Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bangers & Mash - My take

 I have a dear friend, who like me is something of an Anglophile. We like Brit Sci-Fi, British mysteries and British accents. Every year for her birthday I try to make her something with a little UK flair. Sometimes it's shepherd's pie, last year it was chicken Tika. This year I took a stab at bangers and mash - sausages and mashed potatoes. I looked around for recipes and actually ended up going with something more Italian for the sausages that I saw on The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network.  I decided to give her roasted sausages and grapes a try. Here's the link to her recipe. And here's how I made it. It's crazy simple with only a few ingredients.  Let's start with grapes. You need a couple of big bunches of them. I went half white seedless and half red seedless.

First, get all of these babies off the stem. This is the most complicated part of the entire recipe.

Now let's get that oven heating to 500 sizzlin' degrees. Ina don't play. She says to take 3 pounds of Italian Sausages (she used a mix of hot and sweet, I only used the sweet) and put them in a pot parboil for a few minutes to remove fat. I actually used 5 lbs of sausages and I think that would be just right for six people. Everyone is going to want at least two sausages.

You aren't cooking the sausages, just boiling off excess fat. And they will leave a lot behind. This is what I had after about seven minutes of boiling.

Gross.......Sorry about that folks. I have this beautiful roasting pan. They got for around a hundred bucks, but I scored it for forty at the Calphalon Warehouse sale. I only use it a few times a year, but the purchase was worth it. I'll be using it more now to make these sausages.

The best thing about this big sturdy gal, besides those strong handles, is that I can set it across two burners on the stove and do stuff like make gravy from pan dripping or melt 3 tablespoons of butter.

Once the butter is melted, you could add the grapes and coat them.

Then a couple of glugs of red wine. She suggests Chianti. I used Malbec cause I had some.

Let it cook for a little bit over medium heat until the wine starts to evaporate and it all gets a little sticky. Turn off the burners and put those parboiled sausages in with the grapes.

All snug as bugs in a rug. Put this in the oven and cook for about twenty-five minutes. Flip the sausages half way through.

Now let's slice up some Yukon Gold potatoes for our mash. This time I'll peel them, though I usuall don't. Yukon Golds have a nice think skin that makes for a good smashed potato, but I want a really smooth mash. So peel these beauties and slice them  and put them in a big old pot of salted water. Now let's get to boiling.

Boil until they are fork tender. Meanwhile, let's take about a quarter of a cup of cream or half and half with around two tablespoons of butter and melt those together in a sauce pan or in the microwave.

Once those potatoes are fork tender, we're going to drain them and put them through a food mill or a potato ricer. You could use a potato masher, but a ricer or a food mill give you an incredible texture.

Once the potatoes are mashed, milled or riced - slowly add in the milk and cream mixture stirring carefully with a spoon to make sure it is all absored and the potatoes don't get soppy. Salt and pepper generously.

These will be creamy and delicious. And by now, the sausages should be done.

Put that pan back across the two burners on low hear and had a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Stir it all around, coating everything with the vinegar until it reduces and gets kid of syrupy. Turn off the heat and plate the sausages with a good helping of the delicously reduced grapes and sauce and a big old dollop of the creamy mashed potatoes. Do it on a rectangular plate. That makes it cool.

Oh and I made this for dessert

Peanut butter chocoalte caramel whipped cream banana trifle.  It has nothign to do with bangers or mash or Britain. I just thought it looked delicious.  So kudos to Ina for bringing me this simple and delicious recipe that I plan on making again many times.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Super-Simple Summer Salad - Tomato and Avocado Together Make Magic

This is my super-simple go-to salad to accompany steak or to use in tacos. It's best in the summer when you can get beautiful vine-ripe juicy tomatoes. But other times of the year, a grape or cherry tomato will work. It combines many of the wonderful flavors of guacamole, but only has 3 ingredients besides oil and salt: Avocadoes, tomatoes and lime juice. Start with a couple of ripe avocadoes. Use more depending on how many people you're serving.

