Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Southern Food Journey - Part 2

Welcome back friends!

It looks like my boredom is turning into a pretty productive food journey, haha!

Today we journey to Alabama & Georgia for Fried Green Tomatoes. I literally made these fried green tomatoes, while watching the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes". Don't judge me.

I've heard people talk about fried green tomatoes before, but I've only ever had them once. It was about 7 years ago, when I was first starting to really branch out and try cooking new things. I didn't know a whole lot about how to make them, so I decided to wing it. Yeah, big mistake. First of all, my tomatoes weren't green enough, so when they hit the oil in the pan, they nearly disintegrated. Secondly, I didn't use corn meal, I just made a batter like my mom used to make for fried chicken. Needless to say, they were NOT good.

I found some green heirloom tomatoes at my local fresh market, and got really excited to try making these again. Since it had been so long since my first failed attempt, I was willing to give it another try, because I've come a looooooong way since then. And I figured that with my man being deployed, if they didn't turn out, then there would be no proof seeing as how I'd be the only one who would know (muahahahahaha!).

Mehgan's Fried Green Tomatoes

-2 large green tomatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/4 cup buttermilk
-1 cup of corn meal
-1/2 tsp garlic salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-4 tbsp butter
-1/4 cup sour cream
-1 tbsp Frank's Red Hot sauce

Directions: Heat a medium frying pan over low-medium heat. In a bowl, combine the eggs & buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the corn meal, garlic salt and pepper. Melt the butter in the pan, then dredge the tomatoes first in the egg/buttermilk mixture, then coat evenly with the corn meal mixture. Place in the frying pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. While the tomatoes are cooking, mix the sour cream and Frank's Red Hot sauce in a prep bowl. Serve the tomatoes hot with the sour cream mixture to dip them in.

My thoughts: Scrumptious! I know they're terrible for you, but I just couldn't resist. And I had contemplated cooking them in vegetable or olive oil, but thought the butter would give them a nice flavor. The crunch from the corn meal really complimented the sweet tanginess of the tomatoes so well, that I could imagine myself consuming my own body weight in these and still want more. I'd be in pain, sure, but I'd also be completely satisfied.

What's really cool about this recipe is that it's not only simple, but it's also very versatile. You could change the spices in the corn meal mixture, to kick it up a notch. You can use these instead of lunch meat or hamburger patties on sandwiches.

I told my dear fiance that I'm so making these for him when he gets home. He's going to love them!


Monday, June 14, 2010

My Southern Food Journey - Part 1

Hello ladies and gentlemen! I know it's been a while, but it's just been too stinkin' hot outside lately to be stuck in a stuffy kitchen, stirring pots and pans of steaming food. I did have a cooking kick last night, though, so back to the kitchen it was for me.

Living in South Florida, I've got TONS of options for new foods to try out. I've been trying to steer clear of comfort food since I'm still in the throes of wedding planning and live in fear of not being able to fit into my wedding dress in October.

After a particularly sweltering weekend (it got up to about 99F with a heat index of 104F - bleh), all I wanted was some good, southern, home cooking. I had some frozen crawfish tails that I picked up at the market hanging out in my freezer, just waiting to be used. Having never cooked with crawfish, I was stumped. So, off to Google I went.

While searching online for a killer crawfish recipe, I brewed a big pot of sweet tea, which is one of my weaknesses. I foolishly drank two large glasses of it with dinner, and sat up half the night like a hoot owl, but that's not the point.

I will admit, I love the luxury of having this crawfish tail meat already prepared for me. When my fiance and I went out to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, he got the New Orleans steam pot that included crawfish, and let me tell you...that was a struggle! I actually remember him saying to me "These sure are a lot of work for little to no meat!". I felt bad for the poor guy, so I handed him one of my crab legs for his efforts.

Before I go on, let's take a little trip down memory lane with Mehgan, shall we?

