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Monday, October 31, 2011

my first shrimp scampi

Inspired by the recent shrimp scampi recipe contest, I decided to try making shrimp scampi.

I made a modified version of the contest recipe from the Lodge website.

This was also the first time I salted the pasta water, rinsed the pasta, and tossed it with olive oil.

I liked the results!

Boil linguine in lightly salted water until done. Drain, rinse, drain again. Toss with olive oil.

In a cast iron skillet, melt 6 tbsp butter and 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Add 3-4 tbsp minced garlic and saute. Don't overcook the garlic. Add black pepper.

Add peeled and deveined shrimp, and cook until done.

I used pre-cooked shrimp, so it was faster for me.

Turn off the heat. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and shredded parmesan cheese.

I added bacon bits to mine, even though shrimp scampi doesn't normally have bacon bits.

It was thinner because of the lemon juice, although it did add a nice little flavor.

I like a thick sauce, so next time I might omit the lemon juice, or add a lot less of it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

and where are my mexican dish recipes?

I could have sworn that I posted my recipe for various mexican dishes.

But all I could find was the one for cheese enchiladas.

So, what I do for mexican food is, first make my "base", then use it in whatever mexican dish I make.

The "base" is 93% lean ground beef, browned along with chopped onions, minced garlic, and fresh cilantro.

Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper.

Then I take pinto beans, and either mash them up to resemble refried beans, or just add them whole.

That's my "base".

Notice that's how I started my chili recipe; Add ingredients for chili, and it becomes chili.

But it's also how I make burritos:

Put the base in flour tortillas; add cheese, add salsa or taco sauce, bake in the oven at 350.

Make tacos by putting the base in taco shells; add cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Make enchiladas by putting the base in corn tortillas, add cheese and enchilada sauce, and bake.

Make tamale casserole by layering polenta over the base; bake in the oven at 350.

Make nachos by pouring the base over tortilla chips; add cheese and bake.

Make "border patrol casserole" with tortilla chips, cheese, and black olives on top of the base; Bake.

I serve all of the above with sour cream. You have to have sour cream!

I lost my recipe for chili!

Well much to my dismay, I discovered yesterday that I lost my recipe for chili.

So I had to come up with another recipe. But the good news is, it was a vastly improved recipe!

Brown 1 pound 93% lean ground beef* in a cast iron pot, along with chopped onions and minced garlic.

*I love 93% lean. If you use it, you don't have to drain.

Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained, and 1 can of pinto beans*, undrained. Because they're undrained, you won't need to add any broth.

*My former recipe used red kidney beans.

If you don't want beans, you'll need to add a little beef broth. I like it with beans.

Add 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce. Stir and simmer on low heat.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and fritos!

Some people like to add a tablespoon or two of corn flour or "masa", but I didn't have any.

And, some people like to add green chilis or bell peppers. I loathe peppers, so I don't.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Fried Chicken question

Someone posted a question to the Lodge facebook page, about their fried chicken recipe.

The question was about the part where you cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes.

She wanted to know, does that mean removing from the fryer and finishing in the oven?

I believe they mean leave it on the stove on low heat for 45 minutes, but it got me thinking.

What if you do want to start it on the stove and finish in the oven? How would it turn out?

The advice I've received was, fried chicken in the oven COVERED, is not a good idea. It will get soggy.

However, if you remove it from the fryer when it's almost done, put it on a flat cast iron pan, in the oven on very low heat, that will make the chicken crispier.

The basic method is, brown on higher heat, simmer on lower heat, then raise the heat and uncover to crisp. I like the idea of crisping in the oven so it doesn't spatter.

I haven't tried the Lodge recipe for fried chicken, but I'd like to.

You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the "leftover batter" pan

This is allegedly a "griswold leftover batter pan."

I say "allegedly", because Griswold never made a leftover batter pan.

It's a fake. It's a made in China, 3 mold cornstick pan.

If you see this pan listed anywhere, don't buy it.

However, there is an alternative on the market, that you can use.

Lodge makes a 5 mold cornstick pan, that I find is great for using leftover batter.

I was torn for a long time, as to whether or not to get that pan-- after all, I already had a 7 mold and a 9 mold.

But, I'm a cast iron fiend, so one day I broke down and got it. And, it's a great leftover batter pan!

the new Lodge carbon steel skillets

This is the new Lodge carbon steel skillet. There are three sizes: 8 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch.

They are made in the USA and are the only "pre seasoned" carbon steel pans in existence.

I'm not familiar with carbon steel, but I am aware that it has to be seasoned, just like cast iron.

These pans are pre seasoned. They can be used outdoors, on the stove, or in the oven.

I've never used carbon steel, but I know that carbon steel woks are very popular.

Carbon steel, while thinner than cast iron, can withstand very high heat.

As it's thinner, it does not retain heat as long as cast iron does.

I'm thinking that these pans would be useful for sauteing and stir frying.

These pans remind me of the super lightweight cast iron pans available.

I'd like to try one of these pans. I'd probably get the 12 inch, myself.

the Lodge stainless steel cookware set.

This is the Lodge stainless steel cookware set.

"But I thought Lodge was a cast iron company!" It is, hence the cast iron skillet in the set.

They don't sell the stainless steel pieces individually; Just the set.

It includes the cast iron skillet, along with a deep skillet, 2 saucepans, and a pot.

Personally, if I didn't already have all the cookware I need, I'd consider buying it.

I wondered why Lodge wants to branch out from their flagship product line of cast iron.

My guess is because many consumers tend to shun cast iron cookware, as antiquated. They want "modern" stuff, such as stainless steel.

But why include a cast iron skillet in the set?

Perhaps to introduce cast iron to a market segment that would otherwise not try it.

I once was one of those people, after all. It only took one try, before I was hooked for life!

Beef n' beans

This is a slow cook, one pot recipe called beef n' beans. It's literally, ground beef and beans!

You need one pound of ground beef; I use 93% lean. Brown the ground beef on the stove first.

Then add to a cast iron pot*, along with 1 can** of black eyed peas, 1 can of pinto beans, 1 can of tomatoes, 1/2 an onion chopped, 1 cup of salsa***, 1 cup of rice, and 1 cup of water or broth.

*You can just brown the beef in the pot and then throw the other stuff in. If it's 93% lean you don't need to drain.

**If you have dried beans cooked ahead of time, that will also do. You can use any beans you want.

***I used homemade salsa; Jarred salsa is terrible.

Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Slow cook in the oven for a few hours.

I found that it needed some seasoned salt when it was done.

I also made some extra white rice on the side to go with it, because I like a lot of rice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lodge shrimp scampi recipe contest

This is a picture of a shrimp scampi recipe, made in the Lodge chef skillet.

I've never made shrimp scampi, although I do like it and now I want to make some.

Anyway, there's a contest going on:

Whoever can figure out the ingredients to this recipe, wins a free Lodge guitar skillet. Woo hoo.

Actually, this is the recipe, copied and pasted from the Lodge website:

Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds linguine
5 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (I don't like them so I'd leave them out)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil with 1 tbsp kosher salt in it. Add the pasta and boil until al dente.

Drain, rinse in cool water, drain again, and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil.

Melt the butter with the remaining olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Add the garlic and saute for 3 minutes.

Add the shrimp, 1 tsp kosher salt, and the pepper. Saute the shrimp 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and toss with the remaining ingredients.

That was the Lodge website recipe. If I were to do this, I'd probably modify it a bit.

I definitely don't like crushed red peppers so that would be out.

And I don't like parsley either, so I never include that. I wonder how cilantro would taste?

I'd probably add bacon bits, even though that's not usually included in shrimp scampi.

And what about whole garlic cloves? You would need to slow roast them ahead of time in olive oil.

At first I was under the impression that you make up your own shrimp scampi recipe for the contest.

But no... the contest is to figure out their recipe, which I just gave you.

And someone's already figured it out, so they're probably going to win the guitar skillet.

Frankly, if I saw a use for the guitar skillet I would have bought it already. So no real loss to me.

But if anything, at least it's made me want to try making shrimp scampi, which may have been the point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

oriental chicken

This recipe was meant for chicken wings, but I made drumsticks instead.

In a bowl, mix a 2:1 ratio of soy sauce and water or broth. You need at least a cup of soy sauce and 1/2 cup water or broth.

I used beef broth because that's what I had, although chicken broth would be perfect.

You need enough to cover the chicken; I found the part of the chicken that was not immersed in the liquid to be dry, while the part that was immersed, was wonderful.

Add brown sugar, a shot of lemon juice, dry mustard*, minced garlic, ginger, onion powder, garlic powder.

*Regular mustard will also do.

Put it all in the cast iron pot and slow cook until the chicken is done.

This recipe came out of a crock pot cookbook, so it can be done in a crock pot too.

Someone suggested it be done with a whole chicken.

You would either have to inject the marinade, or use a LOT of soy sauce!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reducing all your cookware to just cast iron?

I was in an online discussion earlier, about reducing ALL of your cookware to cast iron.

Is it possible? Is it practical?

Well, I've just about got it, actually. There actually are a few pieces I have that are not cast iron:

1. One rectangular pyrex pan, for turkey or whole chicken prep.

You need a pan to defrost turkey or whole chicken in the fridge, to catch the juices; Cast iron isn't practical for that due to rust issues.

Then I cut, rub, and season in the pyrex pan, before transferring to a large skillet for roasting.

2. One 3 quart stainless steel saucepan, for boiling stuff.

I would NOT boil beverages, or water for drinking purposes in cast iron, because the seasoning dissolves into the water. That makes me gag, just thinking about it.

Boiling in cast iron doesn't have any effect on the flavor, as it does with other cooking methods.

I used to use it for plain, unseasoned white rice, until I started using the electric rice cooker.

3. One pasta pot with a perforated lid, for plain, unseasoned pasta.

You could cook pasta or white rice in cast iron, as long as you use broth instead of water.

Otherwise, the seasoning in the pot will affect the flavor, and it will no longer be "plain and unseasoned".

4. One stainless steel turkey fryer pot. There are no cast iron turkey fryer pots.

Turkey frying pots have to be large enough to completely immerse the whole turkey in hot oil without dangerous spillovers, and slender, to save expensive peanut oil.

5. One stainless steel steamer pot, not that I steam much anyway.

It has a double boiler insert-- not that I double boil much anyway!

Steaming in cast iron doesn't have any effect on the flavor either. I find steamed food bland.

6. A couple of microwavable bowls, since you can't microwave in cast iron.

That's it! Everything else is cooked in cast iron.

But what about cake pans? Bake cake in a skillet! Sure they'll be round and not square, who cares?

I recommend one enameled pot, for making jam and scratch tomato sauce.

I don't have a crawfish boiling pot. Those are minimum 80 quarts with a drain basket.

But if I did, it would be stainless steel because there are no cast iron crawfish boiling pots either.

I wish I still lived in a place where I could get crawfish to boil. But I don't, so can't justify getting one.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

seriously, hot dogs boiled in coca cola?

I saw a picture on facebook of someone boiling hot dogs in coca cola, in a cast iron pot.

And I thought, seriously, hot dogs boiled in coke? Nevertheless, I had to try it.

But I was sacrilegious... I used a stainless steel pot instead of cast iron. Why?

Because it leaves a very sticky substance on your pot.

And I didn't feel like scrubbing sugary, sticky stuff off my cast iron today.

Besides, boiling in cast iron has no effect on the food flavor, as frying or roasting does.

You simply boil the hot dogs until the coca cola has evaporated.

I stopped when there was about 1/3 of it left, but it could have kept going.

They tasted like, well, hot dogs. That were boiled in coca cola.

After letting them sit for a while in the thickened coca cola, I tried another one and it had a sweet flavor.

You can cut the hot dogs in pieces, and cut slits on each end, before boiling. It lets the flavor seep in.

I bet ribs would be good roasted in coca cola.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fifth recipe created by me: Bacon salmon

This recipe was created by me this evening, part by necessity: Bacon salmon.

See, after scorching the bottom of my camp oven dish last night, I wanted to fry some bacon in my 12 inch camp oven to help re-season it.

So I was planning to have a "breakfast for dinner" night, in which I would serve eggs and bacon and toast, and maybe pancakes too if I felt like it.

But my other half wanted salmon, so he asked if I could make something with salmon AND bacon.

I thought that sounded kind of weird, but wasn't opposed to the idea.

The result was the fifth recipe created by me, which is Bacon salmon.

It's very simple: You season a salmon fillet with black pepper and spray with olive oil Pam.

Bake it in the oven at 350. While it's baking in the oven, fry some bacon on the stove.

Put the cooked bacon over the salmon fillet, and serve.

Alternatively, you can wrap the raw bacon around the salmon and bake it in the oven at 350.

But, I wanted to fry the bacon, so that's what I did.

Volcano Stove 101, for Dummies

This is a volcano stove.

I've written several articles about the volcano stove, as I've been using it and trying to learn about it.

If you search the internet, you'll find a lot of hype, but very little real practical info.

What is available, tends to be ambiguous, and as I discovered, very frustrating for the beginner.

So this article is meant to be a compilation of practical information that I've learned, based on my recent experiences, that is not found anywhere else.

First, as is widely known, the volcano stove can be used with wood, charcoal, or propane.

It can be used as a grill, or as a stove, using all three types of fuel.

You can take the top grill off and set a wok in it, for stir frying.

There is a "vent" you can open or close. Closing the vent reduces heat. Right is open, left is closed. It's the opposite of "righty tighty, lefty loosy".

If you want to use wood, be sure the pieces are cut to less than 12 inches so they'll fit.

If you want to use charcoal, be sure you put the CENTER PLATE* in place, and put the coals on that. If you don't, it will not get hot enough.

*I know the manual says to put the coals on the bottom-- Don't. It will NOT get hot enough.

This applies whether you are stir frying, grilling, using as a stove, or dutch oven cooking.

If you want to use propane, do NOT use the center plate, for grilling or stir frying.

Only if you're using it as a stove, and want lower heat. The center plate diffuses and reduces heat.

DO NOT use propane for dutch oven cooking. It does not work.

Only use coals for dutch oven cooking. Put coals on the CENTER PLATE, and the pot* over the coals.

*If your pot does not have legs to hold it over the coals, then use a trivet.

Because the volcano is more energy efficient, you won't need as many coals.

Use about 80% less coals than the traditional coal chart, subject to your altitude.

That's a rough estimate; Unfortunately there is no "volcano coal chart". There needs to be.

You have to use an infrared thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust the coals accordingly.

Use 2/3 on top, and 1/3 on bottom. Ignore the claims about "no top heat." Yes, you do need it.

There is a "middle grill", sold separately, which can go in the same place as the center plate.

There is also a "volcano lid", sold separately, which is a "tent" that allows for convection cooking.

If I can come up with any more helpful info, I'll post it here.

But hopefully, this will give you a good start.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

camp oven cooking using propane-- don't do it

I originally got the volcano stove, intending to use it for camp oven cooking, using propane.

I don't know if it's recommended for that use or not, but, no one has said you couldn't.

So I tried it for the first time tonight.

In a previous post, I pointed out that you need the center plate, in order to support the camp oven over the propane burner.

I was concerned that it would make the temperature too low, since the center plate reduces heat.

I very quickly realized, that wasn't the issue at all-- it got plenty hot enough.

In fact, I was unable to bring the temperature down!

I constantly monitored with my infrared thermometer and it got progressively hotter.

I tried closing the vents (right is open, left is closed-- the opposite of righty tighty lefty loosy).

I tried turning the needle valve down on the regulator.

Both steps helped temporarily, but the temperature climbed back up again.

Another thing I noticed was that there was significantly more heat on the bottom, than on the top.

For camp oven cooking, you normally use more heat on top to create the "oven" effect.

I finally had to turn it off because it was starting to burn on the bottom.

The meat was undercooked, which since it was beef, was OK because I like medium rare.

If it were chicken or pork, it would not have been edible.

I conclude that, with the propane burner, you cannot get the temperature low enough to do the "slow cooking" that camp oven recipes require.

It works fine as a propane stove, and would be fine for stir frying using propane.

But camp oven cooking over propane, I absolutely do not recommend.

The recipe I used was a souped up version (literally-- no pun intended) of flank steak and onion sauce.

I melted butter in the camp oven, browned pieces of chuck roast* in the butter.

*chuck roast is cheaper than flank steak, so I used that.

Then added canned potatoes, chopped onions, minced garlic, cream of onion soup diluted in milk.

This time I added Lipton onion soup mix. Hence, literally a "souped up" version.

You can use the volcano for camp oven cooking using coals.

You just need different amounts of coals than you normally would, if you weren't using the volcano.

And, if you have the time and patience to teach yourself this whole new system, more power to you.

I'm still learning the traditional method of coal cooking, myself, and I think I'll stick to that.

I will still use the volcano as a propane stove.

It's a very useful propane stove, even though I already had one. So, now I have two.

And I will still use it as a portable charcoal grill, even though I have a Lodge charcoal grill.

So, now I have two charcoal grills.

And I will still use it to stir fry outdoors, when and if I decide to stir fry outdoors again.

Although that wasn't what I originally got it for.