Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

Quickie.  Someone asked me for a 'recipe' for scalloped potatoes recently.  There isn't one, if someone gives you a recipe, they've persnickity'd it to death.  Really, this will rock your, and whoever else has the luck to share it, world!!

I'm going to Easter dinner at a friend's place because we don't have family local.  I'm on a side this year, I picked scalloped potaotes.  It'll go beautifully with the lamb they are roasting, the ham being brought and just about any other meat that arrives, hot or cold!

Pay attention, this goes fast:

Peel a load of russet potatoes.  Slice them thin and "dry fit" them in the casserole dish you're going to bake and take them in.  When you have enough, cover them barely with milk.  Transfer the whole lot to a gigantic frying pan.  Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Gently heat it to boiling.  Be gentle, you don't want to break up the potatoes much.  Salt and pepper it, add a couple grates of nutmeg.

When it boils, transfer the whole lot back to the casserole dish, which you've buttered in the mean time, and toss it on a sheet pan and into a 350 oven.  I grate a little good cheddar on top and dot with butter.

Bake it until they are just tender, about an hour.  You can eat it hot, let it cool to room temperature (my favorite) and it'll thicken a bit as it site.  Travel with it or eat it all on your lap in front of an Easter parade.  Really, you're done and when you present it, you'll be a rock star.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fried Chicken

There are few things so delicious, homey, retro, warming, comforting and just plain good as a pile of fried chicken.

Sure you have to invest in some fat of some kind but crisco is cheap and if you buy a whole chicken and cut it up, the investment is $4.00 and some flour.  My local store puts the whole chickens on sale frequently so I always have a couple of them in the freezer.  I am a firm believer that a couple of frozen whole chickens in the freezer equal about a million meal options so buy them when they are on sale!

It's one of my go to meals when cash it tight and it feels extravagant somehow.  For it's old school simplicity, there's something special about a home made fried chicken dinner.

I don't know why people think it's a fuss or takes too long or is too fatty or greasy.  Truly, it's not that much extra work and the payoff is most definitely worth it in my book.

I made it tonight for dinner, I was asked for my recipe, this is it.  It's tender, juicy, delicious, crispy and soft and moist all at the same time.  It's one of the few things I actually think I do very well.  It's easy, you'll be brilliant at it too!  Here's the play by play shots, the recipe is so easy and so classic and anyone who says fried chicken needs more than a couple of ingredients is just fussing with it too much

Tracy's Fried Chicken:

1 cut up chicken, about 4 lbs?
1 1/2 inches oil/crisco/lard in a dutch oven
(heated till water sizzles, the bread is brown, the flour dances or the temperature is 365)
1 cup flour with a small handful of cornstarch mixed in (for crispness) plus more if needed
3 eggs and a splash of milk (but you can CERTAINLY do this without egging the chicken, just go straight for the flour)
salt and pepper, paprika and/or cinnamon

There's a couple of steps but they're easy and you can stand at the stove with a glass of wine through most of the cooking process so it's low stress too!  Here we go:

Cut up a fryer chicken, about 4 lbs, into 10 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts each cut in half).  Dry the chicken and salt and pepper the chicken liberally!  This matters.

In a gallon zip lock back crack 3 eggs add a splash of milk and loads of salt and pepper.  Squish it all around and put the chicken pieces in.  Toss them into the fridge for whenever you're ready for chicken.

Put about 1 1/2 inchs of oil in a dutch oven with a lid.  Toss a tiny square of bread in the oil and turn it on medium high.  When the bread is brown, the oil is ready to fry.  I have a ceramic cooktop and I set mine to 6.

In a very large bowl mix about a cup of flour with loads of salt and pepper and a bit of paprika (add cayenne or whatever other dried spice you want here, I'm a purist and keep it really simple).  A secret is to add a pinch, and I mean a pinch, of cinnamon, it does something to the chicken, try it, or not but remember it's just a teenie pinch if you're going to add it.

Mix the flour around and dredge the dark meat pieces first.  Coat them thickly and put them gently into the hot oil.  The oil should be about half way up the chicken.  Lay all the dark meat in the pan and clamp the lid on.  Time it for 8 minutes, do NOT peek.  Stand there and watch the steam come out, listen to the sizzle, wonder if it's burning (it's not!) but don't peek.


After 8 minutes, open it!  LOOK!  oooooh, the chicken is steamy and soft and juicy and the bottom is beautifully brown!  You can flip it gently, clamp the lid back on and time 5 minutes, again, no peeking!

