Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for January

 

January 1, 2018 | View PDF



I can remember not too long ago I started one of my articles with a statement that it was August and I was hot. It is no longer August and I am no longer hot. I am sitting in my kitchen in front of a wall-mounted gas space heater with all three burners going and I am cold. It is only 42 degrees outside but it has been rainy and gray for days and the forecast is for clearing which will bring the temperatures down to the twenty's at night. The preceding weather information has changed four or five times since I started writing this article for this edition for the Alabama Gazette. The information changes every time I sit down to add something to the article. Sitting in the cold and in the kitchen is helping me decide what I will write about this time and what dish I will prepare next.

I can remember not too long ago I started one of my articles with a statement that it was August and I was hot. It is no longer August and I am no longer hot. I am sitting in my kitchen in front of a wall-mounted gas space heater with all three burners going and I am cold. It is only 42 degrees outside but it has been rainy and gray for days and the forecast is for clearing which will bring the temperatures down to the twenty's at night. The preceding weather information has changed four or five times since I started writing this article for this edition for the Alabama Gazette. The information changes every time I sit down to add something to the article. Sitting in the cold and in the kitchen is helping me decide what I will write about this time and what dish I will prepare next.

TEXAS STYLE CHILI

Ingredients

1/4 cup ground ancho chili pepper

1 tablespoon ground chipotle chili pepper

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 (4 pound) beef chuck roast trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes

8 ounces (about 8 slices) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 teaspoons salt

2 small yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 jalapeño chiles, cored, seeded and finely diced

4 cups ( 32 oz) beef broth

2 cups water, plus more for the chili paste and deglazing the pan

1 bottle of ale (IPA)

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon molasses

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

A slurry of flour and water for thickening if needed

Optional Garnishes

Chopped cilantro

Grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Lime wedges

Instructions

Mix the two chili powders, the cumin, oregano, coriander, cinnamon and cornmeal in a small bow and stir in 1/2 cup water to form a thick paste; set aside.

Season the beef with the salt; set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn't stick, until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour all but a few teaspoons of fat from the pot into a small bowl; set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Sear the meat in three batches (it should be in a single layer), until well browned on one side, about 4 minutes per batch, adding more of the reserved bacon fat as necessary. (Hint: Once the meat is in the pan, don't stir or touch it -- leaving it alone will allow it to develop a nice brown crust on one side.) Place the seared meat in a bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pot and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to release all of the flavorful brown bits. Pour the dark liquid over the seared meat.

Reduce the heat to medium and add 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat to the pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeños and cook 2 minutes more. Add the reserved chili paste and sauté until fragrant, a few minutes.

Add the beef broth and stir with a whisk until the spice mixture is completely dissolved. Scrape the bottom of the pot with the whisk to release any spices.

Stir in the water, beer, crushed tomatoes, molasses and cocoa powder. Add the reserved bacon and seared beef (along with the juices from the beef on the bottom of the bowl) back to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cover, leaving the lid just barely ajar. Simmer, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn't burn, until the meat is so tender that it melts in your mouth and the juices are thickened, 2-1/2 - 3 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves four to six. Prep time and cook time up to 4 hours.

FISH TACOS

Ingredients

For the slaw:

4 cups thin sliced cabbage mixture, a colorful Cole slaw mix or broccoli slaw mix will do

1 cup chopped plum tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup thin sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the fish:

3 tablespoons butter melted

Juice of two limes

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 pound fish fillets

Corn tortillas, eight warmed but not dried out

Several lime wedges to squeeze over the assembled taco

Cook the fish in a oven proof dish, with the butter, lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder and salt mixed together and poured over the fish. Fifteen minutes should be enough. When fish is at desired doneness, flake the fish into small pieces and mix with remaining sauce.

While fish is in oven, toss the slaw ingredients together.

Assemble:

Squeeze of lime on top.

There should be leftover slaw to place on plate.

As much as I like fish tacos, that is not the most common way we eat fish. We put a Greek spin on it. And it takes very little prep work to prepare.

Four servings-two tacos each.

Greek Baked Fish

Ingredients

2 pounds fish fillets

3-4 medium tomatoes, 1/4 inch slice

1 medium onion, cut to give half rings or whole rings cut thin

1 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives

1/2 cup fresh parsley. rough chop

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 red bell pepper, cut into rings 1/4 inch thick

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into rings 1/4 inch thick

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

1 medium lemon sliced thin

2/3 cup Italian or Greek Salad dressing

Thick sliced rustic bread

Directions

In a glass 6x9 dish layer the vegetables and fish so the fish is not flat on the bottom of the dish, but is covered by the lemon slices.

Pour the salad dressing over all ingredients and bake at 375F about 35 minutes or until fish flakes. Serve the vegetables first with a fish fillet on top. The bread will help sop up all the delicious juices.

Now, I'm going to fix me some taco soup and cornbread to try to warm up. Serves 4-5

Four servings-two tacos each.

We are cord cutters. We do not have cable or satellite TV. We use a streaming service and are testing two different ones at this time. One of the advantages (or disadvantages) is that you can, what is called "binge" watch TV shows. Today we got hung up on watching five shows in a row of a series called CHOPPED. I like watching this series because every meal prepared comes from a mystery basket. You don't know what the ingredients are until the basket is opened. This is when you need to be creative, and know how different ingredients will , taste-wise, re-act with one another. An example was one of the chefs put lemon juice as a flavor enhancer with mushrooms. She did not realize that the mushrooms would act like sponges and trap all of the acidity from the lemons. This made the mushrooms and the dish somewhat bitter.

Little nuances like that are usually not taught but learned. You learn them by doing and learning from experience. My years as a banquet chef taught me techniques and short cuts and kitchen sense. I made many mistakes, but I did my best not to repeat them. The best way to keep from making a cooking mistake was to follow the recipe. I your meal didn't turn out correctly, make sure it was a recipe error and then you can change the recipe.

Down the hall from my office is the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service offices, and they have a bulletin board with very useful information. What caught my eye last week was some FYI handouts about eating seafood. I realized that in my list of recipes I have used in my articles, I have used shrimp several times but only two recipes for fish. The part of the CHOOSEMYPLATE.GOV nutrition education series that this particular handout addressed was to eat seafood twice a week. So I have some catching up to do. Some of the tips to help you eat more seafood was to eat a variety, get creative, keep it lean,(don't bread it and fry it), and put it on a salad or in a sandwich instead of deli meats or steak and chicken.

My files on fish recipes shows that I worked in a banquet hotel. I have recipes for lobster, alligator, crab cakes, crab tamales, cold smoked salmon and She crab bisque. But fish can be an inexpensive substitute and a more healthy substitute for beef or chicken in number of easy to fix meals. One of those is Fish Tacos.

What fish to use can either your favorite, or what is on sale and how you are going to cook the fish. Cod, whiting, flounder or tilapia are usually found frozen and fairly thin fillets that are easy to cook. Cat fish is good baked or grilled and is good with Cajun and Southwestern spices. This is a simple recipe that can be enhanced with a creamy sriracha mayonnaise or pico de gallo.

 

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