Thursday, October 20, 2016

Southern Smothered Pork Chops

I love a good pork chop. When I was in Junior High I baked them sitting on a thick slice of onion with a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup poured on top; a recipe I learned from a family I baby sat for.  

After moving back out to west Texas to take care of Papa I began baking them, at his request, smothered with cream of mushroom soup.  I wanted to get away from the canned soup thing so I started looking for recipes that made its gravy from scratch rather than a can.

I didn't have to look far because there was one in the current October/November 2016 issue of Cook's Country.

 Start with great meat. Luckily for me there is a great source for that in Midland.  I bought 4 beautiful pork loin chops, weighing about 8 oz. each, at Midland Meat Company.  They are rubbed with a seasoned salt mixture.

 They get dredged in flour that has been seasoned with some of that same seasoned salt mixture.  Set them aside on a wire rack to rest.

Fry two chops at a time for 3-5 minutes per side.

Put the chops back on the rack while you prepare the gravy.

 Make a roux with 1/4 cup of the pan drippings/oil and flour.  Cook until the roux reaches the color of peanut butter.

Throw the onions into the roux.

Add more of the seasoned salt mixture and cook for several minutes until onions begin to soften

Slowly add 3 cups of water and mix until smooth.  Let simmer until thickened.

Pour half of the gravy into a 13 x 9 baking dish.  Place the chops in the pan then pour the rest of the gravy over the chops.

Cover with foil and bake for 1-1/2 hours in a 350° F. oven.

 Transfer the chops to a serving platter. Add some cider vinegar to the gravy and pour the gravy over the chops.  MMmmmmm. Dinner.  Serve 'em up with rice or couscous.

Southern-Style Smothered Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook's Country October-November 2016 issue
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
4 (8 to 10 ounce) bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered through root end and sliced thin crosswise
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350°F.  Set wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.  Combine the seasoned salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, paprika, and 1 tsp. pepper in a small bowl.  Pat chops dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle both sides of each chop with 1 tsp. of the seasoned salt (1/2 tsp. per side).

Combine 1/2 cup of the flour and 4 tsp. of the salt mixture in a shallow dish.  Dredge chops lightly in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess, and transfer to the prepared rack.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add 2 chops to skillet and fry until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side.  Let excess oil drip from chops, then return chops to rack.  Repeat with remaining 2 chops.

Transfer fat left in skillet to a liquid measuring cup.  Return 1/4 cup fat to skillet and stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is color of peanut butter, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and remaining 4 tsp. salt mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften slightly, about 2 minutes.

Slowly stir water into roux mixture until gravy is smooth and free of lumps.  Bring to simmer and cook until gravy begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Pour half of gravy into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.  Nestle browned chops in dish, overlapping slightly if necessary.  Pour remaining gravy over chops and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake until chops are fully tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Carefully transfer chops to serving platter (they may be fall apart-tender). Skim fat from surface of gravy.  Add vinegar to gravy and season with pepper to taste.  Pour gravy over chops.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Fried Okra

Summer's here and that means fresh, locally grown okra at the Midland Farmer's Market. We have been eating it literally every Saturday night for the past 5 weeks.

Here's how I like to do it.

 First and most important is your okra.  Select each pod with love and care.  That translates as: buy fresh, if possible; like at a farmer's market where you are pretty sure they've been plucked from the garden that morning.  Select small, tender pods.  If they are too big they are stringy and tough, tough, tough.

Rinse, pat dry and slice the okra.  Allow the cut okra to marinate in buttermilk for about 45 minutes.

Start heating your oil up. You want your oil to be between 350° to 375°.  I like to use my 12 inch Lodge cast iron skillet. The suggested amount of oil should come half way up the side of the pan.

Drain off any excess buttermilk then toss the okra in a flour/cornmeal mixture. 

Place the breaded okra on the parchment paper.  Once the cooking process begins it goes fairly quickly.  That's why we want to get all the okra breaded at once, waiting to be placed in the skillet. Between each batch you may have to allow the oil to return to the suggested heat.

Don't crowd the skillet; you can do this in batches.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the okra to a paper towel-lined serving platter.  Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt.  "Caution Will Robinson!" this is the point you may have to slap hands away from the goods. You, as the cook, are of course allowed to pick/eat as much as you want prior to putting it on the table.  A small perk for the cook.

Fried Okra
Serves 6

2 pounds fresh okra
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 cups canola or peanut oil
Kosher salt to taste

Lay an 18" piece of parchment paper on the cabinet. This will be for the okra after you dredge the pieces in the cornmeal / flour mixture.  Place paper towels on a serving platter. This is for the okra as it comes out of the oil.

Rinse and pat dry okra.  Cut off the cap and tip.  Slice each pod into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place sliced okra in a bowl and toss with buttermilk.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes prior to frying.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a mixing bowl.

