cafela: (nutmeg)
I love mac & cheese, and this recipe has become a favorite with my dad's side of the family. You can use any shape of pasta you want--I prefer gemelli or mini bowtie instead of the traditional macaroni, but that's fine, too.

And yes, nutmeg sounds like a weird ingredient (my mom honestly sounded scared when I made it at her house and asked where she kept the nutmeg), but it's essential in this dish. You only need a dash or two (I wouldn't use more than 1/2 tsp), and it makes a huge difference. Also, feel free to substitute other cheeses, though you will want to keep at least one milder cheese like fontina or mozzerella in the dish.

Ingredients:
1 lb of pasta
4 oz fontina (or similar mild) cheese, shredded
4 oz gruyere or parmesan, shredded (not the cheap parmesan that comes pre-grated in a big plastic shaker, the real stuff)
8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
2 tb butter
2 tb flour
1 1/2 milk (or cream if you want)
dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
4-6 pieces bacon (you can omit this if you're making it for vegetarians, but it does take the flavor up a notch)
panko breadcrumbs

Cook bacon, let cool, and chop into small pieces. Reserve bacon fat. Make the pasta. While it boils, make a basic bechamel sauce/roux on the stove in a large skillet(melt the butter, whisk in the flour and let brown, heat the milk, whisk in milk slowly). Add the nutmeg, and some salt and pepper, then stir in the cheese until melted. Remove from heat.

Pour your pasta into your casserole/baking dish. Drizzle with reserved bacon fat. Mix in your cheesy bechamel sauce and bacon pieces. Once mixed, top with breadcrumbs. Cook in oven at 350 for about 20 minutes (until the breadcrumbs brown and the mac & cheese is bubbly.
cafela: (Default)
It's nearly Thanksgiving, and it's later than normal this year. I've managed to get a lot of Christmas shopping done already, and I already have Christmas cards ready to go out, so it seems wrong to not make Thanksgiving food until next week. So I've gone ahead and made my family's cornbread dressing. There are a lot of great variations on dressing/stuffing, but this is my favorite.

Dressing is actually really easy to put together--it's just the prep that takes work, especially if you don't like crunching on pieces of onion or celery. To avoid that, I always chop the onions and celery into very tiny little pieces--basically, I mince it, so that once it's cooked down, it essentially melts into all the other ingredients. Also, I hate celery in everything--except this dish. Including celery does make a big difference in the flavor, so if you don't like it, don't leave it out if you can help it, because I promise, it won't taste like celery. When celery cooks down the way it does in this recipe, it tastes nothing like celery normally does.

Also, while a lot of cornbread dressing recipes include just cornbread, I've always found that it has a better overall texture if you use a combination of bread and cornbread, so that's what I use. If you're hell bent on just having cornbread, make 2 recipes' worth of cornbread and omit the sandwich bread.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



Southern Cornbread Dressing
Ingredients:
1 recipe's worth of Buttermilk Cornbread (or any cornbread that has no sugar in the recipe)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 large chicken breast (you can increase the amount of chicken if you want, or use leftover turkey)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chicken broth
9 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
3/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
3 eggs, lightly beaten

First, make your cornbread.

While your cornbread cooks, chop your onion and celery. Melt 4 tbsp butter over medium high heat in a pot/skillet large enough to hold all the celery and onion. Add the celery and onion, cover and let cook (stir occasionally).



Take a small pan and melt 1 tbsp butter in it. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper, then add it to the small pan. Add 2 tbsp chicken broth, cover and let cook over medium high heat until cooked through.

By this point, the cornbread should be done, so when it is, remove from oven and from the skillet so it can cool.

Get a large bowl (large enough to hold all the ingredients combined) and tear up the sandwich bread. Add the torn up pieces to it. Once the cornbread is cooled enough to handle, crumble it into pieces (2 inches or so) and add it to the bowl as well. When the chicken has cooked through, remove it from the pan and chop or shred it into small pieces. Add the chicken to the bowl.



Sprinkle the sage and the pepper into the bowl. Mix everything that's in the bowl at this point. Add the 4 cups chicken broth, then add the beaten eggs. Mix everything in the bowl again. Add the celery/onion mixture, and mix once more. The mixture should be somewhat soggy--if it is still dry, add another 1/2 cup of chicken broth. If it goes into the oven dry, it will be too dry once it's cooked (though if it does turn out dry, a quick fix is to pour 1/4 cup warm chicken broth over the top).


