Grandma’s Brown Rice, by sharon

March 27, 2008

First, I know that the name might cause you to think that this is made with brown rice. It isn’t. That’s far too healthy of an endeavor to one of my relatives to participate in. I don’t like brown rice. If someone has a recipe that causes brown rice to be palatable, please send it my way and I will work on changing my opinion. This rice just turns brown, which is why Grandma named it thusly.

I love this rice more than anything. My father said that when his mother made this my uncle would finish off the pan. And that’s saying a lot. This rice is GOOD. It gets this brilliant crusty bit on the top and I can quite literally eat a bowl of it while sitting on the couch. Technically, this recipe serves 8. Assuming you have 8 people and they only take one serving. That never happens. Ever. And without further adieu, here it is.

Grandma’s Brown Rice

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter
1 ¼ cups of uncooked rice
2 10.5-oz. cans of beef consommé
1 can of water
1 onion, diced
1 4-oz. can sliced mushrooms, plus liquid

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in sauté pan; add rice and brown over medium heat, stirring well, until golden. Add consommé, water, and onion, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and their liquid, and transfer mixture to a casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately one hour.

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This is quite possibly the most evil dish, by sharon

March 27, 2008

My father made up this recipe about 16 years ago. It is sinful, decadent, and delicious. I haven’t had it in a very long time, but as soon as I find some shrimp worth buying (living in a place with crappy seafood is about to kill me) I’m going to make it. And Courtney can bitch and moan all she wants about the mushrooms and onions. If she doesn’t want to eat it, that means more for me. This is astoundingly easy to make, but looks so impressive. A word to the wise, NEVER overcook your shrimp. They only take a minute or two, just until they turn pink. Yes, this recipe calls for a slight bit of simmering after the shrimp have been cooked, but it’s on LOW heat and very briefly. So if your shrimp turn out all tough, don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is good over baked fish or on noodles. Or just stolen by the spoonful as you pass through the kitchen. There is butter and cream and all kinds of yummy things in this. I can’t wait to make it. 

Shrimp Jimbo (Jimbeaux)

Ingredients:
⅔ cup chopped scallions
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ stick butter
2 cups coarsely chopped raw shrimp
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon thyme
dash of Worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops of Tabasco
1-2 tablespoons flour
½ onion, chopped

Method:
Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté onion, scallions, and mushrooms until tender. Add shrimp and stir-fry until pink. Add flour and mix well. Add cream and mix well. Add all other spices, reduce heat to low, and simmer until thickened. Serve over baked fish or noodles.

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A dessert I made up in December, by sharon

March 17, 2008

One night, as I was sitting around bored and with a sweet tooth, I took a look around my kitchen to see what I could make. My parents had recently visited for Christmas and left me with a box of pears and homemade spiced pecans. I looked on my kitchen table and saw a tin of those completely awesome, super-thin ginger snaps from World Market.I found some butter. And some lemons and brown sugar. And thus was born . . .

Sharon’s Ginger Pear Crisp

Ingredients
Some ginger snaps or graham crackers
spiced pecans, finely chopped
melted butter, about one stick
juice of one lemon
fresh pears or green apples, sliced

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place ginger snaps or graham crackers into a large Ziplock bag and seal tightly. With a heavy object, smash the hell out of those cookies/crackers. Make a bag full of crumbs, at least 2 cups worth. I used the bottom of my glass measuring cup. In a bowl, mix the melted butter, crumbs, pecans, and some brown sugar. I don’t know how much, 2 tablespoons? It depends on how sweet you want this to be.

Press half of the crumb mixture into a round cake pan. Over the crumb mixture, begin layering your fruit slices. It really doesn’t matter if you peel them or not. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit, and then press the rest of the crumb mixture over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for . . . 30 minutes? I don’t know. Until you think it’s done.

Here’s a picture of the final product, with a slice missing:

Pear Crisp

We ended up eating it with vanilla bean ice cream and it was quite tasty!

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This Chicken is Amazing, by sharon

March 15, 2008

I found this recipe here when I was looking for new dinner recipes. I feel like I’ve been running out of ideas lately. I asked Courtney the other night, “Who cooks dinner 5 nights a week? What do they make? How do people even do that?” The concept eludes me.

I changed a couple of things about the recipe and made it tonight. This chicken rocks! It is awesome! When Courtney tasted it, her eyes rolled back in her head. You know you want to make it, if only to see someone have that kind of reaction. My version is below.

