Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yes, You Can Eat Well at the Sea Shore

This past weekend I spent about four and a half days with my bestest friend down in Corpus.  She and her husband have retired there and have re-built his family home into a very nice house that fits them to a tee.  But we didn't stick around her house all the time.

Sunday, PR let us take his four wheel drive Ford King Ranch Edition Crew Cab pick-up out on the Padre Island National Seashore.  That is one nice and B-I-G truck!

If you drive about 10 more miles down the road once you've gotten on the island you reach the gate for the National Seashore.  It's quiet, people are few and far between and if you have the time you can drive 60 miles down the island on the beach; but at 15 miles per hour it would take you about 4 hours.  You pay $10 per car or $20 for an annual pass.  Being the mathematical geniuses Karen and I are we purchased the annual pass for Karen since she can visit every day if she wants to.

We drove the truck down the beach until we found an isolated spot.  We set up camp, so to speak.  We laid a blanket down on the sand, folded out our comfy chairs and set the ice chest in between them as a 'coffee table'.  We also had some really nice roll-out pads with pillows that Karen's friend Brenda bought to use when we wanted to lie down and stretch out; thanks Brenda!  They worked out really nice!

After a nice long walk down the beach, looking for the nesting turtles (of which we found none) we relaxed at our campsite with an adult beverage and a book to read. 

Alas, we did get a bit hungry and this is what we brought to make for our lunch.  A sandwich; but not any old sandwich. 

 This sandwhich started with a very nice whole wheat bun sliced in half

The night before we made a batch of pesto with Karen's overflowing basil plant that grows in her potager.  We used that pesto as our base for the sandwich.

Topped that with some sliced avocado and seasoned with a little sea salt

 Laced it with slices of Brie

 Roma tomato with an additional sprinkling of salt

 And topped it off with some Romaine lettuce.

Proof that you can eat well at the beach when you aren't in the mood for hamburgers and hotdogs.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pork Chops Baked in Mushroom Gravy

Another night of 'cooking from the hip'.  It kind of bothered me that I was going to serve pork to my nephew two nights in a row, but after I thawed out this baggie of what I thought were chicken breasts I really had no choice but to use them.

So, into the pantry I ventured to see what I might use to make some pork chops.  I knew I wanted to bake them and not fry them up.

I found a small can of tomato sauce that I spread out on the bottom of a baking dish.

I placed the pork chops on top of the tomato sauce and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I must say these were some mighty fine pork chops.  I began to hope it was OK that I was using these.  Jim might have to start placing "do not use" stickers on his freezer stash.

I found a box of this in the pantry and there was a recipe for a mushroom gravy on the side of the box.

It cooked up nice and quick in a saucepan (all by itself...I didn't have to do a thing).

I poured the gravy on top of the pork chops, topped with some sprigs of thyme (because Jim had lots of thyme) and stuck the pan in the oven.

These baked for about an hour at 350°F.

I roasted some small potatoes to serve with the pork chops.

By the time they were done the pork chops had finished their "resting period" and the nephew and friend arrived home from a wrestling match that surely had them famished.

 Here is the perfect nephew pouring himself a healthy glass of milk to accompany his dinner.  I'm sure he is thinking "My Aunt Jamie rocks...

 because she feeds me and my friends!"







Friday, April 12, 2013

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

I've not been blessed with the talent of developing recipes.  You know, dreaming up something and knowing how to develop it into a recipe that turns out really unique and tasteful.   But I do enjoy "cooking from the hip" when I have to.  It's a challenge just to see what kind of meal I can produce using ingredients I find in the pantry and the refrigerator and freezer.

I had the opportunity to do that a couple of times this week when I stayed with my nephew while my brother Jim and sister-in-law Amy are in Europe.  Lucky for me, Jim and Amy are cooks as well and keep a well stocked kitchen.

My first night at the house I rummaged around to find what sort of protein the freezer had to offer.  I found a small pork loin roast and a baggie of what I thought were chicken breasts but turned out to be pork chops.  Got those thawed out, ready to use the next evening.

I selected the port roast for our first meal.  I butterflied the roast and I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of how to butterfly but it would have taken an extra pair of hands.  There are a lot of good You Tube films on how to do it though.  Basically, you take a thick, rounded roast and cut it in a way that you can lay it out flat.  Once butterflied, I sprinkled it with salt and pepper.

Next I went to work on what I would stuff it with.  I found some mushrooms, a half an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and some cilantro.  I sautéed the onion in some olive oil until tender then added the garlic, cilantro, mushrooms, and fresh sage leaves.  Towards the end of cooking I added the sage that I had roughly chopped.
I let the mushroom mixture cool off before spreading it onto the roast.
Starting at one end, roll the roast up. 
One of the pitfalls you might experience when cooking in someone else's kitchen, when they aren't there, is where to find things.  I couldn't find the kitchen twine for the life of me and I've seen Jim use it before but had no idea where it was.  Rummaging through the drawers I did find this trussing kit.
I tied it up and topped with several sprigs of fresh thyme then gave it a thin rub of olive oil.

