Cranberry Beans

Maybe I’m just a food nerd, but I don’t think there’s much in this world more attractive than cranberry beans.  Cindy in her prime was impressive no doubt (and still is if you were dumb enough to watch one of her recent infomercials), but I still think cranberry beans are pretty f’n gorgeous. 

Although they won’t be in season for quite a while, and most of you won’t be seeing these at your local market, the fresh-shelled bean gives me warm fuzzies.  Growing up in the South, shelling fresh beans with my mom in late summer was quite the memorable bonding experience.  I couldn’t even scramble an egg back in my youth, so this was really about as cooking-involved as I got back in the day.  But mama’s creamed corn with some fresh “butta” beans or crowder peas was just about my favorite thing at that age (other than punishing fried scallops at Red Lobster).

The last time I had them was with my BFF Roy as part of our yuppie feast.  They came out to be absolutely perfect.  Here’s how I made them…

  1. Shell a bunch of beans until you have several cups of beans
  2. Put them in a pot and cover with water
  3. Boil for about an hour until nice and tender

Next, you bring those beans to life…

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces high-quality dry salami, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • Several sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves (optional)
  • 6T of butter
  • Several cups of chicken stock or water (a splash of white wine is very nice too)
  • Salt and cayenne to taste

 Directions:

  1. In 2T of butter, brown the salami in the bottom of a wide-bottomed pan.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sweat on low heat for 20-30 minutes until very soft and sweet (obviously you can be doing this while the beans are cooking). 
  3. Drain the beans and add to the pot… Stir, scraping the bottom.
  4. Add your liquid – Half water and half chicken stock with a splash of white wine would be ideal, but there’s enough flavor in the salami that just plain water is fine.  Make sure the beans are fully covered with liquid.
  5. Add your optional herbs at this time.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer until the flavors are well concentrated and you’re liking the taste.  Reduce a little bit if necessary. 
  7. Finish by stirring in the remaining 4T of butter and season with salt and cayenne to taste.  Salami is very salty so it shouldn’t require much. 
  8. Remove the herbs and serve.  Makes an amazing soup-like concoction that can make a great side dish or even function as a pretty good main course. 

  To make it more of a functional meal, garnish the soup, or any soup for that matter while you’re at it, with the famous 180 Homemade Cheez-it.

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Butter-Poached Carrots

Holy frickin’ carrots here people.  I know I know.  Carrots?  How can those be extraordinary? 

Well, they can be and are when cooked with this slow, butter-based method that yields the sweetest little carrots your mind could imagine.  Fully caramelize these things (and don’t salt them) and they could actually make an excellent dessert component.  Actually, when you really nail these to the fullest, and caramelize them all the way (not shown in video), they taste like butterscotch.  Pretty wicked. 

Turn the boring carrot into a true 3-ingredient delicacy (butter, salt, carrots) with the amazing alchemic power of outstanding cooking technique – the backbone of my culinary sermons…

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm  Comments (11)  

Yam Gratin in Traditional Cook Stoneware

In this post I’m killing two birds with one Stoneware.  First up, I was notified that Canadian Thanksgiving was soon approaching, and I wanted to become the first American ever to acknowledge Canada’s existence by cooking up my holiday favorite in preparation for Canadian Thanksgiving next week.  Hope this one becomes a Canadian tradition.  I leave it up to the dozen or so Canadians that will read this post to make this a viral holiday treat. 

Secondly, a big 180 follower and fan – and also a long-time Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter leader Maria Atwood of www.traditionalcook.com sent me a free piece of her amazing Stoneware.  This stuff is awesome.  I didn’t know what to expect, but the stoneware exceeded all my expectations.  This is far superior to any type of baking material I’ve ever used before, and there’s no way I’ll use glass Pyrex or Aluminum pans for baking ever again. 

The Stoneware is very heavy, which creates perfectly-even heating.  It also has a rough, sandpapery surface that keeps food like this gratin from sticking to the pan while giving it a crisper crust all in one shot.  Ooh, it came out so nice.  I highly recommend Maria’s stoneware, which is totally affordable and ships within just a few days.  CLICK HERE to view all the different stoneware pieces Maria has for sale and get yours before she runs out of her holiday inventory.   

Anyway, here is the video for my favorite starchy, seasonal holiday side dish – a savory, rather than marshmallowy and sweetened “sweet tater” dish that many of us fear having to eat at those holiday occasions.  Seasoned with cayenne, lots of salt, garlic, and ideally tarragon (damn you grocery store!), this does not have the grotesque sweetness of any yam/sweet potato dish you’ve been served in the past. 

Ingredients:

  • 5 yams or sweet potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 bunch chopped tarragon
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • Lots of cayenne pepper and lots of salt (more than you would think)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Make the “sauce” by whisking the cream, half and half, garlic, and seasonings all together in a large bowl.  Add enough salt to where the cream mixture has a noticeably-salty flavor.
  2. Mix the cream mixture with the sliced yams/sweet potatoes until each slice is somewhat coated.
  3. Grease a Stoneware rectangle pan with butter.
  4. Pour in the sliced yams and cream, spread evenly throughout the pan, and pack down tightly.
  5. Add a little additional half and half if yams are not at least half submerged. 
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and poke a few holes in it before placing in the oven at 425 degrees F. 
  7. Bake for at least 45 minutes then reduce heat to 375 and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so, or until yams are fully softened. 
  8. Remove aluminum foil and pack the yams down again with the back of a large spoon or spatula.  Add chopped pecans and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until pecans are crispy.
  9. Remove from oven and let it cool and settle for at least 20 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. 

This goes great with just about anything, and is certainly not something I serve only on holidays.  In fact, having a baking dish full of nice squares of starch portions makes for very convenient meals throughout the week or on the go for work. 

Big thanks to Maria Atwood for this awesome baking dish!  www.traditionalcook.com

You can read more about why Maria is so into her Stoneware baking dishes at http://traditionalcook.com/Stoneware-Article.pdf

And about the virtues of Stoneware for baking here:  http://traditionalcook.com/more-stoneware-popup.shtml

The Homemade Cheez-it

These are, quite frankly, a little TOO awesome.  This is basically just a little homemade cheese cracker that makes for an incredible substitute for the typical run-o-the-mill junk food cracker.  No white flour, no hydrogenated oils, no synthetic vitamins and minerals, no artificial colors, no MSG, no high-fructose corn syrup, no other weird flavorings… Just pure cheese. 

To make homemade cheese crackers or “frico,” simply add shredded cheese of any kind to a non-stick pan, cook on fairly high heat until brown on one side, flip, cook a little longer, and then cut into squares while they are still hot.  As you’ll see in the video, they are best when they are not totally darkened in the pan but just lightly browned and cut before they start to cool and crispen. 

This is a formidable weapon to be used against any snack attack. 

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 7:44 am  Comments (16)  
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Grilled Corn 3 Ways

Corn season is winding down, but don’t forget to try grilling your corn in one of the 3 ways I lay out in the following video.   By the way, if your mind is totally in the gutter, this video is pretty funny.  Let’s just say if this video was played in church some blood vessels might burst when I start buttering the corn.   

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 2:48 am  Comments (1)  
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Creamed Corn

Yes, it’s time for my favorite.  Hardcore cornography! 

Creamed corn is the best of the best.  It may not look like much, but I haven’t found a single human being in my life so far that wasn’t impressed by this simple, rustic, down home perfection. 

To make creamed corn you just need some good, sweet corn, some butter, and some salt.  I like to use roughly 1T of butter for every 2 ears of corn for very rich creamed corn, and 1T of butter for every 4 ears of corn for a lighter version.  Season with salt to taste. 

To prepare the corn, all you need to do is rub the corn gently but thoroughly on a box grater until you have a bowl full of milky, mashed kernels.  Enjoy this video and the one coming next week on grilled corn – both of which are much more entertaining to watch if your mind is totally in the gutter while doing so. 

I served this to some guests the other day with grilled pork tenderloin and some sliced farmer’s market “maters.” 

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm  Comments (24)  

Homemade Ranch Dressing for Salad, Salmon, and More

Nothing beats this little homemade dressing.  There is no better salad dressing, dip, or base to mix in with canned salmon, chicken, or even potato salads.  In the following video, I show how to prepare the dressing and also how it can be used to make a quick batch of salmon salad and a side salad as well.  This is a must-item to make a large batch of and keep on hand.  It tastes amazing, is highly versatile, and keeps well for weeks and beyond. 

Homemade Ranch Ingredients:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups sour cream/creme fraiche
  • 1-2T chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions/green onions
  • Lots of black pepper
  • Money Spice to taste

Feel free to embellish with other herbs such as chives, dill, fresh garlic, etc. 

Salmon Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 can pink salmon
  • Big blob of homemade ranch dressing
  • 1 stalk finely-diced celery

This is great with leftover chopped chicken, boiled and diced potatoes, tuna, and so on instead of the salmon.

Easy Tossed Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 Romaine heart – chopped
  • Big blob of homemade ranch dressing

Toss and add whatever ingredients you like, from warm, chopped bacon to big hunks of cheese to hard-boiled eggs.

Veggie Egg Scramble

Haven’t talked about breakfast much, but this is Aurora’s favorite.  Don’t let her see this by the way.  She just had jaw surgery and won’t be able to eat anything like this for a few months! 

This is just a simple scramble – completed from start to finish in about 6-minutes.  This is great with a little breakfast porridge, fried potatoes, or some other starchy goodness.  The key is adding cheese at the right time so that the consistency of the eggs stays super creamy, wet, and smooth – no rubbery eggs in this video. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • Small pinch chopped jalapeno
  • 1.5T butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 big pastured eggs
  • Salt or money spice to taste

Directions:

  1. Sautee onions and peppers in butter until soft
  2. Add spinach and jalapeno and cook for an additional minute until soft
  3. Add 2 eggs and the cheese
  4. Stir like a maniac until cooked
  5. Season with a little salt if needed
  6. Serve on a small plate that says “Gringo” on it

Real Potato Salad

No personal vendettas against potato salad, but the stuff, all things considered, is pasty goo that I have never been fond of. 

What I am fond of, are very hearty salads with hot and delicious stuff added to them.  Some of the best salads I’ve ever made or have been served contained hot ingredients – from spinach salads with hot currants, duck confit, and andouille sausage to salads filled with fried gnocchi and mushrooms.  The hot-cold combination is amazing, and for some reason, as spring is springing, Aurora and I have been eating this salad like it’s going out of style. 

In a sense, it is going out of style.  Aurora’s jaw surgery is less than 2 weeks away – wired shut for 12 weeks.  I’ll be joining her by doing an old-school “milk diet” for the first month or so.  No salads for us.   

Anyway, we’ve made this salad a half dozen ways over the past month.  In the video, I keep saying that hard-boiled eggs will be added, but in the end Aurora got the eggs and I opted to have my salad without them.  They are part of the “official” salad.  We’ve also made the salad with grilled beef (amazing), beef carpaccio (excellent), and so on.  But no matter how you choose to get down with this full-throttle “dinner salad,” the fried potatoes are a must. 

When done correctly, there is no better salad on earth, or in the words of Mr. Miyagi:

“When do right, no can defense.” 

Here is the REAL potato salad…

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried in coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, or a combination
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, still warm
  • 3 ounces of your favorite cheese grated or crumbled
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • 2 chopped Romaine “hearts” 
  • A little arugula or field greens
  • Fresh-picked herbs (optional) 

Prepare as shown in the video, adding your hot ingredients at the very end so the lettuce stays fairly crisp. 

Simplify by making it with just potatoes and cheese and/or a little shopped salami.  Olives would make a nice addition I would imagine.  I also think it’s easier to bake the bacon in the oven on a large sheet pan (with sides), 1-2 packs at a time so you can make this salad several times but only cook the bacon once. 

Parmigiano Polenta 101

This is an old peasant favorite.  Cooking doesn’t get more simple and easy than this. 

First off, this is the first of several announcements that there will be a big kickoff to the 180 Kitchen blog in March – a month with several posts and videos dedicated to one beautiful topic – Filet Mignon.  It will be dubbed, “Mignon March.” 

The videos are currently being recorded, and one such dish with Filet Mignon that I whipped up last night was served over the ever-versatile, satisfying, and simple quick polenta with white cornmeal.  I’ve made this so many times in my life that I wouldn’t even dream of taking the time to measure anything.  I understand many people get frustrated with my lack of reliable measurements, but I continue to uphold my belief that technique, intuition, flexibility, and focus on the food is the primary means of becoming a great chef – not stubborn adherence to stiff measurements.  And this site and my cooking eBook is not dedicated to your success with dinner tonight, but in your success in developing the skills and tools needed to make EVERY dinner (and lunch and breakfast) a great success. 

General directions are:

1) Bring a half-water to half-cream pot of water to boil (whole milk or half n’ half can be used with no additional water as well if you prefer, and make a sweeter finished product).

2) Whisk in white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, or grits until you feel a slight thickness developing.

3) Reduce heat and cook covered for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times – the coarser the cornmeal or grits the more liquid it will need and the longer you will need to cook it to keep it from being “grainy” and “gritty.”

4) Finish with a hearty chunk of butter (whisked in immediately to avoid separation) and plenty of real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The finished product should be almost as smooth as mashed potatoes with a similar consistency.  It should not be stiff nor should it be so runny that it oozes across the plate.  The biggest mistake made with polenta is adding too much cornmeal.  When the ratio of cornmeal to liquid is too small, it won’t get soft and creamy no matter how long you cook it. 

You can also spread the polenta out on a sheet tray, let it cool in the refrigerator, and then cut it into slices for frying or grilling on a barbecue grill as well.

At the end of the video you will see I included a brief clip from one of my Filet Mignon videos to show you the consistency and look of the finished product once it has cooked for several minutes and received a 180 shot of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 11:17 am  Comments (18)  
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