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Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Little Piggy Was Oh, So Good

In snout to tail eating, pork belly isn't just for making bacon anymore. It stands on its own as a delicious main course. And, being able to make your own crackling is just an added bonus.

This particular recipe is really easy and involves very few ingredients. Most speciality butcher shops will be happy to get you pork belly. If you're having difficulty, check with Chinese meat markets.


Slow Roasted Pork Belly

2 lb pork belly 
3 onions, peeled and cut in half
coarse sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450.

Lay the onions, cut side down, in a fairly deep baking dish. Rub the flesh of the pork with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Turn it over and pat the skin dry. Score the pork skin with a very sharp knife at about half inch intervals both directions and rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the pork on top of the onions and add a little water to the bottom of the dish to keep the pork juices from scorching. Place in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 325. Cook for 3 hours, checking occasionally to add a little more water or to baste the onions. Do not baste the pork.

At three hours, the pork will be cooked and fork tender. If the skin needs more crisping, crank the oven to 450 for another ten minutes or so.* After removing from the oven, let stand for fifteen minutes before scraping off the excess salt and slicing. Serve with the onions, which will have caramelized in the juices and slow cooking.

*If you are looking for really crisp pork skin, prior to cooking, pour some boiling water over the skin side. Pat dry and then continue as above.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Saltine Toffee

I had a busy day that started with two hours out in the yard. I went outside at 7am to beat the heat but was dripping wet by the time I finished bagging the last of the grass clippings. After showering and then spending hours running all over town, I was craving salt and chocolate.

There weren't a lot of options in my snack drawer. Then, I saw a single sleeve of saltines. That made me to remember a recipe I first did as a Girl Scout. Since those halcyon days, I have changed the method a little because, frankly, pouring the boiling sugar and butter into the pan and then transferring it to oven to bake always seemed to me to be a recipe for disaster.


Chocolate Pecan Saltine Toffee

1 sleeve saltine crackers
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
10 oz pkg bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

In a baking sheet pan lined with parchment paper, lay out saltine crackers, salt side down, in a single layer. Set aside.
In a medium-size sauce saucepan, combine butter, sugar and corn syrup. Place over medium heat until butter melts, stirring continuously. Increase to high heat and cook until mixture registers 325°F on a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully pour mixture over saltines, spreading evenly.
Let sit a few minutes (until the sugar stops bubbling) and then sprinkle bittersweet chocolate chips over toffee. Once chocolate melts, spread in an even layer over toffee. Sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Let cool slightly. Freeze until chocolate sets. Once the chocolate is set, break into pieces.


Friday, July 27, 2012

In Honor of the Olympics - Pigs in Yorkshire Pudding Blankets

I'm a sucker for the pomp and pageantry of the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics. I love watching the athletes entering into the stadium. No-one has suffered defeat and they are all hopeful and optimistic. Their pride to represent their nation evident in the dazzling smiles.

To mark the start of the London Games, I decided to make a proper British dinner of Yorkshire Pudding Pigs in Blankets. I didn't have  bangers in the house, so I had to make a choice between andouille or German sausages. I went with German but, next time, I'll try the andouille for extra flavor.


1 lb sausages
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

Cut sausages into slightly larger than bite size pieces. Brown sausages in a frying pan over medium heat. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400. Put the tablespoon of oil in a loaf pan or divide between 12 muffin tins.  Place pan in oven while it comes to temperature. Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl. Continue beating until the oven has reached baking temperature, 5 to 10 minutes. The longer the batter is beaten, the better this recipe turns out. 
When oven is preheated, place sausages in hot pan and then immediately pour in batter and return to pan to the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake a further 15 minutes. Serve hot.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bloody Eight Blow'd Up!


Early this morning, construction workers imploded the Palace Hotel. Located at Canal and Claiborne, its heyday was the 1950’s. By the time of the levee breaks after Hurricane Katrina, it was renting rooms by the hour. While several contractors had tried to get funding to renovate it, years of neglect had taken too large a toll.

I joined with a couple hundred intrepid citizens for the early morning event. I’m posting here the series of pictures that I took. The first is what the building looked like after the majority of the fa├žade and internal construction materials were removed.

There was a loud crack and then several smaller explosions right at 8 o’clock. This next picture is as it starts to come down.


All that is left is smoke.
I took the final pictures as we all started to walk away.


I marked the occasion with a quart and half of my version of Bloody Marys. I use V-8 juice instead of plain tomato juice, so I call them Bloody Eights. This is the single serving version.

Bloody Eight

1 tsp horseradish
1 to 2 oz of vodka
Ice
2 dashes Tabasco (I prefer the Chipolte Pepper Sauce)
1 oz lime juice
2 dashes Lea & Perrins Worcestershire

1 5.5 fluid oz can of V8
Celery seed and kosher salt

Use a lime wedge to dampen the rim of the glass. Roll it in a mix of celery seed and kosher salt.

