Black eyed peas with greens is a New Year's Day staple in the South. It is said to ensure a prosperous year ahead. My only problem with most versions is that the greens are so over cooked that they are pale greyish brown and taste of nothing but water. My version is brighter, full of flavor, and takes just a few minutes to prepare. First, get a big pot of salted water boiling. Wash your collards really well, they can be incredibly sandy and you don't want grit in your dish. Trim off the very bottom, then cut the thicker stems into 1" pieces, and then the leaves in about 2" sections. When the water comes to a boil, pop the stem pieces in and let them cook for about 4 minutes. Add the leaves and cook for another 4 minutes. At the same time, in a large saute pan over medium heat, add two slices of really good bacon that have been diced small and a thinly sliced red onion. Render the fat from the bacon and let the onions start to caramelize. Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic, season well with salt and pepper and let it cook a few minutes, stirring often. Add a can of black eyed peas, drained, and a good splash of apple cider vinegar. Reduce the vinegar down, then drain the greens well and add to the pan. Toss well, cover and steam until you can't keep from eating it, it smells so good, about two minutes. Check seasoning and serve. Tonight we had them with meatloaf and herbed rice, and The Man enjoyed every morsel. He can't wait to tell his Yankee homies that he's eating collards and black eyed peas.... and loving it.
Potato soup is one of those things that I make when I need comfort food on the fly. In about 30 minutes I can have a big bowl of love without a lot of effort or expensive ingredients. It can be made as easy or as complicated as you like, but I go for simple. Bacon, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, milk and chicken stock is about it. Sometimes I add cheese, sometimes beer, at times chicken or beans or some sort of fish makes it way in to the pot. Today I need simple. A couple of slices of really good applewood bacon are diced small and tossed in to the pot with a lump of butter. (If you're using a bacon that you know renders a lot of fat, hold off on the butter. I happen to know that this bacon is pretty lean so I add the butter.) Diced red onion, carrots and celery go in, then diced potato. No, I don't peel mine, but you can if you like. Season well with salt and pepper, and let it cook until the veggies get a little color. Then add milk and stock, and bring it up to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender. From beginning to end, it took about 45 minutes in my new shiny stock pot that my brilliant brother Timothy gave me for Christmas. Isn't it pretty??
Some went in to the mini crock for The Man to take for lunch, along with a side of shredded cheddar to top it with, the rest will cool a bit on the stove and then get packed for the 'fridge, after I have a bit of it of course.
Whew, did I need this day off. First full day off in almost two weeks that didn't require a 103* fever or a funeral. The Man and I traveled to Kentucky for the memorial service of a family friend, we both had and beat the flu, AND we adopted a kitty, named Kayo.
She is a midnight calico, and a 10 1/2 pound bundle of love.
Oh, I did some cooking, but nothing mind blowing, unless you're The Man. Then everything I do is mind
blowing. Last night was chicken stew and corn bread, then took the carcass from that chicken combined with the carcass from the last chicken and made a super rich stock and some great chicken veg soup with quinoa and rice, which I sent with him for lunch. Tonight will be BBQ pork shoulder (in the crockpot of course) on soft wheat rolls, buttermilk broccoli slaw and rice. Simple football food. Jets and Titans tonight, and yes, he's a Jets fan. Being a Giants fan I should have tossed him out for that, but he's so damned cute.
French country stewed chicken with veggies in a great broth. Not really a soup, not a stew, but something divinely in between.
The Man woke up this morning with the beginnings of a cold. All those little drippy nosed kids got to him last week while he was doing the Santa gig I guess. Not having any Oscillo in the house, I decided to make him some simple but really yummy chicken soup to help him on his road to recovery. An incredibly simple combo of carrot, celery, onion and parsnip with parsley, dill and thyme, it's a quick way to make something that tastes like it's cooked all day long.
Start with your veggies in the bottom of a chicken fryer. Tie your herbs up together so you can fish them out when you're done, and tuck them in among the veg. I quartered a free range chicken, leaving everything on the bone, and placed that on top. Season well with salt and pepper, add about a half cup of white wine then enough chicken stock to just about cover the chicken. Set it on a medium low heat, bring it up to a simmer and keep it there for about an hour. What you get is moist and flavorful chicken, tender vegetables and an incredibly rich broth. I pulled the meat off of the breasts and put them in our little individual Crock-Pots, split up the broth, and made an amazing lunch for two.
This is the link to the mini Crocks... http://www.crock-pot.com/product.aspx?pid=13389
He uses his all the time, I'm using mine for the first time today. I pack the removable crock the night before, then put it into the pot for him to take to work in the morning. He plugs it in when he gets to work, and by lunchtime (which is two hours for him) it is a steaming pot of love. Nifty little gadget for someone who takes their lunch every day.
