I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Barefoot Contessa Mac and Cheese

One of my naughty attendings was raving about some mac and cheese that his sister in law made the other night. After a little investigation I found out that she made the Barefoot Contessa's version. I looked through my library (pronounced lie - berry down here) and found the book. Someone gave it to me as a gift a couple years ago.

We tried the recipe and were fairly impressed. It features gruyere cheese. You may recognize the name from fondue recipes. I liked it a lot because my grandpa never ate mac and cheese without stewed tomatoes. The tomatoes on the top of this dish add some interest and some contrasting flavor. As a kid I liked mac and cheese plain but now I am more interested in combinations of flavors.

Barefoot Contessa's Mac and Cheese
1 T salt
1 pound macaroni
1 quart milk
8 T butter
1/2 cup flour
12 oz gruyere cheese - shredded
8 oz extra sharp cheddar - shredded
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t nutmeg
4 small tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread processed into crumbs

1) preheat oven to 375 degrees
2) Boil the macaroni to al dente and drain well
3) Heat milk in a saucepan but don't boil it.
4) Melt 6 T butter in a saucepan and drop in the flour. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring.
5) Drop the milk into the flour/butter pan and stir. Cook a couple minutes until it starts to thicken up.
6) Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients except for tomatoes and bread crumbs.
7) Pour into a greased baking dish.
8) Top the dish with sliced tomatoes, then bread crumbs.
9) Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until top is brown and cheese sauce is nice and bubbly.

Roast Brussels Sprouts

A lot of people out there talk a lot of smack about Brussels sprouts. As they say down here - y'all are crazy! I think they are huge in Holland which is probably why I was served them quite often as a child.

We were listening to NPR on Thanksgiving day and one of the ladies suggested roasting Brussels sprouts. We decided to try roast Brussels sprouts tonight with our steaks. They were a definite hit!

To roast Brussels sprouts, just brush a few of them with olive oil and sprinkle with some seasoned salt. I use Cavender's. Place in a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 for about a half hour.

Bourbon Steak

We were looking for something to serve with my uncle's red wine. I decided on a recipe of mine for bourbon steak. There is a butcher shop down here called Kingsley's that has good meat. In fact their meat is so good if it is not USDA Prime they will make a point of letting you know. Prime is the best quality meat. You can't buy prime meat in most places. There was one place in Kansas City called McGonigal's that you could buy prime. I've never seen prime anywhere in Iowa but I am sure you can find it if you look hard enough. Here is a USDA Prime T-Bone:
It made an excellent bourbon steak.
If this isn't perfectly done I don't know what is:
My naughty uncle's wine made a perfect pairing with the steak. For desert I had a few dates (my current favorite) and a few M&M's (the baby's current favorite.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chicken A La King

We had one of my favorite dishes today - chicken a la king. You won't believe where I got this recipe. I used to be a subscriber of GQ magazine. Every once in a while they would have a column on food in GQ and one of them contained this recipe.

Chicken A La King

5 1/2 T Butter

1/3 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups cream

1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken breast sliced into pieces.

2 T sherry

fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

8 ounces mushrooms (white and sliced)

4 ounce jar of pimentos

toasted white bread

1. Melt 4 T butter in a pan and whisk in flour over medium-low heat. Add chicken broth and whisk. Whisk in the milk and raise heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer whisking constantly. Remove from heat and whisk to remove any lumps. Return to heat and add in the chicken, sherry, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. In a pan over medium heat melt 1 1/2 T butter and saute the mushrooms. Add with the pimentos to the chicken.

3. Serve over pieces of garlic toast cut into quarters. Easy E likes his cut on the diagonal.

Gingersnap Streusel Sweet Potatoes

I got this recipe from my sister. She made it on Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit. We ate it tonight and it was a hit at our house as well. I think sweet potatoes are an underused item.

Gingersnap Streusel Sweet Potatoes

1/2 cup cup butter melted

1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

6 sweet potatoes peeled and boiled and beaten with mixer

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 large eggs

1 tsp.vanilla

Take your mashed sweet potatoes and add the above ingredients, then spoon in to a baking dish.

Streusel Topping

1/4 cup butter cut into pieces

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 Tbs, all purpose flour

16 coarsely chopped gingersnaps cookies (Put in blender)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Combine all above ingredients, sprinkle over sweet potatoes.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

We had a most excellent time on Thanksgiving day at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Des Moines. She is a most excellent cook and my uncle is all crazy like I am about home grown ingredients and nutty projects.
Featured for dinner was squash from my uncle's farm, potatoes from my uncle's farm, turkey, cranberry jello mold and an excellent corn dish, also from the farm.

When we left my uncle sent me home with a quart of tomato juice, a pint of picklelilly, a jar of horseradish and 2 bottles of the most excellent homemade wine. It was quite a haul!

Marinara Sauce

Homemade marinara sauce is really easy to make. Our last Sunday dinner was spaghetti with meatballs. We had a busy day putting up the Christmas tree.
Here are all of the ingredients you need to make marinara:
You need:
a pork chop
a couple cans of whole peeled tomatoes
dried oregano
dried basil
an onion
some crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil
fresh ground black pepper

1) Brown the pork chop really well in some olive oil in a big pot.
2) Chop the onion and garlic up really finely - I use a food processor.
3) When the porkchop is done browning remove it from the pot and saute the onions and garlic in the tasty porky oil.
4) The next step is up to your tastes. If you like a really smooth sauce you can briefly pulse the tomatoes in the food processor. If you like a little chunkier sauce then just add the whole tomatoes to the pot and crush with a potato masher.
5) Return the pork chop to the pot along with the tomatoes. Add a little basil, a little oregano and a little crushed red pepper. Also grind some pepper into the pot. You won't need more than a teaspoon of each. Be careful with the red pepper, try it with 1/4 teaspoon the first time. I like to use a LOT of fresh ground black pepper.
6) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. At the end of cooking remove the chop from the pot and save it for the cook to eat.
7) Season the sauce to taste with salt.
At this point you can add the cooked meatballs to the pot or you can use the sauce in other dishes like lasagna or eggplant parmesan.
We had a big Sunday spaghetti and meatball feed. It is one of the little one's favorite meals.

Homemade Horseradish

On Thanksgiving day my uncle and I made homemade horseradish. He grows horseradish on his farm. It is very easy to make and is ridiculously strong and tasty.

First you have to start with a pile of horseradish roots that have been cleaned.
Then you have to peel the roots. With 2 people working it doesn't take long.
Someone has to use a knife to cut the "eyes" out of each root. Every once in a while there will be a little black spot that needs to be removed otherwise your horseradish won't be snowy white.
Next chop the pieces and place in a food processor.
Use the processor to chop the horseradish up very finely. You will need to add distilled white vinegar to make the horseradish the right consistency.
The horseradish can then be packed into jars. You can use it right away and it will be extremely strong.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bourbon Fudge

When I was at the VA someone brought in some bourbon fudge from these naughty Trappist Monks that live in Kentucky. They also are famous for their fruit cakes. If you are looking for a gift to give someone real quicklike, their fudge is a pretty good gift.

I decided to try my hand at bourbon fudge. I haven't had great luck with candy. The only time I made good fudge was when I used the recipe off of a jar of Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow cream. All of the recipes I found on the internet for bourbon fudge involved a microwave and chocolate chips. No fun.

So I decided to adapt the Jet-Puffed recipe to take on some bourbon.

Bourbon Fudge

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
5 oz can evaporated milk
12 oz Semi-Sweet baking chocolate, chopped
7 oz jar Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Cream
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 t vanilla
1/4 cup bourbon

1) Butter a 9 inch square pan with 1 T butter and set aside.
2) Combine sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat stirring constantly.

3) When the mixture starts to boil it will take about 4 minutes. You want it to hit a temperature of 234 degrees (Soft Ball). If you don't have a candy thermometer just watch the clock and when it has been boiling for 4 minutes proceed to the next step.
4) Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the Jet-Puffed and the chocolate until it melts well.
5) Add the nuts and stir until well combined.

6) Finally add the bourbon and the vanilla.
7) Pour into the buttered 9 inch square pan and let cool at room temperature for at least 4 hours. Don't cut the fudge right away. Let it sit covered overnight before cutting.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Split Pea with Hand Soup

I used to watch the movie "Conan the Barbarian" a lot when I was in surgery residency. We used to sit in the surgery lounge and play it between cases. There is a scene in the middle of the movie where there is a big cauldron full of green soup. Eventually you see a closeup of the soup and there is a hand floating in it and a head. You get the picture. Anyway the director said in the commentary that it was called split pea with hand soup. Every once in a while we like to have a little split pea with ham soup. It similar right?


(Dutch Pea Soup)

2 pounds dried green split peas (soak overnight)
4 leeks chopped
4 stalks celery
1 pound onions
Nice healthy amount of ham
12 ounces Gelderland Sausage, sliced (or use Jimmy Dean regular sausage)
salt, pepper

Soak peas overnight. Place peas, water and ham in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 3 hours until it has a nice pea soup consistency. Then add all of the other ingredients and cook until just softened (about ½ hour). Tastes very good if served with pumpernickle bread.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Macaroni Salad

Last night we made good use of the braised beast. It makes really great sandwiches. I got hungry for my mom's macaroni salad so we had some of that too.

Macaroni Salad

6-8 green onions, sliced

2 cups macaroni, cooked until al dante (just about done)

6-8 radishes, sliced

½ green pepper seeded and diced

3 stalks of celery, sliced

slice, dice and seed one large tomato

boil 6-8 eggs, reserve for topping

a good squirt of mustard

a cup or so of miracle whip

1 cup ham, diced

1 cup Colby cheese, diced

dice 3-4 bread and butter pickles and add 1-2 teaspoons pickle juice

In A Large bowl

1. Combine onions, green pepper, radish, celery, macaroni, salt, pepper, and Hungarian paprika to taste. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

2. Chill. To start with add 1 cup Miracle Whip and a good squirt of mustard.

3. Mix in tomato and egg, pickles, cheese and ham.

4. Before serving shred ½ head of lettuce. Add more Miracle Whip as needed. Add more salt, pepper and paprika as needed. *I almost never add the lettuce*

5. Top with 2 sliced eggs and paprika. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Our Sunday Dinner

Today we made the German food featured in the posts below. It was totally worth the trouble!
It is really hard to avoid overeating when you have a plate like this laid out in front of you.
Don't worry I didn't forget the horseradish and mustard.
That custard dish full of horseradish is almost enough for me.

Even the baby ate like a glutton.
The only thing that stopped us from eating was the desire to save room for dessert.
Why yes, since you ask, that is completely home made apple pie that my wife made. That crust tastes even better than it looks.


Spatzle is a dish of German egg noodles. When we ate at Gasthaus I got spatzle with my roast beast. My wife made some spatzle this weekend and it is even better home made!

Spatzle Batter

Combine 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup water in a mixing bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups flour and stir until well combined. It should make a batter that is gooey and a little thicker than pancake batter. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Next heat a pot of water to boiling.

If you don't have a spatzle maker, put some of the batter into a colander with large holes and use a spatula to ram the batter through the holes and into the boiling water.

You'll have to do several batches. When the noodles rise to the top let them cook for a couple minutes and then fish them out.

Let them rest in an ice water bath until you are just about ready to eat. When you are just about to serve the noodles heat a skillet over medium heat and add some butter. Saute the noodles in the butter and serve immediately.

Fried Cabbage

I grew up on fried cabbage. Whenever I tell someone about fried cabbage in Louisville they act like I am from outer space. Is it really that unusual?

To clear up a few things:
1) Fried cabbage isn't really fried like you are thinking. You are probably thinking fried Twinkies on a stick like they serve at the Minnesota State Fair. Our fried cabbage is more sauteed cabbage.
2) It always takes longer to make fried cabbage than you think it will. It takes a while to chop it up properly and it takes like an hour or longer to fry it properly.
3) It makes way less than you think it will. A pot of fried cabbage looks enormous at first but after cooking you're left with hardly anything. 1 head is probably about enough for 2 people at our house.
4) Even people who have never had fried cabbage chow down on it when they get some. It is much tastier than you expect so make a LOT.
5) It cooks better and eats better if you shred the cabbage up pretty finely. It takes a little more effort but the payoff is huge.

Fried Cabbage

1) Chop your cabbage up finely. Don't throw out the heart of the cabbage! *see below*

2) Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add in some oil.
3) Dump the cabbage into the skillet and cook for about an hour or so. Stir fairly often.

What to do with the heart of the cabbage:
Dip it in a little salt and eat it. The person who cuts the cabbage gets the heart.

Hawkeye Update

I guess by now everyone knows that the Hawks beat Minnesota yesterday!

The record is now 6-5 with one game to go. Next Saturday's game will be in Kinnick against the Western Michigan Broncos at 2:35 PM central. It will be televised on the big10 network. Sadly I will be unable to watch because I will be moonlighting.

The Hawkeye Basketball team against Idaho State 58-43 Friday night. I was planning on watching but I couldn't because I had to go in to sew up some guy's face. Our pregame meal was chili with Chicago Style Hot Dogs!

The next basketball game is a home game Wednesday the 14th at 8:05PM central. It is against Northern Colorado and will be televised on the Big10 network. I will try to watch at least a little of that game.

Hot Pepper Update

You may recall my earlier scheme to grow the World's Hottest Pepper. While I won't be able to put my plan into action for a few more months, I found a video of some numbskull eating one on camera.

Check out this video.

The Bhut Jolokia rules! To quote:

"It was like someone tazered my mouth!"


Saturday, November 10, 2007

German Style Beef Braised in Beer

I stumbled upon a good cookbook about French food called La Bonne Cuisine de Madam E. Saint-Agne. Of the book Amazon says:

Translated into English for the first time since its original 1927 publication, La Bonne Cuisine has long been the French housewife's equivalent of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook or The Joy of Cooking—a trusted and comprehensive guide to "la cuisine bourgeoise" or home cooking, rather than the haute cuisine of chefs and Escoffier. Julia Child called LBC "one of my bibles" and drew heavily upon its detailed approach to preparation as she labored on her own classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I like the book because it has old time cooking techniques that have been bastardized by modern cooks to make them simpler. One such technique is braising. The book goes into great detail describing the technique. It is a lot of trouble but the results are astonishing. Why go to the trouble you ask? Because you will never eat food prepared this way unless you do it yourself. Most modern chefs don't even know the correct way to braise meat and even if they did it would be too much trouble to carry off in a business. So forget about getting it in a restaurant.

The book I have been using for German food is The German Cookbook. The way it is written reminds me a lot of the French cookbook. They were both originally written back when people still cooked their own food. The technique described in the German Cookbook for beef in beer is fairly true to the original description of braising but has been modified slightly. One modification is that the meat is marinated overnight. The French cookbook makes no mention of marination when it talks about braising. I think the French would call it redundant. I decided to take the recipe from The German Cookbook and use the classic method of Braising. I made 2 1/2 pounds of beef because I just happen to have the perfect pot for braising that size of roast. I'll go through it step by step.

The first step is to make a marinade and marinate the meat overnight.

Rinderschmorbraten in Bier

2 1/2 pound eye of round
Grease from a few strips of bacon
salt and sugar to sprinkle on the beef
6 to 8 cloves
6 to 8 peppercorns
2 t caraway seeds
6 juniper berries *see below*
1 large bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced
3 to 4 sprigs parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cans dark beer

1) Rub the beef down in the bacon grease.
2) Sprinkle with salt and sugar on all sides.
3) Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl big enough to hold the roast and the liquid.
4) Marinate the beef 12 hours or so, turning a couple times.

*Juniper berries are indeed hard to find. We found ours at World Market. You could always leave this out.*

The next step is to prepare the beef for braising.

Preparing the Beef for Braising
*before doing anything preheat your oven to 250*

1) Remove the beef from the marinade and dry very well with paper towels. If you don't get it dry it won't brown properly.

2) Strain the marinade and save the liquid. Discard the solids.
3) Heat a cast iron skillet or other pot big enough to hold the roast over medium-high to high heat.
4) Add enough butter or bacon grease to the bottom of the heated pan so that it completely covers the bottom. Let it heat until it just begins to smoke.
5) Brown the roast on all sides and remove to a platter.

6) Meanwhile take 1 onion and 1 carrot and cut it into 1/2 cm thick (3/16ths inch) slices.
7) Saute the onion and carrot in a little oil until they brown a little bit.

Setting up the Braising Pot

The next step is to prepare the pan for braising. You want a heavy pot, ideally cast iron, which is only slightly bigger than the piece of meat you're trying to braise. If the pot is too big you will need too much braising liquid and you will end up with boiled meat. That is a completely different thing.

1) Slice fat back into pieces about as thick as 2 fingers. Wash them off really well to remove most of the salt.
2) Line the bottom of the braising pan with the fatback, so that no metal is showing.

3) Place a layer of the sliced, browned onions.

4) Place a layer of the sliced, browned carrots.

5) Set the meat down on top of everything. It should not touch the sides of the pot or the bottom.

6) Add 1/2 cup of the marinade to the pot and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
7) Boil, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
8) Add enough of the remaining marinade to go about halfway up the sides of the beef.

9) Bring to a boil again, cover and place into the preheated oven.
10) Bake in the oven at 250 for 3 to 4 hours, basting occasionally, until meat is fall apart tender.

**You will have to adjust the temperature of the oven so that the liquid is undergoing a very slow simmer. Mine seems to do well set at 300.**

11) At the end of braising, remove the roast from the pot and set on a roasting pan.
12) Turn the oven to broil.
13) Strain the braising liquid and reserve the liquid.

*This is the trick: you'll have to strain the liquid twice. The first time strain it to remove the large particles. The second time line the wire strainer with paper towels. Straining twice will remove most of the grease and leave you with a nice clear, particle free juice at the end.*

14) Skim the fat off the top of the braising liquid.
15) About 8 minutes before you are ready to serve the beef, spread just a little of the strained/degreased braising liquid over the top of the meat and place the meat under the broiler until it darkens a little bit. This is called glazing.

Preparing the Gravy

1) Heat 2 T butter in a saucepan.
2) Add 2 T flour and cook, stirring, until the flour turns the color of cocoa.

3) Add 1 cup of the strained/degreased braising liquid to the pan and stir until it is about the thickness of sour cream.
4) Add the remainder of the cooking liquid and stir until it makes a nice gravy.
And now for the meat:
It is so tasty and succulent that you don't need a fancy serving platter.