"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Cream Gravy

    Cream or sawmill gravy, and biscuits, as my father would say, “This will stick to your ribs.” Again a childhood favorite.

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    Gravy starts with grease, grease from frying sausages, or bacon, or chicken fried steak, or fried chicken livers…

    Ingredients:

    1/4 cup flour
    2 cups milk
    Salt and pepper

    Preparation:

    Cook meat in a cast iron skillet. When done, remove meat from pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk a little at a time. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally while the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens. (Be sure to scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, that’s where the flavor is.)

    For sawmill gravy and biscuits:

    Check seasoning, add crumbled sausage and serve over toast or biscuits.

  • Chicken Fried Steak

    Being raised in Texas, and living in New York can be quite the challange for my taste buds, while I get to experience a whole world of flavor and taste sensations, I do get the cravings for the more simple fare of my youth. One all time favorite is Chicken Fried Steak with cream (sawmill) gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits.

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    Ingredients:

    2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3 whole eggs, beaten
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    2 cups chicken broth
    1 cup whole milk

    Preparation:

    Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

    Mix the Eggs and 1/2 cup of the milk.

    Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices (a slight freeze of 30 minutes can help with the cutting). Season each piece on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the flour into a shallow wide pan, and season with salt and pepper. Place the egg/milk mixture into a separate shallow wide pan. Dredge the meat on both sides in the flour. This will help the coating to stick to the meat.

    Tenderize the meat, using a needle tenderizer , or cube machine, or with the back of a chef’s knife, or drag out a medieval mace, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Once tenderized, dredge the meat again in the flour, followed by the egg/milk and finally in the flour again. Repeat with all the pieces of meat. Place the meat onto a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

    Place enough of the vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch slope-sided skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and place into the oven. Repeat until all of the meat is browned.

    Cream Gravy:

    Add the remaining vegetable oil, or at least 1 tablespoon, to the pan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the flour left over from the dredging. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan. Whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Add the milk and thyme and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste, with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the gravy over the steaks.

  • Focaccia

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    Bread, any bread, but BREAD! I am a BREAD JUNKIE, to say the least … But has to be my favorite Italian bread is Focaccia ..

    focaccia.JPG A rich slow risen dough, mixed with herbs, drizzled in olive oil, I prefer to make my own herb oil, sprinkled with various cheeses and a dusting of kosher salt.. This is heaven, I have been known to eat a entire 1/2 sheet pan of this …


    Ingredients:

    16 oz unbleached Bread Flour
    3/8 tsp instant yeast
    ~2 liquid cups at (110-120F)
    3/4 tsp sugar
    1 1/2 tsp table salt
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
    1 pinch ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder OR
    1 teaspoon minced garlic

    Optional:
    2 tsp fresh rosemary needles
    2 tsp fresh basil
    2 tsp fresh sage
    2 tsp jalapeño (seeded / chopped)
    2 tsp fresh oregano

    Very Optional :

    Pancetta, or large pepperoni, prosciutto (all VERY THIN SLICED, as in see through thin)
    Thin slices of Onion, Tomato, green pepper

    Preparation:

    1. Proof the Yeast. To active the yeast and make sure it’s alive, add one packet active dry yeast to 1/4 c. warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F) and stir to dissolve. (The water should feel like a pleasantly warm shower, or about the temperature you’d use for a baby’s bottle. If it feels uncomfortably hot, it will probably kill the yeast.) Add one teaspoon of sugar and let the yeast sit for five minutes. If the yeast is foamy and smells like bread, it’s active.

    2. Mixing the dough (can be done 1-2 days in advance). In the mixer bowl, with the paddle attachment on low speed, combine the flour and yeast. With the mixer running, gradually add the water, mixing just until the dough comes together, about 3 minutes. It will be very soupy. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough wraps itself around the paddle attachment. It will start to clear the sides of the bowl and climbing up the paddle. This will take about 20 minutes of constant beating, so be patient. It’s ok if it pours back down when you stop the mixer. Add the sugar,salt and optional herbage (chopped VERY FINE) and beat until they are well incorporated, about 3 minutes.

