Tag Archive 'kitchen'

Jun 16 2012

Jambalaya cha-cha-cha!

Published by under In The Kitchen,Recipes

Hey, we haven’t done a recipe in a long time, huh? How about a recipe? I made this for dinner last night. I’ve been really into Louisiana cooking lately, what with the red beans and rice and all that. I’ve been looking for a good gumbo recipe, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t utilize shellfish in some form. The Man will not eat seafood, no way, no how. So, in the meantime, I went hunting for a jambalaya recipe, and wouldn’t you know? It’s pretty hard to find one of those that doesn’t contain shrimp. However, finally, I got one!

This recipe comes to us from the Food Network web site, and is credited on that site to Chef Jason Girard. I do a couple little tweaks to it, but nothing too major. Basically, my tweaks amount to adding 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and a couple of extra shakes of Tabasco to up the spice a bit, and also throwing in about 1 tsp of Old Bay, just because damn, I love Old Bay. I also omit the file powder, because it’s not an easy thing to find around here (as in, I can’t find it at the huge grocery store I shop at, and I’m not going to go looking at the few specialty stores in town because I’m lazy).  I read online that file powder can act as a thickening agent, but I don’t think a teaspoon of it would make much of a difference in a dish this large. This recipe as written on Food Network comes out soupier than I like, so I do thicken it slightly with a corn starch slurry (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 cup cold water). I’m going to add these tweaks into the ingredient list and the directions, but you can feel free to delete them if you want.


  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 12 ounces smoked andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced (I use kielbasa, because andouille is not readily available)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I use a red one, just because I like the red ones. Any color will do)
  • 1 28 ounce can peeled diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce + 2-3 extra shakes if desired (I use regular Tobasco)
  • 1 tsp. file powder (if you can find it, if not, no big whoop)
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun spice blend (sold in the spice section, pre-blended)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • corn starch slurry to thicken, if desired (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 c cold water)
  • Cooked rice, for serving


Heat a heavy, dry stockpot or Dutch oven (mine is a 5 qt. size) over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil, then brown the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan, but leave the drippings. Add another Tbsp peanut oil, and then brown the chicken. Add more peanut oil if necessary. Remember, you’re just browning at this point.

Return the sausage to the pot with the chicken, and add the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute until the meats and veggies are cooked through. Add the tomatoes and the hot sauce, stir to combine. Add the file powder (if using), black pepper, Old Bay, and Cajun spice, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least one hour. After 30 minutes, add corn starch slurry, if desired. Serve over rice.

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Apr 09 2009

Herbs and Spices.

Published by under Food Products,In The Kitchen

If you do any cooking at all, you are going to want to have some herbs and spices on hand.  Even Colonel Sanders had his special blend of herbs and spices, and look what that did for him!  These little gems are pretty important to almost every dish you can make, but it can be confusing for beginning cooks or those with limited space to know which to have on hand.  The herbs and spices you want to keep in your kitchen depends on the kinds of foods you like to cook.  If you’re like me, and cook a bit of everything, then you may think you’ll need to keep a lot of things around you, but since so many herbs are multi-taskers, I think you’ll find that you don’t need a lot of little jars to make a big impact.

Another question is: fresh or dried?  Again, this depends on your cooking style.  I mostly opt for dried, just because there is a longer shelf life.  However, for some foods, I will pick up fresh herbs, especially if it’s the first time I’ve made a recipe and it specifically calls for fresh.  Just remember that dried herbs are more potent than fresh.  If you’re going to substitute, a good rule of thumb is to sub 1 teaspoon of dried for every tablespoon of fresh the recipe calls for.  And sometimes – like when making a cheeseball or a salad – you’ll just want to use fresh no matter what.   Also, dried herbs do lose their potency over time!  If it’s six months old, throw it out and replace it.

Before we talk specifics, there are a few staples that you’re going to want to keep around no matter what.  With these, you can season just about anything successfully.  The staples are:  salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley.  These four things go with everything.  Now, keep in mind that better quality is going to get you better results, and there are fun subcategories to explore (such as kosher or seasoned salt, and a range of peppercorns), but in general, I would keep both kosher and iodized (or table) salt on hand, and both whole peppercorns (in a grinder) and the stuff that comes in a can.  The thyme and parsley I keep on hand in their dry forms, and I will occasionally bring in fresh of each, depending on what I’m making (potato skins are another thing that need fresh).

OK, so now you’ve got your four staples, but you’re interested in expanding out and trying new things.  Here’s a list of meats (or flavors), and some of the herbs and spices that complement them.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you going.  Also, just assume that each list also includes thyme and parsley, because, as I said, they go with everything:

  • Beef: marjoram (not margarine, even though they sound alike), chives, rosemary, ground mustard, ginger
  • Mutton: mint, dill, rosemary
  • Pork: rosemary, pineapple sage, savory
  • Poultry: tarragon, sage, paprika, ground mustard, lovage*
  • Fish: fennel, dill, savory, lemon balm, ginger
  • Non-fish seafood (like lobster): dill, tarragon, basil, lemon balm, lovage
  • Eggs: chervil, basil, chives, tarragon
  • Salad: savory, marjoram, basil, ginger

*It may be hard to find lovage, as it is not a commonly used herb, at least in the USA.

When seasoning, remember that more is not always better.  Don’t pile all your herbs on at once – add one at a time, and see how you like it.  You may find that you like a dish better when it contains only one or two herbs or spices as opposed to four or five.  The purpose of herbs is not to overwhelm the taste of the main ingredient, but rather to provide a subtle change in flavor.

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Jul 17 2008

Bad planning.

Published by under In The Kitchen,Outdoors

For the past two days I have chosen to do things that didn’t mesh well with the high temperatures and humidity that we’ve been getting here in mid-Michigan.  Yesterday I went to the grocery store.  When I came out, it was 94°F, according to my car.  I’m sure the inside temperature was more like 1265°.  And what did I have lots and lots of?  Frozen food.  No ice cream, luckily.

Yesterday I also tried to use my clothes line for the first time, regardless of the fact that the humidity levels meant the clothes would be dry someone around next Tuesday.  But that ended up not mattering, because not an hour after I got them on the line, thunder started to rumble in the distance and a big ol’ thunderstorm moved in.  My stupid desktop radar lied to me!

Today, it is once again really hot.  However, I chose to try canning for the first time.  I really couldn’t put it off, as I had all this fruit, and I’m going to visit Mackers tomorrow.  So, I canned.  And I have to say, it took a long time for the small amount that I did.  I decided to stick to something very, very simple, since trying a new technique and a new recipe all at once seemed like a Bad Idea.  Hence: syrups.  I ended up with six jars of strawberry syrup and three jars of blueberry syrup.  That’s a lot of syrup for a house that doesn’t eat a lot of pancakes.  But, I’m planning on taking one of each to Dr. Mom and Moll, and I want to give some to my sister.  The Man only cares about the strawberry, so as long as I leave him two jars of that, I’m good.

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Mar 10 2008

Essential equipment.

Published by under Equipment

Everyone knows that pots and pans are necessary if you’re going to do any cooking outside of the microwave or toaster oven, but what else should a kitchen have to make cooking easier and less of a chore?

Here are the things I need to run my kitchen the way I want: with a minimum of fuss.

Silicone cutting boards: I used to use a wooden chopping block. It couldn’t go in the dishwasher and was a haven for germs. Then it broke when I dropped it on the floor. My mother told me to buy these, and she was so right. They are inexpensive, durable, and can go in the dishwasher. Four for $10 US at Amazon.

Wüsthof Come Apart kitchen shears: I use them to trim meat, “chop” herbs (much easier than using a knife), open packages, and subdue unwary intruders. The blades come apart for washing so nasty bacteria can’t hide up in the joint. And there’s a built-in jar opener. $19.95 US at Amazon.

KitchenAid stand mixer: Do not mess with the KitchenAid stand mixer. It’s pricey, but if you bake with any regularity, it’s a great help. There are a ton of attachments you can buy, from a juicer to a grain mill or a sausage linker, but so far I’ve stuck with my whisk, paddle, and bread hook. The prices vary depending on what model and capacity you’re looking for, but it’s worth it to save and get one. Amazon sells some refurbished models if you’re looking for a deal.

Good knives: I have a Wüsthof paring knife that is great to work with. It beats my other paring knives all to pieces and calls them sissies. It’s so much easier doing prep if you have knives that work with you, not against you. At the very least, invest in a good quality 8 – 10″ chef’s knife. You can use it for all kinds of things. Wüsthof makes good knives, but they’re expensive. If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out OXO or KitchenAid.

Slow cooker: If you really hate to cook, or are no good at traditional cooking, get a slow cooker. You can buy a decent one for $20.00 US. Add your ingredients in the morning, turn it on, come back 8-10 hours later and eat. There are many recipes on the internet for slow cookers, and many books you can buy dedicated just to making meals using this appliance. It’s great for cooking tough (cheap) cuts of meat and turning them into a moist, juicy entree. I own a 5 quart Crock Pot with a removable, dishwasher-safe stoneware inside, which makes it easy for washing up. Pick up some slow-cooker liners at the grocery store and clean up is even easier – just pull out the bag and toss it.

And, of course, no kitchen is complete without a cat (or animal of your choice) who can sneak up while you’re at the stove, park directly behind your foot, and then yowl when you step on her tail as you’re taking a boiling pot of spaghetti to the sink for draining. Fate serves this function in our house. She is very interested in everything that goes on in the kitchen.

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Mar 05 2008

Crock Pot ribs.

Published by under Recipes

Ribs are good in summer and in winter. Who doesn’t love barbequed ribs in the summertime? It’s a tradition! And it’s a hearty enough meal to get you through the cold winter nights.

The recipe for the ribs came right out of the little cookbook that came with my Crock Pot. I’ll tell you exactly how it’s written in the book and I’ll also add little notes on how I do it.

What you need, according to the book:

  • 3-4 pounds spareribs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) barbeque sauce

What you need, according to me, and why:

  • 3-4 pounds pre-cut country style ribs (you can buy a rack of spareribs, if you like, but you’re going to have to cut them into pieces to fit into the pot, and that is a pain. Buying pre-cut country style ribs is easier.)
  • Some kosher salt (this isn’t really a change, I just prefer kosher salt to iodized table salt. It sticks better. And I don’t measure because I’m not making a rub – the proportions don’t matter. I put salt on until it looks like enough. If you need a measurement as a guideline, no less than 1/2 tsp.)
  • Ground pepper (see notes on salt)
  • 1 med. yellow onion, sliced (no change, just specifying size and type)
  • 1 12oz. bottle KC Masterpiece Original (12 oz. of sauce is plenty. I like KC Masterpiece, I think it has a good flavor that stands up to long cooking)

OK, ready to cook? Got everything you need? Let’s go. Your prep time is going to be about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how quick you are.

First thing you’ll need to do is get your oven ready to do some broiling. If you don’t know how, refer to your oven manual. It’s generally pretty simple: get out broiler rack, place meat on, place in oven or in broiler drawer. You can skip this step, but your ribs won’t be as good. I don’t know why. They just won’t. I’ve tried it both ways, and unbroiled ribs lack something.

I have an electric convection oven, which means I put my oven rack on the second space from the top, push the button that says “Convection Broil”, close the door, and wait for a few minutes. Just make sure you have your broiler rack out on the counter and not in the oven, because we’ll need it for the meat. The meat we are going to prep now.

Mmmm. . . meat.

Raw ribs in package

I bought two packages of country-style ribs. At my grocery, that means I’ll get six ribs. Yours might be different. Anyway, open up that package and get your ribs! Put them on your broiler pan in a nice arrangement, leaving some space between. Sprinkle them with kosher salt and grind lots of pepper over them. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper!

Raw seasoned ribs.

There, all ready for the broiler. You might notice that I’ve lined the tray of my broiler pan with foil. Cleanup will be that much easier. Don’t put foil on the top, though. Those vents have to stay open so the juices can drip down.

If your broiler isn’t ready yet, give it a few minutes. Mine is generally ready to go at this point, so I stick the ribs in and set the timer for 7 1/2 minutes. While the ribs are taking their first broiler ride, I slice the onion. Don’t worry too much about this – I try for around 1/4 slices, but if they’re a little bigger or smaller it’s not going to kill anyone.

See – two halves, sliced. Or being sliced. That’s my trusty Wüsthof paring knife. It does all my slicing.

Once your onions are sliced, go ahead and break them up and put them into the slow cooker. By the way, did you notice it’s starting to smell meaty in here? Mmmm.

Now all you have to do is wait for your timer to go off. Once it does, use a pair of tongs to turn the ribs to their other side, and put them back in the broiler for another 7 1/2 minutes. Use this time to do something constructive like surf the internet or read a trashy magazine. You know, improve your mind.

Ah. . . your ribs are broiled!

They’re only supposed to be browned. So don’t be alarmed if things are still looking a bit on the uncooked side. As long as both sides have a nice color to them, we’re okay. They are going to be pretty hot though, so use the tongs to pick them up. You want to put three into the pot, right on top of the onions. We’re going to layer these. Once you’ve got the first three in, douse them with half of the bottle of barbeque sauce.

There, a totally uncompensated product placement. Also note the presence of Bailey’s in the background. I like to have liquor on hand in case things get tense.

Once you’ve got your first layer in and doused, add the remaining ribs and pour the rest of the sauce on top.

It’s looking kind of gory in there, so hurry up and get the lid on. Plug in your slow cooker and turn it on. I started this kind of late in the day (11 AM), so I put mine on High, which means it only needs to cook for 4-5 hours. If you’re doing this before you head out for your nine-hour day at the office, set it to Low. Then it will need to cook for 8-10 hours.

When time is up and you’re ready to eat, carefully remove the lid (it might be hot, depending on your model, so be careful) and set it aside. Remove the ribs with tongs and place on a plate. Don’t be surprised if some meat falls off the bone and you have to go fishing for it – these ribs will be tender! You can spoon out some of the sauce that’s left in the pot if you want extra.

Things I might serve with these include: Sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, squash, and sweet corn. Also some kind of biscuit. Buttermilk, preferably. A nice loaf of home-baked bread never went awry, either.

But, if you’re a tried and true carnivore, just eat the ribs. Who’s going to know?


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