Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blackened Tilapia w/ Meuniere Sauce

Before going to New Orleans I thought for sure that Paris was the food mecca for a foodie-I was wrong. It is New Orleans hands down, without a doubt. This is my small tribute to the crescent city.

3 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp onion powder
3 Tbsp melted butter
4-5 oz tilapia fillets
3 tbsp canola oil
1 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup of stock
2 cup chilled butter chopped in small pieces
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
fresh ground black pepper

Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl, Dip fillets in melted butter and sprinkle with the blackening seasoning. Heat a heavy bottom pan over medium high heat, add oil. Gently place fish in the pan and saute for 4 minutes per side or when the fish begins to flake easily with a fork. Add more oil if necessary. If there is large amount of oil left in the pan discard most of it. Return pan to stove on medium heat add lemon juice and scrap brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add Worcestershire and stock and reduce to low. Start adding butter one piece at time whisking to incorporate with sauce. Remove from heat add parsley and pepper and serve with fish

Orange Hoisin Braised Thighs

Chicken thighs have always been a favorite of mine. They can tolerate high heat and being braised and still hold up. I use them all the time and they are always priced in my range. The chicken thigh has long been getting a bad rap; hopefully this recipe will do its image some good.

3 Lbs of chicken thighs w/ skin
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp of minced garlic
1 cup of orange juice
3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tsp sriracha
1/3 soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 med orange thinly sliced and quartered
1 Tbsp cilantro chopped
1 Tbsp green onion sliced

Pre- heat the oven to 375 degrees, heat a large skillet over medium high heat add oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, sauté thighs in hot oil until lightly browned on all sides about 10 minutes. Remove chicken, drain off all but 3 tablespoons of drippings. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned. Combine orange juice thru ginger bring up to boil add chicken thighs. Baste with sauce and put in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Baste every ten minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with cilantro and scallions. Serves three at about $1.76 per plate.

Garlic Lemon Pork Chops

You already know my love affair with butter; sometimes I think Paula Deen is some kin to me. But if I had to choose a runner up it would be garlic and lemon running a pretty tight race for second. Without saying garlic should be listed as a supper food. Its pungent aroma is only secondary to its ability to neutralize free radicals in the body. And lowering cholesterol, you see that balances out the butter. And the lemon from brightening up flavors to deglazing a pan, it also should be held in high regard. Now I don't know if it will help with the butter but they sure do taste well together.

3-1 inch thick pork chops
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
6 cloves of garlic-split
10 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup stock
black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Season chops with salt and pepper, heat sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Sauté chops for two minutes per side, remove from pan. Turn down heat to medium add garlic and thyme. Sauté for until the garlic is brown but not burned. Add remaining ingredients including chops baste with sauce and place in the oven 7-9 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for 4 minutes. Serve with garlic lemon pan sauce.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Turkey Bolognese with Spaghetti

Let's talk budget friendly and ease of preparation. Pasta and sauce, but for my fellow foodies who probe the internet recognition of there undying and justifiable search for their foodie badge 1st class, Spaghetti alla Bolognese. Traditionally a rich meat sauce or ragu, slow simmered to bring out the rich flavor of the vegetables and the meats. Adding cream and my favorite butter to provide a silky finish to an already divine sauce, while there are many versions floating around from the traditional to modern I have found this one to be my favorite. To stay true myself and my blog I use turkey, for affordability. Also these days I am trying to watch my girlish figure. But enough about me, to give more flavor in the way of fat I used one pound of turkey sausage which has fennel, sage and of course my favorite fat. Ground turkey is traditionally very dry so the extra fat will bring in moisture. So to my foodie nation I present Spaghetti Ala Bolognese or in the words of my daughter "Daddy, more spaghetti with sauce please". Kids, they will never understand my struggle.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion diced
1 med carrot diced
1 rib celery diced
1 med bell pepper diced
1 bay leaf/1 sprig of thyme
2 cloves of garlic minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground turkey sausage
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup of stock(warm)
3 Tbsp of heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
pinch of nutmeg
flat-leaf parsley chopped
Cooked spaghetti