Chicken Breasts with Spicy Honey-Orange Glaze

Ingredients
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
the zest of one orange
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Method
Because chicken breasts tend to be dry, I prefer brining them. This allows some seasoning to get inside the chicken and helps keep it moist. To brine, combine 2 cups cold water with the salt and brown sugar in a large bowl and mix until the salt and sugar dissolve (or mostly dissolve, whatever). Place the chicken in the liquid, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the honey, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well with a fork and set aside. Remove the chicken from the fridge and pour off the brining liquid. Rinse each chicken breast well, pat dry, and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter and the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Pour in the orange mixture. After about 2 minutes, it will begin to thicken. Turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. If you’re not sure about the chicken being cooked through, cut the thickest breast in the middle and check. It’s probably done, but a little time over medium heat in the sauce will do the trick if it’s not. Serve the chicken with some extra sauce spooned over it.

And that’s it! I only had elephant garlic in the house and used an entire clove of that since it’s milder than regular garlic. The sauce came out kind of chunky and the garlic became candied in the sauce as it thickened. Which, of course, was wonderful. I plan on using the leftover chicken to top a salad tomorrow, and I’m sure the orange sauce will make a great dressing. I also added more red pepper and orange zest than the original recipe called for because, as usual, I get obstinate when I’m given instructions and it seemed like a good idea to me.

I served this with some steamed broccoli and lemon rice.

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My New Favorite Rice, by sharon

March 14, 2008

I had this rice at my friend Gina’s house. Her husband, Karl, is a culinary student and made this rice with dinner. It blew me away and it was very simple. I made it tonight alongside my Chicken Breasts with Spicy Honey-Orange Glaze because I felt like doing a citrus theme. I guess. That’s as good a reason as any.

Lemon Rice

This is so simple. Make a pot of rice. When it’s cooked, add some butter, salt, black pepper, and lemon zest. Toss. Voila! Lemon rice!

Now, when Karl made it, he boiled the rice like pasta so it was fluffier. I didn’t do that tonight, although I might do it next time. I was already messing with things and didn’t feel like having to drain rice in addition to everything else. Next time, though, I probably will.


Breakfast Casserole, by sharon

March 13, 2008

I love making this casserole with eggs, sausage, cheese, and crescent rolls. I first tasted it in Baton Rouge at a party for C’s grandmother. C’s aunt was nice enough to send me the recipe. It is great for breakfast with some fresh fruit, or as a lunch or dinner main dish with a side salad. It makes a huge pan but makes wonderful leftovers. Cut a square out and microwave it, and it tastes just as good. I made a pan today so Courtney and I can munch on it for breakfast over the next few days.

I have thought about using something other than sausage. Bacon seemed like a good idea at first, but I think that after sitting at the bottom of a casserole it would get all soggy. Which sounds gross, right? However, chopped ham would be amazing. Maybe chorizo or andouille.  Throwing in some chopped onion and bell pepper with the sausage while it’s cooking sounds like a fine idea as well. Hell, I would even mix salsa in with the eggs for a different flavor. The original recipe had onion in it (I’m pretty sure) but Courtney is super picky and I have to be careful about choosing my onion battles.

Ingredients
2 containers of crescent rolls
12-15 large or extra large eggs
1 pound ground Italian sausage, mild or hot
3 ounces cream cheese
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup milk
salt
pepper
Tony Chachere’s or Tabasco sauce

Method
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the crescent rolls until they lie flat, then line a baking pan at least 8×10 inches large with the dough, saving some for strips over the top. Make sure that the pan has high sides, because the casserole puffs up a lot.

Sausage

Brown the sausage in a pan and drain. Once drained, return to the pan and mix in the cream cheese.

Sausage

Mix the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and Tony’s or Tabasco in a large bowl.

Pour the sausage mixture into the pan and spread evenly over the dough. Spread the cheddar cheese evenly over the sausage.

cheese

Pour the egg mixture over that, and then top with the remaining strips of dough. This doesn’t have to be pretty, just do it.

egg

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes, until a knife pulled through the casserole doesn’t show any egg running. You don’t want runny egg going everywhere. Cut into squares and serve. Through some kind of weird cooking osmosis, some of the dough on the bottom will have merged into the egg and there won’t be a crust. It doesn’t matter one bit.

Doesn’t that look good? It’s like having a homemade pan of sausage/egg/cheese croissanwich. Without paying stupid amounts of money. And you get to control the flavor.

slice

To store, I just cut the rest of the casserole into squares and placed them into a large Ziplock. It takes up less room in my fridge than the pan and in the morning I can just grab a square and microwave it.

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Chicken and Dumplings, by sharon

March 7, 2008

Make chicken and dumplings! Of course that’s the answer. It’s rainy and cold and there’s nothing better than cuddling up to a hot bowl of something. This is my daddy’s recipe, which is why it’s the best. That man can cook like nobody’s business, and it’s because of him that I started cooking at all. So pay close attention to this. Maybe one day I’ll pry his barbecue techniques from him. This, though, is really simple and easy which is exactly why I like it so much.Plus, it’s very Southern and somehow impressive when you make it for others.

