Monday, May 28, 2012

Potato Casserole, Eenie Meenie Style, + Grilled Asparagus & Pumpkin Pie

One more barbecue to wrap up the Memorial Weekend.  We had two New York steaks to grill, plus some asparagus.  I had intended to do a potato recipe I've been wanting to try, but then I read about Eenie Meenie's (aka Rebecca) potatoes on the Big Green Egg forum and decided I needed to do those instead.  And I got to use the mandoline, which I haven't used in a while.  It's always kind of exciting to use it--will I or won't I walk away with all my skin intact?  Just kidding.  It has a safety guard on it and unless I do something really stupid, it's pretty safe.  It's always a good idea, though, just to be on the safe side, to save the drinking for after all the mandolining has been done!

Here is how to make the potatoes in Eenie's own words:

Basically, rub garlic around a pan ( I usually use ceramic or Pyrex), then smear bottom and sides with olive oil.  Thinly slice potatoes (use a mandoline if you have one) about an 1/8 of an inch or slightly more.  Then rinse them and dry them (it would be better to not rinse them then to not have them dry).  Then very thinly slice an onion (I use a sweet onion).  If it's a large diameter onion, then further cut up the round rings so that they are about two to two and a half inches.  Slice some tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and salt them and set them aside to drain. If you do not have ripe and tasty tomatoes you can drain some canned tomatoes.....drain them well.  Remove any seeds. If they are whole tomatoes, just break them up with your hands or cut with scissors into big chunks.  Chop up some fresh basil, parsley, and oregano (mostly basil and parsley, just a little oregano) and set aside. Mince some garlic and set aside..
In a ceramic or Pyrex, or baking dish, layer a layer of overlapping potatoes, then a layer of tomatoes, then a layer of onions.  Then sprinkle on some chopped basil, parsley, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Repeat this entire process one or two more times depending upon the depth of your baking dish.  Don't worry if it goes to the will shrink down considerably.

Top with several pats of butter, then top with foil.  Bake at around 350 or so for an hour to an hour and a half (until the potatoes are almost done.  Then top with shredded mozzarella until it is melted.  If it doesn't brown, then place it under the broiler. 

It is important not to serve this immediately......the potatoes need to soak up some of the juices.  Let it rest for about 15 - 20 minutes or whatever. 

Basically use the herbs you like and the proportions you like.  I go heavy on the basil and parsley and light on the oregano.

This can be made ahead of time, up until the cheese part and refrigerated.  Let it warm up almost to room temp, then reheat.  After it is reheated, top with cheese.

Here's a link to the post, if that's of any help.
If you have any flavored oils, now's a good time to break them out.  I used this on the inside of the casserole after I rubbed it with garlic.

 First layer of sliced potatoes.

 Then the onions.

 Tomatoes are next.

 Then the chopped herbs.  I didn't have any oregano, so I used parsley, basil, and thyme.

I had a wee bit of Kerrygold herb butter, so I used that to dot over the layers.  This was 1 tablespoon worth.

I used two potatoes, three tomatoes, and one onion.  I would have liked more onion, but only had the one on hand.  I did two layers since it was just myself and Jim.  Also, I used a ceramic casserole with a lid and I cooked them on the BGE instead of in an oven.

I forgot to get mozarella cheese, so I used a combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and goat cheese.  It was really good.  Jim loved it.

While the potatoes were resting, we grilled the steaks at 275 degrees for 15 minutes, then flipped them and laid some sliced mushrooms on top.  Finished off grilling until they registered 135 on the Thermapen, which was another 5 to 10 minutes.

We put the asparagus on at the same time as the steaks, but pulled the asparagus when it was finished.  After peeling the asparagus and snapping off the tough ends, I tossed it in my flavored oil, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, and put it in the grill pan.  I love roasted veggies and grilling them is even better.

 This is my handy-dandy asparagus peeler.  It's one of my favorite kitchen tools because it makes peeling asparagus so easy.  It looks pretty innocent laying there on the cutting board, but it's actually quite wicked!

 In the grill pan and on the Egg.  For best texture, grill at a hot temp so it gets very roasted without getting mushy.

We decided that we were not fans of New York steak.  They were cooked perfectly with just the right amount of pink, but they were still tough and blah tasting.  Buddy lucked out because he got most of both our steaks!

The asparagus was my favorite part followed closely by the potatoes.  Dessert was also tasty.  We ended the meal with a pumpkin pie.  Jim accidentally bought a can of pumpkin pie filling instead of regular pumpkin (Buddy is on a doggy diet and pumpkin is great for dogs trying to shed a few pounds), and I opened it up without looking at the label, so we needed to get it used up.  I'll be putting up a full-on pie tutorial in the very near future, but here's the recipe I used for this pie:

Pumpkin Pie

2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons leaf lard
9 tablespoons European-style butter
8 tablespoons water

2 cups pumpkin pie filling
1 cup coconut milk
3 beaten eggs
extra spices - allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 425.  When you put the pie in the oven, turn the heat down to 375.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  If you're baking the pie in an Aga, put it on the floor of the roasting oven for 15 minutes.  Then move to the top rung of the baking oven for 45 minutes.  Pie perfection!

Mix the dough so that the butter bits vary in size.

I found this little 'cheater' thing a few years ago.  You put the floured dough inside this pouch, zip it up, and roll it out.  It makes it almost perfectly round.  It's small, though, and so I have to then remove the dough and roll it larger.  If you have a french rolling pin, which I do not, you can achieve a very round dough without this gadget.  Still, it's a pretty fun and handy thing to have.

I like to vary how I crimp the edges.  Here I used two fingers to push pieces together and twisted it slightly to one side.

This pastry scraper is another handy tool.  If the dough sticks to your rolling surface, you can use it to scrape the dough up without tearing it.

Pie perfection!

 I'm already looking forward to a piece for breakfast tomorrow!!!

A pretty tasty dinner in remembrance of our fathers, who both were in the Navy.  My dad died back in 1980.  He was 54.  He had a heart attack in his sleep.  Jim's dad died of brain cancer in 1986, three months before our wedding.  He was 65.

On this Memorial Weekend, I am eternally grateful to all the men and women who serve and have served in the military and am very sad that so many have had to give their lives doing so.  Today my thoughts and prayers go out to all deceased and living veterans as well as their families who have also sacrificed so much for our country.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grilled Salmon & Artichokes

Being that it's a holiday weekend (Memorial Weekend) and also that the weather was gorgeous, we decided to do some grilling tonight for dinner.  I sent Jim to the store to decide what to have and he came home with steaks, Copper River salmon, artichokes, and asparagus.  We decided to do the salmon and artichokes tonight.

Jim is a great cook and his salmon recipe is my favorite way to have salmon.  I actually don't care for it much cooked any other way, but if he cooks it, I could eat the whole dang thing!  So I put him to work on the salmon while I tried out a grilled artichoke recipe I had seen on Pinterest.  A salad rounded out the meal.

Jim marinates the salmon for a while.  Two hours is good.  The more you marinate, the more the teriyaki flavor comes out.

Then it goes on the Big Green Egg griller skin side down on a piece of aluminum foil.

 The Egg fluctuated between 350 and 400 degrees.  After about 6 to 7 minutes, he flipped the salmon over.

Slip the spatula under the salmon but above the skin so that the skin stays on the foil.  It basically sticks to the foil.

When you flip it, place it back onto the skin that remained on the foil.  Grill another 4 to 5 minutes.

That's it!  Very easy and so tasty.

The artichokes are a little more involved but not by much.  I trimmed the artichokes the way I usually trim them.  I pull off the bottom row of leaves, trim the remaining leaves with scissors, cut off the top 1/2 inch or so, and cut off most of the stem (don't cut it all the way off or the leaves start falling off).  Use a serrated knife for trimming - it's much easier. 
For this recipe, I then quartered the artichokes, again with the serrated knife.
Then wash your hands with soap.  Handling artichokes leaves a bitter taste on your skin.  This is not a problem unless you then get something tasty on your fingers that you want to lick off.  The bitter taste of the artichokes completely ruins that!

I cooked the artichokes in boiling water til they were tender.  A knife inserted into the artichoke stem will tell you when they're cooked through.  I let them cool a bit and then removed the prickly parts.

I chopped up some garlic, grated some Parmesan cheese, and mixed that together with some salt and pepper.  I stuffed that mixture in between the leaves.  Then grilled them for a bit.  The cheese didn't really melt the way I wanted it to.  I saved back a couple of the quarters to grill tomorrow; I want to see if they are just as good prepped the day before grilling.  So I'll grill them a bit longer tomorrow and/or over a hotter fire.  Mine weren't as 'charred' as the ones in the original recipe, although they were very tasty.

For the salad, I used the Tastefully Simple Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing that I love.  Tossed that with some greens, chopped hard boiled egg, and shrimp.  I love this salad no matter how  many times I eat it!

Salmon Recipe

Roughly 2/3 part soy sauce to 1/3 part brown sugar

(Jim used about 2/3 cup of soy and 4-5 tablespoons of sugar tonight for a 1/2 lb piece of salmon and it was about 2x what was needed.)

1 or 2 chopped scallions
1 to 2 mushed garlic cloves

Mix all ingredients well, in a blender if available.  Marinate +/- 2 hours in the fridge.

Grill temp at about 350.  Place salmon fillet skin side down on  aluminum foil and cook about 6-7 minutes; then slip a metal spatula between the skin and the salmon to flip.  Cook another 4-5 minutes depending on heat and desired doneness (thickness of the salmon may require increasing this time).  Remove to platter and keep warm or serve at once.

And that was our dinner.  Pretty simple, quick and easy to prepare, and delicious. We ate it out on the deck, beneath the blooming wisteria.  Life is good!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chips

I wanted to take something in to work today for our monthly staff meeting and decided on a coffee cake.  I didn't have all of the ingredients for any of the coffee cake recipes I had on hand, so ended up taking a part of a recipe and making a few substitutions and additions that I hoped would work.  It ended up working out great - the streusel topping was perfect, and the cake was moist and delicious.  I decided that chocolate chips really don't belong in a coffee cake.  Although they tasted fine, good even, in the future I'll leave them out.  Maybe blueberries next time?

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with (or without) Chocolate Chips

1 stick (8 T) butter
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teas salt
4 teas baking powder
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
2 caps worth of vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Streusel Topping:
1/3 cup flour
4 teas cinnamon
2 cups brown sugar
1 stick (8 T) butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your largest Pyrex or casserole dish with cooking spray or coat it with oil.  My pan is 15 x 10, but anything close to that should work.  You can also cut this recipe in half and use an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together.  The butter does not have to be soft.  Mine was straight from the fridge.  Add in the eggs, one at a time.  Add in the flour, salt, and baking powder, alternating with the milk and then the sour cream..  I sifted my dry ingredients together before adding them in, but you can probably get away without doing that.   Add in the vanilla and then the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into your prepared casserole dish.

Pulse all the streusel topping ingredients in a food processor until crumbly.  Spread half over the batter and swirl it in with the tip of a knife.  Then spread the remaining topping over the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

If you like nuts, spread a cup of chopped nuts over the streusel topping before baking or mix into the batter.