Friday, April 28, 2017

Red Beans And Rice. And Don't Forget The Shrimp!

I was in a New Orleans frame of mind.
My apologies to NOLA-phytes everywhere, but this is my blog and I can cook and write whatever I want.

So, Holy Trinity!
I'm making red beans and rice.  And shrimp.

First, a little history on red beans and rice.  I love it when my food comes with a history lesson. 
When I think about red beans and rice, I think about New Orleans cooking. Red beans and rice is a quintessential Nawlin’s dish.  

What I’m doing is NOT that.  I just happened to think about Creole, then basically put a Colington spin on it and came up with Shrimp with Red Beans and Rice.

First the history:  The New Orleans part.  Red beans and rice Monday.  Imagine, if you will, a more genteel New Orleans of decades past.  Monday is laundry day.  The women of the house do their laundry on Mondays, so the Monday dinner is something that cooks itself, by itself.  The beans simmer slowly on the stove top for hours on Monday while the dutiful housewives attend to their wash.  At some point, the “Holy Trinity” was produced – diced onion, celery, and pepper.  A bone from Sunday’s meal was thrown in.  Some kind of meat was added, be it Andouille sausage or ham.  Seasonings were added – bay leaf, herbs, Tabasco or some type of hot sauce.  And it was served over rice.   Louis Armstrong himself, as a nod to his gustatory preferences, was known to sign his letters with, “Red beans and ricely yours.”

Now the Colington part:  Rosie ain’t doin’ no stinkin’ wash on Mondays.  That said, she will be making Shrimp with Red Beans and Rice.  But it won’t be an all-day project.

The only time I allow for is cooking dried red kidney beans.  I’m not a can-o’-beans kind o’ gal.  I always cook dried beans.  Figure on 1-3 hours for the beans, depending on your personal preferences and 30-40 minutes for the rice, depending on directions.  Toss the rice and beans with the Holy Trinity for a sautéed buttery jumble.  Dust some cumin over top. The shrimp is but a flash in a hot pan. 


Start with the beans.  One cup dried beans will yield three cups cooked beans.  Measure accordingly.  You can soak the beans overnight, but I never do.  I simply rinse my beans, then cook for about two hours, refreshing the water a couple of times.  Always test for taste and texture.  I prefer my beans on the “toothy” side, or al dente.  If you like yours more tender, cook longer.  Season with kosher salt.  Drain. 

Next, the rice.  Again, the conversion factor is one cup dried rice equals three cups cooked.  I used a combination of both white rice and yellow rice since both were available.  Cook the rice and add to the beans.

Rosie's Beans and Rice and Shrimp
2 TB unsalted butter

a yepsen of rice and beans
1 cup of The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity is the workhorse of the New Orleans kitchen.  It's equal parts onions, celery, and bell pepper and it's the distinctive, aromatic, classic flavor base of Cajun and Creole cooking.
The trio should be finely chopped.

Melt 1 TB butter.  Sauté the Holy Trinity until softened and fragrant - 2-3 minutes.  Add another plug of butter, melt, and add the cooked beans and rice.  Heat through and dust with cumin. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.

A yepsen, in case you didn't know, is a unit of measurement, and a fine one at that.
A yepsen denotes the amount that can be held in two hands cupped together.
Now, be sure to work that word into your conversation.

Next, prepare the shrimp.  Peel and de-tract the shrimp.  I don’t say “de-vein.”  That line running down the back of a shrimp is not a vein.  It’s the digestive tract.  Remove it.  Toss shrimp lightly with a Cajun or Creole seasoning.  You can use a prepared seasoning or you can easily make your own.  Combine equal parts onion powder, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley, paprika, cayenne, and ground pepper.  Taste test and give the shrimp a light sprinkle.  I rarely add salt to shrimp.  They’ve been living in the ocean and don’t need it.

Heat one tablespoon each unsalted butter and peanut oil in skillet over medium high heat.  The butter is for flavor; the oil is to raise the smoke point of the butter.  When butter gets sizzly-wizzly, add shrimp in a single layer.  Cook, turning after 30 seconds, for about a minute.  Immediately remove from hot pan. 

Here’s a tip:  Most people overcook their shrimp, resulting in tough, rubbery shrimp.  Take the shrimp out before you think they’re done and you’ll be fine.  Wait for the shrimp to just turn from gray.  The shrimp will tense up as they cook.  If they form a “C,” the edges not touching, then they’re “C”ooked.  If the shrimp form an “O,” with the head and tails touching, they’re “O”vercooked.  

