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Friday, June 24, 2016

The IT Tuna Salad Revised

I'm from the south so, to me, everyone loves tuna salad.  It's cheap, it's yummy, it's rustic and homey and, if you choose well, it's wild caught fish for a buck or two.  Can't beat it!  When else do you make a whole seafood family meal for $2 or so?  Umm...that's right, never!

Maybe I like tuna a bit more than most.  My lazy but super busy high school days led me to try some interesting stuff.  Tuna scrambled eggs were amazing in my book.  Two or three eggs scrambled with cheese, tuna, a bit of garlic powder, and mmmm mmm mmm, is it good!  Tuna melts?  Oh yeah, grilled cheese, mooove over!  Throw some spinach leaves to wilt on that puppy mmm!  My college days led to tuna fish cakes.  Every good southerner ought to know how to whip up a good fish cake. Tuna is way cheaper than salmon, so it's a win!  Recent days have led to a gluten-free innovation that I am just loving, tuna stuffed arepas (South American corn cakes) with fresh spinach.  Grab a bag of white harina PAN (pre-cooked cornmeal with zero grittiness) from the Latin aisle, follow the directions, and within 15 - 20 minutes you're cookin'!

You see, the thing about tuna is that people assume the problem with it is that it's too regular, too blah.  No, no, no, no, no, the problem is home cooks are too boring and too blah.  A good tuna salad requires garlic powder, chopped boiled egg, a few dashes of hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and a splash or so of vinegar.  The rest, well, be creative!  This tuna salad will make you a believer.  It is gourmet and quick and easy.  People will think you got it from a high-end sandwich shop.  Bring back those bagged spinach leaves I love and tuck em into that sandwich with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, and you just can't beat this puppy with a stick. For some extra fun, turn it into tuna and pasta salad with the macaroni or shell pasta added in and maybe even shredded white cheese.  I can go on for days here.

The IT Tuna Salad
4 cans of tuna (Yes, you do need this much)
2-3TB mayo (This was left out of original post.  Sorry!)
4 TB (or 1/4 c) distilled white vinegar
1 TB cider vinegar
1 TB lemon pepper
1 tsp oregano (rubbed between your fingers to release flavor)
1/2 tsp or so red habanero hot sauce (I recommend Badia from Latin aisle) (The more hot sauce you add, add more cilantro to keep flavor fresh and bright.)
1/2 TB salt
dash or two of cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste
1 stalk celery, diced (chop up any leaves too)
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (If you're a cilantro hater, use two sprigs parsley)
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Mix it up, mix it up, throw it in the pan!  Well, not really the pan, but the bowl or something like that.
Enjoy with sandwich bread or an arepa.

Aaaand, for this recipe, I'd like to thank my grandmother for bringing to my attention that I did not make nearly enough use of lemon pepper.  I wasn't using it at all in fact.  For shame!  Thanks, Big Mama!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Simple and Delicious Harvest Chicken Roulades

I love Fall!  I hate the fact that it means cold weather is on its way, but I love those delicious harvest flavors.  I could eat buttercup, butternut, or kabocha squash every day!  All I need is salt, pepper, and garlic, and some time to brown in the oven, and squash is a meal fit for a king to me.  I am also a huge fanatic of tangy, crunchy apples.  Apple picking in the mountains has to be one of my favorite things to do all year long!  I love being out in nature in the perfect, just-cool-enough weather in early to mid Fall.  There's just something about apple picking that gives me calm and peace and brings out the best in everyone.  I get so excited about all of the delicious creations that I can create with all of those apples too.  My favorites are Sweet Tango, Jazz, and Fuji.  One of the easiest things to both make and enjoy with apples are these amazing muffins from my Jewish cookbook.  They have diced green apples, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, cinnamon, and I like to add orange zest too.  Too good!  As much as I miss swimming in mountains of berries of all varieties, I always find the flavors Fall so inspiring.