Heat butter and olive oil in large pot. Add onion thru thyme and heat over medium-heat constantly stirring until translucent but not browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Then add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then add the turkey. Stir and break pieces up while you sauté until no pink is remaining. Add tomato paste and cooked for 2-3 minutes, followed with crushed tomatoes. Add wine and bring up to a boil, cook until almost evaporated about 3-4 minutes. Add warmed stock thru nutmeg reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half until reduced and thick. If it becomes too thick add more stock a quarter of cup at a time. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve over cooked spaghetti sprinkled with parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and French bread with you guessed it butter! This was $2.69 per plate what a deal, and I have leftovers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What is the deal with Stock?

And I am not talking about the stock associated with futures or bears and that stuff. I am talking about simmering bones, herbs and some vegetables to make the base for sauces and soups. Who makes their own stock these days? I do, I save bones and kitchen scraps. I mean if I had a compost pile I would toss them in. But my wife has a problem with animals that scurry about. But later for that, a good stock can be the difference between an average meal and great one. Great food starts out with the right ingredients and a good stock. That is what I think.

A stock, broth, fumet, and a consommé all start with bones. Bones can be roasted or just added to the water. When boiled the connective tissue breaks down to gelatin, which thickens the stock. If meat is used it is generally referred to as a broth.

There is also the addition of vegetables mostly carrot, celery, and onions. These are the classic combination but one could add leeks, ginger and mushrooms. Whatever combination serves your purpose. I always have a Ziploc bag of scraps in my freezer. When the bag is full I make stock, it is just that simple. I mean who is going to eat the carrot shavings and celery ends.

Herbs to me are glue that binds everything together. A classic ” bouquet garni” which is a bundle of herbs. I use parsley stems (kitchen scraps), bay leaves and some thyme sprigs, and a couple of black peppercorns. I put mine in cheesecloth and tie it up with butcher twine like a tea bag.

Stock is not and should not be Intimidating to the novice or expert. To me it is part of the growth of a foodie or a passionate home chef who loves to cook. You toss all the ingredients in a pot cover with water and bring up to a boil and then slowly drop to a simmer. You simmer after the first boil to keep it clear. Skimming occasionally also help keep the stock it clears. Cool it on the stove and then the fridge to skim the fat layer on the top. Store it 1 cup containers and label. Or store them in ice tray and freeze them individually. So I say in these harsh economic times spend wisely, take your lunch to work and make stock.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

This is a recipe I have been doing for some time now. It is a family favorite not only for its ease of preparation but it is a true budget friendly meal.

4 1/2 lb Chicken
2 tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chives, thyme
2 tbsp red wine vinegar, olive oil
1 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 large carrot halved
1 onion quartered
2 stalk of celery halved
4 cloves of garlic smashed
1/4 cup water and stock
1 tbsp of butter
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Starting at the neck, insert two fingers to gently loosen the skin from the breast to the drumstick. Combine the butter through the lemon zest in a food processor until finely ground. Rub the mixture under the skin of the chicken. Season the cavity of the bird with salt and pepper, stuff the vegetables inside. Truss (bind ) the bird, tie the ends of the legs together with twine, lift the wingtips over the back an tuck the tips under the string. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Insert an instant read thermometer in the center of the thigh muscle not touching the bone. Roast uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the thermometer is somewhere between 165-170 degrees. Remove from the oven and tent with foil for about 10 minutes. Pour off pan juices in a Ziploc bag in a measuring cup. Add the water and broth let stand for two minutes. Snip off a corner of the bag into a pan stopping before you get to the fat that has risen to the top. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat add butter to fortify and lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Stir in the thyme right before you serve. Remove vegetables from chicken and carve it. Serve with the sauce. Goes great oven roasted potatoes and a simple chopped salad with French bread.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blackened Tilapia with Dirty Rice

