Monthly Archives: September 2010

Prepare to walk the plank!!

“Salmon are like men; too soft a life is not good for them.” –  writer James de Coquet

So me hearties, we have run aground at the next item on our list: salmon on a plank.   And it’s easy and beautiful…smooth seas ahead.  Arrgghh!!

Annnnnnd that’s probably enough pirate speak.

The main prep for this dish involves acquiring a plank.  I’ve seen planks for sale at cooking stores, but got a tip from a friend that you can just get a scrap of cedar cut at your local lumberyard.  I tried to do this, but was ignored by men working (but that’s a rant for another time)  I actually found pre-cut planks in the grilling section at that lumber store (insert rant here).

Of course after this ordeal, I realized they actually sell planks AT the seafood counter of my local flyover grocery.  Which is impressive.  See them stacked on top of the case?

Planks....no lumberyard required.

Your plank gets soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before use.  This keeps it from charring too much on the grill.

Walking, er, soaking the plank

Now onto the salmon.  I went with a sustainably caught wild salmon, which most agree has better flavor and is better for you than farm raised salmon.    Also, I think it was the single most beautiful thing I have ever bought at the grocery store.  I mean, look at this:

Check out this watery maiden!

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Easy Peasy- Ad Hoc Soup

“Soup is cuisine’s kindest course.” – Waldorf Astoria Chef, Louis P. De Gouy, in ‘The Soup Book’

Today is officially the first day of fall (yesterday having been the autumnal equinox-nerd alert!) and I think our taste buds are ready for the transition. So, it finally seems seasonally appropriate to blog about soup.  As opposed to when I MADE the soup and it was 80° out.  Lesson learned.

Repeat after me: “Seasonally appropriate”.

Split pea soup is one of the things I hated when I was young and have grown to appreciate.  Great split pea is creamy, but thick and with a touch of smokiness from the ham.  I found this recipe from Bon Appetit on Epicurious.com that seemed straightforward and classic.  And we’re off….

The basic ingredients are pretty friendly: onions, carrots, celery, and butter.  But you also need pork hocks and split peas.  Um, ok…two new ones for me.  I found split peas with the rice at my grocery store.  They come in a bag and honestly cost like $1. They are dried peas that have been, well split.  Check and check.

I had noticed pork hocks on the top shelf of the meat case before.  They look like a big, tapered bones with a opening at one end.  Mine came two in a pack.  A little scary…but so delicious.  Sidenote: “hock” just sounds hearty, don’ t you think?  When I say it out loud I think my voice even gets a little lower.  Like a woodsman or something.

I don’t really know what a woodsman is.

Ingredients...check out that pork hock!

Back to the soup.  Melt your butter and toss in the chopped veggies.  Once they are soft, in goes the marjoram and then add the pork hocks.

Veggies and pork hock

So, you could say that last step was ad hocYES– my first lawyer/food pun!   So, after a minute add the water (I used 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 water) and bring it all to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook, cook, cook.

After an hour cooking

The peas and other veggies will be falling apart by this point.  Remove the hock and set aside.  The recipe calls for pureeing the soup in a blender, but I like to use an immersion blender, which blends right in the pot.  Anything that keeps me from having to move around batches of hot liquid is a good thing.  Trust me.

Blend the soup to desired consistency.  I only partially blended it, because i like my soup to have a little more texture.  Totally personal preference:

Partially blended soup

Next the pork gets cut off the hock (woodsman voice) and goes back into the soup.

Delicious salty, smoked pork!

And we’re ready to serve.  TA-DA!!

Mmmmm..perfect for August weather! (shakes head)

The soup was fan-tastic.  Cooking with the bone adds a richness and a little smokey flavor.  And the pureed peas are a nice smooth texture with the ham.  And it was pleasantly salty, but it seems creamy from the blending of the veggies.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: I made “real” soup.  I mean…this is as hearty and homemade tasting as it gets.  Cooking with the “leftover” bones imparts a richness that you just can’t get otherwise.  Save the leftovers next time you make a ham….trust me on this one.

