Sunday, January 22, 2006

Moussaka -- Re-cooked

(Without the Moose or the Mouse)

This was the very first recipe posting I made to The Redneck Gourmet back in November of 2004. I have cooked this Greek eggplant standard—Moussaka—a half dozen times since and through experimentation I’ve learned what to do, and by default—what not to do. I believe that I have it figgured out.

I cooked another 9x13 casserole dish full for dinner last night, and it was excellent, if I do say so myself. I will reiterate my opinion that the key to this dish, in addition to good basic ingredients, is that you must get the spice mixture right to make it taste like “Greek” Moussaka.

You don’t want to end up cooking a dish of something that tastes like Italian eggplant lasagna, YOU WANT TO COOK GREEK MOUSSAKA!

So without further fanfare, on to the ingredients:

3 small eggplants
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 cup button mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, diced fine
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ pint sherry

3/4 LB Chopped Lamb
1/2 LB lean ground beef

1 can (8 oz) pureed tomatoes
1 can (8oz) diced tomatoes

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

1 cup un-seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup crumbled Feta Cheese

For the B├ęchamel Sauce Topping:

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
1-1/4 cup scalded milk
2 eggs
1/8 tsp red pepper
¼ tsp salt

It looks like a lot of ingredients, doesn’t it?

Well...don’t get all nervous and scared, here is what you need to do—just take it one step at a time:

First, peal and slice the eggplant into 1/8” pieces. Now soak the eggplant in cold salted ice water for at least one hour--Mine soaked for about three, and you can change the water once if you want to.

Redneck Tip: Weight the eggplant slices with a couple of saucers or plates (whatever will fit in your water bowl) to ensure that all of the slices stay submerged under the water.

Peal and cut your carrot into thin slices.

For the meat sauce, in a large deep skillet or sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add the diced onion. Cook your onion until it is clear, then add your garlic and cook, stirring regularly.

Redneck Tip: Don’t burn your garlic or you’ll have to start over.

Add the chopped lamb and ground beef and cook it all until it is browned. Tilt your skillet over and spoon out as much grease as you want. I use a turkey baster for this task.

Next add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes, carrots, and mushrooms, along with the allspice, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, salt and red pepper.

Add the ¼ pint of sherry and enough water or beef stock to thin it out a little (I used about a cup of water this time.)

Redneck Tip: Don’t attempt to do the rest of the ½ pint bottle of Sherry as a shot. You’ll end up burning up your Moussaka and dancing by yourself while watching TV and eating a bag of corn chips for dinner.

Bring your meat sauce to a nice simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or so until it is reduced to a nice consistency. You want it to still be juicy, but not really runny.

Meanwhile, back to that delicious eggplant. Pour off the water through a colander.

Redneck tip: Remove the weights first, duuh…

Turn all of the eggplant pieces up on edge in the colander and separate them as you can so that all of the water drains out. You don’t want soggy eggplant for the next step.

Redneck Tip: Guys, you might want to put on a shirt when you start frying the eggplant, particularly if it is wet, because it will pop a good deal and you risk burning your beer belly if you stand too close to the skillet (Ladies, I assume you were already wearing a shirt.)

Fry the eggplant slices in a skillet in about ¼” of vegetable oil over medium heat until tender. Drain the slices, once they are cooked, on lots of paper towels. Don’t skimp on the paper towels, you want to get as much grease out of the eggplant as is possible.

The Bechamel sauce is made as follows. Pay attention…

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium low heat. Now add your flour, a tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. In another small pot, scald your milk, then turn down the heat and keep warm.

Redneck tip: For all of you Cajuns out there, we’re making a roux.

Keep adding the flour a little bit at a time until the roux is thick, but don’t cook it until it is brown. Add the warm milk a little at a time, again stirring constantly with a whisk. After the milk is added, bring the whole thing to a low boil and cook until it thickens to the consistency of a medium gravy. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

In a separate bowl (or a coffee cup), beat the eggs until smooth. Slowly add a little of the cooled sauce to the eggs so as to not “scramble them.” Add the warmed egg/sauce mixture to the balance of the sauce, add the red pepper, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Turn off heat and continue to stir to blend.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of bread crumbs into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Layer one half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Pour half of the meat sauce mixture on top of the eggplant and smooth it out evenly.

Layer the rest of the eggplant slices and sprinkle with another couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs, half of the grated parmesan cheese and all of the Feta cheese. Add the balance of the meat sauce mixture and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Pour the Bechamel sauce over the top of the dish and smooth it out nice and evenly.

Be patient...you're on the home stretch now…place your finished dish of Moussaka into the 350 degree oven and cook it for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

After it's done like you like, you'll have to wait to allow the Moussaka to cool and rest for 15 minutes, then slice it into squares, and serve with your favorite red wine and bread.

Now grab yourself a fork and napkin, sit down at your dinner table or in the floor at the coffee table in front of the TV and EAT!

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Chili

Yeeeeeeeeeeee Haaaaaaaaaaaa

I guess almost everyone has their own favorite recipe for Chili.

I said ALMOST EVERYONE…

If you don’t have your personal favorite recipe (because you don’t cook), then I suspect that at least you know SOMEONE that does have one—a favorite Chili Recipe, that is.

Well, I have a confession…

I haven’t cooked Chili before (gasp…)

Never Ever…

But…

I had some ground beef that I bought on sale at the grocer yesterday, and as a result, Pat suggested that I make Chili for dinner.

So I did.

I pulled some Chili together this afternoon and after about three hours of simmering it came out GREAT, so I decided to do something that I rarely do—I’m writing it up after my first time cooking it.

