Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Greetings! This is Peg and I am actually posting on my own blog site! Whew, hope you’re sitting down.

However, on to the cooking~~~

These are amazing! The recipe is from our friend, Jeanine Swick, who brought these to a Christmas part this past year (2016). People kept eating them long after they declared themselves full and were in danger of spoiling their dinners!
Jeanine says they work well with scallops or shrimp, but I’ll never know about that!

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

2 (8oz.) cans Water Chestnuts, drained
1/4 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce (save it)
1 lb. lean Bacon, cut in half
Toothpicks
1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Marinate water chestnuts in soy sauce for 15 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure they are fully coated.
Remove water chestnuts from soy sauce and set soy sauce aside for later use in the recipe.
Wrap 1/2 strip of bacon around each water chestnut, securing the bacon with a toothpick.
Place wrapped chestnuts in a 7″x11″ glass baking dish.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until desired crispness.

While they’re baking…

Mix ketchup, brown sugar and reserved soy sauce and mix well.

Remove chestnuts from the dish and drain the grease.
Place the chestnuts back in the baking dish.
Pour sauce evenly over the chestnuts to coat.
Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Peg’s Notes:
This sauce mixture is a little intense when you first taste it – intensely sweet,  intensely salty, intensely flavored, etc.  And by that, I mean I couldn’t eat more than three or four at a time, but for some reason other people just love it. Ahem!
I’m thinking of either decreasing the amount of ketchup and brown sugar or coming up with another Asian-y barbecue sauce altogether. We’ll see.
If you do something different, please let me know!

Corn Chowder

Yes, this is different from the other recipe – simpler and easier to make.

2# yellow potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2″
1 small onion, finely diced
1# bag of frozen corn
4-5 oz ham, diced 1/2″
2T Butter
3T Flour
2C Milk
2C Water
Salt
Pepper

Looking at the lead times of ingredient preparation, I usually start with the potatoes. Peeled and diced to about 1/2″, the potatoes are put on to just boil – we want them tender, but not already cooked through.

While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and ham. The ham should be about 1/2″ dice as well.

When the potatoes are ready, drain them in a colander and put the pot back on the burner.

Melt the butter and saute the onions until just tender, then stir in the flour and mix thoroughly, and cook this roux for about two minutes.

Whisk in the water, then mix in the corn and ham. Bring this mixture to a boil for two minutes, then add the milk and potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the potatoes are fully tender.

Serve with oyster crackers or Saltines.

 

I find that the other recipe, with red bell pepper, really bests this version, but I didn’t have any peppers last night. And this was pretty good.

Have fun cooking!

Seafood Newburg

Christmas Eve was coming up quickly, and I was cooking for the DiRusso sisters. It was Feast of the Seven Fishes, an old Italian-American tradition of eating fish and other seafood in celebration of Christ’s birth. I was cooking in a competitive environment, so lobster was certain (witness last year’s Lobster Arancini, or the Lobster Ravioli the prior year).

I took it down a notch by not making it all lobster, but seafood newburg would be great – a bit lower cost (scallops were only $16/lb while lobster meat was $40/lb. Shrimp a relatively sane $7/lb). And I’d deal with three fishes right off the bat!

I searched the web for recipes, and found a couple to be just unimaginative or otherwise lacking, but then ran into the recipe from the January 1991 issue of Gourmet magazine, courtesy of Epicurious if you’d like the original recipe, or herewith, mine:

2 lobsters, steamed shelled, 1″ cubes
.75# sea scallops, tendons removed – if larger than 1″, halve
1# shrimp, thawed, deveined, tails and shells removed
5T medium-dry Sherry
7T brandy
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
cayenne to taste
8 large egg yolks, beaten well

Puff pastry shells
-or-
phyllo pastry cups

In a heavy saucepan at medium heat, melt the butter and add the scallops and shrimp. When the scallops are opaque and the shrimp just turning pink, add the lobster and finish cooking the shrimp and scallops.

Add 4T of Sherry and 6T of brandy, and cook the mixture for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the seafood to a warm plate. Add the cream to the sherry mixture and boil gently until reduced to about two cups. Reduce the heat to low, then add remaining sherry and brandy, the nutmeg, cayenne, and salt to taste.

Whisk in the egg yolks and slowly cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it reads 140°F, then cook, whisking constantly, for three more minutes.

Stir in the seafood, and serve seafood Newburg over the pastry shells or cups.

Thanks to epicurious & thanks to Gourmet.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving was a small affair this year, just Peg (the blog’s namesake) and me. Ordinarily I’d have helped out with a pie or something, but I did the whole shebang today. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie. All very straightforward, most I’ve done before, but I managed to pull it all together, mostly on time.

The turkey was a 12 pound Jenny-O, roasted according to the package instructions (325F for about 3 hours and a bit).

Four potatoes (about 1.5# were peeled, roughly cubed, and boiled until done (tender by fork and tasted “done”) with 2 T of butter and a splash of milk.

I cheated on the stuffing and got Pepperidge Farm Country Style, which is really easy and really good. That was prepared with 4T butter, one can of chicken broth, and about a teaspoon of dried onion. Melted the butter, heated the broth, mixed in the stuffing, and put it all in a casserole which went into the oven a few minutes before the turkey came out.

Brussels sprouts I made according to a recipe I found here( and of course I bookmarked it!). I did eliminate the garlic because it’s not Peg’s favorite. This turned out great, by the way!

The pecan pie was made according to the classic Karo Syrup recipe which turns out to be the “family secret” after years of everybody raving over my Aunt Glenna’s Pecan Pie. I did forget to include the butter, but it turned out great just the same, making me think the butter isn’t really needed. The pie shell stuck in the Fiestaware pie plate though, so next time it will get sprayed. It doesn’t matter, but I used the dark syrup. The web site says either will do, and I’ve used both to good effect in past years (and of course I claim the recipe is a “family secret”).

Cranberry sauce? Ocean Spray, of course. What else could we serve in Massachusetts?

And the gravy was dead straightforward. There was about a cup of drippings in the turkey pan, with hardly any fat. I melted 2T of butter in a saucepan, added 3T of flour, and made a relatively dark roux, then added the drippings and one cup of milk, with a little salt and pepper, and cooked that until it was thickened a bit.

It turned out lovely.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

John

Why I haven’t posted in a long time

I just noticed that I hadn’t visited here since June. There’s a good reason. Look at the recipe for Dutch Oven Chicken, for example. You end up with a whole chicken! Peg and I both had bariatric surgery, she at the end of June, and me in the middle of July. This surgery hugely impacts the amount of food we can eat, though not so much what we can eat. I tend to still have protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, but “regular” food for dinner.

But we can eat only a fraction of what we used to eat. This whole chicken, for example, would be meals for two, maybe three nights. Now, one whole chicken can last us a week! I might have one chicken leg and a cup of spinach, say, for dinner, and the next night a thigh and a cup of green beans.

That said, I am working on some recipes that produce smaller servings, and fewer of them.

In a positive vein, Peg has lost more weight than me, and I’m down nearly 70 pounds.

Be well,
John

Stuffed Pork Roast

I looked around on the internet for recipes to try, and came up with very close to bupkis. So I made something up. All of the stuffing recipes contained onions or shallots, and some bread. Wow. What imagination. The only smart thing they did was to cut a hole through the middle of the roast rather than cut it open and fill it like a jellyroll.

Herewith, my take on Stuffed Port Roast. I had a chance to get a sample to Peggy, and I had a sample the following day. Four thumbs up. I think it turned out better than I expected.

Preheat your oven to 350F.
pork
1 boneless pork roast, 3-4#
3 T vegetable oil, divided
2 medium shallots, diced
8 dried apricots, diced
8 dried plums (prunes for those over 50), diced
1 C bread crumbs (I cubed a dinner roll into a 1/4″ dice)
salt, pepper
1/2 t ground sage (because it’s pork)
2T water
1t chicken base (we use Better Than Bullion brand for just about everything)

Dice the shallots, apricots, and prunes, then saute in 1 T vegetable oil until the shallots are tender. Mix with the bread. Dilute the chicken base with the water, add to the stuffing, and mix is all up well.

Compress the pork roast from the ends, like a large filet mignon, and with a long knife, stab through the center – lengthwise – of the pork roast. Flip the roast end-for-end and stab again, taking care to align the hole in the roast. Use your fingers to open the hole as wide as possible, and fill the cavity with stuffing. Turn the roast, again end-for-end, and stuff from the other end, until the roast is firmly stuffed. Salt and pepper all four sides of the roast to your liking.

Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, and sear the roast on four sides. Cover, and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Temp in the stuffing should reach at least 145F. (USDA is now calling for 140F for pork – it used to be 160F, but that always made for pretty dry meat.)

Rest the roast, covered, for 10-15 minutes, slice and serve.

You can make gravy with the drippings, which are mostly rendered fat if you’d like. For each T of drippings, add 1 T of flour, and cook to form a roux. For each T of drippings, add 1/2 C of milk or chicken stock (made from chicken base, just sayin’), stir and cook until you like the consistency, about 5-10 minutes.

Dutch Oven Chicken

For last Christmas, Peg unexpectedly bought me a Dutch Oven, not that we didn’t already have one. This one is enameled cast iron, unlike the plain cast iron models that we also own. So it’s pretty, and very easy to clean.

The dish is nearly trivial to make, and consists of only six ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 T vegetable oil
3 T AP flour

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Pour the oil into the Dutch oven and preheat over a medium high flame.
Rinse the chicken and dry it with paper towels.
Season both top and bottom of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in the Dutch oven breast-side down, where it will cook for five
minutes or so, until the chicken is browned nicely. Watch it for sticking.

While the chicken is browning, you have time to cut and slice the onion.

When the chicken is browned nicely, turn it over to brown the other side. Add the onions to the pot, along the sides. Cover the pot and place it in the pre-heated oven for 45-50 minutes. (My first attempt ran 55 minutes and it was a bit overdone). Set a timer.

When the timer expires, check the thigh with a meat thermometer. The chicken should reach a temperature of 165F to assure it’s done. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it rest.

Pour the onions, fat, and juices into a heat-proof container. Use a ladle to save 3 T of the accumulated fat, and put that back in the Dutch oven. Discard the remaining fat, but retain the other juices. Combine the flour and oil, cooking over medium heat to form the roux for the gravy. When the roux is cooked and smooth, add the onions and remaining juices to the Dutch oven, stirring well to avoid lumps, and cook for several minutes until well-mixed and thickened. If the gravy is too thick, add milk until the consistency is to your liking. A submersion blender may be used to advantage here, but it’s not really necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Carve the chicken and serve with the gravy.

I think it turned out very well. Peg claims that she’s not going to cook any more.

Deviled Eggs, Part Deux

I made deviled eggs again for Easter, and got a lot of compliments on them, so I think I have a final recipe.

The eggs:

1 dozen eggs, plus a couple spares. If they peel nicely, you’ll have too many, but I judge “too many” as more than I can fit in the 20-cavity tray I use.

Eggs are best prepared a day in advance [1]. Best if put in the pot in one layer, laying on their sides, with enough water to cover them by an inch or so. I use a liberal amount of salt (as much as 1/4 C) and perhaps a like amount of vinegar. The salt raises the boiling point of water; the vinegar keeps the whites at bay should little leaks evolve. Bring the eggs to a rolling boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain, cover with ice and cold water. The more ice the better. Let them stand for an hour or more, then refrigerate overnight (I don’t have to say “after draining off the water”, do I?). I put them in a plastic bag before putting them in the fridge to limit that “egg smell” that my wife so despises.

Peeling the eggs is made a bit easier by banging the eggs around in the sink, gently, for a couple of minutes.

Peel the eggs, halve the eggs, reserve the yolks in a shallow bowl. “Imperfect” whites can be eaten, fed to the dog, or discarded, your preference. On a good day you’ll have 24 halves, on bad day, 18. No matter. (The deviled egg container I have has 20 indentations. I thought that was a stupid number, until I figured out that I routinely screw up two eggs per dozen. 20 is the perfect average number of indentations.)

The filling:

Mash the egg yolks with a fork until smooth. This it the only way. Trust me. The smoother, the better.

Add (you can skip any ingredients that offend you, and compensate at the end)
1 T prepared mustard
2 T hot sauce (Tabasco or your favorite)
2 T sweet pickle relish (Cain’s is the local favorite)
1 T Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is the best)
1 T cider vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t coarse ground pepper
Miracle Whip ( but not yet)

Mix well, and taste. It might need more salt, or hot sauce. It’s likely too thick. Add 1 T of Miracle Whip, mix, and taste. Repeat adding 1 T of Miracle Whip until the filling is nice and smooth. Spoon about 1 t of filling into each of the egg halves, and garnish with smoked paprika, or a sprig of chive, whatever blows your skirt up. I have been using a 1 qt freezer bag lately. Fill the bag with filling, clip of a small bit of a corner of the bag, and use it to pipe filling into the egg cavities. Neat, clean, far less mess than a real piping bag.

[1] Eggs are also best purchased a week or so in advance. It makes no difference in the flavor, but they are much easier to peel, increasing your final yield.

Corn Chowder

Just kind of whipped this together… It went pretty nicely with grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Bacon (let your conscience be your guide. I used ~1/4#)
1# potatoes, 1/2″ dice
1 medium onion, 1/2″ dice
1 red pepper, 1/2″ dice
1/2# frozen corn
1C half & half
Salt & pepper to taste

Dice the bacon and put it in a soup kettle. Fry it until lightly brown. Drain excess fat.
Add onion and pepper. Cook until tender. [1]
Add potatoes, just cover with water. Bring to a boil, simmer until almost tender.
Add corn, bring to a simmer.
Add cream, season to taste[2], and server with Saltines or oyster crackers.

[1] At this stage, one could mix in 2T of flour and cook for two minutes for a thicker chowder
[2] Despite the bacon, it’s not at all salty.

I’ll be working on this over time.

Grandma’s Apple Crisp

I don’t know who “Grandma” is. Peg never, to my recollection, actually mentioned her. She’s talked about her Pap quite a lot, but I don’t think Peg ever met her Grandmother, at least not her maternal Grandmother. I understand her paternal Grandmother never made Apple Crisp to Peg’s knowledge.

Now, if the recipe had been called “Gram’s Apple Crisp” (and Peggy doesn’t know but maybe the computer autocorrected her…), I’d know it could be attributed to one Ruth Hamel, late of Franklin Maine, who might well be the best cook I’ve ever known. I’ve only eaten her food a few times, but I’ve gone through enough of her jelly and jam to make that proclamation. She was one rarely talented creature in the kitchen, and I was proud to call her “Gram” myself. Now if Gram wasn’t the best cook ever to walk the Earth, that mantle rests squarely on the shoulders of her daughter Teddy, and I’ve eaten a lot of Teddy’s cooking over the nearly 20 years I’ve known her.

So this recipe, whatever its provenance, reminded me on another level of my own Grandma Esther, who was my Dad’s stepmother. I never met his mother, missing her by something on the order of a decade. But I peeled these apples with a knife that is exactly like a couple of knives that my Mom got from Esther back in the 60’s. Not a terribly fancy knife, but it has a sharp, thin blade that is just perfect for sending Macintosh apples to their doom. I was using Cortlands, though, so the knife was just a bit too short for cutting through the center of the apple when quartering them. I peel apples just like my mother taught me – halve, then quarter each apple, then scoop out the core, turn it over and in three quick slices cut off the peel as close as you dare. If you miss a little bit, that’s OK. The peel is where the vitamins are.

Assemble your ingredients:
1 C brown sugar, packed (light or dark, it doesn’t matter)
1 C rolled oats
1 C flour
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted
3 C apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (Grandma apparently chopped them – I sliced them, and use Cortlands)

1/2 C granulated sugar
2 t cinnamon

Mix the sugar & cinnamon – set aside

Mix the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, and butter until it forms a crumbly mixture in the bowl.
Lightly grease or butter an 8-inch baking pan

Evenly spread about half of the oat mixture into the pan.
Evenly spread the apples over the mixture. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the apples.
Top with the remaining mixture.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.

Personally, I’d serve it with ice cream in a few minutes.

Now, I screwed this recipe up, and it still came out good. I’m not one to carefully read instructions (my cross to bear, not yours), so I mixed all of the ingredients save the apples together, and put all of the mixture on top of the apples until I checked to see whether I was supposed to dot the thing with butter. Ooops. I also got to three cups of apples about halfway through the second Cortland, so I ended up with about four cups of sliced apples, not wanting to waste anything. Heaven forbid I waste half an apple. So I tried to mix some of the mixture down under the apples, but that left some of the apples exposed. But still, it turned out OK. I think it was a bit on the sweet side, so next time around I think I’ll cut the brown sugar by about half to see where that gets me. I’ll keep the apples at three cups, too.