    3. First rise (can be done 1-2 days in advance). Grease a 2 quart bowl with a paper towel dunked in olive oil. Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into the bowl. It will look like melted mozzarella. Oil the lid or plastic wrap and cover the container. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75-80F) for about 4 hours or until it has at least doubled. I let it rise for 2 hours and move it to the fridge overnight.

    4. Shape and proof (second rise). Coat the pan with 2 Tbsp oil. Pour all the dough into the sheet pan. Coat your hands with oil and stretch the dough to fit the pan. If it doesn’t want to stretch, let it rest for 10 minutes and try again. Try not to pop the bubbles in the dough as you are stretching it. Drizzle the dough with olive oil 1 Tbsp. Cover with plastic and let the dough rise until 1 1/2 times its original volume, about 1 hour (2 if it was chilled during the first rise).

    5. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 475F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before pre-heating.

    6. Bake. Uncover the dough and sprinkle with any additional herbage, cheeses, or salt. Place the pan on the hot stone and bake until golden brown rotating the pan half way through baking time 14-15 minutes . Remove from the oven, cool 10 minutes, and serve.

  • Jalapeño Cornbread

    Cornbread was a staple of life while I was growing up in rural Central Texas. Since moving to New York, I find it HARD to get good cornbread. (People keep wanting to add sugar, it is a BREAD, — NOT A CAKE!)

    Here is MY recipe for this staple of life.

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    Ingredients:

    1 c. cornbread mix (Martha White Preferred)
    3/4 c. milk
    1 egg, beaten
    1/3 c. drained whole kernel corn (optional)
    1/3 c. chopped bell pepper (optional)
    8 sm. jalapeños, chopped
    3/4 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
    1/4 lg. onion, chopped
    2 tbs. salad oil or bacon grease

    Preparation:

    In a mixing bowl, mix together cornbread mix, milk and eggs. Add corn, jalapeños, cheese and onion. Heat oil and add to mixture. Pour into a hot cast iron frying pan and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

  • BRAZILIAN STYLE BLACK BEANS & RICE

    An associate and his wife (she was from Brazil, land of beautiful women, strong coffee, and GREAT FOOD), invited me to dinner, and she feed me beans and rice.

    But not just any beans and rice, beans soaked overnight with a tomato to soften the skins and ease the flatulence, simmered slowly for hours, with all kinds of fresh and smoked meats. Served with fluffy white rice, jalapeño cornbread, and a big green salad .. (He on the other hand was merely from France…)

    It was TRULY a meal that I will remember, I have spent the last two years trying various recipes, to recreate that meal.

    Here is MY attempt ….

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    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Herbage I

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    Herbs (hə(ɹ)b, or əɹb) are seed-bearing plants without woody stems, which die down to the ground after flowering.

    Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. The green, leafy part of the plant is often used in culinary herbs and are distinguished from vegetables in that they are used in small amounts and provide flavor (similar to spices) rather than substance to food.

    Flavors vary among herb selections, and personal preferences are important.

    parsley.jpgParsley : A bright green herb, also used as spice. It is very common in Middle Eastern, European, and American cooking. Parsley is used for its leaf in much the same way as coriander (which is also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro), although it has a milder flavor. Two forms of parsley are used as herbs: curly leaf and Italian, or flat leaf. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. Many people think flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor.

    rosemary.jpgRosemary:
    The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as an herb; they have a bitter, astringent taste, which complements oily foods, such as lamb and oily fish. A tisane can also be made from them. They are extensively used in cooking, and when burned give off a distinct mustard smell, as well as a smell similar to that of burning marijuana, which can be used to flavor foods while barbecueing.

    wildmajoram.jpgMarjoram (Origanum majorana) is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavors. It is also called Sweet Marjoram or Knotted Marjoram. Often cultivated for its aromatic leaves, either green or dry, for culinary purposes; the tops are cut as the plants begin to flower and are dried slowly in the shade. It is often used in herb combinations such as Herbes de Provence and Za’atar.

    thyme.jpgThyme is a basic ingredient in French and Italian cuisines, and in those derived from them. It is also widely used in Caribbean cuisine. Often used to flavour meats, soups and stews. It has a particular affinity to and is often used as a primary flavour with lamb, tomatoes and eggs.