Imagine me, about four years old, bright blonde hair and blue eyes, living in Sumas, WA with my dad. My dad is a self-proclaimed red-neck who loved farming and living in the sticks and saying stuff like, "Hoo boy! Didja see that? That was a good-un'". So, one day, my dad decides to take me fishing in the creek behind his mother's house. (And when I say "creek", it doesn't rhyme with "peek", it rhymes with "nick". Just so you know.) I'm standing on the bank of the creek with my little Barbie fishing pole, hoping for a bite from a trout or whatever kind of fish we had in there. My dad, up to his thighs in the freezing cold water (he was wearing waders) is slowing moving his arms back and forth in the water. I specifically remember thinking that it was the same way he used to look for his glasses in the morning. Anyway, he shoots up like a jack-in-the-box, hooting and hollering "It pinched me! Yeeoowww!" and flailing his arms about (this was quite hilarious, since he's a 6'4" tall redneck in overalls and waders). Dangling from his right pinky was, what looked to me like a giant insect, but was in fact a crawfish (or crawdad or crayfish or mud bug, whatever you prefer).

This continued for another or hour or so, me trying to stifle my laughter while still patiently waiting for a bite that would never come. My grandmother did manage to cut a steak into the shape of a fish, so that I could say that I had fish for dinner that night.

Now, on to the incredible way my dad ate these crawfish: once they were boiled up, he would bite their little heads, sucking out all the juices, and then pinch the tails so that he could get all the meat out. I'm a girl. I don't do these things. I sat in wonder as my did finished off a good 20-30 crawfish in one sitting. Ahhh...my father....gotta love him.

Fast-forward about 20 or so years, and you have me thanking the Lord almighty for not having to endure the process of getting together 3/4 of a pound of crawfish meat in order to make my crawfish etouffee for dinner!

Mehgan's Crawfish Etouffee

-1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
-3/4 to 1 lb crawfish meat
-3 cloves of garlic, minced (I like mine on the garlicky side)
-2 to 3 stalks of celery, chopped
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-1 large onion, chopped
-2 bunches of green onion, chopped
-1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock
-2 tbsp canned tomato sauce or tomato paste
-1 to 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
-1/2 tsp corn starch
-2 cups cooked white rice

Directions: In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery and green onion until the onion becomes transparent. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste/sauce, crawfish meat and Cajun seasoning, stirring until the meat is thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes. Add the corn starch, a little at a time, to thicken it. Side note: I know most people make their own roux with butter and flour, but seeing as how I had neither the time (I was hungry) or patience (side effect of being hungry) I opted for corn starch. Once it's good and thick, serve over the whtie rice. Enjoy!

My thoughts: DELICIOUS! I'm sorry I wasn't able to get a good photo before I mixed it all together, but in my rush to feed my face, I didn't even think to take one. As I was bringing the spoon to my mouth, I was like "Crap! I need to take pics!" Haha! But yeah, it was amazing, and really hit the spot. I ate a heaping helping of this while watching "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and drinking a big ol' glass of sweet tea.

Since my wonderful fiance is currently deployed, I have a ton of leftovers, but that's ok, because I'm in love with this dish. Just look at that delicious broth!! I could drink that by itself!...but I won't.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Something I've Been Wanting To Try

Allow me to give you a little bit of backstory here, otherwise you won't fully understand where I'm coming from when I say that sometimes, I love "poor food".

See, I grew up in a mixed family with three older half-siblings and one younger brother from my mom's second marriage. We struggled financially for a long time, with both of my parents working two jobs a lot of the time. The thing is, I didn't think we were "poor" till about the time I got to high school and realized that a lot of my favorite foods were nothing like the foods my friends were used to. Kraft mac n' cheese mixed with tuna and canned peas? NOM!! But, to my friends, it was repulsive to even imagine eating that, but I noshed on this at least once a week. I actually remember times that my mom would cut in powdered milk mixture with our regular gallon of milk when it got too low, so that we'd have milk to last until payday.

One of my all-time favorite, stick-to-your-ribs meals was my mom's shephard's pie. It was a simple recipe of mashed potatoes and canned green beans layered with a ground beef & cream of mushroom soup mixture that she probably came up with one night when she was looking in our pantry, thinking to herself, "Dear God, how am I going to feed five kids with this?"

Fast forward about 15 or 20 years and you have me performing the same act in front of our barren pantry, two days away from payday. It was one of those blustery days, raining cats and dogs outside with a strong wind where I just wanted to curl up on the couch and watch Food Network all evening. My fiance looks at me with puppy-dog eyes that only said one thing, "Feed me." The light bulb went on, and instinctively I started peeling potatoes and chopping garlic to make my mom's shephard's pie.

-2 tbsp olive oil
-1lb lean ground turkey or beef
-1 medium onion, chopped
-4 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1/4 cup milk
-4 tbsp butter
-1 can of green beans,drained
-1 packet instant brown gravy
-Salt and pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. add the onion and cook until the onion turns transparent, then add the ground turkey/beef. While that's cooking, place the potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan and pour in enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cook the potatoes on high heat until fork-tender, drain. By now, the meat should be cooked thoroughy; drain any extra liquid and set aside. To the potatoes, add the garlic, butter, milk and salt & pepper, then whip until you achieve your desired consistency (some people prefer their mashed potatoes to be lumpier than others. Me? I like 'em smooth, baby).

In a deep dish round pie pan or 9"x9" square pan, put in the green beans, then layer on the meat mixture and top with the mashed potatoes. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes. While that's cooking, cook the brown gravy as instructed on the back of the packet. Once you plate the shepherd's pie, pour a generous amount of the brown gravy on top.

My thoughts: This recipe is slightly different than my mom's because I don't like mushrooms one bit (taste or consistency), so I decided to remove that element from the meat mixture and instead use a brown gravy on top. But, if you want to try it her way, by all means, give it a shot. :)
Future-husband LOVED it, he had two helpings, plus more for lunch the next day!
I know it's not the traditional pub version of shephard's pie, but in a pinch, it does the trick just fine and dandy. It may not photograph well, but what it lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in taste. Plus, the fact that it's quick and easy makes it that much more enjoyable.


P.S. I'm still getting used to photographing for my blog now that I'm here in South Florida, so please bear with me! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Prodigal Poster...

Hi, remember me? Your host here at A Craving for Perfection? Well, if not, I understand, I've been absent for about six months now. BUT, I have a reason! Actually, many reasons, in fact.

First, I have left the Last Frontier state of Alaska and moved on to sunny Miami, Florida. Yes, that's right, people, I moved from one extreme corner of the United States to the other, and I couldn't be happier. This was a much-needed change, and while there are a few things I will miss about Kodiak, they were not enough to keep me there. I got the opportunity to move out here in October 2009 and it has taken me this long to finally get settled and get my butt back in the kitchen. :)

Second, I have started taking this course titled Healthy Eating Every Day (HEED) through my work, and have learned a lot about making healthy eating choices and cooking healthy meals. It has really helped to reshape the way I go about feeding this body of mine.

Third, and this is a big one: I will be getting married in the Fall! I know, in blog-world it seems pretty soon after my divorce last year, but I met a wonderful man who makes me feel such joy and treats me like a lady should be treated, and I wasn't going to let this gem of a man slip through my fingers. He's honorable and genuine, and I adore him. So, when he proposed, there was no doubt in my mind, no hesitation. I immediately said YES! And we have enjoyed cooking together immensely, which something new and foreign to the both of us (we're used to being the only one cooking in the house, so we battle for use of the stove from time to time LOL).

That being said, you'll have to forgive me if I post randomly about wedding stuff from time to time, I am just so excited to start this new journey with the man that I love.

I have quite a few meals planned, some simple, some more complex. I can't wait to get back into the swing of things. I have missed being in the world of cooking and baking so much, you have no idea!

And now, a quick photo of me and my new guinea pig.....I mean, erm....my fiance, LOL.

All together now, "Awwwww!".

Thanks for stopping by!