Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ham & Asparagus Crepes

Some people say “real men don’t eat Crepes.”

Not me—I love Crepes.

I’d rather cook and eat Crepes than spend my time being a creep like some men that say “real men don’t eat Crepes.

Know what I mean?

I’ve been cooking crepes and serving them for brunch every few months for the past three years or so. They are not hard—just slightly intimidating in their own special way.

The basic recipe is pretty standard, but I found these guys to have the best description of the actual process involved in cooking your crepes.

While my recipe is designed to make four or five medium crepes—enough to serve breakfast for two—it only takes slightly longer to make twenty crepes.

My ingredients were:

For the Crepes:

½ cup of milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup of flour
A pinch of salt
¼ stick butter

For the filling:

8 slices deli ham (like you’d use on a sandwich)
1 can Green Giant Asparagus
½ block cream cheese

For the sauce:

1 package Knorr Hollandaise sauce mix

Start out by slowly melting ¼ stick of butter in a small boiler over medium heat.

Next, let your milk and eggs sit out on the counter top for a half hour to warm up. Sift and measure your flour into a mixing bowl, then whisk together the milk and eggs and add them to your flour and salt. Mix everything up real good with an electric mixer or in the blender, and then let it sit a few minutes to let the bubbles settle out.

Heat your Crepe pan or a medium skillet over medium low heat. On my stovetop the setting is about 2-3/4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Once the skillet has heated up, brush it lightly with some of your melted butter and then pour ¼ cup of your batter mixture into the middle of the skillet and tilt the skillet around to get a thin, even circular puddle.

Redneck Tip: If your are not sure of the skillet temperature, pour just a little silver dollar size puddle out in the skillet, saving the rest of the batter for your next effort until you see if the skillet is too hot or too cold (mine was too hot the first time and I threw away a whole Crepe.)

Cook each crepe about two or three minutes until the edges start to curl upward, then carefully lift it with a metal spatula and flip it over in the skillet. Cook it about another minute, and then place it on a plate on the side.

Keep brushing out the butter and cooking crepes until you run out of batter, paying attention that the skillet doesn’t cool off too much or overheat and burn your Crepes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and pre grease a 9”x9” Pyrex dish.

The filling part of this recipe is really easy. Lay a Crepe in the middle of a clean plate. Cover two thirds of it with two pieces of sliced ham. Lay two or three pieces of canned Asparagus side by side in the middle of the ham. Place two pieces of crème cheese end to end on top of the Asparagus, roll your filled crepe up, and place it in your baking dish.

When the Crepes are all rolled up and in the dish, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and toss the dish in the oven for 20 minutes.

While your Crepes are baking, make up your Knorr sauce or a homemade cheese sauce.

After 20 minutes or so, pull the foil off the dish and let things cook uncovered another five minutes while your stir your sauce.

Pull the dish out of the oven, place two crepes in the middle of your plate, spoon out some of your sauce, sit down at the table, and EAT!

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make Lemonaid...

Well, the Blogskin that I've used with "The Redneck Gourmet" since last December somehow lost it's mind while publishing a new recipe on Saturday, and I'm not smart enough to fix the original trashy HTML code contained in the "free template" that I had hardly paid attention to in the past six months.

After about two hours of trying to debug another rocket scientist's coding, I gave up and picked a new skin from blogger. This one needs some work, but the cascading style sheet format and cleaner code is something that I can work with.

After I cook some breakfast and my head stops hurting from trying to debug the old code, I'll try to get the archives section, the links, and the site meter reinstalled.

Wish me luck

The Redneck Gourmet Programmer

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Greek Burritos

I had a pack of ground beef laying in the fridge that I had thawed out on Friday afternoon. I knew that I had to cook it soon else it would go bad, but Pat and I didn’t want hamburgers tonight.

Besides hamburgers and meat loaf, what else can you do with ground beef? Oh, I almost forgot stuffed bell peppers…any way…

A quick Google search yielded this recipe for Greek Pocket Sandwiches. The only problem was, I didn’t have any pita bread in the house. What I did have instead was some large flour tortillas.

Is there such a thing as Greek Burritos? No?

Well, I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that there is now something called “Greek Burritos,” and here is what you need to make four of them:

For the meat filling:

¼ large white onion-diced
¼ large red onion-diced
1 carrot, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, diced fine

2 tbsp bacon grease (or olive oil)
10 oz ground beef
(1) 8 oz can diced tomatoes
½ small can tomato paste
2/3 can of beef stock

½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp red pepper
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt

For the cucumber yogurt sauce:

½ medium cucumber, seeded and diced super fine
4 oz plain yogurt
garlic powder or one clove fresh garlic, diced super fine
1 scallion, diced (you guessed it) super fine

2 handfuls of organic salad greens if you want a little salad on the side

Now get out your largest heavy skillet and put it and the bacon grease on the stove over medium low heat. Add your diced onions and sauté for five minutes or so. Now add the carrots and keep sautéing.

