Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'Mater Sammich

I posted on Facebook a few days ago about my chin-dripping, finger-licking "brekkie" and received a few likes and comments. One of the comments was from a friend telling me she had attempted to explain to her boss why I used the term "mater sammich" to describe my morning repast. 

Her comment stated, "a sammich is a really, really good sandwich".

Well, there you have it; precisely! Tomato sandwiches are a staple for me in the summer when garden's are dotted with red globes of delight. I love tomatoes, period. Heirloom, Cherry, Creole, Big Boy, sliced, quartered, cold or room temp; I love tomatoes. But when sliced and stacked onto a toasted white bread slice (sorry, that's the Southern way) that has been generously slathered with a very good mayonnaise, sprinkled with lots of cracked black pepper,  ever-so-lightly salted, then topped with the opposing slice of toasted white bread; that's heaven on a plate, folks. Or in a piece of foil for an on the go feast in my case. I'm hungry, is it lunch time yet?


Tomato Sandwich to go
Confession: Most of the time I use 2 tomatoes for my "mater sammich". More is more when it comes to tomatoes. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mama's Sunday Rice


Every Easter Sunday our tradition is a family dinner after church. It's celebratory yes, but more importantly, it reaffirms our relationship. To gather and visit before the meal, to say grace in an unbroken circle, to connect with conversation during dinner around the table, makes us rich. These moments remain with us forever. It's the way of the South and an inheritance for me. Joining us this year was The Horn Player's mom, his sister and brother-in-law, as well and my son and the two grands. A wonderful day with the best people. 

This year Easter happened to fall on the 3rd anniversary of my mother's death. She died on Holy Thursday in 2012, but this year, Easter Sunday fell on April 5th. I miss Mama most when I'm preparing for a family roundup. Mama loved hosting all her folks with special dinners. She had a list of requisite recipes that, in her opinion, were a must. So this year I made her Punch Bowl Cake and her Sweet Glazed Carrots and her Sunday Rice because these three recipes were hers and always on her Easter table.

Mama's favorite rice dish was our favorite, as well. All of us (her family) named it Sunday Rice because that's when she most often served it. She claimed dibs on its creation and truthfully, I've never seen a similar recipe. I changed it up a bit, not much though. I'll note my changes in the recipe. It's a perfect side dish for chicken or pork, even served as a main dish with a salad if you're in a vegetarian mood. I love it and you'll love it too, I bet.

Mama's Sunday Rice

Note: Mama's recipe with my alterations in italics

1 package Uncle Ben's Wild Rice 
      (I used 1 heaping cup of a rice blend - wild rice, brown and red)
2-1/2 cups chicken stock 
1/2 cup long grain white rice 
     (I used 2/3 cup)
1-1/2 cups water
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter
1 cup celery
1 small bell pepper
1 bunch green onions
1 small can of mushrooms  
     (I used fresh mushrooms, preferably baby bellas)
1 can cream of mushroom soup  
     (I'm making homemade Béchamel the next time)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning  
     (I used dried rubbed sage)
Salt
Black pepper
Butter
Asiago cheese

In separate pots, heat the chicken stock and the water to a boil. Add the rice blend to the chicken stock and the rinsed white rice to the water. Stir both and cook the rice blend until tender, but cook the white rice to the al dente stage. Not quite all the way done. When both rices are just perfect, put them into a large mixing bowl and lightly mix.

Into a saute pan add a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil and a nub of butter. If using fresh mushrooms as I did, add those first to the sizzling oil and butter. Saute until the mushrooms begin to cook nicely, then add the diced celery and diced bell pepper. Cook until softened. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper, not much though, you can adjust before baking. Pour into the mixing bowl along with the rices. 

Add the green onions that have been sliced (both green and white part) to the mixing bowl. Add the can of mushrooms if you're not using fresh, as well as the mushroom soup and the sage/poultry seasoning. Mix gently by tossing with two large spoons until well combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly...salt, pepper, sage etc. 

Pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes. Everything is cooked in advance, therefore you just want it golden brown. Drift over the top a finely grated veil of Asiago cheese or a similar type such as Parmesan or Romano. It's best to use a Microplane for the best results in grating. Serve immediately, piping hot and delicious.
 
Rice Blend of Brown, Red and Wild Rice ~ Long Grain White Rice


My mixing bowl ~ Mammy's old milk bowl
Par-cooked White Rice
Adding the Rice Blend
Stir gently to combine rices

Fresh mushrooms, celery and bell pepper bathing in extra virgin olive oil and butter

What a happy bowl!

Adding the last ingredients before mixing together

Sprinkling on the finely grated Asiago

Ready to serve ~ So good, y'all
This was a big hit with our Easter dinner guests. The Horn Player and his family members had never had this before, some enjoyed seconds. And those of us who had Mama's version also went back for seconds. My son Matthew commented on how much he always loved it when his Nana made it. I'm so glad I chose some of Mama's best for our day. It was wonderful!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Toasted!

For Christmas we were given, as a friendship gift, a huge bag of huge pecans. Louisiana grown, of course. Today, I decided to take the remaining 3 cups and make them a bit more special by roasting them. No one can deny this is a perfect appetizer for a round-up of friends or whatever occasion. So easy to do. Here's how.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and scatter the pecans over a sheet pan. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes OR until you smell heavenly pecan aroma wafting about. Remove them from the oven, pour over 3 tablespoons melted butter and stir to coat all the pecans with the butter. 

Note: My rule is 1 tablespoon butter per 1 cup pecans. Easy peasy, no?


After well coated with butter, place back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Watch them closely because they will continue to cook from residual heat after they are removed from the oven. Once roasted to perfection, remove and sprinkle on a bit of flavor. Here's the flavor recipe I put together.


2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Sugar and garlic you say? Trust me, it's okay. The small amount of sugar is there to balance the sharpness of the salt and is imperceptible in the end. Mix these 4 ingredients well and sprinkle a bit over the hot pecans to your taste. I used only about half or less of this mixture. However, I'll find another use for it, I'm sure. Hmmm, dry rub for roasted pork, perhaps.  

   ~ * ~
 
In the oven to start
Butter and flavor sprinkles ~ I love my little shell

Pecans ready to enjoy ~ Toasted, roasted and delish
Using sea shells for salt and pepper cellars is up my alley
So pretty
In a favorite wooden bowl ready for munching

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Yogurt Cake

Yogurt Cake with Almond Glaze
Cake is great. Right? Whenever you bake and take one, it's usually a hit. The thing is, if I bake a cake at home, just because, it rarely gets touched after the initial offering. I have been known to freeze them, but frankly I don't care for the texture after they're thawed. Not good. Consequently, I hardly ever bake a cake. But I'm here to report, I have found an exception. It's not fancy, no fluffy piled-a-mile-high frosting, not much of a looker really, mainly due to its rather nude appearance. Just plain, that's it.


1-1/2 cups full-fat yogurt
2/3 cup light olive oil
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

This cake has a perfect crumb

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a baking pan with baking spray. I used a 9” high sided cake pan, but you could use a loaf pan just as well. You may also use a spring-form pan.

Mix the first 6 (wet) ingredients together until well blended. Sift the remaining (dry) ingredients together and add to the yogurt mixture. Using a wire whisk, stir until mixed well and no lumps remain.

Pour into a cake pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes. It will probably become necessary to gently lay a piece of aluminum foil over the cake about half way through the baking to prevent excessive browning on top. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center, then place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cake plate and adorn with a light glaze. Serve with coffee or tea or icy milk. All three are perfect with this delightfully delicious cake.


Glaze

1 cup confectioner's sugar
Half & Half
Almond liqueur (or almond extract)

Add Half & Half a bit at the time until the mixture is the consistency of almost pourable icing. Add enough almond liqueur to complete the texture. Stir until smooth and drizzle over the cake. 


Note: This cake would be excellent for so many things. Strawberry Shortcake, English Trifle or just plain with whipped crème and fresh berries. You may also choose a citrus glaze, which I've tried and found equally delicious.