Uncooked Dressing

Spoon into two pans or casserole dishes, or one large casserole dish. Cook in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes if you have two pans, 30-35 minutes if you have one large dish. It is done when the top turns golden brown. Serve with gravy or cranberry sauce or even just by itself.

cafela: (salt is magical)
It's finally starting to feel like fall, and that means it is the best time to try out new soup recipes. I love this soup; the recipe is based heavily on one by Cook's Illustrated. While most butternut squash soups are sweet, this one is not. It's similar to the first soup recipe I posted, the French Vegetable soup, but I like this one better, and it is much quicker to make.

A quick note: if you don't have butternut squash handy, any similarly orange/slightly sweet squash will work, including pumpkin. If you want your soup to have a slight sweetness to it, increase the amount of squash and decrease the amount of potatoes by the same amount.



Savory Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients:
1 3/4 pounds butternut squash--seeded, peeled, and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 4 1/2 cups or one 2-lb squash)
1 pound potatoes (I used yukon gold)--peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
2 tb butter
salt and pepper
1 large leek or 2 smaller leeks, dark green top part cut off, sliced thin, washed thoroughly
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cups chicken broth (veggie broth can be substituted)
1-2 cups water
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish if desired)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cream (or creme fraiche if you can get it) --You can omit this if you want.

Vital tools: immersion blender OR regular blender

First, prep your ingredients, particularly the squash and potatoes. Place squash and potatoes in microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 14 minutes. Stir halfway through the microwave time. I used the microwave time to prep the rest of the ingredients.

Next, melt butter in dutch oven/heavy duty soup pot, over medium-high heat. Add leeks, squash, potatoes, shallot, garlic, and 2 tsp salt. Cook, sometimes stirring, for about 14 minutes, until the potatoes and squash break down and the bottom of the pot begins to develop a fond (basically, browned residue from the cooked veggies).



At this point, add the broth, and stir while scraping the bottom of the pot to release the fond. Add 1 cup of water (and up to 1 cup more if you want a thinner soup). Add cheese, thyme, bay leaf, and cayenne. Increase heat and bring everything up to a high simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook at least 10 more minutes. You can cook up to 30 minutes more if you want to continue to develop the flavors, but you don't have to.



Remove and discard the bay leaf and the thyme. Process soup using either immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender. Return soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer again. Stir in cream/creme fraiche. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with drops of cream or with more parmesan cheese. Serves 6-8.

cafela: (salt is magical)
I have a couple of tomato plants. We don't have enough of a yard for an actual garden, but we have a couple of large planters, and we get a lot of sun. So this year, I decided I was going to try to grow our own tomatoes. The main motivation is the fact that we go through at least one tomato a week, and I thought that a couple of tomato plants would probably net us one or two tomatoes a week. As it turns out, it's more like 4 or 5 tomatoes a week, and so when I realized we had 10 tomatoes waiting to be eaten (with at least 15 more growing) I decided it was probably time to do something with them. Spaghetti is the obvious thing, but it seemed too heavy. So I decided I'd try my hand at a tomato soup.

Tomato soup is not my favorite kind of soup; it's generally not even in my top 5 kinds of soup, because I'm picky about it, and few places make it the way I like it. Every summer, I test out a new tomato soup recipe, but while those soups have turned out okay, they've not been what I want them to be. My favorite tomato soup is served at a local restaurant called Plates; it is amazing, and everything a tomato soup should be. I always want my soup to taste as fresh and scrumptious as theirs, and until tonight, I've failed. Something was missing.

Tonight, however, I hit upon the missing ingredient. Or at least, a missing ingredient: bacon. You don't need much--I used one small slice. It took my tomato soup to a whole new level. As did roasting most of what went into it. It is the best tomato soup I've ever made. I will actually make this tomato soup again.



Roasted Tomato & Bacon Soup
Ingredients:
about 2 lbs fresh tomatoes (I used about 10 plum-sized tomatoes), quartered
six large garlic cloves
1 vidalia onion (a large yellow onion will suffice if you can't get vidalia)
olive oil
salt
pepper
2 tb butter
1 large shallot
1 more clove of garlic
1 slice of bacon, diced into small pieces
5 sprigs of thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
10 basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried basil)
10 sage leaves (or 1/2 tsp rubbed sage)
3 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
a blender
parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Get a large, shallow pan with an edge to it. Quarter your tomatoes and slice your onion. Place tomatoes and onion into the pan along with your six garlic cloves (cloves should have the skin still on). Drizzle olive oil over the veggies (you don't need much) and salt and pepper. Put them into a 400 degree oven to roast for about 35 minutes.

While the veggies roast, mince your shallot and your other clove of garlic. Add to the pot you're making your soup in, along with the butter. Turn to low (or if your oven vents through one of the stove eyes, just put it there and use the residual heat). If you're using fresh herbs, also use this time to chop those. Dice your bacon.



When the veggies are done roasting, turn your soup pot to medium heat, and add the bacon. As soon as the shallot starts to go translucent, add your roasted tomatoes and onion. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins, and add them (not the skins). Let cook for maybe 5 minutes, until it gets thick, and add the herbs and the chicken broth.



If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it so that you have a super smooth soup (if you want that; it will be good chunky, too). If you just have a regular blender, that works, too; you'll just have to blend in a couple of batches, and be careful to blend slowly at first (and take the lid off in between pulses to keep steam from building up). Return the blended soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Let simmer another 10 minutes; it can simmer longer, but give it at least that long so all the flavors have time to develop. Add salt and pepper to taste.



Yields about 3 medium bowls of soup--add more chicken stock or more tomatoes to get more. Garnish with parmesan cheese or a few drops of cream. Perfect when accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich.

cafela: (fried chicken)
I just finished making/eating the following recipe for lunch. It was so good, I had to write it up immediately, both so I could share it with everyone, and to be sure that I don't forget exactly how I made it.



Coconut-Ginger Braised Chicken
Ingredients:
3 to 6 chicken thighs (or 2 chicken thigh/leg quarters)
garlic salt
approx. 2 tsp each of ground ginger, garam masala, and turmeric
2 tb sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tb minced/grated fresh ginger, divided into 1 tb each
zest of one lime
1 can coconut milk, shaken well
2 tb brown sugar
1 tb thai fish sauce
juice from one lime
1/4 c chicken broth or 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1/4 water

Also necessary: dutch oven or other stove-to-oven pan w/ oven-safe lid

First, season chicken all over with garlic salt, ground ginger, garam masala, and turmeric. Go easy on the garam masala if you don't want anything too spicy. In dutch oven, heat sesame oil on medium high. Brown the chicken in the dutch oven (about 5 minutes per side). Remove chicken.



Add the onion, garlic, 1 tb of fresh ginger, and lime zest to the pot, and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Shake the can of coconut milk up well, then open and add. Add brown sugar and thai fish sauce. Stir well. Add chicken (and any residual juices) back to the pot. Drizzle chicken with lime juice from 1/2 lime (save the other half of the lime). Cover with lid and put in oven. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.



About 20 minutes before pulling out the chicken, make some rice (I prefer jasmine, but any kind is good).

When you remove the dutch oven from the oven, remove the chicken--put it in a bowl, drizzle with a little more lime juice, and tent with tin foil. Add the rest of the lime juice to the pot, along with the other 1 tb of fresh ginger and the chicken broth/bouillon. Simmer until thick (may already be rather thick).



When rice is done, plate with rice, then chicken, then pour sauce on top. Chicken should be tender enough that you don't need a knife. Enjoy!

cafela: (chocolate)
A few weeks ago, I made Homemade Twinkies, and that got me to thinking--what about other homemade versions of that kind of snack cake? One of my husband's favorites is Hostess cupcakes, so after I looked through a few recipes, I gave it a try.

It's actually a super easy recipe for what it is. All you really need is a solid chocolate cupcake recipe that you like, essentially the same inner creme recipe used for the Twinkies, and some chocolate ganache. And a little patience when it comes to those well-known curlicues that grace the top of the cupcakes.

I'll confess: after making enough cupcakes with curlicues for blog picture-purposes, I stopped doing them. I did not have the patience (plus the plastic bag I was using to pipe the icing burst open) to do more than five like that. There was no difference in taste between the ones that had the curlicues and the ones that didn't, so only do them if you want the look.




Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 batch chocolate cupcakes (approx. 24)

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Extra powdered sugar (to thicken remaining filling to pipe curlicues)

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's special dark or Ghiradelli are perfect)
1/4 c cream
1 tb butter

First, bake your cupcakes--use whatever your favorite chocolate cake recipe is, so long as it's sturdy enough to hold frosting on top (a box mix is fine). Let them cool. While they cool, make your filling.

