End of the Year Fresh Market Surprises!

End of the Year Fresh Market Surprises!

We purchase our holiday turkey from New Town Farms in Waxhaw, North Carolina every year. This year, I was surprised to learn that Sammy, New Town’s Father Farmer also raises a small heard of Ossabaw Island Hogs. These are descendants of the famous Spanish Iberico hogs that are renowned for the most prize cured hams in the world – Jamón Ibérico. You may remember me writing about those hams after our trip to Spain a while back. The butchers in the fresh markets have contests to see who can cut the finest slices from the cured meat. It’s an art!

I also learned that these hogs have an interesting history. They were brought from Spain to a small island off the coast of Georgia in the 1500’s. They remained there for years, developing new characteristics for survival which make the meat delicious and extremely high in Omega 3’s. Sammy is one of a handful of farmers who raise these hogs, and he butchers just a few every year. Luckily, we will be the beneficiaries of this long history when we taste the pork that I purchased from Sammy on New Year’s Day.

And, if this is not delicious enough, my trip to the Mathews farmer’s market, where I picked up the pork, landed me right in front of the happiest farmer I ever met, Jim Mundorf of Nuthill Farms (pictured above). These are some of his yummy offerings!

 

He got me to taste his Henpecked mustard greens, which were delicate and tender and had an after-blast of mustard that ups the flavor profile in any salad…and especially on that left-over ham sammie.

He also sold me some Tokyo Cross turnips that you can slice raw into salads, but he suggested that I cook the tops with some vinegar and then roast the turnips to go with. Yes, Jim, I will! Click here to see New Town’s store!

Pork is a New Year’s tradition in our house. This was my Dad’s favorite thing to eat! My favorite way to enjoy the dish is to slow cook the meat (any cut works: chops, ribs, butt and shoulder) in the slow cooker with sauerkraut.

Here’s how ya do it!

Place the sauerkraut into the bottom of your slow cooker. I add sliced onions and slices of cabbage to the kraut. Season the meat and place it on top of the sauerkraut. Pour in about a cup of chicken broth. Cook the pork on low heat for a long time. I serve the dish with mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. This year, we’ll add some mustard greens to the mix!

 

Wishing You’re the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years!!

 

 

Host an Oscar Night Tapas Party!

Host an Oscar Night Tapas Party!

The Oscars are all about glitter, glamour and gowns. If you are looking to bring a bit of the Oscars home to your friends and family, don your most resplendent gear and turn your home into a RED CARPET PARTY. Choose a theme that allows you to prepare all the yummy dishes in advance, so you’re dressed-to-kill in time for the opening act.

One of my favorite do-ahead party themes is a Tapas Party. Why tapas? Wellllll…..You can make the dishes in advance and offer a huge variety to satisfy your guests for the entire show! Tapas are the small bites served in the restaurantes and tabernas in Spain. Patrons travel from tavern to tavern, sampling the specialties of each chef. For this party, we’re going to offer all those specialties on one buffet table.

To set the scene, create a tablescape using brightly colored flowers in small vases of various heights. Add bowls of fresh peppers to highlight the spice of the evening. I like to use small chalkboards to identify each dish, so that your guests can choose easily. Set a tower of small plates on the table, encouraging each pal to take just a little taste of each dish you’ve prepared.

And don’t forget a specialty cocktail! My favorite for this party is Sangria. I marinate a diced apple and peach in rum overnight. Then I place the marinated veggies into a large pitcher and cover with equal parts rosé wine and orange juice. Chill in the fridge for several hours (before the party!!) and pour over ice.

And, the envelope please!

Here are a few of my favorite tapas party dishes, taken from blogs that call for recipes during the most festive times of the year! I finish off with a recipe for the star dish, TORTILLA ESPANOLA!

Garlicky Shrimp and Shishito Peppers. Cook slices of garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic is just golden. Remove the garlic and use this oil to cook shishito peppers and jumbo shrimp until just opaque. Serve the shrimp at room temperature.

