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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Which came first the chicken or the beer? Who Cares when serving this great recipe

The first time I heard of beer-can chicken, I thought, “Why in the world would you sacrifice a can of beer in that manner?”

I mean, it’s bad enough you’re wasting precious beer but shoving the can up the bird’s innards too, jeepers!

Well a few years later and a bit wiser when it comes to food, I must confess that if you’re going to sacrifice a brew, this is likely the best thing to use it for. And if you don’t feel comfortable sticking an aluminum can up the bird, they now have cooking kits you can use.
I’m a purist though. Just give me a good can of beer and that will do. No fancy equipment required.

Beer-can chicken is actually easy to make. You marinate the chicken however you wish. Open a can of beer and pour 1/3 of it into the roasting pan. Place the open can in the center of the roasting pan and slide the chicken on top of the can. I like roasting my chicken anywhere between 375-400 degrees and usually 90 minutes does the trick (it depends on the size of the bird).

If you don’t want to pour some of the beer into the roasting pan, just drink a third of the beer, if you have self-control. I don’t, so it’s usually one can of beer for the bird and one can for me.

The beer keeps the chicken moist and imparts flavor. This same technique can be done outside in a covered gas or charcoal grill.
I’ve found that darker beers or stouts are great for making barbecue flavored beer can chicken. It adds a woodsy flavor profile that blends well with the smoke from the grill and the barbecue sauce.

When I make my rosemary and garlic beer can chicken, I rub the bird with butter (on the skin and pushed under the skin), the herbs and spices, but I also add sprigs of fresh rosemary and a few whole garlic gloves into the can of beer. The beer steam blends with the herbs and spices and that gets infused into the meat.

If you don’t want to use beer, you can substitute chicken broth. My friend used a blend of chicken stock and orange juice, which was fantastic.

But you can’t call that beer-can chicken! That would be more like chicken-broth/orange juice chicken, cooked in the fancy equipment pan thingy.

Some people call beer-can chicken, drunken chicken and I can live with that.

But for me drunken chicken is when I cook chicken on the stove top, douse it with some bourbon and light it up, creating a thick sauce on my bourbon glazed drunken chicken.

I have, on occasion, used a spray bottle filled with bourbon to make my oven drunk beer-can chicken. Same steps as regular beer-can chicken but every 15 minutes I open the oven, carefully slide out the bird, spritz the chicken with the bourbon (then spritz my mouth with the bourbon) and place it back in the oven to continue cooking.

That’s my bourbon sprayed beer-can chicken recipe. I think I’ll call that two-sheets to the wind drunken beer-can chicken from now on because by the time it’s done I am usually done too.

Anyways give beer-can chicken a try and let me know how it tasted.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Super Bowl or did you say Super FULL

Super Bowl Sunday came and went and with it so did tons of chips and salsa, chicken wings, nachos and any semblance of a proper diet. My team wasn’t in the game (forever a Dallas Cowboys fan…get over it) and I don’t like the New England Patriots (does anyone?) so the only reason in watching it was to have an excuse to eat and drink beer.

Well that and root for the Eagles.

Things started off on the right foot during the first half. I served up a nice plate of spinach and vegetable salad. I nibbled on a few dill pickle spears and drank water. During the second quarter as the game intensified and the score remained close, I chomped on chips and salsa. As the game progressed I steadily found myself yelling at the TV screen more often.

“Curse you Tom Brady,” I’d yell and then grab a Dorito. “Someone tackle him please.”
Watching Brady drop a pass after a trick play, actually had me laughing out loud. I celebrated with a spicy chicken wing and a beer.

As much as I like Justin Timberlake I wasn’t impressed by the half time show so I walked to the cooler grabbed a another beer and picked up a hot dog. I topped it with chili and sour cream and down it went.

The Patriots started making a bit of a comeback in the third, as usual, and I had to walk away from the living room. I turned on the TV in the bedroom and watched Worst Cooks in America (Food Network, of course). The contestants had to try and make a pizza from scratch. One guy made a pretty decent looking cheese burger pizza…yep…back to the kitchen I went and snacked on some pizza rolls.