My harvest chicken roulades are inspired by the delicious flavors and colors of Fall.  I mallet out chicken thigh fillets, stuff them with a filling of ground sausage, instant mashed potato flakes, onions, garlic, diced apple, and dried cranberries and sear them with a lovely coating of paprika in butter and oil before baking to tender perfection.  They are simple and they are amazing.  Though a bit of time is required, these are so easy and so rewarding.  It's nice to make the filling a day ahead to make the load lighter for weeknight meals.  The reduced sauce is a real treat.  The intensified chicken flavor is so amazingly rich and buttery that it beats the pants off of any gravy.  I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

Harvest Chicken Roulades
1 pack chicken thigh fillets, flattened with a mallet until even and thin enough to roll out
1 roll Tennessee Pride hot breakfast sausage
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
A few dashes Trader Joe’s 25 Seasoning Salute (optional)
Olive oil to drizzle
1 TB butter plus a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil for searing
Water or apple juice to cover bottom of pan during baking

~1/2 – ¾ c instant mashed potatoes (Idahoan)
1 green or other tart, firm apple, cut into 1” cubes
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (save one for the chicken seasoning)
1/4c dried cranberries, soaked in dark rum (microwave for 30 sec to 1 min, or until plump)
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
1. This is not a filling that will stick together like a stuffing.  If you prefer that, you will want to add in an egg or egg yolk to the filling mixture before stuffing the chicken.

2. You will have leftover filling with this recipe, so you can either choose to halve it, freeze leftovers, or use a second pack of chicken.

1. Over medium to medium high heat, saute onions and celery, if using, until softened.  Add in apples and cook until tender.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Stir in cranberries.  Reserve mixture in a separate bowl.

2. Take pan up to medium high and brown sausage until golden.  Add in instant mashed potato flakes until desired consistency achieved.  Add in vegetable mixture and adjust seasoning.

3. Fill chicken and roll up, secure with toothpicks.

4.  Sear chicken in butter and oil mixture over medium high heat until golden on all sides.

5. Place in a baking pan.  Pour in just enough warm water or warm apple juice or cider to cover the bottom of the pan.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 375 F for 15-20  minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. 

6. Pour off sauce that forms in bottom of pan and transfer to a mug or small heat proof bowl.  Microwave for about 10 minutes, or until a thick, richly-flavored sauce is formed.  It should look almost like a gravy. Stir once or twice during cooking to avoid the formation of a skin.  Pour thickened sauce over each roulades and serve with white rice, mashed potatoes, or yummy biscuits!  Be sure to remove toothpicks before serving.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Real Deal Slow Cooker Eastern North Carolina BBQ from Start to Finish

I absolutely love a good tangy, zesty Eastern NC style pulled pork.  While I don't have the patience for smoking it over wood or coals, I do have plenty of patience for going to sleep while it cooks for me in a crock pot.  I'm pretty good at that ;).  

After much researching, I have combined a few things to come up with my personal favorite Eastern NC BBQ.  For those who are unfamiliar, this is a vinegar-based sauce.  There's no ketchup, no tomato at all present here.  If you think that sounds crazy, get ready to change the way you think about barbecue!  It's so delicious!  It's tangy, not sour, and oh-so-irresistible.  No, you don't top it with tomato-based BBQ when it's done, you just slap it on a bun, add more vinegar sauce if you like, and maybe a few splashed of Texas Pete hot sauce.  This is the easiest thing you'll ever do and probably one of the best tasting too.  

If you have to eat gluten-free like me, eat yours like a BBQ plate with the slaw on the side and a good hunk of buttery, sweet cornbread, mmm!!   A bit more along the lines of the less-than-traditional, I actually serve my with kale cole slaw.  It's too good!  I may post that recipe later, although it's stupid simple.  So, if you don't know what to contribute at the next potluck or cookout, well, here you go!  Labor day festivities, here we COME!  You can thank me later ;). 

Let me know how this BBQ recipe turns out for you, how you change it up, and how you serve it to your family and friends!  Enjoy!

Real Deal Eastern NC BBQ

Eastern NC Mop Sauce (cooking sauce for crock pot)
Cook on high for about 8 hours in crock pot, until fork tender.  Check the meat at 6 hours
Rub meat with seasoning below.  It’s ok if you can’t marinate it.  You can add it straight to the cooker.

The Piggy
1 pork shoulder, doesn't too much matter the size, but don't you dare trim the fat!

I like to prick mine with a fork or knife to get the seasoning in well, but it's not required.  Also, I have an oblong crock pot, so I actually doubled the dry rub, left all else the same, and stuffed two into one pot with a cast iron trivet to weigh the lid down.  You can freeze any leftovers in two or three portion sizes per bag.

Evenly rub your meat down with the delicious concoction below.  Just stir it and slap it on!  Sit the piggy in his cozy crock pot home when you're done.

Dry Rub
2 TB brown sugar
2-1/2 TB salt – maybe adjust to only 2 TB
1 TB paprika
1 -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 rounded tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp or so dry mustard
½ TB Hungarian hot paprika
½ TB garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

This little piggy isn't going to the market, he's going to the crock pot!  This is what we're going to bathe him in so that he gets nice and tasty!  Just stir everything together and dump it over your meat.  It's just that simple!  

Piggy Bath Water

1-1/2 c cider vinegar
½ c distilled (or all cider)
1 TB salt
1 TB red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TB Texas Pete
1 TB brown sugar
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
*1 vidalia onion, sliced and spread on top of the meat.  Don’t toss these after cooking.  Mix them into the pulled pork for extra yum yum!

Set your crock pot to high and let it cook for 6 - 8 hours, or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.  It will pretty much fall off of the bone at this point too.  Set it and forget it!

Pull your meat out of the crock pot and off of the bone.  Grab two forks and pull or shred the meat by either pulling the forks in opposite directions or using one fork to steady the meat and one to hold it.  Shred until desired texture is achieved.  Be sure to shred in some of the fat, at least half, but you don't have to use it all if you don't want too.  Don't forget to include all of those onions from the bottom of the pot!


Piggy Perfume
Make the finishing sauce below by combining all ingredients, aside from the liquid smoke.  Toss in the finishing sauce, along with a tsp or two of liquid smoke, over the shredded meat until desired flavor is achieved.  Serve as desired between a sandwich bun or as part of a BBQ plate with cornbread and sides of your choice.

Eastern NC Finishing Sauce
1 c cider vinegar
1 c distilled vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TB red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded TB brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 TB Texas Pete

liquid smoke **Add in a tsp or two of liquid smoke into you meat when you add in the finishing sauce and toss the pulled pork with it.  Do not put it in your finishing sauce for serving on the side.

Blend all ingredients and use to toss in with your finished pulled pork until desired flavor is achieved.  Serve the rest bottled for those who may want to add extra spice to their individual plates.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Homemade Vidalia Onion Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

1/4c rice vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 egg yolk
1-1/2 TB dijon mustard (I used Koop's)(Grey Poupon not recommended for this particular recipe)
1-1/2 TB white sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper (coarse ground is ideal)
1/2 medium clove garlic, grated
zest of 1/2 lemon
one 1-1/2" to 2" wide wedge vidalia onion, grated
1 TB blue poppy seeds
1-1/2c good quality olive oil

1. Whisk together all ingredients but the olive oil and the poppy seeds until well-blended.  This mixture may get foamy.  That is okay.  It will dissipate.

2.  Continue  whisking, being careful to whisk continuously and in a circular motion.  Meanwhile, pour in a thin, steady stream of olive oil into the mixture while continuing to whisk in the same manner.

3. Continue this process until all of the olive oil has been blended into the dressing.  You should have a nice creamy emulsion.   Continue whisking while adding in the poppy seeds.

4. Once all ingredients are uniformly incorporated, taste to be sure that you do not need to adjust the salt, sugar, or mustard level.  Pour into a mason jar, refrigerate and enjoy.  This recipe is great the day of, but even better when made a day ahead.