How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Special Birthday Dinner

or: Dinner from the Dairy Section


The whole recipe is here --
Click to enlarge
For today's post, we include a photo of the entire recipe, because instructions provided by Mr. Price are succinct to the point of being, well, cryptic. (Get it?) Describing the directions would require more words from me than are in the original. That said, I invite the reader to click the image to enlarge it, and to consider my caveats.

I understand the importance of taking care not to overcook seafood, but two minutes was not nearly enough time to cook 1.5 pounds of scallops in a half cup of Vermouth. I covered the pan and cooked for about six minutes.

I followed the rest of the instructions before realizing that I had failed to notice the "very hot oven" comment at the end. So I turned it to 350 and put everything in an oven-safe dish for about 10 minutes. In retrospect, I would shorten the boiling slightly and have that oven at something like 400 for 5 minutes.

Details aside, the important thing to know is that this was delicious! Careful readers of this blog will know that we have are hugely devoted to the New Bedford scallop harvest -- doing our part to support sustainable fisheries and the local economy. Scallops in this sauce are even more delicious -- and decadent -- than scallops wrapped in bacon.
Even better the second day, heated for about 30 minutes at 375.
For technical reasons that only iPad-using bloggers would care about, Pam put the title on this post because it was indeed a special dinner and it was indeed her birthday. The Vincent Price cookbook was my weeks-early birthday present to her, and it was good to use it again on her actual birthday. Even better, our daughter was able to join us. Since she is a vegetarian, I made fettucine alfredo with peas as an entree for her and a side dish for us.

For the dessert was one of Pam's favorites: key-lime pie. Specifically, it was Paula Dean's Frozen Key-Lime pie, which Pam made to celebrate Florida day back in 2010. It was at least as delicious as we remembered it.

Pam gave us both a birthday present by choosing not only the main course, but also the dessert. Cooking is usually no work at all for me, but I sometimes struggle to choose a menu. With the dessert and main course chosen, I chose alfredo as a compatible, but in fact it might be better described as redundant. Hence the subtitle I placed at the top of this post. I thought of it because I found myself buying one each of just about everything in the dairy case to make this meal. Good thing we have plenty of biking, walking, and rowing this weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rice Pizza

Rice Pizza? What could that be?

Following some nice tortillas Sunday and Asian carry-out on Monday, we found ourselves with a bit of a surplus of rice at Casa Hayes-Boh, and took to the cookbook shelf to see how we might use it. My first inclination was to reprise the Tabasco-enhanced Country Captain Chicken we had enjoyed a couple of weeks ago, but since chicken had been featured in both the Asian dinners and the leftover Asian lunches, Pam suggested pulling the essential Jane Brody's Good Food Book from the shelf.

I found a lot of entries under "rice" in the index, including all kinds of items about rice -- its preparation, nutrition, measurement, and so on. But I also found the intriguing "Rice-Crust Pizza" on page 480 and decided to give it a try, modifying the quantities, mainly by sheer guesswork.

I began by beating one egg and combining it with the cooked rice (we had just a bit more than a cup and a generous pile of shredded mozzarella). I applied olive oil to a glass pie pan and pressed this mixture into it. I then placed the pan in a 450F oven for 30 minutes.

Then I combined tomato sauce (after opening the wrong can, I pureed one can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato paste to get a thick sauce), dried oregano and basil, and freshly minced garlic. When the crust was somewhat browned, I spread this sauce on generously (having once worked at a pizza place where sauce was rationed, I do not like to skimp!). I then added some sliced mushrooms (and favorite topping would do) and freshly shredded parmesan.
Crisis averted! While it baked a further ten minutes, I set about to open the inevitable Malbec, breaking a corkscrew in the process. We have been cursed with poorly-made corkscrews and can-openers of late, but we are not to let a simple failure get between us and a nice wine pairing. After a miserable attempt with channel lock pliers, I retrieved our spare cork  jack from the car and wrested the cork from the bottle.
Victory is ours!
We then removed the small pizza pie from the oven. Having the cheese IN the crust made for a nice extra bit of crunchity goodness. We'll be doing this again, I'm sure!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Whaling House Waffle Surprise

Spoiler alert: The surprise is simply an improvement in a traditional waffle recipe.
When our artisan friend Dave realized that whaling would be the theme of our weekend getaway, he made us this spiffy whale. Meanwhile, his brother Paul -- who lives nearby -- painted it mint-chocolate-chip, a combo that Pam had always longed for in a house. This photo predates the #whalinghouse solar panels.
When figuring out how to divide equipment between our main kitchen and the galley of our smaller weekend place, Pam wisely suggested that the waffle iron belonged in the weekend kitchen, since that is when we tend to make waffles. 

Just a few years ago we finally got a waffle iron that allows us to make good waffles consistently. Once the electricity had been upgraded, we made the move, and indeed we have waffles a bit more often now.

We keep the weekend larder stocked with all of the Hayes-Boh essentials for baking and basic cookery, but not in large quantities. And so it was this morning that I started preparing the batter before I realized that there was not enough flour for a batch. If nothing else, we are resourceful, so I decided to take a risk on two substitutions: baking powder for baking soda and corn meal for part of the white flour.

The basic recipe from Deborah Madison was thus modified more or less as follows:

2 eggs, beaten (she calls for three, which I think makes waffles that are too eggy)
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups milk (Madison calls for milk or buttermilk; I put about 1/4 cup of plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt, or sour cream in the measuring cup and then fill up the rest of the way. This morning it was sour cream.)
1 Tsp oil
*optional: 1/4 cup mashed blueberries (see below)

1-1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup fine-ground corn meal
2 t baking powder (instead of 1 t powder and 1/2 t baking soda)
1/4 t salt
dash of nutmeg
2 Tsp organic sugar (Madison does not call for this, but I could not see any reason not to include it.)

*optional: 1 cup whole blueberries, rinsed and drained

I mixed the dry and wet ingredients thoroughly in separate bowls and then combined them without overmixing. I let the batter sit and rise slightly while I heated the waffle iron. I then used cooking spray for each round and transferred each waffle to a plate in the warm (250F) oven.

The result was by far the best waffles I have made -- they slide easily off the iron and were a bit extra fluffy and delicious!

Even More Better
UPDATE February 19, 2017

Image result for blueberriesThis morning we had blueberries on hand, which I was going to add in the usual way -- about a cup to the batter just after it was combined. But Pam -- who already gets credit for remembering this post about corn meal -- suggested that I mash some of the blueberries, as she had recently done for Jordan Marsh muffins. So in addition to the cup of whole blueberries, I used a fork to mash about 1/4 cup, and put it in the liquid mix before combining. I just whisked the skins and pulp together into the egg-milk mixture. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Salsa Two-Fer

Perhaps it was because we are soon to be taking our first trip to Puerto Rico, which we have hoped to do for many years. More likely, it is simply because I was craving one of my favorites from our recipe shelf -- Puerto Rican Chicken Fajita. I have no idea how common this actually is in Puerto Rico, but we love it in our house -- chicken breasts hammered thin and charred hot with chopped walnuts (or pine nuts), along with unripe banana slices is wrapped in a big flour tortilla with onion-orange salsa, and sour cream. This recipe allows The Well-Filled Tortilla to earn its title, as well as a prominent spot on our recipe shelves.
One of the major Testaments in our kitchen
I'll digress for a moment to share one recent finding in the "cooking for two" department. When serving flour tortillas, I have had a habit of rolling them up in wax paper and briefly softening them in the microwave. I recently discovered that if I am using our indispensible cast-iron skillet, I can just toss the tortillas into the pan -- as if they were a soft lid -- a half minute before the meal is ready to serve. If I'm serving two tortillas, I put them both in, and then flip them together after a half-minute. This puts the damp sides out, so I invert them for serving. Just try it -- it is easier than it sounds.

For the "Puerto Rican" fajitas, I was careful with proportions, which meant I wasted no chicken, but I had a significant amount of salsa (onion/orange/jalapeno) left over.

Librarian to the rescue! When it came time to use the rest of the salsa, Pam put her information-literacy skills to effective use, searching for the salsa in the cookbook's index to see if the publisher linked it to any other recipes. Oddly, the index item for this salsa does not include the dish from which we first learned of it. The index does list two options: a squid-olive concoction or a fajita with turkey and bacon. Pam has a famously strong aversion to olives and we are both indifferent (at best) to squid. Plus we had chicken left over from the previous effort, which could do for turkey in a pinch. That only left the question of bacon. Let's see.... Yes, bacon!

This recipe required cutting the bacon into small pieces and cooking it slowly, essentially making high-end baco-bits. I prepared these and set them aside. I then cut the chicken breasts into about four "cutlets" each and marinated them in a mixture of diced jalapeno (left over from salsa preparation), tequila, and lime juice. I then seared these on high heat in a bit of olive oil, and we wrapped them in tortillas (warmed as above) with the salsa and sour cream.

The verdict: so delicious it is not even fair to other tacos. We will definitely be making this "leftover" dish again!

Country Captain Chicken, Cap'n!

We take a brief pause from our non-stop posts about the Big Green Egg to prove that we do still know and care about cooking by non-kamado means. A couple weeks ago I returned to The Tabasco Brand Cookbook by Paul McIlhenny and Barbara Hunter, a small volume from which we have drawn several successful recipes (and blogged about them here, of course).

I found Country Captain Chicken, which appeared to be a simple recipe that would use ingredients I had in mind using. It had the added bonus of being a personal favorite of FDR, that Patrician social democrat who saved capitalism.

But I digress; back to the recipe. This recipe calls for a whole chicken, cut up, which is the start of many recipes I remember from earlier times. This is increasingly difficult to find, and as is often the case I simply used some organic chicken breasts. I cut these into chunks and tossed them with flour, paprika, a tiny amount of salt, and pepper. I cooked these in a bit of oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet. After they were browned, I set them aside, and then added to the still-hot pan:
Tabasco wreath motif -- see below

chopped onion and green pepper, minced garlic, minced parsley, cumin*, a can of tomatoes (recipe calls for whole; I used diced) with juice, raisins (in place of currants) and of course the magic potion -- that is, Tabasco Sauce.

* I chose to use cumin instead of the curry powder called for. I very recently learned that curry is mainly cumin plus turmeric. Since I like the former and tolerate the latter, I decided to make this a cumin-forward curry.

While all this was going on, I cooked some Basmati rice, using the soaking and rinsing technique I had learned only recently (took me long enough!).

We were supposed to have topped all this with toasted, slivered almonds, but the cupboard was (again, oddly) bare in that department. Nonetheless, this was quite a tasty dinner, which we will make again. It was quite a while back, but I'd be willing to bet we paired this with Malbec to good effect.

Tabasco Wreath: On the page facing this recipe is the story of how Tabasco came to be included in Meals, Ready-to-Eat, the combat ration that I helped to manufacture for a couple years back in the 1990s. I worked for a company about 5 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border (on the U.S. side) that made 100,000 of these meals a day. This meant that we shipped out more than 30,000 of those 1/8-ounce hot-sauce bottles, which came to us in enormous totes. We literally had millions of these things in the warehouse at any one time. And so we had them in our offices, purses, pockets, and homes. For secondary quality assurance -- and because the McIlhenny people were always bringing us cool Tabasco gear. Pam made both earrings and a wreath from some of this surplus.
Pam's Crafty Wreath

Monday, May 9, 2016

Red Chili Scallops

We promise this will not become a blog devoted exclusively to the Big Green Egg. As we mentioned in yesterday's salmon post, buying the Egg was much like joining a cult. But we promise we're still just ordinary foodies, and we will return to "normal" cooking soon. But our anniversary weekend did give us a chance to explore the Egg's capabilities as we gradually get comfortable with it.

Regular readers of the blog will know that the scallops of New Bedford are a source of regional pride and regular enjoyment. They are both delicious and sustainably harvested, and we get them as fresh as they can be from Kyler's Catch, right across the harbor from our home in Fairhaven.

The recipe we chose this time was Red Chili Scallops, again from the Egg cookbook and web site. We were intrigued by the idea of a "rub" for something as small as a scallop, but it worked out well. Pam came as close as possible to the mix of spices described -- basically all of the hot, red ones -- and put them through a coffee mill that we have now decided is for spices. (You can repurpose a coffee mill for spices, but going the other way would require a ridiculous amount of cleaning.)

After Pam prepared the rub, we prepared the salsa together. Meaning Pam prepared everything except for the mango. The only substitution was white onion for the red. My contribution of the mango dicing was significant, though, because we did not have our mango splitter on hand, and I was reduced to the kind of hacking that I did in our pre-splitter days. I honestly wonder how humans ever got involved with mangos in the first place, given how difficult they are to work with!
Dinner was a success, even without one of these!
Once the salsa and rub were ready, I started the grill, and it was at the 400F cooking temperature in about ten minutes. While it was heating, I rinsed the scallops and essentially rolled them in the rub. Although the Egg writers get scallops from some place where they are large and only 12 to the pound, we had about 20 pieces in the pound we purchased, so rolling was the simplest option.

