Monday, November 30, 2009

Hot Tamales For Dinner

It’s time for a break from Thanksgiving left-overs, so it was something different for dinner last night.

Over in Knoxville, there is a very small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant with maybe six seats, but a good take-out business. Inside is a little old lady from the Mississippi Delta Region who is hand-making Hot Tamales and we just happened to have a package in the freezer.

When she told me where she was from, I had two thoughts – the Mississippi Delta is in Louisiana and tamales in Mississippi? As it turns out she wasn’t speaking of the Mississippi River delta but rather the delta region of the State of Mississippi. Being the geography buff that I am, I came home and did some research. Here’s some info from Wikipedia –

“The Mississippi Delta is the distinct northwest section of the state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. Technically not a delta but part of an alluvial plain, it has been said that the Delta "begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel (in Memphis) and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg. Created by regular flooding over thousands of years, this region is remarkably flat and contains some of the most fertile soil in the world. The river delta at the mouth of the Mississippi lies some 300 miles south of this area, and is referred to as the Mississippi River Delta. The two should not be confused, as may happen in some media references or casual conversation.”

Then she told me that hot tamales (she never just said tamales) are big in the delta region and she’d been making them her entire life. Rather than being made in corn husks, hers are rolled in paper and tied with string at both ends and in the middle. She suggested standing them on end in a pot with a little water and steaming until hot, then unwrapping and toping as desired.

I just unwrapped them and warmed in the microwave. I then topped with some homemade chili, chopped onions, and shredded Cabot Sharp Cheddar. Here’s the pic of the bare unwrapped hot tamales and my plated meal.

They were very good and a nice change from turkey and such. Now I'm ready for more leftovers.

Have a great day and I like your comments.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homemade Turkey Broth

We use a lot of chicken broth in our cooking and make as much as we can from unused chicken pieces, but have never tried using a turkey carcass – although I know many people do. After Thanksgiving dinner at the suggestion of one of our guests, I tossed into a 16 quart pot the body carcass including seasoning vegetables, leg, thigh and wing bones, skin, unused pan drippings, giblet broth and anything else that would make broth. I covered it all with water added the lid, put it on our lowest fire and cooked it until 10am Friday morning.

We took out the chunks, poured it through a strainer and ended up with 7½ quarts of rich turkey broth for the freezer. We also got some meat for the dogs and put less than normal in the trash – the dogs wanted the scraps bad but they don’t get poultry bones. This will be a standard operating procedure around here from now on – it was super easy and only cost a little heat and a few plastic bags.

Come Christmas, I may even go around to the neighbors and solicit they're carcasses - heck, I may even go into the brine business - whoa, I'm getting out of control here. I didn’t take any pics as I didn’t think a big pot of bones or broth would impress anyone.

Have a great day and I really enjoy your comments.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another Stack Em UP Meal

Inspired by a dish my sister-in-law saw Rachael Ray prepare, Bev whipped up this breakfast from Thanksgiving leftovers – all I had to do was snap a few pictures and enjoy eating it. She pattied out some mashed potatoes – nothing else added - made a patty from dressing and fried them in olive oil along with a sunny side up egg.

Then she stacked them up ala Chez and it was delicious. She wanted to sprinkle some chopped parsley on top, but I’d tossed it during a kitchen clean up frenzy.

I finally got around to eating my Thanksgiving dessert last night as I had nothing but pie for dinner. I ate all of the cherry, half of the pecan and a small piece of the pumpkin – all were excellent and this is the first pumpkin pie I've eaten that rivaled my mother's.

Have a great day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chez Inspired Lunch & Smoked Turkey

We had a food line for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with 9 or 10 choices, not counting dessert. When I went thru the line I filled my plate with the items I really like and those we don’t eat often. So for yesterday, it was a little turkey, big servings of mashed potatoes and dressing, all with gravy and a couple of homemade hot rolls. I did go back and got a wee taste of the other stuff and completely passed on dessert. I was two busy to take any pictures – I even smoked a turkey for a friend, took several pics of the initial process, then forgot the finished pics. I decided to post them anyway just to give you the beer can idea. Here are the ingredients, less the olive oil.

I rubbed it with oil and gave it a light coat of rub – Billy Bones said he spills more on his shoes than I put on my meat. I emptied the beer can, cut off the top, put the veggies and herbs in, and returned about 12 ounces of the beer to the can. I cut the excess neck skin off before I decided to do it beer can style so I had to do a little toothpick sewing to close the top hole – this is a must or the flavorful steam you’re creating in the can will just come out the hole rather than go into the meat.

What happened to the rest of the beer? It’s a little early, but Fosters is too good to not use appropriately.

I put it in the smoker about 8:30 am at a temp of about 310*, then ran it up to 325*, but it was cooking too fast so I dropped the pit temp to 275*. I started the process thinking in terms of 15-20 minutes per pound, but it cooked much faster. It finally dawned on me that steaming the inside with the beer can significantly speeded up the process - so think in terms of about 10 minutes per pound at 300*.

While I didn't get any finished pics, it was a darker version of the raw picture. The friend I cooked it for made my day today when she described it as awesome, very moist, best turkey ever.

