Merry Christmas!

All Posts | December 25, 2016 | By

It’s been a strange year, but all in all, it’s been a nice Merry Christmas in the end. After all, you don’t don’t complain after you survive a stroke, even if you’re still trying to get all your vocabulary back into what you used to take for granted. It’s been a bunch of work and it won’t go away for awhile, but hey, I’m still talking to you, right?

I want to say thank you for all of you who continue to come to the blog. I’d want to put my recipes online regardless, but that you come and use them amazes me, constantly. What all of you have done here is incomparable:

  • Two and a half years ago, we were lucky to have 50-plus viewers a day. Mostly much lower than that. Today, we’re doing somewhere between a hundred a day to something like two to three hundred a day.
  • We’ve gone from a two or three hundred a week to something like a thousand or more per week.
  • And from 2,000 viewers per month to nearly 4,000 – 5,000 per month. 

No matter how I look at the stats, it’s just amazing, and I thank you for all of it.

 

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Red-Eye Shoulder Stew

red-eye shoulder stew

Red-eye is one of those things that the folks in the South, particularly, can’t (or don’t) do without for very long. Me? I can usually get by ok without that good ol’ red-eye gravy, but I can tell you this: if you’ve ever had really good red-eye gravy, then eventually you’ll  be back for more. It has that magnetic pull to it that you just can’t stay away from it forever.  All that’s to say that it was that bacon/coffee mixture that prompted me to start looking for a great stew that could use those same flavors. 

So first of all, if you’re not from the South, you probably have no idea what red-eye gravy is. In a nutshell, it’s a pork fat gravy (usually from ham, bacon or sausage) that’s made with very strong coffee. I’ve seen it used a lot of ways, but mostly it’s just served with the ham itself, and it’s great that way. But this time around, I had some beef shoulder, some veggies and I wanted to see if I could make a shoulder stew with coffee that would have some of the great red-eye taste. 

That’s pretty much how it came to be, and while it may not be necessary, I made this in a slow cooker, so in the end, it really took very little effort and the taste was extremely good (though I may mess with the spices a bit more next time around). And yes, the coffee definitely comes through.

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Elegant Chicken Galantine

chicken galantine

As someone obsessed by food, I spend more than a healthy amount of time scouring the web, looking for inspiration and ideas. On one of these excursions, I “Stumbled” (using Stumble Upon) across a video clip of the French chef Jacques Pepin preparing a chicken galantine. You can find the video here. The finished product was impressive and delicious.

Boning a chicken is actually pretty easy if you follow the video. And if you watch, you’ll understand that this technique removes all the bones (save for the very tips of the legs). And yet, done properly, the result still looks very much like a chicken should, but it’s then possible to simply cut the chicken crosswise for a wonderful stuffed entree just ready for a gastrique, or maybe some gravy. 

For this version, my lovely wife (and resident stuffing expert) concocted a wonderful stuffing by sauteing some onions and fresh herbs and combining that with dried, crumbled corn bread. The crowning touch was a simple orange gastrique drizzled over the sliced galatine. The beauty of this dish is that you can stuff the bird just about any way you please. I’m looking forward to trying some ideas in that regard, including an oyster stuffing at some point.

Recommended.

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Swedish Meatballs, Perfect for Christmas

swedish meatballs

Meatballs are one of those things I really love (as you can see by the many posts I’ve pout here) and these Swedish meatballs are one of my favorites. They’ve got an interesting texture, unlike meatballs of any other kind I’ve had. The sauce, however, is the winner here. There are a couple of ways you can make it, assuming you have some really good mushroom soup handy, but you can also make it with just good old mushroom soup from the can. 

If you have good creamy mushroom sauce, skip the milk in the recipe below and just add some sour cream to give it that nice body. If you have mushroom soup, add the milk and you’re fine. You can also add pre-cooked shredded mushrooms to the mix, if you like.

I’m guessing the soft texture that comes with the meatballs is from 3/4 cup of milk that’s added to the meatball mix, because there doesn’t seem to be anything else different. In fact, as far as I know, I don’t remember seeing milk in any other meatball mix, come to think of it. Whatever the cause, the meatballs come out fresh and will definitely win your heart. Promise.

The Swedish meatballs are great for Christmas and also can make a delicious appetizer, if you wish.

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Cornish Game Hens via Sous Vide

cornish game hens

Cornish game hens are very tough to do right — especially without a very good thermometer — and yet, when they’re done well, they are just delicious little chickens and all the diners get, essentially, the whole bird. But that was before sous vide, and that changes everything. With a sous vide set up, each and every chicken comes out perfectly, and a quick little browning in the oven at the end makes them perfect. 

As I’ve done with most chicken, I cooked them in the sous vide at about 150 degrees for at least two hours. This time around, I added a quarter of a lemon slice and a spring of rosemary before adding them to the vacuum sealer. (You don’t need the vacuum device, but it does make things a bit easier.) I also used  two cups of chicken broth, drippings from the birds,  and a bunch of garlic on the top of the stove to make a nice cooked garlic sauce, which really added a lot of flavor at the end.

That’s all there is to it. And in the end, it really adds only a little time to make the dish (say 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours) the end result makes up for the difference by a lot.

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Sous Vide Spinach Stuffed Chicken

spinach stuffed chicken

I wanted to do another chicken dish that incorporates what sous vide does best and yet comes out with something a little more special that just another chicken dish. That’s basically how this spinach stuffed chicken breast came about. It uses sous vide to get the chicken just perfect, then a quick fry in a pan at the last minute to give it that nice, crisp outer coating.

There isn’t much special about the dish just all by itself. The spinach dip uses cream cheese, spinach, a bit of Parmesan and a little salt and olive oil. I pounded down the chicken breasts and placed the spinach dip inside and rolled them up. Into the sous vide for about an hour to an hour and a half, then given a little egg was and some bread crumbs and into the fryer just to make sure they had a nice crusty finish. 

What I didn’t expect was how much flavor there would be. The stuffing, with just the heat from the cooking, turned into something fantastic, and not what I expected at all from such a simple dish, and the chicken, of course, was just perfect.

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Lamb Chops with Ham, Garlic and Basil

lamb chops with ham, garlic and basil

Lamb chops are one of those dishes you can go to with very little trouble and yet produce a spectacular dish — one that will keep company coming back time after time or just satisfy a family. First of all, good loin or center ribs are probably the best a lamb has to offer and yet, served on a plate or on a center dish, they look just delicious.

This lamb dish has a great deal going for it. It can be done in a frying pan. It  doesn’t require much except a little ham (this time from a Honey-Baked ham) but you could also use pancetta to make it just a bit more Italian. The rest is just some olive oil, plenty of garlic and a little basil. The result is unpredictably good, maybe one of the best lamb chop meals I’ve ever made, and with so little effort.

Just make sure you’ve got the pan really hot at the end and that’s all that’s needed.

Add these on a plate of roasted Brussels sprouts and you’ve got a great meal.

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