Monday, November 09, 2015

Salmon With Yellow Rice

Quick and easy salmon dish!

I went to the North Carolina Ale House this past Saturday with my son.  We had a wonderful conversation about his latest mission trip; just a total blessing all the way around!  And then, we ordered.

I decided to try salmon, at a sports bar of all places, and I was pleasantly surprised!  It was a great dish that really hit the spot.  So, no great surprise to those that know and follow me here, I tried to duplicate the meal as best I could; with a few changes, of course.

First of all you need a couple of good fresh slabs of salmon.  I laid each on top of a nice salty slab of Amish butter, put a little salt and pepper on top, and set the baking sheet aside.

I opened a box of Zatarain's New Orleans Style Yellow Rice and cooked it as directed.  I opened a small can of peas with carrots and started them to boil at the same time. 

I then cut up a piece of onion and a hunk of red pepper and sauteed them in coconut oil.  When the rice was finished I dumped in the onion, pepper, and peas and mixed thoroughly.
Meanwhile I had the salmon baking in the oven at 350.  I took it out after about 18 minutes; just to check it, and put it back in for another 5 minutes under the broiler (550).

I plated the rice mixture and put a piece of salmon on the side.

It was really good, and I had fixed the meal in about 30 minutes total.  My wife was really pleased with me too! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cooking On A Salt Block

A close friend of mine introduced me to "salt block" cooking on his "Green Egg" a couple of weeks ago, and so last night I treated my wife to a multi-course meal cooked in this manner.  She loved it!

You can find these "salt plates", "salt blocks", "salt slabs", or whatever you want to call yours, at lots of places for between $25 and $35; depending on the size.  I bought a large one, because I'm a big boy and will eat a lot!  If you eat like a bird, then get one of those tiny things!

We went to the local "fresh market" where they sell lots of seafood, vegetables, and red meat.  I found some lovely bacon-wrapped scollops on a skewer, some fresh unpeeled large shrimp, a thin ribeye steak, and a beautiful salmon pinwheel.  I also gathered an onion, an orange and yellow bell pepper, a lemon, an avocado, and a large potato from their large commercial garden. 
Now here is my first tip, and the most important tip of all, in salt block cooking!  SLOWLY HEAT UP THE BLOCK!  If you don't your block will crack!  Luckily for me mine cracked in a narrow strip on one side, so it is not completely useless.  However, if like me, you forget and crank it up on high immediately, then the next time you use it, you can butt the ends tightly together and cook.  

START THE HEAT OUT LOW and continually raise the heat until it's screaming hot!  You eventually want the block to be at least 400 degrees.  You don't have to have a "Green Egg".  You can see my gas grilled worked fine.
There is a considerable amount of prep involved; slicing the peppers, the onion, the lemon, and whatever you choose to cook.  I can't think of much you can't cook this way, and why, you ask do you even want to?!  It's because of the flavor the food picks up from the Himalayan salt block.  If you want less of a salt taste, then use a little more olive oil on the food.  Bath everything you are going to cook in olive oil...the more oil the less salt taste the block will impart to the food.  I like salt, so I just used it sparingly.

Now we did not use the block to cook our potato slices.  I bathed them in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet in the oven.  About 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  My wife topped them with a thin layer of cheese and sour cream.
Out on the grill, I first cooked the meat items, and the hot salt block cooks things very rapidly.  Don't leave them unattended, or you will over cook.  I did leave the steak on longer, but that's because my wife don't want to see any pink!

Then the vegetables go on, and they cook very quickly...about 2 to 3 minutes a side and everything is ready for the plate!

We groaned and moaned our way through the main course!  It tasted soooo gooood!
While we rested, I put an avocado on the salt block.  In all honesty, this part added nothing to the overall meal, but it was something my buddy had offered me when we tested his salt block, and I wanted Judy to have the same experience.  It could have been prepared first as an appetizer, in hindsight, but that's for next time.
Once the avocado was cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes, I put regular salsa and salsa verde into the center.  It was buttery smooth, with a little kick from the salsas.

I then moved on to serving her some "salt block watermelon", which she didn't particularly like, but the experiment lesson here is, try everything you can think of on the hot salt block.  The taste it imparts is unique and tasty.
The last entree was a dessert of cooked peaches with vanilla ice cream!  Judy loved this!

The block gave the fresh peach a nice hint of salt, and the heat slowly melted the ice cream.  It was delicious!

So, I urge you to experiment with "salt block" cooking.  I think the experience would be greatly enhanced if it were don't at an outdoor bar, near your grill, where you could serve up each entree as it cooks steaming hot off the block.  It's kind of like eating a smorgasbord of appetizers.  It's light and healthy eating, and can make for a very romantic evening!    

