Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I swear I do other things besides cook...

You wouldn't know it to look at my posts on this blog, but I really don't spend all of my time in the kitchen.  As a matter of fact, Jon probably cooks more than I do.  I average about three times a week, if we are lucky.  Actually, it IS lucky, because Jon is a great cook.  He's making one of my favorites as I type: chicken enchiladas. Pavlov just rang his bell.

If I had to choose a type of food to live on for the rest of my life, I would choose soup.  I'm a soup fan.  It is like a warm blanket and a good book in a bowl.

If not soup, then I would choose seafood.  I will eat pretty much anything that comes out of water...and that includes eel and seaweed, so I'm not just talking.

So, as you can imagine, clam chowder is my idea of absolute heaven.

And it is so easy.  Guess how it starts!  Rood veggies. In a pot.  Imagine that.

I always begin by sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil or butter or a combo of both.  I then add equal amounts of carrots, celery, and potatoes.  Those potatoes are from my garden. The last for the year.  They were so good.  The Yukon gold and red work well because they stay firmer than russets when cooked.  I then empty the water from three cups of chopped clams onto the veggies.  Add a bit more water if needed, but don't bring it over the veggies.  We want just enough to basically steam the veggies until they are fork tender.  Firmer is better.

This here is a pitcher of raw milk.  My friend Heidi keeps me supplied.  I got a couple of cups of cream skimmed off the top before I transferred the milk to this pitcher.  The cream is rich and yellow.  If fresh cream is hard to come by in your parts, you could also use a pint of half and half.  Poor it into the veggies.

Take half a cup of butter and melt in the microwave.  Add about three tablespoons of flour and mix into a paste.  Put some of the liquid from the chowder into a cup and poor slowly into the paste, mixing to keep smooth. When it is combined, pour back into the chowder, bring to a boil and reduce the heat.

Salt and pepper to taste and then my secret ingredient, inspired by a fish and chips place in Florence, OR that Jon and I used to love before they had the audacity to close up and move to Salem to take care of an ailing mother or something.  Whatever.  All these people thinking of other people besides me.  Sheesh.

Oh mama.  Serve with buttered garlic toast or crackers.  Sand and surf is optional.

Speaking of soup...Jon and I have become meat snobs.  It started with watching Food, Inc. and then things fell into place so that we could get our own good, local, humanely raised meat to stock our freezer.  We don't eat out much anymore.  We don't mind.  Our food is better anyway.  So, recently, a family here in Sanpete offered to sell us some chickens.  I was going to throw five or so in our freezer, but wanted to see what I could do with a roast chicken before I did that.  Jon bought one a while ago that I had forgotten existed and I put it in the slow cooker rubbed with some olive oil and some poultry seasoning.  I was able to turn it into about four meals.

After it was cooked, I carved it up and stuck the meat in the fridge.  I then put the carcass into a large pot and covered it with water.  I added an onion, a carrot, and a couple of stalks of celery.  A couple of teaspoons of salt and some pepper went in too, and then I left it on low overnight and all day.  I kept the lid on, so that I didn't lose too much liquid.  When I got home from school today, I strained the stock and then I (you'll never guess) sauteed an onion and some garlic in olive oil in the pot and then added a carrot and some celery.  I know...this is so hard to believe, but it is true.

I covered the veggies in the strained broth, chopped up some of the meat that I had carved off of the bird, threw in some of the good meat that had come off of the carcass, and seasoned to taste.  I brought it to a boil and then added a couple of handfuls of Costco egg noodles.  Simmered for about ten-twelve minutes or until the noodles were tender.  The veggies and the noodles got tender about the same time and it was so yummy.  I had quite a bit of chicken left over, so I made a simple chicken salad that I will eat as a sandwich tomorrow, and then I canned the remaining broth.  I'll use it to make cabbage soup on Wednesday...or maybe pantry stew...I'm telling you, it's a cuddly blanket for your belly.

And last, but not least, another of our standard recipes.  This is going to come as a shock though, so you might want to sit down if you're not already.  Besides, what are you doing reading a blog standing up?

This does not start with root veggies.  It has nothing to do with them...well, except for the onions and garlic, but what can I say?

This one starts with about 5oz of spinach (two or three big handfuls) in a HUGE bowl.  Add 8oz mozzarella and 1/3 cup Parmesan.

Cook and drain half a pound of penne pasta.  Set it aside.  Next, a half an onion and three cloves of garlic in half olive oil and half butter (a tablespoon or so of each).  I have one of those monstrous things of garlic cloves from Costco in the freezer, so I pull out the cloves I need and shred them.  This makes the garlic really potent.  You can use fresh diced up...I'm all about personal freedom.

Brown up some meat if you want (chicken or beef or whatever), but I often leave it vegetarian.  Then add a pint of diced tomatoes...or a can...whatever.  Last, when everything is heated through, add 1/3 cup or so of pesto.  Hence the greenish color.  It didn't look so green in real life.  It looked yummy in real life.

Pour everything together in the HUGE bowl and mix carefully until all ingredients are evenly distributed.  This is important...and a bit tricky, but I have faith you will prevail.  

I dump it all back into the pan I used to make the sauce, but you can use a 9x13 casserole if you want.  Sprinkle the top with more mozzarella and Parmesan, and stick it in a 375 oven uncovered for half an hour.  I forgot the last picture because I was so excited to eat it, but it comes out beautifully brown and bubbly and  smelling lovely.  Enjoy!

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