Just One Cook

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Oyster stew 


 1 leek, mostly just the white part

1 pint of shucked oysters

2 strips of bacon

1 cup skim milk*

1 cup heavy cream *

4 T butter, approximately

salt - about 3/4 tsp, but do it to your taste

pepper -- white pepper if you have it, about 3 shakes or to taste

paprika, at least 1/2 teaspoon, more if you want -- I used Smoked Spanish paprika


1. Prepare the leek. I discarded the outer leaves of the leek because they were the dirtiest and toughest, then sliced off most of the green part, cut it in half lengthwise and rinsed it thoroughly under running water, then chopped each half into about 1/4 inch pieces. 

2. Fry the bacon. I used a large cast iron skillet. Remove bacon from pan, leaving all residual grease.

3. Add about 2 T butter to the pan to supplement the bacon grease, and start sauteeing the leeks. Add salt and pepper.

4. Drain liquid from the oysters into a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Add the milk and cream and begin heating. Add the paprika.

5. If the leeks seem to have absorbed most of the butter, add another 2 T. Pour the oysters into the skillet with the leeks and cook just until the oysters curl at the edges. Do not overcook. **

6. When the liquid is hot, either add the leeks and oysters to the saucepan or, if using a large enough skillet like my chicken fryer, pour the liquid into the skillet. Taste and add more seasoning if you want.

7. Remember that bacon you fried earlier? Cut it up into pieces and put some in a bowl. Then ladle in the stew, making sure to get plenty of oysters!

 

*I usually have skim milk and cream on hand. If you have whole milk, you could use 1-1/2 cups of whole milk and just 1/2 cup cream, or even all whole milk, in a pinch. 

**The shucked oysters I got this time were quite plump, which is one reason I sizzled them separately before joining them back up with the liquid. If you get small oysters, they could cook right in the liquid once it has heated. Do not add them at the beginning, though, or you're likely to overcook them.



 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

 

Katharine Hepburn’s brownies, slightly tweaked


 

These are wonderfully fudgy, borderline gooey. If you prefer crunchy, dry brownies, this is probably not the recipe for you. Or you could bake them longer. I don’t know, because I have no desire to find out! I have tweaked the original recipe slightly to suit myself and my array of baking pans. My way creates eight brownies that are 2 inches square and about an inch thick.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cocoa *
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour (I have even used a gluten-free flour substitute, which worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt -- I prefer using about half a teaspoon because I like salt with chocolate. Up to you.
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts or pecans (optional – I never use them)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a loaf size baking pan** with parchment paper,or butter it well.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium low, then remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until blended. Stir in the sugar. Let this mixture cool a bit while you measure the other ingredients and crack the eggs (there’s a risk of scrambling the eggs if you add them while the mixture is too hot). Always crack eggs one at a time into a separate small bowl, just in case, and give them a little whisk before adding.
  3. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and, if using, nuts. Mix well.
  4.  Pour into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean***.
  5. Cool completely (about an hour) and cut into squares. These brownies are very fudgy and may be somewhat difficult to slice cleanly; use a sharp knife and a spatula to help them loosen from the baking dish if you have not used parchment, If you have used parchment, it’s a snap to lift them out and cut them on a board.

 

*Some recipes say you can substitute 2 squares of unsweetened bakers chocolate. I personally think that if you do so, you should reduce the butter by a couple of pats’ worth, because there is some fat in the chocolate. I haven’t tried it, because I am more likely to have cocoa powder on hand than unsweetened bakers chocolate.

**I use a pan that’s approximately 4 x 9, and I line it with parchment paper even though it is allegedly non-stick. If you butter your pan instead, the brownies likely will cook a bit faster, and if you use a lot of butter, they might be even gooier. The original recipe says to use an 8 x 8 inch pan,baked at 325 for 40 minutes, but I thought the brownies were a bit thin. If you double the recipe, a 9x9 pan would probably work just fine; you would probably have to adjust the time, using the toothpick to determine when they are ready.

***”Clean” is relative – no gooey crumbs, but the toothpick might be stained a bit by the chocolate. That’s fine for me because, again, I like fudgy brownies rather than dry, cakelike ones.

 

 

 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

 Fried chicken with noodles, leek and mushroom cream sauce

 I'm recording the way I pulled this together, because it seemed like a logical order to me and because I can only do about one thing at a time.

 

 Equipment:

2 bowls

2 pie tins

A deep skillet, such as a cast-iron chicken fryer, or a Dutch oven

another oven-proof skillet or pan big enough to hold the chicken

wire whisk

tongs

potholders

a plate

a rimmed container 

a turner aka "spatula"

a saucepan in the 3-quart range

 

 For the chicken:

Four thighs, approx 2 lbs. if skin on, bone in

about 2 cups canola oil

about 1 cup of rice flour

about 1 cup of crushed saltines (easiest way is a zip-lock bag, which can be re-used, and a rolling pin) *if you need gluten-free, you can crush Rice Krispies instead of crackers

2 eggs and 2 T water

salt, pepper, etc. 

Instant-read thermometer or probe thermometer

 

For the sauce: 

1 leek

about a pint of mushrooms

about half a cup of cream

salt, pepper, etc. (you decide)

Noodles -- I like the dried "homestyle egg noodles" but some day will make my own.

Get the chicken ready

For the crispiest skin, blot the chicken with paper towel, salt it, and put it in a rimmed container, uncovered, the fridge for about an hour. The rimmed container is to keep any juices that are drawn out from dripping all over. Don't let the raw chicken touch anything else in the fridge. 

Make the leek/mushroom mixture

Clean and chop one leek. I cut off the really green leafy parts and the rooty end (just a sliver), slice the leek in half and rinse it  off under running water, spreading the inner green and white "leaves" or layers apart to rinse out any dirt. If the outermost layers are exceptionally dirty or rubbery-tough, I discard them. All the discard goes into the compost bucket to be turned into garden gold!

Clean and slice about a pint of mushrooms. I like creminis, aka "Baby Bellas."

Put a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat and sweat the leeks, then add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally with the spatula to make sure nothing is sticking or burning. You don't want them browned, just softened.  I like the leeks to be almost "melted." Some people might like more crunch.

Remove to a bowl if you are going to use the same skillet to fry the chicken. Be sure to get all the veggies out -- wipe the pan with paper towel if you need to -- because they will burn in the hot oil when you are frying the chicken. 

Bread the chicken 

I use two pie pans and a bowl. Put the rice flour in one pan and the cracker crumbs in the other. Crack the two eggs into the bowl, add the water and whisk thoroughly. Add salt and pepper and whatever other herbs and spices you want to each of the containers. 

Pat the chicken dry again and dredge each piece on both sides in the rice flour, paying special attention to getting all of the skin coated, then in the egg mixture, then in the cracker crumbs.

Fry the chicken 

Use a cast iron chicken fryer or Dutch oven if you can. Put about 2 inches of oil and heat it until a drop of water sputters and disappears. Or use a thermometer, but I never saw Grandma do that. Slide the thighs in, preferably skin side down, releasing each one AWAY from you so you don't get splashed. You can use a pair of tongs if you wish. Don't crowd the pan. If the thighs are large, you might need to do two batches. 

While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 350, and use the time to do some cleanup. Make sure anything that has touched the raw chicken gets thoroughly washed, preferably in the dishwasher.

Fry on one side without moving for 3-4 minutes, until deep golden brown on that side. Carefully turn them over and fry for another 3 minutes or so until the other side is deep golden brown. The chicken is NOT DONE yet, but you are done frying. As you remove each piece from the skillet, put it in the ovenproof pan and cover that with aluminum foil. 

When all of the chicken has been fried and the oven has reached 350, remove the foil and put the chicken in the oven for about 15 minutes.

 Meanwhile, cook the noodles -- This is a good time to put the water on to boil. Follow the package directions.

 

 Dark meat like the thighs are supposed to be cooked until the interior of the meat -- not the pan, not the bone, so be careful where you insert the thermometer -- is 175. In reality, there will be some "carryover" heat build-up, so I pull them a little sooner, but you might want to start by reaching 175. *if you are using breasts instead of thighs for some reason, they only need to reach 165, and 160 will get you there with carryover

By now the skilllet should be cool enough to allow you to pour the oil into a heat-proof container, such as a Pyrex measuring cup or even a glass jelly jar. If you plan to save it, you'll need to strain out the bits of coating that have fallen off the chicken. Or you can put the lid on the jelly jar and discard it. Don't poor it down the sink!

Finish the sauce:

Wipe out the skillet so it doesn't have any burned bits of the breading. Put the leeks and mushrooms back in to reheat, add the cream. Stir while it thickens a bit. Taste and season if necessary.

To plate, you can either drain the noodles or pull some out with tongs. Spoon some of the sauce onto the noodles and add a chicken thigh.

Make sure you have turned off the oven and all of the burners.

Bon Appetit!



 


Friday, August 27, 2021

 Halibut with leeks, mushrooms and red bell pepper

Ingredients: *

halibut filet(s), about 1/3 pound for one person

1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, white and tender green parts chopped into fairly fine slivers (discard tougher outer "leaves"), preferably in compost bin

1 red bell pepper, diced.

1 pint cremini ("baby bella") mushrooms

1 lemon 

1-1/2 glass of white wine

butter, canola oil, salt, pepper, whatever herbs or spices you like with fish

Steps:

1. In butter or canola oil, or a mixture of both, saute mushrooms and pepper. Remove from pan, leaving as much of the fat behind as you can.

2. Adding more butter/oil if needed, "melt" the leeks -- don't brown them, just soften them. Salt them. Add the mushroom/pepper mixture back in, zest the lemon into the pan. Juice the lemon into the bowl that held the mushrooms so you can be sure to catch any lemon seeds. Add the lemon juice to the pan. Check seasoning, add salt and pepper and whatever herbs you like with fish.

3. Remove the veggies from the pan. Add more butter/oil if needed, but there only needs to be enough to keep the fish from sticking.

4. Salt and pepper the halibut. Cook the halibut, about 3 minutes on each side for a filet that's about 1 inch thick. After turning once and cooking for 1 minute, add 1/2 glass of wine to deglaze the pan and make a little sauce. Drink the other glass.

Serve halibut over a bed of the veggies and pour the reduced sauce over the top.

 

*This makes enough of the vegetables for at least two people; if only making one portion of fish, refrigerate the remaining vegetable mixture to use with pasta. You'll just need to boil some pasta, heat the veggies, and add parmesan or pecorino romano cheese and a little cream, and if you like, prosciutto or cooked pancetta or bacon. Oh, and some garlic!

Options:

Use whatever veggies you like and cook accordingly. Omit wine, use water or a mild broth. You could probably use other fish, for that matter.


 

 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

 Crab balls rolled in brown rice flour

Use any good crab cake recipe, one that doesn't use a lot of cracker crumbs inside -- like half a cup for a pound of lump crab -- and then instead of rolling in bread crumbs or cracker crumbs, roll in rice flour for a crispy, tempura-like shell when you deep-fry them. And no, this probably won't work in an air fryer, but you could warm them up in one.



Friday, July 16, 2021

 

Corn bread with creamed corn

One advantage of this recipe is that unlike many, it doesn’t call for buttermilk, which I never automatically have on hand.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups plain cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (omit if that offends you)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (14.75-ounce) can creamed-style corn

Preheat oven to 425. Prepare 10-inch cast iron skillet (grease – butter or reserved bacon grease preferred)

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl; mix wet ingredients separately and add to dry. Mix until just combined.

Bake 17-21 minutes; pull before it overbakes and dries out.

If necessary, slide a table knife backward around the sides to make sure it will come loose from the skillet. Place cooling rack on top of skillet. Using potholders or oven mitts, flip.

Serve with butter and whatever – molasses, honey, syrup, fruit, jam. Or with chili or bean soup.

 

 

 

 

 



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This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.