Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lemon Dill Chicken

Back when I lived in Denver and all I had to feed was my sweet dog, Habibi, the occasional neighbor and myself, I made up this recipe. It's a favorite of Randy's even though he doesn't like chicken thighs. (Or he didn't used to.) It could be made with white meat, if you prefer. Or you can even do a whole chicken like this. I really like the individual pieces because the skin gets nice and crispy and the seasoning is easy to scrape off (not eating the skin right now - you know New Year's Resolutions and all). Enough of my rambling, on to the recipe.

Lemon Dill Chicken

1 package of chicken thighs (4 come in a package)
1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the crockpot
Few good squirts of lemon juice
Garlic Pepper Salt
Simply Organic Dash O Dill Seasoning (this is a bit hard to find, but I found it at Food for Thought)
Simply Organic Dill (just because it needs some more dill - mmmm)
Couple flakes of lemon salt on top of each piece

Assemble ingredients in the crockpot. Set on low for all day cooking, and high for half a day cooking. So simple, flavorful and the chicken falls off the bone.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grilled Cornish Hens with Coconut Curry Sauce

My adventure into the Asian Market on Central and I-35 was prompted by this recipe and one for that incredibly delicious ginger salad dressing they serve at Japanese steakhouses. I'd always wanted to go to the Asian Market, but didn't really have a reason and didn't want to aimlessly roam inside. Off I went on a Friday right after work to gather the ingredients for an Asian-inspired meal. I happened to have some chicken thighs that needed to be cooked, so my husband grilled those as well.

I read the notes from other cooks on and they said that marinating the hens didn't make that much of a difference. I opted not to marinate, and they turned out beautifully. The other adjustment I made to this recipe was that I reduced the curry sauce for an hour, instead of the 30 minutes it suggested. It was to die for.

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (2 large)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 (14-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
4 (1 1/4- to 1 1/2-lb) Cornish hens, halved lengthwise

Cook shallots in oil in a wide 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add curry paste and cook, mashing paste to combine with oil and stirring constantly, 3 minutes (paste will begin sticking to bottom of pot). Add coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in fish sauce and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups curry sauce (for serving) in a bowl and chill, covered.

Trim and discard any excess fat from hens (to prevent flare-ups on grill), then rinse and pat dry. Coat hens well with remaining curry sauce in a large bowl, then divide hens between 2 large sealable plastic bags and seal bags, pressing out excess air. Marinate hens, chilled, at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

Let hens stand at room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). (If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. When Charcoal turns grayish white (about 15 minutes from lighting), hold your hand 5 inches above grill rack to determine heat for charcoal as follows: Hot: When you can hold your hand there for 1 to 2 seconds; Medium-hot: 3 to 4 seconds; Low: 5 to 6 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then, if necessary, reduce to heat specified in recipe.)

Remove hens from marinade, shaking off excess, and transfer to a large platter. Discard marinade. Season hens with salt, then grill, starting with skin sides down, covered only if using a gas grill, on lightly oiled grill rack, turning occasionally to prevent overbrowning, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Heat reserved curry sauce in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until hot. Serve hens with curry sauce.

BBQ Heaven

This post is from a very special guest - my husband, Randy. Before we started dating, I wasn't much of a BBQ fan, but that has changed. However, he is still the King of BBQ in this family. One of Randy's favorite places to get good BBQ ribs is in a very small town here in Kansas. 

Two things happened in 1975 that surprised most folks. Probably most surprising to the casual observer of my life is that I somehow managed to escape the sirens' song on the rocky shoals of Aggieville and get my political science degree from KSU. You laugh, but much better men than me floundered on those shores. But that is another story.

