Monday, July 6, 2015

Cola-Q Convection Ribs

I've already lost 2 of the 3 pounds I gained and yeah, I'm annoyed.  Yesterday was such an awful day for eating, I wanted to scream but my throat was raw. And the frakking medication is NOT working.  NOT WORKING.  Which means I am always in a bad mood, except when I'm in an okay mood, except when I'm having a frakking panic attack. 

The good news is that those St. Louis-style ribs are all cooked and ready to eat; the bad news is that I can't eat them, now not, not ever.  However, that should not stop you from trying the recipe, enjoying the dish, and spreading the love.

You know how when you watch Guy Fieri visit all those different diners, drive-ins, and dives, the folks who are eating there always explain their love of the food with the phrase "it tastes like home"? Well, these ribs taste like home, or they would if I used my mother's homemade maple barbecue sauce.  Still, oven-roasted ribs with any sauce remind me of growing up and eating real good.  I've also smoked ribs, and those are awesome, but I love these the best.

Another thing that is different from my parent's home is my spiffy convection oven.  I must admit the ribs came out even better.  Epic success.  If I wasn't so frakking miserable I'd be happy.

Smear some of the honey mustard on both sides of each rack

Now, if you have the knife skills, I recommend you remove the membrane that runs across the back of the ribs.  You want to use a really sharp boning knife to start to separate the membrane from the bones, and then use a paper towel to grab the membrane and start pulling.  Repeat until you remove most, if not all, of the membrane.

Sprinkle the back sides with some light brown sugar

Cola-Q Convection Ribs

2 racks St. Louis-style pork spareribs (each rack has around 12 ribs)
1 bottle Ken's Steakhouse Honey Mustard
light brown sugar
Steven Raichlen's Basic BBQ Spice Rub or another spice blend, commercial or homemade
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Cola-Q BBQ sauce

After the brown sugar, generously sprinkle on the spice rub

I use a very large aluminum pan, the type you use for holding hot water in a chafing dish set-up.  Both racks of ribs will fit with the outsides tilted upward.  Once the backs have been sprinkled with sugar and spice rub, turn the racks meat side up and repeat the brown sugar and spice rub.

Preheat a convection oven on 350 degrees (I set 350, and the oven sets itself for 325 degrees).  Roast for one hour, turning the pan front to back halfway through.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 (oven will set itself for 275).  Apply the barbecue sauce lavishly all over the top of the ribs, then cover the pan with aluminum foil and return to the oven for another hour. Cook a little longer or until the meat is very tender.

To finish the ribs, brush on any barbecue sauce left in the bottle and place uncovered in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.  To serve, cut the racks into two-rib pieces.

Maple Barbecue Sauce

2/3 cup Log Cabin Original maple flavored syrup
3 to 4 tablespoons Heinz ketchup
2 tablespoons French's yellow mustard
2 scant tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a few drops Tabasco sauce, optional
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients into a screw top container.  Shake well to combine.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before using.  Always shake the container before using the sauce.

Don't bother trying this with real maple syrup, it doesn't work.  It's got to be the maple flavored syrup and it's got to be Log Cabin.  Also, don't put this in a blender nor use beaters or a whisk to combine.  That will cause the mixture to emulsify, which will turn your nice pourable barbecue sauce into edible sludge.

Steven Raichlen's Basic BBQ Spice Rub

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
3 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. (Actually, your hands work better for mixing than a spoon or whisk does. Use your fingers to break up any lump of brown sugar.) Store the rub in an airtight jar away from heat or light; it will keep for at least 6 months.

My version of the Sixteen Spice Blend, plus a link to the original recipe from Bobby Flay is here.

Thunder and lightening, very very frightening me ...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Proud to be an American - Smoky Sausage and Peppers in Alfredo Sauce - BOGO Ribs

Happy Independence Day!  At the risk of being accused of jingoism, I just want to say that I am forever grateful that I was born in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world.

God bless America, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. No matter where I have traveled, and the wonders I have seen, I am always glad to come home, sometimes deeply relieved.  Like after I spent some time in the Munich airport waiting to change planes.  You really don't want to be a Jew in Munich. (Of course, you also don't want to be a Jew driving through Mississippi).

Time to move on to reruns of "BBQ Pitmasters" and some cooking.

Chile rellenos, like tamales, are a major pain in the culo to prepare at home.  I now understand why Mexican restaurants do not keep these regularly on their menus, or run out before the lunch time rush begins. So it is no surprise that these are two of my favorite things to order on those rare occasions we eat out.

Four poblano peppers, unstuffed, waiting, waiting ...

I don't know why chile rellenos are so damn labor intensive. They are stuffed peppers, for heaven's sake, and I've been whipping up stuffed peppers since 1971. But there are extra steps, and recipes-within-recipes, so that by the time you are done you are ready for a quick trip to Taco Bell, for an unauthentic Mexican hot pocket whose one virtue is that you can hold your entire breakfast in one hand, while texting or driving or making obscene gestures with the other.

Counter Cat

I could take another route - there are chile rellenos casserole recipes out there that even bypass the use of fresh chiles - but I would like to get as close to real as possible.  I have an idea.  Several ideas.

Greek oregano, flat leaf parsley, and sweet basil, from my garden

So we did our shopping today, and Publix did not fail to please.  Except I forgot to pick up the egg roll wrappers and the buttermilk for the fried pickles, but I have so many projects on my table that those can wait a day or two until I can make another run to Publix.

How could I pass up a BOGO on St. Louis ribs?

After all my talk about chile rellenos, it turns out that today is going to be about St. Louis-style spare ribs and smoky sausage and peppers in Alfredo sauce.  Two recipes for the price of one!  Happy Fourth of July!

Good things from the garden

These green bell peppers were a gift from my next door neighbor, who also has a yard garden which is much better established than mine.  I love the idea of folks who have business with the court having to pass our urban gardens. I was never the type of lawyer who wore suits or high heels, and Kissimmee has never been the kind of venue that supports attorney egos. Or judicial egos, but that's another blog post. I like to think our little Victory Gardens bring people down to earth.  I decided to make a variation on sausage and pepper, and filled a small baking dish to share with my neighbor, my way of saying "thank you".

So here's where we start; I had two packages of Guy Fieri sausages in the freezer.  I like Guy Fieri and I like the sausages. I really like Andrew Zimmern, but he has no sausages named after him.

Smoky Sausage and Peppers Alfredo

2-12 oz. packages Guy Fieri sausages, cut on the diagonal
2 tablespoons garlic flavored extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced thin
4-6 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
3 medium bell peppers, cut into strips (I mix the colors)
1 tablespoon garlic flavored extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
kosher salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic, Raging River Five Pepper Blend (all to taste)
2-15 oz. jars good quality Alfredo sauce with roasted garlic (I used Publix Premium)
1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large deep skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the sliced sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes.  Remove the sausage from the skillet, using a slotted spoon, and set it aside.  Let the skillet cool; pour off the excess fat, and then use paper towels to wipe out the pan.

Put the pan back on the stove, and add the 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter.  When they are hot and melted, add the onions, garlic, and bell peppers.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Continue to cook until any extra liquid from the vegetables is mostly gone and the vegetables are tender.  Add the basil, oregano, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and Raging River.  Cook for a few more minutes, and lower the heat.  Now add both jars of the Alfredo sauce and simmer for a few minutes, then add the cooked sausage and stir it into the sauce.  Add the Parmesan. If the sauce becomes too thick, stir in up to 1/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk. Garnish with parsley before serving with noodles, pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.

This is a wonderful alternative to tomato-based sauces, which neither Rob or I can eat later in the day, and Cory doesn't really care for.  Also, the Guy Fieri sausages are all smoked, and I just thought the flavor would be clearer in a white sauce.  This is really delicious, and I can't wait to present it to my neighbor.

Now, about those pork ribs - St. Louis is my favorite cut to cook and to eat.  When I walked into Publix I had no intention of looking for ribs, but there they were in the "buy one, get one" case.  Great googly moogly, that's a beautiful rack of nicely butchered ribs for free.  Free is good, folks, especially when the quality is excellent and the product is something my family loves almost beyond reason.

My grandmother made the best spareribs in the world.  The goodness relied on her sauce, and getting that recipe from her was harder than getting a nuclear non-proliferation agreement from Iran. It wasn't that she didn't want to give me the recipe; she just didn't know how to convey the information. It took years for me to work it out, and I'm quite pleased with it.

By the way, I did not use her sauce when I prepared the ribs.  Sorry for the build-up, but I headed in another direction, which I will share with you ... tomorrow.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Search of ... What Did I Say?

Before the Dark Times ... Before the Empire.

When is meatloaf not a meatloaf?  When it is an eggplant, of course.

This isn't as strange a question as you might think.  At least not to me.  You see, this is how my brain works these days, badly.  I continue to have problems finding words, and that is very scary.  There was a time I was sharp as a tack when it came to thinking on my feet.  I could spit back statutory cites and big chunks of case law without breaking a sweat; today, all I can do is spit at the bench (and that's all I'm going to say about that, at least for now.)

But what triggered my upset was food, of all things.  Cory had come in after work and a visit to the pool hall, and as usual, he made a plate for himself from the various prepared dishes in the refrigerators.  He stopped in to chat with his dad and me, and I saw that he had a piece of meatloaf on his plate.  What I wanted to ask him was "have you had the meatloaf yet?" but what I said was "have you had the eggplant?"

I looked right at the plate, directly at the meatloaf, and then went on to identify it as eggplant.  I was crushed. And scared; is this part of the forgetfulness and mental confusion that goes with the whole chronic pain gig?  Or is it something far worse?  Stay tuned; this is all new territory for me as well.

Today has been a full and busy day, which means no cooking occurred.  Still, I spent quite a bit of time researching recipes on the net and in my personal cookbook library.  I shopped, defrosted, and pulled apart my pantry and freezer looking for inspiration.  Part of that was sparked by my neighbor, who presented me with green bell peppers from his garden.  Such a sweet gesture, and it made me want to use those peppers for a tasty dish that both of our families could enjoy.

So I've been noodling a recipe for sausage and peppers and maybe sundried tomatoes and herbs and possibly olives in Alfredo sauce, as well as wanting to (finally) finish the chile rellenos with those 3 poblano peppers in my vegetable drawer, and work on egg rolls and dipping sauce.  Check in with me tomorrow, I may have something tasty to report.

The best surprise of the day was a visit from Terry, my friend and former paralegal, who I introduced to James and Linda as "the head on my shoulders, my right hand, and my left hand."  The day our supervisor separated us while rearranging all of the attorney-paralegal assignments was the same day I lost Bethe.  To me, it felt like I had suffered two deaths in the same day, and I have never recovered.  I like my supervisor, as she has been a friend, very kind and accommodating, but I have told her that this is one thing I cannot forgive.

You know the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?"  Who knows where I would be now if our team had been left intact?  Who knows?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Dip It, Dip It Good - Awesome Sauce Sauce

Completing tasks is a brutally difficult thing when you've got what I have.  Nonetheless I have to push myself to do what I have to do. Today that was blood tests (sure, let me bleed a little more) and a new set of nails.

Listen, I cut my own hair and groom the dogs myself, and clean the house - okay that last is a slight exaggeration - but I simply do not know how to do my own nails.  I have to have acrylic nails applied because my own nails break easily and after 45 years biting my nails, it bothers me to have ugly fingertips.  Having long nails, I admit, is my one vanity, the longer the better.

So I sat while Tammy fixed my nails - and they seriously needed fixing, after working in the garden they were breaking bad - I had the spooky feeling I was anywhere but the United States. No one was speaking English.  And no one was speaking Spanish, even though I was in a mostly Latino neighborhood.  Vietnamese and Russian.  God bless America.

Window Cat

I love fried food.  It has always been a guilty pleasure, something we did not have at home when I was growing up.  It wasn't until I left to go to college that I was able to indulge in fast food.  I know where my "Freshman 20" came from, and it wasn't Hasbrouck Dining Hall, but a certain fast food restaurant in the same parking lot as the Stewart's, where my roommate Kathy worked. (We were freshman then, she's a grandma now.)