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.



Once the cupcakes are cool and the filling is prepped, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the cupcake, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cupcake as shown in the picture, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the cupcake could bust. If you're planning to make the curlicues, set aside about 1/3 c of the filling to use to make them.



Now you get to make the ganache, which is SUPER easy. I don't get why everyone freaks out about making it, but it does taste amazing. All you do is dump all the ingredients into a shallow pan, and whisk them slowly over low heat until everything melts together. Don't rush it, or you will burn it, and don't add any more cream or butter after you start, or it could thicken and become awful. If you keep it low and slow, everything should melt into a delicious swirl of smooth chocolately awesomeness. When it does, take it off the heat.



Now you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. I used a small icing spatula to smooth the top out, very much the same way you smooth icing--the only trick is once the ganache cools, it's harder to work with, so try to smooth it out somewhat quickly. They should end up looking something like the pictures below:



Now, you can stop at this point, and you will have delicious cupcakes. But if you want the curlicues, take that filling that you set aside, and thicken it with more powdered sugar. I honestly don't remember how much, but at least a few tablespoons. Get it stiff enough to pipe. Then you just draw the curlicues on, which may take a little trial and error.

And that's all there is to it!

cafela: (Default)
The first time I made Shrimp & Grits, I came pretty close to winging the recipe. I knew how to cook everything individually, but I wasn't sure how much of what to use. The first recipe turned out tasty, and is still a solid recipe, but it had a lot of steps, and I wanted to simplify it. So last night, when I decide to make it again, I tried a couple of different things, and it made a huge difference--and the flavor was possibly even better.

The biggest breakthrough was probably in the grits. My husband suggested I look up recipes for "Charleston grits" which is the name they go by at a couple of restaurants. I was really surprised to see cream or half and half as a component, b/c all my life, grits have only ever been made with water. But as it turns out, it made a huge difference.

So here you are--updated Shrimp & Grits!



Ingredients:
For the cheese grits
1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned grits (NOT instant)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
2 cups chicken broth
1 tb salt
ground black pepper, to taste (about 1 tsp)
1 tb butter
2 oz Boursin cheese (I use the herbs flavor)
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated

For the shrimp
4-6 slices bacon, diced into squares
1/2 shallot, minced
1 small tomato, diced (or a large handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped in half)
2 cloves garlic, minced
splash of white wine
2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tb lemon juice
1 lb shrimp, peeled

For the sauce/gravy
drippings from the shrimp mixture
2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tb COLD water

In a pot, combine the grits, cream, water, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium. Once the grits start to thicken, add the boursin cheese and the butter. Once the grits are thick, add the rest of the cheese; stir to combine. Continue to cook on medium low until they reach desired thickness.



While the grits cook, cook the diced bacon in a medium to large size skillet. Once the bacon is mostly cooked, add the shallot. Let cook for a minute or so, then add the diced tomato and the garlic. Let this cook until the tomatoes look mostly cooked, then add your splash of white wine, as well as 1 tsp of the garlic salt. Stir. Add the shrimp, and sprinkle them with the remaining ingredients (the rest of the garlic salt, the Old Bay, and the lemon juice). Cook until done.




Use a slotted spoon or sieve to remove the shrimp/tomato/bacon mixture and put in a bowl, leaving the juice behind in the skillet. Add the cornstarch/water mixture, bring to a simmer until the sauce thickens.

Plate with grits first, then shrimp mixture, and finish with the gravy. If you want, you can top with a little more parmesan cheese.

cafela: (Default)
As you have probably picked up by now, I love French food. There's not a French restaurant in the town where I live, but there are several in the relatively nearby city of Atlanta. Mine and my husband's favorite is Ani's Bistro, which favors Provençal cuisine, but has a dash of everything else, too. I always get the Moules Marinières (mussels in white wine sauce) and he always gets their Croque Monsieur. I always steal a bite of his, because it's so good. But we can't always go to Atlanta, and so I decided I should figure out how to make a Croque Monsieur. After all, it's just a fancy ham and cheese sandwich, right?

