Friday, November 5, 2010

Comfort Food: Southern Style Meatballs

Another title for this could be "Do as I say, Not as I Do", but we'll jump off that bridge when we get there.

How much do you love a meatball? I love them a LOT.  I could easily eat them at least once a week, if only they didn't seem so limited. Most meatball recipes I've come across are either italian or meatloaf-like, and I was wanting something different. I thought, "what could go wrong with a southern-style meatball"? You'd be suprised. My first attempt at developing this recipe ended in Epic Meatball Fail, but it was an easily solved problem and I can now share with you the more successful and delicious version. Make no mistake, this is some full-fat, get cozy on a cold night, comfort food. (You may want to follow it with the fiber-rich Pumpkin Oat Muffins as atonement for such a dietary sin.)

Time to get out grandma's cast iron skillet kids! (And preheat your oven to 400)

Southern Style Meatballs with Smoky Country Gravy

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound pork sausage (like the log of breakfast sausage)
1 teaspoon Sylvia's Seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 egg
1/4 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the gravy:
1/3 cup fat from pan (you'll get this browning the meatballs)
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix very well. The best tool for this is your clean hands, so get in there and get dirty. I'm not going to put up a picture, because quite frankly smushed up raw meat is just not that attractive.

You know how I'm always telling you to taste your food as you're cooking? Well you have to do it with meatballs too, but obviously you don't want to go munching on a raw beef/pork mixture. So what do you do? How do you know if they are seasoned well? You make a test patty.

I actually forgot to take a pic of the test patty before I cooked the meatballs,
so I got an extra snack :)

Heat up a pan, form a tiny hamburger and cook it - it will only take a couple minutes. Then enjoy your snack and decide if you need to add anything.

Once you're happy with the seasoning, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Barely film the bottom of the pan with oil (you won't need much, the meatballs will render out fat while they brown, which is what you want). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls - you'll get about 12 - and drop into the hot pan in batches, turning every few minutes to brown evenly. You'll know when to turn them when they release from the pan - they won't want to stick when they are ready.

Aren't they cute? How do you not love meatballs?
As they finish browning, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Place the meatballs in a 400 degree oven to finish cooking through while you make the gravy. They'll need about 20 minutes - just cut one in half to see if they are no longer pink inside.

(This is where the Meatball Fail came in. Instead of putting them in the oven, I made the gravy then finished the meatballs in the sauce. The long cooking time turned the gravy from creamy delight to grainy, gloppy mess. I cried, took out the meatballs, whisked the daylights out of the gravy and it was better, but not perfect. So I cried some more and decided I would instruct you all to bake the meatballs instead of simmer them like I did.)

For the gravy you want about 1/3 cup of fat in the pan, along with all the crusty brown goodness stuck to it. If you have more than that, remove a couple tablespoons. If you have less for some reason, add a little vegetable oil (or for huge bonus points, reserved bacon grease). Sprinkle the flour over the hot fat in the pan and start whisking like crazy till smooth. You don't want color here, so as soon as it's smooth start slowly adding the milk, whisking the entire time. Add The liquid smoke, salt, and pepper to taste. When it starts to come to a bit of a simmer and is thickened, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and keep warm until the meatballs are ready. Whisk occasionally to keep a skin from forming.

This is a lot of pepper, but I like it that way.
Pull the meatballs out of the oven and drop them into the gravy, rolling them around to coat, and serve.Your family will fall into a coma shortly after this meal.

oh yeah...
I took this over the edge and served it with equally sinful mashed potatoes loaded with cream cheese and bacon. I mean, if you're going to do this thing, do it all the way. Would you want this with a salad? I didn't think so. I DO think this would be fun as breakfast with some biscuits, though. Which is exactly what I'll be doing the next time I make this. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Changing It Up: Pumpkin-Oat Muffins

I thought I'd interrupt the fat-fest that is this site with a little healthy something I came up with at about 4 o'clock this morning. I was wide awake and bored, so you all get to reap the benefits.

Most folks know that you can substitute applesauce for oil or butter in a muffin recipe to reduce the fat and amp up the nutritionl value. Did you know you can do the same thing with pumpkin? I was inspired by an oatmeal muffin I saw, but I wanted to make it a little more seasonal and a little more figure-friendly. Let's face it: I'll be doing enough damage to my hard-earned waistline over the next two months, I need all the fiber and vitamins I can get.

