Monthly Archives: September 2013


Crazy But Good

So it’s football season again. I get a little obsessed with “tailgate food” right about now. Until I get obsessed with Halloween. In any case, I’ve been dreaming of bacon-wrapped hot dogs. No, I don’t know why, other than I am entranced by bacon ANYTHING. We accidentally candied some bacon last year, which was amazing, so I made some more and threw it into some classic chocolate chip cookies, which were about the best thing ever. But you can’t live on cookies, so I decided to branch out with the bacon.

There’s not much to this recipe — wrap some bacon around some hot dogs (I’d skip the lowfat turkey kind) and grill gently until the bacon is crispy and the hot dog is splitting open. Slap it on a bun and you’ve got some Man Catchin’ Crazy But Good Dawgs. Except I already have a man and do not need anymore, thank you very much.

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs on the Grill

16+ wooden toothpicks, soaked for an hour in water
Eight meat hot dogs
Eight slices bacon (the cheap thin kind)
Eight soft potato buns
Selection of mustards, barbecue sauce, or dipping sauces

Wrap a slice of bacon diagonally around each hot dog, securing at each end with a toothpick.


Slowly grill over a moderate heat until the bacon fat has rendered off, the bacon is crispy, and the dogs are starting to split open. You may need to move your dogs to the cooler or indirect side of your grill. This may take a while. Drink a beer.

Serve on soft potato rolls with a selection of sauces. The CGP had a smoky barbecue sauce. I went with a sweet Thai chili dipping sauce.


Dark and Stormy

Dark and Stormy

A couple of years ago, I found myself down at the beach shack all by myself (a rare occurrence in those days). My friends John and Janice invited me up to their cliff-side cottage for crabs and stuff (it was early fall, I think, because we were still getting local corn). I’d already eaten dinner of some sort by myself (darn!), so I wasn’t up for picking crabs, BUT, they had put romaine lettuce on the grill and served it with blue cheese dressing and chopped bacon. New obsession! I must have eaten 2 heads of that! (grilled romaine is a post for another day)

We got to talking about mojitos, and they managed to round up enough white rum for me to make us a pitcher. There were several of us, so that went pretty fast. John then asks if I’d like to try a Dark and Stormy. I have no idea what that is, and he explains it’s the national drink of Bermuda and is made with black rum. I’m immediately suspicious — I’m not the biggest fan of dark liquor — but I cautiously agree to try one. OMG — what an amazing drink! This rum drink seems a little more in tune with the changing season than my summery mojito. It’s still beachy and fizzy but with its golden caramel color and definite punch of ginger, it really does suit the autumn palate. Thank you, John!

SAMSUNGDark and Stormy
As poured by John and Janice

1 part black rum (I use Gosling’s Black Seal)
2 parts ginger beer (I use Gosling’s)
Lime wedges

Fill a tall glass with chipped[*] ice. Add the rum and ginger beer. Squeeze in a lime wedge or two. Gently stir. Consume with gusto!


  • Do NOT substitute ginger ale for the ginger beer. Different products altogether (ginger ale is a soft drink; ginger beer is a fermented beverage).
  • This translates well to a pitcher — just squeeze in an appropriate number of lime wedges


[*] update: Janice says the ice must be chipped, not whole ice cubes!


Fish Tacos with Pickled Shallots and Jalapeno

I grew up eating ALOT of fried fish. My people are Southern, fish was plentiful and cheap, and frying made a modest mess of catfish go a little further in a hungry family. While I’m more likely to lightly saute or bake fish these days, sometimes, it’s nice to indulge in the crispy-goodness that only frying can provide.

I prefer peanut oil for frying, but I will also use canola. In my opinion, you get better “color” and flavor with the peanut oil. I’m convinced it’s the saturated fats :). Peanut oil is more expensive, so I tend to only buy it when I know I’m going to use it and use it all (I had some go rancid which just chaps me). I always have canola around as a neutral baking and salad oil, so I’m willing sacrifice some color for the cost and convenience factor. I don’t use corn oil — I think it gives an off flavor. Melted Crisco is divine for fried chicken, but again, I just don’t use enough of it in other venues to keep it around much.

