Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peach Pie means summer

Growing up for a time in MO I learned that super sweet southern peaches were the best ever for making pies. I still miss those pies and break down once a year and make a peach pie with those supermarket peaches. It isn't quite the same as a fresh from your own tree peach pie but it will do quite nicely.

I don't have a pasty hand. I just don't. More dough has been tossed than used over the years. When Pillsbury came out with the already pie crust you just unroll I was in pie making heaven. Though not exactly cheap it is about as good a crust as I could make from scratch. (When you factor in the flop ratio its probably as cheap as trying to make my own).
To allow for juices I've learned not to overpack a pie with the fruit going not much more than an inch over the top of the pie plate. And notice how perfectly shaped that pastry is, nothing says lovin' from the oven like Pillsbury baby!

Cutting a shallow "X" in the bottom of each peach prior to the blanching makes it easier for the skin to slip off. Blanch 2-3 minutes in simmering water then toss into an ice bath to cool them enough to handle and help the skins loosen.

Peach Pie

Pastry for 2 crust 9" pie
5-6 cups sliced peaches (about 9 medium)
1/2 c sugar
2 T corn starch
juice of one lemon
1/8 t almond extract
cinnamon to taste
half and half
Raw sugar (turbinado)

Preheat oven to 425F. In large mixing bowl put in peaches and sprinkle with the juice of one lemon. Add almond extract. Sprinkle on corn starch and toss lightly to combine so as to not bruise the peaches.

Line bottom of pie plate with one pastry round. Add fruit. Add top pastry, fold edges under to seal. Brush top with half-and-half and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake 60-65 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top. Cover edges of pie with aluminum foil last 20 minutes if need to prevent over-browning.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not KFC but quite tasty still

Last week in the news was a guy, a fellow food blogger no less, from back east who claimed to have "broken the secret recipe for KFC's 11 spices and herbs". My eyebrows were raised when the 11th item listed was "Accent" or a brand name for MSG...like I really like allergic reactions to my food. I'm here to tell you he didn't break the code. He did come up with a "bomb a@@ chicken" according to my boys so I suppose this recipe will stay in the box.

I worked in a KFC when I was in high school. The marinade was premixed, all we added was water. The "flour" was preseasoned and it was simply a matter of dipping in the marinade then into the flour. Then the floured chicken was put into a contraption that was part deep fat fryer and part pressure cooker. We'd deep fry the chicken with the lid up until golden, then put the basket into the fryer, seal the lid and let 'er rip until the pressure release valve went off some 10-15 minutes later.

I don't have a pressure cooker and would be reticent to try that sort of cooking in a home use pressure cooker. I think you need industrial strength cookers to pull off the type of cooking actually done at KFC.

Regardless, having been at a KFC I can tell you we never knew what was in the 11 spices and herbs. I did pick up a few things as noted that I could bring to the show when it came time to test his spice blend.

Not KFC Fried Chicken
  • 6 chicken breasts.
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t sage
  • 1 t basil
  • 1 t marjoram
  • 1 t pepper
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 T Paprika
  • 1 t onion salt
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 4 cups peanut oil.

  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 t oregano
  • 1/4 t chili powder
  • 1/4 t sage
  • 1/4 t basil
  • 1/4 t marjoram
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t Paprika
  • 1/4 t onion salt
  • 1/4 t garlic powder

Combine marinade ingredients. Pour over chicken in a glass bowl and cover for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil to 375F in large heavy bottom frying pan. Combine spices, herbs and flour in a shallow bowl. Pull a piece of chicken from the marinade and loosely shake off excess marinade. Dredge through flour mixture and put into the hot oil. Repeat with other breasts. Do not crowd pan. Cook 5-7 minutes until golden brown, turn over and cook 5 minutes longer. Place chicken onto parchment or silicone baking sheet lined baking dish.

Bake 20 minutes or until largest breast will have clear juices when poked with a fork.

