Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chicken and dumplings

Laura called. She wanted a whine and wine night, one in which we all sat around and made dumplings. Asian dumplings, you know potstickers, wontons, shiu mai, gyoza, call them what you will, little noodle wrappers stuffed with vegetables, meat, shrimp, whatever. There are a million filling recipes for Asian dumplings. Of course, mine is the only one I recommend, because it tastes great, and I got it from Priscilla, who lived in China for 5 years and learned how to cook there. (Which is why she still uses oil instead of butter to fry eggs and omelets. Have you ever had an omelet made in oil? Not good.)

So Laura sends me her list of ingredients, which were all wrong. I won't go into detail, suffice it to say, I had most, but not all, of what she needed. No, that's not true, I did have it all, but not in sufficient quantities. I know, I'm such a loser.

Well, we decided we'd take a trip to the Asian grocery to stock up and, oh, while we were at it, we might as well get pedicures. And make sure we had everything for Laura's fabulous cosmos. (her secret is Rose's lime juice. Brilliant.)

As we eased ourselves into the pedicure thrones and dipped our toes into the swirling warm water, we began to talk about the upcoming evening's festivities and Laura's pedicurist perked her head up when she heard the word "dumplings"

"You're making dumplings? How do you do that? Do you use flour?"

"Well, yes and no," I replied, slightly puzzled. An Asian girl is asking me how to make dumplings? I could understand that if she knew me, of course, but she's never laid eyes on me before. "My good friend makes the wrappers herself, but she can't come tonight so we're cheating and using wrappers from a package."

"Oh, you're making Asian dumplings. I thought you were making chicken and dumplings. I'd really like to know how to make that."

Well, darling, it couldn't be simpler. I'll even let you cheat and use Bisquick. The recipe is on the box. The rest of you, though, get out the flour.

Chicken and Dumplings, Grandma Foodie Style (sort of)

Saute a sliced onion and a sliced carrot in a little oil until limp. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown on both sides with the onion. Add enough chicken stock or water to cover and simmer until chicken is almost cooked through, about 25  minutes. Plop big spoonfuls of dumpling dough on top of the stew and simmer, 10 minutes.

***Note: I can't believe I forgot to write this: after you remove the chicken and the dumplings, reduce the stock and add some sour cream to thicken. Spoon it all over the dumplings.

Dumpling dough
1 C sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Break 1 egg into a 1 cup measuring cup. Add milk until the cup is half full, beat well and stir into the flour mixture. Add more milk if necessary, but keep the batter as stiff as possible.

Now, if you hate this recipe, tell me. If you think it sounds good, tell me. I need some comments, people! I know I let you all down by taking such a long blogging break, but your feedback is what keeps me motivated! I'd love to hear from you, good or bad. I can take it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Succotash Burritos

It's July and the corn is finally ready!

If you don't live in the Northeast or mid-west United States, you probably don't have an appreciation for what this means. And you've probably never eaten a decent ear of corn in your life. Although I grew up in Southern California, I was fortunate enough to visit my grandparents in Western Massachusetts every couple of years as a child. This meant (among other really fun things) that we would get to eat the famous "butter and sugar" corn fresh from the corn stand while we were there. It is really something amazing. Not just a bi-color corn, it is a super sweet variety. Now, the thing about corn is that the MINUTE it is picked the sugar in the kernels starts to convert into starch. Sugar=sweet, starch=not sweet, so it if you think you can buy good corn at Wal-Mart, you are sadly mistaken. Also, you are not terribly smart and have no palate. But, if you live outside of the great corn growing areas you probably don't have much choice. Too bad for you.

Those of us in the Northeast wait anxiously for the summer corn feast. I have a local stand that grows butter and sugar corn and I usually go there. (Grandma Foodie says it is still not as good as the Massachusetts variety, but she is stubborn and rarely admits to being wrong. You know I'm right, Mom. Love you.)

As I mentioned, the sugar in corn starts to convert to starch IMMEDIATELY, so it is IMPERATIVE to only buy enough ears for the dinner you plan to cook that day. Another good trick is to go buy corn late in the day. During peak season the farmer sometimes doesn't pick enough for the day and has to go out and get some more. So while you may get corn that was picked that morning, you may get corn that wasn't picked until an hour or two before you arrived. I have been at the corn stand a few times when the farmer was coming in from the field to deliver more corn. We had an early dinner. Best corn ever.

Now, there is nothing better than a fresh ear of corn dropped into some boiling water, popped out a few minutes later, slathered with butter and salt and chewed straight off the cob. Nothing better. But corn is so good it begs to be used in many other dishes, too. And with the plethora of other fresh veggies at this time of year it is a no-brainer to try to think of some ways to use all that bounty. (Thanks for the bushels of zucchini, neighbor. Remind me to pretend not to be home tomorrow.) I developed this recipe loosely based on one I saw a few years ago in Saveur magazine.

Succotash sounds disgusting, but all it really means is corn and potatoes mixed together.

Succotash Burritos

3 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 smallish potatoes, diced and parboiled for 10 minutes
1 zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced (remove the seeds if it is too big and seedy.)
A 1/2 cup container of chicken stock from your freezer or 1/2 can if you are a loser
1 Hungarian hot pepper, seeded and diced (Hungarian hot peppers are long and yellow and thin. You can use something like a Hatch chili or a roasted poblano if you can't get Hungarian. You want a medium hot pepper with some heft. In other words, not a jalapeno.)
1 cup shredded jack or cheddar cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

Saute the onion, garlic, red peppers and Hungarian peppers in 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 T butter until soft and slightly browned. Add the cumin, chili powder, potatoes, corn, and zucchini and saute until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the chicken broth and cheese and cook until the cheese is melted and the chicken broth has mostly bubbled away, about 1 minute. Fill warm tortillas with the succotash and top with salsa.