With Community Dark Roast

Crawfish Season & Sunday

Well it's Winter here in CenLA and on this dreary Sunday, it's cold and rainy. Not a slamming rain, but one of those Winter rains that drips and falls slowly from the heavens and the Oak branches as if each droplet is in slow-mo. A good day for comfort, period. So after church it's time to begin a bit of pampering. First of all, Sunday dinner should always be special. Afterward add a soft pillow and a cozy blanket to a recliner for an afternoon of football playoffs. I'll take it. But first, let's cook.

How about some Crawfish Etouffee? How comforting is that? And maybe served over creamy grits. Grits?! Yes indeed! Shrimp and Grits is a favorite around here, why not go for a savory, saucy ladle of Crawfish Etouffee adorning a puddle of grits. Delicious, let me tell you.

Crawfish Etouffee

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound Crawfish tails
Chicken stock (amount varies)
2 - 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
Louisiana hot sauce (to taste)
Parsley (dried or fresh, to taste)
3 or 4 green onions, chopped
Salt
Black pepper
Prepared grits

Add butter and olive oil to a cast iron pot and when the butter is melted, add onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook on medium high heat until the veggies are softened. Add the garlic and stir into the the trinity; cook for a minute or so. Add the flour and mix to incorporate. Cook until the rawness of the flour is gone and the bottom of the pot begins to brown slightly. Add the crawfish and stir. Pour in about 1-1/2 cups chicken stock and stir well. Add more stock to make a rather thin sauce. Drizzle in Worcestershire, lemon juice, Louisiana hot sauce and stir to blend. Add parsley, green onions, and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Stir well and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.
Serve over grits.


Butter and EVOO in my favorite Staub cast iron pot

Steamy Louisiana trinity in the pot

Trinity has softened ~ Adding flour

Fond ready for de-glazing ~ I ♥ fond

Buy Louisiana when you buy seafood

Crawdaddy's in the pot

Cooking low and slow

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Crème Brûlée, FTW

I'm going to apologize to anyone who checks out this blog on a regular basis (Donna, for example) and quite honestly, to myself for not attending it as I should. I have reasons though, not excuses. Lots of things going on in my world with no sign of slowing in the near future. The Horn Player and I love to be busy. But today I found a smidgen of time and that's reason enough to play in the kitchen.

I recently purchased one of those adorable little kitchen torches, however, it's still in the upper appliance cabinet. Today, I must test drive it on Crème Brûlée. What's not to like about a luxurious, creamy, decadent dessert using egg yolks, cream and sugar to their best advantage. Oh my goodness! What a happy dessert day. Besides, it's holiday time and my guys will love this fanciful dessert. Now where are my eggs...

Crème Brûlée

1 cup whole milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
Vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
Hot water for bain-marie
Sugar for garnish
Kitchen torch (oh boy)

Add the milk and cream to a pot, split the vanilla bean, scrape out the inside with the back of a knife and add it in. Drop in the pod to steep in the liquid for extra flavor. Add the salt and sugar and mix well. Bring to a simmer, dissolving the sugar. Beat the eggs and egg yolks well and when the milk/creme comes to the appropriate heat (do not boil, just a gentle simmer) retrieve about 1/2 cup of the liquid and slowly add to the eggs to temper. Remove the pot from the heat and add the egg mixture to the milk/cream in a small stream, stirring all the while. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl with a lip and pour into custard cups or Crème Brûlée dishes. Place the cups into a large baking pan and put into a preheated 325 degree oven. 

Note: It's safer to pour in the hot water after the baking pan has been placed on an oven rack. 

Add the hot water to the pan until it reaches half-way up the cups. Slide the little beauties into the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The custard should be slightly wobbly, but set. Remove each cup very carefully to a rack to cool. After they have cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 to 6 hours. 

Just before serving, sprinkle about a heaping teaspoon of sugar over the surface of each custard and dissolve with a kitchen torch or under the broiler. The sugar should be a golden caramel color with slightly burned spots. Allow the sugar to cool for a couple of minutes, serve and crack open one of the best desserts known to man. Yum!