Mushrooms and Thyme are bestest friends

No kidding, mushrooms and thyme really play well together in terms of taste. One of our favorite recipes for dinner parties or pot lucks is "Big Pasta and Mushrooms". Its an adaptation of a recipe from Nigella Lawson that hits the flavor profiles, but in a smaller quantity (hers calls for 3 lbs of pasta) and without the fuss of making a bechamel sauce.

I'm inherently lazy and will take short cuts where appropriate. Canned cream of mushroom soup is the short cut here that saves a ton of time in prepping the dish.

For my version I kept the amount of mushrooms similar to what the original recipe called for. Why? Because I love freaking mushrooms and felt that my ratio gave you more of a sense of the mushroomy goodness than the original.

The mushrooms I chose were those that looked best when I went to the market on the day I made this batch. The type of mushroom you use isn't as important as getting the quantity right and using those that are freshest when you are in the market. You can even fudge with the weight as an extra ounce more or less won't hurt the final outcome.

Big Pasta and Mushrooms
  • 8 oz portobello caps sliced
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 3.5 oz oyster musroom sliced
  • 2 c loosely packed dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme tied in a bundle - plus extra for garnish
  • nutmeg
  • 1 t herbed sea salt (regular sea salt can be substituted)
  • 1 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 c vermouth
  • boiling water
  • 1 1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 c milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs large pasta (I used stuffing size rigatoni)
  • 1 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
  • Preheat oven to 400F.

Put dried shitakes in a measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 5 minutes. Put salted water on to boil for pasta. Cook pasta to "al dente".

In large sauce pot add butter and olive oil. Over medium heat melt butter and then add garlic and thyme bundle. Cook one minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and fresh cracked pepper. Using microplane add 10-12 good scrapes of nutmeg to the mushrooms. Cook 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until they have released their moisture and the liquid has nearly evaporated.

Drain the shitakes, reserving liquid (should be about 1 cup). Add shitakes with the sea salt to the pan and cook 1 minute folding them in constantly until evenly distributed. Add vermouth, cook 2-3 minutes until absorbed by the mushrooms. Add the reserved shitake liquid and cook 5-7 minutes until nearly evaporated. Remove thyme twig bundle.

Add cream of mushroom soup, milk and 1 cup parsley to the mushroom mixture stir until soup is dissolved. In large mixing bowl add the cooked and drained pasta. Add the mushrooms and fold gently until well distributed. Sprinkle on 1 cup of Parmesan and fold until well distributed.

Pour into 12X17 baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 c Parmesan across the top. Bake 30 minutes until parts are browned and crusty.

Remove from oven and garnish with 1/4 cup parsley and 6-8 thyme sprigs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guilt free breakfast and a quest...

I love summer and all the fresh fruit that we get in the deal. Makes for really nice guilt free breakfast (as opposed to sugar-coated-chocolate-bombs or similar). Whilst I was having some melon I remembered my Grandma Jasovec's "Watermelon Rind Pickles" and how good they were. Of course pickling them was just one way nothing went to waste during the "war years".

My quest now is to find out who has my Grandmothers recipe collection and find her "Watermelon Rind Pickle" recipe. I could google one, but I'd prefer to find hers and add it to the family heirloom book I'm putting together for my own kids. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

flavored salt...great way to experiment

A friend passed this along yesterday. "Atlantic Seaweed Salt" and it smells wonderful...the very essence of the sea distilled into the salt itself. Of course I see uses for it beyond just seafood, but that is where I shall start.
This isn't the only flavored salt in the pantry. Am working on some recipes with a "Rosebud Sea Salt" that has the perfume of tiny roses infused into it. I see desserts, possibly a fruity fudge variation for that one. Some sort of chicken in white wine for another. Anyone have other ideas to use it for?
My snark for the moment...has anyone heard of "seaweed" farming that isn't organic by its very nature? Is anyone else even a bit annoyed with "organic" being added to everything and then being a charged a premium for not adding something? Having had grand-parents who were farmers, or had large gardens they were all about organic and that was more years ago than I CARE to admit. Suffice it to say it was long before "organic" became a fad then a staple for healthy living. For them it was a big batch of fresh poo to feed in the spring, then a little bug picking to get the crops to produce a healthy bounty at the end of the summer.