Saturday, November 18, 2023

Rosie Makes Sweet And Sour Pork.

Not too long ago, I'd bought some whole pork loins on sale at Food Lion - $1.49/lb.  I sliced them into thirds and froze them for whatever I decide to do with them later.  It's later now, and I've decided to make some Sweet And Sour Pork.
Here's my road map:
Marinate the pork.
Chop vegetables for stir fry.
Make a batter for the pork.
Make a sweet and sour sauce.
Stir fry the vegetables.
Fry the pork.

After thawing out one of the thirds, I cut the meat into bite-sized cubes and marinated it.

2 1-inch cubes ginger root (pulp and juice)
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Tamari sauce (or soy)
3 TB Mirin

Rosie Note:  I always have frozen ginger on hand.  When I buy ginger root, I cut it into 1-inch cubes and put it in a freezer bag.  When I'm ready to use it, I peel the cubes, then nuke them for about 20 seconds.  It's almost impossible to get juice out of fresh ginger root, but when you nuke the frozen cubes, you can simply squeeze it and the juice will come right out.  You could also press the cubes in a garlic press and scrape off some of the pulp for extra ginger flavor, which is what I did for the marinade.

Combine all ingredients until well mixed and sugar dissolved.  Add pork cubes to mixture and marinate for at least an hour.  

Prepare vegetables: 
You can use whatever vegetables you'd like to stir fry.
I'm going with red bell pepper and onions.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Other vegetables you might consider:
baby corn
broccoli florets
snow peas
If you'd like water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, not a problem.

Prepare the batter for pork:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup cream
2 TB sherry
1/2 tsp kosher salt 

Rosie Note:  Instead of both skim and cream, you could use whole milk.  I just never have whole on hand, but I always have skim and cream, so I use a combination (on the rich side).

Prepare the Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1 TB oil
2 cubes ginger (pulp and juice)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 TB sweet relish
1/3 cup ketchup
3 TB Tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 small can chopped pineapple with juice
1 TB cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup vegetable stock
Heat oil over medium. Stir in ginger pulp and juice and garlic, being careful to not let garlic burn (It gets bitter.).  Lower heat.  Add in relish, ketchup, soy, vinegar, brown sugar, and pineapple, stirring until simmer.  Whisk in stock with dissolved cornstarch and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat and keep warm.
To stir fry vegetables:
   In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil until 350°.  Add in vegetables.  No more than 2 cups at a time.  I like to sprinkle a little sugar (maybe a teaspoon or two) and a pinch or two of kosher salt over the vegetables.  Cook, stirring, about 1 minute, then remove to a bowl and cover to keep warm. 

To fry the pork:

Remove the pork cubes from the marinade with a slotted spoon.  Let drain.

Drop into batter.

Coat cubes
 with batter.

Heat about 1/4" oil in skillet to 350° - 375°.
Place battered cubes in hot oil.  Do not crowd the pan.
  Fry about 2 minutes first side, then turn over and fry about another minute.
Remove from oil and place on rack.

You want a beautiful, puffy, golden brown.


Serve pork and vegetables over a bed of rice.  Spoon the sweet and sour sauce around and sprinkle on some sliced scallions.



Saturday, November 4, 2023

Crabalicious Appetizers.


With the Thanksgiving holidays approaching, it’s always nice to have appetizers lurking around while you’re waiting for the big bird to emerge from the oven or for the day after when you’ve got leftovers galore and just want a little something different to brighten up the vestiges from the previous day.  I’ve got just the ticket – crabmeat.  Consider it one more thing to be thankful for.

 I’ve got a crabmeat dip that, of course, can be used as a basic dip, but it’s quite versatile, in that it can be utilized in any number of ways, with just a few adjustments here and there to doctor it up.  I’ll be using it to stuff mushrooms, fill phyllo cups, and wrap in wontons, among other things.  I’m only using ½ pound of the crabmeat for the dip and its variations; the rest I’m using for crab balls with a tangy tartar sauce for dipping.


Rosie’s Basic Crabmeat Dip

8 oz. crabmeat, picked for shells  (I use claw meat.  Cheaper and I think sweeter and crabbier.)
4 oz. unsalted butter
3 oz. Brie cheese (Yes, you can eat the rind.)
1 oz. cream cheese
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 TB sherry

In small sauce pan over low heat, melt butter, Brie, and cream cheese.  Whisk until it’s a smooth white sauce.  Gently, add crabmeat, trying not to break up the meat.  Heat through.   Stir in lemon juice, Lea & Perrins, and sherry.  I never completely mix the lemon juice, L&P, and sherry.  I like to have what I call “pockets of flavor.”

