Beer Batter

Wed, Apr 30 • 0

For shrimp, chicken, fish, even onion rings. For an extra kick, nix the flavorful spices, and mix the eggs with some chipotle peppers in a blender.

2 eggs, beaten
2c flour
2T corn starch
2t baking soda
2t salt
1T flavorful spices — Old Bay, garlic powder … up to you.
2c beer

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs and the beer, pouring the beer against the side of the bowl. Mix thoroughly, and let rest for 30 minutes. Then dip the fish strips (or whatever) in to coat thoroughly. Fry for 2 minutes on each side in hot (350°) oil.


Salmon Fritters

Wed, Apr 30 • 0

If you’re feeling rich and extravagant, replace the canned salmon with fresh chopped salmon, or lump crab meat.

5 green onions, finely chopped
½ sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1t garlic powder
¼c mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
6 oz. flaked salmon (canned or in those foil packages)
1/3rd c corn flake coating or bread crumbs plus extra for coating
pinch of cayenne
juice from ½ a lemon

Mix all of this up in a bowl, and then make 4 balls, about the size of a golfball. Roll them around in more corn flakes/bread crumbs. Just before frying, flatten the balls to make patties. Fry in butter over medium heat, 3-4 minutes on each side.

Update, May 17 : I just made these for lunch today, using some leftover pan-fried salmon from the other night, and thought they were far superior to the packaged salmon I used last time. I didn’t explicitly point it out, but if you use fresh salmon, you might be able to get away with using it raw, if you chop it into small pieces, but even cooked salmon works well with this recipe.


Waldorf Pudding on the Titanic

Mon, Apr 28 • 4

Research turns up two ancient recipes for this Titanic dessert — but which one is the one they served?

You may remember my entry from a few weeks ago where I described all of the food served in the elaborate ten course meal in the first class dining room of the RMS Titanic on the night it sank, April 14, 1912. In it, I was unable to provide the recipe for the dessert named Waldorf Pudding, but I speculated that it didn’t necessarily have to have apples, raisins, or walnuts just because those were signature ingredients in another recipe named after the New York hotel, the Waldorf Salad.

Well, a bit of research turned up a couple of cookbooks dating back to the turn of the 20th century. One is the Calvary Presbyterian Church Ladies Aid Society (of Springfield, Mo.) Cookbook, dated 1903 … A “Mrs. Milligan” submitted a recipe for Waldorf Pudding that clearly contains apples. It is as follows :

A WALDORF PUDDING.
Fill a buttered pudding dish with peeled and sliced apples, alternating layers of stale cake or bread crumbs and allowing two tablespoonfuls of melted butter to each pint of apples. Crumbs should be on top. Set in a moderate oven to bake until the apples are tender. Pour over a cup of milk and two eggs beaten with half a cup of sugar and bake to a pretty brown. Serve with cream. — Mrs. Milligan.

On the other hand, in another cookbook, called Everyday Desserts, by Olive Green, dated 1911, there’s another recipe that has no apples at all:

WALDORF PUDDING
Break up half a pound of stale lady-fingers and cook to a smooth paste with a quart of cream. Add half a cupful of sugar, three tablespoonfuls of butter, a wineglassful of sherry, and a sprinkling of grated nutmeg. Cool, add the well-beaten yolks of four eggs and three tablespoonfuls of almonds blanched and pounded to a paste with lemon-juice. Turn into a baking-dish, sprinkle with sugar, and bake in a quick oven.


Beef Stew

Mon, Apr 28 • 0

It’s a chilly and rainy Monday here, so I decided that even though the weather has recently been unseasonably warm, today would be a good day for beef stew.


I picked up a couple of pounds of bottom round chuck steak, which I cut into chunks and got rid of as much of the fat as I could. I also found a discounted package of boneless beef ribs that I couldn’t pass up. I’m a believer that less is more when it comes to beef stew. I’ve seen recipes that throw in all kinds of aromatics and vegetables, but I like to concentrate on one or two vegetables and a thick gravy to accentuate the beef. So, in the produce department, they’d set aside about a pound of sweet grape tomatoes that were a little past peak for 43c. I also picked up some fresh thyme and a couple of big spanish onions. For my cooking liquid, I knew I had a couple of bottles of Guinness at home, but you could cut a single bottle with some chicken stock if you think Guinness alone would be too much.

So the procedure is like this : Leave the meat out on the counter to get to room temperature. About 4 hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 300° — low and slow. Cut the meat into chunks and dry on paper towels. Salt and pepper generously. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides in a cast iron pan, and move it over to a dutch oven, until all the meat is good and browned. Don’t hurry this procedure. Let everything get a dark mahogany crust. While you’re waiting, prepare your vegetables. In this case, I sliced the onions, and then I tossed them into the frying pan once the last of the meat was browned, with a half a stick of butter, and worked off all the little crusties left behind in the pan. Meanwhile, I emptied two bottles of dark beer plus the whole bag of tomatoes into the dutch oven on top of the meat. I shook a couple tablespoons of flour over the onions … I could have also added some tomato paste, too. Then I transferred that to the dutch oven, too. I wrapped some cooking string around a thick bundle of thyme, plus some smoked paprika, and then put on the lid, and started the pot to boil. You’re wasting your time if you don’t get the liquid good and boiling before transferring it into the oven.

Let it cook for a couple-a-3½ hours. Maybe longer. I took it out about 2 hours in and stirred it. Also, about 20 minutes before I was set to serve it up, I took it out and put in some israeli couscous, to give it some body, but dried pasta would probably do well, too. It turned out really well, and it made a ton of leftovers.


Fajita Seasoning

Sat, Apr 26 • 0

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 package Adobo seasoning

Next time, I think I’ll add a little heat, in the form of cayenne pepper.


Blackberry Pie

Wed, Apr 23 • 6

In honor of the Cooking Monster Pie Contest, here’s the recipe for my favorite pie.

My brother swears by tapioca as a thickener for pie filling, but I use flour because I always have it fresh and handy. I also keep my Crisco in the refrigerator, because I only use it for pie dough, and it’s better to keep it cold for that.

Crust:

2 c flour (10 ounces by weight)
¼ t salt
¼ t sugar
zest of one lemon, chopped fine
1½ sticks of frozen butter, chopped into ½” cubes
1 T Crisco (solid vegetable shortening)
1/3rd cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and the salt in your food processor bowl, and pulse a couple times. Add the butter and the Crisco, and pulse 10 times. Add the water and pulse 10 times more. The dough should be crumbly but will stick together if you squeeze a small handful.

Put it all in a ziplock, and form into a round patty. Put in the fridge for at least half an hour, or longer if you can afford to. (You can use it right away if you must.)

Filling:

6 c. fresh or partially thawed frozen blackberries
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. water

Preheat oven to 400°. Line your pie pan with half of the dough. In large bowl combine blackberries and lemon juice; toss. In another bowl, combine the sugar and flour; sprinkle over blackberries and toss until well coated. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Top with remaining pastry.

Mix the egg and water to make an egg wash, and brush over the dough, and sprinkle with a little extra sugar. Cut a few holes in the dough to vent. Put the whole thing on a lined tray, and bake for 1 hour. Remove it from the oven, and let set for at least 45 minutes.


Soylent Green, 2008

Mon, Apr 21 • 0

In an arguably misguided effort to rid the world of mistreated farm animals raised for human consumption, or maybe just a bid to get more attention, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is offering $1 million to the first person to produce commercially viable artificial meat by 2012. Considering the world’s vehement distaste for genetically modified foodstuffs, I really don’t see PETA as really risking that much. Commercial viability is the sticking point. We’ve already got natural protein alternatives, like tofu and TVP (textured vegetable protein), and though their popularity has increased since they first hit store shelves here in the US in the 1970’s, the market penetration isn’t as much as animal activists would probably hope. And I’ve tried quorn once… never again. Quorn is a meat substitute that derives its protein from fungus, and many say it tastes just like chicken. I sure didn’t think so. As I recall, I didn’t even finish the portion.

Still, if you want to try and earn a million bucks, plus probably a whole lot more, come up with an artificial Chicken McNugget…. (or is that redundant?)


Decoding PLU Numbers

Sun, Apr 20 • 0

Here’s a very interesting bit of information from our friends at Serious Eats about the numbers they put on those little stickers on items from the produce department…

Conventional produce gets a four-digit number.
Organic produce gets a five-digit number that starts with 9.
Genetically modified items also get a five-digit code, but that code starts with 8.

Examples
4139: Conventional Granny Smith apple
94139: Organic Granny Smith
84139: GMO Granny Smith


Pick Your Own Produce VA/MD/DC

Sun, Apr 20 • 0

Last year, I used Google Maps to locate all of the “pick your own produce” farms in the greater Washington DC area. Berries dominate the list (black-, straw-, blue-), but also apples, cherries, and some let you pick your own vegetables, too.

If you’re not a DC local, I encourage you to create your own Google map of these sorts of places near you and link it here!

Google Maps: Pick your own produce VA/MD/DC


In Season Now : Asparagus

Fri, Apr 18 • 0

(This post is the first in a series of posts planned for Cooking Monster, where we’ll take an item that’s in season right now, and help you figure out delicious ways to take advantage of them.)

Asparagus is at its peak in the months of March, April, and May. Whether you prefer thick or thin asparagus stalks, look for specimens with tight, closed buds. White asparagus is exactly the same plant as green asparagus, but they’ve been grown in the dark to prevent photosynthesis, with the farmer either mounding the dirt over the plants as they grow, or by covering them with a box.

The bottoms of the stems tends to be a tough and inedible. You have two options of dealing with this problem. Option one has you taking one stem in your hands and bending it until it snaps, then trim the rest of the stems to that length. Option 2 has you trimming off tough green skin towards the bottom, and then snapping it off further down.

One easy, delicious method of cooking asparagus is to roast it, which will intensify the flavor. Toss trimmed asparagus in a bowl with some olive oil and plenty of salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and roast in a hot oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Or toss them on the cool side of the grill for a smoky flavor.

Another of my favorites is to make an asparagus risotto…


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