Pigs in a Pickle

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You can call me Donna Reed.  Well, maybe Betty Crocker instead.  Let me explain.  I’m on a retro food kick in a big way.  And just so I don’t offend anyone, I’m calling retro foods anything that reminds me of my childhood as well, so I’m throwing myself under the bus too when it comes to age!  I opted for the Betty Crocker reference instead of Mrs. Reed because she was supposed to represent the picturesque housewife with the perfectly coiffed hair, pressed apron, and sassy little pumps who flitted about a perfectly clean and tidy little home.  Hmmmm.  Hair – I have some.  Apron – I have one.  It is stuffed in the back of my entryway closet.  Pumps?  I like slippers better.  And clean and tidy home?  A for effort?  Betty Crocker was probably perfect too, now that I’m thinking about it.  Whatever.  Call me JB.

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It has been lonely here around the house.  Ben’s busy time of year is here, so he’s been on the road.  A lot.  You would think that without distraction or obligation I’d find myself knocking off all of those things that seem to always be on my list.  You know, laundry, cleaning…  yeah right.  Motivation walks out the door, packed away safely in Ben’s suitcase and I race home after work each day to jump into my pajamas and curl up under the blankets on the couch with a pup on my lap.  Even making dinner seems like a giant chore.  I really am terrible at preparing food for one.  To be honest, I’m terrible at preparing food for two.  We always have copious amounts of leftovers, which tends to suit us and our budget just fine as we typically have the best looking (and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say best tasting) lunch among our peers.  Is it bad if I love that my coworkers always ask what I’m eating after they catch a whiff as I walk back to my desk?

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Anyway, dinner for one is hard.  And it is even harder because something in my brain says when eating for one, this is a good week to save up on the grocery budget and to eat cheap.  So cheap, small quantities that can keep my interest for both dinner and my leftover lunches send my brain searching.  Because ultimately, these nights alone are my chance to eat whatever I want, whatever I crave, especially if it is something Ben doesn’t like (which admittedly, is very little these days).  I’ve been running out of ideas because again, he’s been gone a lot.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Tuna melts (which I think I’m going to have to repeat again soon.  I forgot how good plain old tuna salad can be).  Old family favorites.  Easy Appetizers.

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There it is.  My single gal menu option favorite.  Give me a good dip and some hearty bread and I’m calling it a meal (uh, plus wine, right?).  Appetizers are my saving grace when I’m holding down the fort solo.  I fill up my plate and hurry back to my spot on the couch before it gets cold or, more likely, the dog has stolen my spot.  So when coworkers started discussing the pickle wrap or pickle roll ups the other day at work, needless to say, my ears perked.  I may have hearing damage from chemo, but you can be sure that if someone is talking food, I’m well aware and have an opinion.

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The pickle wrap is a simple thing – ham, spread with a layer of cream cheese, then a pickle dropped in the middle.  The pickle is rolled up in the ham cream cheesiness, sliced into bite sized chunks, and devoured.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my sisters and I ate these like crazy any time my mom made these.  God bless her, she didn’t want to serve the ends of the rolls to guests so as not to skimp on the pickle portion of the roll, so we’d stand by like dogs begging, waiting until we could snatch a bite.  So my coworkers chatting about this family favorite piqued my interest.  But as we all know, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I figured, if these bad boys were so tasty on their own, imagine if I amped them up a bit and, ya know, fried them.  I’m glad I did.

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Pigs in a Pickle/Deep Fried Pickle Wraps/Whatever You Want to Call Them

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 lb. good quality deli ham, sliced thin (if you can get ham off the bone at your deli, do)

1 package cream cheese, room temperature

1 jar good quality miniature pickles, preferably kosher dill

1 package wonton or eggroll wrappers

1 egg

Canola oil

Lay a piece of ham across work surface and spread with a layer of cream cheese.  You want to cover the ham fully with a decent amount of cream cheese so you can taste it in each bite.  Cut the ham slice in half lengthwise and lay a pickle on each half.  If pickles are larger, you will want to cut in half.  Roll the pickle up and set aside.  Repeat with remaining ham, cream cheese and pickles.  Can be prepared to this point.

Whisk egg in a small bowl.  Lay wonton wrapper on work surface and place pickle roll on top.  Roll, jellyroll style, and secure wrap to itself by painting lightly with egg wash.  Fold in edges like a present (or eggroll) and secure each edge with egg wash.  You may find that your wonton wrapper is too short.  You can avoid this all together by using an eggroll wrapper and trimming of the excess or, you may cut a wrapper in half, secure it to the full wrapper using egg wash, and procede as described previously.  Repeat with remaining pickle rolls and wonton wrappers.  Freeze for 30 minutes and no more.

Place canola oil in a large wok or frying pan, enough to come up about 1 inch on the side of the pan.  Bring to 350 degrees over medium high heat.  Remove pickle wraps from freezer and gently loosen from plate/tray.  Place about 4-5 pickles in the pan, depending on size used, and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove and repeat with remaining pickles.

Eat immediately and be happy.

Don’t you wish there was some great appetizer eating event coming up like the Super Bowl?

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2013 jb’s pour house

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BLT Chicken Pasta

Holy cow, summer is going by so quickly!  I can’t believe it is mid-July.  Back to school specials abound and I can’t help but feeling a little sad that summer is almost over.  But then I remember that here in the “northern South,” summer continues well into September (I just love that Southern Living magazine calls KC part of the South – it gives me lots of excuses to make the Southern food I adore!).  Tomato season started early and I have lots of plans for the jeweled orbs.  The farmers markets are overflowing and I’d better get while the getting is good before the impact of this draught starts to catch up with the grocery stores and markets.

I must admit to a bit of laziness and a severe lack of creativity when it comes to cooking this summer.  Maybe that is due to the roller coaster ride I’ve been on this past year.  I think the other part of it is that I don’t have a garden for the second year in a row.  I have nothing going crazy in my backyard, demanding I dream up new and exciting ways to prepare it.  A friend brought over some fresh jalapenos from her garden and I smiled, recalling the numerous recipes I searched and dreamed up to use our plethora of peppers.  A girl can only eat so many jalapeno poppers…

The other aspect of my noticeable absence has been that we have just been so busy!  Last summer flew by in an instant between Ben starting his job, selling our house, making the official move to KC, and then, the nasty C-word.  This summer, we’ve welcomed many friends into our home, traveled to see friends and family, and bummed about town with lazy days at the pool, baseball games, happy hours and more.  One such evening took us to Shakespeare at the Park where we packed a few bottles of wine and a picnic and laughed at the whimsy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Midsummer…

One of the dishes I prepared for our picnic left me with lots of delicious spinach dip left over.  Given its consistency, I felt that it would be better served in another dish versus on its own, scooped with chips or crackers.  Laziness prevailed yet again, so I opted for ease, convenience and rotisserie chicken, a girl’s best friend.  The creamy sauce and spinach got me thinking of an alternate BLT and then I couldn’t help but tinker.  I liked this dish served warm, but it’s likely pretty tasty chilled too and perfect for a picnic or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BLT Chicken Pasta

recipe:  jb’s pour house with assistance from Food & Wine

 

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded

5 slices bacon

1/3 c. sliced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 box pasta (any shape), cooked according to package directions

1 c. heavy cream

1 8 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess moisture

1 pkg. Philadelphia cooking creme, plain

1 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes, diced

 

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add onion to pan and saute until translucent and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, boil the cream until reduced by half.  Keep a close eye on this as you don’t want to allow the cream to boil over.  Add the dry spinach and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooking creme and stir until melted.  Add the juice of half of a lemon.  Add half of the chicken, reserving the remainder for another use.  Add pasta, bacon, onion mixture and tomatoes.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can easily be doubled.

 

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

wild mushroom pate

I’m not one of those women.  You know the type I’m talking about – the women that work full time, whip up a mean dinner, have an impossibly clean and tidy home, volunteer for their favorite local charity and seem to have boundless energy to accomplish all of the aforementioned tasks.  Secretly, just typing all of those words made me want to crawl into my favorite sweatpants and retreat onto our super cushy couches under a fuzzy blanket.  Oh wait, already there.  To me, these women are straight out of Martha Stewart Land with their perky perfectionism and uber creativity.  Maybe I’m jealous.  Maybe I’m tired just thinking about all of that.  And maybe, because of all of that, I’ve resisted the pull of the Martha magnet and all of her “good things.”  Until now.

I’d been challenged.  We were headed to a vegetarian friend’s house and I needed to bring something to contribute to the evening noshing that would appeal to everyone while being considerate of my friend’s dietary preferences.  I wanted to wow.  I hit up all of my favorite recipe sources, desperately seeking inspiration.  Meh.  I didn’t find any.  After exhausting all of the usual suspects, I suddenly veered off of the usual path and for some reason, headed over to see Ms. Martha.  Suddenly, there it was.  Wild Mushroom Pate.  Oh Martha, you dirty (jail) bird. 

The ingredients immediately intrigued me – a mushroom medley, fresh thyme, scallions and sherry.  Toasted nuts for crunch.  Cream cheese as the binder.  And then – oh baby – several dashes of hot sauce for a little something more.  I hit print.
As the dish started to come together, the smell of mushrooms sauteing in butter began to fill the air.  Soon enough, the thyme and sherry were in the pan, adding their own layers of flavor to the increasingly more complex mushrooms.  Finally, the mushrooms reached a golden brown perfection and were added to a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and toasted nuts.  In went the hot sauce and I dug in for a taste test.  *Swoon*  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Patience isn’t one of my virtues, and this bad boy needed to chill for 8 hours.  That’s what they make freezers for.  So, in with the ice cubes it went to chill for a couple of hours and then we were off to our evening event.  My kind pals offered their “oohs” and “ahhs” as I carefully unmolded the pate.  Knowing what I had tasted earlier, I couldn’t wait to dig in once the flavors had melded together.  The crunch of the nuts played against the creaminess of the cheese and the tender mushrooms.  The hot sauce dances around in the background as that something you just can’t quite put your finger on.  *Swoon*  Sorry, you’re just going to have to get used to that with this recipe.  I guarantee you’ll fall for it too.  Trust me, it’s a good thing.

wild mushroom pate

recipe:  adapted from Martha Stewart

1 c. pecans
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. each cremini, button and shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 bunch scallions, white and green portions finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. dry sherry
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh parsley
Several dashes of hot sauce

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread pecans on a baking pan.  Bake for about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside to cool.  In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter and cook the chopped mushrooms, stirring occasionally until liquid has been released.  After about 8 minutes, add scallions and thyme.  Continue cooking until mushrooms release all liquid and begin to turn golden brown.   Add sherry, and scrape bottom of the pan to release all caramelized pieces.  Cook until skillet is almost dry, 4 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Chop the pecans into small pieces.  Combine pecans, mushroom mixture, parsley, hot sauce and cream cheese in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a large ramekin, bowl, bread pan or terrine with plastic wrap, letting the wrap hang off of the sides.  Add mushroom mixture and firmly press down, spreading mixture as evenly as possible.  Cover the mold with the overhanging plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Unwrap the chilled pate and invert it onto a large serving platter.  Serve with plain crackers, such as water crackers.

Try not to swoon.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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