I could barely peel my eyes away from the game during the fourth. When New England scored I graduated from beer to rum and coke and was yelling so loud at the TV my dogs ran toward the bedroom to hide.

I stacked a pile of chips and salsa topped with melted cheese and diced hot peppers on a plate. Added some avocado and a squeeze of lime and those nachos went down before the next TV commercial got a chance to air.

Is it me or was attorney Jamie Casino wearing too much eyeliner? And was I seeing things or did Eli Manning really Dirty Dance?

Maybe it was the rums and cokes (plural by now).

The dogs remained in my room as my yelling and cheering got louder and louder. The cats didn’t know where to hide and appeared annoyed as I ran around the coffee table…cheering for the Eagles, cursing Tom Brady, grabbing another chicken wing, making another drink and eating another hot dog.

With just seconds remaining Tom Brady gets sacked, the Eagles secure the win and I started to jump for joy.
“Woohoo,” I yelled, with yet another chicken wing in my hand. “They finally lost. Go Eagles.” I looked around the room. There were paper plates EVERYWHERE. The place looked like a food bomb had exploded and no one was spared. The Bacardi bottle was half empty and all that remained was one hot dog.

“What a mess,” I thought to myself as I grabbed the last wiener. “Good thing no one else was here to witness this fiasco.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Learning the basics of sofrito

I love visiting my parents. Each time we get together we reminisce about family outings throughout the years.
I love listening to them talk about their childhood in Cuba. My dad often talks about having to wake up real early and take care of the farm and cattle before getting dressed and walking to school.

I learned that my aunt was an educator before leaving Cuba for the United States. She used to ride her horse every day to teach third grade. I thought that was pretty cool and beat all those stories you hear about having to walk 5 miles in the snow, uphill, to get to and from school.

But for this foodie nothing beats watching mom create heavenly tasting holiday meals. I spent Christmas and New Year’s at mom and dad’s house. Mom showed me the technique to roast the perfect pork shoulder, cooked just right, so you end up with a crunchy, crispy pork rind.

One of the most basic sauces used in many Cuban, Puerto Rican and Caribbean dishes is called a sofrito. It is the tangy, sometimes spicy and always delicious tomato based sauce used in recipes like ropa vieja (Cuban style shredded beef stew), carne con papas (Cuban style chunky meats and potatoes), picadillo (ground beef served over rice) and nearly any seafood dish served enchilado style (meaning red chili sauce, yet not necessarily spicy).

There are a variety of sofrito recipes, but purist know that it must contain onion, bell peppers, garlic, tomato sauce or paste or both. Those are the base ingredients. From there most recipes differ on herbs and spices depending on whether the sofrito will be used in a meat, poultry or seafood dish.

My mom’s basic sofrito recipe:
One green bell pepper sliced thin
One red bell pepper sliced thin
Half a sweet onion sliced thin
2 diced garlic cloves
One small can of tomato sauce
Teaspoon of tomato paste
Teaspoon of capers
A few sliced Spanish olives
Some white wine if using for seafood or poultry or red wine for meat dishes

Using mom’s recipe as an example, you cook the onions, bell peppers and garlic in a pan with olive oil until the onions become translucent and the peppers tender. Add the tomato sauce, paste, capers and sliced olives and simmer, tossing in salt and pepper to taste. My mom also likes to add peas and does so quite often. It adds a bit of texture, yet doesn’t change the flavor.

During my visit, she made a seafood enchilado with sofrito, mussels and shrimp. As the sofrito simmered she added about a cup of white wine and let it simmer, cooking out the alcohol but infusing the sauce with the wine. Once the sauce was finished, she tossed in mussels and cleaned and peeled shrimp. My dad likes his seafood a bit spicy so she hit the mix with a dash of hot sauce and cayenne pepper. Seafood doesn’t take that long to cook and within minutes it was ready.

It was awesome!
I’ve learned to cook a lot of my favorite meals and they’ve come pretty close to mom’s. But now that I am armed with the sauce recipe I am looking forward to seeing just how close to replicating my mom’s recipes I can get.

TIME TO EXPERIMENT…and EAT!

Perfect Plantain Pork Sliders

I had this I-want-something-Cuban craving the other day (strange right?). I looked around my kitchen and it was slim pickings (because I don’t like the cold weather. And it’s been cold, so I was too lazy to go shopping because IT’S COLD).

But I had the items I needed and ended up creating what is likely to be a new regular dish on my list of meals to make.
Using some leftover roasted pork, a sweet onion and a green plantain, I created my own plantain pork sliders.

THEY WERE THE BOMB!

You don’t need the whole onion, just enough slices that you’ll caramelize in olive oil on the stove top. Enough for about 2-3 sliders
Peel the green plantain and cut it into one inch chunks. I happen to have a deep fryer. If you don’t, you can fry the plantain chunks in oil on the stove top. Fry them for 3-5 minutes, making sure both sides get cooked in the oil.

While the onions and plantains are cooking, I tossed some shredded roasted pork into a small bowl with some minced garlic and mojo. Just mix it together briefly to moisten the pork.
After frying the plantain chunks, take them out of the fryer or pan and place them on a cutting board or flat surface. Use the back side of a large flat spatula and mash the plantain until it is almost flat and round. After doing that to each chunk, place the plantains back into the hot oil and fry another 3-5 minutes.

By the way this is the basic recipe in making Cuban plantain chips called tostones.

As the plantains get their final cooking time, take the pork out of the mojo mix and toss it into the pan next to the onions to heat up the pork.
Once the pork, onions and plantains are cooked it is time to assemble the sliders. Place a plantain chip on a plate, this will serve as your bottom bun. Top it with some of the pork and onions then use a second plantain chip as top bun.

I happen to love salsa verde (green tomatillos sauce) so I also topped my pork with a dollop of that before placing the top bun in place.

It was quick, easy and delicious.

This sandwich will only work with green plantains used as the buns, but as far as the filling goes you could swap out pork for thin sliced cooked steak, seafood or chicken.

In fact, Puerto Ricans make a sandwich called the jibarito that is basically this same recipe but with thin sliced steak as the filling.
I made my plantain buns using my tostone recipe, so they would be small round sliders, but you could also make the buns by slicing the plantain in half length-wise. You would still fry it for a few minutes, flatten it like sandwich bread and fry again until crisp.

Oh, the thought of topping a plantain and steak sandwich with a spicy chimichurri sauce just popped into my head. Or maybe a spicy garlic mayo on a plantain and chicken sandwich.

OH THE ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES.

Sometimes the best things come out of the necessity of using what you already have in your pantry or fridge. Or as in my case the best thing came out of being plain lazy and allergic to cold weather.

Send me your zany creations so I can give them a try.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Noming on Ramen...nom, nom, nom

Nothing is more satisfying than some hot soup on cold days. I enjoy making homemade soups and stews, but I am just as content on making a quick boil-and-go Ramen noodle soup.

Those are the bomb and SO CHEAP.

I have a few friends who prep the soup, but then drain the liquid. HELLO, that is NOT soup.
The fun part of Ramen is letting those noodles soak in the flavors, getting nice and plump then SLURPING them up.
And you don’t have to be quiet when you slurp up the tasty noodles. In fact the louder the better. It is practically proper Ramen etiquette to loudly slurp your noodles.

If you don’t, you are doing it WRONG.

True Ramen chefs spend hours creating the broth. It is the most important aspect of the dish. Seriously. Look it up. Developing deep, rich flavors that meld well with the noodles is essential. And once you’ve slurped up all the noodles and goodies, YOU MUST chug down that broth.

NO SPOONS PLEASE. Pick up the bowl and drink the broth like you are supposed to. Unlike conventional soups, it is BAD manners to eat your Ramen any other way.

Obviously, the Ramen noodle soups we buy at the store are, of course, the most basic or bland version of a true Japanese Ramen, which are creatively and carefully constructed.

There are days when I’m OK with just the bland, store-bought version. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for some Ramen soup that is topped with cheddar cheese. The cheese melts into the broth as well as sticking to the noodles making for some ooey gooey slurping.
But more often than not I like experimenting with my Ramen soups, especially when I have leftovers in the fridge I need to use up.

For example after preparing a beef flavored Ramen packet, I might spruce it up by adding some chopped scallions, sliced cooked beef or pork and a hard-boiled egg (cut in half, like at those fancy restaurants).