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients:
some chicken
chicken stock
salt
pepper
poultry seasoning
Bisquick
milk

Let me start by saying that I know the ingredients are vague. But it really doesn’t matter how much chicken you have or what kind. I swear. If all you have is a bag of frozen chicken breasts, that’s fine! I made this tonight with four chicken thighs and it is quite tasty. If you have a whole chicken, then good for you. It doesn’t even matter if the chicken is fresh or frozen, just get “some chicken” as directed.

Get a big pot, either a Dutch oven or a taller pasta pot, pour in one of those big containers of chicken broth, and throw the chicken in. If you don’t have chicken broth, just cover the chicken with water. I like using chicken broth because it saves time on making a flavorful stock, but whatever. I should warn you, if you’re just using water, make sure you have chicken with bones in it. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts and a pot of water aren’t going to make a tasty creation. Tonight the thighs I used had bones and skin, but I picked as much skin off as I could once they thawed in the pot a bit.

Add some salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. I don’t know how much, just some. Let’s say you have a container of salt, you turn it upside down and make a circle around the pot while you pour it out. That much.

Boil the chicken for . . . an hour? I don’t remember, I was watching Family Guy at the time. It might have been 45 minutes to an hour. At some point, let’s call it an hour, take the chicken out of the pot and put it in a bowl to cool. Stir some ice cubes into the chicken stock and place the pot in the freezer. This will bring down the temperature of the stock faster and putting it in the freezer lets the fat separate and rise so you can skim it off.

While the stock chills, pick the meat off of the bones and shred the meat. Try to get all of the meat and get rid of all of the fat and skin hanging out in those weird pockets. If some of it doesn’t look totally, completely cooked, don’t worry about it. It’s going to be thrown back into boiling stock and it will finish cooking very quickly. When you’ve picked and shredded all the meat, set aside while you go deal with the solidified fat. I know, it sounds fun!

Take the pot out of the freezer. If it’s been long enough, there should be a really gross looking layer of fat over the top of the stock. If you used boneless, skinless chicken, there probably won’t be much of this at all. Regardless, grab a spoon and start skimming the fat off the top. WARNING: I do not recommend slinging this into your sink and down the drain. You see the way the fat has solidified and gotten horrible? It could do that at some point in your plumbing and then you might have to call someone to come and snake your pipes and my God that is irritating. So just sling that fat into the garbage like a good little cook and try not to make a big mess.

When you’ve skimmed most of the fat off the top, place the pot back on the stove, dump the chicken back in, and return to a boil. It’s time to make dumplings!

This is the thing about dumplings: most people make them too thick and they end up all gummy and gross. A friend of my father’s told him how to make dumplings and they come out very nicely this way. Alternately, you could do what my father did for years–he ripped flour tortillas into pieces and dropped them in. It’s a decent substitute, but I prefer the real thing.

Now on the side of the Bisquick box it says for dumplings you combine 2 1/4 cups Bisquick and 2/3 cup milk. Or something like that. That could conceivably be correct but hell if I know. I don’t like measurements as you might have guessed by now. Here’s my method: dump some Bisquick into a bowl and add a tiny bit of milk. Mix. The point here is consistency. It needs to be a pretty dry dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers. In fact, don’t use a spoon. Mix it with your hands so you can tell how it feels. I make a ball of it, punch it down a little and roll it around. Dough is fun to play with! There are probably some technical terms that could describe this, but I don’t know them. A dough that is elastic enough to knead, but that is dry enough to not feel wet or sticky. There ya go.

Now, this is the crucial point. To make dumplings, pinch off a small amount of dough, a literal pinch, and flatten that as much as you can. You want these things to be tiny and thin. I like to put it on the heel of one hand and squish it with the heel of the other. It’s like you’re making tiny little pizza crusts–spread them out until you think you might be able to see through it. Then drop it into the boiling (make sure it’s at a rolling boil) liquid. It will sink briefly and then rise up. Keep doing this until you’ve used all of the dough or you’re tired of messing with it. Make sure that the dumplings fall into the liquid. If the top is all crowded with finished dumplings that have risen, move them with a spoon and drop the new dumplings into the gaps. If you would like the broth to be a little thicker and creamier, add a dash of milk at the end and stir. This is also a good time to add more salt if you want, but be careful! This will thicken, especially if you put leftovers in the fridge, and the salt taste will concentrate and intensify.

Now serve up a bowl of this stuff. Inhale. Carry it to the couch, snuggle up in a blanket, and listen to the rain outside. Be thankful that you are inside where the rain can’t get you and it smells like good food. You’ll thank me later.