After 5 minutes, open it! OOOH, it's chickeny beauty!!!  Leave it to fry without the lid for 2-3 minutes, until it's just cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a rack on a baking sheet and do the rest of the chicken.

Repeat with the breasts.  8 minutes with the lid on tight, flip, 5 minutes then let it go another 3 topless minutes.

Pop the chicken in a 300 oven for about 15 minutes.  It'll finish cooking and rest all at the same time.  This is some juicy chicken!

Meanwhile, pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the fat, add a little flour and some water and stir like heck!  Add a little milk to make it a bit creamier, loads of salt and pepper and let it boil like mad for a while.  Taste alot! Make some mashed potatoes and cook some frozen peas if you have to have green, I didn't today and although my mother would have a coronary at the lack of green on the plate; I've had a hellova week and just needed some fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy.  I ate it and it made me happy.  Next time, there'll be green :)

Random beauty shots.  Wow, this is some good chicken.  You can see it's not greasy and only took 30 minutes for a whole bird.  The nice thing is you can make this early in the day, there's nothing bad at all with room temperature fried chicken.  Make way extra for cold in the week or picnics or midnight fridge raids when husband gets the munchies after hours of angry birds.  Trust me, make loads, you'll eat it!
Take some beauty shots of your chicken and send it to me, i'll post them!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teriyaki chicken with rice stick noodles

So, I sort of felt like something with an oriental flair.  I sort of felt like pasta.  I had 2 chicken breasts in the fridge.  Bone in, skin on and they'd been on sale for $1./lb.  They cost me a cool $1.98.

I'd made a killer cold thai inspired peanut noodle salad that I'd taken to a "mommies who cocktail" meeting recently so didn't feel like a repeat of that.  Plus, I'd cheated and used thin spaghetti so I needed a softy slurpy oriental noodle fix.  

I was inspired the other night.  Mid week teriyaki chicken with noodles might be on my new short list of quick tasty meals out of the bottles in the fridge in the middle of the week.  Sure, the chicken roasts for 45 minutes but while it does you don't have to DO anything or you can DO everything else and when it's done, mix it up and eat.

This isn't a "recipe" because I made it up as I went, it's a process and you can do it too. Add any veggies you have, delete the veggies I have.  Use frozen or fresh.  Don't chop the chicken, mix the noodles with the sauce and serve with a whole roasted breast.  You feeling it??


2 chicken breasts
package rice stick noodles
bottled teriyaki sauce
grated ginger
grated garlic
slivered 1/2 onion
salt, pepper
wine, water, chicken stock
toasted sesame oil
sugar snap peas
*I had a few snow peas which you'll see in the pics

Rub the chicken breasts with some oil, salt, pepper and teriyaki sauce, roast at 375 for 45 minutes.

Look at the juice and sticky beauty that is on the pan, THIS is the base for the sauce! Dump it into a saucepan with some grated garlic and ginger, slivered onion and some additional teriyaki, taste it, thin it with water or wine or chicken stock.  Boil like mad and taste it again, it should be a cup and a half of liquid.

These are the rice stick noodles.  The package said 5-8 minutes, I set it to boil for 6 then added the sugar snap peas to cook them the final few minutes.

Meanwhile, deskin and debone the chicken.  Cut into cubes and toss into the sauce. Mix it about and leave it on low heat.

Drain the noodles and sugar snap peas and return to the pot.  Add the chicken in sauce mixture. Stir it about and sprinkle a couple of green onions on top, I like the fresh crunch and gentle onion addition.

SERVE!  Slurp it up. Child and I loved it.  Husband ate some then got seconds but doesn't ever comment on what I cook.  It might have passed his, "I'm not dead from it" scale.

I think it's a lovely tasty light meal and I think it should be a fresh addition to your repertoire.  Let me know what you think!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Artichoke Dip

Artichoke dip
Ok, get a fast pen, this is a quickie, a goodie and it'll be your new 'go to'. 

You will be making this to take to every function you go to.  You'll start to think it's dull but your audience will be delighted, it's a fantastic, easy, go to and once you've made it a couple of times they'll be waiting in the wings for you to make it again.