Gazpacho Soup with Guacamole. Prepare your favorite guacamole and your best gazpacho soup. My new favorite gazpacho adds a roasted beet that gives the soup a rosy red color. Place a scoop of guac into the bottom of a martini glass. Cover with gazpacho. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Croquetas De Jamón. I love these little fried bites of ham and cheese. Well, not just any ham and cheese. These blend famed, Iberian ham (you can substitute with smoked ham) and Manchego cheese into a rich, creamy béchamel sauce. You can make them days in advance and finish them in a fryer, or fry pan hours before the party. Keep them in a warm oven and serve at room temperature.

Tequila Spiked Berry Shortcakes. Nothing says winner like berries spiked with tequila and served over sweetened biscuits with a scoop of lime sherbet and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Pisto. For your veggie loving friends, this is the perfect dish. Simply sauté onions, garlic, peppers (hot and sweet) with eggplant and zucchini. Stir in diced tomatoes, a little veggie stock and season. Garnish this veggie stew with fresh parsley.

Tortilla Espanola…in progress!

A staple on most tapas menus, this torte is a reminiscent of potatoes gratin and potato frittata. Thinly sliced potatoes are fried, then gently tossed in beaten egg and finally cooked in a shallow sauté pan. You have to flip the torte halfway through cooking, which is just a tad tricky, but not impossible. Keep the torte warm until your ready to serve. It’s perfect warm and at room temperature.

Tortilla Espanola
(Potato Torte)
Serves a crowd
40 Minute Cuisine

Kinda like potatoes au gratin, but more like a potato frittata; this torte is a yummy comfort food, perfect for your tapas buffet table!

 

5 to 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 large yellow onions, diced, about 3 cups
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons
6 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Chopped, fresh parsley

Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into thin rounds. Place the potatoes into a colander and toss with salt. Pour enough oil to come halfway up the side of a deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. You will know that the oil is ready when you place the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and you see bubbles. Fry the potatoes in the oil until they are tender in the middle and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. You can do this in batches, so that you don’t crowd too many slices into the pan. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer the potatoes onto a paper lined baking sheet.

Carefully add the onions and garlic to the oil. Lower the temperature to medium low and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer to the baking sheet holding the potatoes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully pour all but 2 tablespoons of the oil into heat resistant bowl. (When cooled, you can strain and re-use the oil for another recipe.)

Place the eggs into a large bowl using a fork to blend. Gently slide the potatoes, onions and garlic into the bowl. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and gently blend trying not to break the potato slices.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Pour in the potato and eggs using a spatula to spread evenly in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to brown the (soon to be top) of the torte. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the center is set, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use the spatula to gently loosen the edges from the pan as it cooks. Shake the skillet to make sure the center is setting. Turn off the heat. Take a plate, that is larger than the skillet, and place it upside down over the skillet. With one hand on the plate and the other on the skillet handle, invert the pan so that the torte comes out and onto the plate. There might be a little loose egg around the edges. Use your spatula to scrape any bits back into the torte. Gently slide the inverted torte back into the pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook until a tester inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Garnish the torte with chopped, fresh parsley. Transfer the torte to a clean platter and keep warm. The torte can be served warm or at room temperature.

Americanized Paella: Heaven in a Pan

Americanized Paella: Heaven in a Pan

 

COOKING PAELLA GETS A REMAKE

My recipe for Chili Roasted Beef Short Ribs is published in my book Sunday Best Dishes; A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks. Bone-in beef ribs are browned and then bathed in a braising sauce of red wine, beef broth, tomato paste and chili sauce. A dice of veggies (onion, celery, carrots, peppers and garlic) add flavor, and cinnamon sticks and an ancho pepper (or two) tucked into the mix make all the difference.

Yes, these ribs are a meal unto their own, but what if you take them to the next level? Let’s create a dish that uses braised short ribs to Americanize an international staple; traditional Spanish paella.

