Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Corn Pudding

This is a recipe we have traditionally eaten every year at Thanksgiving in my family, and when I was little, it was one of the first things I was allowed to make all by myself. I actually prefer it in summer with ham, but it makes a great side to just about anything, and you can add salsa or use pepper jack cheese to spice it up, or add scallions or caramelized onions or bell pepper for more flavor. You can also sneak in crumbled bacon, because, well… Bacon.

If I happen to have crème fraiche around, I will use that instead of sour cream. You can also play with the amounts of ingredients and this dish can vary between nearly corn-bread-like to more of a savory custard. It’s easy and tasty, so have fun with it!

2 cups frozen whole kernel corn (or drained canned corn)
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (substitute crème fraiche)
1 cup diced Monterey jack cheese
Optional: ¼ to ½ cup of: salsa, sliced scallions, crumbled bacon, diced bell pepper or caramelized onion.

Thaw corn. Place in large bowl and add melted butter, beaten egg, corn meal, salt, sour cream and cheese. Pour into buttered casserole (1 ½ quarts) and bake at 350 for 45-60 min or until set and golden brown.  6-8 servings

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

How to make mashed potatoes for a crowd:

One vat of mashed potatoes, coming up - WITH A SMILE!

Helper = the only way to do it!

Oooh yeah, look at all this compost!


An immersion blender may help...

  1. Buy one russet potato per person and scrub them clean
  2. Enlist your helper to peel them – having a “race” is great for motivation, plus you can surreptitiously check your phone while they work, which is just like management in real life!
  3. Boil em up for about 30 min in the biggest pot you can find. Cauldron? Perhaps.
  4. Let cool, or else OUCH! If this is Thanksgiving, this is a good time to schedule a fight with your ex. Plan for at least an hour. Drain.
  5. Mash the heck out of the potatoes. Get your aggressions out!
  6. Melt some butter – about 2 Tbsp per potato, but use your judgment. Less if you plan to eat them, more if you plan to induce heart failure in elderly relatives.
  7. Combine melted butter and milk (about ¼ cup per potato, to taste and desired thickness) into the large pot. Incorporate with potatoes.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: fresh ground pepper is really the ONLY way to get radical with mashed potatoes. OK that and maybe a parsley garnish, but please, no Sriracha sauce or truffle butter or foie gras! Leave the innovation to the TV cooking contests and nobody will get hurt. Well, that depends on step 4…
  9. Serve with a smile and ENJOY!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lazy Paella

How much do you love the 70s/80s? Remember how we were supposed to Have It All? As a little girl, I very clearly knew I was going to have a Career and work in an Office and have fabulous Work Outfits, but also come home from said Career and Cook Fabulous Meals and maybe also Be an Opera Singer or Photographer or something Amazing, you know, in my Spare Time. Perhaps you saw the same commercial for Enjoli? Perhaps you, like me, are still trying to figure out how to make it all work… or at the very least, how to use hot rollers…

 Anyhow, in my quest for self-actualization (aka dinner), I pulled out my copy of the brilliant 1974 lifestyle guide / cookbook that is Better Homes and Gardens “After Work Cookbook”  and found this tasty-looking dish in the “make-ahead main dishes” section. I’d never made paella, and in fact I thought it was the kind of thing you would have to actually Be from Spain to make, and that it would take Hours… but what REALLY attracted me was the Dansk casserole in the picture. Like, Ohmygod, I said (because the 80s were eclipsing the 70s at that moment), my MOM has that dish! I can make this!

Oh no, conflicted – the Dansk casserole dish was WAY too big – come on, I’m only feeding two people here! Fortunately, I had another Dansk vessel to substitute: my Kobenstyle paella pan. Saved!

 As I assembled the dish one night after dinner (to heat and eat the following, as instructed), I told my daughter about eating paella in Spain and how terrified I was of all the tiny, beautiful sea creatures that dotted the massive bowl of saffron rice, and how I picked around them, eating only the rice and carrot pieces because I didn’t know how to get into any of the shells, and because octopi are Just Too Chewy. (See, vegetarians, this is what you are doing to your children – turning them into socially awkward eaters who can’t get the hang of seafood till they turn 30!) My daughter said not to put in any shrimp or she wouldn’t try it. Also, canned mushrooms? Gross. I used fresh, and lightly sautéed them in butter. Because butter always wins.

The other thing is, I just used what they now market as “chicken tenders” because I’m still not an expert at breaking down chickens. And because I was trying to use less fat, I steamed the chicken bits. Tasty, but I cannot claim they are attractive in any way. I see now that I should have perhaps gone heavier with the paprika for color. Forgive the food styling, or lack thereof, which just proves that you can’t actually have it all. Rats.

Yes I used onion soup mix, but I can't deal with canned mushrooms. I know, I know!

Steamed chicken: tastes great, not sexy at all. Sad face.

I used onion soup mix, because the recipe told me to be "Lazy" and do that, but if I were to make this again, I’d use garlic and onions, like real ones, and maybe some oregano. Oh and what the heck is saffron rice? Since I’d never heard of it, I dumped in a teeny bit of real saffron because I hear that’s how they make it in Spain (where they also often use Land Snails, but that’s another story entirely!).

So I enjoyed finally using my paella platter, but I can’t say this was the Best Thing Ever. I do think it needed the shrimp, and they need to be spicy. I’m thinking about variations, and about the Dansk casserole and what to make in that one. Oh, and I’m still singing the Enjoli commercial because some myths just simply refuse to die. 

1 3-pound ready-to-cook broiler-fryer chicken, cut-up
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 ½ cups chicken broth
8 ounces shelled shrimp
1-8 ½ ounce can peas, drained
1 6-ounce package saffron rice mix
1 3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
½ envelope onion soup mix (1/4 cup)

Advance preparation: brown chicken in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix remaining ingredients; spread in 3-quart casserole. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover; chill ip to 24 hours.

Before serving: Bake, covered, at 350 degrees about 1 ¼ hours. Makes 4 servings.