Combine horseradish and vodka, mix well. Add ice, Tabasco, lime juice, and Worcestershire. Pour into rim salted glass. Fill remainder of glass with V-8. Stir. Garnish with a lime wedge, celery stalk and pickled okra and green beans. Might as well have a salad with your sipping!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mat and Naddie's

I went Dining Out For Life with a couple of friends tonight and we tried someplace new to us - Mat and Naddie's over in the Riverbend. With a very eclectic menu, there were plenty of choices for all of us.
The cocktails were quite good - I had the French 75 which was quite tasty but Charlotte had something with gin, St. Germain, vermouth and sour cherry syrup which was amazingly good. It tasted like more so she ordered a second and I helped her drink it.

She and Thomas started with the Poisson Cru, a tuna ceviche with coconut milk. I'm not a fan generally of ceviche but the coconut milk was a nice touch and muted the usually overly strong lime flavor.

I am a sucker for fried chicken, especially for fried chicken with waffles. While the chicken could have used a little more flavor, it was juicy and tender with a nice crust. The pecan wild rice waffles were a little scant (and one was hidden under the pile of greens) with an interesting texture but the maple sauce was very good.

Charlotte had the mushroom and gruyere roulade which was a very interesting presentation. Usually a roulade is meat rolled around a filing and cooked. This had the cheese as the roll but flavor was deep and delicious.

Thomas had the lamb chops with chakchouka (egg poached in crouton and served with squash and eggplant). I quite liked the lamp popsicles that were nice and tender.

We ended with some very good desserts. Thomas had the creole flan (Maple Creme Caramel), I had the Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake and Charlotte went for the Chocolate Truffle Cake with a raspberry coulis. All were very good to the very last bite.

I always like to promote places that give back to the community. That they participate in Dining Out For Life where they donate 25% of the bill  to the NO/AIDS Task Force to help people living with HIV/AIDS is a definite plus in my books. I totally see why so many people have recommended this restaurant to me in the past. Good food and open hearts make for a lovely time.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SoBou - A Spirited Restaurant


SoBou is a new restaurant at the French Quarter W (with a separate entrance on Chartres) that uses every crayon in the box for its taste palette.

We started with some interesting cocktails: I had the Margarita De Lavender which had just a hint of lavender syrup. Not a bad combination at all. Gina tried both the Charbonneau Way with rye, lemon, herbsaint, amere savage as well as the Sazerac. She wasn't fond of the cognac in the Sazerac but liked the Charbonneau Way. With our drinks we enjoyed a serving of pork cracklin (in the cone in the picture below).

We had small plates to follow the drinks - duck debris and butternut beignets that had just the barest hint of duck and the sticky pork belly made with Steen's molasses. The pork belly was super tender and the sweet of the sauce with the salty of the pork was a lovely contrast.

We then shared the Pulled Pork Cuban sandwich. It was so tender, you didn't need teeth to eat that meat! We also has some of their thin fries with pickled okra mayo. If you're a fan of mayo with your fries or even just a fan of the tartness of ketchup with fries you'll enjoy that combination.

We ended with the Chocolate Coma Bar - a flourless dark chocolate torte with white chocolate mousse, candied pecans and sea salt caramel covered in milk chocolate. The glass held a shot of chicory coffee shake.

The dessert was a nice mix of textures and, with that much chocolate, it was impossible to go wrong.

The wait staff was attentive and familiar enough with the cocktail and food menu to make intelligent suggestions. She was also kind enough to  bring out more cracklins, when two small pieces from our order hit the floor.

Overall a very enjoyable experience for lunch in the French Quarter. The plethora of small plates and fun drinks make it especially perfect when you don't have to go back to work right away.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Smothered Pork Chops

I published my first novel last year and have been posting recipes inspired by the book on my author Facebook page. The most recent offering comes from Page 68:

Janet was startled out of the story when the grandfather clock struck twelve times. With great reluctance, she marked her place and closed the book. Checking the time again, she cursed and took off for the diner at a fast walk. 

Sallie Lee was insufferable after she wrung the information out of Janet that she did not want to put the book down to come into work.
 
“Maybe now you will listen to me,” she crowed.
“I didn’t have to tell you anything.”
 

“Of course you did. You feel better for having told me even though it means that I get to tease you."
 

Janet shrugged ruefully. “I haven’t been teased in the longest time.”
 

Walking up to the two of them, Della broke in, “Don’t tell her that. She won’t leave you alone now.”
 

Almost too softly to be heard, Janet answered, “I hope not.”
 

Sallie Lee blushed and bustled back into the kitchen. “It was pork chop day, so I’ll need you to get to polishing the chrome. You’ll find the rags and cream polish under the lunch counter.”
 

“Be advised. You are going to find gravy in the weirdest places,” Della added.

