Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cookin' With Gas

Is it a Man thing, or does everyone get an insatiable craving for red meat every now and again? An itch they just can't scratch? Whatever. Since Muffy brought her second-oldest son with her, there was no avoiding it. Beef, medium-rare, would be on the menu. Jaime's eyes lit up like Roman candles when he heard the word porterhouse. Another satisfied customer in the offing!
This night's dishes came from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea - Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook", by Martha Hall Foose. I stumbled upon this gem while perusing the stacks at the New York Botanical Garden gift shop. The book manager there knows me by face, name and credit card number. I've dropped more coin on cookbooks there than in Tivoli Fountain. I am surely his favorite, most loyal patron. He's got a great knack for what's gonna sell, and I simply cannot help myself.
Ms. Foose is the executive chef at the Viking Cooking School (yes, THAT Viking). She earned points on that fact alone. Her book is jam-packed with upgraded and tantalizing recipes from the American South. I had a laundry list of possibilities from entrées to desserts and had a one hell of a time winnowing them down to a single dinner. Thank goodness for cravings, otherwise there was no way to decide between steak and Paper Sack Catfish. And I actually had to have two side dishes, or I'd still be vacillating between them all.
Cheese Grits - from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup quick-cooking grits
  • 4 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ tsp hot pepper sauce
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • hot paprika
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a shallow 1-quart baking dish.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine half the milk, a half-cup of water, the butter, garlic and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Whisk continuously for a minute, until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining milk, hot sauce, pepper and egg. Gradually add the hot grits, stirring to combine. Pour the grits into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake for 45 minutes, until puffy around the edges and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cover baking dish and keep warm until serving.
Blue Cheese Porterhouse - from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
  • 3 1½ lb porterhouse steaks
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tsp minced shallot
  • 3 tsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1½ tsp lemon zest
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 oz blue cheese, crumbled
After the grits come out of the oven, put a rack in the oven so that it is 4 inches from the heat source. Put a broiler pan on the rack and preheat the broiler.
Brush steaks with olive oil, rub all over with minced garlic and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place the steaks on the very hot broiler pan. Broil for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the steaks. Broil for 3 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove the steaks from the pan and place on a trenched cutting board. Let the steaks rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the shallot, parsley, lemon zest, butter, blue cheese and a sprinkle of salt.
Slice the steaks and serve with a dollop of blue cheese topping.
Crumb Cauliflower - from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
  • 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup dry bread  crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sear cauliflower in olive oil for 2 minutes. Toss to coat with oil, then cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, bread crumbs, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mixture over cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Finish off vegetables in a very hot broiler.
Logistics were key in getting this meal to the table in a coordinated fashion. While the grits baked, there was plenty of time to prep the steaks, cauliflower and even a pie crust! While the steaks broiled, the cauliflower caramelized. As the meat rested, the florets got a crunchy topping in the already-hot broiler. And just like that, enthusiastic feasting began anew. It was no accident that cheese occupied a supporting roll in every dish. No, I purposefully included it... because I could.
To demonstrate just how completely unhinged I become on the subject of cheese, here's another Top-40 ditty my buddy Matty O'Food and I penned and used to sing on road trips up and down the coast of California. It is sung to the tune of "Mr. Sandman", as recorded by the Chordettes in 1954.
Mr. Satan!
Bring me some cheese. (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Make it a Gouda or Brie if you please!

Give me two wedges of Jarlsberg and Stilton,
That Limburger smells like wet socks a'wiltin'!

I said, Satan!
I want some more.
Sliced Jack and Cheddar on Ritz by the score.

So I'll shout until I wheeze,
Mr. Satan bring me some cheese!

(Jazz hands!!!!)
Don't say you weren't warned. Now would be a good time to describe dessert, I think:
Lemon Icebox Pie
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Pat into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, yolks, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the lemon filling into the cooled crust. Bake for 10 minutes, until set. Cool on a rack. Chill the pie for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to serve the pie, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on top of the pie and serve.
I have to admit, and Muffy agreed, this was one time where following the recipe resulted in - mainly - a learning experience. It was our considered opinion that there was way too much butter in the crust (it was so brittle after chilling), too much sugar in the custard (cut by at least a third), and not nearly enough lemony goodness (amp up the lemon zest). Still, a so-so dessert is better than no dessert at all. And it took hardly any effort to prepare. Wanna bet a revised version travels up to Maine with us next summer?
So, my goal to pamper Miss Muffy went off flawlessly. I managed to keep her out of the kitchen for the most part (except when I couldn't), and afforded her the luxury of kicking back with a book or her needlepoint while someone else sweated what to cook for dinner. In the end, I got just as much - if not more - out of the venture as she. Can't wait for the repeat!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

1 comment:

Navy Bean said...

Oh. My. God. What a meal!!