Friday, July 30, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic Burger

After The Great Chicken Inferno, there is still much cleanup needed.

OK, really just the grill. And the side of the house that is speckled with some pretty gnarly grease-splatter. On the plus side yesterday, it POURED down rain, which rinsed all the fire extinguisher residue off the outside of the grill. I wanted to open the top up and let it get the inside. Pootie said "No".


Since I didn't get around to cleaning the grill, and I figured cooking on extinguisher dust was probably not in the best interest of our health, I decided it was burgers. In a skillet. In the house.

So until I get my mojo back and get the grill cleaned:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Quit. And a poem.

Last night, I caught a chicken on fire.

Now I wish I'd gotten a picture. Sort of.

I roasted a chicken on the grill, served some of it, and realized it wasn't quite done. So I asked Pootie to turn the grill back on for me. I didn't even look. I just plopped the tray back on there and went back in. When I came back out, the tray of chicken (and its grease) was an inferno. Apparently, Pootie had turned all THREE burners on, and some of the grease had dribbled over and caught fire, resulting in a conflagration that would have made Smokey the Bear quake in his boots.

Smokey can be kind of mean.

We put it out with the fire extinguisher, threw out the charred carcass, and now I get to clean the grill today.

Thing is, I didn't want to cook dinner last night anyway. Or the night before that. Or the night before that. I am burned out. (That's to keep the fire theme going, get it? Fine. Never mind.) It's hot outside. All the time. I'm sick of the heat. I'm sick of tomatoes. I'm sick of basil. I'm sick of food. And I'm sick of myself.

So. To purge myself of the summer doldrums, here's a poem.

I’m going to quit cooking and blogging.

I’m going to quit inviting people over.

And stop going outside.

And go to bed.

And stop eating.

And stop showering.

And wait.

For fall.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nobody's perfect, and I don't even come close.

Sunday was the day Paul came over to help me learn how to take halfway decent pictures with my camera. This is what Sunday looked like.


Dinnertime rolled around, and while I couldn't get too stoked about going outside to use the grill, I also didn't want to tax our already-strained air-conditioning by heating up the kitchen. So I decided to grill everything I could.

Now you know me. I don't like messing up the grill, and supposedly all that charcoal burned stuff on the food isn't good for you. That means cooking on foil and parchment lined pans most of the time, or slamming my cast-iron skillet  on the grill for steaks. Which is what we were having. But I also prepared a side of deviled potatoes.

Some beautiful purple and yellow Farmer's Market potatoes

I cut up about a pound of small potatoes, mixed them together with a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, about 2 Tbs. of dijon mustard and 3 Tbs. of mayonnaise.

Instead of a foil-lined pan, I used a pyrex baking dish and put it on the preheated grill.

Paul? This picture is blue. Help. WB switched from incandescant to daylight.

Then, because the heat had sucked out my superpowers, I went in and took a little nap.

I think you can see where this is going.

The charred, black smears on the broken Pyrex should give you a decent gauge of how long my nap was. I was too ashamed to show you what was left of the potatoes.

But look how amazing I am! Asbestos hands!
Oh, fine. It was cool by then.
You know, sometimes you people are no fun.

I'm just going to put it out there that yes, I have cooked with Pyrex on the grill before. But this was pushing it a little. OK, a lot. It held together until I set it down on the side piece on the grill. Which was nowhere near cool, much less cold. I'd just cooked the ever livin' phoo out of that poor pan.

Believe it or not, enough of the potatoes were salvageable to be able to eat with dinner. Go figure.

I was asked recently by a friend on Twitter what were some of my kitchen disasters. Well, folks, we can certainly add this one to the very long list.

"Small Pyrex Dish" is now on my list for a trip to Target.

But man, I needed that nap.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Coming out of the Dark.

This is Paul. I took this with his lens. He rocks.

Those of you who have read this blog before know that my photographic abilities are pretty much nil. In a nutshell, I suck. No one who has looked at the "artwork" I've displayed here would argue otherwise. While I'd very much like to blame equipment, I won't, because then I'd just be a big fat liar. I'm just awful. Plain and simple.

However, in an attempt to shed some of my picture-taking suckage, I've taken measures. Step one: Get a big-girl camera. No more point-and-shoot. That, I'll reserve for beach trips and kayaking, because it's waterproof. For my birthday in June (D-Day, for those of you keeping track), I got an entry-level Nikon. (Thanks, Pootie!).

Step two: I got a book on photography from my brother, who is an excellent photographer. (Did you come back after checking his site? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. Have I mentioned he got all the good genes?) So I've been reading that to just gain a little understanding about the subject, and talking to John about a few things.

Step 3: I turned to my friend Paul Stephen, who photographs for our local paper, and begged him to come over and help me figure out how this black thing with all the dials and buttons actually works. And he generously agreed to help!

Oh, man, was it worth it.

Check me out, now!

This is a pepper.

I've been whining and moaning about how there's not enough light in my kitchen to get decent pictures forever. Wrong! There was not a good enough photographer in my kitchen to get decent pictures! (You know, people, it's really kind of rude to not at least pretend to be surprised at this revelation.)

I'm not going to go into all the camera settings Paul taught me to change and such. A lot of that is still a little jumbled in my head, and I'd screw it all up and look like an idiot. But what he taught me worked! Man, did it ever work! There is hope for me after all! And hope for you. Perhaps you can look at pictures of food I took and not cringe! Maybe I'll stop swiping pictures of Bigfoot and camera puppets off the internet to illustrate my blog!

 Or not.

Anyway, with my newfound scary knowledge, I went forth and prepared dinner last night. And later, I will show you the results. (Unfortunately, I had a minor kitchen disaster - evidently what I gained in photography information had to displace some cooking common sense data. I think my brain must be full.)

Meanwhile, I will revel in my mad photography skilz and take sixty more pictures of Dinky. And Pootie's shorts. And part of my foot. (There can be a shortage of subject matter when you work at home alone.) As far as composition goes, I may remain hopeless.

Seriously. Stop taking my picture. I just had a bath and my mojo is gone.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A non-food related post

For my birthday back in June, I got a real grownup camera. I know. You haven't noticed. This is because while I have a grownup camera (most basic, entry-level DSLR, but it's better than my point and shoot), I have very little idea how to use it.

You're shocked, aren't you? I can tell. Close your mouths, please. That's kind of rude.

I've been reading a book my brother sent me. He actually has talent as a photographer. Have I mentioned Mom and Dad gave him all the good genes? The book has been pretty helpful for my understanding of cameras and ISOs and apertures and embouchure... wait. That's something different. Anyway, in addition to the book learning, which still has not improved my mad photographic skilz, tonight, I'm headed to a photo workshop.

Does this mean I'm going to start taking REAL photos? GOOD photos? And stop swiping other people's pictures of monster trucks and muppets off the internet and using them?

oh my god. Seriously? Wonder if all you get are photos of children screaming and crying?

Probably not. Although it's probably why I get so many spam comments.

Does this mean my blog is going to start looking halfway decent? Like a REAL food blog? Like those ones you look at and go "Oh, my goodness! That looks like a magazine picture!"?

Hahaha! I crack myself up. No.

I embody mediocrity. And I embrace my average-ness. Come! Watch my progress! And journey with me into the realm of "slightly-better-than-disgraceful" pictures. Hopefully.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A minor rant about onions and garlic

See? He looks evil, doesn't he?

Onions. Shallots. Garlic. They are crucial to my cooking. But I cannot STAND them in their raw form. I must have some defect. Some enzyme I'm missing. Some taste bud thing that just doesn't work for me. So many recipes, so many chefs, so many people use chopped shallots, red onion, minced garlic - in their raw form. Check a salad dressing recipe. "1 Tbs. minced shallot". "1 Tbs. minced garlic." Raw. As in not sweated. Or cooked in any way shape or form. Ohhh, I know some people would say that the acid (vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice) "cooks" it. Hahahahahaaa! I mock your "acid cooking!" My tastebuds say "Oh My God! Kill it! Get it out of our mouth, now!!"

Go to a restaurant. Order a sandwich. Order a salad. The ubiquitous and evil red onion will probably be sneaking around somewhere on the plate. Hiding under the kaiser roll. Perched defiantly on top of a salad (usually in a brown plastic bowl, actually) like a red hawk on a power line next to a field on the side of I-55 in Arkansas.

Field mice are way better than onions, yo.

"Sweet red onions! You don't have to cook them! They're delicious raw!" Sweet Cracker Sandwich! No! They're not! And they're even LESS "delicious" hours later. Summer recipes are particularly bad about featuring this villainous taste bud offender. Nothing will ruin a dish for me faster than biting down on a microscopic piece of red onion. As soon as my teeth hit it, it releases its toxic sulfuric gasses, and I might as well be in a foxhole during a mustard gas attack as far as my senses are concerned. The effect does not abate for hours... a full DAY, even.

Exchange "Hitler" with "The Chef". Stop hiding raw onions in my food!

When we first got married, my husband's mother (who is an excellent cook) used to follow recipes exactly. Meaning, if there was a salad dressing, sandwich, sauce or any portion or part of a dish that called for raw garlic, onion or shallot, she'd do it. And I'd politely eat it, wishing the whole time that I had a tall glass of Listerene instead of my goblet of ice water. The next morning was even worse. I get Allium Hangover. I wake up, looking around for the tiny elf who has dumped some vile substance in my mouth while I was sleeping. My mouth is raw, my stomach is unhappy, and all I can taste is the remnant vapours of Onion Gone Bad. Once we'd been married a few years, my groom finally told his mother that the raw garlic and shallots and onion really bothered both of us, and since then, she's been kind enough to give them a quick sweat in a pan before she uses them. Most of the time.

Recently we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, Marc's on Market. The owners are good friends of ours, but I've never really let my onion phobia out of the bag, for fear of being ridiculed by actual chefs. I had a delicious dinner that came with a "Caesar-style Asparagus Salad". Three bites into it - vile, noxious, raw "sweet" onion. (Who the hell came up with THAT description?)  The next morning, I rolled over in bed, looked bleary-eyed at my husband, breathed toxic fumes on him and said "I. Am. Going. To. Kill. Marc. Copenhaver." Isn't that awful? My favorite chef and close friend, and I'm thinking murderous thoughts all because of a little flowering plant.

It's terrible what raw onions will do to a girl.

So I'll be the hillbilly who asks the wait staff to hold the onion on the sandwich. The yahoo who scans the menu to see what the salad dressing contains. The cretin who delicately removes the rings of red onion from the salad and puts it on someone else's plate. And the cook who never, ever puts onion, garlic or shallots in ANYTHING she cooks without dropping it in a hot pan with a little olive oil first.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder and Grits

I am lucky in that I can get fresh local flounder here, and it's one of the few fish I like. Sorry. I just can't get into the steaky fishes - tuna, mahi, etc. I like the white, flakey ones. We picked up some gorgeous filets at Mott's Seafood.

I was feeling kind of like crunchy fish, so I decided to coat them in cornmeal and pan fry them. I always use the grill for this because I just can't stand how frying stuff, especially fish, makes the house smell. We've discussed my lack of vent-a-hood ad nauseum. I won't make you go there again.

These are one of my favorite Frivolous Kitchen Gadgets.

These dredging pans from William$-$onoma weren't really all that expensive, I had a gift certificate, and they come in really handy.

So first, to avoid stinking up the house, I put a cast iron skillet on the grill and poured about 1/2 cup or so of olive oil in there and heated it to about 500.

While the pan was heating, I chopped some wonderful cherry tomatoes I'd gotten at the Farmer's Market. (I'll be seriously sick of tomatoes, corn and basil by September, but I'm not there yet.)

Then I chopped a sweet onion and a red bell pepper and sauteed that in a little olive oil. I loathe raw onion. Cannot abide it. I always at least give it a quick sweat in a pan before it touches my lips.

While the onions and peppers were melting down a little, I made grits. Please use these, or something similar instead of those instant white things.

They're just so much better.

I used 2 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of cream and 3/4 tsp. of salt. You don't have to use the cream, and I thought it needed a tad more salt. Anyway, bring that to a boil and whisk the grits in. Turn the heat down to low and simmer them. You need  stir them occasionally or they'll glaum all up together. They need to simmer about 15 minutes.

By then, the pan was ready on the grill, so I salted the phoo out of the flounder with kosher salt, then dredged it in flour, then dipped it an egg mixed with buttermilk, then in cornmeal.

Into the hot frying pan went the fish, and about 10 minutes later, it was perfect.

A spoonful of grits topped with the peppers, onions and tomatoes and a crispy fish filet and dinner was served!

If you think you might like to try it yourself, here's the .pdf copy of the recipe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Peaches

Well, nothing much more seasonal right now than peaches, and obviously, I have a lot of them.

Pork and peaches just sort of go together in the summer. And bourbon. Did I just say that out loud? I didn't think so. Anyway, this is easy on the front end and only slightly fussy at the end. Worth it.

Start with a pork tenderloin. Slice it in half, then half it again lengthwise. Actually, you know what? It doesn't really matter HOW you slice it. (heh, heh, heh) You can cut it into discs, you can cut it in half lengthwise, and honestly, you can just throw the thing whole on there, and it will be just fine, regardless. So to rephrase, I sliced it in half, then halved it again lengthwise, and salted and peppered it "real good". And put it on a foil-lined, parchment-topped baking sheet to go on the grill. Then I turned the grill on high - about 500F.

Look. I'm really sorry. Yes, I mean I am a sorry photographer. Even with a new camera that takes better pictures, I still totally suck. My apologies. This is supposed to be salted and peppered pork loin.

Slice a whole (largeish) onion and about four fresh peachesNOMNOMNOMNOM!!

OK, please notice the blurry saucer in the background, demonstrating my knowledge of "aperture settings". AAHAHAHAA Sorry. There's a button on the camera that says "Blur background". Anyway, this is a farmer's market onion.

Brush the tenderloin with dijon mustard to coat it a little.

Note the blurred brush, indication action/activity. I am brushing the pork loin. See?

Dump the sliced peaches and onion on top of the pork.

Now put the pan on the grill for about 13 - 15 minutes, maybe longer, depending on whether you sliced the pork tenderloin or left it whole. Please remember, it is now OK to have pork a little pink in the middle. Trichinosis isn't really an issue in the domesticated pork in the U.S. anymore. (Chris, this is for you, man.)

When the pork is about done, heat a small pan over medium on the stove. Bring in the pork. Put about 1 Tbs. of olive oil in the pan and add the peaches and onions from the pan, along with any juices. Add 1/3 cup bourbon and 1 Tbs. butter and stir together until the liquid is reduced by about half.


Slice the pork and pour the deleeshious peach/onion/bourbon/butter sauce over.

Here's the .pdf version.