Use a spoon to scoop out rounded spoonfuls and drop them in a bowl. Now slice up some tomatoes. Here I used some grape tomatoes on their last legs (this is a great save for such tomatoes) If you have fresh, ripe summer tomatoes, I beg you to use them.

Now gently stir the avocadoes with the tomatoes

Give it a good squeeze of lime. Not only does it add acid to the salad dressing, it prevents the avocado from turning brown. So make sure all of the avocado is coated with a little lime juice. For two avocadoes, I used about half a lime.

Then sprinkle with salt. I prefer kosher salt. I think it's easier to handle. Though for this, sea salt would be pretty tasty as well. I suppose regular old Morton's would work as well. But it just sounds better to say sea salt and Kosher salt. Don't be stingy with the salt. It's really the only additional flavoring to the mild flavor of avocado & sweet acidity of tomato.

Now a splash of olive oil. Just enough to coat everything.

Give it all another nice gentle stir and salad is served. If you're going to store this for long, make sure to put plastic wrap down close over the avocadoes to avoid mean old Mr. Oxidization. Brown salads ain't pretty.

This is a great accompaniment to a steak or topper for a burger or hot dog. It also goes great in a steak taco or if you don't dig on meat, it's pretty delicious all on its own. If you get your hands on some ripe tomatoes, please give it a try.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The last first date ever.

Twenty-three years ago today, I went on my first date with my husband. I was looking sharp in my Star Trek IV T-shirt, plaid pants and silver tennis shoes. We stopped at McDonald's in Toledo for lunch. I ordered a Diet Coke and picked at Tim's fries. Then we went to see this Who Framed Roger Rabbit at the Southwyck Mall.

Afterwards, we picked up Tim's guitar at his apartment at Hunter's Ridge and headed back down to Bowling Green to belatedly celebrate my friend Bet's birthday with cake and tunes from the musical Chess.  Not many people know the score from chess. Tim and I both knew it by heart.

Then we went to the Cla-Zel theater on Main Street along with Bet to see The Dead Pool. Any movie that features crazy lip-sycnching Jim Carrey being serially killed is well worth your time.

Tim and I got a little out of control with the commentary (this was before we even saw Mystery Science Theater 3000. I think they stole the idea from us.)  My friend Bet said. "Oh my God, it's like Cindy, in stereo."  And it kind of was.

At the conclusion of our date, I told Tim that if he was seeing anybody else, he should stop. "Because you know we're going to get married."

"Yeah." He sighed with resignation. "I know."

The house where I lived in Bowling Green is now a parking lot for the Wood County Library

The McDonald's has been turned into a day care center. Tim's old apartment complex went up in flames on the 4th of July a few years ago when someone set off fireworks inside.

Southwyck is now a vacant lot.

The Cla-Zel in BG no longer shows movies but it is still an entertainment venue.

We, on the other hand, have been together ever since. Our love is a bit like Donny and Marie Osmond.

It remains fresh and vibrant while sucking the life out of everything around it.

Geek Love 4 Evah! That is all.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A Headline You Won't See

Here's a headline you won't ever see linked on The Drudge Report:  Bicyclist Falls Down in Busy Street -  Crowd rushes to render assistance. Today we were driving down the busy four-lane section of Glendale about four miles from home and Tim saw a guy go down in the street about a block back. So he swung around to the parking lot of Bigby's and got out to see what happened.  He ran, which is quite a sight to see, since he normally only runs when chased. Joining him at the crosswalk to get back to the man was a lady who had been about a block down by the bus stop and had come running to see if she could help. Already cars had stopped and people had come out of the surrounding business. The guy seemed okay, he just had a bad case of road rash and a sore shoulder. His bicycle tire hit the curb instead of the driveway and he dumped into the road. Interestingly, even though we were several miles from home, it turns out he's our Harvard Terrace neighbor from two streets over. And the car that stopped to help is our neighbor, also a couple of streets over. And the guy who ran out of Walt's Auto Body to help worked with the injured bicyclist on the fire brigade at Ford before he retired. The biker didn't want anyone to call an ambulance or to accept any offers of a ride to the hospital, so the fellow from Walt's put his bike in the back of his truck and offered to drive him home. 

