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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lobster rolls and slow-fried french fries with old bay aioli

What a difference a year makes.  365 days ago (although it feels a little like a lifetime ago), I was told I had cancer.  Tears welled up in my eyes as my doctor explained it was likely lymphoma (it wasn’t) and for the most part, I held it together as I left the doctor’s office.  I made it as far as the parking garage before I began to unravel.  Thread by thread, I fell apart as I sat in my car, cried, and desperately tried to reach my husband on every phone number I knew for him.

I drove home, tears blinding my vision, and once there, I hugged my pup, called my family one by one, and waited for Ben who was racing to get home to me.  My mind was spinning with questions – will I die?  Will I ever be able to have children?  What will treatment be like?  Is this going to hurt?  How did this happen?  This can’t be right, can it?  I will never forget that day.

A cancer diagnosis is comparable to being on a speeding train.  Once you step on, you hold on for dear life and watch as appointments, strange faces, and vial after vial of blood pass you by.  Your vision is blurred from the speed with which you progress and your mind spins with the abundance of information and medical terminology being forced into your brain.

But each day you wake up, you find the strength for another day and you meet the newest challenge.  Beginning to lose your hair and taking control of the situation by buzzing it into a mohawk for the hell of it and then, down to nothing but your scalp.  Buying smaller belts and eventually, smaller clothes as your body whittles away (not complaining too much about that one) due to your complete inability to eat.  Summoning the strength to take a shower and then curling up in bed, still wet, exhausted and in pain.  Shivering to the point of convulsions through one of the mildest winters ever as you fight the cold sensitivity.  Crying (and throwing up) at the drop of a hat.  It is a battle and anyone who tells you different doesn’t know.  But I do, and I have the warrior scars to prove it.

But time heals all.  One year has passed.  Thanks to the glorious power of Mederma, the scars have lessened.  The hair is growing.   Color has returned to my skin.  My energy grows with each passing day.  And I can eat again.  I can look back and be grateful for the love I have in my life and for the very simple fact that I still have a life to live.  I plan to do so.  My gusto and zeal has only been fanned by the fire of the lessons learned this past year.

Life is short, friends, I can tell you that much!  The small stuff is certainly not worth stressing over – believe me, there are much bigger issues to deal with.  Instead, I’m focusing my attention and energy on the things that matter most, the things that make me happy.  And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, but I like to cook.  I like to drink wine with my husband.  I like to entertain friends and laugh.  I like to gather around a table blessed full of food and be grateful for the family sitting around it looking back at me.  I’ll be doing much more celebrating in the days ahead.  A random Tuesday?  Why sure, that calls for a bottle of bubbly and our best glasses.  Take the china out of the cabinet and use it, even if it is only to eat take out fried chicken to go with that bubbly.  There’s never a better chance than right now.

 

lobster rolls with slow-fried french fries and old bay aioli

recipe:  jb’s pour house, bon appetit

 

Lobster Rolls:

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4-5 sprigs of dill

2 lemons

1 c. white wine

4 c. water

4 – 4 oz. lobster tails

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 c. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Hot dog buns

 

Combine carrot, 1 celery stalk (diced), shallot, and 1 sprig of dill in a large saucepan.  Cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze juice into saucepan and add juiced halves to the pot.  Add whine, water and Old Bay.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add lobster tails and return to a boil.  Boil lobsters for 1 minute per ounce.  Remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes.  Strain and let cool.

Once lobster has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the shells.  Discard remaining solids.  Dice lobster into bite sized pieces.  Combine lobster, mayonnaise, and the juice of half a lemon.  Finely dice remaining celery stalk and add to the mixture.  Mince dill and add about 2 tsp. fresh dill to the mixture.  Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a microwave safe dish.  Brush the inside of hot dog buns with melted butter and broil until toasted to desired color.  Spoon about 1/3 c. lobster salad per roll.  Serve.

 

Slow-Fried French Fries

2 lb. russet potatoes

Canola oil

Salt

 

Peel  potatoes and cut into long french fry sticks.  I’d recommend using thicker cuts than what I show in the photo – about 3/8″ by 3/8″.  Rinse and shake of excess water.  Place in a large, deep stockpot and cover with oil (you will likely use all of a large bottle of oil plus some).