Oh, and we have a quart of split pea soup in the freezer becuase the day after I made this it was 91°.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Now it’s a real Cajun party: Gumbo

“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.”
– Julia Child

Gumbo + turducken = Party!  So dust off those beads and pour yourself a hand grenade.

My trusty co-chef and I decided that we should serve something along with the turducken, in case anyone “doesn’t want to eat frankenbird” (direct quote).  Hence, part of our multi-day poultry/Everest marathon included a pot of homemade gumbo.

I found this recipe from Epicurious for Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Gumbo.  Reading the comments, I discovered that the recipe yielded FAR beyond the 16 servings it described, which seemed just right for our group of 30+.  Plus, you can make the base the night before and then finished as the turducken was finishing.  Excellent.

Like most Cajun/Creole cooking, you start with a roux.  A roux is basically cooking flour in oil and stirring constantly until it turns a dark reddish brown.   Be patient…this process is the essence of Creole/Cajun cooking.  And it’s a cool process at that…flour and oil change into a dark, thick paste.  Roux has a hearty smell to it, adding depth, body, and little spiciness to the base of your gumbo.

Into the roux go all your chopped vegetables: onions, celery, bell peppers.  Stir to coat with the roux and cook until soft.

Action photo!!

Now the seasoning: garlic, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves and wine.  And of course, you only use 1 cup of wine which equals wine leftovers.  Wine leftovers = the best leftovers.

Add the canned tomatoes along with their liquid, chicken broth, and the cut chicken and andouille sausage.   The recipe calls for clam juice, but I could not find it ANYWHERE. I added extra broth.  Oddly enough, clam juice is an ingredient that pops up in recipes every so often and I. Am. Stumped. Anyone have suggestions?

Keep simmering and stirring until the chicken is cooked and then add the okra.  This recipe called for two bags of frozen okra.  I was holding my breath when I walked down the frozen food aisle at the flyover grocery store.  WOO!!  There it was…top shelf in a corner: frozen okra!!  Dump in the okra and cook for about ten minutes.

That is A LOT of gumbo!

Two things to note about the above picture.  1) That is a 15 quart stockpot.  Yeah…they weren’t kidding about this making a lot of gumbo.  2) The clock on the stove says “12:03”.  Yes, that is 12:03AM.  I was cooking gumbo at midnight.

At this point, we let the gumbo cool while we cleaned up the kitchen.  Then the pot got covered and stashed in the fridge overnight.  While I have no scientific evidence to back this up, I think  sitting overnight always makes these kinds of dishes better.

So just in time for the Turducken Cajun Extravaganza, the pot goes back on the stove and some more andouille sausage and the shrimp get added, let it simmer a bit and:

Party in a Pot!

Seriously, tell me that is not the fullest pot ever!  So. Much. Gumbo.Serve it over some steamed rice and your good to go.

So how was it?  I have it on good authority that it was delicious.  A new flyover friend and recent transplant from Alabama acted as our official taste-tester.  His verdict: “It tastes like good gumbo”.  Wooooo!!!

Smile = relief that everything fit in the pot!

Who’s ready for some gumbo!?  All in all, not a difficult dish to make.  Just take your time with the roux and maybe get some help chopping the 22 CUPS of vegetables.  Oh, and enlist an army of friends to help you eat the stuff.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: Learning what actually goes into gumbo.  Obviously, there are a million variations, but it always seemed like an intimidating recipe from another style of cooking.  It was a happy surprise to learn that at any given time, I probably have 85% of the ingredients on hand.

So make up a pot for your next gathering, add a couple of those mixed Hand Grenades and make it a party.

Just remember: eat first, then hand grenades.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Conquering the Poultry Leviathan: Turducken

“Well, we knocked the bastard off !” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Alright loyal eaters, we’ve arrived at the mother lode of food preparation on the list of 30: the turducken.  We’re talking about 35 pounds of poultry layered like delicious nesting dolls of meat and stuffing.  But brace yourself, the preparation is not pretty.  Or brief.  So you might need snacks for this post.  Actually, skip the snacks and just get a beer.  I will do my best to keep the pictures tasteful and the steps  concise.

Put on your mountain climbing face…turducken is the Everest of the poultry world.

Step 1. Hire a sherpa: Read your recipe (over and over) and plot a strategy.

I got a little help with this challenge.  A friend had convinced me to include turducken on my list, with the promise that he would help me my first go around.  He was the Tenzing Norgay to my Hillary.

Per my friend’s suggestion, we used Paul Prudhomme’s recipe for turducken.  The recipe is incredibly thorough and has ALL the ingredients and steps listed, including for the stuffing(s).  Yes, plural.  Also, the final item on the ingredient list IS  “1 small hammer”.  I warned you it wasn’t pretty.

I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the recipe, but you can see the whole thing here.  I read this recipe over and over in the days before cooking so I would have a big picture idea of the whole process and so I wouldn’t panic from the altitude (altitude/butchering).

Step 2. Assemble your climbing gear: Shop for ingredients and order your birds.

We ordered the birds from a specialty deli and had them defrosted on site.  If you’re local, B&B Deli is the way to go.  Plus, while we were waiting for our birds (and lunch!), I got an appetizer.

A little appetizer while waiting to pick up the turkey.

And yes, that’s a piece of deep fried bacon.  They have EVERYTHING at B&B and it’s locally sourced, nose to tail.  I even spotted the elusive sweetbreads in a freezer case.  Also, I knew we were in the right place when I spotted this:

These guys don't mess around

Step 3. Map out the climb: Set your plan of attack.

The turducken party was set for a Saturday evening.  So, I made the stuffing on a Thursday night, Friday evening was reserved for assembly, and the “bird” cooked for about 8 hours on Saturday.  Yes…that’s three days total.   Take the time to develop your strategy and set up your base camp before you head to the summit.

As my counterpart said, “Turducken is less like cooking and more like staging a military invasion.”

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Friday Hot Dish – 9/10

Welcome to the Friday HOT DISH!

This week is especially hot as we celebrate the start of a new food season.  That’s right everyone…its tailgate time!  Pack up the cooler and don’t forget the sauerkraut- here’s today’s HOT DISH!

1. During the lunch hour I received a text from the Handsome Husband saying he had “picked up a pack of Wisconsin Supper Club”.   It was both cryptic and very intriguing.  A little searching and I found this lovely flyover brew from Capital Brewery in Madison, Wisconsin.  If the name means anything it will pair well with your Friday Fish Fry or those brats you’re grilling on Saturday.

2. Don’t know what a supper club is?  I’m here to help.  If you live in flyover country, you’ve probably been to one without even knowing it.  Growing up, the flyover parent’s had a favorite one and yes, I remember live music and dancing there. And we’re talking foxtrotting…Real dancing.

Check out this cool article from Heavy Table about this Midwestern landmarks.  Supper Clubs Revisited.

3. Forget Eat, Pray, Love.  How about Peace, Love, Fondue?  This Saturday is Fondue Fest in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  In addition to eating your weight in melted cheese, you can spot the world’s largest fondue pot.  Just remember, if you lose the bread off your fork, you have to kiss the person to your right.  Check out http://www.fonduefest.com for details.

4. No offense to the rest of the world, but the World Cup’s got nothin’ on American Football season.  And football without tailgating is like Thanksgiving with a tofurkey.  There are a million tailgating websites out there including Tailgate.com, which is hosted by its own commissioner.  But check out the tailgate recipe collection at FoodNetwork.

I would like to make tequila bars to go with the 1238930 hot dogs I will eat this season. YUM. And in case you’ve forgotten this recipe, here you go.  You’re welcome.

Enjoy all the glorious American fun as you cheer on your team this weekend.

And don’t let me catch you putting ketchup on your brat.  Heathen.

xoxo The Flyover Foodie

GO CYCLONES!!