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Monday, January 31, 2011

Hash Brown Casserole

My niece, Samantha, is getting married soon. 

Samantha - the gorgeous bride-to-be

Of course, a wedding comes with all of the attendant festivities.  Showers, bridesmaids luncheons, rehearsal dinners etc.  Sam is absolutely looking to the future since she's got everything necessary to entertain our whole family on her wish list.  Ok, registration.  Wish list just sounds so much more fun.  Registration is so, ummm, businesslike.  Since I can't (according to Mrs. Manners, aka Mom) do a shower, I volunteered to do the bridesmaid's luncheon. 

Mom aka Mrs Manners or Mrs Grammar Person - take your pick, she's still wonderful!

As long as gifts aren't involved, it's kosher.  Saturdays are spent at the office - most of them meeting with clients who've come in from out of town or who just can't get away from work on a workday.  That leaves Sundays for the festivities.  Now, being the football fan that I am AND hoping my Colts would somehow miraculously recover from a litany of injuries to advance in the playoffs, I asked if it was ok to have the party on January 30th.  And, since I love, love, love brunch, I suggested a brunch.  Deal.

Heres' the menu:
Mimosa's (It would not be a MOPS celebration without Mimosa's)
Fruit platter (gotta have something healthy here)

Ham and cheese quiche

Hashbrown casserole
Grape Pickers casserole (great name, eh? More on this later)
Lemon lavender blueberry muffins

Banana bread

Pumpkin yeast rolls with FARM Bloomington apple butter

Assorted sausages from Klaus' Haus

Sam's colors for the wedding are yellow and grey.  I know, that was my reaction too.  Interesting.  Then, my sister-in-law, Pam, explained the bridesmaid's dresses are a tweed that looks grey.  AHHHH, I get it. 

Pam - lucky me to have such an awesome sister-in-law!!

We got some yellow and some grey ribbon and tied it on the champagne glasses.  Connie did the napkins - grey - in a fleur de lis fold with a spray of yellow flowers tucked in each.  He made sure he was out of the house before it was filled with twelve women - all chattering at the same time, or so it seemed :-)

I kind of hesitated before including the hashbrown casserole in the mix.  It's not your typical ladies who lunch dish.  It's VERY rich.  But, OMG is it ever good.  I have no clue where the recipe came from but it's noted, "Excellent! 7-85."  We had a bit of it leftover with our after theatre dinner tonight and Connie gave it a "Big FAT Five!"  He rarely gives those out.  Now, I've seen the hashbrown casserole recipe with the cream of chicken soup.  But, I've never tried it because this is so daggone good that I don't want to mess with perfection.

Hashbrown Casserole

serves 12-20 depending on the portion size

16 oz frozen, shredded hashbrowns
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1/2 stick of butter (the original recipe calls for a whole stick.  Believe me, you do NOT need it!)
16 oz Velveeta
2 c mayonnaise (the real stuff, NOT salad dressing)
1/2 - 1 lb bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp (how much depends on how decadent you're feeling)

Take the hash browns out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you put this dish together.  Saute the onion in the butter until it's nice and softened.  Add the garlic and the Velveeta.  Stir until the Velveeta melts.  Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the mayonnaise.  Break the hash browns apart and stir them in.  Once the whole deal is nice and gloppy, pour it into a 9x13 baking dish.  Top with the bacon pieces.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until browned. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Terry's Trout

Our package of steelhead trout from Sam's had two huge fillets.  We used half of one in the trout hash.  I cut the second fillet in half and froze it.  Who wants the same ingredient four days in a row?  Not us :-)  There were three recipes from Sublime Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison that caught our eye.  I left the office early enough on Sunday that there was time to run to the grocery, marinate the trout for this recipe and still eat before 10pm.  Well, I also had to work on making the cat food and I wanted to get the tea smoked ribs ready for Tuesday evening when I got home late from my Columbus, IN office.  Ah, that caught your eye?  Tea smoked ribs.  We'll talk about those later.  Another adventure in cooking!