Place the pot over medium heat and cook for 45 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula.  Be careful not to do this too often, or you will break your potatoes into many small pieces as I did.  Increase heat to medium high and cook until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Season to taste.

 

Old Bay Aioli

1 egg yolk

1/4 – 1/2 c. canola or olive oil

1/2 c. canola oil

1/2 – 1 lemon

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

 

Use a food processor or blender for  the best results.  Combine egg yolk and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  With the motor running, slowly stream in canola oil (you can use olive oil for a stronger taste).  The mixture will begin to thicken.  Stop motor, scrape down sides and add Old Bay seasoning.  Depending on thickness, continue to stream in oil until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and depending on preferences, add more lemon juice, oil, or seasoning.  Serve with fries.

 

Carpe diem!

– j

 

All contents and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

I need a vacation.  The past three weeks have been pure craziness at work.  I’m dreaming of Excel and PowerPoint.  You know that is a sure sign that you are OD-ing.  I hate dreaming about PowerPoint.  Nothing angers me more than waking, feeling the stressful tension in my shoulders and realizing the night has provided me with no restful escape from the day.  It’s a sure way to make me grumpy and just sours my mood for the day.  It is also a sure way to keep me out of the kitchen.

At 5 o’clock, or whenever I manage to wrap things up for the day, I pack my laptop into my backpack, collect my things and head for home.  After a few minutes of bustling around the house and petting my pup, the laptop comes out and work begins anew.  At some point, I’ll retreat to the kitchen and find a few minutes for myself when I can focus on the things I want to focus on, my mind calmed by the rhythmic sounds of the knife hitting the cutting board.  One particular night, the fruit fly collection I’ve been working on had grown to the point where action was needed – immediately!  The beautiful heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the market were intoxicating the winged creatures and with a wave of my hand over the tomatoes, they dashed off in a wave.

Knowing my time was limited on this particular evening, I took a little help from Trader Joe’s and grabbed some pre-made pizza dough and some fresh mozzarella on my drive home from the office.  I snipped what are likely some of the last leaves from my basil plant as it gasps in the dry, insane heat.  No amount of water can save this year’s poor attempt at a garden…  With just a few simple steps, one of the prettiest pizzas I have ever created sat ready for the oven.  Now to find a bottle of wine…

Work still calls my name, but I’m taking the night off.  I’m trying to enjoy the last bit of summer and I might have to make this a few more times to ensure I’ve satiated my taste for ripe, fresh tomatoes.  Ha – if that ever happens, I’ll let you know!

 

Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1/4 c. olive oil

3-4 heirloom tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella, in whatever form you prefer, drained

1 prepared pizza dough

Salt and pepper

about 1/4 c. basil leaves, finely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a small oven-proof dish with a lid.  Roast for 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When ready to proceed, blend garlic and olive oil in a food processor until no large pieces of garlic remain.  Slice tomatoes in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Increase oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough out to desired shape.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove dough from oven and spread roasted garlic oil/paste over the dough.  Place tomato slices across the dough.  Season with salt and pepper and scatter mozzarella over the top.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Mozzarella should be melted and the crust should be golden brown.

Scatter finely chopped basil over the top, cut into slices, and enjoy.

 

– j

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

Caprese Flapjacks

Late into the evening, before dusk settles, might be my favorite time of the summer day.  The sun is low in the sky, bathing the trees in a golden light as the locusts buzz noisily in the warm glow.  If it weren’t so hellishly hot outside, I’d probably spend every evening on the deck enjoying the day’s lazy transition into a starry night.  But it is hellishly hot and no amount of rosé would be refreshing enough to coax me from the glorious air conditioning.  Given the heat, the oven has officially been put into hiatus until the mercury drops a bit.  Grilling had been our standby, but even that has been questionable lately.  It is so dry here that our county has put a ban on grilling.  How they think they are going to enforce that is beyond me…

We’ve been so busy lately between work and fun.  The stress level has been rising with the temperatures and a dip in the pool hasn’t been enough to wash away the worries of the day.  To top it off, insurance denied my follow up scan scheduled for last week, so we’ve been in limbo on that front as well as we wait for word on what comes next.  We needed a night off – a fun activity to change our focus for a few hours at the very least.  Luckily, we had tickets to a James Taylor concert in a great outdoor theater.  A perfect start to a relaxed evening.

