Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Black Skillet Parker House Rolls

A VERY OLD-FASHIONED STYLE of bread, Parker House Rolls are soft, buttery, and slightly sweet. These rolls are unlike the rustic, crusty, dense, seedy, whole grain breads so popular today. I do love the artisan breads being created nowadays, but these fluffy rolls hit a comfort zone I needed to feel.

I usually find "talk about the weather" to be so dreary, boring, mundane. In ordinary conversation it seems  so redundant, but in relation to food it seems more pertinent. Cold weather equals warming food. And it has been cold! record-breakingly so, here in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I decided to make a beef stew and wanted bread to go with it.

I had recently had a couple comments on my blog from one of our fellow bloggers. To acknowledge and respect,  I visited her blog. That is where I got the idea for these rolls. You just never know where inspiration will come from do you?

The recipe made 2 dozen rolls for me. I baked the first dozen, then covered the remaining dough and refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I took the dough out and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. Then I kneaded it down a bit and formed another dozen rolls and let them rise an additional 2 hours. I must say, the rolls were much more delicious the second day and in my experience working with yeast breads, it should never be rushed. Allow plenty of time for resting and rising.

Black Skillet Parker House Rolls
(adapted from My Catholic Kitchen)
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup honey
1 packet yeast
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 - 6 cups flour

Combine the warm water, milk, honey, and yeast and set aside for about 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the yeast mixture, butter, salt, and 5 cups of flour. Mix and knead, adding more flour until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and clings to the dough hook, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead a few times. Pinch off balls of dough and form into rolls, pinching the seams on the underside to make a smooth top. Place the formed rolls into a well buttered cast iron skillet, leaving space between each one. Let the rolls rise in a warm place  for 2 hours, until doubled in size. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Brush generously with butter and serve piping hot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

NO MATTER HOW YOU MAKE IT, Red Beans and Rice will always be a New Orleans legacy. Although today is Mardi Gras, I made this dish yesterday, Monday, which is the traditional day it is served in both homes and restaurants. According to legend, ham was typically served for Sunday dinner. Monday, laundry day, the leftovers were used to flavor a pot of beans which could simmer all day while the clothes were being scrubbed.

(I am so thankful for my washer and dryer).

There is no set recipe for this dish, but a few things are traditional. Some kind of smoky meat is used to flavor the beans, be it ham, tasso, bacon, fatback, ham hock, sausage. Red beans, dark red kidney beans, and light red kidney beans are all fine here. I used the latter. The trinity is always used--onion, celery, bell pepper, along with typical creole flavorings of thyme, bay leaves, and cayenne pepper.

Allow plenty of time to cook the beans, most of which is hands off time. In the end, you want the vegetables to have melted into a creamy sauce.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
1 pound dried red beans, inspected and soaked overnight
2 quarts water
1 meaty ham bone or a thick slice of ham cut into cubes
1 bunch scallions, including green tops
1 green pepper
2 stalks celery
3 medium onions
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 bay leaves
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Hot white rice to serve

Rinse beans and put into a big, heavy pot. Add water and ham. Set uncovered on a burner at medium heat. While the beans are warming, chop and add scallions, green pepper, celery and onions. Then add thyme and bay leaves.

When the mixture boils, reduce heat and cover. Stir every 20 - 30 minutes for three hours. Then, with a wooden spoon, mash about one-fourth of the beans against the side of the pot. If they don't mash easily, try again after half an hour.

Forty minutes after mashing the beans, taste and season with cayenne pepper, but don't use too much; this is supposed to be delicious but subtly flavored. Continue to cook while preparing white rice.

Ladle beans and sauce over the rice and serve. It's hard to believe, but all the vegetables cook away to nothing. The mashed beans thicken the sauce to a creamy consistency.

Even more flavorful rewarmed after a night in the refrigerator.

PS. New Orleans is a city near and dear to my heart. And yes, I have been there during a Mardi Gras season.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sesame Noodles

THE SNOW HAS STARTED FALLING and the construction project has ended for the day. Thank you, Marcus. One of my favorite things about snow is the quiet it brings.

Across the street, a trackhoe has been busy all day every day for weeks, beginning at 7 AM. I don't know what the project is but I do know every move that thing makes is accompanied by an extremely loud and high pitched beep, beep, beep. I realize it is an OSHA requirement for safety. But are people for miles around in danger of being injured by that thing? Why does it have to be so LOUD? So far, there is a big pile of dirt, a big pile of rocks, and a big pile of roots.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Sesame Noodles are a great favorite of mine. I serve this as an entree but it can also be a side dish. If you want it as a main course but it doesn't seem hearty enough, chicken would be quite good added in.

Sesame Noodles
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 pound spaghetti (pictured) or udon or soba noodles
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, warm water, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, honey, and pepper flakes, until smooth.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender. Drain.

Add the pasta, scallions, red bell pepper, carrots, and sesame seeds to the dressing, tossing to combine.

Tastes good served warm or cold.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Home-Style Butterbeans

SOUTHERN CUISINE HAS A REPUTATION for being unhealthy. While it is true that Southerners love fried food (who doesn't) one point that is often overlooked is that Southerners love vegetables. Sure, your Southern Grandmother may have put a ham hock in with the pot of beans, but that was often the only meat on the table.

Poor butterbeans (or lima beans) are one of the most maligned vegetables and one of my favorites. I recently made these beans as a side dish with our dinner. For lunch the next day, I split a slice of cornbread and heaped these butterbeans over it. Even better. As you can see from the photos, I like a lot of black pepper on my butterbeans.

Home-Style Butterbeans
5 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 (16 oz.) package frozen butterbeans (may substitute baby lima beans)
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
12 cups water

Cook bacon and onion in a large Dutch oven over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes. Add brown sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Sitr in butterbeans and butter until butter is melted and beans are thoroughly coated. Stir in 12 cups water.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 hours or until beans are very tender and liquid is thickened and just below top of beans. Stir in salt and pepper.