Wednesday, September 29, 2010

little sis's famous hashbrowns


These are little sis's specialty. (Could you tell by the title? Good. I'm proud of you). They are simple, relatively quick, and absolutely delicious. She takes hers straight, and usually about the size of a dinner plate. The rest of us like to top them with over-easy eggs and avocado (my favorite), or sour cream, salsa, barbecue sauce, or ketchup. Take this tasty platform and build to wherever your imagination takes you.


Little Sis's House-Famous Hashbrowns
I'm just writing it up per-hashbrown. Multiply this recipe by however many people you want to feed (or however many hashbrowns they're going to want to eat).
Serves one (~400 calories/30 carbs per serving).
2 Tb vegetable oil (not olive oil. It's burning point is too low and it won't fry to hashbrown properly)
1 medium potato (I prefer golden, but a russet or even a red would work alright)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil your potatoes for 12 minutes in salted water. I prefer to do this step the night before. It simplifies things.


Put 2 Tb oil over a frying pan, over high heat. Let the pan heat up until when you throw a few droplets of water on it, the water leaps, dances, and hisses. Grate some pepper and sprinkle some salt into the oil.

While the pan is heating, run one potato through the grater disk of your food processor. If you don't have a food processor, get out the box grater. My sincerest apologies to your arm, especially if you have lots of hungry friends at the breakfast table.


Drop all the grated potato into the hot oil and pat it into a disk. Don't smush it down, just shape it gently. Now set your timer for 4-5 minutes and DON'T TOUCH. You have to let a nice golden crust form. You want a nice golden crust, don't you? Don't you?

When the timer rings, flip the hashbrown over, carefully. Set the timer for 3 minutes. If you want to make eggs, now is the time, in a separate pan, so everything will be nice and ready and hot together.

When 3 minutes are up, check the other side of the hashbrown. If either needs to be more golden, then turn it to that side and give it another minute or two.


Serve piping hot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

sauteed shrimp, garlic, tomatoes, and mushrooms in a romano, parmesan, and herb sauce over a bed of spiral pasta, topped with crispy breaded shrimp


The description above is  copied almost word-for-word from the Marie Callendar's menu. I believe theirs reads "asiago-romano-parmesan" sauce, but I could only buy so much cheese and Papa doesn't like asiago.

Little sis and I went to Marie Callendar's a few nights back. As we ate our complimentary warm corn bread, we considered the menu. Little sis, who's normally the quick-decider of our pair, chewed her lip for a long time after I'd selected my quiche covered in bacon and cheese and my stomach was grumbling the order. "I want the double-shrimp pasta," she said. "But." But, every time she eats it, it disagrees with her.

I reopened my menu and took out a paper and a pen, and scribbled the dish's description down. "Or we could put our magic kitchen powers to work later," I said, "and make it ourselves."

She ordered fish and chips. The night went swimmingly.

A few days later, we held our grand sisterly endeavour to create the delicious dish, which has little sis's name written all over it: shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, pasta, a creamy sauce.

An Attempt at Marie Callender's Double Shrimp Pasta

1 large tomato
1 C mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
2 Tb olive oil

1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 Tb flour
1 C half n' half
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated romano cheese
pepper and salt to taste

1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 egg, beaten
1 C bread crumbs
1/4 C flour
1/4 C parmesan cheese
1/4 C romano cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 lb uncooked spiral pasta (use any kind you like-- this is just the kind they use at Marie's)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, with a dash of olive oil to keep it from bubbling over. Add the pasta and boil according to the directions on the packaging.

Chop the mushrooms and tomato and mince the garlic. Saute in the 2 Tb olive oil until mushrooms and garlic are golden brown. Add 1/2 lb of the shrimp.


Immediately, add the 2 Tb flour and mix to combine. Stir constantly for 2 minutes, keeping the flour from burning.

Add the half n' half and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens a little. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.


Meanwhile, beat the two eggs together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, 1/4 C flour, garlic, salt, and pepper. Take out the second half-pound of shrimp. Dip each shrimp in the egg and then in the crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
To plate, mix the pasta and sauce together, then top with the crispy shrimp. Serve immediately, before the crispy becomes soggy.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

cocoa waffles topped with whipped cream and fresh berries, a celebration of breakfast and summer


One of the best things in my unviersity dining commons are the row of waffle makers sitting next to a big tub of waffle batter. You ladle your own in, wait 1:30 for it to cook, then load it up with butter, thin sweet syrup, cinnamon sugar, whatever you want (smuggled in almond butter and honey; the once-in-a-blue-moon excitement of defrosted blueberries or big trays of strawberries). I love that they have this and I save my DC waffle binges for special occassions.

But these are better.


Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Waffles
Adapted from Alton Brown's Buttermilk Waffle recipe
Serves seven (470 calories/60 carbs per serving)
2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C cocoa

4 Tbs melted butter
3 eggs
2 C buttermilk
3 Tb sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 C chocolate chips

1 C whipping cream
1/4 C sugar
(unless you really like whipped cream. Then double it...)

optional toppings:
fresh berries and sliced fruit
chocolate syrup
peanut butter
powdered sugar

If you like, mix and sift the dry goods (flour, baking soda and powder, cocoa) in a separate bowl. I do the dishes at my house, so I don't.


Beat the butter, eggs, buttermilk, and sugar together. Dump in the sifted (or not sifted) dry goods and chocolate chips and stir to combine. Let the batter rest while you work on the rest of the operation.

Beat the 1 C whipping cream and 1/4 C sugar together until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat! You want whipped cream, not butter. This takes me about 5 minutes; it depends on the strenght of  your mixer and how high your turn it up.

Little sis's

Lube up your waffle iron and ladle your batter over the preheated iron. (Follow your manufacturer's instructions, etc).

Spoon soft, sweet cream onto the piping hot waffle and top with berries. Devour gleefully, perhaps with a cup of hot cocoa or a cold glass of milk.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

old-school muffins packed with sweet chunks of ripe banana and topped with a crunchy cinnamon, banana, and almond struesel


The base for this muffin recipe come from AB's "I'm Just Here For More Food: food x mixing + heat = baking," one of my favorite baking cookbooks. In the opening to his "Old-School Muffins," he complains about the tendency of coffeehouses (coughStarbuckscoughI swear I don't live in its comfy cushioned chairs inhaling the aroma of my coffee cupcough) to give you a cupcake and call it a muffin.

Cupcakes are sweet, delicately moist, and cake-like, when muffins should be tender but sturdy, with a coarser crumb than the tiny, even bubbles of cakes give you. A muffin has body and substance. It can stand up to thick slices of banana and bursts of struesel flavor.

Try it out and see for yourself.

One of the things I liked about this recipe was that it gave me some serious muffins. The stiff dough rose into big bakery-style domes, covered in cracked, sweet struesel, without overflowing or sagging in the centers. The crumb was tender, moist and sweet, without feeling like a birthday party treat. I think this is my new muffin-base recipe (I've been searching for a good one for awhile).

Added bonus: the tasty struesel that tops these is a touch healthier than most. I replaced most of the butter with banana, and it turned out quite tasty.


Banana-Nut Muffins
Adapted from Alton Brown's "Old-School Muffins"
Makes twelve (260 calorie/30 carb) muffins
2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C shortening
1 egg plus one egg yolk
3/4 C plain yogurt
1/4 C sour cream
2 Tb half and half

2 yellow bananas, sliced and then quartered (reserve a few sliced for the struesel, below)

1/4 C roughly chopped almonds
1/3 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tb banana
1 Tb butter

Preheat your oven to 375. Line your favorite muffin tin with paper cups or grease them. (I'm a lazy cleaner; I use my paper cups).

Good bakers weigh their dry ingredients and sift them (or run them through a food processor; you achieve the same effect as sifting). I'm a lazy baker. But, hey, if you aren't? Take those dry goods (that would be the flour, the baking powder and soda, and the salt) and sift them into a separate bowl. Good job. I applaud you and your soul, which is a better one than mine.

Next, beat the sugar, shortening, eggs, yogurt, sour cream, and half n' half together for a few minutes. When you get bored of watching it spin around (or, if you've a hand mixer, when your arm gets tired) and everything seems incorportated, turn off the mixer. Dump the dry good (sifted and mixed... or not) straight on top. Mix on a low speed for a few seconds, or until everything is just barely incorporated. It's OK to have some dry flour hanging about. Overmixing muffins is a serious sin, folks. It kills the tenderness. Just stir until everything barely hangs together.

This is very stiff, thick batter; it's almost more like a sticky dough. Don't worry about it.

Fold the bananas into the batter. Don't mix too much; just fold it a few times and let it be.


Now, spoon your stiff dough into 12 muffin cups. The cups should be full. I know this goes against all "fill-it-2/3-of-the-way-up" muffin logic we've been taught, but it works with this batter.

In a separate bowl, now, mix the struesel ingredients. I like smooshing them with a fork or a sturdy whisk. When it's crumbly enough to sprinkle, you're down. If it feels very moist and forms balls bigger than a pea, toss in a Tb or two of flour. Sprinkle on top of the muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry. (Careful: make sure you're not stabbing a banana piece when you're checking for doneness).

Remove from the muffin pan immediately to keep the bottoms from going soggy.

Let cool for as long as you can stand the gently wafting aroma of baked brown sugar and melting banana. Then, yeah, you can eat them.


Friday, September 3, 2010

whole striped bass roasted with herbs, lemon, vegetables, and garlic


The guy at the fish counter wasn't too keen on English, especially the too-fast, tripping-over-my-own-tongue type I speak. (Little sis speaks this way too; we understand each other perfectly. No one else does. We speak especially poorly if we're speaking to each other, or even if we're just in the same room).

So the fish guy and I played charades. I pointed at the striped bass (USA farm-raised) and held up two fingers. He pulled two shiny, fat, silver fish out of the ice, pointed at each--"Good?"--and I nodded.

Before I go on, I need to paint you a picture here, because it's lovely. Walk through the automatic doors with me, past a wall of rice cookers, and giant crates of giant bags of rice, down the aisles with the red bean mochi, Vietnamese fish sauce and Chinese oyster sauce, bok choi and fresh lychee berries, plucked whole ducks, and little tubs of Ben and Jerry's next to the frozen unagi.

(I love my town).

Half the back wall of this supermarket is sea food. A waist-high counter spans the length, full of buckets of ice topped with big, beautiful whole fish, pink, blue, silver; tiny thin smelt, oblong mudfish, massive salmon. Trout swims open-mouthed in big tanks, next to live lobsters. There are buckets of oysters, mussels, crawling red crayfish, snapping blue-ish crabs.

So that's where I am, pointing at a fish and trying to communicate that I want them cleaned, de-scaled and beheaded. He makes chopping motions; I nod, shake my head, and gesture, too. "No head, no scales. I want the tail."

Warning: description of blood and gore following. Fish blood and gore, but if it bothers you, skip a paragraph.

Then he takes it back to his workspace and hacks away with a circular scale-remover. Tiny, shiny silver scales go flying every which way. He takes out a cleaver, looks at me, mimes chopping off the head. I nod. He mimes chopping off the tail. I shake my head. He hacks of the head, slices out the gills and guts it. Then he washes all the blood and guts and fish heads off the back into a waste groove, wraps up my fish, and hands them to me.

Spikes are not good eats. Cut 'em off with a pair of nice big kitchen shears.

This recipe is based loosely on one of Alton Brown's, except I changed the herbs, and added vegetables and garlic. The mound of greenery is supposed to protect the fish from the hot hot oven, while gently infusing it with flavor.

Farmed striped bass is a delicious and sustainable fish. Take one home today.

Herb-roasted Striped Bass
2 whole striped bass

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 med turnip, peeled and chopped small
1 med yellow onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 2-inch lengths
1 head garlic, peeled and each clove halved
1 bunch each Vietnamese basil, dill, parsley
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 C sliced almonds

1 lemon, sliced into rounds
4 Tb olive oil

Have the bass de-scaled, beheaded, and gutted. Cut off all the nasty spiky fins, unless you like driving needles into you tongue. I don't.

Set oven to 500 degrees.


In a large roasting pan, make a layer of half the vegetables, herbs, almonds, and garlic cloves. Add 2 Tb olive oil and lay out half of the lemon rounds on top. Lay the fish on top of the lemon rounds.


Place the remaining lemon on top of the fish, then cover with the rest of the veggies and greenery. Douse in olive oil. Ideally, you should not be able to see any of the silver of the fish.


Cover the pan tightly in aluminum foil. In some ways, think about this as if we're steaming this fish.

Cook in the 500 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until your fish is 120 degrees on the inside.

Bones are cool.

You'll have to take out the major bones of the fish. First, just sort of brush off the skin on top. It should pull off easily. Then flake off one layer of meat. Now you can see the spine. Grab the tail and pull the spine out.

Serve with some white rice. The fish is tender, moist and fall-apart flaky.