The concert was starting early, well, early for us compared to our usual dinner time, so I needed something I could make quickly in the heat of the late afternoon.  Ben had been on the road for the latter half of the week, so I decided on one of his favorite summer dishes to welcome him home.  I’m not going to lie, this is one of my summer favorites too.  I usually wait to make this until my heirlooms are going crazy but without a proper garden again, I needed to rely on the friendly farmers at my neighborhood market for their lovely tomatoes.  My poor basil is being properly beaten by the heat of the summer sun, so this was a good way of using a bunch quickly and putting  it out of its misery.

The recipe comes together in a hurry with very few ingredients so it is perfect for a quick summer dinner.  It also makes an elegant appetizer for summer entertaining – and did I mention it goes perfectly with a chilled glass of crisp rosé?  Sets my heart a-flutter just writing those words!  Fresh, quality ingredients are really the key here and are what makes this dish sing.  Texture is also an important component – the couscous in the flapjacks retains a bit of its crunch after cooking which contrasts nicely with the softness of the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.  Don’t skimp on the freshly cracked black pepper or the Fleur de Sel.  It truly is the crowing glory on this jeweled napoleon of summer deliciousness.  Alternating with different colored tomatoes only enhances the beauty of this serenade to summer in a dish.

Caprese Flapjacks

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

3 Tbsp. salt

½ c. hot water

2 c. lukewarm water

16 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼” rounds

1 c. couscous

4 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ c. buttermilk

1 c. basil leaves, tightly packed

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. canola oil

Cooking spray

2 heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, preferably different colors, sliced into ¼” rounds

Freshly ground black pepper

Fleur de Sel

 

Combine salt with ½ c. hot water in a medium bowl.  Stir until all salt has dissolved.  Add remaining 2 c. water and add mozzarella slices.  Drain after about 10 minutes.

Combine couscous, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a mini food processor or blender, combine basil with ½ c. buttermilk and blend until basil is finely chopped.  In a small bowl, combine basil-buttermilk, remaining buttermilk, egg whites and canola oil.  Whisk wet ingredients into couscous mixture.    Heat a griddle over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat with cooking spray.  Using about ¼ c. batter per flapjack, pour four flapjacks onto griddle.  Cook 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining batter.

To serve, place one flapjack on a plate.  Add one slice of tomato, sprinkle with about 1/8 tsp. Fleur de Sel, and about 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Add a slice of mozzarella.  Repeat with alternate color tomato, Fleur de Sel, pepper and mozzarella.

 

Cheers!

– j

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

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

lowcountry boil

I guess I got what I wanted.  I said I wanted to move to a place that was warmer.  Turns out, we moved to Devil’s Lair, USA.  Ok, it is hot out there kids.  And guess what?  Living in a second floor apartment above a bay of garages where the sun beats through the windows throughout the afternoon and evening doesn’t really do much to ease that heat.  If our fans die this fall, I won’t blame them.  I’ve worked them to the bone (or blade, as it were).  I’m literally counting the days until we move into our new house and abandon this inferno (five days!!).  It turns out having a tiny kitchen in the world’s hottest apartment doesn’t really inspire one to do much cooking.  I lovingly fold down the pages of my favorite cooking magazines, earmarking the pages for a summer day in the future.  But in the interim, there’s no way in Hell I’m turning on that oven.

We’ve also been a bit busy, as you’ve noticed from our lack of updates here and from previous posts’ commentary.  Quick meals have become the standard routine around here, mostly so I can hustle my buns back to the spot where both the fan and AC vents blow cool breezes across the room.  Either that, or I’ve spent too much time lounging at the pool, desperate for a cool dip while simultaneously ignoring the crazy neighbors’ tales of snapping photos of homeless people in the dark or their next tattoo artwork featuring images of Samuel L. Jackson next to Scripture.  I’m really not kidding.  Five days…

There are a few tastes of summer I cannot manage to live without, and this one happens to fall into the categories of No Oven, Quick, and One Pot Wonder.  It is a combination of seafood, vegetables, meat, spices and deliciousness rolled into one meal.  And the best part?  It is messy and goes wonderfully with an ice cold beer.

A Lowcountry Boil goes by many names – shrimp boil, Frogmore Stew – but the gist is the same no matter what you call it.  A handful of aromatic spices, seasonings and citrus get dumped into a big pot.  Fill with water, bring to a rolling boil, and start adding things in.  In this instance, the late, great Gourmet magazine forgoes the traditional Old Bay seasoning and jazzes things up with Cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper.  A bit of lemon, bay, and garlic later, and even I am tempted to jump in for a zesty little splash.

Add to that mix some fresh new potatoes, delicious sweet corn, smoked sausage, and shrimp, and you’re set.  I mentioned easy, right?  Wash the potatoes, clean up the corn and halve it, thaw and rinse some shrimp (no peeling!!) and you are done.  While all of that yumminess is rolling around in the pot, you can whip up an equally easy Spicy Horseradish sauce.  A few squirts from a handful of condiments (or splatters, in the case of my ketchup bottle) and your sauce is complete.  Can’t get any easier right?

One of the best parts of this meal to me is that it begs for company and it begs to be eaten outside.  Cover a table with a pile of newspapers or a throw-away table cloth and dump the contents of the pot across the table.  Roll up your sleeves, grab a cold beer from the cooler, and jump in.  Eating with your fingers is highly encouraged, as the intent is for you to grab handfuls of sweet corn, a few bite sized potatoes, and shrimp that you peel before dunking into the sauce and devouring.  You can use a fork if you must.  But it won’t be nearly as fun.

lowcountry boil

adapted from:  Gourmet magazine

5 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

2 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lemon

2 bay leaves

8 cloves garlic, smashed and skins peeled away

12-15 small red potatoes

3-4 ears sweet corn, cleaned and halved

1 package smoked sausage

1 lb. shrimp (I prefer 26-30 count)

1/3 c. mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. ketchup

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Find the largest stock pot you have.  Place Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper in the pot.  Halve the lemon and slice each half into quarters.  Squeeze the lemons into the pot and place the remaining lemon pieces into the pot.  Add smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Fill about 2/3 full of water.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add potatoes and sweet corn.  Boil for about seven minutes.  As potatoes and corn are boiling, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and horseradish in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Add smoked sausage to the corn and potatoes.  After about five minutes, add shrimp.  After two minutes, remove from heat and pour mixture into a waiting colander.  Once drained, return to pot, dump across a prepared table, or transfer to a large serving dish.  Serve immediately with Spicy Horseradish dipping sauce, plenty of napkins, and ice cold beer.

To the inventor of the Air Conditioner,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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veranda cooler

Don’t you just love long weekends?  Memorial Day weekend has to be one of the best given it signals the unofficial start of summer.  The pool opened, I got the obligatory sunburn, the grills throughout the neighborhood wafted their seductive smoke, the ping of metal baseball bats echoed off of the buildings from the neighboring ball fields, and best of all, neither B nor I made the drive down that boring stretch of interstate.  Yes, it is our official first drive-free weekend.  You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit quiet here, but you see, I’ve been out exploring my new town with my now permanent-resident husband.  We’ve eaten out a lot and there really hasn’t been much to share with you.  I promise, that will change.  I think my checking account demands so…

Thankfully, I am not yet sporting my first mosquito bite of the season, but I have been bitten by the summer bug.  Maybe it was the smell of the coconot tanning oil at the pool (not mine, I’m waaay too much of a white kid to even attempt that) or the scent of sweet corn roasting over a flame at the farmer’s market in town, but I’m off to the races when it comes to summer cooking.  The oven has been given permission to slump into hibernation with the purchase of a new charcoal grill (with handy wheels for future tailgating for our hometown teams) and the fridge is filled with white and rosé wines, chilling and waiting to drip beads of water across our countertops.

