From the Vault: Ceviche

Whatttt! Two recipes in a week! I thought since I was already typing I would dig up a little gem for you. If you are a seafood or sushi lover you have probably had ceviche before. If not, you’re missing out. No, it’s not raw fish. Go ahead and get that out of your head. Ceviche uses citrus juice to cook the fish. With the temperature rising, I thought this would be perfect. No heat needed so it’s perfect for summer. I say summer cause we usually skip spring here in Georgia.

You can pretty much use any type of seafood for this. I’ve never tried it with fresh water fish, so if you do and it’s awful, it’s not my fault. Play around with it try a mixture of shell fish, tuna, or sea bass.

Ceviche

8 oz. filet of salmon, small diced

8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined; tail off, small diced

3 Tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed; finely diced

1/3 c. cucumber, seeded; finely diced

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 dashes hot sauce

6-8 limes, juiced (you need enough to cover the fish)

bib or leaf lettuce for plating

Place salmon and shrimp in a medium size glass bowl. Pour lime juice over the fish, making sure it is completely covered. Stir very well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, stirring often. When fish/shrimp mixture is ready when the shrimp is no longer translucent and the salmon is a richer pink. Pour off the lime juice leaving enough to keep the fish moist. Add remaining ingredients except lettuce; stir until well mixed. Recover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes more; stirring often. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. To serve: line a serving bowl, or individual serving bowls, with lettuce. Spoon the ceviche on top. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro or thinly sliced lime or lemon twists.

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Chicken Chasseur

Five months. I was away for FIVE months!! I’m sorry. I’m such a bad host. My life has been upside down since Christmas. I’m still working the late, late shift at my day job which keeps me tired and out of my kitchen. I tried to start a Youtube channel, but it didn’t pan out. The video quality was good, but the lighting and sound were bad. I don’t know if you have ever priced that kind of stuff, but it ain’t cheap. So that idea is on hold until I can afford it. I have been steadily working on my cookbook though. I add a few recipes here and there as time allows. I got sick, and had to change my diet a little. Which was good because I lost some weight. We lost two of our fur babies, which is always hard. That’s all I’ve been doing. Five months of chaos.

I decided to cook dinner tonight instead of our normal pizza or Chinese delivery. Sheridan hasn’t been into beef lately unless it’s ground. I’ve been limited to seafood, pork, and chicken. Chicken which is always the  cheaper choice almost always wins. Anymore it seems like every time I go to the store it’s on sale. The only thing bad about have chicken all the time is I get tired of my normal preparations of it. I admit I am a creature of habit. I buy chicken. I fry the chicken. I eat the chicken. Eat and repeat. Tonight I broke the pattern, and made a dish I learned while in school. Chicken Chasseur. In a nutshell it’s chicken with wine, mushrooms, onions, and tomato sauce. For this recipe, I modernized the original recipe I learned while at school. I left out the roux and crushed tomatoes that the original called for. I chose to replace both with tomato paste. The tomato paste acts as a thickener when the liquid reduces. Then there’s the lack of crushed tomatoes….tomato for tomato. By doing this I also reduced the cost of the dish. Tomato paste is way cheaper then the crushed, and it gives a richer, deeper tomato flavor. Depending on the store, tomato pate is as low as $0.19 for store brand and $1.99 for crushed tomatoes. I’ll take those saving all day long.

In the recipe it calls for a whole roasting chicken cut into quarters. I always break down my own proteins when I can. When I do so, I follow the guidelines set by the ACF. You can watch the video here, or ask your local butcher to do it for you. In the video, when he does the French boning on the wing, this will give you the airline quarter for the recipe.

