Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cooking On A Salt Block

A close friend of mine introduced me to "salt block" cooking on his "Green Egg" a couple of weeks ago, and so last night I treated my wife to a multi-course meal cooked in this manner.  She loved it!


You can find these "salt plates", "salt blocks", "salt slabs", or whatever you want to call yours, at lots of places for between $25 and $35; depending on the size.  I bought a large one, because I'm a big boy and will eat a lot!  If you eat like a bird, then get one of those tiny things!

We went to the local "fresh market" where they sell lots of seafood, vegetables, and red meat.  I found some lovely bacon-wrapped scollops on a skewer, some fresh unpeeled large shrimp, a thin ribeye steak, and a beautiful salmon pinwheel.  I also gathered an onion, an orange and yellow bell pepper, a lemon, an avocado, and a large potato from their large commercial garden. 
Now here is my first tip, and the most important tip of all, in salt block cooking!  SLOWLY HEAT UP THE BLOCK!  If you don't your block will crack!  Luckily for me mine cracked in a narrow strip on one side, so it is not completely useless.  However, if like me, you forget and crank it up on high immediately, then the next time you use it, you can butt the ends tightly together and cook.  

START THE HEAT OUT LOW and continually raise the heat until it's screaming hot!  You eventually want the block to be at least 400 degrees.  You don't have to have a "Green Egg".  You can see my gas grilled worked fine.
 
 
 
There is a considerable amount of prep involved; slicing the peppers, the onion, the lemon, and whatever you choose to cook.  I can't think of much you can't cook this way, and why, you ask do you even want to?!  It's because of the flavor the food picks up from the Himalayan salt block.  If you want less of a salt taste, then use a little more olive oil on the food.  Bath everything you are going to cook in olive oil...the more oil the less salt taste the block will impart to the food.  I like salt, so I just used it sparingly.

Now we did not use the block to cook our potato slices.  I bathed them in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet in the oven.  About 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  My wife topped them with a thin layer of cheese and sour cream.
Out on the grill, I first cooked the meat items, and the hot salt block cooks things very rapidly.  Don't leave them unattended, or you will over cook.  I did leave the steak on longer, but that's because my wife don't want to see any pink!

Then the vegetables go on, and they cook very quickly...about 2 to 3 minutes a side and everything is ready for the plate!

We groaned and moaned our way through the main course!  It tasted soooo gooood!
While we rested, I put an avocado on the salt block.  In all honesty, this part added nothing to the overall meal, but it was something my buddy had offered me when we tested his salt block, and I wanted Judy to have the same experience.  It could have been prepared first as an appetizer, in hindsight, but that's for next time.
Once the avocado was cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes, I put regular salsa and salsa verde into the center.  It was buttery smooth, with a little kick from the salsas.

I then moved on to serving her some "salt block watermelon", which she didn't particularly like, but the experiment lesson here is, try everything you can think of on the hot salt block.  The taste it imparts is unique and tasty.
The last entree was a dessert of cooked peaches with vanilla ice cream!  Judy loved this!

The block gave the fresh peach a nice hint of salt, and the heat slowly melted the ice cream.  It was delicious!

So, I urge you to experiment with "salt block" cooking.  I think the experience would be greatly enhanced if it were don't at an outdoor bar, near your grill, where you could serve up each entree as it cooks steaming hot off the block.  It's kind of like eating a smorgasbord of appetizers.  It's light and healthy eating, and can make for a very romantic evening!    

Monday, July 27, 2015

Homemade Ice Cream And Fried Chicken

The combination of fried chicken and ice cream as a meal don't appeal to a lot of folks, but if you ever tried it, you'd love it!

Jeff Wilson, a friend of mine from Texas, visited me recently and introduced my wife and me to a recipe and process handed down to him; from his grandmother to his mom.  

Here's an old '60s photo of Jeff's mom and dad cranking out some homemade ice cream for their chicken supper!
 
Jeff even brought his 4-quart Rival ice cream mixer!  It wasn't the one he uses at home, he forgot that one when he packed for the road-trip, but Wal-Mart saved the day for us, and his girlfriend's family in Kentucky.  The $25 little number did the job right in my sink on one bag of ice!