So I had some leftover corn tortillas in the fridge and was thinking about tacos. It was still pretty hot, so I was thinking fish over the usual beef. I have had lovely fish tacos with grilled fish, but you know, I wanted the fried kind. I didn’t want to go with a traditional Southern cornmeal batter — I wanted something lighter — so went with a tempura-style batter instead. My secret — use a lemon-lime seltzer rather than plain seltzer or club soda. Adds that little “something something” without overpowering the clean fresh flavor of the fish.

Serve this tempura-style fried fish in crispy corn taco shells with plain greek yogurt and pickled shallots and jalapeno. Cilantro leaves would be a nice garnish as well. And hard to go wrong with an accompanying margarita.

Tempura-Style Battered Fish

Canola oil
3/4 to 1 pound filet of firm white fish, like cod
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup PLUS 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup lemon-lime seltzer

Pour about 1″ of canola oil into a heavy-bottomed skilled and heat. I set my electric burner just past medium (sorry — didn’t take the oil temperature — but you are aiming for about 350 or so).

Choose a filet that is fairly uniform in thickness – if necessary, cut away the thinner portion near the tail and use for another dish. Salt and pepper the filet on both side, using your fingers to lightly press the seasoning into the fish. Cut the fish into “fingers” roughly the width of the filet’s thickness.

Put 1/2 cup of flour in a shallow dish. This is Dredge Station #1.

Whisk together 1 cup of flour and the baking powder in a medium bowl. Whisk in the seltzer water until the batter is smooth. This is Dredge Station #2.

Once you know your oil is hot — drop a little batter in there and see if it sizzles — take each seasoned fish piece and dredge in the flour, ensuring ALL sides get a light coating of flour. Gently shake off the excess. Then, take each piece and run through the batter, ensuring no dry flour is showing. IMMEDIATELY place the battered piece into the hot oil. Move quickly — you want to get four or five pieces in the oil so they can all come out at the same time. Do NOT overcrowd the pan. Cook until golden brown on the first side, flip over, then cook until golden brown on the second side. Remove to drain on a paper towels. Salt lightly if desired. Continue with small batches until all of the pieces are fried off.



Quick Pickled Shallots and Jalapeno

1 large-ish shallot, sliced thin
1 large-ish jalepeno, sliced thin, most of the seeds and membrane discarded
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a microwave-safe container (I used my trusty 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup). Bring to a boil — will take just a minute or two. Stir to ensure all the sugar and salt is dissolved — but BE CAREFUL — this is HOT! Carefully transfer the shallots and jalepeno to the brine. Let set at room temperature until cool. Use immediately or refrigerate up to a week (my educated guess — discard if it looks or smell funky — this brine isn’t as acidic or salty as some).



How pretty!!

So on a recent Sunday evening, we were having breakfast for dinner. I was planning to whip up some buttermilk biscuits (reminds me, I need to do a post on them), fry off some green tomatoes (also blogworthy), toss some leftover steak in a sizzling hot pan, and scramble up some eggs. But what to drink alongside this feast?

Wine, even sparkly wine, wasn’t right. Mimosas and bloody marys seemed too breakfast-y. The CGP prefers tequila, but margaritas were too aggressive. And then I thought of a Tequila Sunrise! I googled to confirm my recollection – three simple ingredients! I was popping over to the store for neutral cooking oil, so it was easy enough to grab some OJ too.

The Tequila Sunrise is a really pretty drink. The secret is grenadine syrup … I have it on hand to make my lemonade pink. This drink needs to be made by the glass, so not a pitcher candidate, but definitely one to add to your repertoire.

Tequila SunriseSAMSUNG
Serves 1

1/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grenadine syrup


Fill a rocks or old-fashioned glass with ice. Add the tequila and orange juice and stir briefly. Gently pour the grenandine syrup over the top — DO NOT STIR — it will gently settle to the bottom of the glass. Serve. You may stir **after** you’ve admired it :)





Easy Weeknight Shrimp Paella

I have a fabulous paella recipe that takes ME about 2 hours to make. There are 3 kinds of meat to be cooked off sequentially (bacon, chorizo, and bone-in chicken thighs), shellfish to be cleaned/prepped (shrimp, clams, mussels, squid), plus aromatics and vegetables to mince/chop/slice (garlic, shallot, onion, red peppers, peas). I think there might be some wine in there somewhere too. Eventually it all goes in giant roasting pan (I don’t have a proper paella pan) to cook off in the oven. The end result is amazing and perfect for a crowd, especially in cool weather, but quite the production for me to pull off. I only psych myself up for it about once a year.

Last winter, I stumbled on a couple of less-complicated vegetarian paella recipes in the Washington Post. Unlike my more traditional recipe, these kick-start the cooking on the stovetop and then finish off in the oven, AND, they had far fewer ingredients and were for a much smaller portion-size (they were part of a “Cooking for One” column). I ended up doubling the rice and stock and added shrimp, aiming to feed two hungry omnivores.


Weeknight Shrimp Paella
Inspired by recipes published Dec 2012 in the Washington Post
Serves 2- 3 as a meal, 4 – 6 as a first course

1 pound shrimp, peeled, be-headed, deveined (Save the shells! See note below)
2 cups homemade shrimp stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken brothSAMSUNG
Pinch of saffron
Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2/3 cup Arborio rice (uncooked)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 roasted red pepper, cut into thin strips
Shredded parmesan cheese

Put the stock and the saffron in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and heat in the microwave until steaming but not boiling. Season with salt to taste (go easy, there’s bacon and shrimp to come).

Put the olive oil and bacon pieces into a warm oven-proof 10″ skillet and bring slowly up to medium. Cook the bacon until it is crispy and the fat rendered off. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and put it on a paper towel to drain.

Preheat your oven to 400F.



Add the shallots to the fat and cook until soft. Add the rice and stir to ensure each grain is coated with fat. Add the hot stock and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until most but not ALL of the stock is absorbed, maybe 6 to 10 minutes (it should look soupy).



Add the peas and pull from the stovetop. Arrange your shrimp over the top of the rice — nestling them slightly into the rice. Arrange the pepper strips across/between the shrimp. Put the pan into the oven and cook until the shrimp are done and the rice has absorbed all the liquid, probably 6 to 10 minutes.


Pull from the oven and let sit on the counter for about five minutes to rest. Scoop into bowls and garnish with the reserved, crumbled bacon or parmesan cheese (or both)!


We drank prosecco with a splash of creme de cassis (’cause it’s such a pretty color!).


Note: I buy frozen shrimp, 21/25 count (a versatile bite-size), in a 2-lb bag for $9.99 or $10.99, on sale. I usually use half a bag at a time — just close up the remainder really tight and use another time. They have been beheaded and deveined, but I have to peel. Throw the peel in a saucepan with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns and add water just to cover the shells. Heat over medium heat to a gentle simmer, turn down, and let it cook for 15 minutes or so. The shells will turn pink and the stock will turn a rich golden color. Let cool in the saucepan, then strain. I usually add a touch of water to bring it to a 2-cup or 3-cup total volume, then freeze in 1-cup or 2-cup portions. I don’t add salt — the shells contribute some — and I’d rather salt the final dish than the stock. I use this stock in risotto, paella, and gumbo. Should keep about 6 months in the freezer.



A new “toy” for the kitchen!

I know Tuesday’s are normally a beverage posting, but I got a new kitchen appliance over the weekend and I just wanted to share my first successes with it!

I’ve always been a minimalist, small appliance-wise. I have always had tiny kitchens with hardly any storage or counter-top space. And I don’t like clutter on my counter-tops. The coffeepot always has a place (I don’t function without my morning hit), and well, you have to tuck the microwave somewhere because it’s too heavy to put away every day. I’ve got a toaster (can be put away), a mini-chopper (can be put away), and a hand mixer (can be put away). Last fall, I finally splurged on a full-size Kitchen-Aid stand mixer after YEARS of deliberation. It sits on the counter and as it turns out — it doesn’t really get in the way. Also, with it out, I’m more likely to use it!