I baked it in a 350°F. oven for about 90 minutes until it reached an internal temperature of 160°.
 Once I removed the roast from the oven I let it rest for about 15 minutes to allow the juices to re-distribute back into the meat.  Slice and serve!  I steamed some broccoli that I rescued from the vegetable bin.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding

When I travel I like to pick up cookbooks from the region or restaurants that I go to.  This cookbook from the Hali'imaile General Store on Maui has become a favorite.  The recipes do not disappoint.  Beverly Gannon's first cookbook shown here is just as fabulous.

Mmmm mushrooms.  That's what we're cooking with today.

 I love bread puddings; whether they be sweet or savory.  This one knocked my socks off.  My eyes rolled back in my head when I first tasted it right out of the oven.  The best description that the cookbook author offers of this dish is 'mushroom soup, except you eat it with a fork'.

We start with mushrooms.  Lots of mushrooms.  Shiitake's are the choice here.

All of the mushrooms are de-stemmed (is that a word?) and half of the caps are sliced into thirds.  The other half of the caps and all of the stems are roughly chopped then placed in the food processor to be finely minced. 

The minced caps and stems are sauteéd in butter and olive oil

Half-and-half is added and becomes infused with the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms.  At this point I believe I could sit in a corner with a spoon and eat as is;  all by myself, warding off anyone who tried to take it from me.  The half-and-half is strained into a bowl and the mushroom solids are discarded.  You now have the most wonderful infused dairy product on the face of this earth.

The remainder of the mushrooms that you sliced up are sautéed in butter and olive oil with minced shallots.  These sliced mushrooms are sautéed in 2 stages then all are added back to the pan at which time the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and basil are then added to the mixture and set aside.

Cube the bread into 1-inch pieces.  The original recipe calls for a sourdough.  I had a loaf of Italian so I used that.  Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.

Eggs are whisked together with the mushroom infused half-and-half then Parmigiano-Reggiano and fontina cheeses are added along with salt and pepper.


Bread cubes are added to the mushroom infused half-and-half/ egg mixture and are allowed to sit for about 15 to 20 minutes; allowing the bread cubes to become little sponges that soak up all of the flavors in the liquid.

The sautéed mushroom mixture in stirred into the egg-bread mixture and combined well.  Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 3 quart casserole.

Baked in a 350°F oven for approximately and hour your until browned and puffy.  Upon removal from the oven sprinkle the bread pudding with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped chives.

Pure Heaven.

This recipe halves well.

Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding
Adapted from Beverly Gannon's Family-Style Meals at the Hali'imaile General Store
Serves 8

2 pounds fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 Tbsp butter, divided
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced shallots
6 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
2 Tbsp chiffonade of fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
6 cups crustless 1-inch cubes Italian bread
1 Tbsp chopped chives, for garnish

Mise en Place:
  • lightly grease a 3-quart casserole dish
  • remove stems from the mushrooms, set stems aside
  • slice half the mushroom caps into thirds and set aside
  • roughly chop the remaining mushroom caps and stems & set aside
  • measure out butter and olive oil each into three 1 Tbsp portions
  • mince shallot and set aside
  • finely chop the garlic, ginger, & lemongrass and set aside
  • chiffonade the basil and add to the garlic/ginger/lemongrass mixture
  • crack 6 eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk; set aside
  • grate cheeses and set aside; divide Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup & 1 Tbsp)
  • cube bread
  • chop chives and set aside
Place the stems and the roughly chopped mushroom caps in a food processor with the metal blade.  Process until finely chopped.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, melt 1 Tbsp of butter with 1 Tbsp of oil.  Add the finely chopped mushrooms and shallots and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the half-and-half and bring to a boil.  Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Strain the liquid into a bowl using a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the mushrooms to extract all the liquid.  Cool the liquid and set aside.  Discard the mushrooms.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp of the butter and 1 Tbsp of oil.  Add half of the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and repeat with the remaining butter, oil, and mushrooms.  Return all the mushrooms to the sauté pan and add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and basil and cook for 1 minute, stirring to blend.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drain any liquid in the pan into a small cup.  Set mushroom mixture aside to cool.

In the large bowl with the whisked eggs, add the cooled mushroom infused half-and-half.  Add 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and fontina cheeses, 1/4 tsp salt, and white pepper.  Add the bread cubes and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes allowing the bread to soak up the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir in the mushroom mixture into the egg-bread mixture, and mix well.  Pour into the baking dish.  Bake until lightly browned and puffy, approximately 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining Tbsp of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the chives.