Another event of much more import to the culinary world occurred that year in the wonderful little berg of Williamsburg, KS. Guy and Mae started a tavern there and began to sell ribs. This fine little establishment, inexplicably called "Guy & Mae's Tavern," is rib mecca for those in the BBQ know. As you head northeast on 1-35 toward Kansas City you pay your toll at Emporia as you gradually leave the flint hills. Little does the uninformed traveler know that a mere 40 miles up the road toward Kansas City is BBQ heaven. Williamsburg is about 15 miles southwest of Ottawa as the buzzard flies, and it reached the big time when it got its own exit off I-35. At last count it had 191 females, 166 males, 5 registered sex offenders--and Guy & Mae's Tavern.

How could you not be excited when you pull into town and are greeted by the sign at left.
Friendly people, indeed (not so sure about the sex offenders).

Turn east down the main street and soon the best ribs in Kansas will be staring you right in the face.

Guy and Mae's serves about 1,000 slabs of ribs a week. That, my friends, is a lot of dead pigs.

As the Princess and I sauntered into the bar that Saturday afternoon the crowd had thinned a bit and we had our choice of booths. Styx thanked Mr Roboto on the juke box (come on, sing with me "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto") as a dad showed his son the finer points of a bank shot. We elected for a fine booth at the back so I could get closer to that heavenly smell that emanated from the rear of this bar/rib joint.

The decore' is any small town beer joint in the midwest. Same friendly lady that is always behind the bar. Same Coors sign welcoming K-State fans. New sign extolling the virtues of KU football ("KU FOOTBALL--A Tradition since Last Thursday). However the difference between this bar and any of thousands of others across this state will soon be at your table-wrapped in aluminum foil. I have no idea how they do this because I have tried a hundred times, but the ribs are so tender the meat literally falls off the ribs when you touch them.

The Princess and I went back and checked out the pit. First they get a good smoke on the ribs, then they wrap them in foil and get them good and tender. Holy pig they are good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eat Pray Love

I've had this book for almost two years now, and picked it up a couple of months ago. I'm a slow reader because I don't often sit down long enough to read much. Too much cooking to do, cleaning up (don't laugh Randy) and catching up with girlfriends and family on the phone.

I read the first third of this book, where the author "eats" her way through Italy. I figured this would be my favorite section, since I'm so into good food. But I've surprisingly really enjoyed the praying part, too. I'm not to far into it, but I enjoy hearing the author's journey from a dark place in her life into a more hopeful one. Which leads me to more news about my grandma.

A week ago today, we found out that her lung cancer has spread into her other lung, and there is a spot above her kidney, too. We were informed before this appointment that if the cancer had spread, it would be terminal. After hearing the news, I walked out of the building alone (my grandma, mom and two uncles all rode together). I sobbed and sobbed, the way you do when you can't catch your breath. This kind woman in the parking garage offered to help me. So kind, so concerned. I thankfully declined, there wasn't anything she could do. I sobbed and moaned heavily on the car ride back to her house, and continued in her back yard. It took me quite a while to gather my composure. I didn't want to be a mess in front of her. I finally did, and went inside. She took the news with such grace and poise - as she handles most everything in life.

Over the past week, I've done a lot of thinking. A lot of my thoughts are selfish, wanting my grandmother to live forever in good health. But this is not reality, as harsh as it seems. And I am not the only person to go through this journey of greiving because a loved one has cancer. Instead of feeling sorry for myself (and this really is not about ME, it's about HER), I've decided to instead celebrate what life she does have left. It's how she's handling it, and the rest of us should, too.

Grandma is on an oral form of chemotherapy to keep the cancer's growth at bay. If the treatment works, she could have 1 - 2 years of life; if it does not, she will live only 4 - 6 months. But that is 4 -6 months longer than some people have to enjoy their loved one before they pass onto another life. I'm doing my best to be thankful for the time we do have.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Holiday Prime Rib

Christmas morning, I tried to sleep in a bit. Yeah right. Mr. Up Early, Always The Early Bird gets the Worm, aka, my husband said, "Get up we have work to do." And of course he said Merry Christmas too. So I rolled out of bed and threw on his bathrobe, it was handy. Yes, it's important you cook this in a bathrobe. :) In the past, I would probably have let vanity get in the way of me posting this less than attractive picture of myself. But now, I just laugh and say - not many women wake up looking as glamourous as when they are done up.