I also know where it ended up - on my rear end, where it stayed until 2003.  

I don't fry at home all that often, although I fry a lot more often than did my grandma. I have no compunctions about frying breaded eggplant slices, or making fried green tomatoes, or fried pickles, or going whole hog (in a matter of speaking) and making my Brooklyn Fried Chicken, or even Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy.  Yeah, that'll kill you.

But what makes fried food even better - if such a thing can be imagined - is dipping it into a mayonnaise-based sauce (because your arteries aren't clogged enough).  Oh, those crazy Belgians!

Truthfully, when it comes to French fries, I still prefer Heinz ketchup, and a lot of black pepper.  If it happens that those French fries came from Nathan's, so much the better.  My favorite fried food is probably onion rings, followed by fried shrimp, but thats another blog post.  A well-made blooming onion is a beautiful thing, but even a pedestrian onion ring from Burger King can make me smile.

Onion rings CAN be dipped into ketchup, but SHOULD be dipped into a mayonnaise-based sauce. THIS mayonnaise-based sauce.  This tastes like the sauce you are given when you order a blooming onion, ONLY BETTER.  This is my recipe, based on several copycat recipes I saw online, which I combined and tweaked and adjusted and re-seasoned.  You definitely have to make this ahead of time and then let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours or preferably overnight. Then start dipping those fried onions.  And fried pickles and fried green tomatoes.

You're welcome.  Anything for a steady customer.

Awesome Sauce Sauce

1/2 cup Hellman's Real Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Heinz chili sauce
2 tablespoons Kraft creamy horseradish sauce 
1/2 teaspoon Gold's prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic 
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients, and mix with a rubber spatula.  Refrigerate and then taste and re-season if necessary.  You can adjust the heat by adding more cayenne pepper.  

And now, I want to make my own egg rolls and duck sauce.  I've already pulled a bunch of recipes to study.  Still have to prepare the chile rellenos.  Thinking about fried pickles, the way they used to make them at Uncle Bubba's, using the spears rather than the slices.

Keeping busy.  Eating well.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Maduros, Because Tostones Are A Pain in The Culo

Oh what a beautiful morning ... Not.

Worst morning I've had in a long time.  Usually the pain and  ennui wait until I've made my first cup of coffee, but this morning it was an immediate kick in the back followed by a small but well-defined anxiety attack.  It took me over an hour to get out of bed.  Hell, I've got a 3:00 PM appointment in Orlando, and I'm afraid I won't make it in time.

Oh happy day ... Not.  I'm not going to lie, I hurt like hell.

Today I want to prepare maduros, a Latino dish based on yellow plantains.  As you may know, a plantain looks like a banana but it is not a banana.  Last time I prepared these was 2011, and I just remember thinking they could have been better.  Turns out the plaintains were nowhere near as ripe as they should have been. I had the same problem with tostones, but that's another blog post.

Yellow plantains - faking ripe

Yellow plantains - perfectly ripe

Perfect plantain for making maduros

2 very ripe yellow plantains, (skin should be almost totally black) peeled and sliced on the bias
1/2 tablespoon of my seasoning blend (see below)
1/2 tablespoon of Paula Deen's Southern Spice Rub (see below)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons butter
orange blossom honey

canola oil
1 medium jalapeño, seeds removed, sliced into thin rings
1 green onion, sliced diagonally
small amount all-purpose flour

Toss the plantains with the seasonings and the sugar, and let sit a few minutes while you melt the butter over medium high heat. Carefully add the plantains to the pan and cook until they are browned on all sides. Remove to a baking dish and drizzle with honey. Put the skillet off to the side for further use.

Prepare the crispy garnish:
To the skillet in which the maduros were cooked, add enough canola oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil on medium high.  Toss the jalapeno and green onion slices in a littlle flour.  Fry in the hot canola oil until crispy. Remove to drain on a paper towel.  Scatter over the maduros just before serving.

Clyde Street Jalapeño 

My seasoning blend:
4 T kosher salt
1 T coarse black pepper
1 T granulated garlic
1 T onion powder
1/2 T white pepper (I like pepper, okay?)

Fried Promises

Paula Deen's Southern Spice Rub
2 T. ground cumin 
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground coriander 
1 T. kosher salt 
2 t. ground pepper
1/2 t. ground cinnamon 
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

C'est Fini!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Ain't Gonna Live Forever - Crab Fried Rice

I realize you may be tired of hearing me crab, but it's my life ...

It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life
Yep, it's my life and it hurts most of the time.  I got a card from the office peeps, and while they all professed to miss me, it seems what they really miss is my cooking. I guess that's an okay reason to be missed.  Actually, some missed "my smile, my funny stories, and my kind and funny spirit."  It was a lovely card and I really do appreciate it.

This morning the media advised that for the first time since May 2013, the President had a 50% approval rating.  I count myself among the 47% who disapprove of the way the President handles damn near everything. I should tell you that the last time I approved of any president was August 16, 1998, the day before Bill Clinton admitted to inappropriate behavior with Monica Lewinsky.  

Hillary got over it and so did I.  It was none of my business anyway.  Which is why I loathe Ken Starr, a disgusting little prick who obsessed over personal matters that should have remained outside his purview.  I had an opportunity to shake hands with the little prick back in 2003, at the Supreme Court, of all places, and I literally backed away and turned my back on him. At which time I snagged a photo with one of my idols (yes, you have seen it before, but I love it).

The Florida Fat Lady, the Notorious R.B.G., and the Karate Kid

I was able to cook today (happy dance) and after a trip to the Chinese take-out, I was able to eat dinner.  Breakfast and lunch, not so much. Eating remains a huge problem - ironic when you look at the photo.  With all the tests and procedures and anguish I've gone through over the last 4 months, the medical profession has no frakking answer to my problem.  I thought after I took the new medication for a couple of weeks I was experiencing an increase in appetite and ability to retain food, and I actually gained 2 pounds.  Didn't last, damn it.

What I wanted from the Chinese take-out was egg drop soup, no wontons.  Bonus was an order of shrimp toast.  No fried rice, because, well that's what I cooked.  Unfortunately I can't eat the fried rice (or almost anything I cook), as most solid foods get stuck and cause me real pain.

The idea for the crab fried rice came from a meal we enjoyed at Bonefish Grill several weeks ago.  Robert ordered their crab fried rice as a side dish, which I tasted. We both agreed the fried rice was awesome, and I resolved to recreate it at home.  I researched the actual recipe online, which gave me a general idea of what was in there.  Then I went through my collection of fried rice recipes (not kidding) and put together two recipes, and here it is:

Crab Fried Rice

1 large container leftover white rice (from Chinese takeout; chill in refrigerator overnight)3 tablespoons canola oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 very large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1 egg, whisked 
6 - 8 oz. lump crabmeat
1/3 cup each color (red, yellow, green) bell peppers, chopped
2/3 cup frozen peas and carrots (carrots are cut square)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a nonstick wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the beaten egg and spread thinly across the bottom and up the sides.  Cook for a minute until the egg is set.  Remove the cooked egg to a cutting board or plate, and use kitchen scissors to cut it into small pieces.

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok.  Add the scallions, garlic, bell peppers, peas and carrots.  Stir fry for about 2 minutes until the scallion and garlic are aromatic, and the peas and carrots are mostly defrosted.  

The rice should be at room temperature.  I put the rice in a 1 gallon plastic storage bag before refrigerating it, and I use my hands to break up any clumps.  Pour the rice into the wok, and stir fry for a minute.  Add the dark soy sauce and the sesame oil, and stir fry constantly until the rice starts to take on color.  Finally add the crab meat and the cooked egg and stir fry just to let the crab warm through.

This fried rice is delicious without the crab meat.  Next time I make Chinese roast pork, I am going to  save some to throw into this rice.  Or substitute shrimp or chicken or snow crab meat.  I was also thinking of adding 1/3 cup frozen corn kernels.  Variations are endless.