Friday, October 7, 2016

Grilled Cheese w/ Smoked Brisket, Gruyere and Sauerkraut

Brisket left over from a wonderful barbecue dinner the night before can be transformed into a fantastic and satisfying lunch or anytime sandwich, using just a couple more ingredients.  Granted, there isn't really anything one needs to heighten the taste bud satisfaction when there is deliciously and slowly smoked brisket in tow.  The smooth and nutty flavor of the Gruyere is complimentary to the trio, including well drained sauerkraut and an amazingly buttery roll, crisp and crunchy to the palate.
 I did some experimenting and found that a hot-dog roll, grilled with the raw textured side down, makes for a ample and satisfying vessel for the hearty filling.  The surface of the inner bun toasts up wonderfully and has an amazing crunch.  This sandwich is a fantastic blend of Southern American, Swiss and German wonderment!!!
If you don't have time to invest in a homemade brisket, they may be purchased fully cooked, smoked and sliced!
1 pkg. hot dog rolls
1 lb. or more Fully cooked and smoked brisket, thinly sliced
8 oz. Gruyere Cheese, thinly sliced
1 c. Sauerkraut, well drained in strainer and pressed free of any excess moisture
Butter at room temperature
Olive oil for drizzling

In a medium saute pan or heavy bottomed cast iron skillet over medium high heat, drizzle in a turn of the pan of extra virgin olive oil, about 3/4 to 1 tsp.
This helps to keep the butter from browning too fast, plus adds an earthy fruitiness to the flavor profile.
Open hot-dog buns and flatten with palm of hand.
Spread butter on the white side and place in pan.
Gently shake back and forth to ensure all of cooking surface is coated with oil and butter blend.
Layer cheese, then meat on one bun and cheese, then sauerkraut on the other.
SPST.  (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
I like to use a lid at this point to speed up the melting process as well as help get ingredients warmed through, before the bread browns too much and gets scorched around the edges.
You may use as much or as little butter as you like, but too much will "sog" out the sandwich and sabotage the classic grilled cheese crunch.
Remove lid after cheese starts to look melty and continue to check bottom of buns for desired toasty-ness.
Flip one side onto the other and place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Makes 4 sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silky Potato and Gruyere Soup (Meat, Gluten and Dairy Free)

My family and I enjoy potato soup anytime, especially this time of year.  I have several classic recipes that I serve and now I have yet another to share with you.This particular potato soup is unique and different in a key wonderful way.  I used Silk Sugar Free Vanilla Almond Milk.
Nut Milks are a powerhouse of wonderful heart and body-good nutrients.  This particular nut milk has half the RDA's suggested allowance for vitamins B12 and E, plus 40% of calcium, and healthy doses of riboflavin, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc! This is just for the milk substitution alone!
  This soup is fantastic for the lactose intolerant, those just looking to shave off a couple of calories or someone wanting to tap into their inner  Dairy, Gluten or Meat Free style of life, if only for a meal.  I tried this milk initially in a Dairy Free smoothie I created while on vacation.  It is pretty much a blank canvas as per flavor, considering there is no sugar, a little fat, which is mono and polyunsaturated and less than a gram of carbs.  
  Admittedly, this recipe involves full on Gruyere, but I did some research and there is a Vegan Gruyere made with almond milk also, which would accommodate the substitution, since it will be blended until smooth anyway. Again, this is a transitional recipe, so if you do dairy, by all means use the real deal.  The rich and nuttiness of Gruyere pairs well with the nutty flavor profile of the almond milk.  Also remember, vanilla in and of itself is not sweet per se, especially when no other elements of sweet are involved.  The garnish is simply some grated Gruyere tossed with  bright and smoky paprika and freshly cracked black pepper. A tiny sprig of Lime Thyme is added for aromatics and a pop of color.  This recipe allows for substitutions where you feel comfortable.

6 c. potatoes, preferably russet, white if desired, cooked in salted water, drained and mashed
1 quart Sugar Free Vanilla Almond Milk
1 quart vegetable stock OR chicken stock if desired, depending on desired consistency
1 c. crumbled Vegan Almond Gruyere Cheese OR grated Gruyere
2 tbsp. olive oil OR 4 tbsp. butter(optional)
1 tbsp. fresh or dried chives
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp. onion powder
Himalayan Pink Salt (optional)
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive or Chive Oil for garnish (optional)
Over medium low heat, in a medium sauce pot, add potatoes.
Add milk, stock, garlic and olive oil or butter.
Stirring often, slowly bring up to a bubbly simmer.
Using an immersion blender, carefully combine ingredients until smooth.
Add aromatics and cheese, adding more liquid if needed.
Reduce heat to simmer for several more minutes, then turn off heat.
Garnish individual servings as desired.
Serve Immediately.
Makes about 8 servings.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Atlantic Ocean Fisherman's Almanac: Pan Fried Whiting, Yep, I Caught, Cleaned and Cooked These Guys

One of the many highlights from our recent vacation to Myrtle Beach was fishing off the pier with my bestie and fellow vacation mates, Mike and Micheal.  The rest of the gang came too, minus two.  We had a blast, and the breeze was just right, enabling us to withstand the cloudless heat from the gorgeous day, before the storms started to set in.
 The suggested bait of choice was shrimp, which are a heck of a lot cleaner to work with, as far as the hands and worms go.  The pier fishing rates were way reasonable too, around 21 dollars (bait not included) from 3pm to midnight, which included the rod and reel! You could even leave with your equipment, as long as it was returned by the stated time.  This was awesome for me, since it was my and RD's (bestie) dinner night with the crew.  I was able to fish a bit in the afternoon, then we returned much later that night and fished until Midnight, well I did, RD was my photographer and videographer, as well as my witness to the 'one that got away'! I do believe it was a whopper!! Something even took one of my hooks along with my bait!
We had amazing time, not to mention my haul of these two beauties below.
This was the first time I had seen whiting in it's whole live form.  My wheels were turning for something spectacular to create with them, and I ran a  few suggestions by the Mikes.  They simply said "Fry Them" and I said "OK".  The rest is delicious history.
Whiting, scaled, cleaned and butterflied/filleted
buttermilk( I used fat free)
seasoned flour for dredging
oil for frying ( I used Canola Blend)

I butterflied the smaller fish and filleted the other.  I also soaked the fish in icy salted water for about 20 minutes and rinsed before pouring on the buttermilk.  Do not rinse before dredging in the flour.  Fry until golden.  About 3 minutes per side over medium high heat.  Drain on paper towels before plating/serving.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Southern Comfort; Omelette with Country Ham, Tomatoes and Peaches

 On our way to the beach, we passed many roadside stands that offered fresh produce, namely locally grown peaches, watermelons and tomatoes, some even had grapes!  This particular one had three of the aforementioned, so I was elated to have a fresh batch in tow when we arrived in Cherry Grove, South Carolina.  The peaches were large, fragrant and gorgeous.  I asked the kind and knowledgeable lady running the stand for a mix  of peak ripe ones, with some that would be better suited for the days to come.  I saved the largest and firmest fruit to take home to my lovelies, Mom Genesis, and Bronwyn.  The others I had a little fun with, including a Peach and Banana 'Shake' made from No Sugar Added Almond milk, 2 whole  fresh peaches, a banana, and lots of crushed ice.  I also added a tiny amount sweetener to balance it out.  My bestie Rufus and my friend Doris enjoyed it tremendously, as did I.
The next idea came around brunch time, when appetites were soaring and we were gearing up for a day of exploration and sunification, (yep, made that word up!).
We had missed the breakfast wave of the morning , where my friend Michael was at the helm of the breakfast barge, making omelettes to order, which looked amazing.  The team did a fantastic job of finely dicing the ham, onions and green peppers, nothing like a good ole Western to start the day!
I love a flavor profile that includes elements of sweet, savory, bitter and salty.  That being said, I had picked up these small packages of sliced country ham, a staple when I go out of town, if I randomly pass it in a supermarket. I took the traditional route for RD, with a Western and went all the way with mine.   The following recipe is what I enjoyed and can't wait to make again.
3 large eggs
splash of milk or water
1 dash Sriracha or other hot sauce
1 pat butter, more if desired
1 drizzle olive oil
1/4 c. fresh tomato, seeds and skin removed, diced
1/3 c. freshly diced peaches
1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese, more if desired
1 oz. cooked country ham, chopped or cut into thin strips
olive oil for drizzling
In a nonstick pan, melt butter and drizzle of olive oil, over medium high heat.
Beat eggs lightly and add milk and sriracha.  SPST
Once bubbles in pan are small and before the butter solids brown, add eggs.
Shake pan vigorously back and forth to set up the omelette.
Using a rubber spatula, push outside of cooked egg to center, lifting the pan and distributing contents around the circumference of the pan until whole bottom is set,
Scrape runny topside of egg to edges and sprinkle in cheese, ham and tomatoes.
After about 30 seconds, fold omelette over in pan and slide onto serving plate.
In a small bowl, toss peaches with a scant drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
Arrange over omelette, and garnish with sriracha if desired.
Serve Immediately.
Makes one omelette.