Paella comes from the word paella, which is French for pan. The one thing all types of paella have in common is the pan. It’s usually large, round and shallow – perfect for cooking the rice commonly found in paella dishes. Most often the dish is cooked over an open fire. What varies are the other ingredients, which include chicken and sausage, shellfish, rabbit, duck and sometimes snails! (My short rib paella is sounding better and better… right!)

To create the paella, remove the short rib meat from the bones in big chunks. Place rice into the bottom of a paella pan (or shallow baking dish). Layer the meat on top of the rice. Place slices of Portobello mushrooms on top of the beef. Sprinkle with peas. Pour the sauce from the braised short ribs over everything. At this point you can also add beef broth. You want everything to be a little soupy. Bake the dish at 300° for thirty minutes, or until the rice is plumped. Bring the pan to the table and dig in!

Chili Roasted Beef Short Ribs

MAKES 8 SERVINGS

Prepare these ribs in the morning and slow roast in the oven while you enjoy your Sunday afternoon. It’s melt in your mouth comfort with just a hint of heat. 

8 beef short ribs, about 3 to 4 pounds (choose ribs that are thick and meaty)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup (or more) unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, diced, about 1 cup

2 large carrots, diced, about 1 cup

2 medium celery ribs, diced, about 1 cup

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced, about ¼ cup

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and deveined, diced, about 2 tablespoons

1 750ml bottle red wine

1 quart homemade beef broth, or low sodium beef broth

1 cup tomato paste

1 cup chili sauce

1 large chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and diced, about 2 tablespoons

2 cinnamon sticks

Chopped, fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 250°. Season the ribs with chili powder, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large roasting pan) over medium high heat. Dredge each rib in flour, shaking off the excess. Place each rib into the oil and brown on all sides. Remove the ribs to a platter. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and jalapeno to the pan. Cook until the veggies are soft.

Pour in the wine and beef broth. Stir in the tomato paste and chili sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil. Return the ribs and any juices on the platter to the pan. Bury the cinnamon sticks in the sauce.

Cover the Dutch oven with the lid (or place aluminum foil over the pan). Place the pan into the oven and cook until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone, about 6 to 7 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the cover. Place the ribs onto a platter and spoon the sauce over top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Party Ready Croquettes!

Party Ready Croquettes!

One of my favorite appys on the menu at my local Cuban restaurant is the lightly breaded, fried béchamel fritter platter; it’s studded with salty, smoked ham called Croquetas de jamón. Unlike their Southern cousin the hush puppy, these little delicacies are way too delicious to give to the dog. These croquettes are terrific with a glass of dry white wine or with a beer during the big game!

They are easier to make than you think and, better yet, you can prepare them all the way to the frying stage, then freeze them for later use. In my catering days, we used to have whole days dedicated to making ahead and freezable appys, so that we could “grab and go” on the way to client parties.

Start by making a rich white custardy béchamel sauce. Add some smoked ham, and then chill the mixture in the fridge. Mold the chilled mixture into small cylinders and then bread them. Before serving, heat up the oil and fry them to a golden brown. It only takes a minute or two. The crunchy outside leads to a melty inside. Add a spicy sauce, and you have an appy everyone will enjoy.

 

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs...

Traditional fried croquette with glass of beer on a wooden table.

Croquetas de Jamón

Serves a crowd

45 Minute Cuisine plus chilling

If you are looking for a make-ahead appy that freezes well, you have come to the right place! These creamy croquettes are simple to make and delicious to eat.

8 ounces smoked ham

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons butter

½ small yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk, room temperature

1 tablespoon dry sherry

4 ounces manchego cheese

Spicy aioli sauce

Place the ham in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely dice.

Whisk together the flour, parsley, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and nutmeg.

Cook the onion in the butter, in a deep saucepot over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Whisk the flour into the butter and onions and cook until bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and sherry. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cheese until thoroughly melted. Stir in the diced ham. Pour this béchamel into a baking dish and chill for at least four hours.

To form the croquettes, use a 1-inch ice cream scoop to form a ball of béchamel. Form this ball into a small cylinder and place it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the béchamel is used. Transfer the cylinders to the refrigerator. Make a dipping station by whisking together two large eggs in a shallow bowl. Pour bread crumbs into a second bowl. Use a spoon to gently roll 1 cylinder in the beaten egg. Then roll in bread crumbs and place them back onto the baking sheet. Chill (or freeze) until you are ready to fry the croquettes.

Heat vegetable oil in a fryer, or deep pot to 375°degrees. Make sure that you use only enough oil to come ⅓ up the side of the pot, as the oil will bubble up when you fry the croquettes. Place several croquettes into the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon to gently turn the croquettes in the oil. Cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the croquettes to a paper towel-lined baking dish. Serve with a spicy aioli sauce.

Cook’s Tip

You can make a spicy aioli sauce by combining mayonnaise with a drizzle of hot adobo sauce. Simpler still, try some of the new Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressings in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Their Siracha Ranch is perfect for these croquettes.

Tapas Crawl Dinner Party!

Tapas Crawl Dinner Party!

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs...

close-up view of wide variety of Tapas in restaurant at spain

One of the coolest outings we arranged was on a family trip to Madrid; it was a tapas crawl! Our guide met us at our hotel and then took us on a walking tour of the local bars and pubs. We sampled small plates of paella, shellfish, specialty croquettes, and rich tomato soups, both hot and cold. We ended the evening at a coffee shop that served warmed churros directly from the fryer to the middle of your table, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and accompanied by a rich, deep chocolate sauce for dipping. To say the evening was yummy would be one of the biggest underestimates of the century!

For a recent dinner party, I decided to incorporate the tapas theme into the evening. My BIG plan is to think SMALL! Small plates that is. Rather than a soup to the nuts four-course menu, think small plates all the way through the meal.

I started the meal with an antipasti plate that included plums wrapped with prosciutto. The specialty drink was Sangria, which blended a bottle of dry red wine with brandy, triple sec, lemon and orange juices, and ginger ale.

 

The secret to a successful small plate dinner party, is to have the plates stacked for each item, and the food prepped and ready to go. The rest of the meal went like this: Croquets de Jamon, which is a fried ham and béchamel croquette, served with a dipping sauce of spicy aioli. Chilled gazpacho shooters served in juice glasses came next. A small dish of garlicky shrimp and shishito peppers followed the soup. In place of traditional paella, my Americanized version was made with shredded chili roasted short ribs, peas, and Portobello mushrooms. The final small plate presented warm churros with individual small bowls of chocolate sauce for dipping. Hungry yet?! If any of these tapas ring your bell, let me know. I have the recipes!

 

I canvassed my guests, and by far the favorite dish of the evening was the shrimp. It’s not only terrific as a small plate, but it’s also an easy, one-pan meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. Shishito peppers are only in season for a short time, so feel free to substitute with slices of poblano peppers, snow pea pods, green beans or asparagus. They all work well, with the garlicky olive oil and shrimp.

Garlicky Shrimp and Shishito Peppers

Serves 4 as main 6 to 8 as appy

30 Minute Cuisine

Slow cooking garlic in olive oil does double duty. The oil becomes fragrant, while the garlic becomes soft and sweet. Add the bite of whole shishito peppers and delicate shrimp, and you have a simple one-pan meal that come together in minutes!

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced, about ½ cup

½ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon paprika

10 to 12 shishito peppers

1 bunch green onions, tops removed, halved, and cut into 3-inch pieces

1 pound fresh extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, about 26 to 30

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and paprika and cook until soft, and just beginning to turn golden on the edges. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Add peppers, green onions, and shrimp to the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Toss the veggies and shrimp in the garlicky oil, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked for about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.