Saturday, August 31, 2013

Banh Mi Fish Taco

For me, living in the rural country has many perks and luxuries.  There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of  beautiful chirping and singing birds in the quiet calm of the morning and listening to the blusterous lolls of those randy little crickets and other nocturnal insect in the eve of night.  Although I must say that I am rather fed up with the mosquito, tick and spider population brought on by this wayward summer! 
Aside from the alarm clocks and beckoners of bed, here in Leesville VA, we are afforded the opportunity of observing wildlife in it's natural habitat.  In addition to the usual deer, we have black bears, bobcats, owls, eagles and humongous woodpeckers,  but  more nerve racking, coyotes, rattlesnakes, copperheads and moccasins.  I have seen more snakes this year than in any other year I can remember, and that is a bit scary, considering the kids love playing in the yard.
On a lighter note, we have access to wonderful and plentiful lakes, dam, rivers and streams supplying us with the epitome of freshwater fish.  Some of the fish include small and large mouth bass, perch, catfish, a local trout farm, where you can reel in your own spoils, and large striped bass,  which brings us to the recipe above.
 My cousin Milton happened by late one evening with an amazing bounty of striped bass, easily weighing about 40 pounds.  They were caught at our own Leesville Dam 1 mile away, talk about fresh caught to table huh!  My wheels were churning ahead as I began to configure and compile ideas new ideas while I cleaned and prepped the fish.  It was a great live lab of sorts for me, cleaning, fileting and portioning the fish for their new and improved purpose.
 I came up with 5 recipes.  My family gave tons of positive feedback on the dishes, enough so that I wish to share them with you.  The following dish is an inspiring spin of the popular Vietnamese sandwich traditionally served using pork and an airy and French type baguette, whereas I use the bass and a lightly fried tortilla, gently shaped to hold the palate pleasing goodies.  Quick pickled veggies and a creamy and almost spicy mayonnaise, shine in this hand held bundle of yumminess! I also have a Slender Version of this recipe, which I will mention the substitutions after the original recipe *.  Omega 3's never tasted so grand!
For quick pickled veggies:
2 c. julienne of carrot
1 c. julienne of radish
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
Combine veggies and sesame seeds in a medium bowl.  Whisk together wine and sugar, pour over veggies and toss vigorously to coat.  Set aside and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or while you prepare the remainder of the recipe.  Drain before use.
For the Tortillas:
Fry tortillas in oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes turning once, until they begin to puff up, then drape over cylindrical object like a rolling pin covered with a paper towel until set in a loose curve.  Set aside until ready to plate.
For the fish:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless striped bass, or other meaty fish of choice, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices on a bias or strips
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
10 flour tortillas
cilantro leaves for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
Drizzle fish with olive oil and add spices. SPST and toss to coat. 
In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and in small batches sear the fish on both sides and cook through, about 2 minutes per side.  Keep warm under tented foil until all have been seared.
For the Sriracha/Basil Mayo:
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Sriracha
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp.fresh basil, julienned
juice of 1 lime and zest
Combine all ingredients in bowl until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  May be made 1 day ahead if desired.
Place a portion of fish in taco.
Add portion of pickled veggies.
Add dollop of Sriracha mayo.
Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Makes 10 tacos.
*For the Slender version, bake or steam the fish, use baked or plain warm tortillas, and use low fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Uncle Billy’s Day 2013: A Foodie’s Perspective

sign 2
thai sign
This past June, during the first Saturday weekend, marked yet another wonderful year of entertainment featuring live band music, crafts, carnival style rides and games, a beer garden adjacent to the stage and a smorgasbord of festival eats and treats here in Altavista, Virginia.  The Uncle Billy’s Day Festival has been a part of our community for around 65 years and is growing bigger and stronger by the year.  I remember attending this event from early childhood, now I bring my girls, who really enjoy the pageantry of the fireworks, which happen on evening two of the 2 day celebration! 
When I was younger, I was all about the congregation of people including my schoolmates, the games and the rides, pizza, candy apples and funnel cake being the fuel of choice.  As I became older, I began to appreciate the beauty of the crafts, car shows, music and beer garden LOL, opting for the food fanfare with an edge like the warm and delicious Gyros, the lamb juicy and tender, the Greek Yogurt smooth and creamy, the shredded lettuce and tomato crisp, Smoked Turkey Drumsticks, the size of a small dog’s leg, slow cooked to smoky perfection, eaten in a relatively cave man fashion by tearing it easily from bone as you stroll the grounds, Hand-cut potato chips, salted just so, hot from the oil, Fragrant Smoked Sausages and Cheese Steaks, billowing over with grilled peppers and onions,and various types of Asian cuisine, like the hearty portion of marinated and grilled Thai Chicken (above) and beef, grilled with just the right amount of caramelization and teeming with exotic flavors, the perfectly cooked noodles, loaded with a barrage  of tender-crisp carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peas and corn, with what I would consider a savory potato, veggie and curry infused Puff with a unique sweetness from Faang Thai Restaurant and Bar, based out of Warrenton VA, meats- on -sticks-Yes! and much more! The smells wafting through the food court is intoxicating, a possible Achilles heel to wayward dieters, but a welcome ‘Foodapalooza’ for die- hard foodies like myself.  The experience is worth the travel and something to talk about, as you can see I just can’t shut up about it.  Definitely something to pencil in to kick off your next year’s summer, hope to see you there!  
Me and a fellow festival goer in one of his Uncle Billy's Day ensembles!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fast and Flaky French Onion Soup Bowls


French Onion Soup is a wonderful dish and great for a first course or main entree.  I have enjoyed it during all four seasons and justly so, because of the soothing beef broth and tender yet subtle flavor of the simmered onions.  More so because of the fresh and aromatic French bread and the bubbly melted Provolone atop, creating a harmonious and incredible balance of hearty, crispy and melty.  It's a virtual spoonful of nothing short of a taste-bud orgy!   Alas, I digress, LOL.  I came up with this take on the classic French fare during the same week I created the Broccoli and Cheese Mini Turnovers and the Chicken Cordon Bleu Roulades.  I had some flaky style biscuits left from my food lab making the turnovers and wanted to explore their possible uses further and arrived at the caption above.  The Le Crueset ramekins were a new purchase at the time and were dying to be used.  I immediately thought individual mini versions of French Onion soup, about 4 1/2 ounces each, the biscuits being perfect as per the size.
This recipe is a simple one with all the bells and whistles of the original form.  Convenience and ease of preparation is one of the major pluses of this dish.  All the ingredients can be purchased ready to go, so a fabulous starter or light meal is right at your fingertips.  My five year old Bronwyn liked the personal size of the soups, as well as the flaky biscuit and smothering cheese,  so much so, that she forgot she that didn't "like onions"!  There is nothing quite like the more time consuming version, but I feel this recipe is a not too shabby and super fun second, enjoy!
1 roll flaky style refrigerator biscuits
1 10 oz. can condensed French Onion Soup
8 oz. Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese blend
Olive oil for drizzling
Prepare the biscuits according to package instructions, cutting the cooking time in half.
 Meanwhile, place soup in small saucepan and dilute as desired and bring up to  boil, then remove from heat.   
Ladle soup into desired vessel drizzled or sprayed with olive oil, to the halfway point.  Float a partially cooked biscuit atop the soup and mound an equal portion of cheese on each one.  Drizzle or spray again if desired.
Place back in oven on broil and cook until cheese is slightly golden and melting.  SPST.  Serve Immediately!
Servings depend on rate of dilution and the size and number of your ramekins, you can make as many or as little as you like!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Amazing Grilled Chuck Eye Steaks w/ Red Miso and Hot Pepper Paste


Corn 2

This was a fun and interesting endeavor using a cut of beef that was virtually not utilized or realized by me until this past year.  The chuck eye steak has been noted as an affordable alternative to the rib eye.  Indeed, this steak is several dollars per pound cheaper than it’s more popular and more often sold in restaurants rib eye steak, but prepared correctly, these little gems will satisfy even the snootiest of steak snobs.  The chuck eye steak is cut from the Chuck Primal also known as the chuck eye roast.  This is situated below the Rib Primal, from whence the rib eye hails and is best suited for short periods of hot grill cooking time or for braising for longer periods until tender to keep moist.  This steak retains the best flavor and tenderness when cooked medium rare to medium, at least in my opinion.  I used some wonderful ingredients to enhance the flavor profile of this dish, as well as the fantastic implement of the outdoor grill for an amazing smokiness and texture.  The marinade is a simple one using bold Asian influence, and may be utilized as little or as long as you wish, the more, the merrier!  The kids enjoyed the steaks tremendously, even my pickiest eater, nephew Braelyn, who told me and I quote “Mmm Aunt Tennelle ( my family refers to me by my middle name), I like steak now!” Score one for team Auntie, Go Me!  This recipe may be prepared with grilled corn or a grilled Romaine salad, one of which I have conveniently provided for you on my blog publication prior to this one Fresh Grilled Corn w/ Hickory Honey BBQ Butter and Lime!  A baked potato will do just fine with some sautéed green beans on the side for a hearty stay-at-home steak night dinner for two as well.  Any way you slice it, this steak is a winner in taste and economy, enjoy! 


About 1 1/2 lbs. chuck eye steaks, cut into about 6 oz portions

2 tbsp. red miso

2 tbsp. hot pepper paste

2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced

juice of two limes, plus more lime wedges for serving


Olive oil for drizzling

In a large re-sealable bag, place steaks.  In a small bowl, combine miso, paste, vinegar, garlic and lime juice.  Pour over steaks and drizzle in some olive oil.  Turn and coat steaks, massaging as you go and press out excess air.  Seal and marinate for at least 20 minutes.

