Post #458 To Fry an Egg and Bake Some Bacon

February 29, 2016 at 1:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

We’ve had a lot of illness in the household for the last couple of weeks.  I’m just getting over the flu that laid me low for the entire week last week, hence no blog posts.  Couldn’t even post an explanation.  Once I was on the mend, I had to hit the ground running as I prepped my next book for Kindle, and continued the “real job” routine.  I’d get so tired so quickly and easily that trying to put together a blog post was out of the question.  But recover I did, and with a minimum of fuss.  And now Partner/Spouse has it.  I’m home today on my scheduled day off, and he’s hibernating on the couch trying to recover.

This morning, he muttered in a voice lacking any power, “Oven baked bacon would be good for breakfast.”

“Okay,” I said, getting up from my desk.  “You want eggs with that?”

“Sure,” he whispered from a throat that hurt like rubbing your fingertip across sandpaper.

I grinned because now I got to try a technique for cooking eggs that I’d learned from ATK just days ago.

“Sunny side up, okay?”

He nodded.

With a smile, I turned the oven on and set up the bacon.  This is a trick I’d heard about but finally learned a few months ago when a good friend came for a visit and wanted to fix us breakfast.

We only buy thick cut bacon.  The paper thin sliced bacon tastes like salt and nothing more, to us anyway.  We’ve cooked bacon a bazillion different ways, from the barbeque grill to simmering it in water (I’ll tell you about that little trick in a later post.)  I turned the oven on at 350.  Then I lined a rimmed baking sheet with several layers of aluminum foil.  This doesn’t help the cooking process; it speeds up the cleaning process.

At this point you can either lay the bacon directly on the foil, or you can use a cooling rack placed in the baking sheet to keep the bacon above the fat that renders off in the cooking process.  I’ve done it both ways, and the flavor is the same.  At this point, you can also add things to the bacon.  Lots of people like to put maple syrup on their bacon, or honey.  The flavor cooks into the meat and turns it into something they like.  I don’t.

So I put the bacon into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.  The time really depends on the thickness of the bacon you’re using, and how crispy you want the bacon to be.  I’m still playing with the cook time, and I’ll probably increase it.

Once the bacon was done it was time for the eggs.  I don’t usually get excited about cooking eggs, but this was going to be fun!  I hoped.

The first trick is to use a low heat so the eggs don’t burn.  When I was a kid, my mom made fried eggs all the time, and they always had a ring of brown crispy egg white.  I loved that part when I was a kid.  Not so much any more.  It’s caused by high cooking temps and makes the eggs tough.  I know we’re only talking about eggs here, but a well-cooked egg is a delight.  Really.

I have an electric stove, so I set the burner between 3 and 4.  Then I put a tablespoon of butter into the skillet and let it melt.  You want the butter to be bubbling well.  This is the water trapped in the butter particles evaporating.  But you need to watch because you don’t want the butter to burn.  While that’s happening, I broke two eggs direct from the fridge into two separate bowls.  If you want the eggs to be separate as they cook, use two bowls and put them in the pan separately.  If you want the eggs to cook together, use one bowl and pour them gently into the pan together.

If you allow the eggs to come to room temp, the whites will be runnier and spread more in the pan causing them to cook faster than the yolks.  Cold eggs will stay together be thicker as they cook.  It’s really your choice so experiment.

I cooked the eggs for two minutes then turned the burner off.  Here’s comes the new technique (at least, new to me.)  I put a tight fitting lid on the pan and let the eggs continue to cook on the residual heat for another two minutes.  The steam from the heat will cook the top of the eggs and the yolk.  The timing depends on how you like your yolk.  If you want it runny, two minutes will suffice.  If you want it set but not hard, three to four minutes.  If you like the yolk cooked completely, six minutes or longer.  You’ll need to play with the timing on that part.

When the eggs are done cooking, gently slide them onto the plate and place several pieces of bacon next to them.  Sprinkle very lightly with pepper and even lighter with salt (we use salted butter so sometimes the extra salt isn’t needed.)

And here’s the result:

fried-eggs-1

When I asked how they were, the mumbled reply was “Perfect.”

It’s a good feeling.

Enjoy

 

 

Post # 457 Odds and Ends

February 19, 2016 at 11:50 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 457 Odds and Ends

Today’s post will be a little shorter than normal.  It’s insanely busy around the household today.  I’ll explain in a moment.  But an email from a friend recently started me thinking about Polish and Russian foods.  And that reminded me of a time I spent two weeks in Azerbaijan in the capital city of Baku.

Of course, it was for work, and we spent our days at the office.  Nights we explored the city center which turned into a carnival in the early evening.  The city’s influence is a unique blend of Russian and Asian.  The shops were a mixture of local merchants and global chain stores.  There were trendy restaurants, hidden clubs, dark alleys, grocery stores, wine and liquor stores, and music.  Everywhere you looked there was music.

We were told never to walk alone.  Always in pairs or more.  There were people in the city who would “guide” a solitary tourist into a dark alley or hidden club and rob them blind.  In some cases, you might not ever be heard from again.  But we were all seasoned travelers and never felt threatened or unsafe.  The food was amazing.

The most prominent restaurant was McDonalds.  It had just opened about a year before and was directly across the street from our hotel.  We didn’t eat there a lot, but it made a nice landmark for the cab drivers.  Since they mostly didn’t speak English, we just had to say McDonalds and they took right to our hotel.  But there were others, too.  I don’t remember any of the names, but I do remember one experience.

We were at a restaurant that was recommended by previous travelers.  It was a nice place, serving standard Russian inspired food.  We had ham, potatoes, cabbage, and other things.  Wine for me, vodka for the others.  The entertainment for the evening was a “belly dancer” who was more belly than dancer.  She was dressed exotically and sometimes sang while she danced and wandered around the restaurant engaging the diners in the entertainment.

My back was to the center of the restaurant and at one point I could tell she was nearby because the music was louder.  Everyone at the table was staring over my shoulder and smiling.  I continued eating and talking with the person next to me, only half listening to her.  When the music started fading, I assumed she wandered to another table.

“You did that very well,” one of my coworkers said.

“Did what?”  I was puzzled.

“You acted like you didn’t even know she was there.” he replied while several others nodded in agreement.

“I knew she was there.  I could hear her.”

“But she was trying to get you dance,” someone said.  Another said, “She was singing right to you!”   Laughter started as my expression turned to bewilderment.

“She was?  I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.  I didn’t know she was doing that.”

The table erupted with laughter while I just grinned and shrugged.  “Oh well, I hope she wasn’t offended.”

Another restaurant we went to was a high end place across the square from the hotel where we had the traditional “fine dining” experience.  I had salmon.  Good stuff.  But the place triple charged a coworker’s credit card which resulted in a three-month struggle to resolve.  He finally got it corrected, but only after many phone calls to the restaurant and the credit card company.

One Saturday, we spent the whole day wandering through the historic district looking at antiques and rugs and climbing interminable stairs to the tops of ancient fortress towers to view the Caspian Sea.  That was also the day I saw the Russian Nesting Dolls in the shape of Disney characters.

The hotel left two Ferraro-Rocha chocolates on our pillows every night.

It was a good trip.

**************************************

Okay, the reason for the insanely busy time here in our household is . . . . . . . . .

The book is finally up for preorder on Amazon!!!  Open Amazon and click the drop down list and select Kindle Store.  Then search W J Copeland, and you’ll find Heritage of Humor: Stories from My Kitchens by W J Copeland available for preorder for $1.99.  I added a blurb on the side of the blog to let anyone who notices it know that the book is finally (!) ready.

But I must offer an apology to you all.  When I wrote the Dedication, I did say thank you to all my readers, but in the process of editing, etc. it got lost.  So let me say it here.  Thank you to all my readers.  Without you, the blog and the book wouldn’t be possible.

Enjoy

Post #456 Mushrooms Again?

February 17, 2016 at 10:51 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #456 Mushrooms Again?

I can’t remember the last time I wrote about mushrooms, so here we are again.  Just accept as a given that I like mushrooms.  A lot.  I know there are other people out there who feel the same way because I sell a lot of mushrooms at the store.  So I’m going to throw out some easy recipes for anyone who wants a quick mushroom pick-me-up.

First, the decision between fresh and dried is critical.  Most of the time, fresh is what you want, but there are wonderful uses for dried without having to soak them in water.

One idea we picked up from one of the cooking channels is to put dried mushrooms through a spice grinder and turn them into mushroom powder.  That powder can be added to nearly anything to give it a quick push of umami, that wonderful mouth feel and flavor that makes meaty and savory dishes delicious.  You can also add dried mushrooms to soups, stews, or slow cooked grains like rice to enhance them.  I make mushroom rice occasionally and it’s always good.

But fresh mushrooms are the bomb.  When we go out to a Japanese style steak house, the first course is always a clear soup with a few mushroom slices floating in it.  It’s a very easy soup to make and I recommend it to anyone who wants a quick hot meal.  Heat two cups of beef broth with a pinch of ground ginger and one garlic clove sliced thinly.  When the broth is simmering hot, but NOT boiling, pour it into a bowl.  Add just the tops of green onion.  You can chop them or leave them whole, it’s up to you.  Then take one mushroom and slice it into paper thin slices.  Float those in the broth for a minute so they cook.  Eat hot with a salad and some bread.  Very good stuff.

I sometimes will grill the caps from a huge Portobello mushroom and use it like a hamburger.  The Portobello is basically just the cute button mushroom on steroids.  It’s a firm, meaty beast that’s well able to stand up to the open flame of a grill, and to act just like a hamburger.  I spread a little olive oil on both sides of the mushroom and sprinkle with a little salt before I put on the grill.  Cooking time varies on the size and thickness of the mushroom.  Typically it’s 2-4 minutes per side, but make certain it’s heated throughout.  Then just put it on a bun and dress it out like a burger.  Many high end restaurants are offering this item on their menus now.

Another easy way to use mushrooms is in an omelet.  Slice or chop two or three large mushrooms.  Heat a non-stick skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and sauté the mushrooms until they’re cooked.  Beat two eggs until well mixed and add to the pan.  Sprinkle the eggs with your favorite cheese then cook until the eggs are set.  Move the eggs around the pan in one piece to avoid scorching.  Just before serving, flip one half of the eggs over to form a half moon shape.  Slide onto a plate and sprinkle with a little more cheese.  Eat hot.  With toast.  And bacon.  mmmm.

I make home made pasta and one of the dishes is mushroom filled ravioli.  Take five large mushrooms and chop very small, either by hand or in a food processor.  If you use a food processor, don’t over process.  You want to see the mushrooms.  Mix with basil, and parmesan cheese to taste.  Make the pasta, and using your favorite method, fill the ravioli.  The easiest way to do this is to lay our a sheet of pasta and put a tablespoon of filling on it about two inches apart.  Brush water on the pasta in between the dots of filling and cover with another sheet of pasta.  Use your finger to press the pasta where you brushed with water.  Make certain you get a tight seal.  Then use a sharp implement to cut the ravioli into squares around the filling.  A pizza cutter or a knife is great.  Let the ravioli dry for about an hour, then cook in boiling water for about 6-7 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and place in favorite sauce.  Marinara sauce is great, or alfredo sauce.  Eat hot.

Once, while in China, I went to a restaurant with some friends.  It was a fairly chilly day and I wanted some soup so I asked for mushroom soup.  I got this huge tureen that contained about half a gallon of mushrooms swimming in broth.  There must have been two dozen different kinds of mushrooms in there.  I could identify about six.  Some were bland, some were peppery, some were meaty, some spicy hot, but they all were delicious.  I never thought I could get full from mushrooms, but I walked away from the table with my stomach leading by two feet, and burping quietly.

Another time, in Italy, I had Mushroom Crostini, a simple dish but very good.  They toasted bread sliced on the diagonal on a grill so it had char marks on both sides.  They sautéed sliced mushrooms in olive oil until they were crisp.  They put one small slice of tomato on the bread, topped it with a couple of mushroom, and then mozzarella cheese, then put it under a broiler until the cheese melted and was brown.  It was like a tiny little pizza, so much better!

Enjoy

Post #455 A Fun “New” Diner!

February 15, 2016 at 1:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #455 A Fun “New” Diner!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a local eatery, but yesterday morning we went to one that tickled our funny bones in all the right places and made us decide we were going to go back to it all the time.  It’s a little diner, not more than a dozen tables and a short counter.  It’s got charm out the whazzoo and good food at reasonable prices.  It’s a combo made in paradise.

We collect diners.  We like their homespun charm and style.  When a diner is a “real” diner, it stands alone.  It’s unique in its décor and ambience.  Even though nearly every diner serves the same varied menu, each one does so with a character all its own.  We’ve eaten at places so far away from us that we had to plan the entire day to drive the many miles it takes to get there and back.  We’ve eaten at places that hosted celebrity chefs.  We’ve eaten at places whose décor was centered around a live alligator.  We’ve eaten at places in neighborhoods right around the corner.  They’re all good, and they all stand out for one thing:  personality.

This place was no different.  It’s a hidden jewel.

You see, Rt 50 runs from the top of the peninsula to the bottom and along the way, you’ll find small, out of the way gems if you pay attention.  It’s like a shorter reincarnation of the old Rt 66.  You can find junk shops, antique shops, old-style hardware stores, vegetable stands, farm markets, farm-to-table restaurants, tiny post offices, and tinier libraries.  And diners.  But you have to pay attention to find them.  Sometimes they’re right on the road.  Other times, they’re slightly off the beaten path.

Cindy’s Kitchen is one of those hidden gems, slightly off the beaten track.  In Spring, Summer, and Fall, it’s hard to see because all the plants are in bloom, obscuring line of sight.  In Winter, when all the leaves are down, and everything appears starkly, it stands out like a red beacon.

Cindys 01

It’s only a slight detour from the main road.  There’s a spur of a road.  It’s actually called a spur.  One end is residential and the other end houses a cemetery on one side and a budget car dealership on the other.  In the center of the spur is Cindy’s East Side Kitchen, and what a kitchen it is.  It apparently gets so busy that there’s parking on the opposite side of the small road it sits on.  It even boasts outside seating, although it was far too cold for that yesterday.

Partner/Spouse found it one day when we were driving to another town nearby for something and I was at the wheel.  He likes that because then he has time to look around, and he spotted it.  He’s been wanting to try it ever since.  We didn’t really have any idea how to get to it, but that’s always part of the adventure, right?

We walked in and it was about half full.  It had a heavy door outside, then a screen door inside.  An overhead bell tinkled as we pushed the door open, and I glance around and fell in love.  The soda fountain said Pepsi!  It wasn’t large, no more than 10-12 tables so we grabbed one and made ourselves comfortable.

Cindys 02

Despite its small size, it felt very roomy, not at all cramped like some restaurants I’ve been in.  And it was jam-packed full of knick-knacks.  Throughout our meal, we kept pointing at different ones and laughing.  My favorite I found as we were paying.  It was a small can with a crab on the front.  It sold “Crabby Assholes.”

There were two workers, both female, no idea which one was Cindy.  They were obviously business partners, but did I dare hope they were life partners, too?  Fingers crossed.  One was the sole waitress while the other was the lone cook.  Shortly after sitting down, the one appeared.

“What’ll you men have to drink?”

It’s a small thing, but one I find all over here on the Eastern Shore.  It’s a sense of community.  It’s a reaching out of one person to another with respect.  It’s an endearment that’s wholeheartedly meant honestly.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve been called “dear” “sweetie” “babe” “hon” and “sir” among a million other appellations and they’re all said with a disarming honesty and gentleness.  It’s meant.  They want to be your friend.  It’s small town.  It’s where I grew up.  And it was here in this restaurant in abundance.

We didn’t need a menu because it was all on a board over the counter.  We both went for our standard orders in a new diner.  Two eggs, hash browns/home fries, bacon/sausage, and toast.  I ordered my eggs sunny side up and Partner/Spouse had scrambled.  Home fries were part of the plate, and I had bacon while he had sausage.  We both love the pork products so we switch up and share so we can taste how a particular diner does them.  We can tell who orders locally and who buys from Walmart.

Cindy’s orders locally.  And we know the butcher.

While we waited for our orders to come up, we looked around.  The stuff on the walls was as interesting as our conversation.

Cindys 03

Varied and entertaining, I knew it was designed to keep tourists occupied during the wait.  I still liked it all.  Every inch of wall space was utilized, and even parts of the ceiling.  Amusing doesn’t begin to cover it.

All that went away when the food arrived.

It was basic, plentiful, and drop dead delicious.  To me, the most exquisite thing on the plate were the potatoes.  They were deceptively simple.  Cut to uniform size, and cooked to a perfect creamy deliciousness, but the first sear was done in cracked pepper in the perfect amount so the taters had a crunch from the sear, a bite from the salt, and the extra oomph from the pepper.  I ate every bite on my plate, which to anyone who’s watched me eat would be a surprise.

My eggs were cooked to perfection, too.  I play a little game with sunny side up eggs.  I have ever since I was a kid.  I use my fork to cut around the whites and leave the yolk by itself.  Then I lift the yolk and eat it with one bite.  No yolk on the plate to be wasted, all in my mouth to be savored.  If any yolk is on the plate, I lose.  Today I won.  And the yolk was cooked just right.

These women know what they’re doing.  And do it very well.

So!  If you’re ever in our neck of the woods, and you’re looking for an entertaining dining experience with basic food done elegantly, this is the place.  Just holler at me for directions, or look it up online.

Enjoy

Post #454 I Know What You Had For Dinner Last Night . . .

February 12, 2016 at 11:02 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Okay, I don’t really know what you had for dinner last night.  But I know what I had for dinner last night and it was so good I wanted to share it with you.  It was a pork loin roast, with stuffing and two veg on the side.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  Okay, so maybe not wonderful when put like that, but it was what I did to the pork and to the green beans that made it wonderful.

I’ve had the pork loin roast in the fridge for a couple of days and I wanted to make sure I cooked it yesterday so it wouldn’t spoil.  I have a habit of taking things out of the freezer and changing my mind.  I knew I had a box of Stovetop Stuffing in the pantry so I thought about doing a stuffed pork roast.  My first thought was to cut the roast into very thick chops, put the stuffing in the bottom of a baking dish and put the pork on top.  What happens is the juices from the roast will seep into the stuffing while it’s all cooking and create kind of a stuffing pudding thing.  Only trouble with that is the roast will dry out and leftovers will be terrible.  The stuffing will taste good, but it’ll be fairly soggy.

Then I remembered a recipe where you can butterfly the meat, stuff it with various things, roll it up and tie it, and bake it.  The original recipe used a beef roast but it wouldn’t be too hard to adapt to a pork roast.  But as I reviewed the recipe, I realized that all I was doing was moving the stuffing to the interior.  The roast would still be dry if it wasn’t eaten immediately.

The difficulty is that Partner/Spouse was working way late and I was unsure of arrival time.  I wanted the roast done so all I had to cook were the two veg sides and the stuffing, because by now I’d decided to make the boxed stuffing as a side as written on the box for the sake of timing.  So putting aside the puzzle of the pork roast, I turned to the two veggie sides I wanted to make.  I wanted to make fresh green beans, and frozen corn.  Not together, though.  I like corn okay, but I have to be in the right mood for it.  Green beans I can eat any day, all day.  So the corn was just going to be steamed, tossed with a little butter, and seasoned.  I wanted to sauté the green beans but I’d done that so many times, I wanted something a little different.  So I let that simmer in the back of my brain and turned back to the roast.

I wanted to keep the roast moist which meant not overcooking it.  But if I finished the roast early it would either have to stay in the oven as it cooled which would dry it out, or come out of the oven and be reheated which would dry it out.  I needed something as a barrier to keep the moisture in the roast.  My first thought was searing it, but being such a small roast (just about a pound, not much more than that) searing it would cook it pretty thoroughly.  There was always the tried and true bacon wrap technique which was always a good idea, but bacon wrapped pork roast seemed a bit redundant.

I went back to the stuffed pork idea and looked at the recipes for a few minutes.  They all called for butterfly cutting the roast so it was one uniform thickness when laid flat.  There are many techniques for butterflying any piece of meat, on or off the bone, and I’ve used most of them at some time or another.  The most important thing in the process is to use a very sharp knife.  Dull knives just won’t cut it.  Pun intended.   So with my small roast, I made a cut in the top third of the roast all the way across it to about a half inch from the edge.  Then I made another cut angling down to the bottom third of the roast and cutting back the way I’d come to half an inch from the edge.  Then I laid the whole thing flat and pressed to hold it’s shape.  The idea is to press the filling into the meat and roll it up, tie it, and cook it.

But an idea occurred to me, probably inspired from one of the many cooking shows I’ve watched over the years.  Since I couldn’t keep the moisture in given my particular circumstances, what if I added moisture to the inside during the filling process?  I’d already decided against using a dried bread crumb filling, but what if I simply used herbs and spices?  Rather than go full bore exotic, why not use Partner/Spouse’s favorite, garlic?  At this stage, the meat itself would hold the garlic in place, but it wouldn’t add any moisture to the whole thing.

Garlic!  I remembered a stuffed chicken breast I make once in a while (and wrote about once here in the blog) where I used butter to hold several cloves of minced garlic in place inside a pocket I cut into a chicken breast.

So I spread room temp butter all over the inside of the roast.  It’s always better with butter, right?  Then I sprinkled salt, fresh cracked pepper, and about a quarter cup of powdered garlic (I was out of fresh) over all the butter.  I rolled the roast up tightly which had the added benefit of placing some of the fat cap into the interior of the roast adding more moisture.  Then I looked for kitchen string to tie it up with.  I have some somewhere but couldn’t lay my hands on it immediately so I just rolled it up and laid it seam side down in the baking dish.  I drizzled some olive oil on the top, about a teaspoon, and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.  It went into an 300 degree oven and cooked for an hour and 15 minutes, then I turned the oven off and left it alone.

When Partner/Spouse arrived at around 9pm, I started the corn and stuffing, but still had to think what to do with the green beans.  I figured I’d just add some bacon to the water and cook it all together.  It was down home and tasty.  But I didn’t want it that way.  The got me to thinking about the various ways to cook bacon and I thought about the water bath method.  Light bulb goes off!

I put a half cup water and two tablespoons of butter in a skillet large enough to hold the green beans in a single layer.  I turned the heat on medium and waited for the butter to melt then put the green beans in a single layer.  I simmered until all the water was gone.  I turned the heat off and let them sit.  They browned from residual heat and the butter flavor was evenly distributed throughout.

So we had a garlic stuffed pork roast:

pork roast

with Stovetop Stuffing (very good stuff), steamed corn niblets, and sautéed green beans.

What did you have?

Enjoy

 

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