Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shrimp and Grits Soup, well sort of...Roasted Corn Soup with Shrimp and Mushroom Fricassee, The Soup Diaries!

Corn Soup, Corn Chowder, Cream of Corn Veloute, Crab and Corn Bisque. These are just some of the the soups and soup like dishes created and cooked in American Kitchens celebrating one of our favorite vegetables, Corn!

Corn is a part of the American diet like no other food I can think if. Not only do we start our mornings with it in the form of cold or hot cereals, but we eat it in almost every kind of manner conceivable. Not to mention the High Fructose Corn Syrup thing!

Yes we Americans love our corn. Especially Southern Americans. We eat cornbread and grits and love it. So today I decided to look at creating a Corn soup. For me creating good soup is a mission. I have shared a few of my soup recipes so far and this one is no slouch either.

This recipe is actually a melding of three of my favorite things. Shrimp, Mushrooms and Corn. Growing up I loved creamed corn right out of the can. I mean know me what's not to like! However, as I got older I discovered that this lowly dish gets a bad rap from foodie's and chefs everywhere. It's plebian and pedestrian. It comes out of a CAN! Ok! Ok! I get it. but the concept of cream and corn is not lost on anyone. So using those two things to create a soup seemed like a no brainer to me.

Now there are about as many corn soup recipes out there as there are chefs and home cooks. So I wanted to step up my game a little. I have had roasted corn frozen right out of the freezer at Trader Joe's and loved it. So i decided to use that instead of regular corn. Well again, there are so many roasted corn soup recipes out there from Bobby Flay to some lady from Iowa with an online cooking video blog. Nothing original there! But what about taking that and making it a little more substantial. What about a meal that is a soup but isn't really just a soup???

In catering we often do soups with a garnish in the bowl which is set in front of the guests and then the soup is poured around it. It's a fancy french serving technique which is very visually impressive. So I was planning a friend's birthday dinner at my house and I wanted to get a little fancy. So I thought, why not do a soup as a first course and make it a little special. However, instead of a crouton or a pretty garnish and also instead of putting the protein element into the soup why not make it the garnish and add the soup pureed and silken to it as the flourish. Then let each diner mix and eat as they see fit. Sort of an elegant start.

So I thought about all the things people pair with corn soup. Crab being one of the most common. But I wanted to accomplish 2 things. Make this soup and use some of the items I had on hand. You know frugal when you gotta be!! So Shrimp I had, Mushrooms I had. So it hit me,I could I thought cook them in such a way that they were almost a main course. Sort of a liquid version of Shrimp and Grits! A hearty element if you will. So that the melange of shrimp and mushrooms would also be my in bowl garnish, as well as main substance element, and the corn soup would almost act as the sauce to tie it all together. But to do that the soup would have to really be silken. So I decided not only to cook the soup, but to puree it and then to make it really silken and to have naught but the elemental creamy essence, strain it! ( how did you like the usage of the food "naught", I bet very few food bloggers use that word!)

But Anyway....I had my plan, and this is what I came up with! Enjoy Ya'll!!

Roasted Corn Soup with Shrimp and Mushroom Fricassee
serves 4 


1 lb bag Roasted Frozen Corn ( I find this at Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large Shallot diced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half and half
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves ( turkish)
1 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

To make the soup part:

Heat oil in the bottom of a heavy pot
add onion and shallot and cook till translucent
add garlic and bloom in the pan
add all other ingredients except salt and bring to a boil
reduce heat to simmer cover and cook for 40 to 45 mins over low heat on simmer
Then turn off heat and let cool down
Puree the soup in batches in a blender till smooth
Add salt to taste
Strain soup through a mesh sieve pushing it through with the back of a spoon to get all te liquid out but leave behind the solids. Discard the solids.
Hold soup in the fridge if preparing ahead of time.
Then gently reheat when ready to use.

For the Mushrooms:

8 oz of shitake Mushrooms stems removed cut into slices
2 tablespoons of butter
pepper and salt

cook the mushrooms till golden brown and season with the salt and liberally with pepper.
about 6 mins over med high heat. Remove from pan and hold

For the Shrimp:

12 shrimp tail on (large) 3 per person more if you want.
1/3 cup shopped chives
3 tablespoons sherry

Add 3 more tablespoons of butter to pan that you used for the mushrooms
Bring to med high and saute shrimp till pink and just done add liberal dose of black pepper and a sprinkle of salt.

When shrimp are pink add the sherry and cook for a minute till reduced then add Mushrooms and chives turn off heat

To serve:

Place three shrimp in the bottom of each of the 4 serving bowls.
Divide the mushrooms and spoon any sauce over them and the shrimp.
Pour soup around them in equal portions garnish with a dollop of sour cream and more chopped chives.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A WInter Veggie gets Salad Dressed for Dinner

Winter is not a time that is associated with salad. When we think of Summer we think of salads. Live, fresh and vibrant with the energy of the Spring and Summer sun, or blanketed and mellowed by the Falls harvest sunsets. But during winter the only reason we have such bounty around is the world economy and Winter produce from the southern hemisphere.

That may be, but I am obsessed with salads. I love simple old fashioned tossed salads but I what I really enjoy are the more complex and interesting vegetable salads. Green beans, mushrooms, squash. All make interesting and different salads while fresh and in season.  But there are also some veggies that even in the winter make hearty winteresque salad ideas. One of those is Cauliflower. Another is brussel sprouts. Another is kale.

These are the vegetables of the winter months. Leafy greens and solid flowering cabbage family related vegetables. They are also the vegetables that we as Americans have a estranged relationship with. Within the last few years they have been making a come back. New preparations and an interest in healthier eating have motivated food professionals to find new and or interesting ways to prepared and present them to the eating public. Even Food Network personalities are promoting and presenting these vegetables as a foods that we could be preparing and eating.

I have been eating these vegetables all of my life. Often badly. But then I discovered something that changed the way I looked at almost all root vegetables. Roasting. Yes roasting.  

I mean we all know that roasting can do wonderful things to meat. It was not  until a few years ago that I realized what roasting was to so many different foods and more importantly, how that made a difference in the vegetables come out. Or really anything....well almost anything. But I digress.

I wanted to make a salad using cauliflower. Why? Well, the usual reason....I had some and it needed to get used up! That and I mean many of us grew up on broccoli and cauliflower salads that were mayonnaise based and gloppy. Now I love certain mayo based salads but the one I am thinking of I did not really ever care for.  Ew! So I thought why not incorporated roasted cauliflower in with some greens and other goodies and come up with a first course for dinner. I know not original but I  I think I came up with something yummy and not ordinary. See what you think.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Arugula and Walnuts and Goat Cheese

1/2 Head of Cauliflower cut into small florets
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Roast in oven at 325 for 20 to 30 mins or until browned and caramelized remove from the oven a set aside to cool.

1 bag baby Arugula

1 red pepper diced finely
1 small red onion diced finely
2 jalepeneos diced finely
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix all ingredients then let sit at least 2 hours

Balsamic vinegar
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 shallot finely diced

Mix in a small bowl and beat till combined and creamy

1 small log goat cheese

To assemble in a large bowl add cauliflower and arugula and the pepper mixture
plate the salad and drizzle with the dressing. Crumble goat cheese on top. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Fried Chicken, Southern Food's Signature Dish

Fried Chicken. The very mention of the words send excited vibes down the culinary spines of many people. I cannot think of a food that people associate more with the South than fried chicken. It's origin may have been the slave kitchens of the southern plantations, with frying being a very African cooking method. But it soon spread throughout all of America's cookery. Made super famous and almost Iconic by the Colonel's famous fried chicken and Southern gentleman image in popular advertising culture, the South's signature dish is well known and loved everywhere.

Here in NYC. people are Fried Chicken Crazy!!! Since I have lived in NYC and the wave of Southern food hit New York city in the last 5 to 10 years, New Yorkers are nut-so for the crunchy crispy goodness that is the chicken ala fried! For example, The Redhead, a very cute and very big player in this southern restaurant wave, has some of the finest fried chicken in the city. The Cardinal, also has excellent chicken, And if you want to talk "New York style" fried, the matzo crumb coated chicken at Blue Ribbon in a Brooklyn Bowling alley is a revelation. Even the one time Tyler Florence inspired menu at the upper scale, comfort food, trashy/classy Cafeteria in Chelsea offers a fried chicken dish worthy of note.

Yes this is the playing field. But what if you don't want to have to go out for chicken. What about doing it yourself? OK there are two things for me about that. Given that I live in a small apartment with lousy ventilation I can't deep fried stove top. Oh believe me I have done it, but the place smells for days afterwards and since I don't own a deep fry machine, which I could, it's just not too great a thing to do. We are talking mess factor here my friends. The other thing is finding a recipe that gives you an amazing result so you don't want or need to go out for fried chicken. In essence like they say on Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Channel, the ultimate recipe for fried chicken.  In fact it has to be so good that you have your friends asking you to make it for them. So they don't have to go out either!!!

So I return to my roots. Well mine and my friend Fred Tessler ( of the Denver Tesslers). One day Fred and I were talking about growing up and how good the fried chicken we had as youngsters was at home. Why? Well it was funny but we both remember the chicken being brown and tasty and yummy with a nice softish crust, much like the colonel's original recipe texture. And we both discovered during the conversation that both our families had used .... an Electric Skillet! Yes, if you were around in the 70's or 80's almost everyone had one. Big Green or Brown and rectangle in shape it sat on the counter and was the source of the best fried chicken we both had ever had at home. The real deal here is that unlike other heating methods and pans the electric skillet has a very even distribution of heat making it better for frying all the chicken at once without having to worry about so-called "hot spots" in a pan. Plus it has a very quick temperature recovery time when you put the chicken into the hot fat.

So that's were I started. I went to JCP. ( J. C. Pennjais!) and looked for the skillet I remembered. Well, they don't make exactly that anymore. But I found one that would do. Sassy and sleek and black with a glass top that had vents in it ( very important). And it was on sale!!! What a deal, thanks Ellen!!

So now I had the hardware. But what about the most important part of the puzzle, the recipe! Well I had tips and tidbits from my Mom, who has not fried chicken in years and years. I also had online research, cookbook research, and I had what my friend Fred remembers from back in the day about his Grandmother's chicken recipe. So that was the start.

The other element in all of this is what to use to fry in. Crisco was recommended. But so was peanut oil and other things. Plus how much oil to use? Since the whole point of this was not to have "super greasy fry fry" all over my apartment I wanted to use as little oil as possible. I took notes from my fryer's guide. 3/4 cup oil. Did not seem too bad. But I decided to up the ante and use my friend Fred's Grandmother's trick, half peanut oil and half margarine!!! Plus I would increase the total amount to 1 cup. Certainly not the 4 cups Tyler Florence used in his fryer recipe.

Next the flavorings and other ingredients. My Mom and Grandmother used spices and flour, cornmeal, salt, eggs and milk. I decided to start there but not finish there. One chef I worked with in catering here in NYC used a brine overnight for the chicken of salt, water and buttermilk into which he added herbs. I decided to do the same but I would add chopped fresh rosemary, dried garlic powder and dried onion powder, and add a little hot sauce. Something I heard about somewhere.

So for the dry spices I picked on advice of my Grandmother, paprika, dried oregano, and seasoning salt. (Season-All). I also decided to add the cornmeal to the dry mix instead of just going with plain flour. To this I added the spices.

After letting the chicken sit in the fridge in it's brine overnight I took it out. and let it sit on a drip tray covered in the fridge for 2 hours. Then I took made the two mixes, one dry, one wet.

Working in batches I dunked the chicken into the wet mix of eggs, buttermilk and salt. Then dredged in the seasoned flour and cornmeal mix.

Again I placed them back on the drip tray and let them sit in the fridge for an hour. Then I removed them and let them come to room temp for about 30 mins. ( You can skip all these steps if you want but I figured I had read that these steps would help to make a better crust because we are not deep frying and we want a nice crust)

I then brought the skillet to temperature with my oil and margarine per the instructions in the booklet to 350 degrees.

Then one by one I added the chicken pieces trying not to crowd the pieces. Then I covered and cooked for 5 mins with the lid on. Checking the chicken to see if it was golden brown I turned it after about 7 mins. Again covered it. cooked about 7 mins again then uncovered it and turned it again. after 5 mins, I turned again and covered. Then I uncovered it turned it again and cooked it for about 10 mins more to crisp it up turning as needed and added a little water to the pan to prevent any burning.

After about 37 mins my chicken was done. I put in on paper towels to soak up some of the grease. Then went on to make the gravy. I added milk and butter to the chicken drippings lots of black pepper and salt to taste. stirring in a slurry of milk and flour to thicken it up.

Plattered the chicken and Viola!! Perfect Fried Chicken at home, and my place didn't have grease marks on all the walls!!! So I know it seems like a lot reading this but it's really quite simple to do. So give it a try at home and see if you don't find you have made the most delicious homemade fried chicken ever!!! Enjoy Ya'll!!

Forrest's Perfect Southern Fried Chicken ( in an Electric Skillet or Frying Pan)

Ingredients and Method:

1 whole chicken cut up into 10 pieces ( breasts cut in half on the bone)
2 cups water
2 cups low fat buttermilk
1 bunch rosemary roughly chopped
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon hot sauce

Place chicken in container, mix all ingredients and pour over chicken making sure it's covered add water if you must. Let sit in Fridge over night.

When ready to start remove from brine ( discard brine) and place on a dip tray and let sit in the fridge for about another 2 hours.

Remove from fridge

Make wet mix

1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Seasoning salt

Make Dry dredge

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
3 teaspoons ground black pepper

Remove Chicken from the fridge and dip a few pieces of chicken at a time into the wet mixture then dredge in the dry, you can do this in a paper bag shaking the chicken till coated.

Let sit on a tray in the fridge for 30 mins then remove and let sit out to come back to room temp for no more than 30 mins.

Heat 1/2 cup peanut oil and 1/2 cup shortening in an electric skillet. to 350 degrees and the light goes off on the pan

Add chicken slowly and carefully trying not to crowd the chicken. then cover.

cook for 5 to 7 mins checking at 5 mins, if golden turn and cover again

cook for another 5 to seven minutes and repeat process turn and cover then repeat again turn and cover

watch chicken so it does not get to dark.

The uncover and turn down the heat just so light goes out. Cook another 10 mins turning to ensure that nothing burns. If it gets too dark add a little water to prevent burning.

Remove from the skillet and place on paper towels, keep warm in a oven at 200 degrees

To make gravy add 1 cup milk and 4 tablespoons butter to the chicken droppings, mix 1/2 cup milk with 2 tablespoons flours and stir till smooth. Add slowly to the pan and stir in. Add 2 tablespoons black pepper Cook till thickened and bubbly. about 5 mins. Add salt to taste. Serve with warm chicken.

Creamy Pesto Parmesan Salad Dressing

Salads need dressings. I mean who wants to eat a salad that doesn't have a good dressing on it. Well maybe someone but certainly not me! Don't get me wrong I love veggies and I love them in various undressed states. But all dressed up in a delicious salad sauce I love them even more.

I have several dressings that I will share on the blog. My french dressing is one I have already shared. This dressing today is something a little bit special. It's inspiration comes from my two places, my childhood and my University days.

When I was about 10 years old Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing hit the market. I can remember the first time I had it. It was at my Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's house during a family vacation to visit my Big Mama. It was the newest rage amongst the middle class home cooks at the time. for me, it was a revelation in taste. I had always loved creamy dressings but this ranch stuff was something new and special. In fact I love ranch dressing so much that to this day that I will at times still whip up a batch of hidden valley from the packet. It just makes me happy.

So that's one side of the story behind this dressing. The other comes from a restaurant that I worked at in college. Phillip Allen's. Now I have spoken about Phil and how he started his place and how I ended up working there.( see Mushroom soup entry).  I also believe I told you about the wonderful salad dressings he made. His poppyseed dressing was very eighties and VERY good. I am not kidding when I say it's the best I ever have had. And this was the other signature dressing. I of course learned how to make these because I worked in the kitchen as well as waiting on the customers and washing the dishes! But in spite of all the work, it was a great time and a great learning experience. It's where I learned that if you are doing something you love, you rarely feel the compulsion to rush out of work and do something else, because your time is being spent so pleasantly right where you are!

Harrisonburg, Va, where I attended undergrad in the 1980's did not have a lot of restaurants. Or grocery stores for that matter. And my experience with dining out was limited at the time due to having grown up in a family who cooked at home and was always on a budget. So having the opportunity to see what dishes came out of this restaurant's kitchen broadened my perspective on food in general. And I thought I already had a pretty broad one!

I think that's so important for people to have. This broad perspective on food. It's one reason I am glad that American's are so into their food's origin and Cooking as an Art these days. More because of the focus it puts on people's understanding the nutritional value of the food, and the options for what foods are out there more than, the ingredients list of a particular recipe, or the chef's name behind it.

 Let's face it, we have all had Brussels sprouts for example. But whether they were prepared well or not they are still just Brussels sprouts at the end of the day. They are either good a for you food or not. If Daniel makes you Brussels sprouts you'd hope they were good but they are no more or less nutritious than if your Mom made them. But its knowing that they are good for you and CAN be prepared well that makes this shared knowledge of food's value important. Because if your Mom can't cook Brussels sprouts well, you should be able to learn that they can be delicious if made correctly. And you should know that they are good for you. And that is why Food TV., cooking magazines, the foodie movement and even blog's like mine are important. Because they hopefully connect people to good for you foods and tasty ways to prepare them, as well as share the community or family story behind the recipe for them.

So what does all of this have to do with this salad dressing recipe, well nothing really except to say that cooking up a great salad dressing can help get people to eat their veggies and that's as Martha would say...a good thing!

So I give to you the second dressing recipe of this blog. Phillip Allen's Creamy Pesto Parmesan Salad dressing! Enjoy Ya'll.

Creamy Pesto Parmesan Salad Dressing from Phillip Allen's Restaurant

1 cup Mayonaise
1 1/2 cup Buttermilk (low fat variety)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried chives
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black ground pepper
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
water for thinning if needed add by the tablespoon

Combine all ingredients in a deep bowl or jar. Using a hand blender blend till smooth. Or do it old school and combine in a container or jar and shake till combined. Let sit over night to enhance the flavors and enjoy on a crunchy green salad with your choice of yummy toppings and croutons!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tomato Salad Red, White and Blue!

Now I have talked before about tomatoes and if you have been to dinner at my house or have been to a roof party in the summer you know I am a huge fan of the tomato salad. Not the tomato mozzarella NYC Italian kind of tomato salad mind you, not that there is anything wrong this that. However, I like a more complex tomato salad that actually has a salad dressing and one that has a tangy cheese and one that has some crunch.

Now looking at all the tomato options available to us at the modern farmers market or grocery store can make your head spin. I absolutely love the rise and prevalence of the Heirloom tomato! Heirlooms are nothing more than the strains of seeds which have somehow missed out on the genetic engineering spree in the farming industry in the 50's 60's and 70's and moving forward to today. They are in essence the original tomatoes enjoyed by Americans in a simpler time. They deliver great flavor and color and texture, and in the summer I cannot help but serve them up in a fabulous salad or find a way to enjoy them almost daily. In short they like mashed potatoes would go down on the list as one of my favorite foods.

So tomato salads are about as all American as apple pie. In the summers they grace many a picnic or summer dinner table. And they could not be easier to make. My favorite version can be dressed up or dressed down but no matter how it's presented it's clean simple and tasty. This recipe is for 4 people and is presented on a platter but you could use any type of presentation you'd like. I have made this into an elegant starter for a summer meal as well as served it up all mixed together tossed in a big bowl.

Since it's winter this recipe recommends using Campari tomatoes which are a varietal famous and popular in California cuisine and popular during the Winter months because they are grown in Mexico in abundance during the Winter season. They are  a hybrid type originally from Europe and have exceptional color and are larger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a normal salad or steak type. They are visually a perfect "little" tomato and have great taste and texture as well as flavor. Billed as the "tomato lover's tomato" they are sure to please! Now like I said any tomato will do, but since we eat with our eyes first, Campari Tomatoes give visual impact to the dish. The rest of the ingredients are simple and clean and just yummy. So if you want to try a new salad which is easy breezy cover girl, give this a whirl! Enjoy Ya'll!!

Winter Campari Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

1 package Campari Tomatoes sliced in half ( allow for three tomatoes per person)
3 oz blue cheese ( I like Maytag it's pricey but REALLY good)
3/4 cup whole walnut halves
10 fresh good looking picked basil leaves
5 fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup herb Vinaigrette ( I use dried oregano)

On platter arrange tomatoes
Nestle basil leaves amongst the Tomaotes
Scatter Blue cheese in small chunks over the tomatoes
Scatter walnut halves around the tomatoes
Sprinkle the basil chiffonade around the salad
Spoon on the dressing

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patty's Potato Joy... Potatoes Colcannon

I love mashed potatoes. They are probably on the scale of one to ten in the top 9 percentile of the foods I love. I have had them in so many ways I cannot even tell you. My friend John makes them with rosemary and lots of cream cheese. I love them loaded like at Vickery's my favorite bar restaurant in Charleston, and I love them whipped into perfection with lots of butter and cream like at a fine French restaurant.

So it only makes sense that at some point I would talk about mashed potatoes. And since it is St. Patricks Day and everyone in the world is offering up a dish for the holiday I decided to get in the swing and offer up one that might be a little fun.

Now I am supposedly a little Irish on some level, what with my father's family coming from the English and German stock they did. Irish is always in the mix there somewhere I suppose. But whether or not one is Irish or not St. Patricks Day is a fun and rowdy time for all. And a time to enjoy some of the fine dishes that that country has brought to these shores.

It is a little funny to me though, that my introduction to this very Irish dish was through a very American restaurant called the Cherry Creek Grill in Denver, Colorado. Cherry Creek Grill is a member of the Hillstone corporation family of restaurants.Now I don't know how many of you know this, but the Hillstone Corporation is a never ending source of interest for me. Not just because I love to eat there, but also because they have succeeded where many other chain restaurant companies have failed in creating excellent and fresh menus at price points that keep people coming back. They serve food which, as a colleague of mine puts it, is what people want to eat! I was on tour with Cameron MacIntosh's "Oliver" National tour, and we sat down in Denver. A guy I knew in Denver took me to dinner at the Cherry Creek Grill and I had the potatoes colcannon there for the first time. And I have to say they were awesome. Creamy and rich mashed potatoes mixed with sauteed cabbage and onions and lots of butter. Yum!

Now Potatoes Colcannon or "white headed potatoes" as there are known from lore in Ireland are a dish which normally contains potatoes and cabbage and onions and maybe scallions and of course loads of butter! So when I set out from that point I thought about what I do and don't enjoy about the idea of cooked cabbage. I think maybe it's from having too much boiled cabbage growing up but I sort of don't fancy it. However, I am intrigued by how the two elements of mashed potato and the cooked cabbage made such a great dish when I first tried it at that Hillstone restaurant. However I knew after all this time and the foodie things I have experienced that if I were to make them, I could up the anty.

My thought processes about this made me think about two things. I have read that colcannon can be made with Kale. I like Kale. So I thought why not work with that. The second thing I thought about was that I like green foods. So if I were to make colcannon I would like it to be a little more green than the version I had at Cherry Creek Grill. Now I have expressed before in the blog my love of colored foods. Foods that take on a different color shade due to some emulsion of another food or addition of herbs etc. are so great to me. Great to me from a taste standpoint first, but also from a composition standpoint when talking about putting foods together on a plate. So I wanted to make a greener spicey and more flavorful version of the dish I loved so much when I had it the first time, whew...not a short order!! Cause why.....Hillstone rocks but here it goes!!

My first inclination was to take example from one of the Chefs at work who created gorgeous green basil ( not pesto ) whipped potatoes a couple of years back for the Spring menu that year. He told me the trick was to blanche the basil so that even when it was added to the warm potatoes it would retain it's green color and not turn a pasty brown. An old culinary trick but an effective one. Next I thought about my ingredient list. I already had the Kale, but why stop there. So I added for the onion more green power, leeks and scallions. And for a bit of a kick a bit of garlic for even more added fun. For the consistency I decided that buttermilk would do a better job and flavor than just cream and of course lots of butter.

To insure the dish had both color and texture I decided that blanching the greens quickly then pureeing them with some buttermilk and butter would be the emulsion that would color and flavor my colcannon nicely. Then for some texture a few reserved scallions for garnish as well as a big "knob" of butter to finish off the dish. Sounds yummy. You bet! So enjoy trying this and Happy St Patty's Day.