These Muscadine grapes were outstanding!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Making Vacation Calories Count, Our Experience with Boardwalk Beach Cafe, Cherry Grove Pier, South Carolina

The day started with a walk out to the beach here in Cherry Grove South Carolina, the first official trip since our arrival on Saturday.  My bestie and I finally made it to our respective spots side by side, under a brilliant blue umbrella.  RD, the bestie mentioned above, was breaking in his new Tommy Bahama beach chair, a jawbone blue-tooth speaker, and waterproof case for his phone.  I too had come prepared, with my straw hat, sunglasses, fruit waters and most importantly Yes, Chef , a memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson. 
We waded out into the lukewarm and choppy salty waters to the waist, for our customary ceremony of  saturating  our suits and bodies, then posting up to dry again by the humid breeze and obstructed sunshine  that this wonderful day provided.  After about 30 minutes at best, we noticed clouds and quiet fury building on either side in  the distance.  We rationalized that one will go around, the other, gone before we know it, we were wrong!  My weather bug app insisted that we "seek shelter immediately", but we felt we could squeeze out a few more minutes.  A brief and sparse shower hit, but not enough to send us packing, so we continued to bob our heads in unison to Bob Marley or some Top Forty song, I can't remember which.  Within minutes, the thunder in the distance became more omnipresent and the darkening of the sky could no longer be ignored.  The rules of engagement for a thunder and lightning storm, drilled into my head by my parents, echoed in my ears, get inside, unplug appliances, no telephones, keep away from water, stay away from windows, be QUIET!!  

The lightning strike that stretched from the sky to the ground to our right, sealed the deal, sending us scrambling to remove from the sand and lower the umbrella, cover electronics, fold up chairs, grab everything and flee, as our fellow vacation mates yelled from the third floor balcony of our condo to get our butts inside!!  We stored our gear in the back of the Jeep, luckily it was nearby and in a single level parking garage, almost directly behind us.
It was around lunchtime, and since we felt like the crisis had been averted and immediate plans for fun in the sun had been thwarted, why not try out this cafe at the mouth of the pier, just beside our unit, Boardwalk Beach Cafe on Cherry Grove Pier, where in 1964, the world's largest tiger shark on record was caught!!!  
We tempted fate once more by using the garden hose to rinse the sand from our legs and flip flops, before entering, bold I know, but somehow very necessary before entering an eatery, at least in our minds, even though our clothing was soaked throughout.  
We were greeted by a cordial staff, that offered we sit anywhere, wetness and all, which was reassuring.  We chose to stand, until we saw a deck just out back with shelter, plenty of chairs and a new view of the ocean and opposite side of the pier.  The menu offered a select, but efficient selection of bar goodies like wings, cheesesticks, shrimp etc, but also salads, fish, shrimp and chicken tacos  and entrees, sandwiches ranging from Ahi Tuna and Grouper, to Caribean Jerk and Barbecue.   We went with the Double Whammy Burger, boasting two all beef patties, cheese and bacon optional. They offered all the fixings that make burgers awesome, including but not limited to mushrooms, jalapenos, chili and guacamole.
The children's menu is very fair @5.50, offering four choices  and there's also a great happy hour ensemble from 4p to 7p, boasting discounts on bar based appetizers and spirits.  The overall menu prices range from $5.50 to $18.
The burgers were made to order and fresh.  The fries were piping hot, the pickle cool and crisp, a portion of  slaw was also included.  This meal was really two in one and I definitely used most of my 'What the Hell, I'm on vacation' cards in one fell swoop.  Indulgent-yes, worth it-yes, fighting and cheating death, fleeing from lightning storms and  pigging out with your best friend of almost 22 years- on vacation- at the beach-PRICELESS!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Omega 3 BLT

A quick and wonderfully satisfying way to get the most out of your everyday BLT  is to add UMPH! and WOW, that being a baked or fried piece of fish!! Not just any fish, Catfish.  This gem happens to be locally caught by my brother in law and sister Bonnie on a fishing excursion.  I was delivered a hearty helping of these puppies still alive and well, when they arrived home from their victorious day.  I cleaned and dressed all my prizes and prepped them for an event packed weekend to come, that being the birthday of my sister Gayle and of course Mother's Day!!! The lettuce is tossed with some tangy seasoned rice vinegar, fresh lettuce and tomato, cheese optional! For Dexterity, I prepared some for lunch, eager to experience the unique and fantastic flavor profile that is food that you have had a hand in from start to finish!
 I like to soak my fresh water fishes in salted water briefly before using.  You may then rinse and marinate in buttermilk or skip the salted water and go straight to buttermilk.  These are both done to elmiminate any fishy taste that might be present.  There is also a veinlike structure that runs down the middle of the fillet that can be removed by pulling from one side of the fillet or the other, that helps this as well.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an amazing addition to any diet.  They are found in many food items including but not limited to walnuts, wheat germ, spinach, flax (seeds and oil), but are mostly associated with fish.  The levels vary from fish to fish, with catfish being above other fish like sole, haddock and flounder, but below salmon.  Considering I cannot access fresh out of the water salmon here in Leesville, I find
catfish to be most fitting.  Omega 3's possess many benefits for the body human.  Catfish contain  poly-unsaturated fats, which are wonderful for helping to lower LDL or what I like to call 'Lousy' cholesterol, and increse the HDL or 'Happy' cholesterol.  The Omega 3 fatty acids in this fish is also great for reducing or aiding in the battle with inflammation.  The heart has shown benefits from this as well.  It is thought to help counter depression and also reinforce antidepressant effects in those affected.
Fresh Cafish fillets, skin removed
seasoned flour
buttermilk pancake mix
canola or vegetable oil for frying, or non stick spray or olive oil for baking or poaching
whole grain bread
cooked bacon
mayo and cheese, optional
Heat oil to 350*F.
Combine seasoned flour with a 3 to 1 ratio to pancake mix.
Add as little or much paprika as desired.
Fry in small batches to keep oil from losing too much heat, possibly causing crust compromization!
Cook until fish floats and is golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve immediately for maximum crunchtasity!! Yep, I made that word up!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dry Rub Aged and Double Smoked Boston Butt

Contrary to popular belief, a Boston Butt is not a part of the animal's behind at all, it is simply the upper portion of the front shoulder.  It is popularized commonly as a Southern American staple for making pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue.  I have enjoyed this cut many times over through my kitchen, as well as many family members' kitchens and grills.  I took a different approach to this protein this time and was amazingly gratified by the effort.  I pierced the fatty side  many times and  rubbed the butt (lol ) with a VERY liberal helping of garlic salt, about 6 oz. for the 8 1/2 lb. portion, pressing what I could into the incisions as I went.   I then placed it in the lowest portion of the fridge uncovered, for around 36 hours to cure and dry brine before grilling.  After the dry brine, I rinsed the meat thouroughly under cold water and patted it dry.  I then rubbed the protein with canola oil and placed it on the grill.  I actually used a metal tray filled with prepped and ready to cook charcoal and placed it in the bottom of my smoker to achieve the smokiness for the first part.
 As the day passed, I realized the evening was upon me and I had to get my girls ready for their wind-down, i.e. dinner, baths etc.. so I removed the meat from the grill and wrapped it in heavy duty foil and placed it in the fridge, to begin again during more reasonable hours.
 My brother and his family were in for the Easter and Spring break so the whole gang was tuckered out and ready for a rejuvenating dose of shuteye, myself included.  My day normally starts around 4:50 a,m daily, so I could really get a jump on my dish, ensuring it would be ready for an early dinner around 5 p.m, when all 9 total of our kids together could partake.  I tasted a piece of the meat and noticed that it was still very highly seasoned even after the rinse, so I countered the saltiness  with a brown sugar and spice based rub for the second part of smoking.
I added some hickory chips to my smoker, as well as a veggie laden ( onion, garlic, celery, plus rendered bacon fat) water bath and readied the B.B. for tastebud transgression.  To the brown sugar rub, I added a chili powder, poultry seasoning, LOTS of paprika,garlic and onion powders, cumin, and a bit of Badia complete seasoning, which is chock full of dehydrated veggies!  I placed the protein on the smoker and let it go for 7 more hours, low and slow!  The kids were on the patio and playing in the yard.  They noticed me checking the water bath levels and curiosity struck.  They then noticed the smell.  Upon request, I tore forkfuls at a time off the bottom, hot off the grill samples for the kids, they loved it.  I later sliced the whole B.B and plated it up, some plain and some slathered in bbq sauce with white bread.  The smoke went all the way to the bone, and my nephew Donovan said with his amazingly thick New York accent, "It was delicious", Enough said!
I fiddled around with flavor and texture combinations and paired the B.B with some yellow rice, quick pickled red onion and Sriracha on a warmed corn tortilla, YUM!