Monthly Archives: August 2010

Friday (the 13th!) Hot Dish

And here we are already: Friday!  Grab that embarrassing personal fan, the heat index is 110°…it’s time for the Friday HOT DISH!

1. It’s officially here: The Iowa State Fair and all its deep fried, lemonade shaken, on-a-stick glory. It even earned a spot in 1,000 Things to See Before You Die! After you conquer that Octodog, make a note on your calendar, do some research on TripAdvisor, and make the pilgrimage to one of these crazy food-centric events.

Um, How did I NOT know about the Cheese Curd Festival!?!  World’s Weirdest Food Festivals

2. Are you eating your lunch?  No?  Ok.  Then you can read the rest of this story.  Apparently there was a big fuss on YouTube over a video of a chef um, licking a toad.  Sounds like a “Jackass” skit, except, oooppppss:  He was in the kitchen…of a restaurant.  (insert gagging here)  The Health Department didn’t think it was too funny.  Read the story here.  Chef in Hot Water

3. It’s sort of a running joke in flyover country that if you plant zucchini in your garden, you’ll be sick of the stuff come late summer.  I remember my mom bringing home bags of it from overwhelmed coworkers. We, sadly,  don’t have this problem as our garden has yielded plenty of tomatoes but approximately ONE squash.  Anyway….here is a list of zucchini uses to make use of a bumper crop, some are really clever.  Zucchini carpaccio anyone?  An Overabundance

4. I love trivia.  Stumbled across this Foodie Quiz archived over at the Chicago Tribune.  See how you measure up and take the quiz here.   I bet you’ll be surprised by how much you know!

Sidenote: any of you intrepid eaters ever tried sweetbreads?  They’re ALWAYS on “Iron Chef America” and I’ve been intrigued for years. Anyone?

5. On a serious note, please keep us in Flyover Country in your thoughts….and pray for a sunny end to the summer!  No More Rain

Happy Friday!

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. I’ve had a few of you ask if I’m on track to finish the list.  YES- I AM ON SCHEDULE!!  While next week may be rather decadent eating in the Flyover house, I am on schedule to get through all 30 dishes!  I apologize for the lag time between cooking/posting about a dish, but it will be a busy week here next week.

On deck: Tiramisu, Red Velvet Cake, Coq au Vin, Crown Roast, and homemade pasta with Bolognese ragu.  Mmmmm….get ready for it!

Headin’ South

“Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke.” – Joliet Jake, The Blues Brothers

There are a few things I don’t understand about Southerners.  I love the south and know some fantastic folks who whistle Dixie: my sister in law is the sweetest Southern girl ever and we have a best friend from law school who is a credit to to the South.

BUT, despite these friendly North/South relations, a few “Southern” things remain a mystery to me.  An abbreviated list:

1. Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast.

2. How are those drive through margarita places POSSIBLY legal?!?

3. Okra.

4. “A Coke” vs. A soda or pop.   I don’t say “I’ll have a beer” and then order the Chardonnay.  (shakes head)  Agree to disagree.

5. And a recently uncovered mystery: how do Southerners keep their homes from smelling like a diner for days after frying chicken?

Lingering smells of oil aside, fried chicken was pretty fun and it’s easy.  I followed the recipe in ye ol’ Joy of Cooking, but its a pretty basic process, even for someone like me with really no knowledge of frying.

Step 1: Marinate Chicken overnight.  I used salt, pepper, and buttermilk and a mixture of drumsticks and thighs.  I have a picture of the chicken marinating that I was going to insert here, but honestly, it was sort of scary looking.  And you all know what raw chicken looks like.

Moving on….

Step 2. Dredge chicken in egg and then in flour.   Note: when I make fried chicken again, I will try a different breading material.  The flour was good, but it absorbs quite a bit of oil.  Anyone have suggestions?

Step 3: Fry on each side until brown, about 6 minutes or so.  Make sure your oil isn’t too hot, or you’ll only cook the outside.  Only cooking outside = unhappiness inside.

Last one in's a chicken!!