Potatoes Colcannon with Leeks and Kale

4 or 5 good sized Yukon gold or golden yellow potatoes scrubbed and diced into pieces
handful of salt
2 leeks cleaned light green and white parts only
2 cups chopped kale packed tightly
1 large bunch scallions thinly sliced on the bias 1/2 cup reserved for garnish
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stick butter cut up
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste


Place potatoes in a heavy bottomed pot with salt and bring to a boil
Cook till potatoes are easily pierced with a fork
Then remove from heat and hold warm.
Meanwhile bring another pot of water to a boil
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
Add kale and leeks and blanche quickly until the kale turns bright green then remove from the boiling water  about 4 to 5 mins and place into an ice bath in a large bowl to stop the cooking.
Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Place greens into a blender with the scallions and blend with 1/4 cup buttermilk and 1/4 stick of room temperature butter
Blend until pureed and still a little chunky (ie. not thin think texture).
Open potato pot lid and add the emulsion mashing the potatoes until mashed add sour cream and 1/4 stick butter salt and pepper to taste and the garlic.
Mash and stir till well combined. If not loose enough add the buttermilk a little bit at a time till you have the consistency of whipped mashed potatoes.

To serve place the potatoes in a large serving bowl and garnish with the remaining butter and scallions or serve in small bowls and place a knob of butter in each and garnish with the scallions.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Love a Casserole Style Enchilada Swiss Style!!

So last Saturday night two friends came over and brought with them the fixings for Margaritas! So I accommodated them by making my Guacamole and my Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas. They were very happy and we all found it a fair trade!

Now some people have looked at my winter white enchilada post and have let me know that they think they are really good. In fact I have had at least two people I know of make them and with great success. That recipe came originally from a boy in the cast of one of the shows I did in Wisconsin. It was when I discovered that American casserole style enchiladas are really what I love. So although I have a red sauce version on this recipe it's a mix sauce of green and red that I will offer up here today.

Enchiladas fall into 3 categories and people fall into three camps about them. First camp is red or green. Or is your sauce base red or green chilli?  The second camp is corn or flour or what type of tortillas do you use. The last is do you include dairy additions beyond the shredded cheese or none at all. Now I have made and had all of these different types. I tend to go for a red enchilda with maybe a suiza or "swiss" style when I eat out at a restaurant. Mostly thats because I find that alot of enchiladas in restaurants are too dry and the "swiss" or "Suiza" element helps with that. Oh, "Suiza" means that there is a sour cream sauce in and over the taco in addition to the red sauce base. You know I'd like that!

So my enchilada making experience began in the kitchen of our house in Reston, Virginia when my father's job took us north for a few years. Old El Paso had just come out in the grocery stores in force nationally and my Mom decided to give making Mexican at home a try. We often ate in the kitchen around the breakfast table on Friday nights. It was a close and fun night where the foods were likely to be some form of ethnic food ( our attempt at branching out) and the conversation ran the gamut of whatever was happening in our worlds. Since money was tight sometimes growing up ( navy Family) my Mother and Grandmother would find foods that would be entertaining as well as tasty and filling. My brother and I had taken quite a liking to mexican foods and they began looking at ways to make them at home. We started with tacos and continued with tostadas and burritos but the real challenge was to make really good enchiladas at home. I would help my Grandmother as she poured over cooking volumes she had and together we would create from scratch sauces and combinations that were really original or our take on something "Mexican". Or we would buy a lot of cans of sauces and refried beans and start our meal from there. Tacos sprung to life served up with beans and spanish rice. And the repertoire grew from there. Mostly these were beef or chicken dishes sauced and cheesy  and while they were really good they mostly provided a lot of fun in both the making and the eating departments.

As my culinary horizons widened over time I became aware that while ground beef and chicken was fun, there were other even dare I say, veggie options, that could satisfy even the most hard core beefy meaty cheesy savory seeker! So overtime I developed a recipe for enchiladas that brought in major savory action but left out the beef. Believe me these are so "meaty" the way they come out you won't miss the meat. It was in the time before my "Wisconsin Awakening" to white creamy enchiladas but that came into the mix as well making this recipe super rich and really yummy! And they could not be easier. You just need a food processor a baking pan and some patience! So without more explaining, I give you:

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas in a Swiss Style Chili Sauce


1 package Flour Tortillas ( 12 count)
1 box frozen spinach thawed and drained
2 medium onions
1 10 oz carton white button or baby bella mushrooms
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream ( plus extra for garnish)
1 cup jack cheese grated
1 tablespoon minced jar garlic
3 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 cans mild green chilies
1 tablespoon diced pickled jalapeno peppers
2 cups of half and half
2 cans red enchilada sauce
1 small can sliced black California olives
1 cup yellow cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup sliced scallions ( plus extra for garnish)


Run the mushrooms and onion through the food processor separately dice the onions till diced and the mushrooms till they are cut up into a dice about the size of corn kernels or slightly smaller. ( the idea here is that when cooked the mushrooms will take on a ground beef texture )

In a pan with a few spoons of oil place mushrooms and onions saute till a little soft and brown but not too much as they will cook more in the oven. Turn off heat.

Add ricotta, spinach, jack cheese, spices and green chilies and peppers and mix gently together.

Combine the half and half with Red sauce

Pour 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish

Warm the Tortillas in a microwave to make them bendable

Fill each with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mix till full but still rollable

Place them tightly into the baking dish in a row the last two may have to be tucked on the side

Pour the remaining sauce over the top and let fill in the pan

Top with cheddar black olives and scallions

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 mins till top is starting to brown nicely.

Serve and enjoy with extra sour cream and scallions for garnish

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Biscuit Bowl Voodoo and Salt and Pepper Cream Biscuits

So southerners are in love with their bread products. From Cornbread to soft wheat dinner rolls, to sweet breads and cakes and of course, biscuits. Biscuits conjure up thoughts of fat flaky rounds of baked browned goodness rising slowly in a hot oven and resting in buttery goodness when finished off. I can remember my Big Mama making cornbread for her Mid-day meal and sometimes making biscuits from scratch. Either was a treat and both were delicious.

I think everyone in the south who makes biscuits either has a recipe that they have inherited and was handed down through the family or has by trial an error arrived at what they consider to be biscuit epiphany. Others have in addition to their chemical recipe a physical manifestation of their biscuit heritage in the form of cooking tools much like my friend's freind Carter, who has his grandmother's wooden biscuit bowl. Now a biscuit bowl is a real true element of biscuit making in the south for many. The bowl in which the biscuits were mixed was almost as important as the recipe and the ingredients themselves. By lore a biscuit bowl is a bowl that is never cleaned out or emptied completely. It is stored in a cupboard and usually has a cloth or towel that sits over it until the next time it is used. It is an old tradition and people swear to the production of their treasured recipes being enhanced by the magic of their biscuit bowl. The "magic" if you will is the leaving of the residual flour for use the next time. Thus creating the illusion of the never ending well of biscuits. It was a practical thing back in the day but has become a treasured source of biscuit lore in the family that possesses the bowl of cooking heritage.

Now I do not possess a treasured biscuit recipe from way back nor a magic bowl. I do however love to make biscuits and my favorite recipe for them which is also incredibly easy is my recipe for cream biscuits. My first encounter with the cream biscuit was when I was working for Peter Callahan a caterer in NYC. He only served biscuits with his dinners never bread and they would arrive cut square and deliciously decadent at the events. I always would try to grab at least two they were so tasty. I finally asked the chef for the recipe and she told me they were very simple. They contained three things Flour, crisco, and heavy cream. I thought that was pretty easy. But recently my cousin gave me a recipe for cream biscuits that was even easier and they came out so lovely. I make these now and I love them. So for the biscuit lover in you I give you this recipe. It's foolproof and easy so give it a try. Enjoy ya'll!!

Forrest's Easy Peasy Salt and Pepper Cream Biscuits

2 cups Self rising or cake flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt kosher
Fluer de Sel ( coarse French sea salt)
Pepper grinder
3 tablespoons melted butter


Place flour in a bowl make a well in the center of the flour
Add salt
Add 1 cup cream slowly into the well mixing as you go.
Keep adding cream ( you may not need all of it) until the mixture has come together and sticks to itself more than to you!
On a floured board knead the dough until it's together
Then roll out and cut with a cutter into rounds pushing the residual dough together until you are done.
Place on a greased baking sheet
Sprinkle top with fluer de sel and cracked black pepper
bake in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 mins or until done
When done remove from oven and brush with the melted butter