Monday, March 25, 2013

One a Day - What was I thinking?

Well obviously I wasn't thinking when I said I was going to cook a Pinterest recipe a day.  But I am going to see if I can't get into the swing of at least posting semi-regularly and maybe this weekend I can catch up and get a week's worth of cooking, photographing, and writing done so I can schedule them to post daily.

But here is one that got an all thumbs up from Kristen and Jeff.  Kristen was craving The Big Easy sandwich from Ajax Diner in Oxford, MS.  The Big Easy is a country fried steak layered with mashed potatoes, butter beans, and gravy on a rather large bun.  They put slaw on it but that is definitely out for Kristen.  Anyway, I promised to try and duplicate it.  Country fried is pretty much the way everything was fried when I grew up but I wanted to really nail the steak part and I pulled up country fried steak recipes on Pinterest.  I settled on this one and it is a keeper with a few notes.  Country Fried Steak

While country fried is easy enough, I am sure we have all experienced the frustration of it never coming out looking as evenly breaded with all the breading still in tact like the ones in restaurants.  This recipe was great on that part.  However, the only problem I had was that either her steaks were much smaller than mine or something because I needed almost twice as much of the seasoned flour and egg wash as the recipe called for and I had the same number of steaks.  The ingredients are pretty basic - cubed steak, flour, salt, pepper, eggs, beer, buttermilk (or milk), and oil for frying.

The recipe works for several reasons.  First, you build flavor at each level with seasoning.  Season the meat, the flour and the egg wash.  I chose to use freshly rendered lard from my local butcher shop.  Freshly rendered, not hydrogenated, or processed or anything so it is actually better for you than all the modern oils and shortenings.  It also adds a nice flavor to fried foods that you just can't get any other way.  Second, the recipe works because of the number of layers in the breading - dredge in flour, then in egg wash, back in flour, back in egg wash and finally in flour.  The extra dip and dredging make a better crust that is not too thick or floury.  By adding the little bit of beer and buttermilk, they help lighten the whole breading.  Results - a perfect country fried steak.

As for the gravy, the tang of the buttermilk is a little too much for most people so I would recommend sticking with plain whole milk.  Be sure to cook the roux at a low temperature for at least ten minutes to keep it from having a raw flour taste, but low enough for it not to brown.

Country Fried Steak:

4 tenderized beef round steaks (that have been run through a cubing machine)*salt and pepper

Seasoned Flour:1 1/4 cup flour3/4 teaspoon garlic powder3/4 teaspoon onion powder1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper1 teaspoon salt*pinch of cayenne pepper-Combine and reserve 1/4 cup for gravy. Place in a large shallow dish (like a pie plate)

Egg Mixture:2 eggs1/4 cup buttermilk1/4 cup beer*salt and pepper-Combined in a shallow dish.

In a large skillet Preheat approximately 2 inches of oil, lard or vegetable shortening to 350 degrees.

To prepare the steaks:season both sides with salt and pepper. Its important to season these steaks every step of the way. The meat itself is not a very flavorful cut so you want to really make your mark. Dredge the steaks in the flour mixture coating it on both sides. Once they are all floured is when I start assembling and fry them one by one. It may take a little longer but I think the special attention results in a better steak as well as even cooking temperature. Once your fat is up to temperature continue. To test the oil you can use a candy thermometer or you can place the end of a wooden spoon in the oil, if it bubbles it should be about right. Also you could sprinkle a tiny smidge of flour and if it sizzles you are good to go.To assemble take the floured steak and dredge in the egg mixture. Shake off excess and place back into the flour mixture, then back into the egg, and back into the flour. (initial flouring, egg, flour, egg, flour, fry it!) You will “double dip” each steak and fry each steak approximately 2-4 minutes on the first side, 1-2 minutes on the second side. I judge turning time by when I see blood droplets on the top side of the steak, this may vary depending on how large your steaks are. Flip it over and allow it just to briefly cook on the other side. Remove from the oil and place on a paper bag or a dish lined with paper towels.

Bacon and Buttermilk Gravy:

2 tablespoons butter4 ounces bacon ends (or about 3-4 slices of thick cut bacon cut into little pieces)1/4 cup seasoned flour1 cup buttermilk (you can substitute heavy cream for a regular cream gravy)1 cup whole milk*salt to taste1-2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper (to taste, Normally I use a lot and then some)

In a sauce pot  melt butter to start it off if you’d like. (Depending on how lean your bacon is you may not want it) Brown the bacon until its crisp. Once crisp stir in the flour with a fork or whisk. Add 1 cup of liquid slowly and bring to a boil. Combine with the additional liquid and stir. Once this mixture has boiled its at its full thickening capability. Reduce heat and simmer until needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source:  NeoHomesteading

As for Kristen's Big Easy, well here is what that looked like....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Incredible, Edible Egg

Being on this no/low carb diet lately, I have developed a rather personal relationship with eggs.  The incredible edible egg.  Eggs really are almost a perfect food.  The simple egg can be prepared so many ways.  The white can be cooked completely while not cooking the yolk, it takes precision but it can be done.  They are cheap.  They are a great source of protein.  So I decided to try what was more or less a cooking tip along with a recipe for deviled eggs.

Baked Hard Boiled Eggs

First up was cooking hard boiled eggs in the oven.  Not that boiling them is difficult but this sounded like a nifty idea but did not prove to be so nifty in my experience.  Doesn't this idea look neat?  Baked Hard Boiled Eggs

Well here is the reality.....

Between 20 to 25 minutes into this experiment I could smell eggs strongly throughout the house and then I heard a loud pop.  See that one at the back center?  Well that was it exploding in the oven.  It was only the shell so it was easy to clean up.  As for spots, the look good on a leopard but not so much on a hard boiled egg nor did the discoloration caused by scorching.  Have you ever scorched a hard boiled egg before because that was a new one for me.  But perhaps the worst issue was the rubbery texture that most of them had.

However it is hard to see from pictures but the recipe said that they had creamy yolks and they were more creamy and moist than traditionally boiled ones usually are.  And despite the overcooking of the whites, the yolks all remained moist, creamy and not overcooked.  This might also be the result of my oven overheating but in the end, I'll stick to boiling them in water with a little white vinegar.

Basic Deviled Eggs

Next up was the recipe for deviled eggs.  One of the things I realize as I try things is that I grew up just doing things by feel rather than by recipe and that doesn't always yield consistent results.  It also makes it hard to pass down a recipe or share it with others.  So I thought I would look for a basic old fashioned deviled egg recipe.  There were hundreds of deviled egg recipes but very few were basic and made with the ingredients that I am used to seeing.  But I finally found this recipe Southern Deviled Eggs

These were exactly what I was looking for though the recipe is not exact calling for a "good squirt" of mustard and a "splash" of vinegar.  Well I like both and I like my pickles so I used a good heaping tablespoon of sweet pickle relish.  And what are deviled eggs without a dusting of paprika?  But if you want to put these over the top.....

A good drizzle of sriracha or any other hot sauce of your choice is perfect!!!

Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled eggs
3 Tbsp mayo
1 good squirt yellow mustard
a splash vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp sweet pickle cubes (optional)

How to hardboil eggs:

Lay the eggs in the pan and add enough cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Set over high heat and bring just to the boil; remove from heat, cover the pan,and let sit exactly 17 minutes.

When the time is up, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and water. Chill for 2 minutes.

Or try the baked method for hard boiled eggs: Peel eggs and cut in halve lengthwise. Remove yolks and set whites aside. Using a fork mash yolks into until there are no lumps. Add mayo and mustard. Blend with fork until well combined and smooth. Add a splash of vinegar and salt and pepper to taste, and pickle cubes if using. Put yolk mixture into a re-sealable plastic bag, using scissors, snip a small corner off and pipe even amounts of yolk mixture into egg whites. Store deviled egg in refrigerator.

Source:  Roots and Renovations

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Welcome to The Pin Up Chef

Welcome to The Pin Up Chef where I am going to cook my way through Pinterest.  You know how addictive it is to Pin and Repin all those recipes and everything else.  But let's put it to use. 

Along the way I expect to have some fun, some laughs, some disasters but we won't be bored.  I invite you to join along in the journey.

So this is the start of something fun.  I'll be going back through my boards trying to figure out the menu plan to start our journey next week.  So plan on checking back after this weekend.