Chicken Chasseur

4 strips apple wood smoked bacon, cut into thin lardons

1 (4 1/2 to 5 lb.) whole roasting chicken, cut in to quarters: 2 leg/thigh quarters and 2                                      airline breast quarters

1 large yellow onion, small diced

8 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 c. dry white wine

3 c. chicken stock

1 large fresh bay leaf

2 sprig fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

vegetable oil for shallow frying

Salt and Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350. In a Dutch oven over medium low heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, but the bacon isn’t crisp. Remove bacon from the pan; set aside. Turn the heat up to medium high. While the oil and bacon drippings come to temperature, pat dry and season the chicken with salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides. Once oil is hot, brown the chicken leg quarters on both sides. Turn often to avoid dark spots. Remove from pan, and place on baking sheet. Chicken should be half cooked, so do not taste it. Repeat the process with the breast quarter. Remember the breast is boneless except for the wing drum, so it will cook faster. You may need to adjust your heat or move the chicken to a cooler area of the pan. Once browned, add the breasts to the baking sheet. Bake the chicken quarters until the juices are clear and the internal temperature is 160. Chicken will not fully cooked. While chicken is baking, make the sauce in the same pan that you browned the chicken in. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil, return to heat. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan; season with salt and black pepper. Stir and cook 3 minutes or until mushrooms start to softens slightly. Add thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste, cook and allow to brown slightly to a rich brick color. Make a well in the center, and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Stir well making sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce a couple of minutes, and add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. At this time the chicken should be at the desired temperature of 160; remove from oven. Carefully place the chicken into the sauce. Cover and simmer until the internal temperature is 165. Remove the sprigs of thyme, rosemary and bay leaf before serving.

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Chicken Chasseur with Parmesan and Herb Polenta and Seared Green Beans

I’ll Be Home For Christmas….If Only In My Dreams

Three years ago I started a new Christmas tradition, the annual Christmas post. For some reason they are always the hardest for me to write. I tend to get sentimental this time of year, and long for the Christmases of my youth. Back when families gathered together and shared a meal without posting it on Instagram or Facebook for the masses to judge. Back when people talked to each other while they passed the peas. Wait a minute, I’m wrong. We never passed the peas. There was so many of us back then our meal was set up buffet style. Come to think about it, I guess there was twenty or more of us in my Aunt Willie’s house. We all seemed to be able to make it home for the holidays back then.

One of my favorite Christmas memories dates all the way back to elementary school. I want to say I was in third or forth grade. I remember my mom standing in the kitchen of our Cherokee Terrace apartment listening to WIVK on the radio and making candy. My mom made all sorts of confections: peanut brittle, mounds candy bars, peanut butter balls, and potato candy. There was hard cinnamon candy that made the whole apartment smell good. My favorite was her fudge. Delicious, mouth watering fudge. She made three kinds; chocolate, chocolate with walnuts, and peanut butter. I keep this tradition when I make it myself. Back then it wasn’t Christmas if she didn’t make candy. Don’t think that we feasted on candy dinners until it was gone. A lot of it was sent else where as gifts. Oh, those lucky people.

This is the first year in a long time that I have made Mama’s fudge. It just seemed like the right time, ya know.

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Fudge

5 1/2 c. sugar

1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

1 stick margarine

1/4 c. white corn syrup

1 (7 oz.) container marshmallow fluff

1 Tsp. vanilla

1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips**

1 c. chopped nuts, optional

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13″ pan; set aside. In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the first four ingredients over medium heat. Stirring constantly bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes, and remove from heat. Quickly add remaining ingredients, and stir very well. Pour into prepared pan, and cool completely. Once cooled, cut into small squares. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

**You can use peanut butter chips, dark/milk/ semi-sweet chocolate chips. Any flavor chip would work, BUT I would not use anything with caramel in it.

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Season of the Soup

So, here we are. Winter and Christmas is upon us again. Time is just flying by. I’ve been busy as always. There’s not much to do when you work the over night shift. I only get to cook once a week on my second day off. I can cook anytime, but it makes me feel bad. Sheridan summed it up the best when he finally told me he feels like he is always reheating, and I get that.