Custard cups in a baking pan

Heating the milk and creme perfumed with vanilla seeds and pod

Beat the eggs well

Be very sure to include the straining step, this is why
Strained custard ready to pour

And into the little cups

Those little specks, vanilla

All filled and ready for the hot water ~ My little holiday candle was making me feel festive

Out of the oven...hanging out on the old butcher block
A thing of beauty...

...that won't last very long.

Oh, yes I did!

This is such an easy dessert and tastes like a million bucks. Its velvety custard set against the crackly sugar topping is just...well, perfect! Try it for an evening Christmas dinner and serve with rich, dark coffee. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mama's Pound Cake ~ Circa 1965

My oldest grand is growing up fast, too fast. We celebrated his 15th birthday this month, which is just too unbelievable for me to grasp. He's 15 years old, y'all. He's also such a treasure, but I'll refrain from going all grandmother on you. 

It has been a family tradition going back as far as I can recall to mark birthdays with a feast of favorite foods. Say that three times fast. And of course, birthday cake. Their favorite cake to be precise. That's saying, "I love you...you're special".

Well, it seems during the growing process, my 15 year old grand has segued from the cloyingly sweet Key Lime Pie as his favorite dessert, to something not so sweet. We had a discussion on this and his request was a cake with no frosting. So I honored his wishes and chose Mama's very old pound cake recipe of which I have personally had a copy since the mid 1960's. This wonderful cake has a frosting recipe that pairs perfectly with it, but I didn't use it, obviously. The frosting is fabulous, however. It's different from the usual buttercream, very lemony and ever so light. Every time Mama made this cake for a church dinner or as a surprise for someone, she received rave reviews. Now, I must confess I did tweak this recipe somewhat, but only a tiny bit. Instead of using all shortening, I used half butter and half shortening. Butter is, well butter, therefore tasty and the shortening makes for a tender crumb. That combination works much better in my opinion. My other adjustment was the juice of a lemon, not lemon flavoring. Try this old cake recipe, it's worth it.

Deluxe Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Cream together the shortening, butter and sugar until very well combined and the sugar is somewhat dissolved, not grainy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each one. Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the buttermilk. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Pour into a 10" tube pan that has been well greased and floured. Place into a cold oven and adjust the heat to 300 degrees. Bake for approximately 1-1/2 hours. This may vary with different ovens. Check it when the house smells amazing to see its progress. Use a tooth pick to test for doneness. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Place on a cake plate and serve with berries, whipped cream, ice cream or whatever your birthday boy desires. In our case it was ice cream.

Note: If using a two piece tube pan, be sure to cover the bottom of the pan with foil to avoid oven clean-up if any batter happens to escape. Trust me, you'll want to do this.

T
To begin, assemble the first step
Softened butter and shortening in the bowl
~ I really ♥ my KitchenAid ~
Next...sugar in
Round and round go the sugar, butter and shortening
The pic in the background is a favorite ~ My son ~ I love it with me in the kitchen

Getting the dry ingredients ready to sift together

Time to sift

Six eggs into the bowl one at the time

As you can see I had local eggs from a friend with pampered hens
The color and richness of the eggs, beautiful

Buttermilk (a magic ingredient) and the sifted dry ingredients
Begin and end with flour
I usually have three additions of flour alternating with two of buttermilk

I love this smell
Zest and juice ready to perfume the cake
Mixing is done
Never mix batter too long for a tender cake
Another photo 'cause it's just so pretty
Lemon juice containers
I saved the butter wrappers to grease my tube pan
Smart idea ~ Always thinking
Into the oven with a cloak of aluminum foil on the bottom
This is the recipe I spoke of earlier
It's been in this binder since...well, a very long time
The Lemon frosting I rate so highly
What's with my handwriting so long ago ~ Glad I got over backhand writing
This kind of keepsake is nevertheless, priceless
How gorgeous is this?
This is the foil removed from the tube pan and this is the reason it's a good idea

~ * ~

My grandson loved this cake and he took most of it back home with him after enjoying his dinner with the family and getting his birthday gift. His Nana would have been so happy to know her old recipe brought a smile to that sweet face.