But enough of all that, let's get to this fantastic recipe.  We'd have given this a five had it not been so salty.  Next time, I'll make two batches of the paste.  One with salt for marinating it and one without for grilling.  I'll rinse the salty one off before grilling.  We let the trout marinate for a good two hours.  It took almost 45 minutes on the grill at about 250.  We smoked it with shagbark hickory bark.  And, we had the burners on either side of the trout on but not the burner right below the fish.  No ifs, ands or buts about it - we'll make this again.  And, we'll probably try it with salmon too.

This was served with a salad of baby greens, cilantro, orange segments, diced avocado and a dressing of blood orange evoo, fresh grapefruit juice and cumin.  The dressing could have used a tiny bit of sugar.

Terry's Trout
serves 4


1/2 c minced fresh dill
2 T Kosher salt
2 T maple syrup
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T coarse-ground black pepper
2 t olive oil
16 oz steelhead trout
dill sprigs and lemon wedges for garnish

Mix the ingredients for the marinade: dill, salt, syrup, lemon juice, pepper and olive oil.

Lay pieces of plastic wrap at right angles in an 8x8 dish.  Make sure the pieces are long enough to cover the fish once it's in the dish.  Lay the trout in the dish.  Cover it with the marinade. 

Wrap it with the plastic wrap. 

Refrigerate it for 1-2 hours.  Allow it to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before smoking it.  Smoke the trout using indirect heat - in other words don't turn the burners beneath the fish on.  Put the trout on the grill skin side down.  Smoke for about 45 minutes at 250.  The trout should flake easily.

adapted from Sublime Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spaghetti Salad

Every once in a while we try a new recipe that sounds fantastic and turns out to be a total clunker.  So it was one evening recently.  I'd pulled a recipe off of Foodbuzz for a shrimp pasta dish.  It had shrimp, tomato paste, white wine, lemon, cheese, garlic...  What could go wrong with that?  Well, let me tell you - lemon.  No, LEMON.  That flavor just plain took over.  We couldn't taste anything else.  Connie assumed I'd toss the whole mess.  But, not on your life was I going to toss all that shrimp.  And, the pasta was perfectly usable.  Into a colander it all went.  Once the spray setting on the faucet got done I had pasta, shrimp and a bit of spinach, some sun dried tomatoes and cheese left.  

The next morning I packed up that stuff with the extra pasta I'd cooked (intending it to be either for lunch or dinner the next day,) green olives, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, more sun dried tomatoes, fresh spinach, cheddar cheese, and some marinated ripe olives. 

Lunch time at the office and I had a table full of goodies.  Spaghetti salad it was.  It wasn't a five - on our scale of one to five.  It wasn't even a four.  But, it made a very good lunch and used up something that would've gotten tossed.  Keep in mind you can pretty much put anything in this.  These ingredients just happened to be what I had on hand.

Spaghetti Salad

1/2 lb cooked whole grain spaghetti
cooked shrimp
1 can artichoke hearts
hearts of palm
pimento stuffed green olives
ripe olives
fresh spinach
cheddar or swiss cheese
sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
Italian dressing

Chop everything but the spaghetti.  Cut the spaghetti into smaller pieces since twirling the pasta with a salad isnt' the greatest idea :-)  Toss everything with Italian dressing and serve.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trout Hash

We went to Sam's to buy the ingredients to make cat food.  And, we needed fruit for the bridesmaid's brunch I'm doing for my niece, Samantha.  I'd found a couple of great new recipes so wanted baby back ribs and a whole chicken.  Well, they were out of whole chickens.  Even though it was Saturday, by the time I escaped the office and got home and we were ready to leave for Sam's it was 6:30.  I figured salmon on the grill was the best solution for dinner.  Right next to the salmon was a package of steelhead trout fillets.  I asked Connie if he'd ever had steelhead trout and he said he'd not.  I'd not ever had it either.  Time for an adventure.

On the way home we chatted about which cookbook was most likely to have a great recipe to get us started.  Ray's Boathouse was the hands down winner in our minds.  Followed closely by Legal Seafoods.  He unloaded the car, I headed for the bookshelf with the cookbooks from restaurants.  How much fun is that?  Great memories of wonderful places we've eaten.  Terrific meals.  Lots of love and laughter.  But, alas, not a single trout recipe in the Ray's Boathouse cookbook.  And the Legal Seafoods one just wouldn't work.  Hmph!  On to the barbecue shelves.  Yes, shelves.  I love barbecue.  Grilling.  That's why we grill when it's zero degrees.  We love it.  At my old house, I kept a grill under the overhang of the garage.  I'd stand out there in the snow and a down coat and grill.  Now, fortunately, we have a screened porch.  The grill is on that.  Lots more pleasant!

Bobby Flay.  Nope.  Steve Raichlen.  Nope.  Five other grilling cookbooks.  Nope.  I was about to give up and spied Sublime Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  A cookbook that I've owned for years but had yet to use.  On the other hand, their Smoke and Spice cookbook is one of my top ten most used cookbooks.  It's fantastic.  Bingo.  Three great trout recipes.  The only problem was that they all required 2-3 hours to cook and it was approaching 8 pm.  So, I went with the quickest - which still wasn't very quick. But, guess what.  We still had to put away all the stuff from Sam's.  The kitchen needed some TLC.  And, it was Saturday evening.  Nobody was going to get on our case if we ate VERY fashionably late at 10 pm! 

What did we think?  We loved the smoked trout. 

The potatoes could have used earlier herbs.  And, maybe a tad more half and half.  When I reheated everything for brunch, I added a poached egg to each serving.  And, I warmed up the potatoes with a bit of half and half whisked with some dijon mustard.  We actually liked the leftovers better than the original dish.

Trout Hash

3/4 lb skin-on trout fillets
2 t Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 c half and half
1 egg
2 t Dijon mustard
3 T minced fresh chives
3 T minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 T minced fresh dill

Slather the trout with the dijon mustard.

Leave the skin on.  Wrap it in plastic and leave it at room temp for 30 minutes.

Soak your smoking wood if necessary.  We used shagbark hickory bark.

While the fish is resting, get ready for the hash.  Cube the potatoes and dice the onion.  Beat the egg and whisk in the dijon and half and half. 

Start your smoker at about 25 minutes.  Now, Connie looked up the directions on the Weber Grill site and it said to use just the smoker.  We'd have eaten somewhere around the 4th of July if we'd used just the smoker.  We wound up using the burners on each side of the fish fillet - all set to the lowest setting.  We smoked with some of the shagbark hickory bark we buy at the farmers market from our friend, Gordon Jones.  He's the guy who makes that wonderful shagbark hickory syrup.  Put the fish fillet on the grill skin side down.

When you start smoking the fish, you can start the hash.  Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the olive oil.  Once the butter/olive oil mixture is bubbling, add the potatoes and onion. 

Cook on medium heat until the onions are nicely browned - about 20 minutes. 

Stir in the egg mixture and the herbs. 

Cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve topped with the smoked trout. 
NB:  The recipe called for mixing the trout into the potato mixture and cooking it for 5 more minutes.  When we took the trout off the grill it was perfectly cooked.  I wasn't going to overcook it by mixing it with the potatoes and continuing to cook it. 

The next morning, I turned the leftovers into brunch by topping the hash with a poached egg - or two in Connie's case.  The trout was mixed with the potato mixture and I heated it up with a bit more half and half and dijon mustard.  It was even better the second day!

adapted from Sublime Smoke

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Liz's Pot Roast

My mother made magnificent pot roast.  She'd haul out the big cast iron dutch oven and the Crisco and she'd brown the heck out of that roast.  It'd have so much flavor.  Potatoes, onions and carrots.  And, gravy.  The most important part, gravy.  I love good gravy.  Then, along came the cheater's way to make pot roast.  Toss everything in the crockpot with a can of cream of mushroom soup, the same can filled with red wine and a packet of dried onion soup.  It was nowhere as good as Mom's but it was a LOT quicker to make. 

Every once in a while, I'd make the real thing.  But, more often than not, I'd make the cheater's version.  But, no matter what, pot roast always included potatoes, onions and carrots.  Nothing else.  So, I was intrigued when my friend, Liz, posted a recipe for a pot roast with tomatoes and mushrooms.  It sounded good and I liked the idea of trying something different yet still comfort food.  Nine times out of ten, Connie'll choose any other protein over beef.  When I gave him a choice of this pot roast versus a roasted chicken, he opted for the pot roast.  Interesting. 

Most weekend days I'm at the office until 4 or 5.  Weekdays, I'm lucky to escape by 6:30.  This recipe takes a good four hours to make.  It was going to be tough to find a day to make it.  As it turned out, one of my long-time clients passed away.  Her calling was on a Sunday from 2-5.  We wanted to get there before the crowd so we could actually spend some time with her kids - one of whom lives out of town so I'd never met him.  As an aside, meeting wonderful folks and being able to help them is absolutely the best part of my job.  Losing them is the worst.  Especially when they're as special as Pat was. 

On the way back from the calling (midwest speak for wake for those of you in the east,) we stopped at the grocery and I picked up a chuck roast.  Since Liz is a fantastic cook, I followed her recipe almost to the letter.  When it came time to turn the liquid into a sauce, I thought it needed a little oomph.  So, I added the balance of the cans of chicken broth and beef broth.  Then, I added some of the black truffle salt she'd given me and thickened it with a bit of corn starch.  Talk about good.  This pot roast was incredible.  Now, I'll be rotating.  Mom's one time.  Liz's the next...  Here's a link to Liz's blog:  That Skinny Chick can Bake.  Please go check out her recipes :-) 

Liz's Pot Roast

3 - 3 1/2 lb chuck roast
salt and pepper
olive oil
medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t sugar
1/2 c beef broth
1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c dry red wine
1 sprig thyme
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 c water (or use the rest of the canned broths)
1 sprig rosemary

Pat the chuck roast dry.  Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  In a Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil.  When it is shimmering and a drop of water tossed in sizzles, add the pot roast.  Brown it well on both sides.  Remember what Alton Brown has taught us - when the roast releases easily, it's brown enough.  Remove the pot roast to a plate. 

See the wonderful fond that's left in the bottom of the pan?

If there's not much oil left in the pan, add a bit more.  Put the carrots, onion, celery and mushrooms in the pan. 

Saute them until they're soft. 

Add the garlic and sugar and cook for about a minute.

Mix the tomatoes with the other vegetables.  Put the roast back in the pan on top of the vegetables. 

Add the beef broth, chicken broth, red wine, thyme and water or balance of the broth.  Once the liquid has come to a simmer, remove the dutch oven from the heat and cover the top with foil.  Put the lid over the foil and place in the oven at 300.  Cook the roast for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  Flip the meat every 30 minutes and baste it with the broth. 

When the roast is very tender and falling apart, remove the meat and vegetables from the pan.  Add the rosemary. 

About that time, George came in to see if there were any treats for a cat.  He got a bite of meat, said thank you very much and I'll see you later.

Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and simmer the liquid until it's reduced to about 1 1/2 cups.  We added some black truffle salt and thickened the broth with some cornstarch. 

To serve, the meat can either be sliced or shredded into large chunks.  Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs.  Great served over mashed potatoes or noodles.   We used roasted red potatoes. 

adapted from That Skinny Chick can Bake!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Asparagus Candy

I'm not much for the sweets.  Posts on desserts seem to be the most popular.  Too bad, that's not what I'm all about.  I like to chat about food that's approachable.  Entrees and sides and soups and sandwiches and appetizers and drinks that you can cook even if you're not a foodie.  Yes, I've got a bit of a sweet tooth.  But, it's easily satisfied by a Hershey's kiss on occasion.  Or, even a couple of M&M's.  I know.  I'm strange.  Connie tells me that all the time.  But, you know what?  His taste is just about the same as mine.  We both LOVE anchovies.  Cheese, be still my heart.  We both eat about any vegetable.  Favorites are roasted broccoli, eggplant involtini and roasted cauliflower.  Asparagus is right up there but this time of year, it's expensive.  So, this recipe had to sound pretty daggone good to make me open the old wallet for a $6 bunch of asparagus.

We try to go to the wine dinners at Agio each month.  Agio is a locally owned restaurant.  Our favorite kind.  Their profits stay right here in Indy.  We know the chef and recognize most of the staff.  The chef, Joseph, is brilliant.  And, the wine dinners are VERY affordable.  The kind of entertainment we enjoy.  One of the things we tend to do is go just by ourselves.  This means we get seated with another couple or two - who in most cases we've never met.  One of our favorite couples was Kit and Anne.  Nice folks and a lot of fun to talk to.  This time we sat with Mark and Alora.  Talk about fun.  Well, we're already invited to their anniversary party on July 4th and they're invited to our holiday party next January.  We very much enjoyed spending an evening with them.  And, the dinner was, as usual, magnificent.  They're foodies and we're foodies.  Guess what we talked about?  Food and grandkids.  Grandkids and food.  Alora told me that one of their favorite vegetables was Asparagus Candy.  It sounded so good I had to make it.

Guess, what?  It was great.  I wanted to lick the plate and get every morsel of that balsamic butter.  I think I put a little too little balsamic in the butter.  Next time I'll pour a bit more.  But, overall, wow this was good.  Thank you Alora and Mark!!!

Asparagus Candy

olive oil
balsamic vinegar (we used fig balsamic - thank you Liz!)

Toss the asparagus with a little olive oil and roast it at 500 for about 20 minutes.  While it is roasting, brown some butter. 

I used about 2T for a small bunch of asparagus. 

Just as the asparagus comes out of the oven, pour some balsamic vinegar into the browned butter.  It'll sizzle and pop and caramelize. 

Plate the asparagus. Pour the browned butter over the asparagus.  We served it with beef tenderloin sprinkled with black truffle salt and mushroom truffle risotto.  One of those meals you just don't want to end!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leftovers with a Greek Flavor

Connie did an audit of the basement refrigerator after the party.  Peppers.  Use peppers he said.  I had browned six lamb patties for a greek layered dip for the party.  The dip never got made.  I'd used up my last six lamb patties from the huge bag I bought at the local farmer's market last summer.  Unless we make a special trip to Terry's place or pay the delivery fee for him to deliver lamb to us, the ground lamb is over until April when the farmer's market starts up again.  Consequently, wasting an iota of the lamb was not an option.  It was time to make Greek Stuffed Peppers.  Now, I didn't measure well as I made this so the measurements are a guideline - nothing more.

We really enjoyed these and I'll make them again.

Greek Stuffed Peppers

orange or red bell peppers
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
1 lb ground lamb, browned and drained
1 c cooked brown rice
14 oz can diced tomatoes plus the juice
dried mint
feta cheese
sour cream

Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut the peppers in half and seed them. 

Schmear the insides of the peppers with hummus. 

We used red bell pepper hummus because that's what we had on hand, but any kind should work equally well.  Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil until it's a bit browned. 

Add the lamb, brown rice, tomatoes, mint, honey, cumin and oregano in a small skillet and heat it through. 

Stuff the peppers with the lamb mixture. 

Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the peppers are softened.  Serve with feta sprinkled on top and a side of sour cream topped with avocado slices.