Two fun facts before we get on with the recipe:

1) The secret ingredient here is Chinese five spice powder, and you need to try it. It adds great depth of flavor to savory AND sweet foods. It's become common enough that you'll find it in the spice aisle of most major grocery stores.

2) This recipe makes one dozen standard muffins plus one dozen mini muffins. It's also safe for your incredibly spoiled dogs to eat, so save the minis as dog treats.

Because he didn't get this awesome on puppy chow alone...

So here we go


2 1/3 cups oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup oat bran
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon chinese five-spice powder
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 heaping cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 cup water, heated to boiling

Preheat the oven to 375. Generously coat a standard size muffin tin and a mini muffin tin with cooking spray (I like baker's joy), or use muffin papers.

Combine the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, oat bran, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and pumpkin till smooth. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir just till combined. Quickly beat in the boiling water then let stand for about 5 minutes. Divide evenly among standard muffin cups, filling 2/3 full, then divide the remaining batter among the mini muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes (they won't rise a whole lot).


Serve warm, or let cool completely and store in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Then just thaw them out and warm in the microwave for a few seconds when the muffin mood strikes. To really put these over the top, sweeten softened cream cheese with honey to taste and slather all over a warm muffin. That may cancel out some of the healthy on these, but it's soooo yummy!

Hope you like them!

Perfect for Mondays: Quicky Chicky Casserole

Hi, my name is Christy and I have the tendency to behave like a small child. Hence, the name of this recipe.

All of the recipes I've posted so far take up a little more time than the average family has on a weeknight, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite faster dinners. Serve this puppy up with some salad and crusty bread and you have a meal!

Can I toot my own horn here? I mean, look at that crust!

In all honesty, this casserole was born out of pure curiosity. I saw Campbell's cream of onion soup at the store and grabbed it, wondering "what on earth can we do with THIS?!?!" Then, one night when I was far too tired to hang out in the kitchen much longer than it takes to pour a glass of cheap Shiraz, I raided my pantry and went to work. I was kind of craving chicken and macaroni and cheese, but wanted to take the interstate route to the flavors instead of back roads. There it was, collecting dust in the cabinet- the cream of onion soup. I knew I'd found a use for it.

Can I confess something here? I LOVE onion with a good sharp cheddar. This is no casual affair, though. I will take a slice of cheddar, put it on a cracker, and top it with a piece of raw onion. It is divinely funky, and you should try it. Unless you want to kiss your spouse within the next 24 hours.

This is a great use for leftover cooked chicken*, or the leftover turkey that will invade your fridge near the end of this month. I am usually not a fan of bagged shredded cheese -- so do yourself a favor and don't use it here. You can grate cheese while the noodles cook.

Anyhoo, cheese + onion + chicken + noodles = delicious. So here's the recipe:


1 ten-ounce package egg noodles
1 lb chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can Campbell's condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 can Campbell's condensed cream of onion soup
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup panko (japanese bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

 Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly coat a 3qt. casserole with butter or cooking spray.

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water for about 8 minutes. You want them just barely underdone, since they'll be going into the oven. While the noodles cook, mix up the topping; just toss the cheese, panko and melted butter in a small bowl till the crumbs are well coated in butter.

A match made in processed food heaven. Notice my "cookbook" - currently only available in raggedy handwritten form.

Drain the noodles and return them to the pot. Stir in the soups, milk, Lawry's and chicken. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Hey, look! It's NOT my Le Cruset! (but it IS my Paula Deen cookware)

PLEASE taste this concotion before you go all willy-nilly with the salt. The soups are high in sodium, the Lawry's has salt, and if you are using leftover or rotisserie chicken it may already be seasoned. You may not need to add any at all!

Dump the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the topping evenly all over. You should get a nice thick layer. (Optional -  sometimes I'll top the topping with some fresh ground pepper and a little fresh or dried thyme)

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, till hot and bubbly. To get the topping a nice crispy brown, I'll turn on the broiler for about 2 minutes before I take it out (just be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn). Let it stand about 5 minutes before serving.

* "but Christy, I don't have any leftover chicken!" HOGWASH! Theres no excuse to not have chicken ready to go! The next time you cook chicken breasts for your family, cook 2 extra pieces. Then cut them up and toss them in the  fridge or freezer, depending on when you plan to use them. It doesn't add a lot to that night's cooking time, and it takes a lot off of the next night's!

Hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think ~ and as always, please share on facebook and twitter!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Farmer's Market Finds

 One of the great perks of living in the Lowcountry is the blessedly long growing season. There's not a lot of places you can find delicious, fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes in mid-October. Lucky for us, the Charleston Farmer's Market is one of those places. The market runs April through December, every Saturday in Marion Square. My favorite meals have been sourced there. I have no problem driving just under an hour for tasty goodness, and we did just that this past Saturday with my husband's visiting parents. It was a nice way of saying "This is who we are, this is how we eat, and it means a lot to us - so we want to share it with you".

Here in this post, you won't find recipes. Why? Because food this fresh doesn't need much done to it - it's already good. So I'll share just pictures and info on how I prepared the meal. It was pretty much a country delight...(Every thing came from the market, unless otherwise noted)

This delicious little salad started out as a massive red tomato, a yellow Roma, and a green onion. They were simply dressed with a few things from the pantry: Salt, Pepper, a splash of white wine vinegar, and a drizzle of good olive oil. I had some parsley and tarragon floating around in my fridge from earlier in the week so I chopped that up and tossed it in as well. I went really easy on all the seasonings though, because the tomatoes were so fresh and yummy. Also of note: Everything was room temperature. I think the flavors come out more that way, and besides, you should NEVER refrigerate a tomato.

This was picked that morning out on Wadmalaw Island, and I'd have been happy eating it raw (I did sneak a few kernels while prepping it). I just shucked it, broke it in half, and dropped it into boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes. That's all corn this fresh needs. At the table, we slathered it with butter and sprinkled it with smoked salt - YUM!

We always, ALWAYS get fingerling potatoes from Owl's Nest Plantation when we go. It's not optional. This time he also had mushrooms and apples, and he has some of the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes I''ve ever seen. For these I put about a tablespoon each butter and oil in a saute pan and cooked them on medium high heat till they just started to brown. Then I put the lid on and lowered the heat to medium-low, shaking them occasionally so they didn't burn on the bottoms, for about 15-20 minutes. The skins have a little resistance to them and the inside is creamy and flavorful. All they needed was a little salt. The peas are purple hull peas from our garden. We let them dry in the pod and then shell them. Because they are fresher than supermarket dried peas, they only took about 30 minutes to cook worth no soaking. They went into some boiling water with a few chunks of Tasso ham we got from the Meat House's stand (pic of that will come with my Red Beans and Rice recipe that I'm cooking tonight). The only other seasoning these got was this:
The other source of my powers
 My fabulous mother-in-law brought us a bottle of this and I did a little happy dance. We've been without it since July, and my cooking just wasn't the same. If you know someone in Alabama have them mail it to you. It will change your life.

Of course we aren't a bunch of vegetarians, so we just stopped at Bi-Lo on the way home and picked up a preseasoned package of turkey tenderloin (it's on price-lock at $5 right now) to satisfy my husbands carnivorous tendencies.

And I had two small homemade french bread boules (round loaves) from earlier in the week that I'd made and frozen. They reheated beautifully and tasted as if they'd been made that day. I didn't get a pic of them, but here's what the loaves looked like from the same afternoon:

I try to make bread at least once a week- I'm working my way through Baking With Julia - it's better than any baking textbook, and really makes artisan bread easy for the home baker.

And there you have it! Our wonderful farmer's market dinner! Head out there this Saturday and create your own- there's still plenty of beautiful produce available!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chilly? Chili!

(Clearly I had writers' block when I came up with that lame title... Lucky for me my unofficial but impartial taste-testers like the recipe)

It is no secret to those who know me that I LOVE Fall. As soon as cool breezes start to blow, my excitement is borderline inappropriate. As much as I love the bounty of a summer garden on my dinner table, there's something immensely satisfying about fall and winter cooking. It is the ultimate comfort food - anything stewed, roasted, or braised warms your kitchen and your heart (OK, OK, cheesy line, but true!). It would be safe to assume that there will be a significant increase in blog posts and recipes shared during this season.

So when It got too chilly to leave the windows open the other night, the only thing that would satisfy me and my apparently psychic husband was, naturally, Chili. I say apparently psychic because I had planned a nice sausage and potato gratin for dinner that night, but threw the idea out while I was wrapped up in a sweater on the porch drinking my coffee that morning and decided to have chili instead (holy run-on sentence, batman). Within moments, he called and asked if we were having chili for dinner. Sometimes I wonder if we share a brain...