In a cast iron skillet heat oil to 350° to 375°.   

Drain the buttermilk off the okra pieces.  Toss the okra in the cornmeal / flour mixture and lay out on the parchment paper. I like to allow the breaded okra to sit for a little bit and come to room temperature.  That way the temperature of the oil won't drop drastically.

In batches, drop handfuls of okra into the hot oil.  Fill the pan but don't crowd okra in the pan.  You want one layer. Avoid turning the okra much because a lot of the cornmeal will just fall to the bottom of the pan and will eventually burn. Let them be until you see they are turning a golden brown on bottom and, with a slotted spoon, carefully turn.

When the batch is golden brown use a slotted spoon and remove the okra to the serving dish covered in paper towels.  Lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt

Repeat with the rest of the okra, in however many batches it takes.Toss a little Kosher salt on each batch as you place them on the paper towels.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cream of Roasted Hatch Chile Soup

Ahhhh, Hatch Chile season.  I love it.

I can buy them in mass quantities, already roasted which is so much easier than  roasting them myself at home.  When you select a package of roasted chiles, make sure they are really roasted.  You want the skins charred black.  They will be much easier to remove the skins.  If they are just partially roasted you'll have to peel off the waxy skin and that's a pain.

Let's talk about heat for a moment.  I definitely remove the seeds because I just don't want the texture.  Even if the Hatch chiles are the "mild" variety, the veins pack some heat.  So, I would suggest if you want your soup really spicy leave all the veins.  If you want a little bit of spice, remove half of the veins.  If you really want the soup milder, remove all the veins.  You will still get that fabulous Hatch Chile flavor.

 After rinsing all of the charred skins off, removing seeds and removing veins, coarsely chop and put into a pan with chicken broth.  You are just heating the broth and chiles up since the chiles are already cooked.

 In batches pureé the broth and chiles until very smooth. 

Since you are blending something hot I would suggest placing a tea towel over the top of the blender lid just in case the contents decide to spew everywhere.

You should have about 8 cups of pureé

 Pour the pureé back into the saucepan and slowly re-heat.  Add the cream then salt to taste.  The seasoning of the final produce will depend on how seasoned the broth you use is. 

Cream of Roasted Hatch Chile Soup
Serves 8

6 cups chicken broth
2 lbs whole roasted hatch chiles
1 cup Heavy cream

Purchase two pounds of roasted hatch chiles from the local roaster. Rinse/clean the skin off the chiles. Male a slit down the Chile and move the seeds and two of the three veins in the pepper.

Roughly chop the chiles and add to the chicken broth, just long enough to warm and meld flavors with the chicken stock.  

In batches, pureé the vegetables and broth.  Pour back into the saucepan and slowly re-heat.  Stir in the cream then season to taste.  Serve with croutons or crushed tortilla chips.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Southern Peach Cobbler

 When I selected my peaches at the market, they were perfectly shaped, colored and ripe .  When I leave the market I hand the sacker-boy my bag of hand selected peaches and ask him to pack separately with care which translates "Don't throw them into a bag. I would like to get home with fruit that's not bruised."  What did he do?  He placed them in their own private bag and literally tossed them in the cart. Oh well....

This is a very simple recipe to prepare.   

Peel and slice your peaches.
Place stick of butter in a 9-1/2" x 11" baking dish and place in a preheated  350°F oven.

Mix the batter in a large measuring cup.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and sugar.  Remove baking pan from oven and pour the batter into the  baking dish.  Yes, you are an observant individual....I did not take a photo of the batter.

Gently place the peaches on top of the batter.  Place in the oven for about 30 minutes and this is what will emerge.

See how the batter gently folded over the peach slices? Pure deliciousness. Especially with vanilla ice cream 

Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Nathalie Dupree's "New Southern Cooking
Serves 6 - 8

1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour, preferably soft-wheat
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced, juices reserved

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put the butter in a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof serving dish and place in the oven to melt.  

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and stir in the milk and sugar to make a batter.  Remove the hot dish with the melted butter from the oven and pour in the batter.  Spoon the peaches and then the peaches over the batter.  Place the dish back in the oven and bake until the batter is browned and has risen up and around the fruit, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Iced Peach Tea

Perfect for a hot summer day; picnic or tea party.  You'll love this even if you don't take your tea sweet.  Papa and I have enjoyed this refreshing quaf the past couple of days while sitting in the shade on the back porch.

August is my favorite peach month.  The peaches are sweeter and you can easily find freestone peaches.  Clingstone are fine to eat out of hand but extremely frustrating when you cook with them and have to slice them up.

Since this is made with fresh fruit you will want to drink it within a day or two.

Iced Peach Tea
Makes approximately 2 quarts

1 cup granulated sugar
9-1/2 cups water, divided
3 large fresh peaches
2 - one quart tea bags

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and 1-1/2 cups of the water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Wash peaches and slice (keep skin on).  Add peach slices to boiling sugar water.  Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Boil remaining 8 cups water and add tea bags to make 2 quarts tea; set aside.

