Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baked Onions

2 large sweet onions, Vidalia, 1015 or the like
4 tablespoons butter
fresh ground black pepper

Slice the last quarter inch off of both the root and stem ends of each onion. Peel the onions, then slice in half through the 'equator' so you have four portions.

With a small knife or grapefruit spoon, remove a little of the inside center of each onion half to create a well. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each well and top with fresh ground black pepper.

Set each onion half in the center of a large square of heavy duty aluminum foil, and carefully wrap the foil up and around the onion, twisting the top together to create a sealed package.

You can cook these either in the oven or on a grill for about an hour. The cooking will remove the noxious onion fumes and tastes, greatly increase the sweetness of the onion, and make it exceptionally tender. Beware of hot butter spillage when opening the packages, but save what you can. Remove to your plates and eat while hot.

Wild Sage Bread

1 package dry yeast
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon melted lard/bacon grease
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons crushed dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour

Combine sugar, sage, salt, baking soda and flour. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Beat egg and cottage cheese together until smooth. Add melted shortening and yeast. Add flour mixture slowly to egg mixture, beating well after each addition until a stiff dough is formed. Cover dough with cloth and put in warm place until double in bulk (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down, knead for one minute and place in well-greased pan. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes. Brush top with melted shortening and sprinkle with crushed, roasted pine nuts or coarse salt.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beginning Mushrooms 101

You do have a choice - there is such a thing as eating good mushrooms and eating really poor mushrooms. I am no mycologist, and far from being an expert, but I have learned a few things about cooking with mushrooms that I don’t often see anywhere, so here goes. While this all works for the common button or Cremini mushrooms most often used, it may not apply to a lot of the more exotics, like morel, chantarelle, oyster or shiitake mushrooms.

The advice I see most often about cooking mushrooms is to put them in a pan with oil or butter, sliced or whole, and let them cook until they are all soft and have shrunk up a bit. Sautéeing mushrooms like this produces repeatable results - soft, slimy slippery and pretty tasteless little things that have shrunk up into little greasy lumps. Yet this is the way we are all shown to do this. Why? It’s fast and easy.

You don’t need to give away all the taste in your mushrooms just to have them cooked, though. Although doing them this way takes a few extra minutes, the effort will pay off in big mushroom flavor and aroma, and still give you something big enough to bite into. First of all, you should select mushrooms that are of a decent size. Getting them 2"-3" or so is the perfect size for what we are going to do. You usually not only get a better price buying mushrooms out of the bulk bin as opposed to those handy pre-packaged plastic bins, but you get to pick out exactly the ones you want, for both size and freshness.

All mushrooms are not the same as they age. Look at the picture below, for example. Most often, the underside of mushrooms look like the one on the left. Notice that the gills are clearly visible between the mushroom cap and the stem. The one on the right shows that the veil or 'vellum' still in place, covering the gills The veil is the tissue that connects the stem and the cap before the gills are exposed and the fruiting body develops. While present in the common white or button and Cremini mushrooms, it is not present on all varieties. Anyway, if present, it is proof that the mushrooms are fresher than those with exposed gills.

Next, cut́ them at least 1/2" to 3/4" thick. I know that seems like a lot, but the mushrooms will shrink by about half while they cook.

Here they are, all ready to go:

Heat a 12" skillet over medium heat. Lay the mushroom slices out in a single layer in the bottom, it's okay if they touch but they shouldn't overlap.

Now comes the hard part - leave them alone. Depending on your stove, it may be 5 or 10 minutes before you need to flip them. You can tell when most of them look like the picture below. Notice the good quantity of liquid that has escaped from the slices. This water, along with what has already evaporated, leaves behind all the flavor, concentrating it in the now smaller slices.

Flip them over, and let them continue to cook undisturbed. Now is when you will see them shrink down. When ready, you'll see that they are quite a bit smaller than when raw, but still of a good size. If you sliced them thin before cooking, they would have only been paper-thin by now.

