thesoupfairy: (Default)
Slow Cooker Beans & Ham

Today I'll be spending my entire day at a local music festival - the longest running human rights festival of its kind, anywhere (25 years). I know when I get home I will be exhausted and sunburned and cranky and hungry. So I decided to do the cooking beforehand. My husband will turn off the slow cooker when he gets home from work, before He comes out to the park.

Of course you can use another variety of bean here if you like... just not kidney beans, of the white or the red variety. They contain phytohemagglutinin, which is toxic, and must be boiled to bring it to a safe level - and your slow cooker just isn't going to boil them sufficiently.

Prep: 5 minutes the night before, 5 minutes in the morning
Cook: 6-8 hours
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry pinto beans

  • 2 pounds boneless smoked (fully cooked) ham (optional) - also good are salt pork, ham hocks, and chopped bacon

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 bouillon cube, whatever flavor you like

  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled but left whole


Directions

The night before, pick over your beans, discarding any stones or dirt clods or weirdly discolored beans. Put beans in a bowl or your slow cooker crock and cover with enough water to keep them covered if they double in volume (they won't, quite).

The next morning, drain your beans and rinse them well. Place in your crock with the ham or other meat, if you're using it. I cut my ham into a few large chunks - when the beans are done and it's falling apart, i'll shred it. If you like nice little cubes of ham in your soup, go ahead and dice it before you put it in.

Add enough water to come to about 1-1/2 to 2 inches below the rim of your crock. Pop in the bouillon cube and stir in the salt. Toss your peeled garlic cloves in.

TIP: Incidentally, here's a little kitchen gadget tip. You can buy a special garlic peeler. It's a silicone tube that you roll on the counter under your palms to loosen and remove the peel from your garlic cloves. They're not expensive, under $10 generally. I saw Graham Kerr using one on his cooking show once and totally wanted one. And I had one for a while, and it was awesome. Unfortunately, in communal/cooperative houses you sometimes lose things, and I lost my garlic peeler. Recently I realized that I had something that would probably work just as well. You know those little rubber jar openers that you get as promotional items? For a while now I've been using one under my cutting board on the countertop to keep it from moving around. But I have a nice 6" square one that works great for peeling garlic! Just put the garlic clove in the center, fold it in half diagonally around the clove, and roll back and forth until skin either comes completely off or is loose enough to easily pick away.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until beans reach desired tenderness. Shred meat if needed. Check and adjust seasonings.


Perfect Fried Potatoes

The perfect fried potatoes are hard! They can come out too mushy, they can come out half-cooked, they can come out burned, or they can come out with all of these in the same pan! What follows is my preferred method.

I really do think these are better made with bacon grease. If you're not saving your bacon grease, you totally should. It's free cooking oil, and it makes everything delicious. :)

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
  • 2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1-2 tablespoons bacon grease

  • 1/2 to 1 pound of potatoes for each person

  • seasonings - at least salt and black pepper, but experiment with garlic powder, steak seasoning blends, cayenne, etc.

  • 1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic per person, coarsely chopped (optional)


Directions

Scrub potatoes. Peel if you like, but if they have fairly thin skins, you can leave them on. Slice potatoes thinly - about 1/4 inch thick slices. You can also dice them or cut them into French fry shapes if you prefer, but do try to keep size and thickness fairly equal so they cook evenly.

Heat oil and bacon fat in large (at least 12" skillet). You want the oil hot enough to sizzle very slightly when you flick a droplet of water onto the skillet, but not hot enough that the water droplet dances all over the skillet, or your potatoes will burn. If you get a serious sizzle, turn the heat down a little bit.

Add potates to skillet in an even layer. Add seasonings. Don't stir - the less you disturb your potatoes while they're cooking, the better chance you'll have of them not falling apart. Cover your skillet partially - some steam in the pan is good, but if you cover completely you'll have soft mushy steamed potatoes instead of crispy fried ones.

After about 5 minutes, add your sliced onion and shopped garlic on top of the potatoes and return the partial cover. In 5 more minutes or so the potatoes will look kind of sweaty. This is when you want to turn the potatoes. Try to shuffle them around as little as possible, while getting the softening ones on top down to the bottom and the browned ones from the bottom up to the top.

If they start to look dry, you can add a tablespoon or so of butter to the top - it will melt down into the potatoes.

After turning, you want to cook about 10 more minutes. You still don't really want to do much stirring, but do keep an eye on your garlic and onions so they don't burn. Garlic is okay to get a little golden brown, but not any browner than that or it will get bitter.

Check doneness and crispness, taste for seasoning, adjust seasoning as needed, and serve. Draining on paper towels is a not-quite-necessary step that some folks prefer to do.


Perfect Cornbread

If you don't want to serve your beans with fried potatoes, or if you just want cornbread too, here's a simple but delicious recipe. You can cook this in something other than a cast iron skillet/pan but it will NOT taste the same, I promise.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15-20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease

  • 1-1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk, or a buttermilk substitute

  • 2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal

  • 1 tablespoon sugar


Directions

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Put the butter in your 10" cast iron skillet and place in the oven when you turn it on. Check it now and then to make sure it doesn't scorch.

Beat eggs with electric mixer or wire whisk until uniformly yellow and slightly frothy. Add oil, bacon grease, and milk. Mix well.

Measure the cornmeal and sugar into the mixing bowl. Do not use your mixer here - you want to stir gently with a wooden spoon or a fork until you get the lumps out and everything is mixed. Over mixing will make your bread tough.

Pull your skillet out and turn it to coat the entire surface with melted butter.

Spoon the batter into the hot skillet. Some of the melted butter will come up over the edges, which is totally fine.

Stick the pan back into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes - check the center of the bread with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.

Let stand a few minutes before cutting and serving.
thesoupfairy: (steak)
Steak!

This basic marinade can be altered by changing the spices and herbs. This is how I made it today. Chuck eye is similar to ribeye, almost as tender and slightly less expensive. Choose bright red meat with nice white marbling. Choose a steak less than 1-1/4 inches thick, especially if broiling, because thicker steaks will not get warm in the middle before the outside is done.

Tamari is real soy sauce - most cheap soy sauce is a sad wheat-based imitation. Go for the real deal if you can.

Prep: 5 minutes
Marinate: 4+ hours
Cook: 6-14 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
  • 4 chuck-eye steaks

  • 1-2 teaspoons steak seasoning blend (today I used Spicy Montreal Steak blend)

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced


Directions

Combine all ingredients but the steaks, stir well, pour over steaks in a shallow dish. Let stand to marinate in the fridge for at least four hours.

Bring steaks to room temperature in marinade (about half an hour on the countertop should do it). This is very important because it gives the inside of the steak a better chance to cook before the outside gets done.

If you've got a grill, by all means fire it up! If you're working with an oven broiler like I am, preheat the broiler.

A broiler pan will let the fat that renders off your steaks have someplace to go - fat is good, for sure, but if your steak sits in it, it will cause the steak to burn. If you don't have a broiler pan, you can use a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet, but you may want to move the steak to a different spot with less fat as you cook it.

So you start off with your steaks on the grill or on a broiler pan about 4 inches from the heat. Cook on first side, turning once the top starts to look done. After turning, you'll cook for about the same length of time as the first side. You can watch the edges of the meat to see how done it's getting: when the edges go from red to pink, the inside is probably moving from rare to medium-rare; when the edges go from pink to brown, the inside is probably moving to medium. Another good way to tell is to test the "fleshiness" of the steak - pinch the muscle between your index finger and thumb. That's what a steak cooked to medium feels like. If you like your steaks rare or medium-rare, you want to stop cooking the steak when it's softer than that. Don't cut into the steak to test doneness unless you absolutely have to - this lets valuable juices escape.

When you think it's done enough, remove the broiler pan from the oven and test for doneness again. When it's done to your liking, it is totally not time to eat it! Let the steak rest for about 5 minutes - until it stops steaming and the juices stop running off - before serving.





Twice-Baked Potatoes

Everybody's favorite. Cook and chop a couple of slices of bacon to add if you like.

Cook: 60-90 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
  • 4 baking potatoes

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick)

  • 1/4 cup milk, half & half, or heavy cream

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

  • salt & pepper to taste

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Directions

Scrub potatoes. Bake for 60-75 minutes in a 375°F oven - check for doneness by squeezing gently. The potato flesh should have a bit of give to it when it's done.

Cut top one-third off potatoes. Scrape potato flesh from cut-off tops into a bowl. Scoop potato flesh out of skins carefully, leaving a 1/4" thick wall so skins stay intact. Heat butter and milk/cream until butter is melted. (This is ALWAYS the key to great mashed potatoes!) Mash potato with remaining ingredients, reserving a bit of cheese to top. Fill potato skins with mashed potatoes and top with reserved cheddar.

Return to oven until browned on top - turn on the broiler if you like to better brown the top.




Tonight's Spinach Salad


Prep: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

  • 4 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves, stems removed if necessary

  • 1/4 of a small red onion, sliced thinly

  • 6 fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly

  • 1/4 cup tamari

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, white, balsamic, rice, whatever you like)

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced thinly


Directions

Rub entire inner surface of serving bowl with cut side of garlic clove. Toss spinach, onion, and mushrooms in bowl. (Thinly sliced red bell pepper is also lovely in this salad, but my local grocery store didn't have any while I was there this week.)

Place tamari, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a jar, cover, and shake well. Toss with salad and top with egg slices.
thesoupfairy: (Default)
The Soup Fairy

October 2012

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