Strangers and one acquaintance rush to the aid of injured bicylist on busy street. Other non-headlines from this week: Neighbor checks in on my Aunt to see why she the lights are on after 11pm and Neighbor knocks on my door to make sure the guy messing with my air-conditioner is supposed to be there. Pretty Nice.

I guess the real headline should be: TIM RUNS! - Not even chased. That's breaking news.

Drive safely! Watch out for the curbs! Tim can't be everywhere to help you.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Tim's Famous Ribs - Low and slow on the smoke, baby.

My husband smokes a mean rack of ribs. Tender, smokey and delicious. Here's how we make it happen.  We buy a rack of pork spareribs. If you have the time, a day before you're going to smoke the ribs, salt them well with kosher salt, wrap them in plastic and put them back in the fridge. You can skip this step, but the ribs are more moist and delicious if you do. 

Now we shall make the rub. This makes enough for probably 3 racks of ribs. I usually double it and keep a Ziploc bag of it ready to go. Works on ribs, steaks and chicken.

Mix the following

4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like them hot)

I like to buy the little things of Tone's spices. They're about a a dollar each and you don't get stuck with leftover spices.  About two hours before you're ready to cook - rub the ribs good.

It will be messy

Now you're going to take about 16 ounces of hickory chips and soak them in water for about an hour
Then make a little square foil packet (double the foil)
After it's wrapped, poke some holes in it with a fork or a knife

Now if you have a charcol grill, build a fire by piling all of your charcol on one side of the grill - making a hot side and a cooler side.  When the coals start to ash, put the foil packet on top of the coals and put the cooking grate on top of it. Open grill vent to let smoke draw over the grill for five minutes.
Then place ribs over the cool part of the grill.  If you have a gas grill put the wood chips on top of the primary burners and turn the burner to high. Shut lid and let that go for about fifteen minutes, then turn that burner down to medium and turn off other burners. Then put ribs over the cool part of the grill.
Let the ribs smoke, turning them every 30 minutes until the meat is tender. Usually 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Now when the ribs are finished, wrap them in foil.
Wrap them tight. Don't skip this step. It makes the meat incredibly tender.
Now put the foil wrapped ribs and put them in a paper bag. We're locking in the heat and the flavor. Don't skip this step. If you don't have a brown bag, you could use newpaper.
Leave it to steam for an hour. NO CHEATING!
Now serve these moist delicious ribs with the BBQ sauce of your choice or just as they are.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Magic Salad - turning a hometown favorite into a picnic dish.

I call it THE salad. The one I'd gladly spend five hours in a car to have a plate of. The salad you get at Giovanni's Pizza in my hometown. To clarify, there is no Giovanni. There are several Giovanni's Pizza restaurants all owned by different people. They are called things like Pam's Giovanni's and Fred's Giovanni's and Greg's Giovanni's to denote just who runs the place. They are not a chain. They do have basically the same menu. It's as if Giovanni's was the word for Pizza in hillbilly. Sort of like how Coney Island denotes a hot dog place. Portsmouth  Area Pizza is unique - I've never quite had anything like it and there are those of us who will travel far for a bite of P-Town Pizza. The crust is thin, the sauce is sweet and a bit spicy. We also serve butter with tortilla chips and put green olives in taco salad and on pizza down home. It's how we roll. The thing I miss even more than the pizza is the salad. It's called the Antipasto salad and it's a pile of iceberg served with all of the pizza toppings (ham, pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, olives, banana pepper ring, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese) It should be topped with creamy Italian dressing. You could pick other dressings, but that's a bit of a faux pas. Like not buttering your tortilla chips. Weirdo.  Even a small comes with an extra bowl for sharing at Giovanni's. (My Giovanni's of choice is Pam's is Sciotoville. They have Coke instead of Pepsi - that's the deciding factor for me.)  We're having a family picnic down home and I decided to see if I could convert THE salad into a pasta salad.  I've tried taking it as a lettuce salad, but it gets too watery.  So here goes. 
I got some grape tomatoes marked down to 75 cents because the end was near and I used a nifty little trick I stole from Nigella Lawson. I cut them in half and sprinkle with salt, sugar, dried thyme and olive oil. Then I heat an oven to 450. As soon as the oven hits 450, shut it off. Put the tomatoes on a pan and stick them in the oven to sit over night or for four or five hours. You get this:

Delicious little versions of a sun dried tomato. Or you could just slice up some grape or cherry tomatoes (do slice them) and spinkle with salt then wrap in paper towels to absorb the liquid.

Take some pasta. I live bowties, but use what you love and use a 16 ounce box.
Salt some water and add a touch of olive oil - then bring to a boil and toss in the pasta. I'll bet you saw that coming.

Our proteins and dairy:  Half a pound of ham in a chunk. I like honey ham because I'm a Southern gal. A small packet of Pepperoni. (salami would work in a pinch) and some shredded mozzarella. Get the coarse shredded, not the fine if you're buying pre-shredded.

The veg:  Mushrooms, green olives with pimentoes, banana pepper rings or pepperocini and a red pepper. You could choose to saute fresh mushrooms instead of using canned. I'm sure it would taste better - but for this dish I went with what the restaurant uses - the canned stuff.

Now let us dice. Let un dice ham into small chunks.

Let us dice pepperoni and then make sure to separate the pieces.

Let us core and dice the red bell pepper. Giovanni's used green pepper. I dislike it raw, so I go with the sweeter red.

Now let  us drain mushrooms and squeeze them dry in paper towels. Unless you are a good person who made fresh mushrooms. God bless you then. I tear the canned mushrooms into smaller pieces. They're so soft, you don't really need a knife.

Let us drain olives.

Let us dice those olives unless we bought pre-sliced.

Let us drain the pepperocini or banana peppers and pat dry with a paper towel.

Once your pasta is cooked, you will drain it. Then add a sprinke of vinegar while it's hot and stir. Now you will allow that pasta to cool for a bit. When it is room temperature, you will place it in a BIG bowl. Then comes the magic:

You will use a bottle of creamy Italian dressing. I have two here because I bought extra. This is a store brand, but use whatever brand you like or if you live in Portsmouth, go see if Giovanni's will sell you a cup of theirs. I've bought one to go. If you have a recipe for homemade creamy Italian, all the better. Make a whole bunch of it. It substitutes for mayo in this pasta salad.

Coat your pasta with the salad dressing. Coat it well. The pasta will absorb the dressing.

Start adding all the good stuff you chopped and drained and get it all stirred in. Then add a bit more dressing to coat everything. If you are a person of moderation, you can use it sparingly. If you are me, you can just glug it in.
Then add one boatload of shredded Mozzarella. At Giovanni's it served on top like this, but for the pasta salad, I mix it in. 

I divided it into 2 serving pans for the picnic. I'll update you with reviews from my relatives after the family reunion. Remember, these people like to eat. Because we possess The Buffet Gene.

Your ingredient list should you dare to attempt this monstrosity of white trash goodness -

1/2 pound of ham in a chunk
1 small package of pepperoni
1- 8 ounce bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 - 4 ounce can of mushrooms
1 - 12 ounce jar of green olives
1/2 - jar of pepperocini
1 red bell pepper
1 - 16 ounce box of pasta
1 - bottle of creamy Italian dressing (you probably won't use all of it)

Each serving contains protein, dairy, vegetables and grain! Plus your yearly requirement of salt at one sitting.  Enjoy.


The pasta salad was a hit! I was told it deserves a blue ribbon.