Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Cow Fat Goodness Batman, Creamed Oysters

OK it's been over a week since my last post and I am not reaching facebook so I hope any of you who have been following are not too put off by my radio silence. In any event I promise to make it up to you in the coming posts. I have been in Chucktown (aka Charleston SC. ) for the last week and a half celebrating Christmas with the Family and friends and we have had some incredible eats. I will share a quick recipe with you that is so rich and Holiday ready and screams Low Country of South Carolina like i don't know anything else does. It is Creamed Oysters. We went to a friends house for dinner and this was the appetizer! Holy Cow Fat Goodness Batman!!!! This has all the richness of the sea AND the richness of the land in one dish, think kinda a surf and turf option on CRACK!

Now creamed Oysters are a very old low Country Dish served at the finest planter's houses up and down the rivers and anywhere you could get fresh oysters,which back in that day was everywhere from the accounts. Visible at the low tide and encrusting the banks of the tidal creeks and rivers of the low country these beauties call to you waiting to be harvested and thrown willing into your mouth straight out of the sea or cooked bathed in some luxurious sauce or fried and  nestled in with a crunchy piece of bread and sauce. Charleston natives are so passionate about these briny morsels that they offer up festival days like the ancient Romans to celebrate their culinary power.

Like most of the recipes brought by the colonists to these shores from Europe the Creamed Oyster is a melding of two worlds. The delicate new world bounty and the time honored preparations of the French and English. Sometimes found in old cookbooks and called "chafing dish oysters" after the vessel they were served in, creamed oysters were a staple of colonial period parties and galas, served over toast points or into puff pastry shells these were the Lobster Newberg of their time. They are still a favorite at Low Country gatherings today but are mostly relegated to the cocktail buffet or as an elegant starter for a very formal dinner.

Here for your amusement and enjoyment is a version of Sarah Rutledge's Creamed Oyster Recipe!!

1 qt oysters in their liquor
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs Flour
2 cups Heavy Cream
Ground Nutmeg (fresh if you have it) to taste
Freshly ground white pepper ( if you have it if not pre ground) to taste
 Salt to taste
Crisp buttered toast points or Puff pastry shells
3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Method:

Bring Oysters in their liquid to a boil
As soon as they plump using a slotted spoon remove them from the liquid
Roll the butter in flour and add to the hot liquid in bits vigorously whisking until all is incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken.
Stir in cream, nutmeg and pepper
stirring constantly until smooth. Reduce heat to low and simmer till thickened.
Add salt to taste

To serve:

Reduce heat to low and re add oysters discarding any liquid they left behind
Let them come to temperature in the sauce (do not cook or they will become like rubber) and then spoon into dishes and serve with toast points or over toast points or in a puff shell. Garnish with chopped parsley Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holidaze!

So I am off to the Southland for the next two weeks and will not be in close proximity possibly to the internet. I know that sounds strange and a little dramatic but I will be in a house that still has dial up service and therefore maybe not able to post very much. But in the spirit of the season I want to wish any of you who are reading this blog the Merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!! So if I don't  post with you the next two weeks, have a great time and see you all in 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Recipe I cooked for Paula Deen for the NYC Food and Wine Festival, or Tomato Pie, My Oh My!!

Well you should all know who Paula Deen is but if you don't she is the Food Network's Queen of Southern Cooking and I secretly think she is also the unofficial spokesperson for the Wisconsin Butter producers Association. She and I have two things in common. One we are both from the coastal South, she from Savannah GA., me from Charleston SC. , good natured rival cities. And we both love cooking with mayonaise. I mean I get it, I get that Mayo can be a pivotal ingredient in food. It just makes sense to me.

So I guess you all are wondering when I had the chance to cook for Paula personally. And I have to admit it is a little bit of a fib. Well not a fib she did have my recipe at her brunch event. I just did not personally cook it. A catering kitchen did. I mean I was not going to cook something at my kitchen for 400 people. It just wasn't going to happen. However, the chef preparing the menu knew me and asked if he could have my recipe for tomato pie. I gave it to him and it was served at the Food and Wine festival event for Paula Deen's brunch. She like it, so did everyone else. So has anyone who has ever had it!!! Indeed it is one of my signature dishes. And now I will give it to you.

You might be saying to yourself, Tomato Pie?? What the hell is that. But I can assure you it is as Martha says, a good thing. Tomato pie is a very old fashioned southern dish. So old fashioned that it is not even normally mentioned in the cannon of Southern Cooking. It dates back to the agrarian roots of the South. Southerners cook a lot of vegetables. And Southern cooking has its roots in African cooking because so many of the dishes were prepared by slaves whose culinary experience came from the dark continent. Even the most famous southern dish of all fried chicken has it's roots in African cooking. The famous meat and three, where you have one protein paired with 3 veggie sides is a testament to the plethora of vegetable cookery in the south. One reason for this was of course the farm culture that pervaded the South. The other reason was the civil war. Now I know some of you are saying really, now really Forrest. Why do you Southerners not seem to be able to let go of the civil war it, was so bloody long ago. Well there are some stupid and ignorant reasons for sure, that have to do with fantasy and bigoted thinking. But really the answer is history. Yes, history, or what happened in the South after the war.

This is the part of the story that no one seems to want to tell or get right. There is a lot to be said about it but for our purposes it's only necessary to note that the answer we are looking at is POVERTY! Yes, the South after the war was Poor or as we say...PO! Raped by the north and punished politically it really was not until the 1960's that the South began to "rise again". I mean it wasn't just Yankee retribution that caused this it was again history and commerce. It took a long time for the South to rebuild and when it did it got hit by all the economic downturns that troubled the US since the civil war including every depression and recession. SO all that leads me to vegetables and why southerners eat them. They are CHEAP, they could grow them and they were available.

My grandmother was born in 1898. She was 98 when she died. She saw a lot and experienced a lot and cooked ALOT, and I have some good stories about her. As a small boy I would spend summers when possible up in the mountains of South Carolina for a few weeks. It was a really interesting and fun time. Her town was near state parks with lakes for swimming and barn dancing on the weekends. My Uncle Frank ( who made the worlds best potato salad ever) had a farm (garden) next door to her house and my brother and I learned all about land and dirt and weeding and farming things from him.  And there were mountain waterfalls to explore and relatives to spend time with! Often before meals I would sit on the back porch swing and pick beans and husk corn, and peel potatoes. It was a different world from the one I knew. And to this day I wish I had had the chance to spend more time there and learn more about the people I came from. I have some stories but I wish I had more.

Anyway we would have lunch and supper everyday in the dining room on China with silver! Also at every meal there would be at least 2 of 6 things. Tomatoes, Cornbread, Beans, Greens or Yellow Squash and something made from buttermilk or buttermilk itself. Looking back we actually ate a lot of vegetables. My grandmother I think had been eating the same kinds of foods since forever. And well, that served hr well, she lived a long time. One of the recipes that I got from that time was something that she made for my father growing up. He used to have my Mom make it occasionally. My Mother's mother the caterer/ cook/ dietitian also used to cook a version of this. So I suppose my recipe is a blending of the two with a little of my own inspiration thrown in!

But back to Tomato Pie. So what is it? Well it is a pie which is made with tomatoes. Kinda like a quiche but again due to the economy of it's origin, it uses fewer eggs by incorporating them into the dish but not using the quantity you would need for a regular quiche. More on that later. it is sinple savory and rich but full of vegetable goodness! So here is the recipe for Forrest's tomato pie hope you try it ya'll!

Forrest's Tomato Pie ( Served at the Paula Deen Brunch Event  NYC F&W Festival 2011!!!

1 deep dish pie crust store bought or if you like your favorite recipe ( My favorite recipe is Pilsbury!!)
Pre-baked.

1 small onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 scallions chopped
 oil for cooking
4 large tomatoes cut into 1/4/ inch slices
1 cup good quality Mayonnaise ( I like Dukes but The H word will do)
1 cups grated yellow extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated cabot clothbound Cheddar
1/2 cup grated hard aged gouda cheese like Parrano or Old Amsterdam ( or a smoked gouda for a different twist)
These cheeses all tossed together
10 basil fresh basil leaves chopped chiffonade
1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

Method:

First: Saute Onions and Green pepper and green onions till soft in cooking oil

Next: Slice the tomatoes and salt them lightly and then them layer them between paper towels to pull out as much liquid as possible. This will keep the pie from becoming mushy and is a very important step.
You could do this overnight in the fridge in a baking dish wrapped if you want. Or not they should set out about 30 mins to an hour and dab them dry when done with more towels.

Next: combine the warm onions and peppers with the mixed cheeses (reserve 1/4 cup cheese for later use.)

Next: Add the Mayo to the mix add the dried spices and the fresh basil and mix gently

Next: Start the pie by putting a small layer very lightly on the bottom on the mix. Place a layer of tomatoes on top of that then another layer until you have filled the pie shell like a lasagna. ( you might have extra tomatoes....enjoy eating them ) but reserve about a 1/4 cup of the mix for the top.
Place the last of the mayo cheese mix on the top and spread out.

Next: Combine remaining cheese mix and parmesan cheese and sprinkle all over the top. Top with chopped chives

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 mins or until bubbling and the top is nice and brown.

Allow to cool for 15 mins to 20 mins then slice and serve. ( it will be a little runny don't worry just scoop it up the cooler it gets the more it sets up and it is good at almost room temp as well)

Serve with a green salad or cole slaw and potato salad in the summer.










   

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Vinegar Caper berry and Onion Gravy served with Smokey Mashed Potatoes and Braised Red Cabbage

I LOVE CHICKEN THIGHS!!!! There I said it. I do. Give me the moist meaty goodness of a thigh any day to the dry and chewy mass of breast meat that is served everywhere. YES YES YES!!!

So this recipe came about because one day my artist friend Angelo Musco and his partner Tim were coming over to dinner and I had to make something quick and on the fly. I love cooking for these two because I know if I cook once I will get an invite to their house for a trade in delicious dining and wine drinking! And what yummy things they have made for me. Some of my favorite pastas that I will share on here had their start on the Musco table.

Ok so as I said, I had to come up with a dinner plan pretty fast one day because we agreed late in the day that I would be cooking! What to make on the spur?  I had been reading about this chicken dish that some chef in NYC had done with leeks and such and I thought, OK sure a fanciful chicken dish,  why not! The problem was I am not a big chicken dish aficionado. I did know one dish from home that my Grandmother used to fix. It was a chicken braised in a onion sauce that was thickened at the end with sour cream and was served with rice. You know.....chicken and rice.

Well I did not want to serve that exactly. So between my reading about the chef with the leeks and thinking about my Grandmother with the sour cream sauce. I decided that a sauce with sour notes and an onion flavor would make a good contrast to the rich meat of the chicken thighs I was going to use. Thus, this dish was born.

I also wanted to serve it with some good sides that would stand up to the rich sour taste of the chicken as it melted into them. So I chose smokey mashed potatoes (yum)  and braised red cabbage.

So for this recipe you will need:

8 boneless Chicken thighs with or without the skin
1/2 cup seasoned flour ( flour to which a table spoon of black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder has been added
5 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 large onions sliced into circles and rings
5 garlic cloves sliced thinly
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/2 jar Caper berries cut in half
 3 tablespoons butter

Method:

In a large frying pan heat 3 tablespoons of butter and add onions cook till browned and soft.
reserve.

In an oven proof skillet heat 5 tablespoons of oil
pat chicken dry and dredge in the flour
lay the chicken skin side down in the pan and let cook till golden and crispy 5 mins or so
turn over and place into a 375 drgree oven to finish cooking for about 6 to 7 mins
When done place back on stove and remove chicken hold warm.
Return the pan to high heat and when hot pour vinegar into pan  whisking and deglaze pan
be sure to get all the browned bits up off the bottom.
Reduce vinegar by 1/2 , add chicken stock or broth.
Bring to boil again and reduce by half again, reduce heat.
whisk in remaining butter  caper berries and stir in onions.

Place chicken on plate and spoon sauce over it. Serve with Potatoes and Braised Red Cabbage.


Smoky Mashed: Believe me SOOOOO good! ( I use this recipe a lot)

6 large yellow potatoes diced skin on
2 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup Milk
salt and pepper to taste
3 teaspoons of liquid smoke

Method

Boil potatoes with the garlic and thyme in sea salty water ( tastes like sea water it's so salty)
When soft ( a fork pierces them easily) drain into a bowl and mash in the butter and the milk, adding a little milk at a time until you get the right consistently( Don't over mash or your potatoes will get too gummy from the starch) . Add salt and pepper to taste
Then add the liquid smoke 1 teaspoon at a time till you get to the smokiness you like. I like mine pretty smoky. ( just be careful there is a fine line with liquid smoke between just right and too much!!)


Braised Red Cabbage

1 head red cabbage shredded
2 large red onions finely diced
1 gloves garlic minced
2 tablespoon oil
6 pieces bacon finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 cups cheap red wine
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lingonberry jam
1/8 cup beet juice for color I like it really vibrant  ( you can use food coloring but ew!)

In a oven ready braising pot:
Turn heat on under cold pan and place bacon in bring to medium heat.
Allow the bacon to render its fat and cook till browned
Add butter and melt
Add onions and cook till soft and translucent
Add garlic cook till it blooms but not browns.
Add the cabbage and cook stirring slowly allowing to combine and wilt.
season at this point to taste
Once wilted and seasoned add liquids
Stir to combine
Taste a again and season more if necessary
Place into the oven and bake for 45 mins to an hour or till liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally

Remove and serve warm with the potatoes and the chicken



























Baked Gnocchi With Cheesy Rosemary Cream and Carmelized Onions

Baked Pastas are a big American favorite. We love them. We make them with all sorts of ingredients, cheeses and sauces. We put all sorts of noodles in them from Macaroni to Penne to Flat Egg Noodles. But whatever we put into them they remain a favorite in the American culinary landscape. Maybe partially because they are so easy. Boil some pasta, throw in some yummy fixings, bake and viola! Instant mealtime.

So for the second dish on my menu for the Christmas dinner I am going to make for my Mother's friends, I am including a baked pasta course. One of the reasons is I know that one of the couples coming is Italian and from New Jersey. So in homage to them I want to do something I think will please that Jersey Palate. However, I am also feeding people from Chicago. So I want to do something that has a little Midwestern Dairy flair. Mix pasta and some cheese and you have got a party in your mouth I always say.

The inspiration for this dish actually comes from my workplace. At work the chef prepares a fig raviolletti, with a goat cheese sauce, and crunchy walnuts. He also does a gnocchi dish with carmelized onions, sort of a play on Pierogies.  I love both these dishes (of course)  and wanted to use them as the springboard for a baked pasta recipe. So I decided for my baked pasta I would use all those elements and add in another rich flavor rosemary. I hope you can pick up what I am about to lay down for ya sister, cause rich tasty and delish are on the way!!!

For this recipe you will need

One package of store bought Gnocchi 1 lb. ( you can make your own but I think the store bought are fine, and lets face it who wants to spend all that time making pasta)
Prepare as per the directions on the package and hold in reserve

Next: 2 med white onions very thinly sliced in circles, saute in butter over med heat until brown and carmelized. Reserve as well

Next: 2 cups Heavy cream in a sauce pot, place in it 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer slowly for about 8 mins. till cream has reduced by 1/4, remove rosemary. Add in 1 whole log (8oz) crumbled of goat  cheese and 1/3/ cup shredded fontina cheese and slowly melt till combined.

Next: Take 8 oz of dried figs and cut them cross wise into little discs.

Next: 6 oz of crushed walnuts or walnut pieces. Place in a small pan and saute over med heat till the oils begin to toast them. Make sure you toss them frequently as not to let them burn.

To Assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.

Take 6 to 8 baking dishes depending on the size and grease them with butter
In a large bowl add Gnocchi, cream sauce, figs, nuts, and 1/2 of the onions. Stir VERY gently to combine. You don't want to crush the gnocchi.

Spoon into the baking dishes and garnish the top with the rest of the carmelized onions.

Take 1 package of Boursin Cheese and break into crumbles, top each dish with the boursin crumbles making sure that each has a nice amount. Next top each dish with some toasted bread crumbs.

Place the baking dishes on a baking tray and place in the hot oven for 20 to 30 mins until everything is bubbly and the tops are starting to brown.

Remove from the oven let rest for 5 mins, then serve while still hot hot hot!!






Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Recipes number one... Da' Wedge!!



Butter Lettuce Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese, Truffled Dressing and French Fried Onions

Alright, now everyone has seen this Retro salad making a huge come back all over the place ( even at Outback Steakhouse) the Wedge.

Usually served with Blue Cheese and Bacon and maybe tomatoes with a think dollop of Blue cheese dressing for good measure.

My updated version comes via the Lady chef of a very wealthy Russian Oil and Natural Gas Baron who lives on the upper east side where I sometimes work in their house. Her version did not play on the wedge nor did it have blue cheese nor did it have truffled dressing BUT it did have french fried onions on it! You know the kind out of the can!!! Yes for real, a billionaire with a Penchant for "French's"! Oh the culinary shame of it all. Well I say if it's good and tasty why fight it and I loves me some Fried Onions!!! So I second thought I guess her salad had nothing to do with this but it did inspire me! This is a big salad with huge smack you in the face flavors. It is not for the weak at heart!  Try it you'll like it!

Ok for Da' Wedge you will need

 2 to 3 heads of butter lettuce depending on the size washed and sliced into 3 portions ie. wedges.
They will be somewhat floppy not like the iceberg version but set on the plate on angle so the wedge shape is evident and just nest the outer leaves around it.
Next you will need 3 oz's of good quality Blue cheese, I love Maytag, or even Stilton would be interesting.
Crumble it over the lettuce and don't be cheap.

Next the dressing:

2 Scallions white part only finely diced ( reserve green part for later)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup olive oil.
1/8 cup truffle oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
4 Tablespoons Mayonaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Place everything into a blender except oils
Turn on and while running slowly pour in oil till emulsified.

Pour a nice amount of dressing over the salad and top with a handful of fried onions.
Garnish with the 2 reserved scallions green parts thinly sliced.

Enjoy!

Picture from Liete's Culinaria Not exactly my salad but you get the idea!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas party menu

OMG it's almost Christmas. So much to do and so much to get ready for. No weight loss goals this season baby, it's pack on the pounds time! My Mom just called me and asked if I would do a dinner party for 6 people that will join us during the holiday season. New neighbors she would like to invite over to get to know better. So of course to be helpful I agreed to help!

I also was told nothing too fancy....I mean........me ........really! HA! Well Ok I will  try to keep it simple.

 So what  I know about both these couples is that they are retired and that both of them are from the New York or Boston areas. So I figured that there was going to be little that I could cook that would not be somewhat familiar with the ethnic and cosmopolitan nature of both food towns. SO....i decided I would do a dinner that would be recognizable, somewhat ethnic and western centered. So it would appeal but still not be so everyday that they might be a little challenged to try a little something yummy and new!

So the secret flavor weapon number one that I learned from my Mother's, Mother, my Grandma, as opposed to my Father's Mother who shall from now on be called Big Mama, was that there is one thing in the food spectrum that tastes good and is almost constantly recognizable in the flavor profile and so usable in a variety of dishes. And that is caramelized onions! Yes they are one of the great flavor enhancers of the food spectrum. So I decide to approach this menu like they would on Iron Chef  on the food network, that is, as if the caramelized onion were the secret ingredient of the day and must be used in all the dishes!

So I thought. I have to do four courses for this dinner. So I will do foods that incorporate the amazing nature of caramelized onion goodness without calling them into fore front or making them too obvious. Ok so see if you think I did my job!!

So for a first course  i offer up

Wedge of Boston lettuce with Blue cheese, truffled vinaigrette and french fried onions

Second course..

Gnocchi with a goat cheese rosemary cream sauce and figs and walnuts and caramelized onions

Main course...

