Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boiled Shrimp

One of the things my husband, A.J., misses most about living in New Orleans is boiled seafood. He not only enjoys eating seafood, he loves to have friends and family over on the weekends and boil pounds and pounds of shrimp, crawfish or crabs. Nothing makes him happier than sitting in our backyard on a beautiful sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon, drinking a beer and "Picking" seafood with our friends. Once he's had his share, he'd sit back in his chair and say, "I wonder what the poor people are doing today.". In my opinion, when it comes to boiling seafood, no one can touch A.J.

Boiled Shrimp -

We used 1-1/2 lbs. of shrimp, heads off, shells and tails on. Fill a medium size pot halfway with water. Add 1/3 cup Zatarain's Crab Boil (powder form) and 1 teaspoon of Zatarain's Liquid Crab Boil to the pot. Cut one lemon in half, squeeze both halves into the water and throw in the lemons too. Add teaspoon salt, and one head of garlic, cut in half cross-wise. Now add 1/4 onion peeled. Allow the water to come to a boil, add shrimp. Allow the water to come to a boil again, remove the pot from the burner and let the shrimp soak for 5-10 ten minutes. The longer the shrimp soak, the spicier, they will be. Drain the shrimp into a colander, eat warm or chill in the refrigerator before serving.

A.J.'s favorite cocktail sauce is 1/3 cup ketchup, 1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish, a couple of drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a dash of Lea & Perrins. Blend together with a fork and dip your shrimp.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pasta Mezanotte

Pasta is my comfort food; I guess it's more chick food than anything since there's no meat in it for the guys. I'm sure there are some of you guys out there that would consider this more of a side dish than a main . I'd love to hear from the reclining chair section on this one!

This is more of a method than anything else. We're infusing olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes. You can pick your favorite herbs and infuse the oil to your taste to make your favorite comfort pasta.

Pasta Mezanotte -

Cook 1 lb. of angel hair pasta until al-dente (about 7-9 minutes) and drain.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1/4 cup of extra virgin, 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes and 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced. This is a slightly slow process to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor and the heat from the red pepper flakes. Once the oil begins to bubble around the garlic slices, turn off the heat.

Add the cooked angel hair pasta to the skillet, along with 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley. Combine and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Squash Casserole

Can you believe all of the wonderful vegetables and herbs in the grocery stores and probably even in your garden or your neighbor's garden this time of year? Hopefully, you're sharing with your friends and they are sharing with you. Sharing homegrown vegetables is very big in rural Appalachia. The colors are vibrant and the taste and the price can't be beat.

In the spirit of sharing, this summer squash recipe is so chock full of flavor even your vegetable hating children will love it. Our cute little 7 year old neighbor is now a squash lover.

Squash Casserole -

Wash 4 yellow summer squash or is it squashes?

Slice the ends off the squash, cube and put in a high-sided pan with about 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes until the squash has softened. While squash is simmering, cook three slices of smoky bacon and reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon grease and crumble the bacon.

Drain squash and let cool just a little.

While squash is cooling, return pan to the stove and lower heat just a notch, add the reserved bacon grease and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add 1 medium onion finely chopped to the pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic and saute for another minute.

Remove pan from heat, add squash, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, reserved crumbled bacon, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 teaspoons Louisiana Hot Sauce, 1/4 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of butter. Fold ingredients to thoroughly combine and then turn into a buttered casserole dish.

Sprinkle top of casserole with seasoned Italian bread crumbs, 1/4 Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a couple of pats of butter and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

I dug my spoon in the casserole before I took a picture. Sorry, I was hungry and I hadn't eaten in like 20 minutes, and it smelled so good and the way everyone was hovering when I took it out of the oven, I was afraid I wouldn't get my share.