Monday, July 27, 2015

Homemade Ice Cream And Fried Chicken

The combination of fried chicken and ice cream as a meal don't appeal to a lot of folks, but if you ever tried it, you'd love it!

Jeff Wilson, a friend of mine from Texas, visited me recently and introduced my wife and me to a recipe and process handed down to him; from his grandmother to his mom.  

Here's an old '60s photo of Jeff's mom and dad cranking out some homemade ice cream for their chicken supper!
Jeff even brought his 4-quart Rival ice cream mixer!  It wasn't the one he uses at home, he forgot that one when he packed for the road-trip, but Wal-Mart saved the day for us, and his girlfriend's family in Kentucky.  The $25 little number did the job right in my sink on one bag of ice!

Anyway, he left Texas with the intention of treating both families with sweet peach ice cream and fried chicken, so he didn't let a little thing like forgetting the primary tool stop him.  I may end up with one of the little jewels myself!
Jeff and Denice arrived the night before the great feast. We visited until late, and before they left for the evening, he put chicken breast strips and skinless bone-in chicken thighs into a baggy and added his marinate ingredients:

- half a beer (he drank the rest)
- salt and pepper
- A couple of good shakes of Uncle Chris' Gourmet Steak Seasoning
- A generous amount of teriyaki sauce
- (You can experiment with other seasonings, BBQ, hot sauce, Italian dressing, etc.)

He left the chicken in our refrigerator overnight and right up until we began to cook the following evening; so a good 24 hours.  We were then ready to cook!

Like all good cooking events, it begins with the "prep", and prepping peaches involved both Jeff, Denice, and my wife Judy.  After all, someone had to do the documentation!
As instructed, they pealed and cut up 8 fresh peaches and placed the fruit in a bowl.  Now, if you don't particularly like fruit in your ice cream, like me, just skip that part and continue.
Over the peaches he sprinkled 1 cup of sugar and let it sit until he filled the blender with following:

- 2 boxes of Peach Jell-O
- 1 box of Jell-O Vanilla Pudding
- 2 cans of Eagle Brand Milk
- 5 to 6 eggs (depending on the size)
- 1 pint of Half & Half (as needed to fill the cream maker bucket to the proper level)
He then added about half of the peaches (and sugar) and blended until mixed, and then added the rest of the peaches and blended again.  If the blender isn't full, then add extra milk (half & half) to fill to the top.
Jeff then poured the mixture into the ice cream maker bucket and sealed the top and covered it with the motor.  It's important that you not fill the bucket above the marked "fill line".  The mixture will expand to the top during the freezing process, and will overflow if you don't stop at the fill line.

He put ice cream salt in the bottom, added ice half way up, added more salt, then filled it up with ice, put on more salt, and turned the unit on.  It was all over in about 30 minutes.  Thick rich peach ice cream ready to be enjoyed!
During the 30 minutes, I watched the ice cream maker, like I used to do with my father, adding ice and salt as needed.  It used to be my job to sit on a folded towel, on top of the hand-cranked machine, to hold it down while dad turned until he couldn't turn it anymore.  I sneaked the iced salt and ate until he caught me!  I also kept the drain hole unplugged!

Anyway, this thing didn't need holding or cranking, just occasional ice.
In the meantime, Jeff was busy prepping the chicken.  He put all-purpose flour on a paper plate, added salt and pepper to the mixture.  He turned on a deep frier to 11!  The hotter the better!
He first dipped the chicken in Carnation Milk, then into the flour mixture, and again into the milk, and back into the flour.  After waiting for the vegetable oil (his granny used lard) to super heat, he gently dropped each piece into the hot oil.
When the down side was golden brown, the turned the pieces over and cooked the other side to a matching brown.  Once both sides reach the right color, they were done.  He placed them on paper towel to rest.
By this time the ice cream maker was making a laboring sound, indicating the cream was done.
At the table, my wife and I enjoyed our first fried chicken and peach ice cream.  It was fantastic!  Look at her go; a bite of chicken, then a bite of ice cream!

I had seen Jeff's photos, on his blog and on Facebook, of the chicken feasts at his mom's, but never really knew what it tasted like.  Now I know and I'm sure my wife will insist on me making it again, very soon!

I think the only alterations I will make to his recipe will be a bit more salt and pepper in the flour, and I will leave off the peaches.  I think, to my taste, vanilla cream would be a little tastier.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Perfect Home Salad!

How to make the perfect home salad: 

Let's see...lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peanuts, grapes, apple slices, yellow pepper, olives, and cheese!   We used Olive Garden dressing.  Ranch works well too!
This salad makes you want some meat!  So, a nice strip steak and a thick pork chop, with a side of baked potato seemed to fill the bill.

Guys, you can do wife loved me for this meal, and your special someone will too!
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