Monday, February 13, 2017

Old School

In the summer time I love to hit the outdoor flea markets in search of ancient treasures. I have to admit that over the years I have found some really cool and interesting things. I still regret not buying the victorian olive pitter I saw. When I went back the following weekend the vendor had sold it. Even he regretted letting it go. It was really cool. Vintage pyrex and cut glass servingware are always on my radar, as well as good, old cast iron. I just love that stuff! I must say that over the years I have collected some nice pieces but it seems that they are becoming harder to find....cheaply that is. Sometimes I shake my head when I go to the flea and see the prices that some people are asking. This is a flea market not antiques road show! Oh and that show flea market flip. I laugh so hard! I used to live near the Elephants Trunk and I can tell you those vendors never let their stuff go that cheaply. You know it's all for TV! But back on point. The other thing I always look for are vintage cookbooks. Especially the old church fundraiser types. They are easy to spot because they are usually small booklets. This past summer I scored a whole stack of them for like $3. What a steal. The ones with dates in them range from 1936 to 1949. Now, I will admit some of the recipes were a little strange to me like Pork Cake (whaaat???) and Tuna Fish, Pineapple and Banana Salad. But there are some real winners in there too. Especially, the desserts and muffins. Huckleberry pancakes is on my list of things to try and soon as I find a source for huckleberries. I don't think I have ever seen them for sale here in the northeast. I winder if I could get them a whole foods for $80/lb (haha). If you are really lucky there will be some handwritten favorites written in the back or notes made in the margin identifying favorite recipes or good modifications. Yesterday, I was perusing one of those old books. It was not dated but was published by the Sumner Volunteer Fire Department in Sumner, Maine. The recipe was for something called Coffee Squares. Sounds good right! I had all the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a go. I did make a couple of modifications. The recipe called for margarine (I told you it was a vintage recipe). I opted to use half butter and half crisco. I also added a teaspoon of espresso powder to up the coffee flavor and I added a teaspoon of butter vanilla flavoring since I used crisco. Rather than rewrite the recipe I took a picture of it. The notes in the margin are mine.


The resulting dessert was something between a cake and a brownie and it was delicious. I used slivered almonds for the nuts because that is what I had on hand, but really anything would work. Next time I might try toasted hazelnuts but walnuts or pecans would also go well. I also recommend lining your pan with parchment. I greased mine but it was still tough getting these babies out.


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Taste Of Philly

Philadelphia may be famous for cheese steaks but that is not the only sandwich this city is known for. They also make a serious roast pork sandwich! Personally, I think the Philly style roast pork Italian is far better than ANY cheese steak. There is certainly no shortage of BAD cheese steaks in that city but the pork always is a hit. The 2 most popular locales for the roast Pork Italian are DiNic's in the Reading Market right downtown and Tony Luke's in South Philly. On a recent trip through the Philly Airport I was greeted with a Tony Luke right there in the Terminal. Damned if I didn't get sandwiches on may way out and on my way back! So yesterday, as I was staring in my deep freezer looking for inspiration for something different for dinner, I happened upon a pork roast WAY in the back. The light went on! I was going to recreate those sandwiches I love so much. After a little research, I realized I wouldn't be able to do it exactly the way they do. It takes them 3 days to to it right! They season the pork the first day, slow roast it the second, and serve it the third. For me, it was a 1 day event. As a result, my pork wasn't quite as flavorful (it was still damn good) and it could not be sliced like they do in the sandwich shop. In order for that you need to chill the meat, then slice it, and reheat it in it's juices. SO, my pork was more pulled in texture. Still delicious! Also essentisl for this sandwich are a good, sharp provolone and a GOOD crusty roll. Do NOT use any pre-bagged bread aisle rolls. Go to the bakery and get the good bread. It need to be sturdy enough to hold this sandwich together. I took a 30 minute drive to hit the Italian market for the good bread and cheese. They also have pre made broccoli rabe (rapini) which also made my life a hell of a lot easier. If you don't have access to prepared broccoli rabe and have to make it yourself I highly recommend Lidia Bastianich's recipe. You can find it here.

Philly Style Roast Pork

1 Pork Rib Roast
1 head garlic, separate and peel cloves
2 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs parsley
1 Tbs salt
2 tsp black pepper
4 Tbs olive oil
2 Cups white wine

Pre heat over to 275

Debone and butterfly rib roast, remove fat cap
Add garlic, herbs and olive oil to a food processor and chop until fine.
Rub herb and garlic mixture all over pork roast
Roll and tie pork roast

At this point you can place the roast into the refrigerator overnight to really let the seasoning permeate the meat

OR

Place roast into a baking pan and add white wine, also add the bones and some of the fat that was trimmed away.
Cover tightly with foil and roast for 5-6 hours.

Once roasted, Ideally you should let if cool and refrigerate overnight. This will allow the meat to rest and reabsorb its juices. It will also become sliceable.

OR

Let cool until you are able to handle the meat without burning yourself. Slice into thick pieces, the meat will crumble. Place meat back into pan with juices for a few minutes while you prepare the sandwiches.

Assemble Sandwiches

For the sandwiches, slice open rolls and add a layer of sharp provolone. Add the porck pieces, top with warm broccoli rabe, pour a couple spoonfuls of the pork juices over the sandwich (Do not skip this step). Devour!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's OK to be Blue

It is OK to be Blue.....CHEESE! I never used to like blue cheese but all of a sudden I find I can't get enough of it. Funny how tastes change over time. Whenever the hubs and I go out to eat these days blue cheese is always my salad dressing of choice. I even ask for blue cheese dressing on my Cobb Salad, which (if made correctly) already comes with blue cheese! I can't seem to get enough of it!  I have also always noticed how much better restaurant blue cheese dressing is compared to anything you can buy in the store. Of the store brands, I like Wish Bone blue cheese dressing the best but it still doesn't compare to making it yourself. This way you can really load it with cheese. Here is my recipe for blue cheese dressing. I won't claim it is the BEST ever, but it's pretty darn tasty!

Erika's Blue Cheese Dressing
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Cup Sour Cream
1/3 Cup half and half
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp cayanne pepper
7 oz blue cheese, crumbled. (adjust to your level of cheesiness!)

Mix all indredients except blue cheese until smooth. Stir in blue cheese crumbles.

Yields about 1 qt of dressing

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sausage Memories

When I was in High School, there was a little restaurant down the street from my school that served the best breakfast sausage I have ever had. They were big, thin patties and lots of paprika and pepper in them. They were a little orangish from all the spice. To this day I have yet to find any that rivaled theirs. The place was called Clown Galley and it was creepy as fuck with all the clown paintings and statues and shit but, hands down, best breakfast in town. Just dont go in stoned (ah, high school days). HA HA! The place is long gone and is now a chinese restaurant but I still long for that breakfast sausage. I have been using a spice blend from Penzey's for the past few years and it is good but today I decided to try making my own. Here is my mix:

Basic Breakfast Sausage
 
2 pounds ground pork
1/4 C (loose) brown sugar
1Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp bells poultry seasoning
2 tsp hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground sage

Mix well and fry. I did a quick test by nuking a little bit of the mix. I totally overcooked it but it tasted pretty good. I am sure I will be tweaking this the more I use it but it's nice to have a base recipe to work with!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Sausage, Cheese, and Mushrooms

Hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday. Ours was nice albeit smaller than in years past. Everybody seemed to be broke as hell this year. Let's hope things start looking up this new year. One of the new recipes I tried this year was a sausage stuffed mushroom recipe. As usual, I had way more filling than I could fit in the caps so I came up with this recipe as a means to use up all the leftover filling. I have to say it came our great. Both hubby and I really enjoyed the end product served with rice and leftover Christmas vegetables (I had green beans and he had corn).

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed With Sausage Mushrooms and Cheese
 
 NOTE: The filling recipe was used to stuff 2 packages of mini portabella mushroon caps (Fill caps and bake at 350F for 20 minutes) with the leftover filling sufficient to stuff 2 chicken breasts.

For the Filling
2/3 brick cream cheese
1/2 pound sausage (I used Jone's Brand)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 Cup portabella mushroom stems, chopped
1/4 Cup white wine
2-3 dashes worcestershire sauce
1/4 Cup romano cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp black pepper

Brown sausage in a skillet, breaking into small pieces, until cooked through. Drain and place sausage in a bowl to cool.
Return skillet to stove and saute mushrooms, leeks and garlic over low heat until soft. Add worcestershire sauce
Deglaze with white wine and let wine cook away
When wine has evaporated, transfer vegetables to bowl with sausage and let cool.
Once cooled, stir in cheeses, egg, and black pepper until fully incorporated.

For the Chicken
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
1 rasher of sliced bacon

Butterfly each chicken breast and pound until a uniform 1/4 inch thickness
Spread filling mixture on chicken breasts leaving 1/4 inch allowance along one edge.
Roll chicken breasts towards the edge with the allowance to keep filling from squishing out
Carefully wrap the rolled breast with strips of bacon to keep them from unrolling. Secure with toothpick where needed

Place bacon wrapped chicken breasts on a rack in a roasting pan and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.
When chicken is almost done, turn on broiler and broil until bacon is crisp. Turn bundles over and continue to broil the underside until bacon is crisp. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016

This year started full of hope and anticipation and it is leaving like the bastard motherfucker it turned out to be. I know this year has been a hell of a lot worse for many than it was for us but I still am happy to see it end. It seems this year just threw every curve ball in its arsenal at us and isn't going to stop until the very end. Office closings, new car payments (because BOTH vehicles died), shitty or nonexistent  pay raises, looming surgeries and on and on and on. GAH! I would say 2017 can't possibly be worse, but we all know that isn't true and I don't want to jinx myself. BUT on the plus side, we all survived the holidays. We have a roof over our heads, food in our pantry's and are in relatively good health so we will keep counting those blessings and hope for a prosperous 2017. Oh and check out my epic Christmas cheese plate.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Humble Pie

So, I FINALLY got a service technician out here to look at my oven. Turns out the idiots who installed it didn't do the LP conversion properly. Not only did they do it wrong the first time but they also couldn't figure out they did it wrong when I called them to check it. MORONS! The service tech who came today took all of 5 minutes to figure out the problem. Now I feel bad for screaming at all those telephone operators at LG. Their customer service really is horrible but after a week and a half of jumping through their hoops, my oven appears to be OK. It did take about 2 hours of scrubbing to get the soot off the inside of it. There is still some but I got 95% of it off. I am exhausted now.