And now back to lunch. One of my favorite blogs is created by Chef Chez John and one of the things I like is the way he stacks things up to create a meal. So I decided to try it for lunch today using my favorites from yesterdays dinner. I reheated the components individually in the microwave then put down the split-in-half rolls and covered with a thin layer of gravy. I topped with a layer of chopped turkey, a layer of stuffing, the mashed potatoes and then more gravy. Here's the result and I'm having the same thing for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow.

I grew up eating cooked-in-bird stuffing rather than baked in a pan dressing and I still prefer the moist consistency of it. However, I worry about getting the stuffing to the correct temperature without making the bird dry – which I hate to do. We had this Slow Cooker Chicken Stuffing recipe show up in the newspaper and decided to try it to see if it would have the cooked-in-the-bird moistness. I’m delighted to report it does and it was a big hit with everyone but Bev, who grew up on the baked-in-a-pan kind and likes the crust on top. I will definitely use it again and here’s the recipe.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stuffing
Serves 10

1 whole Chicken, cooked, boned, and chopped
6 oz pkg Cornbread stuffing mix
1 large Onion, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
3 ea Eggs, beaten
10 oz can Cream of mushroom soup, reduced fat
2 cups Chicken broth, reduced sodium
1-1 ½ tsp Poultry seasonings
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
2 tbsp Butter, cut into small pieces

1. Grease a 3 ½ to 4 quart slow cooker
2. Combine first 10 ingredients, transfer to slow cooker and top with butter.
3. Cook covered on high for 3 hours – do not remove lid.

What a great Thanksgiving we had with family and friends and words can't describe all I have to be thankful for. Larry

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Homemade Mustard

Welcome Fiddler.

I made up another batch of mustard the other day and varied the mustard seed a little. This time I used more yellow and less brown seeds to determine the difference in taste and heat level so I’ll know which I like best. See October 28 for the original mustard making details and recipe. This time I used one part brown and two parts yellow seeds. The new batch definitely is more yellow and has more of a yellow mustard flavor, but I couldn’t tell much difference in heat level – but I believe the first one has mellowed some since it was first made. The new one is on the left.

Summary – couldn’t tell a difference in heat level but the new one has a more yellow mustard taste and yellow color.

I think I'll stick with the first one , but our friend Kathy prefers the second one. Whichever you prefer, if you like something other than French's yellow, it's too easy to make your own and work to perfect the recipe that's perfect for you. Just go to Penzey's and order some seed, then experiment - my next one will be a Dijon type when I find a recipe.

Have a great day and I love to get comments.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Deal On Shrimp Too

The same day Bev bought the strip steaks in yesterdays post, she discover 16-20 count shrimp for $4.99/lb and bought a couple bags of them as well – and it was a Wednesday so she got the additional 5% discount just for being old - Krogers has a 5% senior citizen discount on Wednesday. She decided on shrimp for dinner last night and when I suggested grilling them with a garlic butter baste, she advised it was fried shrimp and hushpuppies she had in mind – sounded like a winner to me.

I didn’t want to trash the stove so I did the deep frying on the grill side burner and I had one of the grill burners on low to use it as a warming oven.

First up were the hushpuppies, which for us are unsweetened. We were going to try a new recipe but Bev got home late so we had the old standby –which are very good.

2 cup self rising corn meal
2 T flour
1 Beaten egg
1 medium Spanish onion
Sweet milk to make a stiff batter (Bev uses buttermilk)

Cooked them at 350 and they came out light and fluffy – as always. Here's the batter.

The cooking set up.

Frying away.

The first batch is out.

After thawing and peeling, the shrimp were dunked in our standard beer batter then rolled in Panko bread crumbs for extra crunch.

Beer Batter Recipe
1 cup self rising flour
1 beaten egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Old Bay (optional)
Beer to get the right consistency

Mix the dry ingredients, stir in the egg and some beer, then add beer to get the thickness you want – we like ours on the thin side. Ready for the fryer.

Cooking hard.

The first batch is out.

Here’s my plate – I sided it with more shrimp a little homemade shrimp sauce. Didn’t fill it too full as I’d already eaten two hushpuppies and a shrimp while cooking.

Even the very picky eater, Alex, enjoyed this meal (she's a cold cereal, canned soup, ramen noodle, McDonald's kinda girl).

Now if I just lived next door to Cowgirl Jeanie so I could sweet talk her out of some of her pond raised fresh shrimp.

Have a great day and I love to get comments.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good Deal On Strip Steak

Krogers had whole USDA choice beef strips on sale last week for $3.99 per pound. It was just too good of a deal to pass up, so we bought a couple of them – total weight of 26 pounds. They were from National Beef Packing Co, which I’d never heard of, so I did a little research. They are owned by U.S. Premium Beef, which in turn, are owned by the cattle ranchers themselves - I’m comfortable with that.