Vinegar braised Boneless Chicken Thighs with caper berry and onion gravy served over horseradish mashed potatoes and accompanied by braised red cabbage with lardons.

For dessert.....(no onions)

Brown Sugar bread with Apple raisin compote, sweet mascarpone cream and salted caramel sauce
snacks and treats!

Wish me luck!!

Recipes to Follow!







Thursday, December 15, 2011

Digger Dogs New Party Superstar

Provincetown Mass. is probably one of the most amazingly charming and beautiful places on the earth as far as I am concerned. I would move there, retire there or vacation there even more than I do now if I was so motivated. As it stands now I go there once a year on vacation with some amazing friends. Going to "Ptown" as it's called is kinda like going to summer camp. If you go the same week every year which we do and many others do as well, you meet people you see every year and it becomes like a reunion. It's a time to relax,sun, swim, party, shop, and of course eat!

We rent a house every year with a big kitchen and while we take advantage of the fabulous restaurant scene in Ptown we also cook in several nights of the week. And because one the the guys in the house has his birthday the week we go, we normally have a party for him to which we invite friends we know from years past, as well as people we have met during the course of the week. Ptown is a magical place and is full of fun fun fun! It's a pilgrimage for me.

One of the boys in the house has two Uncles, who pay every year send the entire group out to dinner. So every year we go to the world famous Lobster Pot in Ptown. It's one of the favorite dinner nights we have and no matter what we all have it's a great time and it's a great meal. Lobster pot makes seafood almost the way the seafood houses in Florida or South Carolina do, but with a Cape Cod flourish. So I like it!

So even though I am far away from summer and my Provincetown experience I wanted to share a recipe that while it really has nothing to do with the Lobster Pot directly was a big hit at our house party last year.
So while why tell us this story about the Lobster Pot Forrest? Well partly because it is a teaser for what is to come later in the blog and to set up the origin of this recipe.

However, because is is the holidays and it is party season , I wanted to offer up a recipe that you might want to serve up at your holiday party. And in a way this recipe came about kinda because of the Lobster Pot.

Well let me explain. You see everyone eats a lot of seafood up there in the summer and so for our party we wanted to do something that was far away from that. We also wanted to do something that would make people go crazy over it. So i thought what do people like to eat in the summer?  I thought, hot dogs!  And what do we serve on summer BBQ buffets in the summer? Well potato salad, green salad, grilled corn, Mac N Cheese.

 So then I thought what would happen if you crossed a grilled hot dog with Mac n Cheese????  I did, it was an idea from Marc Murphy's place in the west village which serves Ditch Dogs named after the restaurant, so we wanted something Ptownish and therefore the "Digger Dog" was born.  The name came from the idea that in New England you have clam diggers, and this would be a snack that would convert even the heartiest seafood fan like a clam digger into a hot dog lover. Therefore we named it a  "Digger Dog".

So here is the recipe for Digger Dogs, try them at your next party, you won't be sorry!!!

1 package Martin Potato Rolls party buns ( you know the little square one, Split down the middle till you have a little hot dog bun.)
1 pack good quality all beef hot dogs each link cut into three pieces.
4 tablespoons butter melted and mixed with 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Mac n Cheese ( the stove top variety ) prepared. ( recipe follows)
yellow mustard
chopped chives ( one bunch)

Place the hot dog pieces in a bowl and toss with the melted butter
Place them on a pan
Pre-heat Broiler in your oven
Broil the dogs till they are brown and glisten.

To Assemble:
Place a dab of Mustard in each bun
place a hot dog piece inside
spoon mac n cheese on top garnish with chopped chives
And serve immediately!!!

Now as Ina Garten says...How easy was that!

Tip: Mac n Cheese ( the secret flavor here is Swiss cheese strange but true! )

The secret super easy very cheesy stove top Mac n cheese

Boil a package of Macaroni
In another large sauce pot add 2 cans Campbells Cheddar Cheese soup
Add 1 1/2 cups whole milk and heat to just boiling then reduce heat.
When bubbling add 1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese stirring slowly to combine
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 big dash hot sauce
Drain noodles
Stir in hot noodles
Done!!!












Monday, December 12, 2011

Low Country Shrimp Pilau

I love being from the South. I mean there are a lot of things you can say about the South but regardless of your take on it, the American South remains the one truly unique cultural island in a country of every increasingly homogenized people, places and things.
From the rural language and dialects to the customs and the food the American South has a rich history. It is that sense of history that keeps southern people, well...Southern.  Being a southerner gives me a sense of pride about where i come from, my family history and traditions, and grounds me in a manner that is hard to describe. For instance, I love old things. My hometown is very "old" by American standards. Some of the buildings in Charleston appear to just sprout up out of the ground, as if the earth itself was organically producing them. The masonry and architecture gives them a life of their own. That sense of old, time, and history is what is alluring about Charleston and the South in general. In the John Denver song "Country roads take me Home", he echos this sentiment in the line "life is old there , older than the trees".
That sense of history is what colors my culinary imagination when I step back and observe southern food. Oh I know we think or it as all fried chicken and biscuits, but there are a lot of older southern dishes that I have come to know and appreciate. Dishes who's tendencies are more towards the epicure than the pedestrian. The problem with the way many people view southern food is they look at what is popularly sold as southern, and think of it only in it's most dumbed down form . But might I suggest something that takes us out of that box. In the low country of South Carolina they grew cotton to make fabric for clothing. They grew indigo for coloring that fabric. And they grew rice for feeding the soul. Rice farming was something that had completely disappeared in the low country until in the last ten years a new farm started producing a carolina gold rice. A variety which grows well in the climate and had an excellent taste. Rice was very important to the Carolina Planters. Not only did it provide income but also nourished a population both black and white. It was a dietary staple and as such gave rise you a variety of dishes.
One dish sort of stands out and actually had had a culinary resurgence on the southern food scene in the past 10 years. That dish is Rice Pilau. Pronounced "Per-loo" by a South Carolinian this is the low country's version of risotto. Similar to it's cajun cousin Jambalaya it uses a tomato and onion based sauce to flavor the mix but it is not as spicy or peppery nor does it have as many ingredients. Originally from African cooks who flavored the rice dish with shredded meats or seafood, it was a one pot wonder.
Today modern southern chefs are rediscovering and reinventing the dish for high end tables all over the South. I have been experimenting with my recipe and so I offer  it up! This version of Pilau varies from the original but keeps the spirit of the dish. I hope you are intrigued enough to try it.

Low Country Rice Pilau (makes 4 to 5 servings)

For this dish you will need
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices of bacon
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium white onion finely chopped
2  or 3 garlic cloves minced
1 summer or yellow squash finely diced
1 1/2  lb shrimp peeled and deveined tails off
1 red pepper diced
1/2 pound okra or baby zucchini chopped in rounds
1 1/2 cup carolina gold rice ( Anson Mills carries this)
1 cup celery finely chopped
1 cups of water
1/2 cup clam juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1  or 2 big dashes of  hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
1 /4 Freshly chopped parsley
Chopped chives for garnish

Method
In a large pot bring the water clam juice and wine up to a boil then reduce and keep warm

In another pot bring some water to a boil reduce then add red pepper, squash and okra or zucchini.
Blanche until bright and a little soft, remove and drain, reserve and let cool.

In the same water poach the shrimp and reserve 1/2 the shrimp
The other 1/2 of the shrimp coursely chop and reserve

In a large heavy bottomed pot saute bacon till done remove from pan, cool and crumble and add oil to bacon grease in the pan
Add onion and celery and cook until almost soft then add garlic and cook till the garlic blooms and becomes tender
Add butter till melted then add rice stir until the rice is browned a little and had absorbed the fat.
Add the "stock" and bring to a boil stirring the rice
Cook until rice is done  about 20 mins and most of the liquid is gone then fluff.
Add the seasonings  and the last 3 tablespoons of butter, add the reserved vegetables gently stirring, add chopped shrimp and the parsley into the hot rice mixture reduce heat  check seasoning and add salt to taste then cover for about 5 mins. and let sit.

Serve into bowls, divide up the shrimp and top each bowl with the shrimp, crumbles of bacon and chopped chives!

Enjoy Ya'll

Photo From Food and Wine's Article on Rice Pilau 2007








Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grown Up Gourmet SOS ( S#*T on a Shingle)

There's Brunch..... and then there's BRUNCH!!!!!

Sunday's are probably my favorite day of the week. Sorry Katie Perry, it's not Friday night, nope Sunday!
Growing up it was one more day off from school after Saturday where there was sure to be some activity or chore that needed to be done. But not on Sunday!  It meant going to Sunday School and Church, and then Sunday Dinner after church!!! Now I used to love the music at church, the songs we would sing and the lessons learned, but.... what I really loved was the coffee hour after church and then our family's Sunday Supper, which in the south could almost be called Brunch but was really so much more. No my love of brunch developed later in life. It represented all those prior food experiences but came much more quickly after or ( sorry Lord) instead of Church time. And it usually involved some form of drinking, which can qualify as brunch for some by itself, but I always think food should be included.

Now my Family's Church in Charleston was the Episcopal Church. But back in the late 80's my father decided to switch us to the Huguenot Church, which was essentially Episcopal but had a more general theological standpoint. They were a downtown church and had a much higher degree of, shall we call it,  "social impact" through it's membership than many of the churches in town. But because the congregation was so spread geographically across the city,  they would have a coffee hour every week after church in the lovely garden of the church house, across the street from the Church proper. This would include all sort of delicious tidbits all prepared by the ladies of the church. And along with the tidbits and coffee, they would serve wine, and sometimes sherry! It was a time for the members to have a little fellowship with one another.

Now there were a lot of delicacies that were offered at these gatherings and I guess that this gathering sort of set the stage for me later in life making Brunch out to be my own version of this after church coffee hour. A time when you gathered with friends to discuss and socialize over food in a particular way.

Brunch of course is a bridge meal between Breakfast and Lunch. In NYC it is or has become a very busy time in the restaurant world as people bridge the gap between their Saturday night ( whoo hoo ) and their Sunday morning ( Oy Veh)! And I am one of those who also love brunch because it is a celebration of my favorite kinds of foods, creamy, cheesy, eggy, meaty!!

Now I host brunch, I don't just attend. In fact my own birthday party this year was a brunch at my house where I cooked for a number of friends in celebration of the fact that yes Virginia... I was even older! And as we know I love to take things  a little over the edge to the next level. So this meal was no exception. It was a celebration of some of my childhoods favorite brunch/lunch foods. I did serve two dishes that I have had in the wings for awhile and they were very well received.  So for those who were not able to attend the brunch this year I offer up this recipe for your enjoyment! Yum!

Gourmet SOS ( S#*T on a shingle) with Brunch Eggs!  (Serves 6)

For the Brunch Eggs

6 Eggs
3 Tblsp White Vinegar
Pinch of Salt

Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil add the salt
Reduce to simmer add the vinegar
Crack the eggs one by one into a small bowl
With a spoon stir the water till a small whirlpool is formed
Gently slide the egg into the water a stop stirring
Let cook 3 to 4 mins till soft poached
Remove and place in a cold water bath in a shallow baking dish which has a few ice cube floating in it.
Reserve for later use in he fridge

For the SOS

First thing you need is garlic toast (Method follows)
 ( 18 pieces)

For the Sauce:

1 tablespoon oil
6 tablespoons flour
1 stick of butter cut up
1 shallot finely diced
1 garlic glove minced
3 cups  of warmed whole Milk
salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
1 pound of mushrooms sliced

You will also need 6 left over boneless beef short Ribs that have been braised cooled and cut into 1 inch cubed pieces

Spice mix
2 Tbs Smoked paprika
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

mix all of these together

1 bunch chives chopped finely

Method

In a stock pot
heat oil and add shallots and cook till soft add garlic and let bloom till fragrant and soft
Add butter pieces let melt
stir in flour till forms a roux let the flour cook a few mins till golden then with a whisk slowly add the warm milk stirring till mixed and sauce thickens
Add salt to taste and pepper
stir in Vinegar.
Keep Warm

In a frying pan saute mushrooms till golden and soft with a little butter season with S n P
Add to Sauce

In a frying pan heat 2 tbs of cooking oil with 6 tbs of butter

place short rib pieces in a bowl and sprinkle with the spice mix
toss to coat gently not breaking up the meat

Lay the meat pieces into the hot pan and let the meat sear on all sides  turning till brown and beautiful and the spices have blackened and the meat has soaked up the butter.
Hold warm

Toast bread in oven on one side then butter bread liberally and sprinkle with garlic powder  hold warm

To Assemble SOS

Bring pot of water to boil turn heat to low and let sit till just warm

For each serving:

Take two pieces of buttered toast cut into triangles
Lay overlapping pieces of garlic toast forming a shingle
Ladle gravy across smothering the center of entire shingle
Top each toast with 4 to 5 pieces of the Ribs
Take one egg and slowly place into water warming the egg but not cooking it more ( about 1 min)
Place on top of the SOS
Garnish liberally with chives

Enjoy!




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas tree trimming or Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Rum!