It feels like it's been raining for a week. It's actually only been a couple of days, but I was starting to feel sun deprived. These are the times that I want, nay need comfort food. Sometimes it's chicken soup, or mac n' cheese, or grilled cheese and tomato soup. This time it was an Italian staple, sausage with white beans and broccoli rabe over pasta. Not sure whether The Man likes this or not, I did waffle for a moment before shopping for the ingredients, then decided that he's pretty open to just about everything so he will have to deal with my cravings. Sausage browned then sliced in to rounds, lots of chopped garlic added to the pan to saute in the fat left from the sausage (there wasn't much but, damn, it is tasty), then deglazed with a dry Italian white table wine. Broccoli rabe tossed in to the pot for the last couple of minutes of cooking time for the pasta to gently blanch, then pulled out and added to the sausage. A can of cannellini, rinsed but not drained, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and it's ready. Drain the pasta, toss it around and serve. Done in the time it took to boil water and cook pasta. Now, a little about the pasta. I decided to try something new, a sprouted grain pasta made by Food For Life, the same people that make the Ezekiel bread. I had been wanting to try it, but don't eat much pasta, so I figured now was as good a time as any.
I wanted to like it. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to take over where whole wheat pasta left off. Well, it does and it doesn't. The flavor is great - wheaty, hearty, full flavored - but it went from al dente to ass in 10 seconds. I drained it just before al dente since I knew I'd be adding it to the pan to coat it with the sauce. In the three minutes that it was in the pan, which was off the heat when I added it, it went from toothsome to the same texture as the beans. Very disappointing. However, the rest of the dish was amazing, so I was able to overlook the pasta as soon as I saw The Man's eyes roll back in his head with the first bite. Not surprising, he adored it, and said I could make it again anytime. Yay!
For the last year, Fridays have been devoted to the making of challah. If you've never had it, you need to. Slightly sweet and eggy with a tight crumb and a deeply browned and shiny crust, it is a superior bread when made properly. Which, if I can toot my own horn, I do. I begin at 6a, making 140# of dough, aptly named The Bitch. She is a finicky as any person I've ever met, so she needed an appropriate name. Sometimes the yeast acts too quickly and loses a lot of its oomph, making the dough rise very slowly or not at all. If it's too warm, she rises too fast, making big holes and causing the braids to tear when they are in their last rise. She can be too sticky, too dry, or just off, all which effects the final product. But then there are days like two Fridays ago, when the weather was perfect, the temp in the kitchen ideal, and all the planets aligned. I knew when we tipped the dough out of the mixing bowl into the buckets for resting that it would be a good batch. I ripped a little piece off, said a quick prayer to Fornax, the Roman goddess of the furnace and bakers, and tossed the dough ball into the back of the oven. I covered her gently with tarps, talking to her sweetly, and let her set for a couple of hours to rise slowly. When it was time to start forming, I could tell from the delish aroma coming off of her that truly, this was going to be a great batch. She formed like a dream - the perfect texture and stretch to the dough, slight yeasty aroma, gentle warmth coming from the center of the dough. 83 loaves formed, egg washed and racked, I waited another hour before it was time to start baking. Egg washed again, topped with various things according to flavor, and then in to the oven. I wish I could save that smell for days when I'm blue, there is nothing at all that smells as good as bread baking. I make three flavors of braids - sesame, poppy and plain; five double swirls - plain, sesame, poppy, raisin and cinnamon raisin; and three loaves - plain, raisin and cinnamon raisin. It takes about 3 1/2 hours to form it all. People start bugging me about 2p for bread, and I tell them, some every single week, that as soon as it's done it will be on the table, and not a second earlier. The first loaves are cool enough to bag and put out about 3:30p, with the final ones making it to the table about 5p. They are usually all sold out by noon on Saturday.
Why am I waxing poetic about yeast? Because I have decided that after a year of doing this every Friday, I'm going to take a break. Closing the store on Thursday, then getting up at 5a on Friday to work a 14 hour day is taking its toll. I had customers that purchased six and seven loaves upon hearing this. I even got cussed out by one. It's okay, I'm going to miss it too.
Time to do some good for a great guy. Our dishwasher Erick is more than a great guy, he's one of the greatest. Long story short, he needs help but won't ask for it. Mom is sick in Mexico - late stage Alzheimer's, and has pneumonia - and the hospital bill is weighing on him. Click on the widget above and take a moment to read his story. Then take another moment to give what you can, please. A $5 donation can help more than you will ever realize.
I know it's been a while, but life has been so busy. I'm still cooking great stuff every night, so I'll try to get you caught up. First, my cole slaw. I made a fun dinner last night - cheddar stuffed sliders with homemade bbq sauce on butter brushed dinner rolls, garlic and brown sugar rubbed sweet potato fries, and buttermilk apple and mixed cabbage slaw. The burgers and fries were great, but the slaw stole the show. The Man hates slaw, a fact he forgot to mention when I told him what I wanted to make for dinner. So I blindly made a batch from a few simple items:
diced granny smith apple
The dressing is not that sloppy mayo based dressing, and it doesn't drown the slaw. I like to taste all of the ingredients, not just the dressing.
spicy brown mustard
unfiltered apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
This dressing will keep, and is yummy on salad too, so if you make too much don't throw it out, or worse, drown your slaw. Add half of what you think you should need to your cabbage mix - both the cabbage and the apples will give off liquid which can also contribute to drowning it. Toss it gently, getting everything well covered, and then set it aside at room temp for at least 30 minutes. Crunchy, sweet, tart, creamy, flavorful. The Man went nuts for it, even put it on his burgers AND took some for lunch today. Score.