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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fried pickles with ranch creme fraiche

I’m officially declaring the summer of 2010 as the “Summer of the Pickle.”  Our Garden on Steroids has had a tendency to go overboard on just a few select items each year in the four summers we’ve put our green thumbs to the test.  Year one was tomatoes and basil (darn).  Year 2 was butternut squash – heavy on the vine production, not so heavy on the squash.  Year 3 was pattypan squash galore.  (Seriously.  Some were as big as B’s head.  I still have squash soup in the freezer.)  And this year, year 4, has been cucumbers, banana peppers and jalapenos galore.  Given I still have 2009 jalapeno poppers in the freezer, I had to find a new outlet for the garden gone mad.

And so, I dove into the world of home canning and in the process, trucked home gallons of vinegar, pounds of kosher salt, and boxes of mason jars from the grocery store.  From the cucumbers came quart upon quart of Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles, Triple Dill pickles, and White Wine & Tarragon pickles.  I pickled banana peppers, because I’m obsessed with them.  Piles of jalapenos went for an unseeded (yikes!) swim in the brine to produce hellfire hot pepper slices for spicy platters of nachos throughout the winter.  And last but not least, I pickled green tomatoes – I just couldn’t make FGTs fast enough!

As I gazed across my 18 quarts (yes, I said 18) of pickled cucumbers, I realized we don’t eat enough burgers, tenderloins, or sandwiches to move through the pickles fast enough.  Something had to be done.  Something using a lot of pickles needed to be made, and quickly.  Given I’m still desperately trying to hold on to the days of summer now painfully behind me given the rate at which the leaves are falling, I decided to bust out a little State Fair action.  Yup, you guessed it.  I fried the pickles (placing on a stick is completely optional).

And in true JB fashion, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I couldn’t just fry up some pickles and call it good.  Oh no.  I had to pickle my own cucumbers, bread in crunchy panko bread crumbs, and make my own crème fraiche for the base of my dipping sauce.  In a complete non-J move, I decided to go with a packet of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning to add to the crème fraiche.  Heed my warnings here – this stuff is salty.  I’d recommend leaving the salt shaker where it is on the counter because between the pickles and the dip, you won’t be lacking.

As I listened to the squirrels crunch around in the fallen leaves outside as we crunched on our pickles, I glanced at the counter to happily see an empty mason jar.  One down, 17 to go…

fried pickles with ranch crème fraiche

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. buttermilk

1 quart Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles (Claussen pickles would be a good substitute)

1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 c. panko

½ pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix

Canola oil

Combine cream and buttermilk in a sealable jar.  Leave on the counter for 24 hours.  Stir, and if not thickened completely, leave for another 24 hours.  Once thickened, place in refrigerator and use within a week.

Combine crème fraiche and half of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix.  Set aside.

Drain pickles from brine and blot with paper towels to dry.  Working in small batches, dredge pickle slices in flour, then egg, shaking off excess,  Coat thoroughly with panko and set aside.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Place canola oil in a wok or large stockpot, filling about 1/3 of the way up the side of pan.  Heat over medium high heat until temperature reaches 375 degrees.  Place 6-8 pickle slices carefully in oil and fry 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove pickles from oil using a long handled slotted spoon, spider or mesh strainer.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Serve hot with dipping sauce.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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