I might have some more corn recipes soon. If I'm not too busy eating corn.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

German Potato Salad

A new reader has asked me for a recipe for German Potato Salad. This made me incredibly happy, for two reasons: 1. I have a really good recipe, and 2. He didn't give me a terrible recipe for something and tell me how good it was. In fact, if I am to believe his Facebook posts, he makes his own Caesar salad dressing. There is a man you can respect. (I'll wait patiently for him to do something foolish in the kitchen, though, and then I'll, well, you know what I'll do!)

Grandma Foodie is the orginator of the German Potato Salad recipe and I'll assume she got it from Great Grandma Foodie. We are of German descent. So German that my Grandfather once offered (not too jokingly) to pay $1000 to anyone who would name their child Wolfgang. When I found myself pregnant (again!) I joked with him that I was going to take him up on the offer. My Grandfather was not a quiet man, so I can't say he demurred, but he straight out told me that he only meant the offer for someone with our family's name. Which I had never possessed. So, Alex, my youngest child, consider yourself lucky that you narrowly escaped being named Wolfgang. And that you get to eat German Potato Salad.

German Potato Salad
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound of bacon
1-3 pounds of potatoes
3 T flour
1/3 C vinegar
2/3 C Water

Fry bacon until crisp, remove from pan and crumble. Saute onion in bacon drippings until tender. Boil, peel (if desired) and slice potatoes into a large bowl. Remove onion with slotted spoon, add bacon and onion to potatoes. When ready to serve, heat drippings, add flour and stir until paste like. Add vinegar and water and stir until thick. Pour over warm potatoes and mix.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cherries, Cherries, and more Cherries

I think I wrote last year about how my friend Priscilla discovered that I had a sour cherry tree on my land. And then I discovered that I had seven more, along with two huge mulberry trees. We discovered this at the tail end of the cherry season and so only got a few pints of cherries. I may be falling into this trap again this year, it seems I never have time to go out and pick and I am fearful of letting the kids climb on ladders on unsteady ground without me. (I know, you're completely surprised by that much maternal instinct in me, my general philosophy is to let them do just about anything as long as they won't die. But in this case, the risk of severe bodily injury is enough for me to prohibit the activity unless I am there. Then it's fine)

So I must pick cherries today, before it is too late. Then I am going to try to preserve some of them whole, by cooking them with sugar on a one to one ratio (that means 1 cup of sugar for every cup of cherries). I'll bring them to a boil, let them cool, bring them to a boil again, let them cool, repeating this about four times. According to my sister-in-law this will keep the fruit whole. Then I'm not sure if I'll just keep them in the fridge or if I'll can them. We'll just have to wait and see.

My friend Deb devised a fantastic recipe for using all the cherries she and her family picked on the 4th of July at a local u-pick fruit orchard She took the pitted cherries and cooked them with balsamic vinegar and a little sugar. You can buy a similar product at the market for about $5 for a cup. Her version is just as good. We topped Brie with it and practically wet our pants it was so good. She tells me that she cooked a pork loin in the crock pot with it and it was phenomenal. She forgot that I generally make fun of people who cook things in crockpots. I'll let it go this time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Too hot to cook? Eat this!

My trip to California went well. Grandma Foodie had a successful surgery and I practically had to tie her to a chair to keep her from doing too much.

She decided to have a dinner party while I was there to cook it for her. Ahem. I made tostones for an appetizer, something I had never done before. I peeled plantains and smashed them and fried them, then filled them with shrimp wrapped in prosciutto and a rum butter sauce. Yum. (Make sure to get the green plantains, the black ones don't hold their shape. Wait, probably none of you are ever going to make tostones; it requires an old fashioned tostone smasher. I'll probably never make them again, either as I neglected to spirit the tostone maker away in my suitcase, an oversight I assure you, because I fully intended to wheedle it out of Grandma Foodie. they were that good. Amazing, really.

The weather in California was really nice considering my folks live out in the middle of the desert. While I do prefer the coastal areas of California, the Inland Empire does offer some amazing Mexican Food. We ate at a little place called Las Bonitas. Awesome food.

So I return home to miserably hot weather. We do not own an air conditioner since, as former Californians, we consider it to be not too hot here during the summer. Except this week. It is 95 with high humidity. Let's just say that if I could get a waterproof computer I would never leave the pool.

It is obviously too hot to cook. But we still have to eat and after a week of pasta and hamburgers my family wants real food. So I made Chinese Chicken Salad. No cooking, only prepping. Night Night, I'll be in the pool.

June's Chinese Chicken Salad

One Supermarket rotisserie chicken, meat taken off the carcass
3 heads Romaine lettuce, chopped (yes, with a damn knife, I'm too hot and cranky to tear it up)
Red pepper strips (fresh, not jarred, not roasted)
2 large green onions, sliced
2/3 cup peanuts
Celery, if you want it
Sliced pea pods, if you want them, I don't care
Rice vermicelli, fried until puffy (Ok, so you have to cook this part. Heat up your deep fryer or a pan with at least 1/2 inch of oil. Drop the dried (not fresh, Deb) noodles into the oil and submerge. Flip them to the other side. All the dried part must touch the oil or they will be hard and unchewable instead of light and fluffy and crunchy.

Dissolve 1/2C honey in 1/2 cup rice vinegar. Heating it on the stove will make it better, but you don't have to if it is too freaking hot.
Add 2T soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil. Mix in salt and pepper to taste then add 1 C vegetable oil. Mix well, toss, eat on paper plates so there is nothing to wash and you can go sleep in the pool.