 Pureé the peach mixture in a blender until smooth.  Press through a fine mesh strainer.

Add 1-1/2 quarts of the black tea to the peach pureé.  Stir and if you want the tea thinner you can add more of the tea; purely a personal preference.

Place in refrigerator until cold.  Give the tea a stir prior to pouring over a glass of ice.  Garnish with a mint leaf or a thin slice of peach.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

This will make a lovely and light side dish to many of my meals this Summer.  

It's quick and easy and you could double it if you needed to take a little something to a picnic.

You shouldn't have many leftovers since it makes a relatively small amount. But, if you do it is great the next day to toss with a bowl of lettuce for a nice salad.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Adapted from Paula Deen
Yields 4 servings

 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
3 cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
1 - 10 ounce container grape tomatoes
1/2 medium white onion
2 Tbsp. fresh dill
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

In a large bowl combine the vinegar, olive oil and sugar.  Whisk together until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is emulsified.

Peel the cucumbers and slice in 1/4" slices.

Halve the tomatoes

Slice the onion paper thin. Place the onion half on the cutting board and make very thin slices, slicing from the side of the onion, not from the root end.

Add the cucumbers, tomatoes and onion to the oil and vinegar mixture and toss.

Chop the dill and toss with the vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Allow the salad to marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Corning Your Own Beef

Papa loves corned beef. He requested corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patrick's Day. He suggested I " it in the deli, pre-packaged and ready to go". I said "What's the fun in that? We'll corn our own".

Not really minding that he thought me silly I went to the Midland Meat Company and bought a small, 2 pound piece of center cut brisket. Since I'm making this just for Papa and myself I didn't need much. For a crowd you would probably want a 5 pound brisket.

Corned Beef is not for Saint Patrick's Day alone.  It can be enjoyed year round and not as the traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage.  Home-corned beef can make the tastiest Reuben sandwich as well as some of these ideas

To corn your piece of meat, give yourself five days prior to cooking.

First step is making the pickling spices for your brine.

Spices, spices, spices!  Black peppercorns, mustard seed, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, allspice, mace, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves and ginger.

The peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds are toasted in a skillet until fragrant.

 Crack these in a mortar and pestle or in a baggie with the side of a knife.

Combine with all the other spices.

Store in a sealed container.

Next you make the brine that you will corn the brisket in. The ingredients are boiled, cooled then refrigerated until cold.

NOTE:  Michael Ruhlman, whose book I took this recipe from, mentions the option of using 4 teaspoons of pink salt (or sodium nitrate) when making the brine.  It lends a distinct flavor and the bright redness of the meat that is associated with corned beef.  I opted out on using it this time. 

The brine is enough to corn a 5 pound brisket.  Since Papa and I were the only ones partaking I bought a near-2 pound center cut of brisket but I still made a full recipe of the brine.

Isn't that a pretty piece of meat? Place the brisket in a container large enough to hold it and all the brine.  I used a giant plastic zipper bag.  If you use a 5 pound piece of meat you will probably want a large pot (which you can also cook the brine in).

I placed the plastic bag in a glass baking dish (just in case the baggie leaked) and placed it in the refrigerator.

I placed a plate on top of the brisket to make sure it stayed submerged in the brine.

Turn the brisket once a day.

Once 5 days are up it's time to cook.

Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse thoroughly.  Place in a dutch oven just large enough to hold it then cover with water and add some more pickling spices. Toss in the carrot, an onion and a stalk of celery.

Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer on low for about 3 hours.

Remove the beef and keep warm.  Not the prettiest looking piece of meat but oh, 

 so, so tender and flavorful!

You can throw vegetables in the broth and simmer until tender.  I usually use new potatoes and chopped green cabbage.

The meat is also great the next day for sandwiches.

Corned Beef
Adapted from Mark Ruhlman's "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing"
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Pickling Spices

2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. hot red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. allspice berries
1 Tbsp. ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. ground ginger.

Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan.  Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn; keep lid handy in case seeds pop.  Crack peppercorns and seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a plastic bag with the side of a knife.

Combine with the remaining spices and mix well.  Store in an air tight container.

Home-Cured Corned Beef

1-1/2 cups koshser salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. pickling spice, divided
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and halved through the root
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

In a pot large enough to hold the brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic, and 2 Tbsp. of the pickling spice.  Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days. Turn brisket once a day.

At the end of the 5 days, remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of pickling spice, carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to keep brisket covered. Note, if you have to add water, heat it up to boiling in the microwave before adding it to the pot.

When brisket is tender, remove from pot and keep warm by covering with foil until ready to serve. At this point you can bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and add new potatoes and cabbage. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in the cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled