Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My attempt at Fried Okra

Growing up in the south, I developed a taste for southern foods. After I moved out west, I didn't realize how such insignificant dishes could be so nostalgic for me. Fried okra is one of those dishes. Crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. And since its a vegetable, you feel like its almost healthy for you. Add a dash of hot sauce and you're good to go.

For this recipe I ran out of flour so I used a pure corn meal coating. This tasted a little too dry and gritty for me. I  think if you deep fried this, it would be okay as the oil would soak into the batter more. Next time I'll try a 50/50 blend with flour. I also used buttermilk plus one beaten egg to wet the okra for the cornmeal dredge. I also seasoned the cornmeal with salt and pepper. Anyhow, this photo looks much better than it tastes.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Homemade Hashbrowns

There's nothing more comforting than the crunch of a perfectly cooked hashbrown. Most diners only brown one side of your hash leaving the other half greasy and soggy. Luckily, making your own hashbrowns is a very easy and rewarding task. The secret is wringing out the water in the shredded potatos. This allows the potatos to fry rather that steam when they hit the hot oil.

2 Medium Russet Potatos
Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by peeling the potatos. Next, use a box grater to shred the potatos. Place the shredded potatos in a collander over the sink and with your hands, grab a handful of potatos and squeeze out the liquid. Repeat until you've put the squeeze on all of the shredded potato. Then, wrap the potatos in a paper towel and give it one more squeeze. This should remove any liquid on the surface of the potatos. Preheat your cast iron skillet over medium heat (you can use a regular fry pan, but cast iron's the best). Add vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the potatos into the skillet and spread them out to form an even layer and give it a shake to make sure nothing sticks. Add salt and pepper. Then don't mess with it for the next 2 minutes, otherwise the crust wont form. After two minutes, lift the edge to see how your crust if forming. Wait until you get a nice crunch, then start flipping. You don't need to flip the whole thing at once, just do what you can. Now you'll have to add some more oil (almost as much as what you started with) and give it another shake to prevent sticking. I try to keep the oil addition to a minimum. I'll add a little oil to any place that looks dry and likely to burn. Once this side is browned, you can plate and serve.

I personally like to eat mine with ketchup and Cholula hot sauce. To lighten it up, you can add some chopped green onions or chives at the end and serve it with some sauteed tomatoes. To make corned beef hash, just add the corned beef and chopped onions with the potatos and everything should come out fine.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cast Iron Pans

I keep hearing how cast iron develops its own nonstick surface so I've been renewing the seasoning on my old 12" skillet. First to get off the old seasoning which seemed to be flaking off, I used a 1/4 sheet power sander to get all the seasoning off and smooth out the rough bottom.

I read that seasoning can be done by burning oil onto the surface in your oven at 500 degrees for an hour. I tried it and it makes your kitchen fill with smoke. The surface turned a nice black color, but it still wasn't really non-stick. My latest endeavour is to heat the skillet on the stove and apply a thin layer of oil with a paper towel and tongs and wait for the smoking to stop. This only makes a blotchy seasoned surface. If anyone has a better method, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

4th of July in Berkeley

We spent the 4th in Berkeley this year. First we had brunch at Bette's Oceanview Diner, which is famous for their souffle pancakes. They were also featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. That show also featured a menu item called "scrapple" which is ground pork shoulder mixed with cornmeal and spices. We ordered a side of it and it tasted a bit like mushy breakfast sausage patties. They did manage to get a nice crust on it by cooking it on their flattop. We also ordered the salmon hash which was a special today. It was good, but the portion seemed small for what I would consider a diner would serve. The banana rum souffle pancake was excellent and filling, but since its full of air, you'll be hungry a hour later. Next time I go there, I'll have to remember not to order their muffins since the sweet pancakes left me wanting something more salty. If you decide to go their on a weekend, be prepared to wait an hour to be seated. There are plenty of shops around the area to do some shopping while you wait.
Next we went to the marina to get to all the holiday festivities. Unfortunately, if you decide to park there until the fireworks start, you'll be trapped their until they release traffic at 11:30pm.
A couple amusement companies setup some rides on the pier for the kids. Each company has their own tickets so you'll need to be sure you buy the right tickets for the rides you want to go on. If you want to tire your kid out, nothing beats the inflatable slide since they spend 95% of the time climbing to the top of the slide. We left way before the fireworks started and our daughter had a long nap afterwards. 

Strawberry Patch

Back in May we decided to go pick our own strawberries. We went to Chan's Strawberry and Fruit Stand in Brentwood. I have to say, these were the sweetest most delicious strawberries I have ever eaten, period. On top of that, we paid like $7 for a full tray (roughly 5 pounds). There's a sign that says you're not supposed to eat any until you finish picking them, but as you can tell by the stains on her face, my daughter couldn't help herself (nor could we).

Although, the cost of gas would probably offset any discount compared to the supermarket, this is certainly great fun for the family and rewards you with a bounty to take home and enjoy.

Curry Paella

A couple weeks ago. we made this after my wife found several paella recipes in her Japanese magazine. Instead of saffron, we used curry powder. It tasted great but I think we either used too much water or the wrong kind of rice because I couldn't get the rice at the bottom to produce a nice crunch. We still got some a lot tasty browned bits on the bottom so my cast iron skillet still managed to get scraped clean.

Once I nail down the recipe, I'll share it with you all.