When the carrots have softened a little, add the garlic and a splash of beef broth. Cook everything for another five minutes or so, then add your ground beef and break it up well with your spatula.

Now add all of your spices.

Redneck Tip: Be careful not to burn off your nose hairs enjoying the spice aroma—keep your face a safe distance away from the skillet.

Continue cooking the beef until it is nicely browned, then tilt your skillet sideways and spoon off any excess grease.

Redneck Tip: I left my grease in my skillet because I have a food induced death wish.

Now add the diced tomatoes, the tomato paste, and pour in some more of your beef stock. Bring everything to a nice low simmer, cover the mixture, and make your dressing.

Place your cucumber in a fine mesh colander and add ½ tsp salt. Let it set for five or ten minutes, then press the cucumber with the back of a large spoon to drain the water, then put your pressed cucumber into a small mixing bowl. Now add the yogurt, garlic, and scallion and stir it all up to combine well. Place it in the fridge to chill.

Place your plates in the oven to pre-heat and get out your chargers. Wrap your tortillas in aluminum foil and toss them in the oven on top of your plates.

Check the meat mixture every five or ten minutes and stir it with your spatula to keep it from sticking. Keep cooking the meat until it is nice and thick, then pull the lid off and cook five minutes more.

Pull the plates out of the oven, place a warm tortilla in the middle, spoon out some of the meat mixture, drizzle some of your sauce down the middle, roll the whole thing up, and EAT.

(Place your greens on a chilled plate on the side and top with some more cucumber sauce if you want a salad.)

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Grilled Stuffed Bell Peppers (Updated)

I was wandering around in the produce section of the grocery store today and noticed colored bell peppers on sale--$0.99 each. I love colored bells, so I bought two yellow and two red.

We cook with bell peppers a good deal when they are available for a reasonable price, but I don’t really need four whole peppers diced up right now and I hated to freeze fresh peppers so soon after buying them.

After looking through the fridge and pantry, I decided to make stuffed bell peppers for dinner—on the grill. As you may know, stuffed peppers usually consist of a mixture of meat, spices, and cheese, baked in the oven. Since I didn’t think that the peppers could stand cooking on the grill long enough to get the meat stuffing properly cooked, I precooked the stuffing in the skillet and things worked out well. Regarding ingredients, I used what I used, but you can feel free to experiment with your own combinations of sausage, beef, pork, lamb, and different cheeses like Monterey jack, Swiss, cheddar, you name it.

Here is what you will need to make my version of stuffed colored bell peppers:

Three large colored bell peppers

1 tbsp olive oil
¼ onion, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 clove garlic, pealed and diced very fine
½ lb ground beef
1 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
black pepper

1 package Lipton Fiesta Sides Mexican Rice

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

First things first—fire up your charcoal grill. I use charcoal with an electric starter—a thing that gets hot like the eye of an electric range—in order to avoid using lighter fluid. I hate eating food that smells like someone poured kerosene on it. Call me a charcoal snob, and use a gas grill if you must…

I ‘ve been using the Lipton Fiesta Sides instant rice for a while now. It produces good results, fast. Cook it according to the package directions (it’s done in 7 minutes); else make your own plain white or brown rice. You’ll need about 1-1/2 to 2 cups of finished rice, regardless of how long it takes to cook.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat, adding your olive oil. Sautee the onions for a couple of minutes, then add the celery and cook another couple of minutes. Now add the garlic and cook until the onions are clear.

While the veggies are sautéing, slice your peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and “gills.” Brush the outside of the peppers with a little olive oil and distribute ½ cup of mozzarella cheese equally inside the pepper halves.

Add the ground beef and Worcestershire Sauce and cook until the beef is lightly browned. Stir in ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, turn off the heat, and let everything cool.

Redneck Update (June 27th): I cooked stuffed bells again this evening and realized that in the original recipe write up I forgot to mention adding the cooked rice to the meat/veggie/cheese mixture at this time. Please accept my appology Ladies and Gentlemen.

Spoon the cooled meat/veggie/cheese/rice mixture into the pepper halves and top with a little extra cheese (I used parmesan.)

Meanwhile back at the grill, spread out your coals (gas grill users—adjust your flame to a height less that three feet) and brush your grill grate with olive oil or spray it with a non-stick spray.

Place the stuffed peppers on the grill and go fix yourself a drink—you’re almost done. Let the peppers cook for ten or fifteen minutes (depends on how hot your grill is), then move them round and turn them 90 degrees and make sure that they are not burning. When you can’t wait any longer, pull them off the grill, place them on a plate, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Peasant Pasta with Meatballs and Veggie Parmesan Cream Sauce

We had a bad computer day on Wednesday here on St. Simons Island. We’re still suffering from some as yet unidentified problem that Adelphia says is in our PC’s, but we can’t explain since my laptop works OK on our back up dial up connection. Pat’s notebook is on it’s way via Fed-EX back to her corporate IT department for a tune up so we are a one PC family for couple of days.

Adding insult to injury, our condo air conditioner is running at about 50% capacity—in layman’s terms, our interior forecast is slightly warm, with a good chance of cooling down after the sun sets this evening. In the mean time, it’s about 80 degrees.

In an effort to cook dinner and not heat the kitchen up too much with the stove, I looked into doing some sort of quick pasta dish.

This recipe supplied the inspiration for the veggies. I added this simple Parmesan cream sauce. I also did my own variation of Italian meatballs.

Here is what you will need to make a fast dinner for two:

6 oz Assuntine Tricolore Pasta (or penne, rotinni, or other pasta of your choice)

½ lb ground sirloin
1 spicy hot Italian sausage
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 tsp black pepper

1 stick semi-sweet unsalted butter
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 cup heavy cream
fresh ground black pepper

OK, no fooling around here—we’re in a hurry. Fill a medium boiler with a couple of quarts of water and place it on the stove on medium heat.

Also toss your largest heavy skillet on the stove on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine your Italian sausage, ground beef, and the egg. Now add your spices and the Worcestershire sauce and mix everything up real well. Add a little breadcrumbs to stiffen things up. The amount of breadcrumbs will vary based on the amount of fat in your ground beef—I used about two tablespoons.

Now scoop out some of the meat mixture and make yourself eight or ten small meatballs. Pinch a chunk of meat mixture out and roll it up in a ball in your hands and place the meatball in the skillet.

When you have all of the meatballs made and they are cooking along, carefully lift and turn them several times to brown nicely on the outside and ensure that they are done at least medium well inside. When they are all cooked, pull the meatballs out and place them on a plate on the side.

By now your water should be boiling. Add a teaspoon of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and dump in your pasta to cook based on the package instructions. I like mine al dente.

Turn the heat down on the skillet slightly and add ¼ stick of butter. As your butter melts, scrape the skillet to break loose the flavorful chunks of meat left over from cooking your meatballs. Add your red bell pepper and carrot and sauté until tender, then add the rest of the butter and kick the heat back up slightly until the butter is melted and starting to bubble.

Pour in the cream and do not walk away from the stove until you are finished cooking. You have to watch and stir this mixture almost continuously or you WILL burn it and will be stuck eating McDonalds burgers for dinner. We can’t have that, can we?

As your cream sauce starts to thicken, add your meatballs back in and keep stirring. Add a couple of twists of fresh ground black pepper. Keep stirring.

Place your pasta bowls in the oven to preheat.

When your pasta is done, pour it into a colander and drain it well, then dump it into the skillet with the meatballs and sauce. Let everything cook another couple of minutes.

Pull your pasta bowls out of the oven, place them on chargers, pour half of your mixture into each bowl, grab couple of forks, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dutch Noodle Soup

Pat and I are traveling on vacation this week so I haven’t had many chances to cook—but I have had plenty of chances to eat some good food. Lots of Polish and German influenced food like sour kraut, sausages, perogies, chipped ham—things that you can’t get in Georgia—at least not in the quality that they have here in Pennsylvania.

Pat’s daughter, Kris, cooked this old Kovach family recipe called Dutch Noodle Soup for us the evening we arrived. It was excellent.

Here is what you will need:

3 lb beef roast
1 large onion, diced
4 or 5 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 large cans pureed tomatoes

For the “Noodles”:

5 to 7 cups flour
6 eggs
¾ cup warm water

For the “Noodle filling”:

2 lbs sausage
1 small onion, diced fine
1 egg

First you need to cook your roast. Place it in a 6 quart boiler and add enough water to cover the roast about half way. Add your onion, carrots, celery, parsley, salt (watch the quantity), a couple twists of fresh black pepper, and the rest of your spices.

