Sweet on you

I often find myself twiddling my thumbs on Sunday afternoons, thinking of anything to procrastinate and put off the household chores I know I need to do before the inevitable end to a relaxing and sleep filled weekend. This is when I come up with and tackle most of my challenging and time consuming recipes. Lucky for me it also results a nice Sunday evening meal for us to enjoy, and usually leftovers for Monday lunch too, but it mostly makes me feel like even though, I haven’t gotten dressed at 4pm and the house is still a mess, I am accomplishing something. This Sunday I got re-acquainted with my best friend the sweet potato and together we made sweet sweet pasta, gnocchi to be exact. This is messy (like flour everywhere.. at least for me), hands on, and a bit labor intensive but the end result is well worth it.

What you need:

3 pounds of sweet potatoes

3 cups flour – give or take a half cup plus more for rolling out

one egg

s&p

olive oil

water

large surface to work on

picstitch

Cut the potatoes in half and lightly oil the cut surface, place face down on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 375 for about half an hour. Flip them right side up and bake another 15 minutes or so, until they are cooked through and mushy. Let them cool, scoop out the contents in to a bowl and mash them.

Next, dough time. Pile about 2 cups of the flour into a flat surface or pastry sheet, make a well and drop in the egg. This is the old school method of making dough and I don’t have a stand mixer (hint hint..) so this is how I roll.. get it? Roll.. dough.. Right? Moving on. Mix the flour and egg, adding a little bit of water just to make it come together but not wet. Once the egg is incorporated, add the mashed taters and kneed until it is almost pizza dough consistency. You can add more flour and water as needed. You just don’t want sticky dough. I then cut my dough ball into small chunks to make it easier to roll out.

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Roll dough between your hands, like you did in elementary school when you were making play dough snakes. Make a long roll, about an inch in diameter. Cut the dough into about 3/4 – 1 inch chunks. Repeat for all the dough (you can freeze what you don’t cook). I am in no way a perfectionist in the kitchen and am actually rather impatient so all my gnocchi pieces are different sizes and some get smushed but I like it and have no intention of forming each one by hand to look just like the rest. Nope.

Drop the gnocchi into a pot of salted boiling water. I do in batches so not to overcrowd. When the pieces float to the top of the water, they are done! Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add the others. Voila!

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I served mine with mushroom and onion in brown butter sage sauce.. perhaps a recipe for another day.

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Not your mom’s chili

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Not that your mom (or my moms but mom I love your chili) chili isn’t fantastic and probably one of the first things you learned how to cook, I just can’t picture serving my mom this fireball of a chili.

Ingredients:

  • One large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • one package of portobello mushroom caps
  • one pound of ground beef (or turkey)
  • One can each of black beans, red kidney beans, corn, WHOLE tomatoes
  • Cumin

and the secret (not really anymore I guess) ingredients that cause this chili to be served with a fresh shirt… because you’ll sweat.. and probably slop on yourself

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  • one can of chipotle peppers and its sauce
  • liquid smoke

Like all good and mom-approved chili’s, start out by sauteing onions and garlic in some oil for about 5 minutes. While that’s going, dice your mushroom caps and toss into pan. Sautee another 5 minutes on high heat until they start to brown. Next into the pool is your meat. Break it apart with a spoon and let fully cook through. Reduce heat to medium. Now we start having fun. I wasn’t putting the word “WHOLE” in all caps lightly in the ingredient list, this is a crucial element in the “fun having.” Take each tomato out of the can and one by one.. squeeze them and break apart in your hand. Who doesn’t like to play with their food and use a tomato like a stress ball? I go with this method over a can of diced not only for the fun factor but because it provides a much juicer and rustic tomato in your chili. So squeeze and juice away!

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We’re good? Ok. Strain and rinse the beans and corn and like everything else before them… into the tub. Season liberally with salt and pepper and add about a tablespoon of cumin. Mix together and let everybody get to know each other, because now you’re going turn their world upside down. Open the can and chipotle peppers and take them out, leaving sauce in the can for now. Chop them into small chunks and introduce them to the party, sauce and all. You can very easily take this up the the 5-alarm status by adding 2 cans here.. if you’re insane. I am generous with my liquid smoke because I like the flavor but if its your first time working with the stuff, add a little at a time and taste, it is super potent. Once your chili is at its desired smokey-ness, add a lid to your pot an let it simmer on low for about half an hour or until you’re ready to eat. I topped ours with some creamy avocado to show some compassion for the inferno happening in my mouth.

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This one is for the next generation of chili makers.. and their moms.

Churn baby, churn

I like TV.  I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I believe everything I see on TV. So when I recently saw one of my favorite food network chefs make his own butter, I obviously had no doubt in my mind that I could attempt this culinary oddity.

Ingredients:

  • One large mason jar
  • One 500ml carton of heavy or whipping cream
  • One set of vigorous jazz hands
  • 10 minutes of exertion and patience
  • One song you can fist pump to (twice)

Leave your cream out on the counter for about half an hour until it room temperature. Pour the cream into the mason jar until it is about 2/3 full. Replace lid and make sure its sealed tightly.. like really sealed. This is where it gets FUN! Start shakin’ it like your mama have ya. (hence vigorous jazz hands) Give yourself some shaking space and crank that beat. I strongly suggest something along the lines of Britney Spears “work b**ch” for a solid and repetitive beat.

You literally just have to shake the mason jar, vigorously, for about 10 minutes. The cream will get to the point of whipped cream consistency and your heart will sink (as mine did) that you a) don’t have anymore shaking room in the jar because its expanded b) must have done something wrong and don’t see how you’re going to spread whipped cream on your toast then BOOM! (actually it’s more like a suction sound) The milk fats separate before your eyes and are at opposite ends of the mason jar of the milk whey (technically butter milk). You now have butter. If you have cheesecloth you’re one step ahead of me, but if you don’t just gently pour the milk out, holding the butter in with a spoon. Reserve the liquid for baking if desired. You might have to strain is a few times to get rid of all the liquid. But there you have it, homemade butter. You can add salt, garlic, herbs, whatever your little heart desires.

ImageDid you ever think you would be making your own butter?

True Grit(s)

If you have ever had the pleasure of traveling south of the Mason-Dixon Line in The U.S, you would most definitely be familiar and I hope as obsessed with this dish as I am. Shrimp and grits. Or shrimp n’ grits (insert southern drawl here). Recently I was fortunate enough to spend some time in South Carolina with a short hop over the state line into Georgia where I was welcomed with southern hospitality, slow talkin’ and hot cookin’. While I was technically there for work, I spent every free moment eating fresh seafood, shopping at piggly wiggly, and eating my body weight in grits. Cheese grits, hominy grits, breakfast grits.. you name it. But nothing came close to the first meal I had off the plane, and one that I still dream about today, shrimp and grits.

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Now, I’m rarely one to follow a recipe to the point of putting my laptop in the danger zone beside a pan full of frying bacon, but the subject matter of the recipe, and star of the show, was something I was not only unfamiliar with eating, but more importantly, cooking. I wanted my first attempt at grits to be textbook. I came across this recipe from The Steamy Kitchen and since it had all my favorite food groups accounted for (shrimp, bacon, leeks, and wine) I knew it was the one. I will mention that I found the grits to be lacking a bit of the “creaminess” I remembered from my memorable meal, so I added a table spoon of butter and about half a cup of cheese to the mix. Perfectamundo.

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You can find grits in most grocery store but I will advise, no, insist, you do not buy the instant variety… unless you want your little bacon fried crustacean swimming in something that might resemble day old porridge. No. Thanks.

Enjoy, ya’ll.