Cornmeal Biscuits and Honey Butter

 

Hi, y’all. Sorry that it’s been a bit quiet around here for a while. I had company visiting and didn’t get around to getting up last week’s post. But things should be getting back to normal and on schedule now. I’ve got some recipes coming that I’m really excited to share in the coming week’s and today’s is one of them, so let’s just jump right into it.

Surprise!

Yet another biscuit post. You excited yet? You should be. Biscuits alone are exciting to me, but these especially since they feature one of my favorite ingredients to both bake and cook with: cornmeal.

I’ve said before that I have a mild obsession with cornmeal and the proof is in the amount of baked goods I’ve shared already on the blog. Take your pick, really. Cornbread. Yeast bread. Scones. Crackers. Some of it’s savory, some of it sweet. It’s a versatile ingredient and if you’re not familiar with it, allow me to strongly recommend you try to incorporate it into your baking routine. I think there are very few things that can’t be improved with a bit of cornmeal added to them.

I’ve shared a recipe for cornmeal biscuits on the blog before, but that one was also flavored with ginger and Chinese Five Spice to pair with some fried chicken that I also flavored with five spice. This time around, I decided to go with more ordinary, traditional flavors that would produce a biscuit that could go with any kind of meal.

So what’s the role that cornmeal plays in a biscuit? I’ve found that cornmeal (yellow cornmeal, that is) does two things to a biscuit: first it’s going to provide a contrast of texture that wouldn’t necessarily be in a biscuit made with just white flour. Don’t worry: it’s not at all going to be tough, but yellow cornmeal will make it slightly more grainy and chewy. Sounds weird, but I promise it’s marvelous. Second, yellow cornmeal has a natural savory flavor of its own. In the case of these biscuits, the cornmeal helps to further bring out the flavors of the salt and pepper in the dough.

Although these biscuits do lean on the savory side, I paired them with a smooth, honey butter spread that comes together in seconds. The butter brings a great balance between the savory & sweet of these biscuits as a dish and honestly, I could eat them all on their own without even needing to add them to a meal. If you try them yourself some time, you’ll understand why. Have a good week, everyone.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #241, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes.

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Cornmeal Biscuits and Honey Butter

Recipe Adapted from Country Living

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Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 3 1/4 cups cake flour, spooned and level
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup frozen butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

For Honey Butter

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut biscuits, pressing and rolling the scraps together to make more biscuits two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place biscuits, slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. (You may have to cover the biscuits with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.

For the Honey Butter: Use a fork to briskly stir the honey into the butter until it’s smooth. Store in the fridge.

Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Alright y’all, listen.

I know what you may be thinking, but before you say anything or just click away because you feel like this is just a bad idea, just stay for a few minutes hear me out.

Yes, I mean you too. Stay.

So, I too was skeptical when I first heard about this. Not gonna lie, I was even a tad bit grossed out. I like pickles on my sandwiches, but the idea of my chicken tasting like a pickle? Not so appetizing.

But fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here at all. Let me be clear: you are not going to take a bite of this and just taste pickle.

I promise, you won’t.

The whole purpose of brining in the first place is to flavor and tenderize the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn’t dry out while frying. Most times people do this by brining their chicken in buttermilk. I’ve brined chicken in both buttermilk and now, pickle juice.

Would you like to try and guess which one that I prefer?

Yep. The pickle juice. Seriously.

Normally when I did my buttermilk brines before, I would flavor the buttermilk with some spices, just to try and get some extra flavor infused into the meat. But this time, I didn’t have to bother; the pickle juice does all the work for me. All I did to prepare the chicken for the brine was throw it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, then pour the pickle juice over it, seal the bag, then put it in the fridge and walk away. That’s literally it. The spices in the pre-made pickle juices worked together to not only keep the meat moist, but they infused incredible flavor into it as well.

Once the chicken is taken out of the brine, it gets tossed into my tried & true flour mix & batter. This is the best fried chicken batter I’ve ever had or made, bar none. The crust is just out of this world. It crunches in your mouth. It’s full of flavor. It stays absolutely PUT. Even when it gets cold. Even after it’s been refrigerated, OVERNIGHT. Believe me, once you’ve made it this way, you will never go back to another fried chicken batter as long as you live.

I’m not worried about sharing this recipe with y’all because I know that once you put aside your doubts and just try this out, I’m going to make pickle brining believers out of all you. The results will speak for themselves. Your meat is going to be so tender and juicy, with just the *faintest* tang from the pickle juice. That tang is offset perfectly by the savory saltiness of the crust. It works– I was honestly surprised by how well it works.

You know how much I was won over by this? Every time we finish off a jar of pickles now, I keep the jar of juice in the back of my fridge, impatiently waiting until we go through enough of them to have enough juice to brine another batch of chicken so I can fry it up again. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what it is. Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #237, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

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Ingredients

  • About 3-4 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • Up to 3 cups of pickle juice (enough to fully submerge the chicken, but if you don’t have enough then supplement with buttermilk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite mix of dry herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  • Plenty of seasoning salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

Directions

Place the chicken inside gallon size resealable plastic bags, or a large shallow dish with a lid. Pour the pickle juice over the chicken, seal and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt, pepper,  and dried herbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, onion powder and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter. If need be, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of additional water).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

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Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

For Glaze (Optional)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan, then allowing to completely cool on a wire rack.

For Glaze: combine the sugar with a few tablespoons of milk until it forms a smooth, but still somewhat stiff glaze. Use a fork to drizzle on the top, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes until it is set.

Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs

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One thing that anyone who’s on pretty good terms with me will tell you, is that I’m usually a self-depreciating person.

I second guess myself a lot. Even if I try something new and it turns out, I’ll usually focus first on the things I did wrong before acknowledging the things I did right.

Especially when it comes to my cooking. I’m super anal about my cooking.

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If I’m making a meal for a crowd or my family, I’ll taste test the dish over and over again, making sure I’ve got my seasonings right.

I’m obsessed with the done-ness of my meats.I’m either afraid that I’m going to undercook them and feed somebody raw food, or overcook them and give someone a piece of leather. There is no in-between.

I use a thermometer to make sure my cakes bake at just the right temperature to be moist, but not too dry. 190 degrees fahrenheit. Yeah. I totally know it by heart.

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I hover over everyone asking questions about the food:

“How is everything?”

“Taste ok?”

“Is it tender/moist enough?”

“Too sweet? Too salty? Too spicy? Not sweet/salty/spicy enough?”

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Even if the dish turns out well, and everyone likes it, I usually still just let it roll off my back. I’m not huge on gloating or giving myself great huge thumbs up.

Most of the time.

But guess what? This time is different. Very, very different.

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This time, I’m gloating. Majorly gloating.

And I dare anyone to try and stop me.

Life in the kitchen is full of trial and error. Sometimes you’ll fail and mess something up. Sometimes you’ll do ok and put out something that’s passable.

And then sometimes, you’ll make something that totally and completely blows your mind.

That’s what happened to me with this dish, guys.

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Country-Style Ribs were something that before this dish, I’d never handled or attempted to cook with before. Red meat itself is just usually something I don’t get my hands on very much anymore because it’s gotten to be too friggin expensive. But my grocery store put them on sale for SUCH a good deal. And the meat looked so beautifully marbled and vibrant in the package that I just couldn’t help myself. I went ahead and bought two packages.

Because it was my first time making them, I decided to stick with something relatively simple and traditional. No frills, no fancy stuff. Barbecue ribs are the best type of ribs.

But me and the grill don’t get along, so I knew I would have to find another way of making them ‘barbecue style’. Cue this recipe I found on Epicurious.com

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What you’re looking at is hands down, one of the most delicious, outstanding, perfect things that I have ever made in my life.

I am NOT  kidding.

This is legit one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. I almost couldn’t believe that I actually cooked it. It made me step back, take a look at myself and say, “Hey: maybe I’m actually pretty GOOD  at this whole cooking thing….”

I followed this recipe almost to the letter, the only thing I changed was to decrease the original amount of vinegar called for  in the barbecue sauce recipe. (I’m from the South, so I tend to prefer my sauce on the sweeter side.)

Guys, I can’t say enough about the tenderness of these ribs. I mean…Goll-LEEEEEE. Put that knife away: you will NOT be needing it. I’m not even 100% convinced that you’ll need a fork. That’s how tender and juicy and moist the meat comes out. You can literally pull it apart with your fingers.

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See that? That was me after I took one bite of these ribs.

I was Hot Stuff that day. And the day after that when I ate the leftovers.

Lord, just looking at these pictures is making me re-live the glorious feeling of sheer and complete culinary victory all over again. Somebody get me a trophy and a podium to make an acceptance speech, stat.

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I’m super duper late, but I’m still bringing these ribs to the Fiesta Friday#66 party. Because the world deserves to know about these ribs. It’s that serious.  Thanks to Angie and Anna @Anna International for hosting (all by herself too, that is NO easy task!)

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Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs


Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 lb boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (12 oz)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons drained bottled horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Put ribs in a 6- to 8-quart pot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, skimming froth, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Drain pork in a colander and pat dry, then arrange in 1 layer using tongs in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over pork to coat evenly, then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour, then remove foil and carefully turn pork over with tongs and cook, uncovered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Skim fat from sauce if desired.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

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There’s an outlet store just down the street from where I live that is really, really dangerous for me to go to.

Number one, it’s an outlet store, so that means that everything there is super marked down in price. The danger for me lies in the fact that they have a pretty large cook book section- and the cook books are actually REALLY nice, quality ones. I’ve walked out of there with cook books two or three inches thick FILLED with delicious recipes that I’ve gotten for under $10.00. It really is a good deal. It IS.

As much as I try to come up with new and original recipes for the blog, often I find myself suffering from ‘foodie guilt’ because of all the pre-written recipes I have sitting around in my embarrassingly large cookbook collection, as well as all the numerous binders I have of recipes I’ve cut out of food magazines and printed from offline.

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Here’s the thing: when I’m BUYING the cookbook or printing off the recipe, I will SWEAR to myself that I’m going to use it all the time, that I’m actually going to work through the entire book or cook the particular recipe every week. And when I catch myself not exactly following through with that I’ll go through a period where I’ll be gung-ho about trying to test out all of the recipes I’ve saved from the internet or bookmarked in my cookbooks.

Y’know, just to convince myself that I wasn’t wasting my money or printer ink- both of which I really can’t afford to waste like that.

The process usually boils down to me either first seeing what I have ahead of time in the house, or what’s on sale this week at the grocery store, then matching it against what I’ve bookmarked in the cookbooks or online.

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A week or so ago, I knew that I needed to put together a new recipe for the blog, but I was also having a bout of ‘foodie guilt’ and didn’t feel like trying to become inspired enough to write a new recipe. As it happens, I was also thumbing through one of my recipe binders when I came across a cut out from Better Home and Gardens magazine that caught my attention.

For some reason, I always seem to have one or two sweet potatoes on hand in the house. (‘Some reason’ really just meaning that I love them and would be really pissed off if I had a craving for one and suddenly couldn’t have any because we were out). But it worked out pretty well for that day because the recipe that I came across was for something called Sweet Potato Spoon Bread.

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Spoon bread is a dish that is pretty popular in Southern-style cooking, but interestingly enough, I’d never tried it before. I wasn’t even completely sure what it was or what it would taste like until I looked through the ingredients list and directions for this recipe. I had a day off work, and all the ingredients in the house and it did look pretty yummy in the magazine so I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot for myself.

I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only person who’s not all that familiar with spoon bread, so just in case the pictures aren’t doing enough for you guys, I can go ahead and give you a rundown of what it tastes like.

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It’s probably pretty obvious, but this isn’t really bread in the sense that we would think of dough-like carbs, per se. I would actually describe spoon bread as a kind of savory style casserole-pudding. The eggs and egg whites give it a very fluffy, smooth texture and while it’s heavier than a souffle, it’s lighter than any kind of bread. Having said that, this recipe came out very well. The sweet potato flavor really comes through and is complimented nicely with the thyme. I especially liked the inclusion of cornmeal in this recipe, just to give it enough texture so the dish wasn’t too one-note. I topped this with homemade cranberry sauce and ate it as a side dish for dinner, but I could also see melted cheese working VERY well also.

See? My Foodie Guilt does yield good results after all.

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Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

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Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter (1/4 stick, melted)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely ground white or yellow cornmeal
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2-quart soufflé or casserole with 1 tbsp. butter.

2. Wrap potatoes with foil. Bake 45-55 minutes, until soft to the touch. Remove from oven. Discard foil; cool. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard peels. In large bowl, smash potatoes.

3. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F. In a large saucepan bring milk, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper to a boil over medium heat. In slow steady stream, whisk cornmeal into milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes until mixture is thick and pulls away from bottom of pan. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add potatoes, egg yolks, remaining 3 tbsp. butter and baking powder to milk mixture; stir to thoroughly mix.

4. In large mixing bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into the potato mixture.

5. Spoon batter in a prepared dish. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Edges will be firm and the center a little soft. Remove from oven.

6. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips1

I’m about to say something that for some of you, will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I realize this. Heck, it almost doesn’t make any sense to me; but it is the truth, so I’ll just go ahead and say it anyway.

There is a shortage (in fact let’s just call it an absence) of seafood dishes on Cooking is My Sport.

It’s not that this is an accident. To be honest, it’s actually pretty intentional. And will probably, very likely remain that way. Why?

Because I don’t really like fish.

Fish and Chips2

I realize that for some of you, your mouths are hanging open and your eyes are bugging out of your head in shock. I know; because EVERYONE likes fish, right?

Wrong. I don’t. Neither do the people that live in my house. Not most fish anyway.

I’ve heard people give me all kinds of reasons and rationalizations as to why I have a ‘misplaced’ dislike for the meat of the sea: I haven’t had fish that was ‘fresh enough’. the fish I had wasn’t ‘cooked properly’, I need to eat more fish because it’s ‘healthier’, I need to ‘get creative and eat more types of fish’.

Blah, blah, blah. I’m not buying it anymore, folks. I’ve had fish that was frozen from the grocery store, and fresh fish off the coast of Miami Beach in 5 star restaurants. I’ve had fish cooked for me, and fish I’ve cooked myself.  I’ve had salmon, crappies, blue gills, shrimp, lobster, crab, tilapia, and cod. And yeah, you do feel kinda ‘lighter’ after eating it than you do after eating say… pork or beef.

But seriously, I don’t care about that. I’ve really tried to hop on the Fish bandwagon. But it just didn’t work out for me.

Fish and Chips3

I will concede on a few things. Salmon can be tasty when cooked properly. I like shrimp in fried rice and jambalaya. However for me, the majority of fish dishes out there pretty much just taste like…fish. There’s just something about the meat that for me doesn’t absorb flavor and spices as well as other proteins- at least not in a way that takes away that ocean-y aftertaste.

Unless you fry it. That’s a different story.

My grandma fries her fish (mostly blue gill and crappies) in cornmeal over the stove Southern-style, and I’ve never had a problem eating that. It’s very good. For a while, it was the only type of fish I was that interested in eating at all. (I even may go ahead and post that on the blog sometime, since it’s pretty easy to do…)

But this past Christmas, I bought myself the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook as a present and noticed their recipe for Fish and Chips.

Fish and Chips4

Don’t laugh at me guys, but for a long time (longer than I’m even willing to admit) I didn’t even know what the ‘chips’ of Fish and Chips was. The ‘Fish’ part was pretty obvious, but I didn’t know how it was supposed to be prepared, and I was completely clueless as to what the ‘chips’ were.

Was ‘chips’ a code-word for something else? Were ‘chips’ the chips I knew of that came in a yellow bag on the potato chip aisle of the grocery store? Why would anyone want to eat fish with potato chips anyway?

(Like I said, don’t laugh.)

I did eventually get around to figuring out that ‘chips’ were pretty much what I knew of as french fries. In reading the cook book, I also saw that the fish was typically dipped in a beer batter and deep fried until golden brown. This caught my attention and interest for 2 reasons. First, I’m a human and I’m sane- which is basically synonymous with having a  great and all encompassing love of french fries. Second, anything that gets dipped in a beer batter and deep fried…well suffice to say, it’s pretty much impossible that it’s gonna taste bad. Even fish. Im-possible.

Fish and Chips5

So what did I do? Well, I took a gamble; I went out and bought some cod fillets with potatoes, pulled out my deep fryer and got to work. Because I don’t cook with fish, I followed the ATK directions to a T; I even bought malt vinegar to sprinkle on the finished fish like they recommended (even though before now, I didn’t know there was such a thing as malt vinegar).

The verdict is in.

Yeah. Okay, um… this fish is good. Like really, really good stuff. And I honestly never thought I’d ever be saying something like that. But I am. Because I’ll never lie when it comes to food. I almost don’t even know where to start when trying to describe this dish.

Oh wait. Yes I do: with the beer batter crust on the fish. Wow. Just…wow. The crunch you get when you bite into it is almost unbelievable. It’s perfectly golden brown and is so well complimented by the puff of airy tenderness of the fish itself. The malt vinegar is exactly what you need to cut the saltiness of the batter and makes the flavors pop all the better.

I won’t lie guys, the potatoes are pretty labor intensive. And even though they came out beautifully, I have to be honest and say in the future I will probably take the shortcut and buy frozen ones to eat instead. Judge me if you like, I don’t care. That’s what they’re there for, right?

Fish and Chips6

My house may have smelled like a fish market for a few days afterward, but I was still really pleased with how my first attempt at Fish and Chips turned out. It was even something  family was willing to eat (which is really saying something). I couldn’t believe this was something I actually MADE. Me: the girl who hates fish.

Maybe this is a sign I should start broadening my horizons and being more open to eating fish more often.

…..Nah.

I will say this though, I feel confident enough about this dish to bring it to the Fiesta Friday Anniversary Party Part 2, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Nancy @Feasting With Friends and Selma @Selma’s Table.  Because I’m sure there are plenty of fish lovers here right?

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fiesta-friday-anniversary-part-21

Fish and Chips

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Recipe Courtesy of The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2015

 Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. russet potatoes (about 4 large), ends & sides squared off, and cut length-wise into 1/2 inch fries)
  • 3 quarts plus 1/4 up peanut oil or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 lbs. cod other thick whitefish fillets, such as hake or haddock, cut into eight 3-oz. pieces about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 1/2 cup (12 oz.) cold beer

 Directions

1. Place the cut fries in a large, microwaveable bowl, toss with 1/4 cup of the oil & cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 6-8 minutes, tossing them with a rubber spatula. Carefully pull back plastic wrap from side furthest from you and drain potatoes into large mesh strainer set over a sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread he potatoes on a few clean kitchen towels & pat dry. Let rest until fries have reached room temp, at least 10 minutes or up until an hour.

2. While fries cool, whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, and 2 tsp. salt in a large mixing bowl; transfer 1/4 cup of the mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to bowl and whisk to combine.

3. In a large Dutch oven fitted with lip on candy thermometer, heat 2 quarts more oil over medium heat to 350°F. Add the fries to the hot oil and increase the heat to high. Fry, stirring with a mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at the corners, 6-8 minutes. Transfer the fries to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.

4. Reduce heat to medium high, add remaining 1 quart oil and heat oil to 375°F. Thoroughly dry fish with paper towels & dredge each piece in the flour mixture on a baking sheet; transfer pieces to a wire rack, shaking off any excess flour. Add 1 1/4 cups of the beer to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining 1/4 cup of beer as needed, 1 tbsp. at a time, whisking after every addition until batter falls from whisk in a thin steady stream and leaves a faint trail across the surface of the batter. Using tongs, dip 1 piece of fish in the batter and let the excess run off, shaking gently. Place the battered fish back on the baking sheet with the flour mixture and turn to coat on both sides. Repeat with the remaining fish, keeping the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.

5.When the oil reaches 375 degrees F, increase the heat to high and add the battered fish to the oil with the tongs, gently shaking off any excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Allow the oil to return to 375 degrees.

6. Add all of the fries back to the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a fresh paper bag or paper towels to drain. Season the fries with salt to taste and serve immediately with the fish.