Unbroken Circle can be purchased from my publisher, Bella Books, or anywhere else books are sold. It is available as a paperback or ebook.

Smothered Pork Chops

1 cup all-purpose flour                                               
2 tablespoons onion powder  
2 tablespoons garlic powder 
1 teaspoon cayenne 
1 teaspoon salt  
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper             
4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, bone-in 
1/4 cup olive oil                                                
1 cup chicken broth                                                 
1 cup milk or water

Put the flour in a shallow dish and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Dredge the pork chops in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and place them in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes to finish cooking.

Into the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the seasoned flour to the pork drippings. Stir constantly for 5 minutes over medium low heat. Slowly pour in the chicken broth, whisking constantly to remove all lumps. After the liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and let it cook down for a couple minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Stir in the milk to make a creamy gravy or the water for a more traditional gravy. Allow to simmer for about 5 more minutes for the flavors to come together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with the gravy. Simmer until ready to serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes

The road side stand near my parent's house had green tomatoes the other day, so we grabbed a few for frying. There is something wonderful about the tang of a green tomato, the crunch of the coating and the warmth from the hot oil to remind me of Southern summers gone by.
We put the fried green tomatoes on sandwiches with bacon, avocado and lettuce. Quite a flavor symphony.

Fried Green Tomatoes

2 or 3 medium sized green tomatoes, sliced about 3/8 of an inch
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
peanut oil for frying

Scramble the egg with a little bit of olive oil in a small dish. Combine the flour, corn meal and cayenne in a pie plate and stir well. Dip the tomato slices in the egg and then in the flour/corn meal mixture. Set the slices against the side for about ten minutes while you bring the peanut oil up to frying temperature (350 degrees F) in a large cast iron skillet.

When the oil is ready, redredge the slices in the flour/corn meal. Cook a few slices at a time for about two minutes (about a minute each side). Remove from the pan to a paper towel covered rack. Once you've cooked all the slices, return them to the oil for about a minute to finish cooking. Salt and let cool slightly before eating.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tomato Jam

Ever had that craving for tomatoes in the dead of winter and all that is in the grocery store is orange ping pong balls? Have no fear, gentle reader, there is a way to have the best of both worlds.

Tomato jam captures summer in a jar and is wonderful on toast with a bit of bacon or on grilled cheese or just to brighten dishes that have tomatoes in them.

Tomato Jam

4.5 pounds good ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has the consistency of thick jam, about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

For canning: During the cooking of the tomato jam, boil 6 half pint jars for twenty minutes. Leave the jars in the simmering water until ready for use. In a separate saucepan, heat to near boiling new lids. Turn off heat to the saucepan and let lids sit while the jam reduces.

Once the jam is ready, fill jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jars. Wipe tops and put on lids. Lightly tighten rings and put back into water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Test each lid to make sure they are sealed. Any unsealed jars should be put in the refrigerator and used within a month. The sealed jars will last about a year, maybe more with careful storage.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Black and Blue Pie


Celebrating summer means enjoying the best of the fruits of the season. This delicious pie uses fresh blackberries and blueberries to make the pie as addicting as crack cocaine. You just can't stop eating and, if you're like me, you will lick the plate clean afterwards.



Black and Blue Pie


Frozen pie crust - you'll need enough for the shell and top
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 T fresh lemon juice, plus zest from one lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Put one of the pie dough pieces in a 9 inch pie place.

In a large bowl, combine the berries with sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and zest. Toss gentle to coat the berries. Spoon filling into pie shell.

Cover the berries with the pie dough and cut an 'X' in the center. Fold back the points from center and seal triangle points to the pastry with water. Using more water, crimp edges together to form a seal.

Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes. Pull pie out of oven and carefully pour cream into center of the pie. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes - juices should be bubbling and top should be golden brown. If crust is getting too brown, cover with foil.

Cool completely and serve with vanilla ice cream.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Camellia Grill

Stopped off at Camellia Grill on Carrollton today after picking some friends up at the airport. It was almost 2:30 when we got there and the place was still pretty packed. We waited about ten minutes outside before coming in to sit on the benches along the wall. About ten minutes later, we were sitting on stools in front of the counter.

I ordered the 6oz cheeseburger, dressed with fries and a chocolate shake. The patty isn't particularly thick but is all meat and the buttered bun is a nice touch. Consider ordering an extra patty for an additional $2.39. Gillian got the red beans and rice with a hot sausage patty. She told me it was flavorful but without too much heat. Steve got the Chef's Special Omelette with bacon, ham, potato, onion, American and Swiss cheese, topped with chili and a side of fries. He called it a heart attack on a plate but that didn't stop him from eating every bite.



Open from 8am to 12am (except on Friday and Saturday when it is open to 2am), this place is a quintessential greasy spoon. The prices are good, the waiters are friendly and the food sticks to your ribs.