    Thyme, while flavourful, does not overpower and blends well with other herbs and spices. In French cuisine, along with bay and parsley it is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence. In some Middle Eastern countries, the condiment za’atar contains thyme as a vital ingredient. Sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. While summer-seasonal, fresh thyme is often available year-round.

    Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters (“leaves”) spaced ½ to 1″ apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. If the recipe does not specify fresh or dried, assume that it means fresh.

    Depending on how it is used in a dish, the whole sprig may be used (e.g. in a bouquet garni), or the leaves removed and the stems discarded. Usually when a recipe specifies ‘bunch’ or ‘sprig’ it means the whole form; when it specifies spoons it means the leaves. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme.

    mint.jpg Mint : The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problemThe leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, and ice creams. In Mid-Eastern cuisines, mint is used on lamb dishes. In British cuisine, mint sauce is popular with lamb.

    Mint is a necessary ingredient in Touareg tea, a popular tea in northern Africa and Arabian countries.

    Alcoholic drinks, (the Mint Julep and the Mojito), feature the flavor of mint.

    bayleaves.jpgBay leaves are a fixture in the cooking of many European cuisines (particularly those of the Mediterranean), as well as in North America. They are used in soups, stews, meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes. The leaves also flavor classic French dishes such as bouillabaise and bouillon. The leaves are most often used whole (sometimes in a bouquet garni), and removed before serving. In Indian cuisine, bay leaves are often used in biriyani and many salans.

    Bay leaves can also be crushed (or ground) before cooking. Crushed bay leaves impart more of their desired fragrance than whole leaves, and there is less chance of biting into a leaf directly.

    Oregano is an important culinary herb. It is particularly widely used in Greek and Italian cuisines. It is the leaves that are used in cooking, and the dried herb is often more flavourful than the fresh. Often used in tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. Together with basil, it contributes much to the distinctive character of many Italian dishes.

    Combining nicely with pickled olives, capers and lovage leaves. Unlike most Italian herbs, oregano works with hot and spicy food, which is popular in southern Italy also an indispensable ingredient for Greek cuisine, by adding flavour to the Greek salad and is usually used separately or added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies almost every fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles.

    The dish most associated with oregano is pizza. Its relatives have probably been eaten in Southern Italy for centuries. According to the legend, the first pizza was made in 1889 when King Umberto and his wife Margherita sojourned in Napoli (Naples). At this time, white bread flavoured with tomato paste was a popular food for the poor masses. To honour the queen, a local baker devised a richer pie. In addition to the red tomato paste, white mozzarella cheese and green basil leaves were employed to reflect the colours of the Italian flag. This invention became known as pizza Margherita and spread all over Italy and now, over the rest of the world.

    dill.jpgDill: Fresh and dried dill leaves (sometimes called “dill weed” to distinguish it from dill seed) are used as herbs.Like caraway, its fernlike leaves are aromatic, and are used to flavor many foods, such as gravlax (cured salmon), borscht and other soups, and pickles. Dill is said to be best when used fresh, as it lose its flavor rapidly if dried; however, freeze-dried dill leaves preserve their flavor relatively well for a few months.

    basil.jpgBasil is most commonly recommended to be used fresh, and in cooked recipes, is generally added at the last moment, as cooking destroys the flavour quickly. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavour, like hay.

    Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequently use basil, the former frequently combining it with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto — a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce from the city of Genoa, its other two main ingredients being olive oil and pine nuts. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are ‘Genovese’, ‘Purple Ruffles’, ‘Mammoth’, ‘Cinnamon’, ‘Lemon’, ‘Globe’, and ‘African Blue’. Chinese also uses fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods.