Friday, April 5, 2013

Leftover Cornbread

A couple days ago I posted about the Easter dinner I made for my friend and myself. This morning I realized I still had some of the cornbread sitting on the counter. Now, I love cornbread, but when it sits around a few days it gets a little old tasting. I have been known to use the leftovers to make stuffing (and I guess I've never blogged that because I can't find a post... weird). But, since it was morning and I was looking to have some breakfast, not plan dinner, I revived my days old cornbread by cutting it in half, slathering it with butter, and pan frying it until it was golden and delicious. I also realized I was out of syrup, so I improvised and made molasses honey to pour over the top of the cornbread. Voila, simple, delicious breakfast made with what I had in the house.

Cornbread with Molasses Honey

day old cornbread, sliced in half
1/4 c honey
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
pinch of salt

Butter the cut faces of the cornbread and put in a skillet over medium heat.
Fry the cornbread until golden, then flip.
Briefly fry the cornbread on the other side, then remove from the pan.
While the cornbread is frying, in a small sauce pan, heat the honey, molasses, and salt over medium heat.
Once warm and salt is dissolved, remove from heat.
On a plate, place your cornbread and drizzle with the molasses honey.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Roast Chicken and Collard Greens

I've been living in Maine for nearly six years now. When I think about that, it seems crazy. One of the things that has made living here much easier is the proximity of my older brother and sister-in-law, which was the result of one of those life coincidences. About the same time I got a job here, my brother got an opportunity to expand his artist's skills down in Massachusetts. So, I moved to Maine and he and my sister-in-law move to Massachusetts. It is nice to have them so close because my entire family can only get together so many times a year. I typically spend the less important holidays, like Thanksgiving and Easter, with them. But, there have been times where for some reason or another I don't make it down to spend even those holidays with them. In those instances, one of my friends invites me to her family's holiday celebration. I'm always grateful for their generosity (and of course the delicious food they provide).

This past Sunday, while my friend's family had extended another invitation to myself and another friend far from her family, we both felt like having a really quiet Easter dinner. So, I decided to cook dinner for the two of us. Luckily we checked if the stores would be open on Easter, so I was able to get to the store the day before for all my ingredients. Actually, I ended up at 4 stores because the 3 stores before the last did not have any fresh mint on hand. I'm not sure why other people needed mint; I doubt they were all planning to make minted carrots like I was. (That's another on of those delicious Eula Mae recipes I mentioned previously in this blog). Along with minted carrots, I roasted a chicken (sort of based on the Eula Mae recipe) and made cornbread (also Eula Mae) and collard greens. My friend shared a delicious bottle of red wine she got while in Turkey and we finished the meal with hazelnut gelato. All in all, it was a delicious meal (if I do say so myself).

Roast Chicken

1 5 pound chicken, washed and patted dry
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
6 shallots, ends trimmed off and sliced in half (you can leave the skins on)
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter with the thyme and sage over low heat and then set aside to cool slightly.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan.
Mix the salt, cayenne, black and white peppers.
Rub the salt and pepper mixture on the skin of the chicken and between the skin and meat.
Stuff the cavity with the shallots and bay leaves.
Rub the outside of the chicken with the butter mixture and then place it breast side down in the roasting pan.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until fully cooked.
Remove from roasting pan and place on a platter for serving.

Collard Greens

1 tbsp oil
2 - 1/4 inch slices salt pork, cubed
2 large bunches collard greens, stemmed, sliced into 2 inch strips, and washed thoroughly
1/2 tsp raw sugar

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally until browned (bottom of the pan might brown as well, but that should come up once the greens are added).
Add the greens, stir, and cover.
Turn heat down to medium.
Let greens cook until desired tenderness, stirring occasionally (be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get up the browned bits).
Sprinkle sugar on greens and cover for a couple more minutes, then stir and serve.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spicy Sofrito and Black Bean Soup

Thinking back on my childhood, I think I pinpoint my now sister-in-law's entry into our family as the moment where our culinary world expanded. I refer to both an exposure to new foods and flavors and to the culture around sharing food. Growing up, my mother and my sister-in-law's parents made almost every meal from scratch. My guess it was both family tradition and economically driven. It's much cheaper to feed your family home cooked meals than pre-made ones (well, it was. Now I'm not sure if that is still the case). During college my sister-in-law would get a craving for something my Mom would make and tell my brother that they needed to buy celery so that they could make "white people food." It was and still is funny because so many of our meals growing up really did start with a base of onions, celery, ground beef, and salt and pepper. My sister-in-law's family, being Puerto Rican, started most dishes with sofrito, adobo, oregano, cumin, and a smattering of other seasonings. Despite eating a lot of Puerto Rican food over the years and watching both my sister-in-law and her parents cook, I still haven't been able to capture the flavors properly in my own house.

When it came to dinner time, we always sat down as a family to eat, as I believe my sister-in-law's family did as well. In our home, someone would serve up food for each person, giving them the amount they wanted. If we wanted seconds, we served ourselves. In my sister-in-law's family, someone serves the food, but typically gives you more than you ask for. When your plate nears empty, someone offers you more. My sister-in-law told me that one of the first times she ate dinner at our home, she left hungry because while she wanted more food, she was never offered any more and she didn't feel comfortable serving herself more even while the rest of us grabbed seconds. Over the years, we have shared many meals and while our tendencies in how we gather and share food may not have changed much, we have become more accustomed to our differences, small as they may be.

As we all grow and explore the world around us, we have been exposed to more styles of cooking and have incorporated those into our lives. My brother and sister-in-law lived in Japan for a couple years and brought back a passion for the Japanese style of cooking. Growing up, we almost never ate fish because we lived in Wisconsin and nobody in my family went fishing. After they returned from Japan, the family started eating fish with more regularity and occasionally we will make miso soup, ginger chicken, or tonkatsu. I lived in China, where a friend and her mother taught myself and a couple other foreigners how to make baozi. For the last couple years, my family has made baozi for our Christmas Eve dinner. This time intensive meal goes quickly when everyone is chipping in to help roll the dough and form the buns. My other sister-in-law, wife of my younger brother, is a vegetarian which has introduced more non-meat options to our family gatherings. When you grow up with every meal being based on a meat and starch, learning to cook delicious vegetarian meals definitely has a learning curve.

As I drove to the grocery store tonight pondering what to cook for this week, I had a craving for Puerto Rican beans. But, me being me and me not really having mastered Puerto Rican food, I made up my own style of sofrito. Below is the recipe for the sofrito and the black bean soup.

Spicy Sofrito

2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 bell pepper, cored and quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled
8 small shallots, peeled
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cherry peppers, stems removed and halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch cilantro

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Place in jars and either refrigerate or freeze.

Black Bean Soup

1 c spicy sofrito
1 1/2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 small jar pimentos with juice
2 tbsp slices green olives with juice
2-4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
adobo to taste
3 28 oz cans of low sodium black beans
2 cans of water
2 tsp chicken better than bullion

Place spicy sofrito, tomato sauce, pimentos with juice, green olives with juice, oregano, cumin, and adobo (sprinkle back and forth across the bottom of the pan twice) in the bottom of a large stock pot. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until fragrant. Add the black beans, water, and chicken bullion. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook at a low boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully use an immersion blender to blend smooth. Serve hot.

The Muttering Chef

An (admittedly sporadic) cooking diary.