Saturday, July 5, 2014

Southern Yellow Squash and Onions

A really simple, really traditional preparation for one of the staple side dishes of the South. I know that brown sugar plus squash sounds sweet, but trust me when I say it's not. The sugar is just there to bring out an extra dimension of flavor in the squash.


Southern Yellow Squash and Onions

2 medium sized yellow squash, sliced into rounds
1/2 videlia onion, diced
Heaping 1/2 tsp brown sugar (you want a little more than 1/2 tsp here, but not so much as 1 whole tsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter
Salt
Pepper
Optional: up to 1/4 cup chicken stock

Add the oil to a pan over medium high heat, and melt the butter into this. When it's completely melted and starts to foam, add the onions and saute until translucent.

Add the squash and brown sugar, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Season with salt and pepper. Use a light hand on the salt, you'll have a chance to season it again at the end. Bring to a simmer and cover, then turn heat down to medium low. Steam squash for 15 or so minutes, or until softened. Taste, then adjust the seasoning as appropriate. Serve immediately.

Serves: 2-3 people

Baked BBQ Chicken

This recipe makes some of the juiciest, tenderest chicken I've ever tasted, and it's fantastic for leftovers. It takes a little time, but believe me it's worth it. The real key is the BBQ sauce: make sure you get one that you like. I personally am partial to a brand called Blues Hog that's sold at my local supermarket, but when it comes to BBQ sauce everyone has their own personal preferences. Just remember not to cut corners when it comes to the sauce. It's worth spending an extra buck or two for really outstanding flavor. 

A couple other notes: the marinating process is not optional. Marinating is an absolute must on this one. Plan ahead far enough to give yourself time for the chicken to sit and absorb flavor for a while. Also, it's really cheap to buy a whole fryer hen (about 4 lbs) at the grocery store, and those work perfectly for this recipe. If you're not comfortable sectioning a whole chicken by yourself, see if your grocer's butcher is willing to section it for you. Mine is happy to do it if you ask. This saves you the time and trouble of sectioning the bird yourself, but also saves you money from what most stores charge for pre-cut chicken pieces.

I like this recipe served with simple sides that will let the chicken shine: butter beans and fresh tomato slices, fresh corn with squash and onions, that sort of thing.


Baked BBQ Chicken

Marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp paprika (smoked paprika is also good)
1 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup chicken stock
Optional: 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

BBQ Chicken:
1 jar or bottle BBQ sauce (I like the Blues Hog brand, which comes in jars, but to each his own)
1 whole chicken, cut into quarters
2 tbsp olive oil

Start the process by placing the chicken quarters into a gallon plastic ziploc bag. Add all the ingredients of the marinade to the bag, and squish everything around for a while until it's mixed and all the chicken pieces are coated. Place the bag into a bowl, and stick it in the fridge to marinate for at least two hours and up to overnight.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350F.

Line a roasting pan with tin foil and use the olive oil to grease it thoroughly. Place the chicken quarters skin side down onto the pan, and baste the exposed side of the chicken with BBQ sauce. Cook for 20 minutes.

When 20 minutes has expired, remove the chicken from the oven and flip it over so the skin side is facing up. Baste heavily with BBQ sauce. Stick it back in the oven and cook for 7 minutes, then baste again. Repeat this at least twice more (so that the chicken has been basted at least 3 times on the skin side). You can baste it 4 times if the fancy strikes you.

Test the chicken for doneness by sticking a meat thermometer into one of the breasts at the thickest part. It should register at least 165F. If not, your chicken needs longer in the oven.

When the chicken is done, remove from oven and serve immediately, with extra BBQ sauce for dipping if desired.

Serves: 4

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Red Beans and Rice

One of the staple Cajun dishes, this recipe is both very inexpensive and very easy to make. It's also very tasty! It has to simmer for a while, but it's low-maintenance while it does. One of the keys to this one is getting good andouille sausage: you want sausage that's very smoky and spicy and flavorful. If the sausage looks  sort of dry in the package, that's a good thing. It means it's been smoked longer.


Red Beans and Rice

1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into small bite sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small videlia onion, diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp flour
2 cans red kidney beans, NOT drained
4 cups beef broth
2 tbsp Cajun Spice Mix (see bottom of recipe for spice mix ingredients)
3 bay leaves
2 cups cooked white rice
Salt
Pepper


Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat, then add the sausage and sear until lightly browned. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan, and the sausage should get very fragrant during this process. When the sausage is finished cooking (about 3 min per side), remove it to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Add the onions, celery and pepper to the same pan you cooked the sausage in, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Cook until vegetables are tender and onions are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir, cook until you can smell the garlic (about 1 minute). Sprinkle the flour over the cooking vegetables and stir until the vegetables are well-coated and the flour has mixed with the oil/butter to make a roux. Allow a minute or so to cook the flour.

Add the beans, stock, cajun spice mix, bay leaves, and 2 cups water. Stir thoroughly to make sure the roux gets incorporated with no lumps. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer covered for at least an hour (but two or three is much better). If desired, you can mash or puree about a quarter of the beans with 30 minutes left on the cook time to add even more body to the sauce. I don't do this, because I find the flour makes it thick enough, but to each his own.

Serve the hot beans and sausage over the rice.

Serves: 6

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Creamy Carolina Shrimp and Grits

My version of shrimp and grits is a creamy, decadent take on this southern staple. I follow the tradition from my region of the Carolinas, and include andouille sausage in the recipe. Trust me, it takes the flavor to a whole other level. This particular take on shrimp and grits is mildly spicy. (My mother, who dislikes heavy spices and tends to scrape the blackening spices off chicken or fish, loves the spice mix I give here. My father, who likes his food the hotter the better, tends to add a few drops of Texas Pete or siracha sauce.) The nice thing about this recipe is that the spice can be adjusted to taste by adding more or less chili pepper depending on what you like. The recipe itself is so flavorful and varied that it doesn't need tongue-killing heat to make it special. Your pepper heat fanatics might be surprised at how much they like this one as-is.