Go make friends with your neighbors or go the grocery and get some summer squash!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lemon Chicken

I've been really busy in the Smoky Mountain Cafe test kitchen tweaking flavorful recipes to share with all of you. I don't care much for the yellow, thick, gooey lemon sauce found lemon chicken in a lot of restaurants. This has a more delicate lemon taste and a less gooey sauce. Ok boys and girls, let's make one of the easiest and best tasting versions Lemon Chicken I've found.

Lemon Chicken -

Slice 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this strips.

Place about a cup of cornstarch in a medium size bowl.

In another bowl, mix 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of Asian Five Spice powder. I started with one egg and wound up needing use 2 eggs.

Coat the chicken strips first dusting each strip one at a time in the cornstarch, then dredging it through the egg mixture then again in the cornstarch. Fry the strips at medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok in about 1/3 cup of vegetable or peanut oil, 3 minutes per side Be careful not to crowd the skillet. Remove the strips from the skillet to a paper towel lined platter.

While the chicken is cooking, whisk together in a medium bowl, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and 4 tablespoons tamari (aged soy sauce) or regular soy sauce and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together 1-1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water and set aside.

When the chicken is cooked, lower the heat just a notch and add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 2 finely chopped shallots to the skillet and stir fry for about 30 seconds, then add the lemon/soy sauce and let it come to a boil. Once the sauce comes to a boil add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir until sauce has thickened.

Return the chicken strips to the skillet and coat the strips with the sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes and serve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve some fried rice ( on the side.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grilled Pork Chops

There's nothing like cooking outside on the grill. The weather has been warm, well actually up here the Smokies it's been downright HOT the past two weeks. Fortunately this week, we're going to be staying in the low 80's and it's absolutely perfect for grilling. We all know that when food is cooked outside on the grill, it can't be wrong. This is so simple and quick and doesn't mess up your kitchen!

Grilled Pork Chops -

Season 4 center cut, bone in pork chops with salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Rub the seasoning in with your fingers and let them set for about 5 minutes.

Place the pork chops in a large re-sealable plastic bag and pour about 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce in the bag.

Seal the bag, squeezing out the air and rub the barbecue sauce into the pork chops. You want the sauce to get all over each square inch of the meat. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to marinate.

Place the chops on a heat outdoor grill on medium-low heat and let then cook up. Turn the pork chops every 5 to 7 minutes until they are completely cooked.

This is Scout, our attack dog and my lookout. She is going to alert me if my husband enters the area. I have a confession. My husband told me that I'm not supposed to use barbecue sauce on the gas grill because it makes a big mess. I did it anyway, but I cleaned the grill. He doesn't know, so don't tell him. Ok, I feel better.

You must be warned. If you serve this to your friends, they won't return the invitation because you have raised the bar.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lemon Penne

Ever since I was a child, I've been a freak for lemons. My first and favorite cologne as a child was "Skinny Dip Lemon Dew". I used to drown myself in it. Of course the scent only lasted about 5 minutes...but it was 5 minutes of heaven for me. I enjoyed my mom's lemon chicken and when she prepared redfish with a lemon sauce. There's something about lemons that refreshing and clean. So brace yourself because your life is about to change forever.

Lemon Penne -

Boil 1 lb. of penne in salted water just until al dente and drain.

While your pasta is coming to a boil, zest two lemons and thinly slice the lemons and grab a bunch of chives and cut them into 1/2 inch strips. The more chives the merrier. These were all I had in my herb garden.

To a large saute pan, add 2 cups of beef broth, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup of tamari or soy sauce and lemons. Cook over medium high heat until reduced slightly, about 8 minutes.

Toss the cooked and drained penne, chopped chives, lemon zest (about 1 tablespoon), black pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce into the reduced liquid. Continue tossing the penne for a couple of minutes so it can absorb the liquid.
You can feel good about this pasta dish, it's not cooked in a heavy sauce with a lot of cheese. Actually, it's a pretty light and healthy main dish or side dish. Let me know, I need to believe!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meatloaf Patties and Mashed Potatoes

I have to be honest, my husband and the homegirlz go crazy over this dish. I mean totally nuts. It puzzles ad pleases me at the same time. Ok, I feel better now.

Meatloaf Patties and Mashed Potatoes -

Place 1-1/lb. lean ground beef or ground sirloin meat in a large mixing bowl and create a well in the center of the meat.

Fill the well with the bread cubes (made from 1 slice of buttered bread cut into cubes) and dampen them with a splash of milk.

Pour 1 beaten egg over bread and add salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon allspice (dig way back in the cabinet, do you faintly remember using this during the holidays?), 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste and 3/4 of medium onion finely chopped to the bowl.

Combine the meat, bread, and seasonings and form mixture into 4 large oval patties.

Pan fry meatloaf patties in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat 7 minutes on each side. Loosely tent the skillet with foil to radiate the heat and keep the patties moist.

While the patties are cooking, let's get started on the taters. Cover 2 lbs. of peeled and quartered in salted water in a large pot. Bring water to a boil and cook potatoes 10 minutes or until fork tender. Turn heat under pan off; drain potatoes and return to hot pot and warm stove top to dry potatoes out. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 2 chopped scallions, and 1/2 cup evaporated milk to potatoes and smash to your desired consistency. Season potatoes with salt, to taste.

Remove meat loaf patties to a platter and return pan to heat.

Reduce heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 medium onion finely chopped to your skillet. Cook the onion 2 minutes and sprinkle pan with 2 tablespoons flour. Cook flour 1 minute and whisk in 1 cup beef stock. Bring broth to a bubble. If gravy is too thick, thin with additional stock. Stir in salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of steak sauce and 1 teaspoon of brown mustard. return the patties to the skillet and let them simmer for 5 to 10 minutes while you finish up the potatoes.
Drizzle the patties and potatoes with gravy.

Oooh baby, baby this is soo good. Serve this to a man and he'll fall in love with you; serve this to your children and they will fall in love with you!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summertime Green Beans

Mmmm, nothing says summertime more than fresh green beans. Fresh green beans have to one of my favorites. If you don't have your own greens beans or friends dropping them off at your doorstep by the truckloads, go and grab a couple of handfuls at your local air market or grocery store and hurry back, so we can cook these babies!

Summertime Green Beans -

We're starting off with about 1/2 pound of fresh green beans. Snap off the ends, pull the strings off and wash gently with cool water and drain.

In a 2 quart pan, heat 1-1/2 tablespoons of shortening over medium-high heat. Yes, shortening...none of your friends are using shortening, it's important to be different.

Dice 1/2 Vidalia onion, 1/2 red bell pepper and 2 cloves of garlic.

Add the onion and bell pepper to heated pan and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon of seal salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. It's important to hold off on the garlic. If it's cooked too long, it will burn and make your dish taste bitter.

Add the beans to the pan and stir to mix all of your ingredients together.

Add 3/4 cup of chicken stock, cover pot, leaving top slightly askew and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Once liquid has evaporated, lower heat just a bit and brown up the onions, peppers and beans just a bit.

When I plated these beans, my tween and her daddy gathered around the plate like they were gathered around a camp fire trying to stay warm.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chicken Scallopine

I have been toying with the idea of growing a herb garden for quite a while. I like to cook as you know, but in this rural area, even though we have a Super Walmart, it's expensive and not easy to find a variety of fresh herbs. My hunky husband, A.J., bought me a couple of planters and a variety of herbs for Mother's Day. I've been watering the herbs everyday and giving them Miracle Gro, they look beautiful. A.J. asked me if I was EVER going to "harvest" my herbs or was I just watching them grow. Actually, I like watching them grow, they are my babies, I can't cut them up and eat them; that's just wrong. My thought process is wrong because the herbs will grow back. My Golden Sage plant was the biggest, so I picked a few leaves to add a little "Mmm" to my Chicken Scallopine. While we were eating dinner, my teen thinking I had lost my mind remarked, "Mom my food is small and there's a leaf in it.". Her reply was a smirk.

Chicken Scallopine -

Salt and pepper 5 chicken breast cutlets. Place the narrow end of the cutlet toward you and place a sage leaf on the cutlet crossways. Place a slice of Provolone cheese on top of the cutlet. Roll the cutlet and secure it with a toothpick.

Warm 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, add 2 cloves of garlic cut in half. Let garlic simmer in pan 3 to 5 minutes until fragrant and remove the garlic cloves. Cook the cutlets about 3 minutes per side, turning them to cook all sides.

Remove cutlets from pan to a platter. Add 1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth if you're not a wine person) and deglaze the pan. Simmer wine for about 2 minutes.

Pour one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in a blender and mix until smooth.

Add tomato mixture to pan and add 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a pinch of sugar and salt and pepper. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then return the chicken to the pan. Let chicken cook for 10 minutes, turn and let it cook another 7 minutes.

Plate chicken, ladle some sauce over the chicken and top with grated asiago or mozzarella cheese and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stuffed Shells

There are many variations of stuffed shells. I've about tried them all. This version the homegirlz like the best because I put in crunchy pancetta. Pancetta, my secret weapon, my friend, my favorite ingredient to put in just about any dish. Isn't is beautiful? ~Sigh~ Pancetta is an Italian bacon cured with cloves and/or peppercorns instead of smoked like bacon that we are all used to.

Back to the shells. Cheesy, creamy goodness, that will make you feel satisfied. Once your friends an family members try these shells, they will pledge their alliance to you forever.

Stuffed Shells -

Cook one 12 ounce package of large shells in salted water. When the shells are cooked, drain and let cool. While the shells are cooking, fry 1/4 lb. of cubed in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil pancetta until golden brown. Remove cooked pancetta from pan to a large bowl. To the large bowl with the cooked pancetta, add one 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 cup shredded asiago cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley. Blend the cheese mixture with a fork and grab your shells and stuff them with the cheese mixture. Line the stuffed shells in a greased 9 x 13 dish. Drizzle marinara (16 oz. jar) over the top of the shells and top with 1/2 cup of shredded asiago cheese and 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

The crunchiness of the pancetta...ok I just make this because I like pancetta. ~Enjoy!~

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Paneed Pork Medallions

I don't know if paneed meat is a New Orleans thing or not. It's pronounced "pa-nayed". It seemed to be a once a week meal for many of my neighborhood friends while I was growing up. My Mom didn't make paneed meat very much if at all. I can remember in the summertime when we were out playing, I could smell other people's mom making paneed meat in the evenings. I used to wish I was having dinner where the delightful aroma was coming from. I think the homegirlz take after their mom...they snagged a couple of medallions while I was cooking and said, "Mom these are amazing!". Of course I got my big wooden spoon out to protect my fair share.

Paneed Pork Medallions -

Start off with two pork tenderloins, about 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. each. Use a sharp knife and remove the fat and silver skin.

Slice the tenderloins into 1/2 inch slices and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Set up an assembly station near the stove - first season 1-1/2 cups of flour with salt, black pepper and a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper.

Make an egg wash with two eggs, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper.

Last, use 1-1/2 to 2 cups of seasoned Italian bread crumbs.

Heat 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet at medium-high heat.

My tween was kind enough to help and be my hand model. Dust the medallion with the season flour.

Run the medallion through the egg wash.

Finally, dredge the medallion through the bread crumbs.

Gently place in heated skillet and repeat with the remaining medallions. Be careful not to over crowd your skillet or the heat will drop too much and you will have mushy medallions instead of crispy medallions.

Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes and turn them over.

Continue frying another 3 to 4 minutes and place on a paper towel lined platter.

Attract hungry kids to your house this evening and make these medallions, just remember to keep your wooden spoon handy!