Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gumbo Soup-courtesy of Maxine

Today I have a recipe we got in the mail from Brad's mom, Maxine. I love trying new recipes, and I also know that Maxine has great taste. When Brad saw this recipe he was adamant that I cook this as soon as possible.

This recipe was really easy to make, and we happened to have all but a few of the ingredients on hand already. I did have to go to the store to get the clam juice, and gumbo file. Well, I had no idea what gumbo file was. In a case of true iPhone fail, I did not look it up on my phone, and instead left the store without that ingredient. Turns out, gumbo file is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. Well, you learn something new everyday! Here are some of the ingredients lined up.
1 quart clam juice
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of rice (I used jasmine)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 lb of cut okra (I used frozen okra that I thawed)
2 stalks diced celery
1 small chopped green onion
1 diced red pepper
1/2 diced onion
1 diced green bell pepper
1 tsp gumbo file (which as you read above, I did not use. I will definitely add it next time)
1 cup cut up shrimp (I used 31-40 size shrimp, cut each in half)
1 cup cut up scallops
1 mahi mahi fillet, cut up (You can really use any fish for this. I used mahi because I figured it would hold together better than salmon or tailapia)
Put the clam juice in a pot over medium-high heat to bring to a boil. While that is heating, in a medium bowl, add the tomatoes,
Tomato sauce,
Yummy, slimy, cut okra,
Green onions,
Red bell pepper,
and green bell pepper. This is where you would also add the gumbo file.
The juice wasn't quite simmering, so I started in on the shrimp. I had to shell them, re-clean them to get the remaining vein, then chop them in half.
At that point the juice was bubbling nicely, so I added the tomato and veggie mixture.
That's when I got back to the seafood. Making sure all pieces were roughly the same size to ensure they'd all cook at the same time.
When the rice was a few minutes from being done, I added the seafood.
At this point the recipe says to ass 1 tsp of tobasco. Well, I really like spice in my food, so I added one tbsp of red pepper flakes, and a healthy squirt of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. Mmmm, MMM! Also add salt and pepper to taste.
Then cook for about another five minutes, giving time for the fish to cook. I then covered it, took it off the heat, and let it sit so the flavors could blend together a bit more, though you could surely serve it at this time.
Gratuitous cat spam. The cat loves this sweater of her dads. Any time it is left out in the open she has to lay on it. Think it's safe across the back of a bar stool? Not so. I could hear her purring like mad and walked around the counter to find this.
She is not amused by my interruption. But she is not amused by much, except for that sweater of course.
Then it was time to eat. I served this with and artichoke on the side. Because... well... since when does anyone need an excuse to eat a delicious artichoke!?
This soup was hearty, filling, and absolutely delicious. I would highly recommend you try it. This is a good company meal as well. It is impressive and looks a lot more complicated than what it is.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie & Cast Iron seasoning tip!

So months ago, we went on a camping supply shopping frenzy. Well, not necessarily ME, it was more Mr See Marie Cook who went through this spell of temporary insanity. Of those purchases, there were two I was truly looking forward to getting. A cast iron skillet, and a cast iron dutch oven.

Of course, between buying those things, and now, our world was shaken up and tipped over like a snowglobe. Losing jobs, selling a house, starting a business, and moving have all taken the top priority, and now the dust is starting to settle. I have used the dutch oven, but have just recently gottten around to digging out the skillet.

A few weeks ago Brad said that he wanted something cozy, some comfort food to match the gloomy weather outside. Well, I happen to know one of his all time favorite old school dishes is chicken pot pie. What a perfect opportunity to use my skillet.

I had recently DVR'd an episode of Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Network. The topic of that episode was Chicken Pot Pie. Here is how it worked for me:
I was shocked to realize that I had no chicken stock in the house. None, not a drop. Luckily Mr Tyler Florence included his chicken stock instructions in the recipe. I love that man. Anyway...

Stock ingredients:
-1 whole chicken
-1 gallon cool water
-2 carrots, cut in 2 inch pieces
-2 celery stalks, cut in 2 inch pieces
-1 onion, halved
-1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
-2 turnips, halved (I did not use these as I did not have any on hand)
-2 tbsp dried thyme
-1 tbsp rosemary
-1 bay leaf

Chicken. Good. All right that's a line from the movie The Fifth Element that always makes me laugh. Oh, no one else knows what I'm talking about? ::ahem:: carry on...
You will need a large, heavy bottom stock pot for this. I believe this is one Brad's mom gave to him a while back. A lot of my often used items were gifts at one time or another from Brad's mom. A kitchen Goddess that woman is.
Veggies and herbs getting ready for a swim.
Now of course you will need to handle the chicken, and after handling and raw meats make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Before handling the bird, I take off my ring...
Oh who am I fooling, this is just a chance to show off my gorgeous engagement ring! The man has good taste.
Of course I cannot chop carrots without snagging a few for the beasts. Carrots are their favorite.
Chop the carrots and celery into 2 inch pieces.
Half the onion and garlic head horizontally. Like so.

Put the chicken in the stock pot, and cover with the gallon of cool water. Add the veggies and herbs, then bring the pot to a boil.
I also had to add some salt and pepper. Couldn't help myself.
Bring that to a boil. Skim it well, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes, skimming any oil off that rises to the surface.
This is when, in my recipe, the box in the freezer that I THOUGHT was puff pastry was actually pie crust. Awesome. Well I figure in a pinch, I could use the pie crust instead. But in the end I decided to go with the good old Bisquick biscuit topping.
Once the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, remove it to a platter to cool. At which point it looks a hot mess, but we will remedy that I promise.
Let the chicken stock continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes. This helps to condense the flavor. You should end up with about eight cups when you are finished, which is why the ingredients specify a gallon of water.
Ahhh Bisquick. You've saved me again. I made a double batch of the recipe on the box for chicken pot pie. Of course, I just made the dough portion of the recipe.
Now strain the chicken broth into another large pot. Discard the solids.
I pick out the cooked carrots, again, for the dogs. They had quite a treat that night for dinner.
When the chicken is cool, shred the meat and discard the skin and bones.
Picked clean.
This is the chicken I will be using for the pie.
And THIS is the chicken that ensures my dog's endless love for me. This is what they got on their kibble for dinner. Their eyes glazed over I swear it.
Now for the pie.
-1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-Salt and pepper
-3 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch circles
-1 onion, chopped (next time I will dice them finely)
-1 box of frozen peas (though I used shelled edamame)
-1 tbsp parsley
-1/4 cup of shredded parmesan
Now wipe out the stock pot, and put it back over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pot.
Then add the flour a little at a time, whisking to form a paste or roux. Whisk until smooth.
Gradually pour in eight cups of the chicken stock. I did it one cup at a time. Whisk the entire time to prevent lumps.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Now, I cannot emphasize this enough, make sure to use plenty of salt! It's not often that you will hear me say that, but in this case it is crucial.
Run your frozen veggies under cool water for 2-3 minutes to thaw them.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
While the edamame thawed, I prepared the dough for the top of the pie. This is the recipe, which I doubled:
-1 cup bisquick mix
-1/2 cup milk
- 1 egg

Stir the ingredients together with a fork until smooth.
Set aside until you have the pie assembled in the skillet.
Now go back to the roux. It should be nice and thick. Fold in the chicken,
and edamame or peas.
Stir to combine.
Spoon the mix into the skillet.
Get the bisquick mix, and spread evenly over the filling.
Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese, and sprinkle some pepper on as well. Makes it look a little prettier in my humble opinion.
Bake the dish for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees. You want the top to be nice and brown, like this!
Isn't it pretty?
Nice and ready for it's close up.
I mean my goodness. At this point I heard Brad yell from the livingroom "Are you going to eat it or make out with it?!". Never you mind buddy boy...
Now, no matter how good this smells, how beautiful it looks, or how many men and children you have wailing about their growling bellies, you must let this set for at least 25 minutes. Otherwise you are going to cut into a soupy mess. That would really be a shame considering all the work you just put into it. I won't lie though, it was a test in patience and strength to go about our lives for the whole half hour I let this sit, pretending that it wasn't just right there on the kitchen counter.
After we could take it no longer, I cut into it...
I will tell you, Brad thoroughly enjoyed this dish. Though he did use even more salt at the table. He enjoyed it so much, that this is the chunk that was missing when we were done.
And it was even better as left overs a few days later.
Since I want my relationship with my cast iron to be a very long and successful one, I know that I need to take good care of it. This requires some maintenance after every use. According to the pamphlet that came with this skillet, I was instructed to wash it out with warm water right after using it. A small amount of dish soap in a sink full of hot water is acceptable as well. Then dry it completely. At which point it this is what I have:
Then I sprayed it generously with a cooking spray, I used PAM.
Flip it over, and spray the backside also.
I let that sit overnight. Then in the morning I wiped any excess oil off, and put the skillet away.