Now, all of the flavor of the raw mushrooms, enhanced by heat, has been concentrated into the smaller remaining pieces. In addition, they have gained an almost meaty texture, like a nice Portobello. Give this technique a try!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Festa Italiana per la mia Bella Moglie

Pollo Galliano,
Peperonata con Bruschetta,
e Patate al Forno

The main course, Chicken Galliano, is derivative of several recipe versions found online, and changed up by me. It gets it's special flavor for vanilla, anise and a couple of dozen other herbs and spices. Often seen as an aperitif or a mixer, it really brings a nice balance to the sauce for this dish. It really is a requirement, and the dish won't be the same without it. The bottle is very distinctive, and therefor easy to find. It looks like this:

Main Ingredients:

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 oz. herbed goat cheese, softened

6 thin slices prosciutto

1 tbsp. finely chopped tarragon

1 tbsp. finely chopped dill

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled, divided

1 lb. Cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4" thick

Flour, for dredging

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 1⁄2 cups chicken broth

1⁄4 cup Galliano liqueur

Pepper Ingredients:

extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet red bell pepper, topped, cored, seeded and cut in large chop

1 sweet orange bell pepper, topped, cored, seeded and cut in large chop

1 sweet yellow bell pepper, topped, cored, seeded and cut in large chop

2 oz. port wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

salt & pepper

Bread for bruschetta (optional)

Potato Ingredients:

10 red potatoes, quartered , or russet potatoes cut in 1" chunks

sea salt

olive oil

Black pepper, freshly cracked

3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated


Heat the over to 375°. Toss the cut up potates in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on an oven-proof dish or pan. place them in the oven to roast, turning occasionally, for about an hour.

Take each chicken breast, and slice it in half for thickness, as shown below. You want to end up with pieces about the same size as the original, only half as thick. It isn't easy to see, but in the picture below I am halfway through cutting one of the breasts in half thickness-wise, with the top part folded back:

Next you will then be pounding each half-thick breast portion out to 1⁄8" thick. The best way to do this is to use a large piece of plastic wrap, and a little water, placing the chicken in between. By gently pounding this assembly, you can thin the chicken evenly without tearing or shredding it. Here's what one piece looked like before pounding:

...and here's what it looked like after pounding. See how much larger it is? much easier to roll and will cook more evenly, too.

The better the goat cheese you can buy, the tastier your dish will be. The tangy tartness of the the cheese will be both moderated by the cooking process and the inclusion of the Galliano liqueur, so don't be put off by how it tastes alone. You are also going to make this easier if you take the time to cut a dozen pieces of kitchen twine about 10"-12" long. It is better to have them ready in advance instead of trying to cut them while you are busy rolling chicken. The prosciutto must be of the very thin variety - see how well you can easily make out the pattern on the plate below through 2 or 3 layers of it:

These flattened breasts will be filled with the goat cheese and prosciutto, topped with a bit of the dill and tarragon, and then rolled and tied.

Tie each breast once near each end. This will help to keep them from unrolling and need not be excessively tight. Place the tied breasts on a plate and salt and pepper them on all sides.

In a large 12" skillet, place a couple of tablespoons of butter and one of olive oil and allow to coat over medium heat. While this is heating, dredge the chicken rolls in flour, coating all sides and the ends. Tap them lightly to remove any excess flour, but make sure the entire thig is coated.

Brown these chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each of four sides, for a total of 12-16 minutes, and they will be fully cooked. Remove the cooked breasts from the pan to a plate and let cool. Wipe out the pan, and add the rest of the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring until melted. Add in the mushrooms, stirring until coated, and then stirring occasionally until they are sauteed:

Once the mushrooms are done, remove them to a separate plate and then add the chicken broth and Galliano to the pan, de-glazing it as you go. Keep on the heat until the liquid is reduced by half.

In a second large saute pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and the peppers, tossing liberally to make sure they are coated. Saute these over meduum heat, tossing frequently, until they start to soften and tint at the edges:

Add in the wine and the vinegar, and mix well to get everything coated. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep cooking over medium heat until liquid is gone, then remove from heat.

Once the potatoes are done, remove from oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Mix together well to coat all the potatoes.

Once the chicken sauce has reduced by half, add the stuffed chicken back to the pan and roll to coat liberally. Add the mushrooms back in and heat all together.

Plate the chicken, and add any remaining butter to the pan to thicken the gravy, stirring until incorporated. Now start spooning mushrooms and gravy over the stuffed rolls. Plate up the potatoes, adding salt and pepper if needed and maybe a little chives if desired. Finally serve up the roasted peppers, over bruschetta if desired:

You had better be hungry, because this is a good-sized meal, but is so tasty it's hard to stop! Left overs make excellent lunches...

In case you are wondering, the title of this post translates to "Italian Feast for my Beautiful Wife".