So today, I share with you my chili recipe. It's delicious, it's spicy, and it makes enough to share with friends and show off your mad chili skills. Coming up with my own chili recipe was sort of a facepalm moment - I was using the Carroll Shelby mix forever. And one day, I almost bought it and said "why am I doing this? I can cook. I don't need no stinking mix!" And from that moment in the spice aisle of Super Bi-Lo, was born:

Spicy 2-Bean Chili (about 8 servings)

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 sm. white onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (feel free to use less if you don't like it so hot)
1/4 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon Stubbs' brand liquid smoke
1/4 cup masa mixed with 1/4 cup cold water (in a pinch you can use cornmeal- that's what I had on hand this time)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili beans, drained

And here's how you make it:

Crumble the ground beef into a large pot and add the onion and garlic. Heat over medium high, breaking up the meat and browning well. I drain off the excess fat with a turkey baster. My husband would dump it into a colander. Do what you feel is right here.

Then add the spices- chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and Lawry's

at another point in my life, these little plastic cups would house jello-shots. Now they are prep bowls.

Mix those in really well. It should smell fantastic! Then stir in the crushed tomatoes and water. Bring that to a low boil,
Check me out, I caught the bubbles!
 Then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it dries out too much, feel free to add a little more water.

Can we take a break for a minute? I need to share:
The source of my powers
Everyone should own one. It's a large Le Cruset Dutch oven. Goes from Stove top to oven. Cooks beautifully. Keeps food hot for hours, it seems. In cold weather, it rarely gets put away because I really use it that much. If I were independently wealthy I would give away one a week. They are a worthwhile investment if you cook a lot. I've made soups, roasts, and even bread in this baby. I really should name her...

Back to the Chili! after 30 minutes of simmering, add your masa-water mixture. This will thicken it up nicely and add a little extra flavor. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, then stir in your beans. Simmer another five minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

I'm actually eating leftovers of this as I write about it. It's even better the next day.
Top it with whatever you like - Frito's, cheese, sour cream, etc. I like cheese and oyster crackers on mine. The leftovers are killer on a baked potato, by the way.

Hope you like!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Stuff of Legends: Edisto Mac

Well, local legends, at least. Local legends among the 40 or so people who have tasted it. Just trust me, my macaroni and cheese will make you want to slap your grandmother. And she'll thank you.

I finally perfected the stuff two years ago while vacationing at Edisto Beach with friends, which is why I've taken to calling it Edisto Mac. And feel special, dear reader(s), for I have not shared the full recipe with anyone but my Pug until now. Not even my husband is allowed in the circle of cheese trust. In fact, we got in an argument this time because he wanted to help and I didn't want him to because then he might steal my secrets and I'm just going to throw down my whisk and cry if you don't stop trying to steal my recipes.... but you don't need all that. You just need the recipe. OK. Deep breath. The magician unveils the prestige....

NOTE: This is not some speedy, whip it up in 30 minutes thing. It's slow. And that's why it's good. If you're looking for a quick dinner, see the next post - "Quicky Chicky Casserole". That is not a joke, by the way.

Edisto Mac   8-10 servings

Here's the ingredient roundup:
1 16-ounce package elbow macaroni
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon each good Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I prefer Texas Pete)
12 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar
     Plus 4 more ounces grated sharp cheddar for the top
1 8-ounce container sour cream (I prefer daisy brand)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

And here's what you do with them:
Preheat the oven to 375
Cook 1 16-ounce package of elbow macaroni in plenty of boiling, salted water for about 8 minutes. it should be pretty al dente at this point. It will be perfect by the time you're all done. Drain it in a colander set in the sink and leave it there while you cook the sauce.

Look at that lighting...pretty, pretty pasta.
My theory on leaving it there is twofold- a) it will continue to absorb water and "cook" more; b) all that excess water will be GONE by the time you add the pasta to the sauce, thereby not watering down the sauce and giving you a curdy mess.