I decided to put a hold on launching my Youtube channel. When I was researching ‘how to’ videos, they all seemed to say one thing in common. Flagging. If you don’t know what this is I will explain. In a nutshell, flagging is reporting your video to the Youtube police. Once it’s flagged it becomes unviewable to the public. Then comes a review by the Youtube admin team; which usually ends with the video being taken down completely. When that happens, you can TRY to get it put back up. Key word there is try. I just can’t move forward knowing at any moment that some person who doesn’t like or has a similar video to me could click one button and POOF! Gone. I’m looking for a better way to do this. It will happen, just not as soon as I hoped.

Our weather here in Atlanta has been crazy. A few weeks ago I was in shorts and flip flops. Today it’s a scarf, beanie, and heavy coat type of day. The days have been in the 40’s and the nights in the 20’s or 30’s. Brrrrrrr!!!!! The only good thing about it is it’s perfect soup weather. I LOVE soup. Love it. This is my second soup of the soup season. The first was a Tuscan Kale and Turkey Soup with Orzo and Parmesan that I made to use up the left over turkey from Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t think to write down the recipe. I just threw it together. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

This soup is fast and easy to make. Perfect for busy days at the office, or thawing out once you come in from the cold. You could absolutely entertain with it. Who doesn’t love a good soup bar! Simply place the prepared soup in a crock pot to keep it warm, and surround it with bowls filled with toppings.

Taco Soup

2 lbs. ground beef

1 large white or Spanish onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 (1.25 oz.) packages taco seasoning

1 Qt. beef stock

1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans

1 (15 oz.) can black beans

1 (15 oz. ) can red kidney beans

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 (4 oz.) can green chiles

1 (15.25 oz.) can yellow corn, drained

In a large dutch oven or soup pot brown the ground beef over medium high heat; drain and set aside. In the same pot, add the onions and green bell pepper. Cook and stir until slightly tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the vegetables; stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients reserving the stock for last. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes for the flavors to combine; stir often. Serve hot with your choice of toppings.

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40

Today is my 40th birthday. I started planning what I was going to make for my birthday dinner months ago. My plan was to make a Herb Crusted Pork loin atop a Sweet Potato Mash with an Apple Gastrique. The cake was going to be a Vanilla Sponge layer cake filled with lemon curd, and French Meringue frosting topped with macerated berries. Fancy, huh? As the months turned to weeks, and weeks into days, that idea dwindled to nothing. Nothing, that’s what I want for dinner on my birthday. Guess I got a bad case of the birthday blues.

I decided last night that since I wasn’t cooking that I would simply buy a cake from Publix. I’m hoping it tastes like the cakes my mom used to get at another grocery store. That frosting on those cakes was amazing. I think it was made with shortening and butter. I could be wrong. No matter, it was delicious! One can not dine on cake alone….so i bought some vanilla ice cream. That only left dinner, and I was still not having it.

Once Sheridan and I walked the entire store twice, I still had no desire to cook even though I knew I had to. Then it came to me, mom’s sausage balls. YES!! I hadn’t made them in forever. They are easy and no fuss. I do alter from her original recipe a little. Nothing too drastic. I up the cheese and decrease the baking mix. I also double it. Either way they are wonderful. The recipe below is as she gave it to me years ago.

Mom’s Sausage Balls

1 lb. hot breakfast sausage

3 1/2 c. baking mix, like Bisquick

3 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the sausage in the top of a double boiler over medium heat until no longer pink and sausage is broken up fine. Drain, if desired. Add baking mix and cheese to the sausage; mix by hand until all the baking mix is incorporated. Using your hands form the mixture into bite size balls, and place on a baking sheet. Bake the balls for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Stay Golden: Sophia’s Lasagna Al Forno