I used a handful of shrimp.  Yes.  Half a yepsen.

Plate the dish.  Make a bed of beans and rice, then deliciously nestle the shrimp on top.  I like cilantro sprinkled over and if you’d like some drops of Texas Pete or other hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha), I won’t stop you.

Youngest Hawthorne particularly liked this.
His preferred serving method?
Wrapped up in a soft tortilla that's been charred a bit over an open flame.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Please Join Rosie In Her April Garden.

Welcome to Rosie's Garden.
Yellow and orange California poppies.
Purple irises.

More irises.

Yellow iris.

Bearded iris.

Red Flanders poppy.
Papaver rhoeas.

 I love spring.
So much going on in the garden.
New tulips up here.

This is Lunaria.
Money plant.
Honesty plant. 
Silver dollar plant, so named for the seed pods.

Oxalis (shamrock), parsley, and money plant.

Love the colors.
Orange poppies.
Purple irises. 

 I love my red poppies.

Split trunk of the Leyland Cypress in my front yard.
Lost it during Hurricane Matthew last fall. 


 Irises and poppies. 

 And then I found this pretty little columbine.

Bachelor button.
Centaurea cyanus.
Blue cornflower.
And then, the Hawthornes left home for a quick road trip.
This was the scene at Jockey's Ridge State Park.

Shot on the fly.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Strawberry Pie.

  It's strawberry time at the Malco Farm in Point Harbor right over the bridge.
We've been picking strawberries there for years and look forward to these berries every year.

Daughter Hawthorne was home this weekend(!)  She and her friends went a-pickin' and brought me a big box of beautiful berries.
I immediately set about to make my all time favorite strawberry pie.

Usually when I cook something and write about it,
I take step-by-step photographs for the how-tos and what-fors.
And I always try to get the money shot.
Didn't do that this time.

 This time, I only have the last piece of the pie.
And that's it right up there.


 That's how good this pie is.
It was eaten that quickly.

You deserve the recipe for Strawberry Pie.
And I'm giving it to you.

You can use a store-bought crust, but I made my own crust.
By the way, if you use store-bought crusts, buy the refrigerated ones that come rolled up two to a box.  Do not buy the frozen ones.  They'll crack in the freezer and they're not as deep as the refrigerated ones. 

The pie dough recipe makes enough for 2-3 pies, depending on their deep-dishedness.
You could also use the additional dough to make individual quiches, galettes (which is a free-form pie, either sweet or savory), little tartlets, cheese sticks, and all sorts of things.  Sounds like another post for the blog, another chapter for the book.

Here's the recipe for the pie crust dough.
I never met Craig Calhoun or his grandmother, but Craig was a friend of a friend of mine from another lifetime.  I have the friend's recipe in his own handwriting in my "Dessert" binder.

Craig Calhoun's Grandmother's Foolproof Pie Crust

4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 TB sugar
1 1/2 cups Crisco

Combine flour, salt, and sugar.  Cut in Crisco, a bit at a time, until you get a crumbly meal.

(Whenever I make a pie dough, I like to have different sized crumbles.)

1 egg
1 TB cider vinegar
1/2 cup water

Whisk egg, vinegar, and water.
Add to dry ingredients.
Combine and work into a cohesive ball.
Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Cut off enough of the pie dough for one crust.
Wrap remaining dough in plastic and refrigerate until another use - within 2-3 days.

Strawberry Pie
1 pie crust, cooked

Roll out above dough approximately 1/8 inch thick.
Spread out in pie pan, pressing.
Prick dough with fork.
Bake at 375° for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let cool.

Pie Filling
1 quart just picked strawberries from Malco Strawberry Fields in Point Harbor
Reserve about two dozen or more choice strawberries.
Wash and hull berries.

1 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 TB unsalted butter

4 ounces cream cheese

Purée quart of strawberries.  Pour purée into saucepan.  Heat to a boil.  Add in sugar.  Combine water and cornstarch and add to strawberry/sugar mixture.  Cook, bubbling slowly, over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and add butter.  Let cool a bit.

In a food processor or by hand, mix cream cheese and about 2 tablespoons of the strawberry mixture until smooth.  Evenly spread cream cheese mixture over baked and cooled pie crust.  Arrange the 2 dozen or so reserved berries, sticking bottoms into the cream cheese base.  Pour the cooled strawberry glaze mixture over top.  Chill.

If you have any leftover strawberry mixture, save it for breakfast tomorrow.  Great on toast!  Or oatmeal!  Or tapioca pudding!  Or fingers!