Once you make this dip, you'll find yourself coming back to it time and time again, so it's perfectly OK to experiment here.  Add more or less cheeses, butter, lemon, L&P, sherry.  Taste test and adjust.  If you prefer a shake or two of paprika, or cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce, I say go for it.

 The basic crabmeat dip can be poured into a serving dish and scooped up with any type of cracker, but since I prefer edible serving bowls, I use a boule.  I hollow out a round loaf of bread, fill it with the crabmeat mixture, and use the pulled pieces of bread for dipping. Bake in a 350° oven until the bread pieces are toasted and crabmeat heated through.  Top with chopped red bell pepper, sliced green onions, and a sprinkling of paprika.

 Now that I have my basic crabmeat mixture, there are a number of tangents I can explore.  All make for wonderful appetizers, but if you’d like to graze your way through a meal, this will work perfectly.


 Crabmeat Filled Wonton Cups

Take individual wonton wrappers and press into muffin tins.  Lightly brush with butter.  Bake at 350° for about 8 minutes, or until golden.  Fill with warm crabmeat mixture.  Top with sliced scallions and roasted red bell peppers.


 Crabmeat Filled Phyllo Shells

Place phyllo shells on baking sheet and bake at 350° about 5 minutes.  Fill with crabmeat mixture and sprinkle sliced scallions and chopped parsley over top.


 Crabmeat Filled Mushroom Caps

Remove stems from mushrooms and spoon in crabmeat mixture, rounding it.  Top with a sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs or Ritz crackers and grated Parmesan cheese.  Place caps in a rimmed baking tray and pour sherry in bottom of tray.  Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes, until topping is golden brown.



 Crab Rangoon

Lay a wonton wrapper on your work surface and place a heaping teaspoonful of crabmeat filling in the center.  Do not overfill.  I brush the edges with soy sauce, then fold the wonton over, forming a triangle, and pressing the edges with a fork to crimp and seal.  Fry stuffed wontons at 350° a minute or so on each side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with dipping sauce and sprinkle with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

 Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup tamari
 2 TB mirin
 2 TB rice vinegar
 1 tsp sugar
 1 tsp sriracha
 1 minced garlic clove
 Ginger juice from 1 small knob of frozen ginger
 1 TB toasted sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients.

 Rosie Note:  It’s virtually impossible to get juice out of fresh ginger, so whenever I buy ginger root, I cut it into 1-inch cubes and freeze it.  Nuke a cube for about 15 seconds, then you can easily squeeze the juice out.

You can use a garlic press for this and scrape some of the ginger pulp into the dip for extra ginger flavor.



  For a final presentation using my crabmeat filling, I offer you a decadent Eggs Hawthorne with Hollandaise Sauce.  It’s the perfect way to start off your morning.

  Eggs Hawthorne with Crabmeat

 For each serving:
1 piece of buttered toast, homemade bread preferred, or you could use a buttered, toasted English muffin
Lightly steamed spinach
Bacon strips or sautéed ham slices
1 poached egg
Hollandaise sauce
Heaping spoonful of crabmeat filling.

 For poached egg:

Pour about a quart of water in a medium sauce pan.  Add a tablespoon of vinegar.  This helps the whites coagulate better.  Bring to a light boil.  Swirl water to make a whirlpool and carefully break egg into the vortex.  For runny yolks and cooked whites, I lightly boil the egg for 2 minutes 15 seconds.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.

 For Hollandaise sauce:

A lot of people use a double boiler for Hollandaise.  I find it unnecessary.  I use the “hover” method and it works just fine for me.

Juice half a lemon in a small sauce pan.

Whisk in one egg yolk.

Hovering the pan over low heat, constantly whisk yolk and juice.  When the mixture first starts to thicken and emits a wisp of steam, whisk in a tablespoon of cold, unsalted butter incorporating the butter and emulsifying the mixture.  Continue adding half stick of butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly.  Remember to HOVER!

Rosie Note:  If your pan gets too hot and your Hollandaise curdles, not that that’s ever happened to me, all is not lost.  Throw in an ice cube and continue to whisk.  It works!

 To serve:

If you’re using ham slices, place on top of toast.  Make a spinach nest on top of toast or ham.  Nestle in a poached egg.  If you’re using bacon, place strips around egg.  Pour Hollandaise over egg. Place a heaping spoonful of warm crabmeat mixture on top.  If desired, sprinkle on cayenne or paprika.


I still have ½ pound of crabmeat left, so I’m making crab balls with a tangy tartar sauce.



Crab Balls With Rosie’s Tartar Sauce
 Makes about 2 dozen balls.
½ pound crabmeat
 1 egg beaten with 1 TB cream and 1 TB lemon juice
 1 TB chopped roasted red pepper
 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
 1 TB minced onion
 1 TB minced celery
 1 TB chopped parsley
 2 TB bread crumbs (I toast my homemade bread and then crumble it up by hand.)

Mix all together.  Use a melon-baller to scoop out small balls of the mixture.  Roll by hand to pack tighter.  Refrigerate balls at least one hour.  Roll in mixture of 2 parts crushed Ritz crackers and 1 part cornstarch.  Pour a thin layer of peanut oil in a medium skillet and heat to 350°.  Add in a tablespoon or two of butter (for flavor).  When the butter is done sizzling and melting, add in balls, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry about 4 minutes, rolling around to brown all over.  Drain on paper towels.

 Rosie’s Tartar Sauce
  2 TB mayonnaise
 1 TB sour cream
 1 tsp Lea & Perrins
 2 tsp lemon juice
 1 TB dill salad cubes
 2 TB sweet relish
 1 tsp Gray Poupon Dijon mustard (Do not substitute a generic brand.)

 Serve crab balls with tartar sauce dotted with Sriracha sauce and sprinkled with chopped basil, chopped parsley, and sliced scallions.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Shrimp. And More Shrimp. In The Form Of Shrimp Quesadillas.

 I've always got shrimp on hand.  We buy about 50 pounds off and on throughout the fall (gotta stay ahead of the hurricanes) and stock up for the year.  So, this time of year, we're eating shrimp a lot, to clean out the freezer and get ready for more.

Today, I made a garlic shrimp and snow pea stir-fry for lunch, then used some of the extra to make some shrimp and spinach quesadillas.

And they were all good!

For the shrimp:
Couple dozen large shrimp, peeled and de-tracted  (I say de-tracted, not de-veined, because that black line running down the back of the shrimp is not a vein.  It's the intestinal tract.)
3 TB butter (I always use unsalted.)
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped  (More if you like.)
Old Bay seasoning
big handful of snowpeas
2-3 chopped scallions
chopped parsley (about 1/4 cup)

I melted the butter in a large, hot skillet until foamy and almost browning (That gives you a nice nutty flavor, but don't let the butter burn.), then added the shrimp. Sprinkle on the Old Bay - about 1/2 teaspoon. After about 30 seconds, I added in the snow peas and sprinkled a little sugar on them (Maybe a teaspoon.)  After a minute I added the garlic and turned the shrimp on the other side. Cook for another minute.  Pour in a few tablespoons of sherry and let it steam.  Swish everything around, scraping up the goodie bits in the bottom of the pan. (That's where the flavor is.)  Stir in the scallions and parsley.  Remove from heat.

You can eat this just as it is or serve it on a bed of rice.

I decided to take this to the next level and make shrimp quesadillas.

Shrimp Quesadillas
I used 6-inch flour tortilla for these.
Place a layer of grated smoked Gruyère cheese on the entire tortilla, then top half the tortilla with stemmed spinach leaves.  Place some onion slices and maybe 6 shrimp on top of the spinach, and a little more grated cheese won’t hurt.  Fold in half and place in medium hot skillet with sizzling butter, pressing down on top of tortilla to keep it together.  Cook one side until golden brown, then turn over and brown the other side.

Cheese layer on bottom, then spinach, onion, shrimp, more cheese.

Fold over and sauté in butter until tortilla is golden brown and cheese melted.


Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Rosie Finds Herself In A Rather Prickly Situation.


 We’ve seen these plants all over the Outer Banks, but I’ve never seen anybody use the fruit from them, so naturally I had to do something about that.  I’m talking about the prickly pear cactus.  I’ve seen the paddles, or nopales, sold in the produce section of the supermarkets, but I’ve never seen the fruits, and that red fruit the cactus produces is deliciously edible.  It takes a little work (and a lot of caution), but I made a prickly pear sauce using the cactus fruit.  As for the flavor, it’s unique.   I would liken it to a tart plum flavor, almost prune-like, only sweeter, lighter, and fresher.   I used it as an accompaniment to shrimp and scallops, but it would also go quite nicely with both pork and chicken.  These cacti are so abundant where we live, we should take advantage of the bounty!  

 Now, here' s a series of photos to show you the development of the fruit.

The cactus started producing flowers back in May.

Then it sets fruit June-July.

The fruit starts ripening in September.
 And it's ready to pick September - October.

To harvest and prepare prickly pears:

Do NOT use your bare hands.  The fruit is covered with tiny, almost microscopic, hair-like barbs.  If you touch the fruit, these little thorns, called glochids,  will transfer right into your skin and it’s quite painful.  Using tongs, twist the fruit off the plant.  The ripe ones will release easily. 

For today's recipes, which include both a shrimp dish and a scallop dish, I used 20 prickly pears,
which yielded 2 cups worth of sauce.

See those tiny spikes?  That's what you need to watch out for.  They MUST be removed.

The best way I’ve found to de-sticker the fruit is to use fire.  Either use a torch or hold the fruit over an open flame, rotating the entire fruit to burn off the barbs. 

Next, cut off the ends, peel the fruit, and slice lengthwise.  Scoop out the mass of seeds in the center.   (Note: It’s almost impossible to get all the seeds out here, so don’t worry.  We’re going to run all this through a sieve.)   I placed the cut ends, the peels, and the center mass with seeds in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl to collect any juices.  Chop the remaining fruit and add it to a sauce pan, along with the accumulated juices. 

Slice ends off.  Peel fruit.

Slice  lengthwise.

Scoop out seeds.



Place seed mass, peels, and any other parts into a sieve over a container. Save any accumulated juices.
Chop fruit/pulp and place in small pan.
Pour in accumulated juices.

For 2 cups of basic pear cactus sauce:

 20 prickly pear fruits, prepared according to above instructions
½ cup orange juice
⅓ cup sugar

 Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool, then purée in a processor. 

 Pour purée into a fine mesh sieve and let it drain into another container, pressing against the sieve with a spatula to push the purée through and scraping pulp on outside of the sieve into container.  You should be able to eliminate all the seeds during this step.











Add sugar.











Add orange juice.










Bring to simmer. Let it cook about 20-30 minutes. Let cool.





Press pulp through fine mesh sieve.
Scrape outside of sieve into container.









Let drip and drain.


 This is your basic pear cactus sauce.

Next, I'm going to thicken half the sauce to use with fried shrimp.

 I'm thickening it with a cornstarch slurry - one TB cornstarch dissolved in 2 TB water.
Pour into 1 cup of the heated sauce and stir over medium low heat until thickened.

Here's your thickened pear cactus sauce ready for my first dish - fried shrimp.

Fried Shrimp With Thickened Pear Cactus Sauce

 To thicken pear cactus sauce:

In a small sauce pan, heat 1 cup of the basic pear cactus sauce to a bare simmer.

Make a cornstarch slurry of 1 TB cornstarch dissolved in 2 TB water.  Slowly pour the slurry into the sauce, stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat.

For the fried shrimp:

1 cup flour
½ cup corn starch
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp gojugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in covered container.  Add shrimp (about 2 dozen large, peeled and de-tracted) and shake to coat.

Rosie Note:  I say de-tracted, not de-veined.  That black line going down the back of the shrimp is not a vein.  It’s part of the intestinal tract.

 In a large skillet, heat peanut oil to 400° - 425°.  I believe in using instant-read laser thermometers.  They take the guesswork out of frying.  Place shrimp in hot oil, one at a time, about 1-2 inches apart.  Do not crowd the pan.  I usually fry about 8 shrimp at a time and fry in batches so as to maintain the hot temperature.  Fry about 1 minute on first side, 30 seconds on second.  Remove from oil. 

 I served the shrimp on a pool of the thickened pear cactus sauce, with more drizzled over top,  accompanied with rice and avocado slices doused in lime juice.

Next, I’m taking ocean scallops, making a reduction out of the basic pear cactus sauce, and serving it with a medley of flavors - chopped pistachios, orange zest, basil, and parsley.

 Seared Scallops With Pear Cactus Sauce Reduction

For the reduction:
  1 cup basic pear cactus juice 
 2 TB honey
2 TB unsalted butter

Combine pear cactus juice and honey in small sauce pan and heat over low heat until reduced by half – about 20-30 minutes.  When reduced, enrich the sauce by stirring in the butter, 1 TB at a time, until melted and incorporated.  Keep warm for serving.

  For the scallops:

To prepare scallops, remove that tough side muscle first, then rinse, and dry on paper towels.  Lightly dust them with cornstarch and give them a few grinds of pepper.

In a heavy skillet (I used cast iron.), heat a film of peanut oil until about 400°.  Add in a tablespoon of butter and let it foam up and melt.  Without crowding the pan, place the scallops in, one at a time.    After about 90 seconds, turn the scallops over and cook about 1 minute.  Remove from pan.  Let oil come back to temperature, adding more butter, and sear another batch.

 To serve, pool reduced sauce onto plate, place scallops in pool, and sprinkle on crushed pistachios, chopped basil and parsley, and orange zest.