Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bacon Cheese and Mushroom Polenta

Polenta has come full circle from it's origins in early Roman times as gruel or porridge to a premium dish in fine restaurants. This comforting peasant food can take on many forms from a creamy grits style to grilled on a Weber, deep fried or baked in the oven. Here's one of my takes on this classic comfort food.
This polenta is of the formed, baked variety. The original recipe that I have used for years called for 4 cups of water to one cup of cornmeal, Fontina cheese and oyster mushrooms. I have since come to prefer a creamier more savory version and have modified the base recipe in this version. One of the great things about this recipe is that you can easily substitute what you have on hand or prefer and still follow the basic recipe.

To cook the polenta bring 5 cups of chicken broth to a boil in a high quality 3 quart sauce pot with thick solid base. You will need the thick base for even slow cooking. Once the chicken broth comes to a boil, slowly pour in a fine stream of a cup of yellow cornmeal whisking with a wire whisk. Continue whisking until the mixture returns to a boil then reduce heat to low or very low if cooking with gas. Cook for about 20 minutes, whisking until the cornmeal slowly falls off of the back of a wooden spoon adding water as necessary to maintain desired consistency. I alternate between a whisk and a wooden spoon while stirring. I use the spoon to scrape around the bottom curve of the pot to prevent sticking. When the polenta is done, remove from heat and whisk in 4 tbs soft butter.
Wait a minute! I said slow cooking and now I'm talking about 20 minutes! Well if you cook it over medium heat you will end up with a clump of yellow goo so I guess it's all relative. I really cook this to feel adding water if needed over a low heat and may cook it for 30 minutes. You can cook this for an hour or more if you like;)
Next pour the polenta in to a greased 9x13 casserole dish and place in the refrigerator to cool completely for about 2 hours or so.

While the polenta is cooling, saute a pound of your mushrooms of choice. I used baby Portablellas and cooked about a 3/4 lb of bacon until crispy. Coarse chop the bacon and set aside. To assemble, invert the polenta onto a cutting board and cut in half. Top one half of the polenta with mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and chopped bacon. Place the other half of the polenta on top and top with mushrooms, bacon, Fontina cheese and grated Parmesan cheese.
Place the assembled polenta in a preheated 350F oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and polenta is hot.

What you will need
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
5 cups of chicken broth
3/4 to 1 lb cooked bacon
1 lb mushroom
4 oz sliced Italian Fontina Cheese
4 oz sliced or grated mozzarella cheese
freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goat Cheese Stuffed Burger

Goat cheese stuffed burgers topped with roasted red peppers is a nice way to mix it up from your standard cheeseburger fare. Start with about 3oz of your ground meat of choice and form into a patty with a well in the middle to hold the goat cheese. Spoon about a teaspoon of garlic and sun dried tomato mixture into the well. I found this at a local Publix but a homemade mixture would do nicely. Next slice a piece of log roll fresh goat cheese about 1/2 inch thick on top of the sun dried tomato garlic. Now form a large golf ball sized ball of your ground meat and form it into a patty to place on top. Form the patty until it is well formed and nothing will ooze outside while cooking. Cook for about four minutes per side on a grill or iron skillet until medium.
Prepare your roasted red peppers, either fresh of jarred to your preference. I used jarred red peppers lightly marinated in Zesty Italian Dressing. I like serving these with stone ground dijon mustard.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Golden Potato Squash Torte

I love potatoes, squash and onions so when I came across this recipe I just had to try it. Well after visiting two stores and no green onions, I decided to substitute yellow onion. Who knew there was a green onion shortage? The original recipe called for cooking this in two 8" cake pans. What's up with that?

Oil your cast iron skillet then layer the potatoes in concentric circles overlapping slightly. Layer the squash the same way then sprinkle on about a third of the cheese mixture and press down to flatten. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Add another layer of potatoes squash and cheese mixture, finishing with a layer of potatoes and cheese, lightly pressing to flatten each time and drizzling with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes in a 375F oven. Remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes.
For the cheese mixture combine Parmesan cheese, flour, thyme, green onions, salt and pepper. Reserve a handful of the green onions for garnish.

What you will need:
A large Iron skillet
5 Yukon Gold potatoes sliced thinly
2-3 Yellow squash
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Olive oil

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fouth Of July 2009

It's the Fourth of July and I'm heading down I75 to Kevin's for pool time, music and Big Green Egg fun! Last year it was beef tenderloin, this time it's pork spareribs smoked on the BGE. Oh and I got to meet up with a long lost friend. It doesn't get any better than that ;)
Three and half hours or so at 250F with lump charcoal and some soaked hickory chips is a beautiful thing.

Pool Dogs

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pitas Inside and Out

A quick trip to the grocery story with no real plan in mind for dinner and I find myself aimlessly wandering the aisles. Man I was supposed to have a plan here. What happened? I set out the early morning hours with a cup of coffee in hand reading some of my favorite food blogs thinking "I really need come up with an idea for dinner. These recipes look great" and yet here I am desperately trying to formulate a plan on the fly when I spot the pita bread. Hmm, maybe something light like a vegetable stuffed pita. Oh and those Brussels sprouts I passed earlier looked good for a side...
Wait that rotisserie chicken might be good in the pitas. So much for the vegetarian idea.
What I decided on was pitas with rotisserie chicken, fresh tomatoes lightly marinated in Italian dressing, red onions with a light olive oil and balsamic marinade, goat cheese and fresh spinach and an artichoke bruschetta.
By the time I got started making these pitas I had decided to not only stuff them but to make pita pizzas out of them. Sometimes not having a plan works out okay.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tomato Pie

No it's not a pizza pie. It's a southern thing. A trip to the farmers market yields a bunch of large beautiful ripe tomatoes and with that comes a need for recipes. I can eat a thick slice of tomato with mayo on wheat bread and make fresh tomato sauce but I'm always looking for ways to use fresh tomatoes in the spring and summer. I used this recipe as a starting point but made some minor changes to suit my tastes. First off, the method I use to peel the tomatoes is slightly different. I do cross slice the tomatoes on the bottom as she does but I dip mine one at a time for 10 seconds in low boiling water for 10 seconds then into a colander and spray with cool water.
Second, I don't think she seeded them enough. After I peel the tomatoes, I slice them in half then squeeze them to work out the seeds, After that I do the coarse chop and place them in a colander with a liberal sprinkling of salt and let them drain for at least 30 minutes, shaking occasionally. Too much moisture and seeds are the enemy of a good tomato pie!
I don't have a secret ingredient (yet). I just use dried basil, garlic powder, a sprinkle of sugar to counteract the acidity and cracked pepper. There is no need for more salt during the pie assembly as the salt used during the draining process is more than adequate.
The only other thing that I did differently was to use half mozzarella and half cheddar. Also 1/2 cup mayo per 2 cups of cheese is really quite enough Paula Dean.
I really recommend using the coarse chop on the tomatoes rather than tomato slices because it is easier to eat as you won't pull a whole slice of tomato out when you take a fork full!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits are a Charleston South Carolina classic. Traditionally a breakfast dish due to the plentiful fresh shrimp and Shrimpers in the area, it was later refined and served in fine restaurants. Here's my take on this southern classic.
First use stone ground yellow grits, no white grits or quick grits allowed. Second use stone ground yellow grits.

If you want to start out easy and get the feel for cooking the grits, just try some plain shrimp and grits or maybe some cheese grits. Once you have that down then you can start sauteing some peppers and onions and adding a sauce.

If you want to try the shrimp and grits pictured above there are five steps involved. Cook the grits, make the sauce, saute the vegetables, add the shrimp and sauce to the vegetables and simmer to cook the shrimp and meld the flavors then spoon the shrimp and sauce mixture over the grits and serve. Oh I almost forgot the sixth step! Eat and enjoy.

To cook the grits bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil and slowly stream in one cup of grits whisking with a wire whisk. Return to a boil then reduce heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Now stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup heavy cream and cook for another 8-10 minutes over low. I also add 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan but that's optional. Thin with more chicken stock as needed to keep the grits creamy smooth.
For the sauce add 1 tsp oil, 1 Tbs minced shallot and minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes then add 1 cup white wine and the juice of 1 lemon and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Whisk and add 1 cup heavy cream and reduce by one half. Add 4 oz soft butter a whisk until butter is melted. Keep warm.
For the vegetables add 1 tbs oil to your hot iron skillet then add the red onion, red pepper and green pepper and cook over medium to medium low heat for 5-6 minutes until the peppers have softened a bit.
To finish the shrimp aspect, add the shrimp, sauce and chopped cooked bacon to the pepper and onion mixture and simmer for 5-7 minutes until the shrimp are done. Salt and pepper to taste.
Assembly. Plate the creamy smooth cheese grits and spoon over the shrimp mixture. Enjoy!

Shrimp and Cheese Grits drizzled with a wine and balsamic sauce.

Shrimp sauteed in an iron skillet for the above simple Shrimp and Grits

What you will need.
For the grits
1 cup stone ground yellow grits
4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
For the Sauce
1 tsp oil
1 Tbs minced shallot
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
The juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
The rest of the story
About 1 pound of shrimp peeled and deveined
1/4 cup red onion diced
1/4 cup red pepper diced
1/4 cup green onion diced
3-4 slices of thick cut cooked bacon chopped
Salt and pepper to taste