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    

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Crawfish Bisque

I love crawfish season. It announces the arrival of Spring, right along with the tulips and daffodils.  My favorite way to enjoy these little mudbugs is a big ol' crawfish boil complete with new potatoes and corn on the cob all thrown out on a newspaper covered table and served up with ice cold beer.

There are so many other ways to eat crawfish; crawfish étouffée, crawfish pie, gumbo, and this crawfish bisque that was printed in the April 2016 issue of Southern Living. A bisque is a soup with French origins and is traditionally made with the strained broth of crustaceans and pureéd crustaceans.

When making recipes that call for crawfish tails it's much more time efficient to buy the crawfish tails frozen.  If you did want to take the time to get the tails from fresh crawfish, you could also make your own seafood stock with the shells. Umm, no.

For me and this recipe I am using frozen tails and canned seafood stock.  You'll need a pound of tails but packages available were only 12 ounces each so I had to purchase two and had 24 ounces.  That allowed me to have twice the tail meat to add to the bisque after it was pureéd.

Here's what I'll be working with.  I failed to include the flour and the sherry in this photo.

The first thing I like to do is all of the prep work; measuring out the ingredients, chopping, etc., etc.  That way I have everything ready to go when it's time to use them in the cooking process.

To get started you need to make a roux.

 It takes a good 10 minutes but you want to bring it to a nice light brown color.

 Add all of your vegetables and the spices.

After cooking the vegetable for 5 minutes the stock, herbs, and half of the sherry are added and brought to a boil.  This will cook for 10 minutes then a half pound of the crawfish are dropped in and cooked for about 2 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat. Fish out the bay leaves and the thyme stems. Pureé in batches until very smooth.  A caution when blending ingredients that are a kitchen towel on top of the lid and hold down firmly.

Return the bisque to the pot and add the cream, lemon juice, hot sauce and the remaining crawfish; which in my case was a pound instead of a half pound...yum.

If you wish, you can garnish with a crouton and snipped chives.  This bisque was a B-I-G success at the dinner table.  It was rich and flavorful and I am really pleased that I had an extra half pound of tails to add to the bisque.

I believe Lovey will be requesting this for future meals.

Crawfish Bisque
Adapted from the April 2016 issue of Southern Living
Serves 6

6 Tbsp. (3 ounces) salted butter
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
2 celery stalks, small diced
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 medium tomato, small diced
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups seafood stock
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry sherry, divided
1-1/2 pounds frozen peeled crawfish tails, divided
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped chives (optional)
croutons or oyster crackers (optional)

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.  Whisk in flour until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is a pale brown, about 10 minutes.

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, tomato, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high.  Whisk in stock, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 cup of the sherry and cook 10 minutes. Add 1/2 pound of the crawfish tails, and cook 2 minutes.

In batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return the pureé to the pot, and place over medium-low heat. Stir in cream, lemon juice, hot sauce the remaining crawfish and the remaining 1/4 cup sherry.  Bring to a low simmer, and cook until heated, about 5 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls and if desired, garnish with croutons and snipped chives.