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant.
And if you through a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.
The ’80s was such a good era for television. We had great shows like Magnum PI, Dallas, Designing Women, and Three’s Company.  Each bringing it’s own form of quality to the small screen. We watched as they dealt with rising topics of the time. Nothing was off topic for one of my favorite shows of all time, The Golden Girls.
I don’t think anyone at the time knew the impact the show would have. I’m sure they didn’t think that 30 years after the original air date that the show would still be on the air. Sheridan and I watch it very night on our local Hallmark channel. When it’s not on, oh sad day, we simply pop in a dvd disc from our complete series collection from the inside of Sophia’s purse. Then once again we find ourselves sitting in the kitchen with Dorthy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia; enjoying a slice of cheesecake and sipping coffee.
Today I’m not honoring their love of cheesecake, but the legacy of Sophia’s Lasagna Al Forno. According to Dorthy, played by the legendary Bea Arthur, Sophia only made this dish for two occasions; funerals or when she needed a favor. I am making it for neither. I just simply love pasta in any and all forms. I could eat it all day, every day.
This lasagna isn’t loaded with melted cheese or a ricotta filling. It is as it should be, classic Italian. Should I say Sicilian? The ricotta cheese layer is an American thing, replacing the creamy bechamel like layer in most authentic style lasagnas. I will say that I did wait until the lasagna was chilled before taking the photo. As we all know, steaming hot lasagna fresh from the oven doesn’t make for a good picture as it tends to go flat.
Stay Golden Friends, and Enjoy this Lasagna!!

Lasagna Al Forno

3 Tsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

2 Tsp. tomato paste

3/4 c. red wine

3 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 c. beef broth

2 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. When pan is hot, add the pork and ground beef season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper. Brown and crumble the meats, drain well and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and remaining salt, pepper, and the red pepper; cook until slightly translucent. Return the meat to the pot and add the tomato paste, stir well and cook 30 seconds.  Add the wine, tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, and cinnamon, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.

For the Cream Sauce

6 Tsp. unsalted butter

6 Tsp. all-purpose flour

3 c. whole milk, warm**

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the warm milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 6 minutes.

**If you make the cream sauce too soon, you may need to add an addition 1/4 c. of milk to thin it back down. Just add it little by little until it returns to the original consistency.

For the Lasagna

1 lb. no-boil lasagna noodles

2 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

To make the lasagna, heat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, set aside. Place about 1 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and layer with 4 lasagna noodles. Place another cup of meat sauce over the noodles, followed by a cup of cream sauce and a third of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining noodles and sauces, ending with the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Braised Short Ribs

What a week it has been, and I’m only at the half way point!! I keep telling myself just two more days. After that it’s two glorious days off. That doesn’t seem like much, but to me it mean one more week until vacation time. I’m well over do for some time off. I ‘m one of the few that actually cares about the job I do, so I work hard. While everyone else is playing with their phones or sucking up to the manager, I’m doing my side work or rolling silverware. Anything to make the night easier and go by faster. Plus, it really helps  when quitting time comes. Work smarter not harder, right?

Now on to happy things. For the past few weeks I have had a taste for short ribs. Standard rack ribs just wouldn’t do. I want some good, slow braised, fall off the bone short ribs. This recipe doesn’t disappoint. As I was lifting them out of the pan to plate them, the bones completely fell away and I was left with delicious boneless rib goodness. YUM!!

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Braised Short Ribs 

2 1/2 lbs. short ribs

2 Tsp olive oil

1 large sweet onion, cut into half moons

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 1/2 Tsp tomato paste

3/4 c. red wine

1 1/2 c. beef stock

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325. Heat olive oil in a medium size dutch oven over medium high heat. Using a paper towel, pat dry the ribs and season with salt and pepper. When oil is hot brown the ribs on both sides, cooking in batches if needed. When ribs are golden brown, remove them from the pan and place on a clean plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 4- 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 30 more seconds. Pour the wine into the pan, stir and reduce by half. Pour in the stock , stirring well. Return the ribs to the pan, and bring to a simmer. Nestle the rosemary into the sauce, cover with a lid, and place in the preheated oven. Braise the ribs for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the rosemary before serving. Serve over polenta, or a puree of cauliflower or mashed potatoes.

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