You can put in several pieces at once, cooking in batches.

Into the vat of liquid hot magma

And flip to the B Side

Step 4: Let cool slightly.

Step 5: Plate and eat.

Easy summer dinner

Step 7 (optional): Take leftovers, cold, to Shakespeare in the Park.  Watch for looks of envy from other picnickers.   Enjoy the charmingly retro delight of eating a cold fried chicken drumstick on a picnic.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: This fried chicken was nothing like mass produced, dry fried chicken you might encounter elsewhere.  It was tender, moist, and soft.  It tasted deliciously chicken-y….a taste you often lose in other cooking methods.  I think these Southerners might be on to something…..

So open the windows, run your exhaust fan**, and fry yourself a picnic treat before summer is over!  The smell will dissipate in a few days.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

** Skip the exhaust fan if it terrifies your pup and sends her into hiding under the bed for several hours.

I Think You Can in Europe

I have had different reactions to the recipes I’ve checked off the list thus far.  In some cases I’ve been underwhelmed,  (I’m looking at you, curry chicken).  In other cases, I have been pleasantly overwhelmed by the results (beef wellington!  Chicago Pizza!).

But polenta left me just whelmed.

In part, I blame Giada.  Her Everyday Italian cookbook has three different recipes for polenta.  So I figured, it has to be great.  At the same time, I knew it was simple, so it wasn’t going to blow my mind or anything.

Cornmeal and a Whisk...about all you need

Polenta is made by continuously whisking cornmeal and water over heat until its soft and thickened.   I remember watching this special episode of Iron Chef America where Mario Batali was on a team with Rachel Ray.  One of their menu items was polenta and Rachel Ray was confined to a single burner, endlessly stirring for the better part of the episode.  I found this strangely gratifying.

I love this picture....maybe the cornmeal was haunted!! OOOOooooOOOO

Anyway, you stir and stir and stir and cook until the cornmeal is tender.  Once cooked, I added cream, butter, and Gorgonzola cheese since I was serving as sort of a potato substitute alongside steaks with balsamic vinegar.  Stir to melt the cheese and that’s it.

The polenta was, well, fine.  The cheese was sharp and it was creamy and filling.  But Giada just seemed to promise me so much more which her description of the warm comforting goodness of an Italian staple.    Handsome Husband responded with a “It’s cornmeal…what were you expecting.” (shrugs shoulders)

Hence, I was whelmed.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: Meh.

We did determine that my polenta undertaking cost about $1.00, so I guess polenta has that going for it.  The low cost endeavor is a sharp contrast to this weekend’s Crown Roast Affair  (ahh, a clue!!), which requires some investment.   Apparently I also decided that investment = a title: A Crown Roast Affair.  Sounds very cosmopolitan.

See you on Monday,

xoxo The Flyover Foodie

p.s. Bonus points if you know the movie source of today’s blog title!

Polenta on FoodistaPolenta

Friday Hot Dish 8/6

Welcome to the 2nd edition of our new favorite feature:

The Friday Hot Dish!

1. This may be redundant, since last week I was counting down to devouring a Octo-dog at the State Fair.   BUT the photos in this slide show literally made my stomach growl earlier this week.  Really…my boss even heard it!  Add an extra 15 minutes to today’s workout: you’re gonna need it. Festival Favorites

2. It’s official: the price of bacon is going up and up.  Yes, it is sweltering here in the Midwest, but I think it might be a Congressional conspiracy to get us to “eat better”.  And don’t even think about substituting turkey bacon in your recipes…it won’t work.  I’ve tried.  Price of Bacon Goes Up

3. ANOTHER new cooking competition show debuted last week: Fox’s new “Master Chef” hosted by Gordon Ramsey (who I love) puts chefs before a discerning panel of judges.  I haven’t watched the show yet…I already have enough food competition shows lined up on my dvr list. (Chopped, Top Chef, Iron Chef America!) But the real question is: which tv chef would you want to learn from?  10 TV Chefs

My pick: Alton Brown.  Love that guy!  Just keep Rachel Ray and her EVOO far from my zip code, thankyouverymuch.

