Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Simplest Things in Life...and cooking.

Some days I just don't feel like getting every pot and pan dirty. I don't like grocery shopping, and hate trying to find ingredients I don't have readily available. On days like this (like today), even though I did go to the store, I knew I didn't want to spend the entire day in the kitchen. I've always felt that "less is more," and I catch myself shying away from dishes that require tons of ingredients. Not that it seems daunting--though it probably would be time consuming, not to mention expensive--I just think that too many ingredients can muddle the flavor of dishes. I like to be able to identify and taste everything. I tend to go for recipes with ten items or less. Today, I took a major shortcut. I was digging around in the pantry (ewwwww, dark scary place!) and found some "Peach Jezebel Sauce" I picked up a few years ago from one of our favorite stopping places when we go to the Texas Hill Country--New Canaan Farms. They make jellies, salsas, sauces, marinades--anything you can put in a jar. And yes, a few years ago--so! It wasn't opened yet. Hey, I will admit--on this quest for a marinade, I found a jar of sun-dried tomato and olive relish that said "best if used by April 2003." That one I did throw away. That means we moved that jar here when we moved to this house. And I know inquiring minds want to know, yes, I opened it and smelled. It was kind of dark and very strong with balsamic vinegar. It was time to go. But I digress. I remembered that the Peach Jezebel was a great sauce for chicken and pork, and it just so happens I had some chicken thighs I'd been wanting to get out of the freezer, so this was perfect for that. And only this. I marinated and baked the thighs in it, and it was great. Only a few ingredients in the sauce--and you could use any variation of these, switch some things out, etc. Peaches, pineapple, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard and horseradish are the base. Use apricot preserves, use honey mustard. Just blend it all together to taste. A little chunky is good. I baked the thighs for almost an hour at 350º, basting with the juices halfway through. It was really good. And really simple. We had it with kale that I sautéd with some red onion, oregano and dill. Great for eating in front of the TV (Oscars are on tonight).
I almost forgot to take a picture, so you're seeing the last poor thigh sitting in the Pyrex® dish waiting for it's Tupperware®.

So don't get too caught up, you might miss something SIMPLY wonderful.

Happy eating.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ice and Bacon Cheddar Scones

Well, my last post was "Snow and food..." so that looks to be the pattern these days-it seems to be all about the weather! We're "iced in" here in north Texas this week and it lends to lots of eating, meaning cooking. This is our third day in a row to work from home, so I have lots of access to the kitchen. It's unfortunate because I think I've gained five pounds since Sunday. And for some reason, there's a big bacon campaign going on here. (Did you just meet me?) Started the day Tuesday with Bacon Cheddar Scones. Tuesday night we had Refried Bean Tostadas, so of course they were made with bacon grease. Last night we had hot dogs wrapped in bacon and put under the broiler--shredded cheese and chili accompanied. Don't worry, I paid later. Then tonight, we're having BLT's with Tomato Bisque soup. What?
Back to the scones. Not to sound haughty, but I'm kind of known for my scones. I usually make a sweet variety--my all time fav are raisin, but I change it up, too. So it made sense to make them savory for a change. I have a great book of scones and biscuits by Elizabeth Alston, and everything I've ever made from that has been great. It's even taught me to step out and try some things on my own, so that's what this was. And I should note--I prefer making my scones "soft." By this I mean that I bake them touching, so the edges are soft when pulled apart, unlike the ones baked separated so that all sides are crusty. Just a preference.

So here's the basic recipe--anyone who makes their own buttermilk biscuits is well on their way:

2 C. All-purpose flour
2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. Baking soda
1/2 t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Salt
8 T. (one stick) Cold unsalted butter
Yolk of one large egg
3/4 C. Buttermilk or plain yogurt
White of one large egg
1 C. Crisp bacon, crumbled
1 C. Shredded cheddar cheese
Sugar, salt and pepper for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350º F. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt into a large mixing bowl; stir to mix well. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers (I do both), until the mixture looks like fine granules. Add egg yolk to buttermilk (I never have buttermilk--make some with regular milk and lemon juice.), whisk with a fork to blend, then add to flour mixture and stir till a soft dough forms. Add the bacon and cheese, and mix in accordingly, finishing blending it in by turning all the dough out onto a floured surface and kneading it a few times. Cut the dough in half and knead each half briefly into a ball; turn smooth side up and pat into a 6-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges, but don't separate the wedges. In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until broken up, and brush the top of each circle of scones, then sprinkle with a little sugar, kosher salt, and a tiny bit of pepper if you want. I didn't do the pepper on the ones in the picture. With a pancake turner, transfer both circles onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. If necessary, reshape the circles to make sure the wedges are touching.
Bake 18-22 minutes, until medium brown. Cool on a wire rack, then after about five minutes, pull the wedges apart and cover loosely with a dish towel.
And what I've found when making any biscuits or scones--get everything to room temp before you begin, except the butter. Keep it cold until you cut it in. It makes the dough so nice.
These were really good served warm with apricot jam.
Happy eating!