Category Archives: Food

Food items

SHRIMP SAUTE UPDATE

Finally I prepared the recipe I posted on the food page last week.

It was delicious: tangy with garlic, lemon, shallot and other well-blended flavors. The sauce was buttery and complimented the green beans, tomatoes and feta cheese strewn on top.

Here’s the real test. I just did not want to stop eating. The flavors blended so well. And the shrimp were particularly delish. I guess the ten minute marinating paid off.

This shrimp sauté with add-ons is so easy and quick to make. And I loved it with the rice.

If you are cooking for one or two people, you can prepare everything in the skillet at once. Well the shrimp are cooked first, set aside, and then added at the end. If you are incorporating the rice as I did you would use cooked or left-over rice.

Use the menu at the top, go to the food page of this blog and take another look at the recipe.

Now a word about the shrimp I used. I am still in frozen Michigan where temps continue to plunge and snow continues to fall. (It has become very monotonous.) So you know I probably did not use fresh gulf shrimp. Don’t I wish?

This frozen product I have been using (pictured above) is excellent in taste and texture. I have been using it for quite some time to complete satisfaction. I believe it is sold all over the United States with the shrimp sourced responsibly from different locations. My current package says from India.

There was a time when I would not eat any shrimp from Asia or nearby locations. This product has changed my mind.

Whatever shrimp you are able to use. This preparation is one of the best! Go for it!!

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: A RECIPE AND HIS READS


This pasta dish is from ancient Rome and Bourdain’s recipe is all over the internet with multiple videos. I watched. I was inspired. I tried it a few days ago.

My notes were so unreadable I was mostly by-gosh and by-guessing it. And you will be too if you follow what I write here. Still, I enjoyed the results. Probably it is good if you like pepper. The recipe, as copied by me, is at the end of this post

According to a recent interview in the New York Times, Bourdain say “one of the benchmarks of a great food writing is to be very knowledgeable, but never a snob.” I’m never a great food writer, but I do try to follow this advice. His most famous book is Kitchen Confidential (which I have not read). His latest book is Appetites, out last year. I’ve yet to look at that one, too. But I have good intentions.

What took my attention in his interview was that he called Charles Portis’s True Grit, a masterpiece and named it as the last great book he had read. It is one of my all-time favorites. He mentioned the dialogue. I completely agree and am always going on about: if you want to know how people talked in the Old West, read this book. Since Bourdain loves this book, I am now his greatest fan. Two other authors he named as worthy are favorites of mine: Elmore Leonard and Daniel Woodrell. And in addition James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces made him furious it was so bad, piled with falsehoods. Again, I could not read that book without losing my lunch in the bathroom. Well, that’s a bit strong and snobbish, but true.

So, now that I’ve bonded with Bourdain over his reading preferences, I had to try his favorite pasta dish, cacio e pepe. And I’ll be looking up his books.

Anthony Bourdain’s cacio e pepe
Transcribed by Paulette from internet videos

In a small to medium skillet, heat 1-2 Tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon pepper until it sizzles. This doesn’t take long and is easy to burn. (Anyhow that’s what happened to me.) set it aside, off the heat.

In a larger skillet put about ¼ pound spaghetti and water just to cover along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring some, until al dente. My package said 9 minutes and it was just right. Drain the pasta and save the pasta water.

Into the larger skillet, put a few tablespoons of pasta water, and 1 Tablespoon of butter and the olive oil pepper mix. Add the cooked, drained pasta and 1-2 ounces good freshly grated Parmesan.

Shake and stir. Add pasta water if needed, a splash at a time. Serve on plate, drizzle with oil if desired and top with more grated cheese, another tablespoon or two.

For me, too much cheese is impossible, but perhaps not.

Post created by me, the new Anthony Bourdain fan.

ELLEN’S BAKERY AND CAFÉ

This is a great season to take a loved one or anyone along with you to visit this splendid bakery and café. Ellen’s has expanded, more seating, longer hours, now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the same great baked goods. They have gift cards, too.

The place is pretty much packed on this day around noon.

I stopped there this week to see the new environment, open about three weeks. Same great service. I stopped long enough for a cup of their lobster bisque, so special. I brought a dessert for a special holiday dinner and some dinner rolls; along with a favorite muffin, apricot almond, and a raspberry croissant I couldn’t resist.

The special dessert, a small chocolate chip cheesecake, was best ever. The dinner rolls won unanimous praise from all the eaters at my holiday meal. All my treats were beyond delicious.

Here’s Ellen herself serving her customers.

Check the place out at the website www.EllensBakeryandCafe.com, peruse the menu and just generally salivate. I’m going back very soon!

SHOUTING OUT A THANK-YOU TO AL AMEER RESTAURANT

Thanksgiving week my daughter and I took my visiting brother to try the food at Al Ameer at its Dearborn Heights location on Ford Road. We had a fantastic lunch experience and the food…absolutely outstanding!

This Lebanese restaurant is the recipient of the James Beard America’s Classics Award. You think you know good hummus, try it here. What did we eat: two of us had our favorite chicken shwarma sandwich and fatoush salad. My brother tried moujadara, lentils and rice cooked in olive oil topped with caramelized onions. He is now back in Minnesota trying to recreate this dish. I must check on his progress.

As with any food tradition, excellence is in the taste. At Al Ameer the food is lovingly prepared to perfection and the service is kind, helpful and timely. There are dishes prepared especially for sharing, the atmosphere is friendly and if you are familiar with Lebanese food, all your favorites are here: fried kibbeh, tawook, kabob, kafta, falafel and monstrous salads. The puffed pita is hot and irresistible. Baba Ghannoush is another favorite. Servings are very generous. I could go on and on.

If you are not familiar with this food, I urge you to find a restaurant in your area and give it a try. Check out the internet to learn more about it. Maybe I will be able to provide a more informative piece on this food in the future. The Detroit area is filled with top-notch Middle Eastern food, but you can find it across the country. It’s worth the search to find a restaurant that prepares it well.

Check out the website for more info and enticing pictures.
www.alammeerrestaurant.com

And again, a big thank you to the Dearborn Heights location for an outstanding dining experience. My brother was suitably impressed!

PIONEER WOMAN’S MERCANTILE

The Mercantile
Some photos by Jonathan Lein

Affectionately called “the merc”, the store is located in a beautifully rehabbed building in downtown Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit.

Come along for a brief tour.

Lots of good food offered in the Deli section. We missed eating there because the line was so long. I’m sure it’s worth the wait. Other food in Pawhuska is also delish.

Upstairs a room to rest a bit and a bakery. Yum!

I didn’t go home empty handed, even with a plane to catch, but next time….. Can’t wait!

Mail order is available. The website is www.themercantile.com

Shop online at themercantile.com

Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery, since 1949

Thanks to my brother and my daughter today was my first visit to this Detroit Institution. What a welcoming place. Hospitality matches the good food. At the counter and in the kitchen Joe Hakim was totally charming and answered all my questions. Service is outstanding.

Joe Hakim at the bakery with some lovely fern cakes

Meat Pie is the top seller with Mac and cheese pie coming in second. There are five Scottish bakeries in the country and this one is unique because of its vintage pie machine.

You can find this bakery on facebook and twitter. They ship nationwide. The website is ackroydsscottishbakery.com

This bakery features savory pies, pasties, tea cakes, breads, and meats as well as imported groceries such as biscuits and crackers. This time I bought chicken curry pie, Steak and mushroom pasty, bridie, cheese and onion pie and a sausage rolls.

We also had a taste of Irn-bru, pronounced iron brew, really quite delicious.

I have tasted some of these wares, and also shortbread and raspberry bars. Everything so far tasted delicious. The curry is a bit spicy but be brave.

Let’s hear it for Scottish Bakeries! Gracious hospitality and a taste of Scotland….so delicious!

A BREAKFAST TO STOP THE COLD IN ITS TRACKS

Maple Breakfast Sausage

I seldom eat sausage. No store-bought breakfast sausage or restaurant sausage ever tastes right to me, too fatty or off flavors. I’m always dreaming of breakfast sausage I had in a Wisconsin restaurant near LaCrosse one early morning on my way to Minnesota many years ago with my son, who was maybe 15 at the time. When our breakfast arrived and I began eating my sausage, I remember I said to him. “This is real country sausage, so good.” The Detroit kid was unimpressed. He liked Bob Evans or Jimmy Dean or whatever, and mostly he liked the Italian sausage we purchased at a good meat market.

This is part of the explanation for why I was taken with an article in the New York Times Magazine last week titled “The Pleasures of a Pork Patty” by Samin Nosrat. The use of the term pork patty also reminded me of a Fourth of July Pork Burger in Reinbeck, Iowa at the Methodist Church that was to die for, as we like to say. I stared at the picture, I dreamed of that Wisconsin sausage and the Iowa pork burgers.

Okay, enough. On to the recipe.

Maple Breakfast Sausage
(the ingredients I used – roughly half of the recipe printed in the magazine. More variations at nytimes.com/magazine)
this amount makes four patties

½ dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small pinch nutmeg
1 small pinch ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ pound ground pork
½ tablespoon maple syrup and a little more
Extra virgin olive oil

Combine the spices in a bowl, add pork and syrup.

Use your hands to mix thoroughly for 1 full minute until the pork is tacky, sticky in the palm of your hands.

The recipe suggested a cast iron pan. I have a small one. It was too small. Just use a heavy pan of the size for your needs and heat the olive oil until it shimmers. I used a ¼ cup to make my patties, flat and one the small side. Choose a pan that will not crowd the elements of the breakfast you are cooking.

The author suggested you make one small patty first to check for seasoning. I ate my one patty. Then I added more seasoning (the extra in a small bowl from the measuring) and formed and froze the remaining patties. In other words, my patty was delicious but I thought a bit more seasoning would make it even better.

I followed the suggestion that I cook my sausage, egg and bread in one pan. The author talked of how the bread soaked up the pork juices and so good. Well my pork was quite lean and little fat or juices to soak in the bread.

I went back to the article and read the suggestion you talk to your butcher and ask how much fat they add to ground pork. She suggested 20 to 25 percent. I bought my ground pork at a good market, but I did not ask about the fat content. I didn’t want it too fatty but a smidge more would have been perfection for cooking. For eating I was most happy with the sausage patty I had for my breakfast.

Your sausages may need draining on a paper towel. When I put mine on a paper towel, no fat. Good for me but as I said nothing to flavor the bread.

I cooked the sausage patty, an egg and a half slice of bread in the skillet at the same time.

I loved this sausage. My tummy feels fine. It was a satisfying breakfast. Just as good as my memories of Wisconsin, so I guess with this recipe there is good Michigan sausage. (To clarify MI is home to all sorts of delicious flavored sausages or sausages made with multiple ingredients such as spinach and feta. Here I’m yearning for country pork sausage.)

That touch of maple syrup may well be the secret. Maybe it was the sausage and slightly runny egg eaten together with a small piece of the hot bread in one bite. Oh my! Give this a try!

TRYING OUT A NEW RECIPE: BRAISED CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS, LEMON AND SAFFRON


TRYING OUT A NEW RECIPE: BRAISED CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS, LEMON AND SAFFRON

It’s time for something new. I saw this recipe in the City Kitchen by David Tanis column in the New York Times food section a few weeks ago. With all the roasting and grilling, I haven’t cooked chicken this way for many moons, or so it seems anyway. The recipe also provided the opportunity to try some different flavors and spices.

The verdict is beautiful color and terrific taste. What I really loved was the soft texture of the chicken, while still so full of flavor.

I made half a recipe. Here’s the prep and the ingredients I used. The recipe and more ideas are printed below.

I generously seasoned the chicken on both sides with kosher salt and pepper and let it sit an hour at room temperature before cooking. (I get such a kick that this is now called dry rub by some, even though cooks have done this since the beginning of time.)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs went into a frying pan with a turn-in-the-pan of olive oil. I cooked these, skin-side down, for about 15 minutes over medium heat until well browned with crispy skin that lifted easily from the pan. Turn the thighs and cook two or three minutes more.

In a small cup I combined saffron with lemon juice and ¼ cup of water and set this aside.

The browned chicken went into a baking dish.

I poured off most of the fat and cooked the onions in about 2 tablespoons of fat, stirring some until softened and just beginning to brown. I used less onions than called for even for half a recipe, but enough for added flavor.

To the onions in the pan add the saffron water along with the threads, easy on the tomato puree, cayenne, coriander, fennel, cardamon pods and then added the wine. This mixture needs to simmer for a minute or two. Since these spices are mostly new to me, I used slightly less than half of what the recipe called for.

I poured this mixture, which is the most lovely and enticing color over the chicken. Then I tucked in apricots and lemon slices among or atop the chicken pieces. (When I opened the package of dried apricots I had on hand, they were black, so I used canned apricots, not as good I’m sure but pretty and flavorful.)

Cover the pan tightly and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

The aromas were unfamiliar to me, but not at all unpleasant. The color unbelievably gorgeous! Oh, I said that before, didn’t I?

I planned to serve this chicken with a chiffonade of argula and did not trouble with the pine nuts, although I think they would be wonderful.

On the plate with arugula and rice. Yum!

The chicken was equally delicious the second day served with packaged herb chicken rice and other grains.

In the printed recipe below you can see other garnishes that are suggested.

Chicken with Apricots, Lemon and Saffron

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 large onion, diced
½ cup tomato puree
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon green cardamom pods
1 cup white wine
6 ouches dried apricots
2 small lemons, thinly sliced
cilantro leaves and mint leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts to finish.

There are so many ways to make this recipe your own: more tomato, thyme, mushrooms. Anyway you prepare it, this is a dish with complex flavors. And the prep is fast and easy!

You may wish to serve it with rice, orzo, or couscous.

This is a recipe I expect to save and prepare again. I know I wouldn’t need to mention it, but….even one bite of the skin on this chicken was heavenly. It’s possible that this recipe has turned this non-fan of chicken into a person that likes chicken again.

NOT JUST MY OPINION – GREAT PRODUCTS

Several lists I’ve read recently in the food magazines lined up with my personal favorites. Here’s an invitation to try these and to tell us your favorite in the same category.

Best Block Cheese
Cabot Alpine Cheddar (most Cabot cheddars for that matter)
A Swiss and Alpine blend in the Legacy Collection of Cabot Cheeses


Best Chocolate Snack
Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate
I like them all. Do you have a favorite? Pictured is the Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt.


Best Pickles
Claussen Kosher Dill Spears
I know this category is up-for-grabs. Tell us your favorite.


Best Catsup
Centro Balsamic Catsup
I like this product so much it’s changed my life. A little goes a long way, but sometimes.. I can’t help drowning my food in it! If you haven’t tried it, I insist!


Chicken Broth
Swanson’s Chicken Stock
I buy different brands, the display, the special price. But somehow when the dish is made with Swanson’s, it always surprises me with it’s good taste.


Best Butter
Land of Lakes
This is always in my fridge. I love butter. I’ve tried many different brands. Salted or Unsalted, either tastes wonderful. I think this product is the best value and the best flavor.

Best products make for best eating experiences! Well, that’s my motto anyway.

NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN

Our crazy fun college friends group hit Nashville with pot-loads of talk and aspirations. One of these was to manage a meal at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. So one afternoon we swooped in – that is we paid a hefty parking fee after walking three blocks to find the pay machine, stood in a long line in the heat – and one driver coped with a dead battery – so I guess that wasn’t swooping was it?

We landed in a nice corner table for six. I stared at my chicken tender encased in an armour of something, picked up my plastic knife and fork, and tried to figure out how a person going through a long period of implant surgery on two sides of my mouth might be able to extract and eat a few bites of this famous chicken. I had a side of tempting pimento mac and cheese to keep me at the task.

Around the table my friends had dark lacquered hot chicken of various shapes and heat levels. We were all hungry and all that talk ceased, almost. The armour on most of the chicken put my tenders to shame. I glanced around the table to see which knight might win the joust. Forgetting completely about taking pictures, I mostly concentrated on the task at hand.

What is Nashville Hot Chicken? Why are tourists and locals jamming a modest, not too clean rundown eatery like Hattie’s?

According to Jane and Michael Stern’s essay from Saveur title “Hot County” and reprinted in Best Food Writing 2015 Nashville’s famous hot chicken depends on cayenne and other spices. It’s a pepper red chunk of fried chicken served on white bread with dill pickle chips. You tear apart the chicken and gnaw. Clearly, I did not have the right technique. My friends caught on fast.

Recipes are carefully guarded, or so they say, but the Sterns describe a brine of buttermilk and spices, dredged in flour with more spice and double-fried. Then, fresh out of the hot oil, the chicken is slathered with a buttery paste of lard. Inside the shell one should find “sweetness, juiciness and an umami richness.” By the time we stumbled down the ramp and headed toward our two cars (one with a new battery – thank you Triple A and Lana) we were chock full of chicken and other stuff like greens and mustard sauce. And the line now stretched way down the block.

I did not think the chicken I was trying to eat had ever been bathed in buttermilk brine. Sure enough when I got home and turned to that fountain of information – the internet – and found two recipes for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken courtesy of Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman at Food Network Magazine and one from Aida Mollenkamp editor of Salt and Wind, Hattie’s chicken is dry brined. Chicken pieces are tossed with salt and pepper, covered and refrigerated overnight or up to 24 hours. Then on with the dipping, the frying (hot sauce and spices) and then the spicy coating: lard, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt pepper, paprika, garlic powder. You see the dark red brown that is the result in these pictures from the internet. My tenders described as Southern Chicken were lighter, but most of the chicken around the table was very dark brown.

I guess now-a-days you can order and eat spicy hot chicken around the country. But it is still one of Nashville’s prime attractions. Before too long I’m expecting to be on my way to a place that serves chicken tenders, brined in buttermilk, and so tender even a tooth-challenged person can eat and enjoy. A place where the cutting is easy. I can always ask for more hot sauce.

Hot chicken lovers go right ahead and salivate waiting for you next chance to eat this distinctive treat. Before I visited Nashville, I’d never seen any chicken like it. When you get the chance, grab the greens and gnaw away.