's the flat one) place on top, grab one ring and screw it on tight. I use a clean cloth towel.

ONE

TWO

As each jar is filled, put them on a towel out of the way.

Once all jars are filled and lidded. GENTLY lower them standing back into the hot water and let it come back to boil for 5 minutes.

Remove, dry and let stand until cool. Out of any cold drafts, we don't want anything to crack.

I know! Easy right? You'll get 6-8 oz jars of yield. That's a pretty fair return for little effort.

Wine jelly is a terrific condiment for savory cheeses, goes terrific with bagels and cream cheese, rye crackers...etc. Be your family's gourmet this holiday!

If you are so inclined, if you'd like to help out this poor man's blog. On the top of the site you'll see a PayPal button, any amount is greatly appreciated. Also, if you are considering buying anything off Amazon. On the right is a link. Anything you purchase, a small amount is given to support this blog. Thank you.

Have a joyful season y'all

Cooking poor, eating rich

Ciao

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's November, it's 85F. Squash.

And again. I took a long time away from the blog. My RWJ finally went full time and has taken up most of my focus sorry. I got bills. So do you.
Dad did it again, grew some great produce that I must share. What you're looking at is "Buttercup" squash. Sorta punkiny kinda butternutty. Green on the outside and rich orange inside with an earthy and sweet character. Now sure I coulda done all kinds of crazy things, made gnocchi, filling for ravioli but my focus here is to think about what YOU might do with it. So quick bread is easy. Another master recipe you can use with any golden gourd-like squash, including pumpkin, turban, butternut etc...
Mise-en-place
Master formula
PREHEAT OVEN TO 350F
2 cups AP Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup squash, puréed
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cooking oil
*optional
1/2 cup chopped nuts ( I'm allergic so I didn't)
1/2 cup dried fruit ( I used cranberry)
The first order of business is to render our squash. Easy. Quarter, scoop out seeds and that gushy, thready gunk. Put the quarters into a large plastic bag with a splash of water. Pop it into the Microwave for about 10 minutes or until completely soft. Scoop out (don't burn yourself) and measure out one solid cup. Any left overs just freeze.
Sift together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl. Combine squash, brown sugar and oil. Whisk together thoroughly. Add eggs and whisk until absorbed.
Add the dry ingredients in two additions. Mix thoroughly. Easy right? If using any or both optional ingredients add them NOW. I said NOW.
Grease up one 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

Dump the batter into the pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Test with a knife or skewer, anything clings to it, let it go for a little more.
Remove from oven and let it cool until no longer dangerous to handle, remove from pan. Let it sit until completely cool. Wrap and chill overnight before slicing up. I know it's hard to wait and sure you could eat this right away but this formula renders a really fluffy, crumbly product. If you do it my way it gets much more dense and moist.

Quick breads are a great way to send love without breaking the bank. Using a master formula gives you the foundation to experiment with your own ideas. There are no wrong answers.
Happy Autumn
Cooking poor, eating rich
Ciao