Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Pickles + Cheese Grits Chile Rellenos = WOW!

While still writing the second (and uber lengthy) blog post about my trip to South Africa, I once again want to share two new pickling recipes and an amazing dish of cheese grits chiles rellenos with roasted tomato gravy.  These lovely dishes come courtesy of Matt and Ted Lee and their The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.

After spending a lot of time in the Lee Bros. lastest cookbook, Simple Fresh Southern, I went back and dug up some of their pickling recipes from their first book.  The two that caught my eye were the pickled peaches and pickled corn, and the backstories behind each dish from Matt and Ted make it that much more fun to cook.

Both pickling recipes were a little more time consuming than what is offered in Simple, Fresh, Southern.  The peaches called for soaking them in ice cold water for 20+ mins, placing them in a boiling pot of water for 1 minute, dipping them back in the ice cold water and then gently peeling off the skin that had been loosened from the cooling and heating process.  Instead of just packing the peaches into a jar, you poach them in a syrup of sugar, cider vinegar, cinnamon, cloves and ginger- which then becomes the hot syrup you pour over the peaches in their jar.
The pickled corn was simpler, but still called for the corn to sit in the liquid prior to placing in the quart sized jars.  After setting aside 4 cups of sweet corn tossed with salt in a bowl, you heat distilled white vinegar, water, sugar, tumeric, mace and cloves for 20 minutes as it simmers on the stove top.  From there you add the corn, bringing it to a boil for a quick 5 minutes.  Finally, remove the corn with a slotted spoon and place into the jar, pouring the liquid over the corn.

I recently treated myself to a care package from Zingerman's and part of that order included Anson Mills slow cooked gritsThe Lee Bros Southern Cookbook packs a host of delicious grits recipes.  I had been partial to the slab bacon and cheddar broiled grits, but in the interests in trying to be a little bit healthier I chose the cheese-grits chiles rellenos with roasted tomato gravy.

The Lee Bros. present a great base to all of their grits dishes, and that base is their simple grits recipe.  From there I layered in the cheese to get cheese grits (see picture to the right).  The cheese grits then become the base you stuff poblano peppers with.

At the same time you prepare the grits, also place a large tomato, the poblano peppers, onion and garlic on a roasting pan and cover them with olive oil and salt.  After lathering up the veggies, place them in the oven to broil, turning the peppers every three minutes for 9 minutes total time in the oven.  When you pull the veggies out they should be blistered and black.  From here you separate the peppers in their own large bowl (picture below on the left) and put the other veggies in a medium bowl (picture below right), allowing them to rest and come to room temp.

Once the peppers have cooled, you get the fun task of massaging them and removing their skin.  After the skin is removed, cut a 3 inch slit removing the seeds and veins.  I struggled a bit with delicate pepper after removing the skin, ripping the peppers a bit and puncturing holes all the way through them.  The good news is this didn't seem to damage the final product.

With the peppers now open, scoop in 1/2 c. of the cheese grits as a filling.

In the meantime, tend to the rest of your veggies and remove the skins from the tomato and garlic.  Take the tomato, garlic and onion and briefly blend them in a food processor to create a chunky puree, your roasted tomato gravy, to pour over the peppers and cheese grits.

From here you are almost done, just pop the stuffed peppers in the oven on 400 for 15 minutes.  Quickly flip the oven to broil and sprinkle 1/2c of grated xtra sharp cheddar cheese on top of the peppers and let the cheese brown, 2-3 minutes is all.  Then serve these tasty puppies up!!!  (See a couple pics of the finalized dish below)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pickling Away

After picking up a dozen quart sized Kerr's jars I am full speed ahead with pickling these days.

My two most recent endeavors have once again come from the Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern cookbook.  I made the zucchini and onion pickles as well as their radish pickles recipe.

As I find myself getting into the swing of pickling I was able to crank out 4 jars, 2 of each recipe, quickly one weeknight after just a few hours.  The base of most of the Lee Bros. pickling recipes is 1 cup of white vinegar/white wine vinegar as well as some cloves of garlic, a tsp or so of whole black peppercorns, as well as a tsp or two of sugar and kosher salt.  In addition to the cup of vinegar you also add one cup of water.  On top of that, the Lee Bros. have various flavor kicks like some ground turmeric in the radish pickles.

After cutting your veggies 1/8 in. on the bias and stuffing them in the jar, you just throw all your other ingredients on the stove top, medium high heat until it simmers.  Take the pot off the stove top, pour it over your veggies stuffed in the quart, let everything rest until it reaches room temperature and put it in the fridge.  You are good to go in terms of eating the pickles after an hour, but they really get tasty after a solid 24 hours sitting in the fridge.  Per the Lee Bros. notes, the pickles will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks, so keep them up front and snack on them a lot!

The colors of the veggies in the jar are beautiful.  I added in yellow squash to the zucchini and onion pickles (per Lee Bros. suggestion) to give it a fantastic color balance of green and yellow with the white onions.  The radishes are straight forward, but I love the jar of red radishes sitting next to the green and yellow jar.

Below, the two jars in the middle are sitting in the pickling liquid and the other two were about to be pickled shortly.  I thought the real winner in all of this was the pickled onion, nice tangy and crispy.  The biggest mistake I made was not putting more in as I leaned heavily on the squash and zucchini.  Pickle On!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Cut on the Bias

Cutting on the bias is so simple and easy, yet I find myself forgetting from time to time and having to access a quick video on YouTube for a reminder.  This has been the one that keeps popping up lately for me so I thought I would share it with you:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pickles and Mustard

After doing a few rounds of pickling I recently got after it in the kitchen and made a host of pickle recipes with various veggies and fruits.  On top of that I spent the weekend overpaying for mustard seeds and mustard powder to make a trio of mustards from scratch.

On the pickling front, I have found that no one has better pickling recipes than the Lee bros. and their new Simple, Fresh, Southern cookbook (Also see The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, another favorite of mine - I just haven't made any of the pickle recipes...YET!) .  I had previously done their cucumbers and carrots and this time I did their pickled grapes with rosemary and chiles.  And as weird as that sounds, they were the absolute winner out of everything I pickled.

I also made a few basic pickling recipes that I picked up from my friend Mei Lei's blog, Family Styles.  I took her base recipe and just added in various spices on top of each one.  Here I made a trio of peppers, a couple of cucumber recipes along with a couple different pickled carrots.

Outside of the grapes, I have to say that I am partial to the pickled carrots as a snack, although the thinly sliced picked peppers made a fantastic topping on all of the sausages we have been having lately.

I dug up all of the mustard recipes via Google and found a tasty sweet mustard with Agave nectar and honey - so far this has tasted really good on everything.  I also made one straight from mustard powder and found it to be a bit stingy in the nose with a lot of heat coming at you.  It is called hotter than hot mustard and the recipe can be found here.  The last recipe was from the same website, which was a honey stout mustard.  The yellow and brown mustard seeds in the honey stout mustard give it a really nice unique texture that feels like it would be the perfect accompaniment to a ballpark pretzel.

I have been using all three mustards on a host of various chicken, beef, pork and lamb sausages and they all three create a fun, exciting and unique taste (although they all need some work and a little personalization).

Definitely don't judge the mustards in the first few days as they mellow out and the flavors mature when they sit for a bit in the fridge.

Below is a sampling from the day of pickles and mustard:

Pickling is a piece of cake and makes some super tasty snacks or toppings to keep in the fridge.  Even if you can't cook you can pickle, now go doooit, it's fun!  Personally it felt like the mustards probably take a bit more practice and precision so you can get a consistent flavor profile our of you recipes.