Anyway, he left Texas with the intention of treating both families with sweet peach ice cream and fried chicken, so he didn't let a little thing like forgetting the primary tool stop him.  I may end up with one of the little jewels myself!
Jeff and Denice arrived the night before the great feast. We visited until late, and before they left for the evening, he put chicken breast strips and skinless bone-in chicken thighs into a baggy and added his marinate ingredients:

- half a beer (he drank the rest)
- salt and pepper
- A couple of good shakes of Uncle Chris' Gourmet Steak Seasoning
- A generous amount of teriyaki sauce
- (You can experiment with other seasonings, BBQ, hot sauce, Italian dressing, etc.)

He left the chicken in our refrigerator overnight and right up until we began to cook the following evening; so a good 24 hours.  We were then ready to cook!

Like all good cooking events, it begins with the "prep", and prepping peaches involved both Jeff, Denice, and my wife Judy.  After all, someone had to do the documentation!
As instructed, they pealed and cut up 8 fresh peaches and placed the fruit in a bowl.  Now, if you don't particularly like fruit in your ice cream, like me, just skip that part and continue.
 
Over the peaches he sprinkled 1 cup of sugar and let it sit until he filled the blender with following:

- 2 boxes of Peach Jell-O
- 1 box of Jell-O Vanilla Pudding
- 2 cans of Eagle Brand Milk
- 5 to 6 eggs (depending on the size)
- 1 pint of Half & Half (as needed to fill the cream maker bucket to the proper level)
 
He then added about half of the peaches (and sugar) and blended until mixed, and then added the rest of the peaches and blended again.  If the blender isn't full, then add extra milk (half & half) to fill to the top.
 
Jeff then poured the mixture into the ice cream maker bucket and sealed the top and covered it with the motor.  It's important that you not fill the bucket above the marked "fill line".  The mixture will expand to the top during the freezing process, and will overflow if you don't stop at the fill line.

He put ice cream salt in the bottom, added ice half way up, added more salt, then filled it up with ice, put on more salt, and turned the unit on.  It was all over in about 30 minutes.  Thick rich peach ice cream ready to be enjoyed!
During the 30 minutes, I watched the ice cream maker, like I used to do with my father, adding ice and salt as needed.  It used to be my job to sit on a folded towel, on top of the hand-cranked machine, to hold it down while dad turned until he couldn't turn it anymore.  I sneaked the iced salt and ate until he caught me!  I also kept the drain hole unplugged!

Anyway, this thing didn't need holding or cranking, just occasional ice.
 
In the meantime, Jeff was busy prepping the chicken.  He put all-purpose flour on a paper plate, added salt and pepper to the mixture.  He turned on a deep frier to 11!  The hotter the better!
 
He first dipped the chicken in Carnation Milk, then into the flour mixture, and again into the milk, and back into the flour.  After waiting for the vegetable oil (his granny used lard) to super heat, he gently dropped each piece into the hot oil.
When the down side was golden brown, the turned the pieces over and cooked the other side to a matching brown.  Once both sides reach the right color, they were done.  He placed them on paper towel to rest.
By this time the ice cream maker was making a laboring sound, indicating the cream was done.
At the table, my wife and I enjoyed our first fried chicken and peach ice cream.  It was fantastic!  Look at her go; a bite of chicken, then a bite of ice cream!

I had seen Jeff's photos, on his blog and on Facebook, of the chicken feasts at his mom's, but never really knew what it tasted like.  Now I know and I'm sure my wife will insist on me making it again, very soon!

I think the only alterations I will make to his recipe will be a bit more salt and pepper in the flour, and I will leave off the peaches.  I think, to my taste, vanilla cream would be a little tastier.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Perfect Home Salad!

How to make the perfect home salad: 

Let's see...lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peanuts, grapes, apple slices, yellow pepper, olives, and cheese!   We used Olive Garden dressing.  Ranch works well too!
This salad makes you want some meat!  So, a nice strip steak and a thick pork chop, with a side of baked potato seemed to fill the bill.

Guys, you can do this...my wife loved me for this meal, and your special someone will too!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baking Halibut With Orange Juice And Mustard

I saw something similar to this done on a TV show once, so today when I fumbled through an almost empty freezer and found a package of halibut, it sort of came back to me...sort of!!

What was that cooking sauce?  It had some orange juice and some fancy mustard in it is all I remembered, so I had to improvise!  Believe it or not, it worked!

I thawed the halibut by placing it in a resealable plastic bag in cold water.  In about 15 minutes it was soft to the touch, but hard toward the middle, which was good enough for me!  I was hungry!

All the while, my wife pealed some Yukon Gold potatoes and I cut them into quarters and eighths for baking.  She salted and peppered the potatoes and put them into a 350 oven for about 35 minutes.

I went to the computer and posted some Fine Art America photos, while she found a can of green beans and prepared to fry them; shaking salt and some hot and spicy pepper flakes over them.  
In a small bowl, I mixed up a tablespoon of some Grey Poupon, honey, pineapple preserves (orange marmalade might have been more appropriate, but I used what was at hand), soy sauce, and orange juice, with a couple of strong shakes of black pepper!  No salt was added because the soy contains plenty!  I used this mixture to baste both sides of my halibut.

At the appropriate time I basted the fish (both sides), and placed it in a 350 degree oven.  I arranged the fish on a metal rack, sitting in a large pan to catch the drippings.  In 8 minutes, I removed the fish and turned it over, basting the upper side once more.  I put it back in the oven for 10 minutes, this time turning it up to 375.
When the timer went off, I turned on the broiler for 3 minutes.  The top of the fish will begin to rapidly bubble about half way through this period, so you can watch it until it gets as dark as you like it.

The fish was thoroughly cooked and flaky once on our plates.  I surrounded the fish with the potatoes and beans, and we really enjoyed a quiet Sunday afternoon meal.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cooking Steak In A Skillet

So, like most of you, the rain has pushed me indoors this summer; curtailing my grilling!

I wanted a nice juicy New York Strip yesterday, but alas, it rained, yet again, on my grilling parade!

No more will I suffer, or do without my steak.  Like the fancy chefs on TV I managed to pull off a perfect steak on and in my electric stove!
The big fat potato had to cook for over an hour.  I didn't have to pick out the largest specimen they had, but I wanted enough to satisfy both wife and me.  
That done, I begin to saute the medium size pieces of baby Bella portabella mushrooms and onions in butter, some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
I put about 2 teaspoons of real butter in an iron skillet and got it up to high heat.  I forked in the salted, peppered, and garlic powdered steaks, fitting the round side of the strips comfortably into the rounded sides of the skillet.

I browned each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until a pleasing brown appears on each steak.

I then popped the skillet into a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes for medium rare, or 20 minutes for well done.

My wife prepared the potato by halving the huge spud, cutting them into sectioned pieces, salting and peppering them, spreading on some butter, then layering on some cheese and sour cream.
I placed a steak on each plate and smothered them with the mushrooms and onions.

This is the way you do it when your grill is being rained on!  As a matter of fact, I my not crank it up again all summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Mexican Omelette

We were out on a road-trip a couple of Sunday's ago, and stopped, again, at the Golden Girls Restaurant,  2211 North Charles G. Sievers Blvd., Clinton, TN.

We have eaten there before, and it has always been a pleasing experience.  It needs a little modernizing, but I guess that's the appeal to us.  The day we were there they had suffered a little wind damage and there was a blue tarp over a section of the roof.

This trip Judy ordered okra, pinto beans, the chicken and dumplings, with fried cornbread!  I chose the "Mexican Omelette" ( or omelet), and it was spectacular!  They put whole jalapenos in theirs, and man was it hot!  But, I love hot!

So, this past Sunday morning I made my version for our granddaughter, and she was wild about it!  Of course, I served it with cheesy grits, which she also loves.

The prep takes a little while, but usually while the coffee is brewing and the biscuits are cooking you can have it done and ready to pour the eggs.

I mixed some chopped honey-ham, some Paul Newman's Salsa, some canned mushrooms (chopped), onions, yellow bell pepper, and diced jalapenos in a small frying pan and sauteed them in a little butter.  

I had already prepared the cheesy grits (Quick Grits with lots of Velveeta cheese and butter!), and coffee was brewing.  I also cooked my bacon, 2 strips per person, in the microwave.  Usually about a minute per slice, but until it's crisp.

I mixed up some eggs in a bowl, usually one egg per person, and added a little salt and pepper.
In a medium hot skillet, pour in enough egg to form a thin layer on the entire bottom of a medium pan.  The mixture should be thoroughly whipped.  If you leave some white unmixed, it will separate when you try and turn it.

When you can tell the mixture is completely cooked on the bottom side, gently squirm your spatula underneath and over to the center.  Then gently raise it up and flip it over.  The opposite side should cook quickly.  

Remove the egg and place it on a plate.  Spread the cooked ingredients in a line across the egg, sprinkle on some mild cheddar cheese, lay on two strips of bacon, and then close the edges of the egg over the mixture.  Spoon some more salsa down the length of the omelet, plop on a biscuit or the grits on the side (not both...too many carbs), and serve the plate.
It will put a smile on your face!

BTW, the jalapenos make coffee taste even better!  Try it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gordon Ramsey Would Be Proud!

Actually, ol' Gordo might not be so proud.  I made Risotto last night.  It seems to be his main appetizer dish on his cooking shows, and I have only found one restaurant locally that offers it.  I've always wanted to try risotto, especially with shrimp or lobster, but haven't lucked up on it as yet.

So, I saw this box of Lundberg Risotto in the store a few weeks ago, and I bought it and put it away, thinking it was a time consuming process to prepare.  I found it last night and was shocked at how easy it is to prepare!  It made me wonder why and how all those potential "chefs" got kicked off his show/s!  

All you do is saute the rice-like risotto buds (okay, so it is a rice) in a teaspoon of olive oil for a couple of minutes, pour in 2 cups of water, and the contents of a seasoning pouch, (conveniently included in the box), and bring to a boil.  Then you simply reduce the heat to medium, stir occasionally, and start cooking your vegetables and "protein", as Chef Ramsey would say.

I chose fish as my protein, some halibut I'd had in the freezer just about as long as I'd had the risotto!  My only mistake was starting the risotto about 15 minutes too early.  That would have gotten me kicked out of the kitchen for sure.  At least if I'd been cooking for the great and powerful Gordo!  If you can't bring all the order to the table at the same time, then you have to throw it all away and start over!  Not me...not with the cost of food these days, and the hordes that are starving!
So, I had to bake my halibut a bit longer than planned, since it was frozen.  I cooked the unbreaded fish for 20 minutes at 350, flipped it and cooked it 10 minutes more, then quickly blackened it slightly under the broiler.  Probably a bit too long, but I sure didn't want to get kicked out of the kitchen (or my home) for serving raw fish!

I sauteed some frozen mixed vegetables in butter!  Yep, I read that article in Time's mag on "butter and fat".  I wanted the real McCoy...none of that fake stuff!

I seasoned the vegetables with a little sea salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash Seasoning!  They were yummy too!

I kept the risotto warm, and truthfully they were a little firm, not that nice liquid state you see Gordo do on TV, but great tasting nonetheless!

I do better next time...I promise!  Can I stay another week?

I seasoned the halibut with table salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a hearty sprinkle of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning!
I plated the wonderful smelling food and placed it in front of my wife, my other discerning chef and chief critic!  She and I both thought it was a great meal, and I'm sure you will too!

Get in there...real men can cook real food! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jambalaya Made Simple!

When I grocery shop, and I do very often, I'm always looking for something simple that I (us men) can cook.  This week I wanted some good'ol Louisiana cooking, like I used to get when I was stationed at Biloxi back in the 60s.

Suddenly, I spotted this big can of Simple Suppers, made by Margaret Homes, on the shelf.  I grabbed it and read, "Just add meat!"...man, that's for me, I almost said out loud! 

And, it is that simple!  
I cut up the kielbasa I'd been saving, browned it in some olive oil and garlic, and whalah, it was ready for the can of jambalaya!

I almost didn't have time for my Crown libation it was so quick and easy!
We had some leftover cornbread, and together it was delicious!

One some complaint "Margret", it was a touch too salty!  Maybe folks should consider adding a pinch of sugar to cut that down a notch.

Next time... 
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