Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updates, and confirmation that Jacksonville is the center of the universe.

I spent the day hunting and gathering.  I got my new netbook, upon which I am currently posting.  I went to Sam's, where I was shocked to find they do not carry canned pie filling or cake mixes.  Off to Wally's for extreme shopping.  Cashiers are surprisingly unobservant, though.  If you helped someone ring up around 50 cans of food, along with numerous dry goods, wouldn't you think "This person is either paranoid, or they know somethign I don't...".  I guess just having read Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank makes me think that way.  Anyhow, as I was not at work as planned for the day, I was not there to receive some recipes being delivered by John Howard, Dutch Oven Genius.  When I called him, I found that he was home.   As I was out and about, I offered to come to him.  As he listed the directions, I was needless to say surprised.  He lives a block away from me.  I should mention that I have been trying to get together with him for about 2 months to play Q&A with a great source of knowledge.  One of the challenges was factoring in the travel time adding to the time away from the house and litany of day to day responsibilities.  And he is literally a 5 minute walk door-to-door.   Stunning.  Anyway, I got a great recipe to add to the Saturday repertoire.  Expect many pictures and recipes to follow.  Please feel free to comment on the inanity of my drivel.
Love and iron, Del.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Okay, so here's the situation...

On Feb. 26th, my son's scout pack has their Blue and Gold celebration.  This is where each level receives accolades for achievements and ascends to their next scout rank (Chase becomes a Webelos).  I have been drafted to prepare dtuch oven desserts for about 170.  170.  170.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  No fear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lucky guy.

A customer in the store bought a 17" skillet yesterday. As soon as I saw it in his hands I started talking with him.  I believe by the end of the conversation he feared I was going to get in his car with him.  I love the 17", and someone making that sort of purchase is clearly serious about his cast iron, so I felt kindred.  On the persoanl purchase front, I almost fell.  The fact that I was willing to is failure enough, but I almost bought another piece of cast iron.  It was the lower half of a cast iron cauldron on medium length legs.  My mother in law found it at a clearance center.  I hesitated for a day or two, allowing fate to weigh in.  Probably a good sign that it wasn't right.  I only wanted it for the uniqueness, not the practicality.  When she heard from her mom that I was interested in the item, her text to me was "More cast iron? Really?".  We agreed though that my next piece can be my urn.  Could be inconvenient if I end up getting the wok or hibachi from Lodge...
Love and iron, Del

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fruity sweetness in a pot.

I made black forest cake.  It was at the request of my visiting mother in law (we get along famously).  I was set to copy a previously experienced cherry, but after a brief conversation in which she mentioned loving raspberries, I changed direction.  So I got 2 cans of raspberries in syrup, one can of blackberries in syrup, and a basic chocolate cake mix.  I used the 12" 6QT and lined it with parchment paper.  I dumped the three cans of fruit into the bottom of the pan.  There was considerable panic initially that I already ruined the process.  Unlike pie filling, the fruit is absolutely swimming in watery syrup.  So the bottom of the pot looked like dark fruit soup.  I had a choice at this point of either dumping everything or rolling on.  I chose to perservere.  From this point, I mixed the cake mix according to the directions.  Once prepared, I poured it directly into the center of the dutch, spreading it out from the middle.  It made a nice round circle, but didn't quite reach the edges, leaving about a 2" ring of juice surrounding the mix.  I had no way of telling if it had pushed down in to the fruiy soup or was lying on the top.  From this point, I headed out to the cooking platform on the deck.  Unlike the Lodge cooking directions of 14 on top and 10 on bottom, I used an extra 2 on top.  I had done this before and felt like it gave me the most accurate temperature level.  According to the box directions there are several pan size options, so I went with the 9" pie pan, 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, with the typical lid rotations, I checked and it looked marvelous.  After the toothpick test, though, there were spots that were still moist.  I also prodded the surface a little, and it wavered like the surface of a waterbed.  I added a couple of coals to the bottom and top, and kept it on for another 10-15 minutes.  When I pulled the lid off tis time it had started to get the familiar cracks in the surface, indicating the desired level of doneness.  Pulled and placed in the kitchen, I made a  quick decision to run out and grab some coolwhip as well.  Good idea, because it was literally the icing on the cake.  Dished up warm with the coolwhip, we mowed on it and it was tasty.

This is one of the easier things I've made, with little cleanup.  I reccomend trying it.  Love and iron, Del

Forecast says...

Forecast says in about an hour and a half, I will be making chocolate raspberry or chocolate cherry black forest cake...  Stay tuned, or even comment from time to time!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits. Bacon and 1.5 sticks of butter. Oh Yeah!

So I made tese for a staff meeting last night.  They went over well, and I didn't get to try one, so I decided to make some more to accompany takeout chicken dinner for this evening.  I learned howto make these in a typical-me fashion.  I had just gotten my 17" skillet and was absolutely dying to skillet something.  Anything.  The dogs were starting to look a little edgy when they got near the kitchen if I was there.  So I litereally started scanning google, predominantly YouTube, for "skillet recipes".  I found this segment on YouTube titled "Art Smith's Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits - The Secret Ingredient".  I should mention that I had obligated myself to cooking with some friends that evening.  While preparing to leave work, obsessive as ever, I searched and found Art and his skillet making magic.  It is some restaurant recipe, but who knew, it translates to domestic adventure as well.  So I furiously scribbled notes onto about 6 post-its, scooped them up, and headed for the store on my way to the social endeavour.  I have the notes angled towards cooking on a skillet in the oven.  I am hoping to soon figure the coal ratios to prepare this in a dutch in the back yard.
The recipe is as follows:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp chilled butter
1/4 (at least) cup shredded cheddar (I like mild)
(you can also add 1/4 cup of chopped, cooked bacon at this point if you like, and brother, I like)
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven with skillet inside to 425 degrees. Melt at least 2 tbsp butter into preheated skillet.  Because I use a 17" I use 4 tbsp butter.  I end up with the biscuits, already full of butter, cooking in about 1/4" pool of butter.  But wait... there's more.

Make 1/4 cup or so sized dough drops.  They don't have to be pretty.  The mix is pretty sticky at this point and wants to become a real mess.  I learned after the first batch to spray pam on my hands between each drop (Thans Mrs. Mr. Wizard!).  Mr. Wizard also showed the effective use of butter for this purpose as well.  Love the Wizards. 

Once you have the pan covered, 8-12 biscuits depending on your grasp of proportions, you take, you guessed it, 4 tbsp melted butter and baste the top of the bisquits as well.  That sound, incidentally, was the collective gasp of the Board of the American Heart Association.  They don't have to send flowers, but I will have a buttery happy smile all the way to the grave!

Then throw the pan int o the oven and cook for 14-16 minutes.  You should check in on them near the end of the time.  With the butter, butter, and butter, they will brown.  It is beautiful at first, but can get a bit severe looking if allowed to go just a bit too long.  They magic point is the truest sense of "golden brown".  They will be the color of light straw, with a hint of dark honey across the top, a bit darker on the narrowist of the peaks.

When you pull them out, immediately sprinkle them across the top with another 1/4 (at least) cup shredded cheddar. 

Eat immediately.  Be messy.  Enjoy.  Repeat.  These don't really reheat that well, so I suggest being piggies and eating them all.  Start rubbing jelly or syrup or, I don't know, butter on them.  The second time I shared these socially, someone suggested I was copying some Red Lobster garlic biscuit.  Don't know anything about that.  If I have had them, they weren't memorable enough to even be considered here.  Besides that, if you want RL's biscuits, go to RL.  Otherwise, shut up and eat a biscuit.  Go ahead.  Have another.  Try not to look like you're enjoying it.  And another.  Okay, leave some for me now.  Hey!  Gimme the damn biscuit!  Put... down... the... biscuit...

Love and iron, Del

Monday, February 7, 2011

All Day Ribs

Ryan "Mr. Wizard" did the major cooking for this weekend.  He made all-day ribs on his Big Green Egg, this mighty ceramic grill that looks like something Mork would get excited about flying.  This thing is amazing, and well... so were the ribs.  He did one with bbq and one with a tropical islandy spicy sauce.  They were being spritzed with apple juice every 30 minutes or so.  There were also smoked baked beans with bacon.  And he topped this off with his own "found" recipe for cheddar drop bisquits.  I had only the night before found that I had lost 9 pounds over the previous week.  Oh well.  I am still full.  Mr. Wizard certainly approaches things in a technical manner, so the post-meal wrap up included critiques and explorations of the details of his cooking process.  I think he is already soaking wood chips for the next cookout.

We attended a party Sunday night for that football game (I am so not a sports person), and I got to make some food for that.  I made a chili that was pretty good.  It had turkey, tomato, bacon, corn... tomato.  It is actually kind of a blur.  I ran around the kitchen, rifling through the fridge and pantry looking for salvagable leftovers and spices.  It must have been alright, because my entire 4QT crock pot was emptied by the end of the party (which was punctuated by a vicious Nerf gun battle, but that is another story).  I also made bacon wrapped water chestnuts.  This has little to do with cast iron, but I have made them in one of my skillets, covered, on charcoal, so there you go.  These are always party pleasers. 

1 pound of bacon (I like hickory smoked)
3 cans of whole water chestnuts to a pound
1 bottle of BBQ Sauce (no brand, I used Publix brand Hickory and it was good)
Good toothpicks (important, so they don't splinter, I like "Diamond Elegance Toothpicks")

Take the bacon and cut it in half.  Wrap each 1/2 piece around one water chestnut.  Skewer this combination with a toothpick.  Collect all of the wraps in a bowl.  Once you have finished off skewering all the bacon, empty the bottle of BBQ into the bowl all over everything.  Seal the bowl and roll it around to coat everything thoroughly.  Put this in the fridge and marinate for however long you can.  I usually do this overnight if I can, but even an hour or two will help.  Spread the bacon wraps out on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for 25 minutes.  When you remove from the oven, you should find quite a bit of grease that has cooked off of the bacon.  Use tongs and pick the wraps straight up from the grease to keep from dragging them around.  The grease and bakes BBQ sauce doesn't really add to the flavor, and makes them just a little messier.  They are ready to eat at this point.  If you have a small or medium sized crock pot, this is a nice way to serve them and still keep them warm.  If there are any leftover, they reheat very well, and are a delightful breakfast add-on.  I wouldn't hold out on there being any leftover though...

The party was great, food, friends and fun!  I heard there was a ball game of some sort on as well.
Love and iron, Del

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adventure, thy name is "the I made it up as I went along" recipe...

I was determined to actually cook something outside tonight, as well as post it on the blog.  I have been toying with the chicken potpie for a while, but just didn’t feel up to it.  I called Little Brother Mark (like a brother, but not twins…) for a consult.  We talked chicken, and as he was talking about chicken parts and broths, I blurted out “Yeah, and what about maybe some prime rib or something…?”.  I wrote out the recipe in my head as I spoke with him, and we agreed that it may come out cool.  The general layout was some sort of meat, large-chunked, sautéed in red wine, with green onions and whole pieces of garlic.  Throw in some red potatoes coated in olive oil and wrapped in foil, along with some green beans.  Lay the meat on top of sliced onion to prevent scorching.  The green beans will be from a frozen bag, and will take care of themselves.  And the potatoes will not over soften because of the foil.  Maybe some biscuits on the side.  Sounds like a plan.  I should mention that this was on the phone in the parking lot of WD, with my son patiently waiting our trip inside.  He was stoked to be helping me, and I was glad to have his interest.  For this dinner, I used my 12”-6QT, and my 8”-2QT.

I got 1.68lbs of boneless rib eye, a clove of garlic, one onion, two large red potatoes, green onions, a bag of frozen name brand green beans, and a tube of 5 golden layers buttermilk biscuits.  The meat was cut into pieces and put in a bowl with the chopped green onions, and several whole pieces of garlic.  The potatoes were cut, coated with olive oil and garlic-herb seasoning, and wrapped tightly in foil.

The meat and stuff was sautéed in the wine, about a half cup was fine.  I forgot to trust the meat to grease itself when cooking (I wanted to sear it a little before adding the wine) so I smeared a little reserved bacon grease on the pot’s cooking surface before starting.  This was entirely unnecessary.  I laid a bunch of coals on the cooking platform and make the pot into a skillet.  The meat browned up and smelled great.  When it was ready, I used a skimmer and pulled everything out of the pot and drained the wine and grease out.  I then poured the beans in on one side and the meat mix in on the other.  I laid the foil on top of everything, sort of across the middle.  Then new coals for the dinner pot to cook with.  I used my typical 350 degree mix of 10 coals on bottom and 16 on top (I find that 14 doesn’t quite give me the top heat I need).  This was cooked for 25-30 minutes.

I then used the coals I’d used previously to set up the biscuits.  The tube directions called for 400 degrees, which on an 8” was 12/6, or 12 top and 6 bottom.  I hadn’t used this pot before, so it seemed reasonable.  I found near the end that I needed about 3 or 4 more on top to keep it within the prescribed cooking time.  As you can see, they turned out quite nicely any way.

The prep time was nothing, cook time was 10 minutes of skilleting, and 30 minutes of lid turning and monitoring.  I used Shiraz for the red wine.  I don’t know if there is a particular type of red for cooking, but I like Shiraz, so…  phhhhbbllltttt!!!  And if you are ever using a wine for sautéing, use real wine, not sherry.  If you wouldn’t drink it, why the hell would you cook with it?  Aside from that, I think the potatoes would have been fine laying in the same place outside of the foil.  The meat came out tender, but didn’t have as much of the garlic taste as I would have liked.  The garlic pieces were quite tasty, though, roasted and soft, not overpowering to eat by themselves.

Family was happy with dinner, I have leftovers for tomorrow, and my little made-up recipe will be labeled by me as a successful adventure!  Love and iron, Del