OK I am sure one can look at a meal like this and assume it took me forever to make. That would be wrong, and the price per person was pretty budget minded (hence the name of the blog). Tilapia is a relatively cheap fish that absorbs flavors very well. I am sure it will make many appearances throughout my blogging career. The sauce is a quick à la minute Meuniére sauce that was fortified with the blackened bits from the blackening seasoning. With the addition of stock, butter and little lemon juice and some parsley and you have a quick pan sauce to go along the dish. And the dirty rice you could always start chopping all of your vegetables (trinity) with garlic and well you know the rest. Or you can cheat and buy a box of dirty rice mix and add some sauté livers and gizzards with a little sausage. The fennel and sage in the sausage is an excellent combo with rice. And there you have it from start to finish it took me about 30 minutes from pan to plate. Budget cooking doesn't have to come out of microwave, with careful planning you can make a meal sing with flavor. Oh I forgot $11.48 divided by 4, that's $2.87 per plate. A person could get use to this kind budget cooking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken ,Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo

1/2 cup of cooking oil
6 Chicken Thighs,skin removed
1 lb Sausage(pref. Andouille)chopped
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups of chopped onions
1 1/2 cups of chopped bell pepper
and celery
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
Creole seasoning to taste
1 lb of shrimp(deveined and peeled)
Hot cooked rice(white or brown)
file powder(optional)
sliced scallions(optional)

Season chicken with salt and pepper and let stand for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a pot over high heat. Carefully add chicken to the pot and sauté until browned on both sides about 6 minutes per side. When browned remove from pot. Add sausage and quickly sauté for about 5 minute’s total, remove. Add flour to the oil adjust the heat to medium high in order not to overcook the roux. Stir constantly for twenty minutes to achieve a peanut butter color or longer for a chocolate colored roux (my personal favorite). This step is important because a roux will absorb the flavor so be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat to stop the cooking process and add the onions thru the cayenne pepper. Adjust the heat to low, cook over low heat until vegetables are soft about 15 minutes. Add the stock slowly and season with Creole seasoning. Taste and continue to adjust seasoning you may also want to add some Louisiana hot sauce. Add the chicken and the sausage to the pot and simmer on low for 40-45 minutes. Remove chicken and take the meat off the bone and return to the pot with shrimp and simmer for ten minutes. Recheck seasonings serve with rice. Garnish with scallions and filé powder, enjoy.


Friday, April 17, 2009

If I could live anywhere forever it would be..........

New Orleans without a doubt, with my hometown of Chicago coming in a close second. The Big Easy is a mecca for a foodie. Especially a foodie with a passion for all things southern. Even as I type this blog New Orleans still suffers the indignity of not getting a better response from the government and its citizens during Hurricane Katrina. With that being said residents of the Big Easy have found some sort of confidence and hope that further solidifies the fact that it is my new love affair. If it's not a Hurricane(The Famous Drink), the salty brine from a fresh oyster or a catfish po-boy, it is still a wonderful place to go and eat and relax. Thinking about New Orleans got me to make a steaming pot of Gumbo(I promise to post pictures and a recipe). I love the simple nature of a chocolate roux flavored with the trinity of celery, onions, and bell peppers. Some stock homemade of course, but in a pinch store bought is just as good. Some poultry,sausage a few herbs and you got it. Something so simple could change your outlook on the day. It is a wonder how people whose cuisine was influenced by Acadians,Spanish,African,French and Indian cultures remain so resilient. But I guess if you take all the struggles from all those cultures, the short comings they had to overcome, you may then understand and know New Orleans will rise again.

The Virgin Blog

Welcome to my blog about all things cooking. My goal with this blog is to inform you about my passion for cooking and trying new ingredients on my friends and family. I worked in a couple of restaurants during my time so I have picked a few tricks of the trade. I have also done catering work for both professional and private gathering. I am interested in your take on what a good food experience should be. As I said in the title I am a virgin to the blog scene but hope to pop my cherry on some good information on how you can develop your culinary skill. We all have some creativity hidden inside of us I just hoping to bring it out. Good luck and I hope to have a spirited conversation about my favorite time of the day,Breakfast , Lunch and Dinner.