My thoughts kept turning to the cantelope chilling in the refrigerator.  I’ve decided this is the summer of cocktails and I’m prepared to explore as many as are necessary to find the perfect summer beverage.  Maybe it was all of the exotic scents from the oils and lotions at the pool, but I kept returning to the thought of a cucumber-melon combination.  And it couldn’t have just a name, it had to have the name that evoked thoughts of summer.  I’ve been looking at a lot of real estate lately and the large wrap-around porches of a certain neighborhood nearby have been calling out to me.  Call it inspiration, call it summer in a glass, I call it a Veranda Cooler.

veranda cooler

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1/2 c. cubed cantelope and any juices

1 tsp. powdered sugar

2 oz. chilled vodka

2 oz. chilled cucumber liqueur, such as Thatcher’s Cucumber liqueur

Puree cantelope and powdered sugar.  Pour cantelope puree, vodka, and cucumber liqueur into a cocktail shaker filled with ice (or a tupperware container in the absence of a proper shaker, a la me).  Shake well and pour all contents into a highball glass.  Drink, preferably on a patio.

Welcome to summer, friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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braised pork with pepperoni sauce

Hello, Spring?  Did you forget you were supposed to stick around for a while?  While I do love your friend, Summer, quite a bit, I was planning on spending a little more time with you.  But you’ve run off and instead 90 degree temperatures have crept into our weekends.  Ok, so it was still too hot to make the pepperoni sauce.  But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

The recent finale of Top Chef All Stars saw the judges enamored over a dish of braised pork with pepperoni sauce from Chef Mike Isabella.  I was intrigued.  I’ve had plenty of pepperoni on my pizza but I’ve never had it in a sauce.  The next morning, as I browsed the internet looking for clues as to how to make it, I stumbled across a very high-level overview of the general ingredients and directions.  I was off to the races. 

The braised pork and the sauce are easy enough – not much chopping, not much prep, but certainly a bit of cooking time.  Normally, running an oven at 375 degrees for 3 hours isn’t that big of a deal.  It is a big deal when it is 86 degrees out.  And yes, this was the cooler day of our weekend.  So the oven went on, along with the newly repaired air conditioner and soon the house apartment was filled with the aromas of pork, pepperoni, fennel and tomato.  It smelled exactly the way you would want it too when coming in from the brisk outdoors.  Oh wait…

Soon enough, the timer sounded and as I stood at the counter shredding pork and sneaking bites when B wasn’t looking, I knew this would be the last hearty meal we’d see in our kitchen for a while.  As I alternated between shredding pork and wiping sweat from my brow, I hoped the sauce was worth the added heat.  I plated pillows of golden polenta and piled shards of pork across the top.  As I ladled the bubbling pepperoni sauce over the pork, wisps of steam danced up to my nose and suddenly, I was very hungry. 

We tucked into our meal with fans blowing around us and as our bellies filled with the warm, meaty sauce and juicy pork, our foreheads glistened with sweat.  It may have been from the hot spring/summer day, it could have been due to the warm filling dish, or it could have been from that, uh, second/third glass of red wine we guzzled, but it was worth it.  This dish was a great way to send Winter packing and if it is still cold enough near you to crank up the oven, I’d say go for it.  If like us you are enjoying the start to Summer, go for it anyway, but turn the AC down a few notches before you do!

braised pork with pepperoni sauce

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1/3 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced and diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine

2 c. water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 24 oz. whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed (reserve tomato sauce for another use)

3 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place about 1/4 of the diced pepperoni in a large oven-proof casserole with a tight fitting lid.  Heat over medium high heat until pepperoni starts to crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove pepperoni and set aside.  Add onions and olive oil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and set aside.  Place pork shoulder in pan, fat side down, and increase heat to medium high.  Sear on all sides until golden brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add garlic cloves, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and 1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns.  Stir constantly until garlic is golden, about 1 minute.  Add white wine and water.  Return pepperoni, onions and pork to pan.  Cover and braise for three hours, turning roast over once halfway through cooking time.

As pork braises, place olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, remaining fennel seeds and crushed red pepper.  Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent.  Add pepperoni and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add crushed San Marzano tomatoes and chicken stock.  Let simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pepperoni has softened.  Remove from heat and working in batches, puree.  (Note, if using a blender/food processor, very carefully puree in small batches as liquid expands when hot and will spill out of blender/processor)  Return sauce to sauce pan and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced and has thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pork from oven and shred using two forks.  To serve, place pork over polenta or pasta and drizzle with pepperoni sauce.

Here’s to a whole new world of pepperoni!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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mortadella pizza

Well, I had the best of intentions.  I was all groceried up and ready to tell you all about a certain pepperoni sauce heard ’round the world, but then Sunday happened.  Sunday – in all its 90 degree glory.  Sunday – in an apartment with only west facing windows through which the sun beat unmercilessly until the grace of a storm and cold front finally provided relief.  The sauce is coming, but we’ll have to wait for either a screen door and a glorious cross breeze or a cooler day.

You may recall me telling you about my sister’s continual recipe request for items which have never passed my lips, yet I am supposed to provide instruction.  Well, it finally happened.  In October of 2009, GQ magazine published an article in which a thin crust (gasp) Chicago pizza was named the best in America.  My sister immediately requested the recipe for the mortadella pie.  I’m a little behind on my list it seems.  When I finally got around to making it last week, I was interrupted in my preparations by said sister, requesting yet another recipe.

“I’m a little busy on another request of yours,” I had texted back.  Here’s the kicker – she didn’t even remember requesting the recipe in the first place!  So, I guess we’ve gone full circle.  I know my sis will continue to send requests my way which doesn’t bother me, as I’ll keep playing and trying new things.  I guess it is a way to keep the creative juices flowing.  And at least in the short term, it offered an opportunity to create a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Full disclosure – as with most of my sister’s requests, I have absolutely no idea if this tastes anything close to the real deal.  But that’s ok.  Whether this can hold it’s own against the original remains to be seen, but in the interim, we have a pretty tasty pie on our hands.  I wanted the base to be simple as the spotlight was really intended to be on one thing and one thing only – the mortadella.  While you can buy a pre-made dough from the grocery store, I’d recommend making your own as I did here or swinging through your favorite local pizza joint and asking to buy some dough.  They’ll give you funny looks guaranteed. 

I also wanted the sauce to be delicious but not competitive with everything else going on.  So I simply reduced the liquid in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and once thick and to my desired consistency, I dressed lightly with a few dashes of oregano, a glug of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt.  To top the pie, I sliced orbs of fresh mozzarella into disks and quickly brined them to add a little salty bite but also to form a thin skin on the cheese to prevent it from turning too watery in the hot oven and causing the dough to be soggy.  A few minutes in a very hot oven later, and you have the makings for a delectable Margherita pizza.  Yum.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet, kids.  This baby gets topped with slices of mortadella ladened with peppercorns and pistachios.  A quick sear in the oven and the mortadella begins to curl and the edges slightly crisp.  It’s done.

As you take that first bite and the string of cheese forms a tightrope between your mouth and the retreating slice of pie, you can thank my sister.  I know I did.

mortadella pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. warm water

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. flour

1 24 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

3/4 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/4 lb. mortadella

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir and let sit for 10-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Add olive oil and salt and fit the mixer with a dough hook.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add flour.  Continue adding until all flour is gone.  Turn the mixer speed up and let the dough mix until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Place about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a clean large bowl.  Place dough in bowl and toss around several times until surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a working surface and begin to roll dough out to desired size (recommend 14″ to 16″ so as not to be too thin).  Lighly oil a large baking sheet and place dough onto it.  Fold edges of dough over itself to make a crust.  Set aside.  Place San Marzano tomatoes in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling and crushing tomato pieces with a wooden spoon until sauce has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original volume and desired consistency has been reached.  Add oregano, olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

Place about 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add about 1/2 c. very hot water and stir until salt has disolved.  Add enough cold water to come up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the side of the bowl.  Add mozzarella slices and brine for about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Spread sauce across dough and place mozzarella slices across the sauce.  The cheese will not cover the entire surface.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven and top with mortadella.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

I heart pizza.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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