Leftover cooked chicken and canned corn can spice up the plain chicken flavored version. Top that with a hit of rosemary and scallions for extra yumminess.
Turn a basic shrimp flavor pack into a seafood lover’s paradise by tossing in some cooked shrimp, crab meat and baby scallops.

I had some left over curry soup that I had made with coconut milk, butternut squash, carrots and chick peas. I cooked up a packet of Chicken flavored Ramen on the stove top while I heated up some of the curry soup in the microwave. When both were ready I tossed the Ramen noodles in the curry soup along with a bit of the chicken broth and a shot of hot sauce.

It was awesome!

How do you like your Ramen noodle soup?

Friday, December 15, 2017

A dinner with St. Nicholas

’Twas two days before Christmas, yet not quite in the mood,
Then I remembered about all the holiday food.

Feeling much better, I returned to my chore,
Then I heard it, although lightly, there was a knock on my door.

So I looked out my window, surprised as to who I did see,
Wait is that Santa, there, just waiting on me?

“Dude, what’s up? Man you look great,”
“It looks like you lost a lot of your weight.”

“Ho, ho,” he replied, “but for Christmas this just won’t do.”
“My suit won’t fit right, so I came looking for you.”

“Me?” I asked. “Well Santa, you must be mistaken.”
“Yes you,” he replied. “Just feed me. Let’s start off with bacon.”

“Just for the holidays,” he said. “I need to be jolly and round.”
“They say you are a foodie, so help me put on the pounds.”

He walked in and made his way to my table,
“Conjure up some goodies,” he said. “Every meal you are able.”

I set out his cookies and started hoisting out pans,
I started chopping veggies and opening cans.

I cut up some cheese and prepared him a platter,
Then I turned my attention to the heart of the matter.

His visit had to be short, after all, he can only stay for a while,
“OK Santa,” I said. I’ll feed you my way, Cuban-style.”

I made him white rice, black beans and Cuban steak
He ate roast pork and plantains until so full that he ached.

And just when I thought he had to be through
He smiled and burped and said, “One meal more will do.”

I couldn’t believe it. Someone who eats much more than me.
Yet there he still sat, eating sliced brie.

“Dude you’re the king,” I said. “You beat me by a mile.”
“Well Mrs. Claus keeps a tight watch on me,” he said with a smile.

“I don’t do this year-round, like I said, just to fit in my suit.”
“Now go fetch me my final meal, go on now, scoot.”

Back in the kitchen I cooked until my cupboard was bare.
Not a piece of pie left, nor a cookie to spare.

Santa stood up, stretched and was looking quite pleased.
“I’m so full and round,” he laughed. “I can’t see my knees.”

“Look how my suit fits,” he added. “Now it fits perfect and snug.”
“You did it,” he said while wrapping me tight in a hug.

He rubbed his belly, tightened his belt while walking back toward the door.
So joyous was he that he danced ‘cross the floor.

“Thank you so much,” he said. “I knew you’d be up for the task.
He reached into his bag, ruffled about then tossed me a flask.

“Heard you’re a whiskey girl, so please have this drink.”
“Mrs. Claus watches that too,” he chuckled and said with a wink.

“And there’s more gifts to come during my holiday spree.”
“But you must clean up that kitchen and finish the tree.”

Speechless, I stood there amazed.

He walked toward the sleigh, hopped in, fixed the seat up just right.
He rubbed his belly once more and chuckled in pure delight.

“You filled my belly but also warmed my heart,” he said eyes twinkling bright.
“I’ll see you again soon,” he promised, cracked his whip and the sleigh was soon out of sight.

Yet I still heard him clearly… “Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight.”

Ok, yeah this is my own adult version of T’was the Night before Christmas. It is intended for fun and laughter only, however, let it be known that no one goes hungry at my house – ever!

In all seriousness whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any of the other holiday traditions, religious or otherwise, enjoy it and be safe. Take the opportunity to celebrate those in your life who bring you joy, happiness and yes even laughter.

I look forward to sharing new foodie experiences in 2018.

Peace, out.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful for food and all the choices!

Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving, sometimes with friends and family, sometimes alone, and we reflect on things in our lives we should be thankful for.
I have many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for having a loving and supportive family. I am thankful for my pets that also provide me with unconditional love. I am thankful, that unlike many others, I do have a roof over my head, electricity, hot water and the ability and comfort of sleeping in my own bed.
I am thankful to have a job that has allowed me to report on issues in our community, both good and bad, sometimes ugly, sometimes humorous. A job that has also allowed to me discover new places and adventures and discuss my all-time favorite topic – FOOD.

Oh, yes I am thankful for food!

This year I’ll be home for Thanksgiving (all alone, all by myself….whimper…whimper), while the rest of my family is in Chattanooga. I don’t plan on cooking an entire meal for myself but I do plan to EAT.
So I am thankful for places that that are taking orders for holiday meals.

SO MANY CHOICES

For a traditional Southern flare of mouthwatering turkey, ham, black-eye peas, greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese followed up with banana pudding and peach cobbler, you must hit Izola’s Country CafĂ©.

Wake up people no one does Southern like Izola’s…NO ONE.

As it says on their website, “We can fix you up.” And they definitely can. There is a reason the folks who run Izola’s have been in the restaurant business FOREVER!
Taste their famous fried chicken and you will see why they’ve maintained the number one rated eatery in Hinesville for quite some time, according to Trip Advisor. And it is no secret they are my GO-TO place for fried chicken.
They tend to stay busy throughout the holiday season so it is best to call ahead and give them plenty of notice for your order.
WAIT…I need to call them before you guys do…dang do I need to share their number?

Boo…well okay here it is. The diner is located at 809 Willowbrook Circle. For more information call 912-463-4709.
If you are looking for a fried turkey Bojangles in Hinesville is taking orders.
WAIT…WHAT?

Yes, the eatery that is known for their fried chicken is offering up fried turkey and a complete holiday meal. They are offering mashed potatoes, green beans, Bojangles’ Cajun pintos, mac-n-cheese their dirty rice and of course BISCUITS.
Sounds incredibly delicious. Give them a try. Call 912-332-7304 and place your order or visit the diner at 130 Carter Street.
It’s during the holidays that I crave the foods I grew up with during my youthful days in Miami’s Little Havana. My dad would spend a day and half marinating and roasting a whole pig for the festivities.

Luckily for me, Walthourville Meat Market owner Ronald DeLeon caters to the Latin community here in Liberty County. DeLeon was born in New York from Dominican parents, and grew up in Miami.
At his market he offers whole pigs. They can either be bought raw for folks to cook on their own or he can cook them for you. He’ll even marinate it for you. He can get pigs as small as 20 pounds and as large as 120 pounds. They also offer another Latin favorite the roasted pork shoulder.

QUE RICO!!

He also does traditional Boston butts and also specializes on Latin side dishes like yucca, plantains, Spanish style rice and beans. For those seeking a Caribbean meal he takes order for lamb and goat as well.
Goodness my mouth is watering. It is all SO GOOD.
DeLeon has also expanded to offering seafood and cooks up a mean Lowcountry boil. He has a small platter that can feed two people easily (or just me). His large Lowcountry boil can feed an entire family (or just me).

I’ve had his Lowcountry boil. It’s amazing with just the right amount of heat and loaded with shrimp, crab legs, sausage and corn. Walthourville Meat Market is at 5715 W. Oglethorpe Highway. For more information call 912-369-4933.

If you are seeking something WAY different why not give the folks at Ludowici’s Majestic Meat Market a visit. They can get you frog legs, rabbit, deer and even alligator.
I’ve never had frog legs, but I’ve heard it tastes like chicken. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
The store is family owned, veteran operated by TRULY generous people. For the past four years they’ve helped local organizations feed more than 30 families through the holiday season. Go check them out at 576 S McDonald Street, Ludowici. Or call them at 545-2078.

All this talk about food is making me HUNGRY.

It also makes me thankful that I have the ability to afford this most basic need in life. Others can’t afford to buy food, don’t have shelter or other basic needs.
I am thankful to the many kind souls who have the willingness to GIVE to those in need. I plan to give back this year by volunteering at a food kitchen. I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. If you have the ability to lend a helping hand this holiday season, please do. People will be thankful for it.