We roasted a 15-lb bone-in prime rib. I have to say, this was my first time with a prime rib. It's an expensive cut and I've never had a reason to roast one. Wow, it was the hugest hit on Christmas Day, and I'll be roasting another one soon for a dinner party. 

Prime Rib from Saveur
Nowadays, most meat markets sell standing beef rib roasts whose smaller connective bones—called the chine bone and the feather bones—have already been removed (the chine is often tied back on to protect the meat from the oven's intense heat), which makes the meat easier to carve and produces a more handsome roast. Some markets will even slice the meat off the rib bones and then tie them back on; we found that the roast came out juicier when the bones were left attached. Either way, be sure the roast is tied at intervals between the rib bones; otherwise the flavorful crust may peel away from the meat during roasting.

1 5-bone beef standing rib roast (10–12 lbs.),
chine bone removed and tied back on
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄2 tbsp. dry mustard, preferably Colman's (see
Canned Heat)
1 1⁄2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

1. Season beef with salt, including the rack of bones. Rub mustard all over beef; sprinkle with rosemary and pepper. Set the beef in a 12" × 14" roasting pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2–3 days.

2. Remove beef from refrigerator 3 hours before you are ready to roast it, to allow it to come to room temperature. Arrange rack in lower third of oven and heat to 450°. Roast the beef, rib side up, until it begins to brown and sizzle, 20–25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°; continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 120° (for medium rare), about 2 hours more. Transfer roast to a carving board and reserve any pan juices. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 25–30 minutes. Remove and discard chine bone. Carve roast (following steps in Carving Prime Rib) and serve with reserved pan juices.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blackberry Coffee Cake

A friend (from a former job) has a mother who is like Paula Deen. She can bake anything to absolute perfection and was so kind to bake for our office vultures (as I so kindly referred to my colleagues). There are recipes you make and enjoy, then quit making because you forget about them. This recipe does not fall into that category. This is one you will make time and time again, serving it proudly to dinner guests and whipping one up for neighbors and friends.

Blackberry Coffee Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour or 1 5/8 all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup blackberries, fresh, frozen or canned (well drained)

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Powdered sugar, to garnish

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Fold in sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Fold in blackberries. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Pour 1/3 batter in pan. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts for filling. Sprinkle first third of batter with half of filling, then add 1/3 more batter, remaining filling and remaining batter. Swirl gently with spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan. Remove from pan and sift powdered sugar over top. Serves 12 to 16.

There's friends, and then there's FRIENDS

Like my friend Carrie. Who amaze you with her generosity and kindness. What an incredibly thoughtful gift she gave me from Williams Sonoma. A paella pan, saffron, Spanish smoked paprika, Sivaras Bomba rice and gorgeous napkins.

Thanks Carrie - you are the sweetest! You MUST come over for paella!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Feeding mouths, nourishing bodies

I've taken an unexpected blogging break due to crazy holidays, the expected stress that comes with having 40 people for Christmas dinner and the hardest news to report that we just found out on Christmas Eve that my Grandma Marge has lung cancer. Nothing quite sucks the life out of you than hearing that horrid word, cancer. We aren't sure what stage or exactly what kind of lung cancer we are dealing with yet, but we will learn more tomorrow when we visit the oncologist.

What does this have to do with my food blog you might wonder. A lot. Feeding many people with an open kitchen is a virtue and art that I learned from my Grandma Marge. There is no friend or family member that knows Grandma who has not eaten numerous, numerous meals made from her own hands.

But now it's our turn. For our hands to cook and nourish her. Due to her cancer, she has lost 20 lbs. over the past 5 months or so, and I'm taking it on as my personal task to keep her nourished. As a small way of saying thanks for being my inspiration in not only the kitchen, but in life. She jokes and laughs that I'm "Meals on Wheels" - sure is good to know that cancer can take her health but not her sense of humor.