Comfort Food

The blustery winter weather we are experiencing today cries out for comfort food; a stick to your ribs dish that warms you from the inside out.  We all have our favorite comfort food, mine happens to be stewed chicken.  It’s on the menu tonight.

Born in November, stewed chicken on fried noodles was the dish I always asked for on my birthday.  Nothing glamorous about browning and stewing a who knows how old hen for hours until the meat falls off the bone. Nevertheless it was my favorite and I always got my wish.

Only problem is that I haven’t seen a stewing hen in literally years. So recipe modification is in order.  Last week we hosted our gourmet group. As the host I made the entree and provided recipes for appetizer, salad and dessert each couple could choose to prepare.  Having recently returned form France my menu was French.  I made braised turkey thighs in  Beaujolais Nouveau with prunes.  Sounds gruesome – taste wonderful.  After weighing out the required amount of turkey thigh required for the recipe I was left with one poor turkey thigh.  Into the freezer for later use.

Today the turkey thigh will make an appearance as stewed turkey.  A little browning, some chicken stock and slow cooking for two or three hours should produce the fall of the bone consistency I’m looking to achieve.  Thicken the stock, add mushrooms and it will be ready to go.  Served over fried noodles ( this is comfort food – not health food!) with a side of red cabbage it will keep the blustery winds at bay.

And an added bonus to using just the thigh, no leftovers.  I would gladly eat leftovers until it was gone (two people, a big stewing hen, you do the math!)  My husband, on the other hand, is done after one repeat. Not a problem tonight. Comfort food at its best.

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Posted in Comfort food, Cooking, Entree, Food, meat, Stewed Chicken, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another New Toy

Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know that Christmas usually means a new toy to add to my kitchen collection. Last year I received a Sansaire Sous Vide machine that I absolutely love.  I used it to cook beef, pork, chicken, fish, apples and pears.  I would place the items in a quart freezer bag and submerge the bagged items into the water to “vacuum” the air out of the bag.  This worked well for meat items but not so much for pears and apples.  I wanted to sous vide the seasoned apples and seasoned pears and serve them as the fruit courses at breakfast.  Submerging the fruit filled quart bags into the water did not provide the seal I was looking for to ensure proper cooking. Only one solution – A food vacuum sealer.  So guess what Santa brought me for Christmas!

The Food Saver – the brand Santa left under the tree – was immediately put to use after a visit to Costco for breakfast sausage links.  You can imagine how many of those I go through just not fast enough.  I wrapped them in my usual manner – four to a package and then sealed six packages in a freezer bag.  The exercise gave me an opportunity to learn the machine.  About this time I needed to do something about the remaining beef rib roast we had at Christmas dinner.  I had purchased a 3 rib roast for George, my mom and myself.  Even after the original meal and a meal of leftovers, I was still left with the very meaty bones and a hefty amount of roast.  I pulled the meat off the bones, shredded it and seasoned it with Adobo sauce.  That meat went into enchiladas.  The remaining roast was cut into two thick “steaks.”  I decided to seal the meat in individual packages and freeze them for future meals within the next month.

Last night we had the first of the two leftover roast slices/steaks.  I had intended to defrost it and put it in a very low oven to warm and then inspiration struck!  Why not use my sous vide machine to gently warm the steak to 125 degree (F) and then sear the outside in my cast iron frying pan.  What did I have to lose.

I can report success!  The meat was warm on the inside but still medium rare – just the way we like it.  A quick sear in the frying pan browned the sides nicely without adding any more heat to the interior.  I served it with sauteed mushrooms and a twice baked potato.  And it never tasted like leftovers!

Posted in American Food, appliances, Beef, Breakfast, Christmas, Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, Food Vacuum Sealer, Formal Meals, Holidays, Kitchen tools, meat, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, Sous Vide | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The holiday season is in full swing,  And with less than a week to go until Christmas I feel pretty well prepared.  We will have guests this week and my mom will be arriving on Friday so the final push is on.

With that in mind I want to keep my meals simple and wherever possible, get two meals out of one prep – Beef Stew and Deep Dish Pizza fall into that category and are on the menu this week.  Tonight I am making oven fried chicken.  Nothing special about that except where the recipe originated.

In August of 1970 I was given a copy of recipe book entitled Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook, (copyright 1964) as one of the bridal shower gifts from my parents.  At that same shower I also received a copy of the Joy of Cooking so a vast array of culinary capabilities were covered!  George was in the army when we married and we lived in a small apartment carved out of the second floor of our landlord’s house.  The kitchen was not conducive to gourmet dining.  The table was the cabinet door for a corner storage area and folded down when needed.  The oven had to be lit with a match when it was to be used.  And if you were using the oven you couldn’t have the table down because it blocked the oven door.  the refrigerator condenser was a coil on top of the unit.  Thankfully, the apartment had a dining room which kept the table oven gyrations to a minimum.  And to top it all off there were no counters.  I don’t know how I made Christmas cookies that year, but I did! Joy of Cooking  recipes would have to wait until we moved to our first modern apartment  after George was discharged.

Cooking for two

The Dinner for Two  cookbook had a number of dishes that could work in my limited workspace.  The first time I made oven fried chicken it was after we were first married.  After 47 years of marriage I still make oven fried chicken – tho I don’t need a recipe and even if I had one I would modify it, as is my way.  But I decided a trip down memory lane was in order so I located the cookbook and leafed through it.  The book provides a real snapshot of  the relationship people had with food in 1970.

As the title suggests, the book provides menus and recipes for complete dinners for two people.  The oven fried chicken recipe comes from a Sunday dinner menu that, in addition to the said chicken includes Mashed Potatoes, Pan Gravy, Cranberry Orange Relish, Buttered Green Peas and Strawberry Shortcake. On Monday’s menu? Pineapple Burgers (just wrong,) poppy-seed noodles, lettuce wedges with mayonnaise dressing ( a combo of mayo and sour cream) buttered roll and ice cream with caramel sauce.  I’m not going to relate a weeks worth of menus but I do want to share the ingredients of Saturday’s Party Bake Pork Chops – 1″ thick pork chops, slices of onion, uncooked rice and canned whole tomatoes.  The recipe instructs you to brown the pork chops, then top each with a slice of onion, a tablespoon of uncooked rice and a whole canned tomato.  Add the remaining canned tomatoes and the juice to the skillet, cover with foil and bake for 90 minutes.  I’m looking at a picture of the finished product. Not even remotely appetizing.

The book includes chapters such as “All –  American Favorites” (Ham, Beef and Pork roasts,) “Regional Favorites” ( shrimp creole is in there) and “Seasonal Favorites” (Liver and Bacon patties – are you kidding me!)

The book expands on its dinner for two concept with chapters such as “When Company Comes.”  This chapter includes recipes for dishes such as  Pheasant in Cream, Sauerbraten, Roast Cornish Game Hens and Chicken Chow Mein.  there is even a recipe for Mock Champagne – mix apple juice and ginger ale.  I’ll pass thank you! The company chapter also include menus for unexpected guests (Tuna Casserole??) and Buffet meals.

I have to admit the pages of the book that I appear to have used the most (food stained) are in the “Frankly Thrifty” chapter.  Pages with recipes for Meat Loaf, Vegetable Soup, Beef Stew with Dumplings,  are all stained.  I noted I did not make any notes in the margins of the recipes. Apparently I was still in “follow the recipe” mode at the time.  And some of the recipes were never attempted.  One called “Full O’ Boloney” falls into that category.

It was a great trip down memory lane.  It also highlighted the food and cooking trends of the time. Pineapple was an ingredient in 9 entrée and salad recipes.  Apparently lettuce wedge salads were big in the day as they appear in numerous menus throughout the book.  Pie, cake or cookies were included on almost every menu.  And the oven and a hand mixer seem to be the only appliances required.  I wonder what my gourmet group would say to a meal entirely from this book?

If, after reading this, you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy, they are still available. Just google the title. Price range from $4.95 to $998.98 (WHAT!!!!)

Do you have a cookbook that brings back memories?  Share it with a comment. Now I’m off to start my oven baked chicken!

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Black Friday – Sandhill Crane Style

For many of you the day after Thanksgiving is filled with what seems to be endless shopping. I know because before I became an innkeeper I was out there like everyone else.  And yes, my husband and I once stood in line before dawn at Best Buy to get a color printer for my parents.  But that was long ago and I digress.

Black Friday at the Sandhill Crane means decorating for Christmas. And I mean DECORATING.  It usually takes me about 6 hours to get everything, with the exception of the “family” tree done.

Why so long?  Let’s start with the  7.5′ Christmas tree in the entrance foyer.  It has to be assembled and decorated.  Last year we bought a new pre-lit tree so that has cut out a bit of time. Then there is decorating of the rooms.

Three trees ready for the rooms.

Three trees ready for the rooms.

Each room gets decorated with its own tabletop tree – more assembly – and themed decorations. The Mesa room features Randy Reindeer hanging out in various places.  The Meadow room has a plush santa that urges you “To Believe”  And the Bosque Suite even get renamed to the Nutcracker Suite in honor of the nutcracker selection that belongs to my son Sean.  There are so many of them that they spread out into the hall that connects the suite sitting room and the suite bedroom.

The Bosque Suite becomes the Nutcracker Suite during Christmas!

The Bosque Suite becomes the Nutcracker Suite during Christmas!

Then there are the French doors and the hall light fixtures decorated with bows.  The lamps over the dining table and our table get swags of gold and silver. And the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  The only thing remaining to do is decorate the family tree. This year we, as I told my son, turned to the dark force of Christmas trees – an artificial tree.  The family tree has always been a real tree.  We’d buy it Thanksgiving weekend, keep it in water until just before Christmas then decorate it,  This year we decided to go forgo the real tree in favor of an artificial 7.5′ pre-lit tree.  No spending hours stringing lights, no contorting yourself in an effort to get water into the tree every day and we can put it up now and enjoy it throughout the season.  The only thing missing is the smell of a real tree but the ones we could get never seemed to have that pine smell that I recall from the trees of my childhood. So a win all the way around.

Christmas means baking and I already have the Rocks and Almond push buttons done.  Next week I will tackle the anise cookies and the gingerbread men.

If you want to see the inn in person we have dates available in December.  Just follow this link to make a reservation http://v2.reservationkey.com/1294/2802/c 

Come see how we celebrate Christmas at the Crane!

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Thanksgiving Eve

Turkey day is almost here.  And while George and I will be celebrating on our own; I still make our traditional Thanksgiving Feast, only on a slightly smaller scale.  Instead of Sweet potatoes ( I was known for my “Flaming Sweet Potatoes”), mashed potatoes and stuffing we’ll just do stuffing,  Instead of multiple vegetables and a relish tray we’ll have Brussels Sprouts with bacon and my can’t live without green bean casserole.

Cranberries are a given.  I have been making the same cranberry recipe since 1982.  Hey, you don’t mess with success.

Of course there will be pumpkin pie.  In fact I can smell the pumpkin baking as we speak.

My newest tradition is the turkey.  A few years ago, four years to be exact, I decided to through caution to the wind and make a “deconstructed turkey” a la Julie Child.  It turned out so well I will never make another turkey in the old way.  Over the last several days I have a few requests for my Deconstructed Turkey recipe.  While I could send those requesting the recipe to the search box on my blog, I decided to make it easy for them and just copy if here.

So here you go.  I will start preparing our bird after the guests are fed.  I’ll be thinking of all of you and giving thanks for my family, friends and guest who are like family and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 

Here’s the recipe with my turkey.

  • one 12 – 14 lb turkey ( you can brine your turkey if you want.  I used a Butterball so brining was not recommended)
  • 3 tbl grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp minced sage
  • salt and pepper
  • wooden skewers and twine
  • your favorite dressing recipe – some things are absolutely sacred and stuffing is one of them!

Prepping the Turkey

Begin by removing the giblet packet and neck bone.  Set aside for stock.  With the turkey breast side up, cut through the skin along the leg quarter where it meets the breast.  Bend the leg back until the bone pops out of the socket.  Cut through the joint to separate the leg quarter form the turkey.  Repeat with other leg quarter.

The next step is to remove the thigh bone from the leg quarter.  Place the leg quarter skin side down on the cutting board.  Using a very sharp boning knife (or paring knife) remove the meat from the thigh bone  by slicing right next to the bone – almost as you would for frenching.  Be sure to keep the skin intact.

Removing the meat from the thigh bone

Once the meat has been separate from the bone bend the bone back to pop it out of the joint and separate the thigh bone from the leg socket.  Just  a tip – this is much easier to do on a chicken.  You will need to exert a little force.    Once the bone is out of the joint use a pair of kitchen shears to separate the two.

Removing the thigh bone

Repeat with the remaining leg quarter.  This will result in two leg quarters with the thigh bones removed.

Leg quarters with thigh bones removed.

Rub interior of each thigh with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp minced sage and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Seasoned thighs ready to be rolled

Close up the thighs by rolling together and trussing with the skewers and twine.  Use at least two skewers per thigh ( I cut my skewers in half to make them more size appropriate.  I didn’t want a ten inch skewer sticking out of the leg quarter.)

Thighs trussed and ready to be roasted

Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for up to six hours.

Next you need to separate the back from the turkey.  Cut through the ribs from tapered end of breast to wing joints.  Using your hands, bend the back away from the breast until the shoulder joint pops.  Cut through the popped joint to remove the back.  Place the breast on a plate, cover  and refrigerate for up to six hours.

While I was butchering the bird I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F .  I placed the thigh bones and back in a lightly oiled pan and placed them in the oven to brown.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes, removed them from the oven and transferred them to s stock pot with two carrots, two celery stalks, salt and pepper.  (I left the rendered fat and the fond resulting from roasting the bones in the pan. This would be the basis for my gravy. )  I put the stock pot over a low heat and let it simmer until the bones had given up all their roasted goodness – about two hours.  I removed the bones and strained the stock.  The bones and vegetables were discarded (after I picked all the meat off the bones – Boz lucks out this week!)  The stock went back on the stove to simmer until it had reduce and had reached the flavor I was looking for.  This would go into my gravy.

Make your favorite stuffing.

Cooking the Turkey

Note: The total roasting time will be from 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours twenty minutes plus time to rest, so plan accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Rub 2 tsps of oil over the breast of the turkey and place the turkey breast, skin side down in a large skillet.  Put the skillet in the oven and roast the breast for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile oil or spray the pan you intend to use to roast the bird.  Place the stuffing in the bottom of the pan and spread it out into a rectangle of even thickness.  When the 30 minutes are up, remove the breast from the oven.  The original recipe indicates you should use two wads of paper towels to take the breast out of the skillet and place it over the stuffing mix.  Paper towels weren’t going to work for me so I used my tongs.  Use whatever works for you – just get the breast over the stuffing in the roasting pan.  Remove the prepared leg quarters from the refrigerator and place in the roasting pan with the breast, covering as much as possible of stuffing not covered by the breast.

Complete bird ready for roasting. Notice the browning on the breast.

 Transfer the pan to the 425 degree F oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 to 180 degrees, about 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes longer.

When I pulled our bird out of the oven I was amazed!  The skin was beautifully brown and crisp.  After allowing the bird to rest for awhile George started carving.  The breast was moist, the thighs beautifully done and, I have to admit, make a nice presentation when sliced into medallions. I regret I do not have a picture of the bird as it came out of the oven. – I was busy making gravy – but I do have a picture of the thighs

Sliced thigh ready for the serving platter

I apologize that this isn’t the beauty shot I was going for.  But hey, I was getting hungry! You can see how juicy the meat is in this picture.  And this was after the bird sat for 30 minutes.

There is no doubt that this preparation takes a little longer but there is no basting, no tenting the bird, and best of all, the moistest most evenly cooked bird I have ever had.  And, for those of you who are die hard stuff the bird people – let me tell you the stuffing was as good (moist and full of turkey flavor) as any traditional inside the bird preparation.   This is a KEEPER!

Posted in American Food, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Entree, Family, Food, Holidays, Menus, Recipes, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is how you shop in Paris

My husband I recently returned from a week in Paris; a birthday gift from my sister. We stayed in a fabulous apartment in the 7 arrondissement, just two blocks from the Eiffel Tower.

Anyone who knows me or has ever stayed with me knows I love food.  And I really love to cook.  I was in heaven.  The apartment came with a modern kitchen that included an induction range, (thankfully my mom has one in her house so I wasn’t at a complete loss) a combination microwave/convection oven and a full size refrigerator.

Obviously you don’t go to Paris to eat all of your meals in an apartment, but it was great to be able to make breakfast and an occasional meal after a full day of sightseeing.

Just around the corner from our apartment was Rue St. Dominique.  I quickly discovered where I would be buying food by following my nose as I walked down the street.

There was the boulangerie/patisserie

Boulangerie and Patisserie with fabulous breads and croissants

Boulangerie and Patisserie with fabulous breads and croissants

where we bought our baguettes and croissants.  Every morning George visited this fine shop to purchase two croissants.  And yes he ordered in French.  Our first breakfast in France consisted of croissants and sausage. And why does butter taste so much better in France?  I actually know the answer but then the real question is why can’t we make butter like that here?

Breakfast in France. Every morning.

Breakfast in France. Every morning.

The sausage came from the butcher across the street from the baker.  We bought a beautiful roasted chicken from him the day we arrived as well as homemade pepper sausage to have in the morning.

Butcher shop across from the baker.

Butcher shop across from the baker.

They cut all the meat to order.  They will even pound it flat into scallops if you so desire.  The array of cuts and prepared vs raw meats was astounding for such a small store.  But see for yourself what awaits the passerby gazing into the shop window.

More Meat

More Meat

 

Meat display in window of the butcher shop.

Meat display in window of the butcher shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ask you, when was the last time you saw meat look this good at the supermarket? It could turn anyone into a carnivore!  Ordering meat with my limited French was tricky but we muddled through.

 

You can’t go to France without eating a macaroon.  And this wonderful shop allowed us to indulge.

Chocolate and Macaron store

Chocolate and Macaron store

Also on the street, a wine store, a vegetable store  and G20.  G20 is a small grocery store that everyone uses to buy staples.  Thing like butter, eggs, pasta, household products, etc.  The one we visited was larger than a convenience store but much smaller than a grocery store here in the states.  No matter, they cram a lot into a small space and make it look appealing.

After work the street is filled with people buying things on their way home for dinner.  Our apartment included a cart that could be used when shopping. I felt right at home navigating with my cart. It is said that people in Paris shop every day.  Now I understand why. The lure of those shops was like a siren call to me.  Grocery shopping will NEVER be the same.  And if you would like to hear more about my food adventures in Paris, Book a room at the inn and I’ll be happy to share my memories with you!

 

 

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Fancy Eggs

For the last seven days I have had two guests who prefer eggs every morning.  As they were my only guests I could easily accommodate their preference.  While I love to cook I have yet to master all of the egg dishes it is said you must know to earn a toque.  I shy away from fried eggs as getting them cooked to the exact point of done for multiple guests is difficult with only one person in the kitchen. So mostly I stick to scrambled or baked.

This morning I made scrambled eggs but served them in a fancy container.  I started by preparing the puff pastry shells.  The filling consisted of scrambled eggs, diced black forest ham, cheddar cheese and sliced green onion.

After cooking the egg mixture I carefully spooned it into the pastry shells.  The stuffed shells were carefully transferred to a plate and placed atop spinach leaves.  As a final touch I “dusted” the plate with more green onion and diced tomato.

Here’s the result.

eggs in puff pastry 1 cropped

The guests loved it.

Tomorrow is their last day so they got to pick their favorite dish for a repeat.  The requested menu includes melon and peach fruit salad, asparagus omelette, bacon and english muffins and seven grain toast.

I have been an innkeeper for 15 years and I will admit you do get tired of making the same dishes.  In the last month I have added two new egg dishes to my rotation.  I am happy!

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