I love getting the house ready for Christmas. It has always been a time for me to set aside the common and the everyday and to delve into my holiday decor mode and get focused on the coming season. Now, even if I do say so myself, I trim a mean tree. I love all the little details that go into getting the tree to look just so. Now that being said I have to admit that don't do the real tree thing. I know that there are those of you who would consider this sacrilege and I am sorry but no real tree for Me, with their imperfections and uncertainties! Oh no! I want to know that my tree will fit exactly where I want it every year and most importantly..... it will not shed. Yes, my distain for cleaning up after pets and Christmas trees... well....that and the cost every year ( 60 dollars for a lousy smallish tree..really!!?? ) are the real reasons I don't do a real tree. But whatever, I mean we are supposed to plant more trees not cut them down, right???

So anyway there I am the other day and we start to decorate and of course there has to be a beverage with the tree trimming. Now I love the seasonal tastes of the holidays, and I especially love that so many of the flavors we associate with the holidays originated in the colonial period. So the drink I called upon was a beverage I had not made in years. but it is a drink that stems from the time of the revolutionary war with it's "Molasses to Rum to Slaves" flavorings.  And it also so happens that when I was in college I worked for a chain restaurant called "The Magic Pan" where I knew this drink!  The "pan" as we called it, was a French Style creperie which had started in San Francisco and had spread nationally. It was one of the first national chains with the upscale suburban diner in mind. They were known for many things but at the bar they were known for two drinks. The first was their bloody mary recipe which was stellar and we will revisit in another post. The second was their hot buttered rum drink. Smooth, warm delicious and creamy it held all the ladies enthralled after dinner or was it before dinner....or both, on some days!

So for your Christmas Tree and house trimming pleasure I give you my version based on The Magic Pan's version of.....Hot Buttered Rum which I call Yo! HO!HO! Buttered Rum....enjoy!

Forrest's Yo Ho! Ho! Buttered Rum Recipe

First make the Buttered Rum Batter

For this you will need:

1 pound medium Brown sugar
1 stick of Butter at room temperature
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon Allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 of a teaspoon salt

Slowly cream all this together till well mixed
This will keep in the fridge for weeks

To make the Drink:

In an 8oz glass
Spoon in 2 good tablespoons of the batter
Add 3 oz of dark Rum ( I like Sailor Jerry's)
Stir to combine
Then top the glass of the rest of the way with boiling water ( boiling!!)
Stir and garnish with a cinnamon stick


Yo Ho HO!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas Matey!!!



Monday, December 5, 2011

Comfort in the Valley of the Dragons: Metaphor: finding a recipe for recharging for fighting the good fight.

Growing up in the USA. in the 70's and 80's was like growing up in a world contained unto itself. Rock and Roll, jello, and Church pot luck suppers. As Americans we were sheltered from much of the desperate problems that were afoot in the world. Even those which we were responsible for causing. We had our challenges, but most of them were turned inward on ourselves, and the goodness of our lives was rich with the fat of the land and the bounty that lay around us in every facet of living not just in the bounty on our tables.

When 2001 happened and then the recession in 2008 I think we began for the first time to see how our world was affected by the things around us. For me the attack on 2001 signaled an end to an age of innocence begun when I was very young. It was the first time I saw my world changed forever by the people who live far away, and know little of my day to day.

My father had a favorite story which he used to tell. it came from a novel which he adapted to a tale which his two young sons could understand. it was a story not about the bigger world out there far away, but also about our day to day. Our everyday, our life if you will.

The story is about a nation of people who live in a land with high mountains and a very deep valley. The people built there houses and towns, churches and taverns in the valley. And once a year in the summer they would travel up to the top of the mountain for 2 months of celebrating and feasting resting and communing. It was a restful time when no work was done and they would celebrate and study. Then after these two months they would return to the valley. In the valley they would spend the rest of the year working and building, planting and harvesting.

The one terrible thing that they had to contend with was that in a deep cave within the mountain there lived a family of Dragons. Now the Dragons would come out into the valley and attack the towns and take the people's food and destroy their homes. But these Dragons could not fly and so they would only come out into the valley and never go up to the Mountains. This was the battle of these people's lives, and they would fight drive the dragons back into the cave  where they would sleep and seal it up and there the Dragons would stay until the next time they awakened and would break out somehow and come out and fight the people.

So the day after the Dragons had been driven back to the cave one year , a little boy from the village asked his father why if the Dragons could not fly up to the mountains they did not just go up there and stay there, since it was so peaceful and beautiful up there. The father turned to his son and explained. You see my boy, when we go up to the mountain every year we rest and commune and eat and celebrate. But we cannot live there year round, for while the mountain is beautiful and peaceful and provides us with a safe place to rest from any worries about the dragons, it does not have the fields and brooks and the trees and meadows where we can work and grow the food we need or tend to our animals or build towns and solid structures. It is only a place to visit to regain our strength and rest in the beauty. but in the winter we need the warmth of the valley and our homes. And even though the Dragons live there and we have to fight for our lives it is our home and we will stay and defend it. The little boy looked at his father and said I understand father, the mountain top is where we get the strength to live in the valley and fight the Dragons, cause there will always be Dragons and we will always need the Mountain as a moment of repose from the battle, but will always return to fight again because we live in the valley.

And so it is with us. We live in the valley of the Dragons everyday. ( ie. Corporate jobs with Corporate politics and greed amongst other things and I'm sure you can insert your own Dragon! )We have moments were we can go to the "mountain top" but like Moses we return to valley because it is where we live our lives. But like Moses ( or Maria ) "we go to the hills when are hearts are lonely", we need to find there the rest and inspiration to come back and fight our personal dragons, fight the good fight as it may be.

So I suppose that we all need to find our own "Mountain Top". Some form of spiritual nurishment, some form of meditative repose where we can silence the fear and the anxiety of the everyday and recharge ourselves. When I look around and I don't see that world I knew as a youngster. Now I see all of us facing the dragons. And in times like this we need comforting things which make us feel safe and warm. So since food is love, where we need comfort there is food. We all have those foods, rich n flavor and the memory of gentle times and happy times . They help us to recharge and feel like the world is not so overwhelming.

So today I offer up one of my favorite comfort foods. Nothing earth shattering but comfy, tasty and a twist on the traditional ( think tomato soup crossed with French Onion Soup Gratin!!!

 Forrest's Totally Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Topper!!

Forrest's Totally Tomato Soup: ( makes 6 to 8 servings )
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine ( or vermouth )
6 gloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups good chicken stock, I like stock not broth
3 carrots grated
2 large white onions chopped
2 cups of fresh basil leaves chopped
1 1/2  teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 (28 ounce) cans of Italian Roma peeled tomatoes
1 pint of cream ( optional )
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine melted butter, onions, carrots, garlic and dried spices in a large pot with the olive oil salt and pepper cook vegetables down till they are soft. Add white wine and let simmer till cooked into the mix.
Add Tomatoes and the red pepper flakes, basil leaves, and the stock.
Stir mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 40 mins.
Take soup in batches and blend till smooth in blender in batches
Return soup to pot and heat up and season to taste.
At this point you can add the cream or not depending on your taste.
Divide and serve in large bowls garnish with the grilled cheese toppers

Grilled Cheese Toppers

16 slices of good quality sourdough bread
8 slices of sliced cheddar cheese
8 slices of American Cheese
2 table spoons of mayo.
3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup sauted onions
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Butter

melt some butter in a frying pan on medium heat
slather the bread with the mayo on one side
build the sandwiches with 2 slices of cheese ( one of each )
Slather onions and a slight smear of dijon inside each sandwich
Lay the sandwich mayo side down into the buttered pan
Let cook till golden on one side ( the mayo will raise the burning point of the butter )
flip and finish hold warm when done
Taking a round 4 inch cutter or a large can could be used
Punch out the center cut cutting off the crusts with the cutter
Top each soup with a topper.
top with grated cheese and place soup bowl under a broiler till cheese if bubbly and slightly browned.
Serve Hot!!















 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Holiday Spirit of the Williamsburg VA. : "The Cascades" Style, Baked Stuffed Flounder

Christmas when I was younger was always one of the most magical times of the year, in fact it almost seemed like when I was younger, time itself would slow down and even stand still around the Christmas period. It was a time of great celebrating and of family and friends coming together. It may have involved dealing with a lot of earthly tasks like buying presents and coordinating schedules. But it was somehow heavenly.

Now my father had a particular manner about how he liked our family to spend time together, especially on the holidays. And I have to give my Mom and my Dad credit because they gave us some wonderful moments and memories during the Holiday seasons over the years. You see my father traveled an awful lot for work and as a result when he was home he felt like the last thing he wanted to do was to leave his house and go out to some hotel somewhere and spend time with is family. So we would almost always spend Christmas at home. My mother on the other hand was always at home so she wanted to go somewhere. So they would comprise. Every couple of years we would do something fun and go somewhere for a vacation right as school ended before Christmas, and always be back home in time to spend the actual holiday at our house. This was of course not just a matter of choice but also a matter of money, cause that was always a concern in my house growing up.

So as my brother and I grew into out formative years, my parents decided to take us for the first time on a educational as well as enjoyable vacation to the Inn at Colonial Williamsburg in the tidewater of Virginia. The tidewater area is so rich in history and has 3 locales where American History was played out and preserved. Colonial Williamsburg, who for those of you who don't know, was the center of the colonial congress and seat and scene of some of the richest moments in the revolution's pageant. Also Yorktown is there, the site of the end of that war. And Jamestown, first English settlement that lasted in the north American continent, founded in 1607!

Now Williamsburg during the Christmas season is a sight to see. First you have this intensely developed almost Museum quality reproduction of a colonial town as it was on the eve of 1776. Next you have tourism opportunities to see, taste, tour and witness reenactments of moments in that period, houses of the period, shops of the period and restaurants or taverns of the period. Greenery decked with fruits in wreaths and garland is everywhere, candles dance and twinkle in the evenings, and bon fires are lit for singing and story telling as well as lighting up the holiday nights. It is magical and if you are the in the slightest interested in history and the past can be quite enrapturing.

The dining experience back then in Williamsburg was varied as you may imagine. Everything from the modern coffee shop, to the Taverns in the town, to an upscale Dining experience, to the full on Colonial feast with Actors playing all the parts and the guests feeling themselves a part of the action. (Sort of a Medieval Times meets George Washington's Dining room). There were so many different dishes to sample. Colonial foods such as peanut soup, stuffed Chicken, pan roasts, wild game, and spoon bread. In the more haute cuisine area there was the Cascades restaurant, a very 1970's esque structure built near the conference center and visitors center. It had a tiered dining room with windows that looked out on a waterfall. the dining room itself tiered down in the image of the rock formations in the blue ridge mountains which often hold small cascading waterfalls. Done in wood and warm reds and earth tones if was the epitome of a 1970's Dining room complete with large funky glass lighting fixtures and waiters in crimson vests and black bow ties.

One of the dishes that the cascades was known for the it's baked stuffed flounder. I of course being a huge fan of the stuffed anything ordered this. It came out all rich and flaky and stuffilicious! My Grandmother, who was with us, also had it and we decided to try and replicate it at home when we returned. So armed with a Willimsburg Cookbook and a basic recipe we did that! And boy was it good!   Since that time I have made this dish often, changing things up and adding things to create my version of the perfect stuffed flounder recipe. So here it is, enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Flounder ( inspired originally by the Cascades Restaurant, now gone)

6 flounder filets
Seafood Dressing ( recipe to follow)
salt pepper to taste
paprika
lemon butter sauce ( recipe to follow)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
toasted tarragon bread crumbs ( 1 cup bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons dried tarragon)
1/3 pound butter melted

Method

Preheat oven to 375
Butter baking dish
place 1 fillet on a cutting board
Stuff the fillet with 4 to 8 tablespoons of the dressing
roll and fasten with toothpicks
pour lemon juice over the fish
season with SnP
top with the bread crumbs making sure each fillet is generously covered
Sprinkle with paprika
carefully pour melted butter over the fish
Bake for 30 mins or until fish in opaque and flakes easily with fork.

Serve with Lemon butter sauce, Baked Potato, and Garlic Bread!!

Seafood Dressing ( this is the good stuff)

8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1/3 pound cooked shrimp finely chopped
1/3 pound cooked crabmeat
2 tablespoon chopped parsely
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
21/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning
11/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs ( more if dressing is too wet)


Melt butter, Mix together all vegetables, cook till soft, add spices, add seafood and stir till warmed and combined. remove from heat.

Lemon Butter sauce

In a blender drop three egg yolks
Melt 1/3 pound of butter
Warm 1/4 cup cream in a pan
In a pan heat 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar with 6 tablespoons lemon juice
With blender running and eggs inside slowly add the heated lemon juice
Then add in 2 tablespoons capers
then slowly pour in the melted butter in a slow steady stream
then slowly add in the warm cream.
Done! Pour into pan to keep warm or pour directly over fish when it comes out f the oven and serve on the table.















Friday, December 2, 2011

White Chicken Enchiladas

Winter. We associate it with cold, with dark days and long nights, with frost and ice and snow,.It's color palette is silver and white. It's temperament is slow and slick. However, wintertime is a time of wonderful things as well as a downshift in the temperature. The Christmas Holidays and Jewish Holidays with all the fun and family and festive moments that make us remember what family can feel like and keep us mindful of the meaningful things in life.

Even after the Holidays have passed and we are left with the bleak winter mornings of January and February we can sense the need for change and goal setting as if a renewed sense of purpose for our lives will bring the happiness we strive for. It is the seed of change and renewal planted within us, waiting for the spring to bring about the growth.

And our relationship to our mealtimes shifts, from the parties and celebratory dinners during the holiday season, to themore simple time of gathering around warm fires and hearths with hot pots of soups and stews which warm the belly and sooth the soul. This is winter.

When I was an actor I spent a number of Christmas seasons and one winter in Wisconsin working at the Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson. A small picturesque town on a river in the west central part of the state directly between Milwaukee and Madison.  It was there that I made my first acquaintance with the wonderful foods of the Dairy State. Foods like the butter burger, the cheese curd, and Kringel, a scandinavian pastry famous in the Midwest. It is also where I learned to love beer and wings and of all things sushi?? All that and of course cheese. Cheese and dairy in ways I never thought of before! Cheese cheese and more cheese, should be the Wisconsin Motto.

It should be no surprise that this love of dairy has found it's way into many ethnic foods there in ways or in amounts like no where else! I mean Alfredo sauce is good but lets add cream cheese to it just to make it richer!

So as you might imagine my recipe for today in inspired by both my theme of Winter, the belly filling goodness of winter foods that go along with winter, but also my relationship to winter in Wisconsin, which was colder and harder than anything I had yet experienced!

I bring you Winter White Enchiladas!!! Which I experienced for the first time in Wisconsin. One of the little boys in the christmas show brought a meal to the rest of the actors that his mom and he had made together for us. White Chicken Enchiladas. Now, when I say these were good, I mean they were a revelation. After all you are talking to someone who thinks that cream and cheese belong in their own food group. Simply, savory, creamy, cheesy, warm, filling and good. These are the hallmarks of this brand of enchilada. Not that they really resemble enchiladas, cause.....um....they did not. BUT BOY WERE THEY GOOD!!!!

So over the years since then I have tried to modify the recipe and improve upon it till I believe I have come up with the ultimate version that could possible be made. ( I know the pioneer Woman makes a mean one but this I think even tops hers. So James, thanks for setting me on quest for creamy cheesy yummy!! I hope you all enjoy it!

WINTER WHITE CHICKEN AND GREEN CHILLI ENCHILADAS ( WISCONSIN STYLE )

2 white onions chopped
butter
1 package 8oz cream cheese
4 chicken breasts cooked and chopped
1 package fresh spinach leaves
1 package white corn tortillas about 25
1 lbs sharp white cheddar grated
3 cans green chilies
2 pints whipping cream
8 oz sour cream
3 cans 8oz green enchilada sauce ( You can mke your own if you want )
2 tablespoons cumin (reserve one for use later)
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

Saute Onions till soft add Spinach till wilted then add chicken, 2 of the cans of chillies, sour cream, cream cheese. 8 oz of the enchilada sauce and spices.
Stir until chicken and cheese is melted and well combined.
Divide cheese in half.
Place each tortilla in a pan and heat till warmed through and soft, you could fry them if you wanted.
Place a good amount of mixture with some of the cheese on each tortilla and roll.
Place seam side down in a greased baking pan.
Once all are tightly in dish cover with additional cheese.
Mix the cream with enchilada sauce  and one can of the green chillies and the paprika and the reserved cumin.
Bake for 30 mins in the oven at 350 degrees.
Serve Warm.

Hope you all enjoy!!!



Thursday, December 1, 2011

 The James Beard Onion Sandwich Story:

So today I will post my first recipe for your enjoyment and use. It may seem simple but at this time of year I think we all could use a go to recipe for holiday party starters that are easy and different. This one is an oldie but goodie.

 Several years ago I ran across an article while perusing cookbooks at the Borders in the AOL Time Warner Center, by a well known food writer who had known James Beard. She stated that the great American Chef and Food expert never liked to serve appetizers at his dinner parties. In short he was not a fan of the canape. However, recognizing the need for a snack during cocktail hour he came up with several options that he was willing to serve. One of these being a petite onion sandwich, which by the account, was made with white bread, onion, and mayonnaise! Now, any of you who know me know that like Paula Dean likes butter, I like Mayo. I put it in all sorts of things with spectacular results. So needless to say this intrigued me and set me on a quest to find the recipe for so said finger sandwiches.

 I finally found a recipe for it  in a cooking journal from the Seventies in the cookbook section of Strand books. It also appears online I believe, but had not looked for it yet. I saw it in the book was reminded of my interest. So I decided to make them for my Thanksgiving party last year as a appi!!

 Needless to say they were a hit, They disappeared in no time and people, even the none onion lovers were a bit shocked at how good they were. In fact my friend Fred Tessler, of the Denver Tesslers, put it best. "They taste like a bite of my childhood in my mouth", he declared!!  I mean who knew!! That did kind of hit it on the head.

  Now if you were born before 1975 you probably ate your share of white sandwich wonderesque Bread! And your share of things like Mayo or Miracle Whip ( which we won't get into now) And sandwiches which might have had the sliver of onion or two. In any event this James Beard Finger sandwich with it's soft white bread outer layer to it's decadent mayo but delicate onion piquant flavor rolled in finely chopped parsley around the edges to form a elegant looking sandwich did indeed have the flavor you could not nail down but associated with GOODNESS!!!!!

 I made them again last Christmas for my Mother's Christmas party and a platter or 100 of them disappeared! In short they are a tasty treat. Now I could not say that I have added much to this recipe other to have uncovered it and brought it back, but I do have some things I do to help keep them good so here goes, enjoy you all.


Onion Appetizer Finger Sandwiches (in the spirit of James Beard)

Makes 20 sandwiches

1 loaf White Sandwich bread (thicker cut )
5 to 7  tablespoons Good Quality Mayo ( I prefer Dukes but the "H" word will do! )
2 Medium Onions Peeled
1 Bunch flat leaf parsley finely chopped
ground pepper


Method:

1) On a plate wet and ring out 2 paper towels. Place one flat on the plate use the other to cover the bread cut outs as you make them to keep them from drying out ( this is key )

2) Using a Biscuit cutter or any kind of round metal ring about  3 inches cut out the center of each piece of bread in the loaf placing them between the moist paper towels to keep them from drying out.

3) Using a Mandolin slice the onion very very thin reserving all but especially the pieces that are the mid to center cuts.

4) Then assemble the sandwiches by slathering two bread pieces on one side with the mayo, enclose one piece of onion and a shake of pepper to make the sandwich. Once that is done, apply a little mayo carefully around the edges then roll in the parsley. They should look dainty and clean on the top with the green only around the edges.

5) Place back under the paper towel to keep moist. you might need to moisten the paper towels again as you go splashing a little water on them. As you build layers on the plate moisten more towels and stack the sandwiches between them. When all are done, wrap the stacked plate in plastic wrap and place in the fridge till serving.

6) To serve arrange on a platter ( a plain white one or a silver one really shows them off best ) Enjoy!

  So that's my first Holiday or anytime recipe. I hope you enjoy!