I unwrapped and rinsed them in cold water and they were ready for slicing. After I got into BBQing and tried slicing briskets with the 8” knife that came with our set and I soon realized I needed something more, so it was off to the Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville. I bought this 12” slicer and a 10” butcher knife, both Forschner, and won the Mundial boning knife, along with two others, in a BBQ contest. I try to make sure my meat knives are stored separately and never get used for anything else and it sure helps them stay sharp.

Here’s a pic of the first four steaks all cut about 1 ¼” and they looked pretty good. The fat cap was thin enough as to need no trimming.

This is the pile from the first strip.

The second one had more of a fat cap and I trimmed it some after slicing. They also looked good and here’s the entire pile – look’s like we ought to throw a big steak cook out.

We packaged them in food saver bags and popped in the freezer, except the three shown below.

Wende came down for dinner and we grilled up three of the new strips. Started with a little Montreal Steak Seasoning and Tiger Seasoning (our most used spice).

Grilled them to 125* as checked with the Thermapen. Everyone who cooks meat should have one of these to ensure it's cooked just right - Link. After years of hit or miss results using time as a guide, I can now just them to where I want them every time. Amazon occasionally runs specials on them.

Pulled, rested a few minutes and plated them atop some onion-blue cheese sauce from Pioneer Woman Cooks and sided with a caesar salad. Here's a shot of my plate - I'd cut off a couple of slices to taste the meat without sauce.

The steaks were very good and I wouldn't hesitate to buy their meat again. The sauce can also be found at A Feast for the Eyes. For you cooks out there both of these blogs are chocked full of great recipes and some interesting life stories.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brisket Hash - Oh My

I had a little smoked brisket in the fridge and decided brisket hash sounded mighty good – as you know I like breakfast food. Started by getting the ingredients chopped up. I did this early, then sat around with baited breath (read the paper) waiting for Bev to get up so I could commence to cooking.

Sautéed the onions and sweet green pepper in a little olive oil.

Added some frozen hash browns – too lazy to make fresh, but I’m not sure I could tell fresh from Ore Ida in this application.

Then added the brisket and mixed well.

When I had it the way I wanted it, I made 3 wells (Larry-2, Beverly-1), dropped an egg into each, and covered with a glass lid.

When the eggs were done, plated them up and sided with a slice of toasted homemade bread.

I had meant to add a jalapeno but a little Sriracha after the fact worked well. It was Tooooo Good! Did I mention I like breakfast food. Have a great day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Little Feathered Friends

When we first moved to our home in the country, I was amazed at how few birds I saw around our place, so we strove to create a bird friendly habitat as we landscaped. We have woods on two sides and a lake 50 yards away, so water and most shelter were taken care of, although we still have a few birdbaths around. We decided we wanted to attract the full array of songbirds in our area, both fruit and seed eaters as well as bluebirds. We’ve talked over the years about purple martens but have never made that happen. For the bluebirds, we built and installed a dozen or so houses about every 100 feet on the wooden posts around the neighbors pasture.

For the seed eaters, we have four feeders (only one in the summer) that we keep stocked with black oil sunflower seeds, including one attached to the kitchen window which is Bev’s favorite. Here are two of them.

The chickadees got bashfull while I took the pictures, but the titmice were not shy at all.

Mister cardinal hung around the edges trying to decide if he wanted to brave me being there.

Not much action at the window feeder, but they normally don't show up here until the afternoon.

We have several baths around including this one in front of the house

and this one at the big rock in the middle of the driveway. Plenty of food here if they like black pearl peppers.

We also planted many fruit/berry bearing trees and shrubs including dogwoods, crabapples, winterberries, viburnums, barberries, hollys, nandinas, and burning bushes. There are lots of poke berries growing wild along the woods. We also have a cherry and several blueberries that we do battle over – we usually lose the cherry and win the blueberry. We just planted a hawthorn (the first one was broken by the wind) this past spring and the woods are full of oak and hickory for the birds and the squirrels. For the necter lovers, in addition to hummingbird feeders, we have lots of honeysuckle around and grow several plants they like.

These are nandina.

The burning bushes are loaded.

There's a good crop of crab apples on the three trees getting sweeter as they shrink.

The winterberries will get even prettier when the leaves are gone.

A couple of shots of the holly - we have several but this is the only fruit bearer.

They must like them as the berries from the dogwoods and barberries are already gone.

Three years ago we converted a 6’ x 200’ grass/weed area between the road and the neighbors pasture into a wildflower patch, which produces lots of late summer and fall seeds – the gold finches especially love this area. The only pictures I had were lost during a harddrive crash, but it was planted with the Southeast Mix from both the - Vermont Wildflower Farm and the Wildseed Farms plus some seeds of individual varieties.

Why do we do this besides trying to help nature along? The selfish reason – I didn’t get a picture but we had a bright red male cardinal, a yellow male gold finch and a bright blue male indigo bunting on a feeder at the same time. What an amazing display of nature’s spectacular colors it was.

One other special creature we seem to have aplenty are bats, likely due to the caves around the area. I enjoy sitting on the dock at dusk and watching the little fellers harvesting the bugs that would otherwise be annoying us - they are amazing flyers.

Sorry this was so long, but at least it was mostly pictures. Have a great day.