Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gumbo Night

I know it's been a long time since my last post, but, you know, life.  I actually wouldn't even be making this post if it weren't for Robyn who sent me these pictures.  I figured "well hey, half the work is already done."

So earlier today I really started to have a hankerin for some gumbo.  The only problem was that I hadn't made gumbo in a very long time -- so what I did was, I googled it.  I looked at a lot of different ways of making gumbo and all different ways.  This is what I ended up doing:

I made a roux with vegetable oil.  I think normally I would have used butter, but I always hate how easy it burns.  Anyway, that's what I did, and got it as dark as I could stand before my arm almost fell off from stirring.

Once the roux was done, I started cooking up the rice as well as the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery.  While that was going I incorporated the chicken stock and the roux, and threw in some okra.  Then I added the sausage, and the trinity once it was cooked pretty good.

Then the spices:  oregano, cholula sauce, tony's creole seasoning, black pepper, parsley, and probably some other junk I can't remember right now.

At the last minute I threw in the shrimp.

OOOH WEEE that was some good old gumbo.  Here is the ingredients list:

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup regular white flour
8 cups of chicken stock
2 large sticks of celery cut into 1/2" pieces
2 bell peppers cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large onion cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 pound of okra cut into 1/2" pieces
1 pound andouille sausage (I used chicken ones *gasp*)
1 pound peeled and de-veined shrimp
2 cups uncooked rice
a bunch of spices, whatever you like, but you need parsley and definitely some spicy stuff.

This was enough for 5-6 people, with some people getting seconds.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Grandma Katie's Birthday Lunch! 2014

Yesterday was Grandma Katie's big birthday, so we decided to make her lunch!  I've been on this big love affair with brie lately, so I thought I would do something with that.

What I did was, I stacked up some sliced turkey (yes ladies, all organic, farm raised, each one had a human child as a best friend, etc), baked brie, mushrooms browned in butter, kale, and jellied cranberry sauce, into a sandwich role.  It turned out alright, but I think next time I will either get bigger bread, or less turkey -- it was difficult to eat with all that meat stacked up in there.

I really didn't know what time we were going to eat exactly, and I didn't want everyone to have to wait around while I cooked everything, so I did as much as I could before hand:

To prepare the rolls, I cut them in half (for sandwiches), and put them under the broiler to brown them.  This is similar to putting them on the grill.

To prepare the mushrooms, I melted butter in a pan on med-high.  Then placed the slices in the butter, but not all smashed up together.  If you want to cook mushrooms properly, you shouldn't smash them all up together.  Give them space.  Anyway, just a couple minutes on each side and they are ready to take off the heat and calm down.

To prepare the turkey, I just cooked the slices (they were pre-sliced from the deli) in that butter, then stacked it up by folding them in half, alternating each slice, about 5 high.  Look at the pictures to see what I mean.  Basically, you can't have all the folds on the same side, or else it will all tip over.  Anyway once that was ready I set it aside.

To prepare the brie, and I mean brie you buy in a circle from the store, just third (I had three people to feed) the whole thing (like a peace sign), then cut those in half so they are only half-thick.  I put one of those pieces on each of the stacks of turkey.  Look at the pictures, but basically you just have to make sure there is enough brie for each sandwich.

Also, a couple of other things you can do to prepare is set out the kale you will need for each sandwich, and get the cranberry sauce ready to go.

So after all that is ready, and people are about ready to eat, you throw the stacks of turkey with brie on top into the oven to melt the brie all over the place.  I think I had the oven on 300 or so -- and then in the end I blasted them with the broiler.  I love using the broiler.  One of the sandwiches was no-meat, so it was just a roll bottom with the brie on it.  So while that was going I put some cranberry sauce on the roll bottoms.

Once all the brie was gooey and ready, I pulled it out and put the stacks on the roll bottoms that were ready waiting with cranberry sauce on it.  Then on the other half, I stacked up the kale and mushrooms.  And there you have it.  I served them with some new beet chips they have at Publix -- here are the pictures!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lord of the Rings 60th Anniversary Dinner

Happy 60th, Lord of the Rings!

Yes, that is a Minas Tirith bookend

Tonight we celebrated the 60th anniversary of J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.  This book has been the cornerstone of all high fantasy, and the basis for most, if not all, fantasy games, literature, and video games since.  During and after serving in the English military during WWI, Tolkien re-imagined much of the horror, romance, and joy that accompanies such a voyage in his own world, which has come to inspire several generations to follow.  We celebrated this anniversary by having a LotR themed dinner party, inviting over my parents.  We had Shire Cottage Pie, Cold Ranger Chicken, Hobbiton Hot Wings, Troll-Meets-Sun Rock Biscuits, Huckleberry Ferry Salad, Bree-Land Ale, and Butter Pecan Pineapple Upside-Down One Ring to Rule Them All Cake with Mordor Ice Cream (plus toppings).

I made the Shire Cottage Pie, which I think was supposed to resemble actual cottage pie, which I had never made before.  So I winged it, due to working all day and not having a lot of time to plan this out.  That's one thing about me, I enjoy winging it in the kitchen.  So let's get started.

First thing, you need to chop up all the meat and veggies you are going to use.  For this, I used:

  • 1 medium bag of frozen mixed veggies (already chopped up!)
  • 1 plate of sliced up carrots (not sure how many carrots, Robyn and kids pre-sliced them)
  • 5 veggie burger patties (this is where you could sub in some meat if you want)
  • a bag of potatoes
  • Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic
  • butter
Start boiling your potatoes.  Meanwhile, cook your meats and veggies, so that in the end you have a nice mixed-up sort of pie filling.  If you don't know what I'm talking about -- go have a real Shepard's or Cottage Pie at an English restaurant to get the picture.  Basically, get a big pot, and start cooking the things that need more cooking first, then add as you go.  Use a lid to get more heat all around your food. Use generous amounts of butter -- this is where experience comes in; you don't want a big soupy mess, but you also don't want a dried out thing either. Luckily for me, I didn't have any meat to worry about -- the carrots took the longest, so I cooked them first, then the frozens, then the chopped up pre-cooked veggie burgers.  As this is finishing up, add the Worcestershire sauce and the rest of the seasonings.

By now, your potatoes should be done boiling, so drain and make mashed potatoes.  Butter, milk, seasonings as you like here.  I'm going to assume you know how to make mashed potatoes for crying out loud.

Grab a baking dish, preferably a deeper one like a big ole souffle dish, and add in your filling.  Cover with your mashed potatoes, then cheese.  Put in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.  

Just before serving, blast it with the broiler to brown the cheese, and serve.

Anyway, this is how I made it.  I know its not winning any awards, but I'll make it better next time, and then better still the time after that.

Here are some other pictures of the evening:

Audrey in her hobbit-cloak having some Shire Pie

From L to R: Robyn, Donovan, Audrey, Grandma Julie, Emily, Grandpa Dave, Aunt Carolyn

Grandma Julie with a very small serving of Butter Pecan Pineapple Upside-Down One Ring to Rule Them All Cake, with a small scoop of Mordor Ice Cream, caramel sauce, and a single peanut M&M.  Nice!

Up close single serving of Butter Pecan Pineapple Upside-Down One Ring to Rule Them All Cake with the caramel sauce topping.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Welcome & Breakfast Polenta

Hi and welcome to my new blog!  I'm going to mainly write about cooking at home, and using this to record and share my "recipes."  I used quotation marks around "recipes" because I don't normally write stuff down in the kitchen, and I rarely measure anything exactly -- that's one thing you have to know about me in the first place.  I think cooking is a great way to experiment, refine, and be creative.  So, if I do list any measurements, it's just for some degree of reference, not an exact thing.

This morning I thought I might make some polenta for breakfast.  The kids had never had it before, and I know its one of Robyn's favorites.  Another thing you will come to find out -- Robyn has a lot of top 5 favorites.  If you don't know, Robyn is my wife.  So I had some of these little onions left over from a spicy curry coconut milk soup I made last night, and I thought the sweetness of these cooked onions might go really well with the corn polenta.  That's another thing about me -- every once in a while I come up with a pretty good idea about flavors going together.

Okay so let's get started.  The first thing you do is make some polenta.  In my case, I had to make enough for 4-5 people.  If you don't know, here are the steps to make polenta if you don't want to follow the directions on the package:

  1. Boil water.  The amount will depend on how much polenta you want to make.  The good news is -- you can't screw this ratio up, because if it turns out you need more polenta or water, just add it.  So just eyeball it and move on.  One more thing about me -- I am a firm believer in cooking decisiveness.  Sometimes mistakes lead to something even better than what you originally had planned.
  2. Put some salt in there.  The same way you do for pasta.  This might not really do anything, might just be some old cooking voodoo, I don't know.  Just put some salt in there.
  3. Now that the water is really boiling, take it off the heat.
  4. Stir in the polenta until it doesn't look too watery anymore.  This is the critical moment where you can screw up the whole thing.  Don't just dump all your polenta in the water and leave it to go find a spoon to stir with or anything.  Have your spoon ready to go in one hand, and pour with the other while you stir.  Stop adding when you don't see a bunch of juicy water slashing around anymore -- leave some room because it will thicken up.  Like I said in #1, if it gets too thick, just add more water.
So at this point the polenta is still really hot and retains heat very well on account of it just being ground up corn, so it is ideal to cook some vegetables in without overcooking them.  This is where I added:

  • 2 cups of cut up mushrooms
  • 2 cups of cut up onions into really small pieces
  • 1 cup of grated parmeasean cheese
  • salt/pepper
Stir all that in, then cover it up and let it sit.  You can add whatever you want -- bell pepper is great, eggs, 7 cheese blend, what ever you think might be good.  Be creative.

Meanwhile, using a pan and some vegetable oil, I browned up some diced chicken sausage for the meat-eaters.  Add this in after the non-meat-eaters get their bowls scooped up.

It's time to eat!  Once you bowl it, go ahead and add some Cholula hot sauce & parsley if you're feeling hot or fancy.  Or both.

Sorry for the crumby picture -- my official photographer (Robyn) hasn't started yet :)