When ready, prepare grill according to preference (I used charcoal) and cook over hot heat flipping once, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare.  Allow steaks to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing or serving.  SPST and drizzle with olive oil and lime juice if desired.  Serves about Six unless sliced into portions.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fresh Grilled Corn w/ Hickory Honey BBQ Butter and Lime

Summer time represents grilling at it's finest, and what could  be better than grilled sweet corn along side a nice smoky rack of ribs, chicken, steaks or pork chops.  I have gotten pretty darn good at procuring a tasty side of corn for meals and an added plus is the kids love it.  I have tried several methods, and they all lend the same sweet delicious results.  A little trick an older friend I met back in college, showed me that corn can be steamed perfectly by leaving the husks ON and trimming the wild ends, then  microwaving it for about 3 1/2 minutes each.  The results were a wonderful, sweet and vibrant piece of corn bursting with flavor.  I used the same premise, keeping it in original form to prepare my corn on the grill. 
One way I prepare it is double wrapping the corn in threes in heavy duty foil and placing it directly over the hottest part of the grill.  I let the corn go for about 5 minutes, then I flip it.  After another 5 minutes, flip again and so on.  I stack the corn also, rotating the packs, so that each packet has about 5 minutes each over the direct heat.  This saves on grill space.  After the rotation process, enough heat  should have been introduced to the corn for it to successfully steam without hassle and turns out wonderfully. Individual packets will be ready in about 15-20 minutes tops!
 Another way I grill corn is without the foil, dunked in water, husks on, directly over the heat and this cuts the time in half, making sure you turn it frequently to prevent over-drying  and burning. 
The butter is infused with your favorite bbq sauce:
2 parts sauce for every 4 parts butter. 
Blend until well combined and place in freezer until ready for use. 
Limes add a bright and zesty flavor element to the corn and other grilled items, so pile it on!
Himalayan Pink Salt is the perfect seasoning for grilled corn and grilled foods as a whole!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Easy Chicken and Broccoli Lo Mein

Chicken Broccoli

Wondering what do with some of your in-season broccoli?  Try this simple and delicious take-out at home recipe for a quick, satisfying and economical meal.  If you do not have Lo Mein noodles on hand, simply use spaghetti as I did.  I used chicken breast meat for the protein, but feel free to use bone-less, skinless chicken thigh meat to fit your budget.  This recipe is a great canvas for throwing in some other veggies too, like peppers or carrots.  The chicken is marinated for 15 minutes for maximum flavor, and it can be done while the pasta cooks.   The broccoli can be blanched in the pasta water  while it cooks, so there is minimal kitchen clutter to deal with afterwards. 
Recipe :
1 lb. lo mein or uncooked spaghetti
1 lb. chicken, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 lb. fresh broccoli florets
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
3 tbsp. fish sauce, divided
1 tbsp. sesame oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. less sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. pasta water
4 tbsp. brown sugar
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 tsp. lemon grass paste
Sesame seeds for garnish, optional
olive oil for drizzling
Place chicken, 2 tbsp. fish sauce, 1/2 of garlic, sesame oil and ginger in re-sealable bag and shake to coat well.  Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring salted water up to a boil and cook spaghetti to al dente, blanch broccoli during the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time.  Drain, reserving 1/4 c. pasta water and set aside. 
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and add chicken, sauteeing until no longer pink and juices run clear. 
Add  soy, pasta water remaining garlic, brown sugar, green onions, sambal oelek and lemon grass paste up to a boil.   Add pasta and broccoli, folding and tossing to coat.  Reduce heat to medium and toss and turn to allow all liquid to be absorbed.  SPST.  Turn  off heat.  Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds if desired.  Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Delightful 24 Carrot Gold Chili

Chili 2
Spring is in full swing and the days are gradually moving us towards the ‘molten lava’ temperatures.  Fortunately, we had some less than Spring like weather, making way for some of my favorites from Fall and Winter, or any other overcast laden, off beat day!  This chili is great for those who need somewhere to throw in some hidden nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  The chili itself isn’t heavy at all and the secret ingredient blends right in with all the other delicious goodies. In case you’re wondering about the name, it’s because there are carrots, grated and nestled about  this chili, simmered with the beef and onions into ambiguity.  Carrots lend their natural sweetness and earthy bluster to the other veggies already in tow.  Recipes like this are great for children and adults alike who sometimes fall short of their recommended daily allowances. Besides, it can be our little secret!  Additionally, the beef may be substituted with lean turkey or omitted altogether for vegetarian fare.
1 1/2 lbs. ground round, chuck or lean turkey
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
2 carrots grated
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 c. chili powder
1 1/2 c. diced tomato
2  tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sambal oelek
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can vegetarian beans with juices
In a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, brown beef with onion, carrots and garlic.  SPST.  Use a potato masher to break beef down into small morsels.  Once browned, drain off excess fat reduce heat to medium and add chili powder, tomatoes, brown sugar, tomato paste, fish sauce and sambal oelek. Stir and  simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, then stir in beans.  SPST.  Simmer until beans are heated through, about 10 minutes.   Serve with crackers or rice if desired.