Shrimp and Grits

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 tbsp cajun seasoning (see below)
1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp, peeled and deviened with tails removed
1 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, chopped
parsley for garnish
salt
pepper

Start by making the grits, so they can simmer while you work on the rest of the sauce.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and sear, about 3 minutes and set aside on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain. Toss the shrimp in 1 1/2 tbsp of the cajun seasoning until all shrimp are coated evenly, add the shrimp to the pan with the oil and rendered fat from the sausage, cook about 2-3 minutes and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan, add the onions, peppers and celery and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and creole seasoning and cook about a minute, or until you can smell the garlic. Add the butter to the vegetables and let melt. Add the flour to the vegetables and stir to distribute evenly, then cook for about 2 minutes to let the flour brown just a little. Add the chicken stock and the whipping cream, stir thoroughly, and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Add the sausage and the shrimp to the pan, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the pan or skinning. The sauce's thickness can be adjusted at this time by adding more stock or cream to thin it out, or by adding a little slurry to thicken it if desired. Taste for salt and pepper, and season accordingly. 

A minute or two before serving, stir in the tomato and green onions, and taste again for seasoning. Serve over creamy grits and garnish with freshly chopped parsley as desired. 

Serves: 6



Creamy Grits

2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups quick grits
2 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter
Salt
Pepper

Mix the cream and the water, then bring the mixture to a slow boil. Add the grits slowly, stirring to avoid lumps. Add the butter. Turn the heat down to very low (below a simmer), and stir frequently for 10-15 minutes to allow the grits to thicken. Taste, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a little milk if the grits are too stiff when you go to serve them, you want these fairly creamy.

Serves: 4-6 



Cajun Spice Mix
(Makes about 4 tbsp of mix. This mix also goes well with red beans and rice.)

2 1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 tsp dried thyme

Mix everything together and stir thoroughly just before using to make sure all the spices are evenly distributed. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

White Sandwich Bread

This is a fast (well, fast for bread), easy, remarkably tasty recipe that's basically idiot-proof. It's been over a month since I bought bread from the grocery store, because this is so good that one recipe a week is totally worth the couple hours of time it takes to make it.


White Sandwich Bread
taken from thefrugalgirl

5 3/4-6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 pkg (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups milk (you can use water if you don’t do dairy)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt

1. In a large mixer bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of flour and yeast.

2. In a saucepan or in the microwave, heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt to 115-120 degrees.

3. Add hot liquids to flour and yeast. Beat at low speed until combined, then beat at high speed for 3 minutes.

4. Add enough additional flour to make a soft, but kneadable dough, and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

5. Put dough back into mixing bowl, cover with wet tea towel, and let rise 1 hour.

6. Punch dough down, divide into two pieces, and roll into a rectangle, about 6″x18″. Starting from the short end, roll up jelly-roll style and place into two greased 4×8 inch loaf pans. Cover with wet tea towel and let rise 30-40 minutes, or until doubled.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool before slicing.

Serves: varies, but the recipe makes 2 loaves.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Strawberry Holiday Salad

Every Thanksgiving and every Christmas, our family has a pretty set menu: turkey, green beans, dressing, sweet potato casserole, and strawberry salad. Sometimes we jazz it up with biscuits or muffins. If we're feeling really adventurous, the green beans will become the green bean casserole that I've previously referenced. But for the most part, our menu is set. We've figured out what tastes good. Strawberry salad is our traditional pseudo-dessert. It gets served alongside everything else, so you can eat it as a side dish if you want, but pretty much everyone eats it as dessert. After a lot of rich food, it's sweet enough but not too sweet, and it satisfies everyone's urge for a palate cleanser after turkey and gravy. An hierloom recipe in our house, for good reason.


Strawberry Holiday Salad


2 boxes strawberry jello
1 box frozen strawberries (do not defrost)
2 mashed bananas (you can also slice the bananas if you like your bananas chunkier)
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 small can crushed pineapple

Stir jello and water together until jello is dissolved in boiling water. Add frozen strawberries, stir until strawberries are all separated. Add pineapple and bananas. Pour into 3 qt pyrex  baking dish, refridgerate until set.

Serves: 6-8

Quick Sour Cream Rolls

These are addictively tasty, and they're fast to make. The one caution I would give is that they're buttery. So if you usually serve your biscuits in basket with a bread-cloth (this is how I was brought up, and is a staple for serving biscuits or muffins in the South), your bread-cloth may get stained with the butter in these rolls. So better to serve these with paper towels that can soak up any buttery residue instead of ruining a breadcloth on these tasty, tasty, TASTY rolls.



Quick Sour Cream Rolls

2 1/2 cups bisquick, DIVIDED (I always use bisquick, but you can use the biscuit mix of your choice)
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine 2 cups of the biscuit mix with the sour cream and butter. Stir well. Place the rest of the biscuit mix into a small bowl, and use it to flour your hands as you roll out tablespoon-sized balls from the mixed dough. Use two lightly-greased muffin tins (VERY lightly greased, as in, I usually don't actually grease the muffin tins because I don't need to. But if you really want to grease your muffin tins, err on the side of VERY LIGHT), and deposit three balls of dough per muffin cup.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 min, or until tops of rolls are golden brown. Turn them out of the muffin tin, and serve immediately.

Serves: 4-5. The yield here is 1 dozen rolls (two muffin tins' worth), but I'll guarantee you that everyone you serve will eat at least two of these things.