I have struggled with pie crust for 30+ years. My mother and grandmothers made amazing pie crusts, so this feels like a personal failing. Yes, they made them by hand. In un-air-conditioned kitchens. With oil. After reading a zillion cookbooks and watching a million cooking shows and consulting personally with known pie crust masters, it really comes down to, I needed a food processor. So this weekend, I made the MOMENTOUS decision to go buy one. The bread machine has been relegated to the beach house and the food processor has taken it’s place. I am so psyched!

So what was the first thing I made? PIE of course! I made these little sweet potato handpies with an all-butter dough. The dough was tender and flaky — if a little thick (that’s a rolling issue not a recipe issue). It was an amazing first attempt at dough in the food processor! I have a second disc in the fridge waiting to be turned into something else, maybe a free form apple pie.

The other thing I made was pimento-and-cheese dip. I am lazy, so I usually buy cheese pre-shredded in bags. But for this dip, I knew I didn’t want the cornstarch-coating that pre-shredded cheese tends to have — I needed to shred myself. Guess what a food processor has — shredding discs! So I shredded up my cheddar and pepper jack like a champ! The dip rocks — so much better than anything I’ve bought at the store. It was hard not to eat it all right after making it! I’ll do a full post on this dip later — it is truly blogworthy :)


Dessert from the grill …

I think the heat wave finally broke, but it still seemed too hot to cook. We were having guests over this weekend so Keith threw a small (6 lb) Boston Butt on the grill for a 9-hour smoke into pulled-pork-palooza. I steamed some yellow and green squash and heated up some (canned) baked beans, so the stove got used a bit but not much. Frozen pineapple margaritas for the big people and mango limeade for the little people. For dessert, he and a munchkin had hit the farmer’s market and brought home mangoes and apricots, so I had the base for a fruit crisp, if not the fortitude to actually turn on the oven.

Recently I ran across a Heather Christos post for a Peach Coconut Almond Cobbler that looked divine. Taking her flavor profiles as inspiration, I assembled a MUCH more rustic crisp that we “baked” on the grill after the meat was pulled and we were eating dinner. I think we all agreed it was a hit!


Tropical Fruit Crisp

3 mangoes, peeled and cut into rough chunks (pits discarded)
8 – 10 apricots, washed and cut into rough chunks (pits discarded)
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon “baking” spice mix
1/2 – 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 – 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/2 – 2/3 cup oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried, sweetened coconut

Prepare a 7″ x 11″ pan by spraying liberally with baking spray.

Mix the fruit, cornstarch, granulated sugar, and “baking” spice mix in a large bowl. Spread in the prepared baking pan.

SAMSUNGPut the flour in a wide shallow bowl, like a soup bowl. Use your fingers to smear the butter into the flour until it is pea-sized (you aren’t going for “sand” like you would for biscuits). Put that in a large bowl and lightly toss with the oats, brown sugar, almonds, and coconut. Spread this over the fruit. Put on your grill (or in your oven) until the fruit is bubbling frantically at the edges and the topping is lightly browned (our grill was at ~ 300F for probably 40 minutes or so). I ran mine under the broiler for like 2 minutes just to add a touch more color. Serve with vanilla ice cream.




I put the Trader Joe’s Ice Cream in this photo because it was a TRUE half-gallon container! Has anyone else noticed the ice cream containers shrinking?


And now for something completely different …

Grapefruit soda + beer … those crazy German brewmeisters are GENIUS.

I found this in a liquor store near my parents’ (small town in Missouri). Unlike here in Virginia, when they have customer sampling, they offer wine, beer, and spirits (oh my!). So I gave this a skeptical taste — and decided it was really really good. You can tell you are drinking beer (“malt beverage” ?), but the citrus is as strong as the beer. Nice level of fizziness. Fairly low alcohol (3% or so), so it’s refreshing rather than intoxicating. I brought some home for the CGP, who drank his after mowing the lawn. It’s THAT kind of refreshing.

Let me know if you find it and what you think.