Saturday, February 20, 2010

I had to ask...

So my husband gets home yesterday from a long 12 hour shift, and I ask him, "Honey, do you want chicken fried steak or Chicken and Wild Rice soup for supper?" He thinks for about 5 seconds and says, "Both!" LOL I had to ask... So I got to work! Now you may ask yourself, "Why does she spoil this man? Surely he knows he can't have his cake and eat it too?" But you have to know him to appreciate him. If there has ever been a man in the history of humanity that deserves spoiling, it's my husband. The man brings me flowers for no reason at all, is always kind and patient, changes dirty diapers without being asked, works hard so that I can be a full time mom, and spoils me to no end! I'll cook for that man any day and time! :)

 I've already shared my soup recipe, so I thought I'd share my secrets to awesome chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. I am a fan of a thick, crunchy crust on my CF steak. There are different thoughts on this matter, so I'm just letting you know my perspective. I've eaten my fair share of heavily battered, beer battered, and barely battered CF steak. A few years ago I used my scientific side to try to develop a superior method for making the best CF steak. I wanted a crust that was fluffy and crunchy, meat that is tender and juicy, and seasoning that is there but not over powering. You'll see the ingredients and think, well this is what I do. However it's all in the technique, so read along carefully and try it. I'm sure you'll love the results!

 
Lara's Chicken Fried Steak

1.5 pounds tenderized cube steak, cut into desired portion sizes
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup homemade bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Emeril's Essence (divided)
Canola oil

In wide shallow bowl, whisk 2 eggs and add milk and 1 teaspoon of seasoning. In another wide shallow bowl, combine flour, bread crumbs, and remaining seasoning. Preheat about 1/2" to 3/4" of oil in a large frying pan. Test to see if a drop of egg wash sizzles vigorously when dropped in oil. If it does, the oil is hot enough. Dip steak in egg wash, then coat generously with flour mixture. Set aside. Just before you put the steak in the hot oil, dip each battered steak into the egg wash again. Then place in hot oil and cover with a tight fitting lid. Fry 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy.  

The purpose of dipping the steaks in the egg wash before frying is two-fold. First, the egg wash will cause the crust to brown and seal quickly, preventing the problem of the crust sticking to the bottom of the pan. Secondly, it will cause the crust to seal in the juices of the steak, producing a crusty, juicy CF steak. The self-rising flour helps the crust be light and fluffy, and the addition of bread crumbs was done once out of desperation because I ran out of flour. Now I'll do it no other way! :) Sometimes the best things come out of desperate circumstances! To make my bread crumbs, I just use left over french bread or other dense, crusty bread. I let it sit out and dry for a couple of days. Then slice and process in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Store in an air tight container in the freezer.




Now what would CF steak be without mashed potatoes? Sad, I tell you! But before I reveal my method for fluffy mashed potatoes, I have to reveal something about myself. I am Tim Taylor's twin sister. I am a chick that loves power tools! Maybe it comes from my days as a child spent at my Dad and Paw's side in their shop taking apart engines and operating the cutting torch. I was a major tom boy. Now don't get me wrong... I spent lots of time at my Mom and Granny's side learning to cook, sew, quilt, and embroider, but I love to build and sometimes destroy things. So how does this relate to mashed potatoes, you ask? My Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer! I absolutely LOVE it! I use it any chance I get. Each time I crank it up, I feel a guttural Tim-the-Tool man grunt ensuing. Muahh hahhh hahhh!


Lara's Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

2-3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk (approx.)
1 stick butter
Sea Salt to taste

Boil potatoes in a large pot covered with about an inch of water. Add 1 Tablespoon butter as the water begins to boil. This will keep the foam at a minimum and prevent boiling over. Cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place in mixer bowl. Add 1 stick of butter and allow to melt. Add sour cream and mix on 4 for about 2 minutes. Begin adding milk about 1/4 cup at a time. Continue beating potatoes for 3-4 minutes, adding milk as needed. The goal is to have fluffy, moist potatoes. Depending on the type of potato used, the amount of milk varies as different potatoes hold different amounts of water. Season with salt to taste. Enjoy!


This recipe makes a generous amount of mashed potatoes. I make this amount for just my husband and I as my picky 7 year-old will not eat anything mashed. The next day, mix about 3 cups of mashed potatoes with an egg and 1/4 cup of flour and fry with a small amount of vegetable oil until crisp little patties fill your platter. Then dive in! YUM! Just like Granny used to make. If you love it, feed it. So keep lovin' and keep cookin'.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh that Chicken!

Hey y'all! I just love watching Paula Deen on the Food Network. She reminds me of the women in my family... pretty, loves to cook, southern twang, and kind of sassy! My family loves casseroles, and I love making them. They're generally easy, tasty, and quick to clean up after. Paula's Chicken Boudine is no exception. This isn't my recipe, so I'm giving credit where it's due. Man, is it good! Take the time to toast the almond slivers. It's totally what makes the dish pop!

Two out of my three guys have colds, so that means one thing. Soup! Warm, soothing to a scratchy throat, and a way to get lots of fluids, soup is the answer. My adorable husband loves my Chicken and Wild Rice soup (as seen below), so I'll have to fix that for him. Unfortunately, my second grader does NOT like soup. He's the infinitely picky one who won't try real food most of the time. His favorite dish that I make is lovingly called "Black Chicken." Here's how to make it:

Black Chicken

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons soy sauce


Butterfly each chicken breast and place between two layers of plastic wrap. Pound with smooth side of a meat mallet until about 1/4" thick. Place in large zip style baggie. Add mayo and soy sauce to baggie. Seal and squish to mix marinade. Place in refrigerator and let marinate at least 15 minutes. Longer is better. 


Preheat a grill pan or traditional grill. Spray with high heat cooking spray when hot. You want the pan to be really hot so that the sugars in the soy sauce caramelize and render a dark crunchy crust on the chicken without burning it. Cook the chicken 3-4 minutes per side until the chicken is done. It will cook very quickly because it is so thin. 


I serve this with all sorts of different things. My personal favorite is to make couscous and my skillet green beans. The kiddo likes mac n cheese from the box, please. :P The chicken breasts also make great sandwiches, so go ahead and try it. If you have a picky eater who only likes crunchy things, maybe s/he will go for this. 

Oh, and in case you're interested... I've had so many people tell me that they never liked green beans until they tried mine. :) I am not a fan of crunchy, fresh green beans. Guess I ate too many canned ones growing up. Nor do I like green beans from the can in all of that bland liquid, so when I got my own kitchen, I began to experiment. Here's what I do.

Skillet Green Beans
2 cans green beans (style is your choice)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt


Drain the green beans well. Heat a large skillet and cover the bottom of the pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Dump in the green beans. Saute them until they are hot and just starting to brown a bit. Remove from heat and dust with a pinch of sea salt.

That's it! If you're salt sensitive, try a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You won't believe how good these are! Let me know if you like them! Remember, If you love it, feed it. So keep lovin' and keep cookin'!





Monday, February 15, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside!

 I love Panera's soups. I wanted to replicate one of their soups quickly, so this is what I came up with. It's so good that I make it regularly when the weather is cold and time is short. Serve it with a thick slice of warm, crusty bread and you're in business!


Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

1 box Wild Rice and Long Grain Rice Mix
4 cans Swanson chicken broth (not the cheap stuff!)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced carrots
2 T. olive oil
3 cups of diced rotisserie chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup

Cook onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil until tender. Add 1 can of chicken broth plus 1/2 c. water. Add contents of wild rice mix. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 min or until all liquid is absorbed. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. 

What's your favorite soup? Hope the weather warms up soon... I'm itching to get in the backyard and grill! 

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