4. Even though mustard is my nemesis, I will still give credit where it is due:  Tomorrow, head to Middleton, Wisconsin to the National Mustard Museum to celebrate National Mustard Day!! The museum has more than 5,000 kinds of mustard from around the globe.   I would recommend NOT wearing white…trust me on this one.   National Mustard Museum

5. I know, I know: we’re landlocked here in Flyover Country, but we’ve got our share of non-coastal beaches.  Check out this great article on the top Midwestern beaches before you plan your last few summer weekends.  Yes, I just wrote the phrase “Midwestern beaches”…..just go with it.  Labor Day road trip anyone?  Top Midwestern Beaches

6. This week cannot pass without me mentioning Shark Week.  I can’t quite figure out the appeal of spending a full week watching sharks attack mammals of various sizes, but it is addicting.  I’ve fully recovered from watching “Jaws” at a tender age (nice parenting, Dad!!) but this video might set me back a couple years.  Apparently, they jump:  South African Great Whites

Watch for a bonus weekend post, coming soon.  Happy Friday!!

xoxo Flyover Foodie

A dinner for Shepherds, or Lumberjacks, or the English

“No soldier can fight properly unless he is properly fed on beef and beer.” – Duke of Marlborough

Sunday night I welcomed the Handsome Husband home from his annual foray into the wilderness, where he was hunting bear and eating bark and channeling Bear Grylls.  He usually returns home looking like a lumberjack.  And he tries to tempt me with stories of pristine wilderness and mist covered lakes.  I will not be fooled into joining him.  But I digress.  I figured something hearty and home-style would be a nice treat to welcome him back to civilization.  And coax him into shaving.

Shepherd’s pie fit the bill.

Just like a Shepherd's pantry

Shepherd’s pie is an English favorite, served in pubs all over their craggy hillsides.  A filling is made of ground meat, cooked with vegetables and lots of seasoning in a deep pie dish.  Then the “crust” of mashed potatoes goes on top.   There are easy recipes for the pie here and here and here.  All have subtle variations, but the same general assembly and methods.

Disclaimer: For those keeping score, Shepherd’s Pie is actually made with ground lamb, therefore I technically made “Cottage Pie”, which is the same thing just using beef instead of lamb.

I began by making mashed potatoes: boiling, draining, adding cream and butter, and mashing.   Tip: this recipe would be a FANTASTIC way to used leftover mashed potatoes.  If you’re like me, you have trouble making leftover mashed potatoes re-edible.  Shepherds probably have this same problem.

Next up is the filling. Cook the onion and carrots until softened then add the garlic.  The ground meat goes in next and you cook until browned.  Toss this mixture with some flour to help thicken the sauce.  Now all the flavor: rosemary, thyme, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste.

Cook for 10 minutes or so and then add the peas and corn.  And into the baking dish it goes.

The filled pie

Now the filling gets covered with the mashed potatoes.  The potatoes go all the way over the edges to seal in the filling so it doesn’t bubble over.  Of course mine bubbled over anyway.  Bake at 400° for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes have started to brown.  Let the pie sit and cool for a full 10 minutes.  This ensures that the sauce inside will thicken nicely.

And the Shepherd's rejoiced and brought glad tidings of savory meats

The classic seasonings of rosemary and thyme made a savory sauce of familiar meat-and-potatoes flavors.  The pie was delicious and like many items on the list, made easy lunch leftovers.  I added a little sour cream on top when I reheated for lunch at work, which was fabulous.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: The concept of this dish is easily applicable to numerous different meat and veggie combinations.  Hello, day-after-Thanksgiving dinner!

Enjoyed by the Handsome Husband...who did look rather shepherd-like at the time

I cannot confirm whether the pie is best enjoyed on a hillside, but I can see why the English, both shepherds and “regular” English, flock to this dish.  Simple ingredients. Familiar flavors.  Perfect on a rainy day.

Btw- The “flock” pun above was totally unintentional.  Even better.

xoxo Flyover Foodie