Well, yes and no. This is what I came up with. The first time I tried it, it was good, but not quite to the level I wanted. I used deli ham--good, fresh, thick deli ham, but it wasn't right. Jambon de Paris aka Parisian ham is famous, and it's just about the only ham I'll eat. So I pondered on why it was so good, and why I don't like normal American sandwich ham. It was then that I remembered--I do enjoy ham at Easter, and sometimes Thanksgiving. But it's not deli ham, it's HoneyBaked Ham. Theirs is on par with Parisian ham. Fortunately, we do have a HoneyBaked Ham Cafe in town, so the next time I went to make this sandwich, I stopped and got a half pound of Honey Baked Ham slices. It makes all the difference.

To be sure, you can make a decent croque monsieur with a good sweet/honey ham from your local deli. But if you want it to be over the top good, get some from a Honey Baked Ham store.

Also, realize up front that this is a very rich, heavy dish. You'll want something to cut through all that cheesy goodness. I recommend a good medium-bodied red wine and a salad to round out your meal. And if you find yourself unable to finish your sandwiches, they reheat just fine.




Croque Monsieur

Ingredients:
1/2 to 3/4 lb sliced ham (thick slices!)
2 tb butter
3 tb flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt (If you don't have it, use 1/2 tsp regular salt)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 oz)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 oz)
1 cup grated Fontina or Emmental cheese (about 3 oz)
6-8 largish buns/croissants, or very thick (1 inch) sandwich bread

Grate all your cheeses first, and set aside. Mix all of them together in a bowl, except for 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, which you should keep separate.

In a small to medium saucepan (nonstick if you have it) melt the butter over medium heat. Once it melts, add the flour and stir (I use a whisk). Stir for about 2 minutes; if you've ever made a roux before, that's basically what you're doing here, b/c it's the first step of bechamel sauce....which is exactly what we're making. Once the two minutes are up, add your hot milk slowly. I add about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking it in as I go. It may get thin, but at some point, it will thicken to a gravy-like consistency. At this point, whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Take off the heat and whisk in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of Gruyere that you set aside. Ta-dah! You just made a Bechamel sauce. This is the hardest part of making a Croque Monsieur; the rest is just layering.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit at this point.

Cut your rolls/buns/croissants in half (the way you would for a sandwich). Lay the bottoms out on a cookie sheet. Spread a small spoonful of the bechamel sauce you just made onto the top of each of the bottoms (hope that makes sense). Layer your ham slices onto each (use all your ham). Put another dollop of the bechamel sauce on top of the ham, along with a generous amount of the shredded cheeses. You should use half or slightly more than half of the shredded cheese for this step.

Now put the tops on top of the shredded cheese layer. Spread bechamel on the top. Put more shredded cheese on top. The bechamel sauce should be helping the cheese stick to the bread.

Put into the hot oven, and bake for about 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes the cheese doesn't have the nice browning that you want, turn the broiler on for about 2 minutes, and keep a close eye on it, b/c it's incredibly easy to burn things with the broiler on. Serve immediately. You'll probably need a knife and a fork. Bon appetit!

Protip: If you have leftover bechamel sauce or leftover grated cheese, save them for the next time you make a pasta dish, and throw them into the sauce. Or make cheesy toast with them.

If you find Gruyere to be too strong a flavor for you, you can always increase the amount of Fontina/Emmental and reduce the amount of Gruyere.

cafela: (Default)
I love cheese grits. I also love shrimp. My husband also likes both, and he especially likes the combination. Yesterday, as I pondered what to make for dinner, knowing that I didn't want to make the stuff I usually make, I decided to find a good shrimp and grits recipe. I also wanted to make a tomato gravy to go with it, as I had the best tomato gravy ever at my friend Jenn's wedding reception this past June, and it was served with parmesan cheese grits. So after looking at a lot of recipes on Pinterest, I cobbled this recipe together. It's kind of involved, but it only took me about 40 minutes to make it. The tomato gravy isn't as good as it was at Jenn's wedding, but it's still quite tasty.

So this dish was an experiment--and luckily, it turned out to be a delicious one. Unfortunately, experiments don't always get pictures taken while I make them, so all I have is one measely camera phone pic of the end result. If I'd had fresh chives, I would've added them in with the thyme, so those of you who have them, that wouldn't be a bad addition. You could just make the grits, or just the shrimp w/ tomato gravy...but they're pretty awesome put together. We both went back for seconds.



Ingredients:

For the Grits

1 c grits

4 c water

1 tsp salt

2 tb butter

1/2 container of Boursin cheese (I used the garlic and herbs flavor)

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

3/4 c grated cheddar cheese

For the Shrimp & Tomato Gravy

3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lemon

tabasco sauce

1/4 tsp old bay seasoning

4 slices of thick bacon, diced into small squares

1 diced ugli tomato (or regular tomato when it's summer and they're in season; ugli tomatoes are my go-to during winter)

2 scallions or green onions, sliced

1 shallot, diced into tiny pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 c chicken broth/stock

1/4 c cream

1 tb fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

So, first, make your grits, the same way you would always make grits, 1 c grits to 4 c water, with salt to season. They will cook on medium low while you make everything else. If you have stone-ground grits, you will need to cook them however it says on the packaging.

Put the shrimp in a bowl with the juice of the lemon, several splashes of tabasco, and the old bay seasoning. Let marinate.

Slice/dice the bacon first, and put it in a large skillet on medium. Slice/dice the garlic, scallions, and shallot; add when the bacon is mostly cooked. Dice the tomato, add it. Let it cook down a bit, then add the chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, add the cream. Let sauce thicken.

In a smaller skillet, partially cook the shrimp (don't flip them) with 2 tb of the juice they were marinating in. When one side is cooked (about 1 minute), add them to the tomato sauce. Let sauce thicken. Add the thyme at this point.

(If sauce doesn't thicken after 5 minutes, mix 1 tsp cornstarch into 1 tb cold water, and stir that mix in. I do this anytime I have a sauce that doesn't thicken properly.)

By this point, the grits should be done. You want them to be pretty thick (not soupy/watery at all) before adding the butter and cheese, because that will loosen them up. Anyways, add the butter, then the cheeses, and stir in well. IF it gets too thin/watery, you can put the grits in your bowls to eat and microwave for a couple minutes until it's the right consistency.

Top with the shrimp and tomato gravy sauce. Voila!

Serves 2-4.

**Also, to get extra shrimp flavor, if you have shrimp that need to be peeled, toss the leftover peels/tails into the chicken broth and microwave for 45 seconds (until the shells are pink), and let sit until ready to add the chicken broth. Obviously, strain before adding the broth.**
cafela: (Default)
I have to admit, excluding bacon, I'm not a huge fan of pork, or at least, I haven't always been. Too often, pork chops end up overcooked and dry, which is never very tasty. But, with the FDA lowering cooking temperatures for pork (and my conveniently getting an instant-read meat thermometer from my mom for Christmas) and after seeing the chefs on Cook's Country cook a pork loin, I decided to try a new flavor profile with my pork chops: apples. It didn't hurt that I had a honey crisp apple that needed to be used up, too.

These pork chops turned out fabulously, and the leftover savoury apple bits were great on the cornbread I made to go with this dish. They would go well with biscuits or even rice, I'm sure. It started as an experiment, but I'll definitely be making this again.



Comforting Apple-Sage Pork Chops

Ingredients:

2-5 pork chops (I used boneless)

1 apple (most any kind will do)

2 tb minced garlic

2 tb sage

1 tb bacon fat (if you have it; if not, you can either dice one slice of bacon and toss it in with the apple bits, or just add more butter/oil in its place)

2 tb olive oil or butter

garlic salt

pepper

1/4 c Apfelkorn liqueur/Apple schnapps (if you have it)


First, you need to peel, core, and dice your apple. I used a really small dice because I wanted the apple to cook down as easily as possible, but a larger dice would be fine. In a large skillet, heat your olive oil/butter and garlic on medium. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the apple bits. Stir and let cook for at least a couple of minutes before adding the bacon fat.



Season your pork chops with the sage, garlic salt and pepper--I just sprinkled it on lightly, on both sides. Make room for them in the skillet; you don't want to put them right on top of the apples, because then the meat won't brown as nicely. I just moved most of the apples to the edge, and left a small mound of apple in the middle.



Turn the heat up to medium high, and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the bottom side of the pork chops have browned somewhat. Flip the pork chops, let cook for a minute, then add the Apfelkorn if you have it. If you don't, you could add some chicken broth, white wine, or hard cider instead. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, then start checking the temperature. You want the pork chops to read close to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have a thermometer, just be sure that both sides are nicely browned, and you can always cut into one pork chop to make sure it's done. It should be white to veeeeery pale pink. No red or dark pink juices.



Plate with a spoonful of the apple bits on top and eat!

April 2014

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