Wipe the pasta pot dry, place it over medium-high heat, and toss in 5 Tablespoons of butter. Not, I repeat NOT margarine. Margarine is one molecule away from being plastic and I do not use it. EVER! When the butter is melted, whisk in 5 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Whisk constantly and quickly. You are creating a roux- you want it a nice blond color and nice and smooth. Then slowly add this, still whisking constantly:

Nectar of the gods, from happy cows
4 cups of milk. Yes, it must be whole milk. I suppose it doesn't have to be organic, but I promise you it tastes different, so use it if you can. Here's a picture of the roux, by the way...

Yes the spoon is blurry. It's an action shot.
Keep whisking friends, until the sauce is barely simmering and thickened. Id' say thicker than heavy cream. It should coat the back of a spoon. At this point you will add the secret ingredients. They are secret because if you tell people that's what you put in there they will look at you like you're insane. Trust me, OK?

The mac and cheese secret flavor trifecta
Yep, 1 teaspoon each of the Dijon mustard and Worcestershire, and 1/2 teaspoon of the Texas Pete. You cant taste them so much in the finished product, but they add a certain something and enhance the cheesiness factor. It's what makes mine different. And use these brands if you can. Consistency is key in copycatting recreating a dish.

Now you can take the pot off the heat and whisk in the 12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese till it's completely melted. I ALWAYS use an 8 ounce block of Kraft Wisconsin sharp, and half an 8 ounce block of extra sharp. This time I used Cabot brand extra sharp white cheddar, and will do that from now on. It was SO GOOD... (The other half of the block gets sprinkled on top, BTW.) After the cheese is mixed in, stir in the sour cream.

Once all is well blended taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. You must taste, otherwise you will not know what it needs, right? So many people don't taste what they're cooking while they are cooking it...big mistake. Fold in the well drained pasta and taste again.

Now, I always make my mac in cheese in my Le Cruset dutch oven, which can go straight from stove to oven so this is where I would sprinkle the top with the remaining 4 ounces of shredded cheese and toss the whole thing in there, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. If you are not blessed enough to own something you can take from stove-top to oven, pour it into a lightly buttered, deep casserole dish. Make sure it's a nice deep dish, because that's what will make the difference between a dry mac and a creamy mac. Then of course top with cheese and bake. On this occasion, I was taking it to a BBQ where I wanted to keep it warm. SO....
It ended up in the ceramic insert from my crock-pot, which is of course oven safe. I baked it as usual, then when we got to our friend's house I just plugged it in, put the lid on and set it to warm (I do this on holidays too. It will hold in the crock-pot surprisingly well).

Sadly I don't have a picture of the finished product, but trust that it was golden and bubbly and delicious.

I hope you appreciate and enjoy this recipe. As I hit the publish button, know that my hands are shaking from sharing the full recipe with the whole world. Or at least my Mom and my friend Kristi, whom I know will read it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pantry Raid: Cantina Chicken and Black Bean-Rice Pilaf

A couple weeks ago, near the end of the groceries, my husband called and this exchange took place:

Him: "What's for dinner?"
Me: (frantically opening freezer) "Um mm....Chicken!"
Him: "Well what are you doing to it?"
Me: (rifling through fridge and pantry) " Oh, you know...marinate...spicy...with a um mm...rice dish...."
Him: "Sounds great, babe.)

This is the upside of being a cooking nerd. I spend much of my downtime reading cookbooks. Yes, reading them - for fun. And I always have interesting ingredients and leftover stragglers around. I can work with what I've got (within reason). And now I've gotten into the habit of writing down and photographing some of my more successful concoctions. Here's the result of that phone conversation.

Cantina Chicken with Black Bean-Rice Pilaf

How did this baby come to be? First the chicken:

1-2  canned Chipotles in adobo (depending on how spicy you want it)
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 small white onion

combine all this goodness in a food processor or mini chopper or just chop it all up by hand as small as you can. Scrape it all into a large non-reactive bowl and add:

1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon each cumin, salt, pepper
1/2 can of beer (drink the rest while you're cooking. Also, all we had in the house was Busch Light. Use what you have...)

Now, because this was just dinner for 2, I used two bone-in chicken breasts, but this is enough marinade for 4. Anyway, loosen the skin (so the flavor can get under there) and toss them around in the marinade. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Not a whole lot longer, because the acidity of the marinade will start to "cook" the chicken. Preheat your oven to 400.

spicy goodness...
 Bake the chicken for about 30-40 minutes, till the juices run clear and the skin is delightfully crispy and the house smells awesome. While the chicken bakes, make the rice.

1 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Serrano chile, seeded

mince all this up...

heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan and throw in a pinch of ground turmeric for a nice golden color (if you have it). Add the garlic, onion, and chile and sauteed a few minutes to soften. Then add 1 1/2 cups long grain rice and stir it around to coat with the oil. Follow it up with 3 cups of chicken broth (at this point I added about 2 cups of fresh baby spinach, but that's optional). Bring up to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer without stirring for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Then stir in 1 can black beans that have been drained and rinsed (the heat from the rice will warm the beans through). By now your chicken should be done!

All that's left to do is plate it up. I topped mine with some chopped fresh green onion and tomato. If I'd had some avocado I would have added that too, but then I would also bathe in guacamole if I could.

Here's the finished product again- hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
tootin' my own horn- it was so yummy! TOOT TOOT!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

I thought I'd kick this thing off with a confession: I am a culinary hypocrite. Ok well not totally, but you will hear me spout off occasionally about freshness, purity, real food, doing it all yourself, etc. But there's some things in my pantry you should know about. They are my secret weapons, ingredients that I border on being
ashamed of using because some of them go against my food snobbery. But they make food taste so good!

Sometimes it's about convenience, other times it's just about recognizing that somebody over in Alabama or up in Harlem can blend spices better than me. I'm putting all this out there so when you see them pop up in my recipes, well, just don't judge me. At the end of the day, it's all about flavor...

That's right...I use it. A LOT

First up is Lawry's Seasoned Salt. It's truly magical. This goes on pretty much anything fried in my house, as well as on lots of veggies and meats. To be honest I've probably used it on everything but cake at this point. It's a perfectly acceptable way to get a lot of flavor into something without raiding the spice rack.

The second secret ingredient, which I do not have a picture of because we ran out 3 weeks ago, is Original Southern Flavor. It's a garlicky char-broil seasoning from my hubby's home town of Selma, Alabama. We beg his mom to ship it to us roughtly every 2 months because it's not available here. Would you excuse me for a moment?

Psssssst! Evelyn...could you send us two Southern Flavors? My food, and as a result my life, is empty without it. Thanks...

 That stuff is INCREDIBLE on broiled or grilled chicken, mixed into hamburger meat, and on any veggie you want to give good country flavor to.

All hail the Queen

Sylvia has a whole line of herb blends and canned goods, but I'm partial to the original. Perfect for greens and poultry; it's pretty heavy on the thyme. I also like to toss some cut up potatoes in olive oil and Sylvias and roast them in in a nice hot oven. Oh! I add this to my pan gravy when I do cube steaks as well. it dinnertime yet? Bottom line - it really is the perfect soul-food seasoning.

Two more not-pictured staples for home cooking around here, and again I say don't judge me, Kitchen Bouquet and chicken boullion cubes. I said don't judge me... KB makes my brown pan gravy, well, brown. It's also essential in my lazy onion dip, which I will share with you eventually. The boullion cubes I like to add to canned veggies to help get rid of the tinny taste. Of course, god forbid I run out of stock, those little golden cubes come in handy.

Ok....deep breath... because up until a couple weeks ago when I tried the brisket recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond ,  I swore I'd never go near the stuff... (PS it was divine)

I'm so excited the picture is blurry...

Let's be clear, if I'm going to use liquid smoke, it's gonna be the good stuff, from the grand poobah of  Texas BBQ. Mind you, liquid smoke by any name is strong stuff, so don't get all willy nilly when you experiment with it. I mostly use it in beans and meat marinades, but I'll take any excuse to add smoky goodness to something, especially when grilling season is over.

speaking of smoky goodness
Smoked salt is a gift from heaven. I am NOT ashamed of this stuff at all. Note: It's a finishing salt. That means don't toss it in the pot with what you're cooking. You sprinkle it over the finished product. My favorite use for this is on fresh sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. It's also killer on melon. And pretty much anything else.

This is just a short list of some of my favorite not-so-secret-anymore ingredients. Periodically I'll share more favorites with you. I highly reccomend you all add these to your grocery list ASAP. Except maybe the Southern Flavor. I'm not sure my mother in law would appreciate all the calls from strangers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The first few recipes will be up soon! I'm so excited and I hope you are too, so while you wait for the launch of "Braised, Broiled, and Fried" feel free to leave suggestions and/or requests in the comments section. I really want some feedback and ideas from potential readers!