Kick on the heat to medium high and bring everything to a low boil, then back the heat off to a simmer and add your tomatoes. Now cover the pot and let the roast slow cook for a couple of hours. After two hours, check the roast and keep cooking until it is tender and falls apart easily.

Turn off the heat, remove your roast to a plate, and let everything cool down a little while you make your noodle filling and dough.

For the filling, combine the sausage, onion, and egg in a large mixing bowl and stir it all up well to combine.

In another mixing bowl, start out with five cups of flour, reserving two cups to add if you need it for consistency. Make a hole in the middle of your pile of flour, add your eggs, and start mixing. When everything is combined well, start drizzling in your warm water. Did I say keep mixing? You want the dough to be slightly sticky so go easy on the water. If you get things too thin, just add a little more flour to thicken things up.

Now lightly flour your working surface and place 1/6th of the dough in the middle and roll it out evenly until it is a very thin circle—1/8” thick or so.

Place 1/6th of your sausage filling in the middle of the dough circle and spread it out so that it nearly covers the entire area of the dough. Now roll up your noodle dough around the sausage to form a long tube and slice the tube into ¾” pieces.

Meanwhile, back with the roast, after it has cooled off, pick through the meat and remove any pieces of fat or bone that you don’t want to eat. Tear the meat up into chunks not larger than 1” or so.

Now put the meat and your noodles back in the pot with the liquid you cooked the roast in and add an additional 2 or 3 quarts of water to the pot. Turn the heat back on and bring it back to a low simmer and cook for an additional hour to hour and one half, longer if you have the time.

When you run out of patience, turn off the heat, dip some soup out into bowls, grab a soup spoon, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Galloping Redneck Gourmet

The Redneck Gourmet is going to be the Galloping Gourmet for ten days beginning Saturday. Wish us good weather, on-time airline flights, and a clean rental car.

We’ll be traveling to Pittsburg and Erie, Pennsylvania; Charleston, West Virginia; and a tiny town in Southern Ohio that you’ve probably never heard of—all family related. It’s funny how that, even though you live on an island with a swimming pool and beach, none of your relatives can ever manage to get off their butts and visit you—you have to come to them, you know?

The good news is that there are a number of good restaurants we get to dine at, including Joe Fazio’s, a well-known Italian place in Charleston that has served national celebrities and politicians for over fifty years.

The bad news is, in addition to either no Internet access in some homes or slow dial up service in some of the hotels, I won’t have any pots, pans, and spices unless I can kick someone out of their kitchen to cook a meal, and experimentation will probably be out of the question, so my posting will be light over this period of time.

I’ll try to give a couple of updates and please check back here to The Redneck Gourmet when I get back in town to see what I’ve been up to.

Regards Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Spicy Stuffed Blue Cheese Burgers

I love strong flavored cheeses like Blue Cheese. Our local grocer has a good assortment of cheeses and I often splurge on Brie, localetti Romano/Parmesan, and really good blue cheese in a solid block.

It can get sort of pricy, but I think that it is worth the cost. With our current emphasis on grilling, last Sunday I decided to copy something I saw Emeril do on Food Network.

To make three large burgers, you will need:

1-1/4 pounds of 90% lean ground beef
8 to 10 ounces of chunk blue cheese
1 egg
¼ medium onion, diced fine
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt (as much as your blood pressure can stand)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Unseasoned breadcrumbs

Here is what you do to put it all together:

Dump your ground beef into a mixing bowl and smash it out flat with your fist. Now add the egg, the diced onion, the Worcestershire sauce, the garlic powder, twist in the black pepper with your pepper mill, add a teaspoon or so of salt, and the cayenne pepper.

Massage everything together with your fingers. If you are squeamish or a city slicker, use a big wooden spoon or a dough cutter. Don’t overwork the mixture, just get it combined evenly.

Now look at what you have put together. Is it too moist? Then toss in some breadcrumbs to thicken things up and make it hold together a little better. The amount will depend on the quality and fat content of your ground beef.

When you are satisfied with your mixture, reach in and divide it up into three equal balls. Are they equal? No? Then adjust them by pinching off a little meat from the ones that are too big and add it to the ones that are too small.

Divide the three balls in half each. You should have six blobs of ground beef mixture. Flatten the blobs out into 3/8” thick patties about 4” to 5” in diameter.

Now crumble up your blue cheese and place 1/3 of the cheese into the middle of three of the patties. Add a second patty on top of the blue cheese and carefully squeeze the two patties together around the cheese, pinching the edges together to close up the “seam.”

You should now have three nice, fat, blue cheese stuffed burgers.

Fire up the grill, toss them on, cook them done like you like them, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet