Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cajun Meatloaf

O.K.  I call this "My Meatloaf" but in fact it's Chef Pruhomme's Cajun Meatloaf.  Seriously, this is the best meatloaf you will ever have!  Don't get me wrong, I love my mom's, but I usually drenched it in ketchup.  This recipe has so much flavor that I have to make two loafs whenever I make it.  One for the dinner and another just for sandwiches.  It is simply the BEST!

Ground meat and ground pork, ketchup, breadcrumbs, white pepper, black pepper, evaporated milk, tabasco, salt, worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, cumin, green bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, garlic, celery, scallions, butter and eggs.
Combine all three peppers, salt, nutmeg, cumin and bay leaves.  Set aside.
Finely chop the onion.
And the celery,
and the bell pepper,
and the scallions.
Finely mince the garlic.
Melt the butter in a skillet (I'd go for unsalted butter).
Saute the chopped veggies until softened but not browned.
Add the seasoning mix.
Measure out the milk
and the ketchup.
Add the milk and ketchup to the pan along with the tabasco sauce.  Simmer until it starts to evaporate.
When the mixture starts to stick excessively to the pan, remove it from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, mix the meats together
With the eggs
and the breadcrumbs.
Add the cooled seasoned veggie mixture.
Mix it all up.  I find using my hands works the best.  Just do yourself a huge favor and remove your rings.  I always forget to do that and end up using a toothbrush to dig the meat out of the prongs.  Very unpleasant.
I like to line my meatloaf pans with foil.  One strip going each direction.  It makes it so easy to remove the cooked loaf that way.
Like I said above, I always make two loaves.  One has all the cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce in it.  The other is without the heat for the kids.  On this day, I marked them with different cuts of bacon.  Sometimes I write "Hot" with ketchup on the one that's spicy and then cook it.  I really liked the bacon version, though.  This is the first time I ever added that to it.
Voila!   The finished product after an hour in the oven. You bake it uncovered at 350° for 25 minutes, then raise heat to 400° and continue to cook until done, about 35 minutes longer.  A word of warning, though:  The bacon did make it a bit greasier than it usually is, though.
This meatloaf takes about 1-1/2 hours total.  It makes a great Sunday dinner and then you have sandwiches for the week.  Another time saver?  Make the meatloaf (without cooking it) and freeze it.  Then whenever you need a relatively easy dinner, thaw it out and cook for about 1 hour according to the times and temps listed above.

Meatloaf - a mom's weapon in her arsenal of time-saver meals!

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gordon Ramsay's Crab Spring Rolls

I don't know about you, but I love to eat appetizers for dinner.  Even at restaurants, many times I love their starters better than their entrees.  Check out the Wild Buffalo Rolls at Moosehead Hoof and Ladder in Olmsted Falls.  They are my favorite dinner there.  So, in that same vein, here's an appetizer for dinner.

Spring roll wrappers, salt and pepper, peanut oil, lump crab meat, dijon mustard, lime, scallions, mayonnaise, thai red chili sauce and cilantro.
Pick through the crab meat and check for shell pieces.
Chop up the scallions
Combine the crab meat with the mustard (I used a whole grain country mustard), the scallions, mayonnaise and cilantro.
Squeeze in the lime juice.
Mix it all up until well combined.
Take the spring roll wrappers out and gently moisten with water.
Place a bit of the crab meat mixture onto the wrapper.
Wrap up, trying to keep it as straight and evenly spread as possible.
Fold the wrapper in a sort of envelope fashion.  You need to work rather quickly as possible since the wrapper will get very sticky and it will dry out making it difficult to wrap evenly.
Do a final roll, evening out the mixture inside.
Heat up the peanut oil and place the rolls into the hot oil.  You can check to see if the oil is just right by placing a drop of water on the oil.  If it merely fizzles and sputters a bit, wait until the oil is hotter.  If the single drop bounces and pops, then it's ready.  If you have enough oil, make it deep enough to submerge the rolls, otherwise, turn the rolls to make sure all sides brown evenly.
The rolls didn't really like to brown for me.  I risked burning them trying to get them golden.
Interestingly, the picture of Ramsay's spring rolls looked like they were wrapped in wonton wrappers.  I suppose it's possible that there are different kinds of spring roll wrappers.  His look crispy and golden and delicious.  Mine?  O.K.  The filling was good, but the unevenly crisped wrappers were a distraction.  The chili sauce was a yummy dip.  I won't make them again, but they weren't bad for a one time treat.

I'd say it took about 40 to45  minutes.  I wasn't very adept at the rolling and I think it took too long to cook them in the oil.  If they could have been submerged in the oil, that would have shaved off a bit of time.  I think these would have been good as a side dish to a soup like a wonton soup or a hot and sour soup.  Give it a try and let me know.

"Crab Spring Rolls -- Done."

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gordon Ramsay's Lemon Sticky Chicken, Champ, and Banana Splits

Sunday dinners are a great time to experiment with different recipes.  The days are less hectic.  You still have some energy because you weren't at work all day where your vital essence was sapped.  You can eat dinner in the middle of the afternoon, or late at night.  I, in case, you didn't notice, love Sunday dinner.  Ramsay proposes the following meal for a Sunday dinner.  I agree, it's too much for a weeknight dinner.

Fryer chicken cut into pieces, lemon, garlic, lite soy sauce, salt, pepper, honey, olive oil, parsley, thyme, sherry vinegar and while the original recipe called for candied whole lemons, I used lemon marmalade.
 Salt and pepper the chicken.
 Heat the olive oil.
 Add the chicken.  Try not to crowd your pan (like I did).
 Halve your garlic (with skin still on to try to hold it all together).
Add the thyme sprigs and garlic halves to the pan (pick out any stray garlic papers that come loose -- you might have to do this a couple of times during the cooking process - and even when you sit down to eat - this was an unfortunate part of the meal).
 Cut your lemon as thinly as possible.  Use a mandolin for the best results.  Pick out the seeds. Set the slices aside for later.  (Interestingly, other photos I've seen of this dish show the lemons sliced on the thick side.)
 Cook the chicken until browned on all sides.
 Add the sherry vinegar.
 Add the soy sauce.
 Add in the marmalade (optional).
 Drizzle with honey and stir it all up (trying, of course, to keep everything from falling out of the pan).
Bring to a simmer, turning the chicken occasionally.
 Add some hot water to the pan.
Add the slices of lemon and let simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

In the meantime (I mean, cooked simultaneously), prepare the Champ (fancy mashed potatoes).
 Potatoes, heavy cream, milk, butter, chives (recipe called for scallions, but I misread it), salt and pepper.
 Peel the potatoes (I actually prefer to leave the peels on, but my kids won't eat it that way).
 Slice and dice (remember, the smaller you cut the potatoes, the faster they will cook).
 Boil until tender.

 Mash, mash, mash.
 The kids loved to do this part.
 Add the butter.
 Add the chives (or onions if you actually know how to read).
 Add in the cream and milk.
Season liberally with salt and pepper. And stir until smooth and creamy.
 By this time, the chicken should be ready to plate up and garnish with parsley from the garden.
Mahogany goodness.
 Dessert is supposed to be Caramelized Banana Splits.-- Keep that in mind. - Bananas, sugar, baker's chocolate (semi to dark), honey, heavy cream, ice cream, and I added coconut and nuts to the mix, too.
 Halve the bananas and place on a baking sheet.
 Sprinkle heavily with sugar.
 If you have a hand-held kitchen torch, I suggest you use.  Otherwise, place directly under the broiler until the sugar gets all dark brown and crisp.
 Well, it got dark brown.  Crisp?  Not even close.
 Combine the chocolate squares with honey.
Add the heavy cream.
Either use a double boiler or microwave the mixture until bubbly and completely melted.  Stir until smooth.  Set aside until cooled.
Now, back to the bananas which are now cool enough to handle.  They were an epic fail!  They turned nearly black. They were squishy.  The sugar, instead of crisping up turned almost gel-like. Nasty.  They went right into the garbage.


They were just regular Banana Splits.  Still wonderful, but Gordon Ramsay quality?  No.

So, Gordon says it will take about 10 minutes to prep the chicken and 25 minutes to cook it. What planet does he live on.  The chicken has bones in it.  Breasts cook at a different rate than thighs.   I checked the chicken at 25 minutes and the juices ran, not just pink, but almost red.

The overall results?  The champ was good, but it was just like regular mashed potatoes.  The banana splits were an average dessert.  Maybe if the bananas actually caramelized, it would have been something special.  The chicken made the kitchen smell divine.  Cut up lemons and garlic are wonderful smells - who would have thought they would work so well together.  But in the dish?  I really liked the sauce on the chicken, but it was disappointingly bitter.  I suppose it was the lemon with the peels on it.  I really liked the soy, sherry and honey combination.  I keep thinking if I could have just garnished the chicken with a splash of lemon and a few slices that would have been really good.  Maybe I should have just used a tablespoon of lemon marmalade, instead of that along with the lemon slices.  I read Blue Kitchen's review of the same dish and she summed it up pretty well, too.  One of her readers, The Perfect Pantry, remarked that she could imagine making a roasted chicken using the same flavors.  I think that would be wonderful.  Imaging filling the cavity with lemon halves, garlic cloves, springs of thyme.  Then make a baste of lemon juice, soy, vinegar and honey.

Was it quick?  Did it take less than 45 minutes like Ramsay swears it would be?  No.  It was like a real Sunday dinner that took almost 1-1/2 hours.

Please, don't let my negative comments about it deter you, though.  I've actually made this meal twice.  There's something about it that keeps bringing me back.  I think the promise of the flavors is huge.  The first time I was disappointed and surprised by the bitterness.  This second time I was still disappointed by the bitterness, but I was hoping I just did something wrong the first time I made it.  Now I can analyze it better and determine how best to approach it the third time I make it.

"Sticky Lemon Chicken, Champ and Banana Splits -- Done."

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