I was a little nervous about the timing suggested in the recipe. How could I cook these for two minutes on each side, when it would take me at least a minute of open-grill time to turn them? Also, just opening the Egg to put the scallops on the cast-iron grill, I noticed that the temperature drops. So I decided arbitrarily to try three minutes per side. I noticed that a few of the scallops near the edges of the grill were sticking a bit, suggesting that they had not gotten fully seared even in the three minutes. I watched the temperature dip after turning the scallops, so the three minutes seemed right. Again, there was a slight bit of sticking, but the scallops were cooked through quite nicely, and seared nicely for the most part.
The result was quite piquant -- even for us Southwestern types -- but the heat of the scallops balanced nicely with the cool salsa. It all went well with the creamy Alfredo that Pam had prepared while I was grilling, and the Pinot Grigio complimented the entire meal. This was an ideal anniversary meal, as we each contributed equally to its success and in sharing its enjoyment!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Walking the Plank

As we mentioned last week, Pam and I recently joined a cult. By this, of course, I mean that we purchased a Big Green Egg, which is the modern, expensive version of the ancient kamado ceramic oven. We can justify the purchase in a couple of ways. First, we treat our regular grills like crap, so they do not last all that long. This egg cost only a little bit more than a lifetime of cheap grills. So we are being thrifty and saving resources. Plus, we can cook outside with better results than our electric oven inside, avoiding the cost of both a convection oven and central air. Finally -- and this is the only excuse that makes any sense -- we will amortize this purchase over the creation of many meals. In one week, we have completed three meals, with a fourth planned tomorrow.

For today's effort, we ventured into a couple of new areas, the most important one being planking. This is the somewhat trendy notion of cooking one's food on a piece of wood over an open fire. Apparently, if the wood itself is expensive, it works fine. And since it all happens inside a ceramic egg, it can be done without actually holding a fire extinguisher.

The recipe we chose was Cedar-Planked Salmon with Honey Glaze, available in our new Big Green Egg Cookbook (told you it was a cult) or conveniently on the web site. There is nothing much to report here by way of recipe innovation -- we are still new to this creature and tend to do exactly what we are told. So even the marinade is exactly as described.

I did have some fun with the pre-flame show, though. Of course one soaks the planks in water (or perhaps beer or wine), but I had some concerns, which I shared with the world on Facebook.
Submerge for one hour before use. 
Btw, they float. #bluesclues #sinkfloat#whalinghouse
I thought of trying to find a #rockorsomething (that is an old MRE joke), but instead found a heavyish little bowl, with character.
Problem solved#planksitter
The results compare favorably with the publisher's photograph, I think. Dappled late-afternoon light certainly helped. Caveat: this was my first time planking, and I pulled out just a bit prematurely, so we had to microwave for 45-60 seconds.

Shown with the salmon is Pam's caprese salad (aka, tomato, mozz, olive oil, balsamic, helping us to look forward to many more capreses as the summer brings ever-better tomatoes.

We loved this meal and were lucky enough to pair it with this blackberry wine from Plymouth Bay Winery.
The vintner lists salmon as one of this fruit wine's pairings, made even more appropriate by the one recipe modification we did make. Pam recommended a blackberry-ginger balsamic in the glaze; otherwise, we might never have chosen such a sweet wine.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Beltane



Sunday was May Day (aka Beltane) so we got out our Wicca cookbook to find a recipe to celebrate the day (which was not sunny and warm, but rather cloudy and cold). Since we hadn't really thought about it beforehand. and we were (are) still catching up on posting some recipes from the week before last I picked the only recipe I could make without doing any further shopping Beltane Oatcake. Yes, rather boring and bland, and it took way longer than the recipe said as we only had steel cut oats, rather than the rolled oats called for. The recipe says that each guest should throw a piece of cake into a bonfire that should be kept going all night as part of the ritual. Writing this post I realized the recipe never actually said to eat the cake (which we did). The only flavoring came from a bit of salt and sage, so we added some honey to make it palatable. Next year we'll plan ahead.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Milestone


Thanks to everyone who has taken an interest in our food writing. We enjoy sharing our kitchen adventures and misadventures, and are pleased to have reached 20,000 page views today.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Breaking in the Big Green Egg

A Day-Long Cooking Adventure in Three Acts
(Photo captions adapted from the Facebook posts with which James kept the rest of the world informed about our progress, whether they cared to be or not.)

Act I: James Builds
Last summer, we visited a friend in Colorado who had become a proud owner of a Big Green Egg -- a grill we had heard was special enough to be worth its rather high selling price. She prepared amazing ribs without standing over the grill the whole time, and convinced us that this might be just the thing for our weekend home. Like many people who are not very serious about grilling, we have had a series of lower-priced grills that eventually succumb to the elements.

We decided to wait until spring -- late spring, in fact -- to embark on our Big Green Egg adventure, and decided that it would be good to purchase it as my birthday present. Having a relatively empty Saturday schedule, I set off to the hardware store (these are only available from authorized dealers, one of which is already our favorite local store, Rocky's).

As with most purchases larger than a deck of cards these days, we were not actually buying a product: we were buying an assembly project. (Thanks, IKEA!) Fortunately, the weather was fine, we had not very much else to do, and we knew the end result would be worthwhile. And in general, the instructions -- combination of print and video -- were reasonably clear, though a few steps did seem like they would be easy to achieve only in zero gravity.
If Big Green Egg is a cult, then assembly is the hazing ritual. #whalinghouse#someassemblyrequired #worthit #mybirthdaypresent
The assembly process was not without risk. This warning really got my attention!
Do not taunt Big Green Egg.
(For SNL allusion, see Happy Fun Ball)
And although this step was not actually dangerous, the image was a bit alarming. I'm testing for airflow, once I lined up the inner and outer parts of the lower egg.
To at least one observer, these resembled carrots.  
By the time the Big Green Egg was ready to use, we had a bit of a conundrum. It was close to our normal evening-meal time, so we needed something relatively simple to prepare and that could cook quickly. Some recipes provided by the company require only 12 minutes of cooking time. But these are close to the upper end of its temperature range (which is 750F!), but the first couple of uses are supposed to be kept at 350F or below. So Pam did some investigating and improvising.

Act II: Pam Prepares
The folks at BigGreenEgg.com  would be well advised to have some simple "starter recipes" ideas readily available  for new users. Once you've spent all day putting something together, you don't need to look at online recipes that require you to have started a marinade "yesterday." As it was, I still had to go back to the place where James bought Big Green and buy some of the special fire starter needed to heat the Egg. And really, asking my butcher to de-bone my chicken is not an option when all I'm doing is running to the grocery store and picking up a whole bird.

I wound up making a coffee rub from some stale coffee ground and a variety spices including garlic salt, Chipotle pepper, ginger, and cloves. There were some other things as well, but I don't remember what they all were. I just started grabbing things from the cupboard and shaking them into the bowl. I covered the chicken with the rub, which we then put into the Egg.

We baked potatoes with it, which turned out to be some of the softest we've ever had.

Cookin' without gas!
And the cleanest this grill will ever be.
Act III: James Cooks

After all this, the cooking part was fairly easy. It took only seven minutes to get the coals ready, and from there just a few minutes to reach the called-for 350F in the closed grill. Just a little tweaking of the air vents allowed us to maintain that temperature. Once this was set up, "cooking" became synonymous with "ignoring" until the food was ready. For next time, we will have an thermometer to help us judge the doneness, because the chicken appeared to be done before it actually was. This was easily remedied, though, by returning it to the grill and reopening the air vents.
He is the egg man
Epilogue

The results were great -- moist inside and crispy outside, as EGGers promise. And of course the coffee made it even better!


While back at Rocky's, Pam had picked up a huge cook book for Big Green Egg cultists -- er, users -- and James has ordered a second cooking thermometer to keep at Whaling House.

So let the EGGing begin!

Celebrating Maryland Day

Every year on April 28 we celebrate the anniversary of Maryland's statehood. Since it fell on a Thursday this year we picked a seafood recipe as Thursday night is James' rowing night, when we typically stop at Kyler's Catch for some fish for Pam to prepare while James is out to sea. Usually we have something easy to prepare, but since this was a special occasion I (Pam) decided to up my game, and tried my hand at shucking oysters for the first time. I used this helpful online guide to assist me in this endeavor. The oysters were used to make Chesapeake Oyster Stew from the Dishing Up Maryland cookbook. The recipe also called for bacon, celery, onion, half-and-half, flour, salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and butter. Since this was being prepared at "Whaling House" (our beach home), which is not as well appointed as Cloverfield (our primary residence) I was prepared to make substitutions and do without a few things, but imagine my horror when I realized there was no Old Bay in the house! And to think I call myself a Marylander. Ah, well, there was nothing to do but to proceed without it. There was no place within walking distance to get the necessary ingredient, and we are still a one-car family after all. I also skipped the celery. The stew turned out to be quite good - savory, creamy, and rich - even though, in addition to not having the proper seasonings, I made a few mistakes along the way in the preparation. But, really, after almost five and a half years of blogging about cooking, if I can't fix a recipe blunder at this point it would all be for naught. We also enjoyed Corn and Basil Muffins, a favorite recipe from the same cookbook (you can read more about these from my 2013 Maryland Day post). However, this year I found myself without the needed milk or eggs. I used water with a bit of melted butter in place of the milk, and a mix of Balsamic vinegar and baking soda in place of the egg (an idea I found on a vegan website). The muffins were still good, but a bit more crumbly.