It is THREE ingredients: In a bowl, combine even amounts of

1.  mayonnaise 
(NOT low fat or half fat or thin or skinny or diet or anything other than REAL mayonnaise, if you use low fat no egg fake oil mayonnaise-like condiment, you can't read my blog anymore ;) 

2.  fresh grated Parmesan cheese
(yes, go get the triangle of cheese and grate it, you'll notice the difference.  there's only 3 ingredients, they ought to be good.  Now then, that being said, you can certainly cheat and use the pregrated/shredded stuff in the round tubs at your deli section, but try to get the better stuff) 

3.  artichoke hearts, chopped
 (I buy them in the giant jars at costco, they're in oil and I drain them and rinse them. 

Mix the ingredients in a big bowl.  If you're desperate for specific amounts, 1 cup of each is a good amount.  The nice thing about this recipe is you can make a teenie one just for you or a gigantic one for 25 people.  This is another one of those processes rather than recipe. 

Ok, sometimes, to be artsy fartsy, I grate a teensie bit of lemon zest and squeeze about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in. It hardly seems worth it but it really makes a big difference. Another cheat is to add a teenie bit of cream to thin it out, it won't puff so much but it will be saucier, it's a to taste thing.  Do remember to add some pepper, no salt is needed because of the cheese. 

Plop the mixture in a buttered oval and I bake it at 400 until it puffs and it golden and, well, you saw, it's stupidly beautiful and it's light and stays puffy for a long time. 

Eat it with sea salt pita chips but anything, chip or cracker will do. Be sure to let me see the beauty shot when you make it. 

I feel the need for some suddenly, Connor loves it as an after school snack and you can make it in the morning, or the day before and bake it off last minute which is handy. 


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Egg Rolls

Egg Roll Tower
I had a hankering today.  It's a dangerous thing when I have a hankering.  I have knowledge that rarely is useful as is evident by my ever expanding backside. 
When I lived in Burlington, there was a Chinese food restaurant up the street.  The restaurant was completely and totally ordinary but they made the most amazing round egg rolls.  I would drive by and order them hot and fresh with just enough of the grease they'd cook them in pinching out to burn my chin.  I seriously loved those egg rolls.  They were bean sprout heavy if I recall correctly, I never have healthy bean sprouts here.  If I actually do buy them anticipating some delicious health dish, by the time I get to them they are the day past when I should use them. I don't think there should be the beginnings of a slime bath in the bottom of any sprout bag. I buy bean sprouts with great intentions but really, they merely come here to die. But, I digress.
Every once in a while I think of those egg rolls and wish I had some.  I have tried and failed at making anything similar to theirs but I do make a reasonable pork egg roll.  These are absolutely meat egg rolls with veggies as opposed to my leaner days when I'd make veggie egg rolls with pork.  Pork is cheap, the pound cost me $1.62 today so I indulged and used the whole thing.  Frequently my pork egg rolls will satisfy me during the times of such a hankering.  Today was such a day. 

In a big blue bowl combine: 
1 lb ground pork
2-3 cups cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage, carrot)
2 spring onions
salt and pepper
soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic chili sauce and sesame oil.  
There's no amounts, I do a couple glugs of each but just a little sesame oil, it's very strong.

Throw the mixture into a screaming hot sautee pan and cook it just until the pork is no longer pink.


Put it back in the bowl to cool down a bit and heat 2 inches of oil.  Throw a piece of bread in the cold oil, turn the heat on medium and when it's brown, the oil is ready to fry.  It's one of those old school tricks that will never let you down.
Assume your standard rolling position.  These are store bought egg roll wrappers, sure, I make alot of my own stuff from scratch but seriously, I'm not a fanatic ;).  Brush water all around the edges of the wrapper, I use my fingers but if you'd rather use a brush, have at it.  Put a healthy line of filling down, roll the bottom up, fold in the sides and roll it up.

Fry a couple at a time, seam side down, until they are beautiful.  Salt them lightly when they come out of the oil then serve them up.

I stack them in a ridiculous manner because it impresses the heck out of Connor!



p.s.  ok, i'll confess, but don't tell anyone.  one of my favorite guilty pleasures on egg roll day is the next day when everyone is at school and work.  Take an egg roll wrapper and spread it with nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) then slice a banana thinly and lay it on the nutella.  Roll it tightly and shallow fry it quickly.  When it comes out of the fat, roll it immediately in cinnamon sugar then put it on a plate and drizzle a little of that Hersheys chocolate syrup on it, stand at the counter and eat it like a woman possessed.  Oh and you're welcome ;)