Saturday, August 27, 2016

File this under "Careful What You Wish For"

I noted with some excitement this week that a relative of Colonel Harland Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame has revealed the secret "11 herbs and spices" that make up KFC's secret recipe. It had apparently been on a handwritten note and slipped into an old scrapbook where it was found. Now being a Kentucky boy by birth and remembering my Mamaw's fried chicken I have always been a fan of the stuff and the Colonel's is hard to beat. When I heard about this recipe release fiasco (KFC denies that this is the recipe, of course), I had to try it out, the greasy frying in my kitchen aside. I thought that if I could organize an electric skillet, I could do this experiment out on the deck
A great spot for getting stuff for free

saving myself the cleanup. As I am a little on the frugal side and not wanting to buy one, even though they are pretty cheap ($24 at K-Mart) I figured I'd advertise where I've had the most luck, FreeCycle Cape Cod. I  posted my ad, embellishing it with a sympathy ploy to get some action, and waited for a reply. 

Very shortly thereafter I received a note from a woman who said that she had an electric skillet that had never been used and was glad someone would find some use for it. I sent her a note back saying that I would be happy to meet her at any location and time to pick it up. I was thrilled! She wasn't too good about answering emails and after a few days of trying to get her to respond she finally did and said she would meet me in Hyannis, quite near where I work. I described myself as I thought she doesn't know me and I was going to be standing outside looking like a well dressed panhandler waiting for a payoff, she should know how to recognize me. 

At the appointed time she pulls up and pops out of her SUV and says "Are you Daniel?" "Yes" I replied and she stuck her head in the back seat window of her car and pulled out a tiny electric skillet maybe only 8" x 8" in size. She seemed so thrilled to be able to give this thing to someone who wanted it I simply said "Thank you so much" and "it's perfect" before heading off back to my office. This thing is so small you really couldn't put two chicken thighs and enough oil to fry them in it. I suppose I should've been more specific in my request, but there it is. I am going to take this thing to a thrift store and donate it because I can't really see what good it would be to me and I really don't have the space to store it.

You could, maybe, fry two
eggs in this thing...
If any of you folks out there want it, it's yours. Locally you can just pick it up or if you live out of town, contact me in the comments section (it's moderated so you can leave me a private message before it is posted to the comments) and we can make arrangements. 

Anyway I've decided to make the fried chicken recipe anyway in my dutch oven and I will be posting the results here later so stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tonight? Easy Eggplant Parmigiana

"No Preservatives" and "Made from Scratch"
(Whatever that means..) It isn't going to kill you! 
Now those of you who don't want to use a frozen product, you can leave now. Our friend, Sally Tomatoes, discovered a product at BJ's Wholesale called Michael Angelo's Breaded Eggplant Cutlets in a 3 pound bag. I couldn't believe that they'd be any good, and I'll be honest here, I do make a better cutlet myself, but Oy! What a mess it makes in your kitchen. Eggplant Parmigiana gets relegated to special occasions and never gets made. These cutlets are really very tasty! With this product in your freezer, all you need to do is stop at Market Basket and pick up 3/4 of a pound of Bel Gioioso Fresh Mozzarella Slicing Loaf and pull some red gravy from your freezer. (You do have some in there don't you??) You can make eggplant parmigiana anytime you'd like!

I was able to make this tonight in about an hour and 15 minutes. Layering the gravy, eggplant and cheese goes really quickly and the baking takes the longest. There's really no recipe here folks so just go for it. 

Cut the eggplant pieces to fit into a layer in this 8-inch glass pan.
Top with slices of cheese and dot with your gravy.
Repeat until you get to the top of the pan.
Top with a piece of parchment and then foil. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Remove the foil and parchment,
 sprinkle with a little grated cheese and pop back in the oven
for another 15 minutes. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

It slices beautifully and makes a nice dinner with a green salad.
(Plus there's some left over for a sandwich for work tomorrow.)

That mozzarella slicing loaf is really terrific.
Melts almost exactly like freshly made. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You like a nice stuffed pepper??

Here's today's recipe...

My favorite stuffed pepper
sitting on olive oil mashed potatoes..

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Weekend's Recipe: Tomato Jam

A couple of years ago I made this recipe of tomato jam from the NY Times' Mark Bittman. Its really easy to make and if you don't have any fresh tomatoes you can use canned petite-diced tomatoes in a pinch. I like to use this as a glaze for meatloaf or put a big spoonful on some soft farmer's cheese or cream cheese on an hors d'oeuvre plate.

One thing I will say is that you can make this in a slow cooker if you want to put it together and forget about it for the day but your slow cooker will smell like ginger for some time afterwards no matter how fastidious you are about cleaning it. I remembered that when after looking at all of the tomatoes I am gathering from my garden and decided to make tomato jam out of them. Not wanting to have that gingery thing going on in my slow cooker I decided to advertise on Cape Cod FreeCycle for a used slow cooker to use just for this purpose. For those of you who don't know what FreeCycle is, people post items they don't want anymore to see if someone needs one. Conversely if you need something and are frugal (like I am) you simply post a "wanted" ad, which I did. On Sunday morning I met a very nice woman with an old powder blue crock pot to give me. Off I went home to deal with all of those tomatoes.

Upon getting it home and giving it "the big clean" I put all of the ingredients into the pot and set it to work. I suspect that the crock pot was not up to the task because after 4 hours of work it had not started to bubble yet so I transferred the contents to a good old fashioned dutch oven and started cooking away the jam. As I was also making stuffed peppers for dinner, I was buzzing around the kitchen anyway able to keep an eye on it and stir it without it scorching.

The resulting jam was wonderfully thick and sweet-spicy and just as I remembered it from before. Give this recipe a try. If you do try your slow cooker, you may want to set it for an overnight cooking as you'll need to give it a good 10-12 hours on high, with the lid ajar to get it to thicken up and reduce. I will include the recipe below. Here are some photos of the process:

As always, assemble your ingredients
before you start cooking. Mise en  place...

Use any tomatoes you are growing chopped into
1/4-1/2-inch pieces. As you can see, there are some cherry
and grape tomatoes in there as well.
Don't use green tomatoes in this recipe though. 
As you can see I have reduced this to a thick jam.
Taste a bit to adjust the seasoning
Ladle into the sterilized jars leading 1/4 inch headspace.
Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel. 
Put the sterilized lids onto the clean rims and
hand-tighten the bands. Careful.. it's hot!

Put jars into a boiling water bath on a rack with at least
1-inch of water covering the jars
and boil gently for 10 minutes
Cool the jars on a rack and cover with a towel
to keep drafts away. Let them cool for at least
12 hours before storing them in a cool dark place.