Here is what you will need to make my Chili:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced fine
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tbsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp ground red pepper
¼ tbsp black pepper
¼ tbsp white pepper


1-1/4 pound lean ground beef

(1) 12 oz can beer
(1) 14 oz can beef stock

(1) 28 oz can of Pureed Tomatoes
(1) 28 oz can of Diced Tomatoes
(2) 15 oz cans tomato sauce
(2) 15.5 oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained
(1) 15.5 oz cans Navy beans, drained


Ninety Nine percent of your work is done in the first twenty minutes, so pay attention here to what I say, get your prep work done, get it all cooking together, then grab yourself a beer or a Coke Cola and laze around while your Chili finishes making itself.

Put your olive oil into the bottom of a large, heavy boiler over medium heat. Add your diced onion, and cook it for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Next add your diced garlic and your spices (cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, etc.) and keep stirring for another couple of minutes.

Now add your ground beef and break it up so that it cooks well.

When your ground beef is nicely browned, tilt your boiler over and spoon out some of the fat and oil if you want to. You can even pour your beef/onion/garlic mixture through a colander if you want to or, if you love fat like I do, you can just leave it in and keep cooking.

Now turn the heat down a little and add your beer. Watch it foam.

Once the mixture stops foaming up, add the beef stock, the pureed tomatoes, the diced tomatoes, and the tomato sauce.

Stir, stir, stir.

Doesn’t that look yummy?

Just wait until you add your can of navy beans and your two cans of dark red kidney beans.

Still looks yummy?

Taste it, being careful to not burn your tongue or the roof of your mouth.

Does it need anything?

Well, then add it silly…it’s your chili.

Now turn your heat down to medium low, prop a lid on the boiler slightly open, and stop back by every fifteen minutes to give it all a good stir and supervise its progress.

When you a satisfied with your chili (give it at least a couple of hours--or until you can’t wait any longer), grab yourself a bowl, a piece of cornbread, a big old spoon, and sit down at the table and EAT.

Regards Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet

Monday, January 09, 2006

Baked Ziti

Dinner For Eight


Happy New Year everybody!

It’s your lovely and talented cooking blogger, The Redneck Gourmet, back here on the keyboard with my first recipe of 2006—Baked Ziti.

We had five family guests and our 85 year old neighbor, Mr. Harlan “Bucky” Strader (Dartmouth class of 1942), up here in the Condo last Friday night for dinner, and at Pat’s suggestion I tossed together a simple buffet style meal consisting of some fresh Sundried Tomato Basil bread from our local grocer’s Deli, an organic mixed green salad, and, of course, the baked Ziti.

Don’t be afraid, because Ziti, simply put, is just a big fat tubular shaped pasta noodle, about 2” long and 3/8” in diameter. Baked Ziti, therefore, is almost like baked lasagna (the familiar flat form of pasta.)

Here’s what you will need to make dinner for eight, with leftovers if everyone doesn't eat like a pig:

(2) pounds of dry Ziti noodles
(2) 8 oz containers of Ricotta cheese
(2) 12 oz packages of shredded Mozzarella cheese

For the Sauce:

(4) tbsp good olive oil
½ large onion, diced fine (or as much as you like, it’s your sauce)
(2) cloves of garlic, diced fine

1 tbsp dried Oregano
1 tbsp dried Parsley
1 tbsp dried Thyme
1 tbsp dried Basil (or fresh if you have it)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper

(1) 14 oz can beef broth
(1) 14 oz can chicken broth
(3) 28 oz cans pureed tomatoes
(2) 7 oz cans tomato paste
(3) 6 oz cans portabella mushroom pieces

½ pound ground pork


Here we go…

Dump the olive oil into the bottom of a large, heavy boiler over medium heat, then toss in your diced onion and let it cook for a couple of five or six minutes before you add your garlic.

Keep cooking for ten minutes or so, being careful not to burn anything.

Now add your spices—Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Basil. Stir the mixture up and let the oil and juices activate the flavor in the spices.

Doesn’t that smell good?

Now dump in your can of beef stock and scrape the bottom of the boiler to get all of the bits suspended in your liquid. Add the pureed tomatoes and tomato paste, and reduce your heat to medium low.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, brown your ground pork and spoon off any extra fat that cooks out of your meat. (My pork was surprisingly lean, so I just ignored this step.)

Once the pork is browned, add it to your sauce mixture along with half the can of Chicken broth and the Portabella Mushrooms, toss a lid on the boiler, and let everything simmer for a couple of hours.

Watch your temperature and stop by to stir your sauce every fifteen minutes or so. Try not to enjoy the aroma too much…and if things get too thick too fast, add the other half can of chicken broth.

My sauce cooked for almost three hours by the time I was ready to finally put the dish together, then I cooked my Ziti in some lightly salted water according to the package directions (about 10 minutes.)

Drain your Ziti through a colander, then coat two 9”x13” casserole dish with Pam cooking spray or olive oil.

Now comes the fun part, putting it all together…preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Spoon a thin layer of your tomato sauce into the bottom of your casserole dishes, and then spread ½ of your ziti noodles on top. Now divide your Ricotta cheese in half and spread it over the noodles. Sprinkle half of your Mozzarella cheese on top of the Ricotta.

Add another layer of Ziti noodles, another layer of tomato sauce, and top everything off with the rest of the Mozzarella cheese.

Step back from the counter and admire your work.

Doesn’t that look nice?

Mine did…

Pop the dishes into the oven for 30 minutes until it’s all nice and bubbly, then put your plates on the table, grab yourself a fork and EAT.

Regards Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet