Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Secret to Mayree's Chicken Salad: Home Made Mayo

This isn't your mama's or grannie's chicken salad (I bet theirs is good!).  It doesn't have eggs or dry mustard or grapes of any color or water chestnuts.  It's my chicken salad with chicken, finely diced celery, pickles, chopped roasted pecans and homemade mayonnaise. That's it, that's all there is to it.

I like to season the chicken very well so it tastes like chicken and not like tuna.  Have you ever eaten someone's chicken salad and thought it was tuna?  Tuna salad is fine but chicken salad that tastes like it is naaaasty.  Lots of folks down here keep all the ingredients except the meat the same between the two sandwich fillings...not something this limited palate enjoys.

Season the chicken with your favorite flavors.  Season it VERY well.

The Pig has boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale this week for $1.18 a pound!  This is one package, a little over five pounds.

I generously use all the seasonings in that photo up there to coat the chicken.  I do that in the sink, by the way.  I'm kinda sorta germophobic.  Chicken can be a major carrier of microbes.  I like to sanitize the sink with bleach before AND after using it.  I don't feel like I can get a container of any sort clean enough to kill all the cooties that might be present in it or on the chicken.  I season all the meats in a sanitized sink.  That's just me and Ben saying:  An ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure.

Life is easier if you plow around the stumps.  Make it so:  line the pan.

Cover and bake however fast or slow you want to.  These are boneless skinless breasts, they'll bake quickly without getting tough.  I covered the chicken with foil and baked at 400 F. for forty minutes (or so).
My oven bakes 'slow,' meaning it's approximately 
twenty-five degrees cooler than the thermostat.

That's the chicken started.  Time to assemble everything else:
Lots of celery, Wickles (wickedly delicious pickles), 
and pecans (at least a cup).

Chop the pecans in your handy dandy pecan chopper like mine.

Put in something oven proof and throw in the oven to roast.

Finely dice celery.
This is four cups of diced celery.  There are no big honkin' chunks,
just delightful little explosive crunches of flavor and texture.

Drain and chop Wickles.  I'm out of home made sweet pickles or I'd use them.  Say no to sweet pickle relish.  It's just not the same.  It's better to not use any pickles at all than to confound the flavors with all that sweet syrupy mustard-seedy funky stuff.
 Wickles are sweet with a nice bite.  I didn't use any black pepper seasoning
the chicken because I knew I was using these.  I didn't use peppercorns
in the mayo for the same reason.  They're spicy!
That's a little more than one cup of diced Wickles.

Are you checking FB and texting and talking?  Did you check the chicken and pecans in the oven?  I did.  They're done.

It's mayonnaise time while these are cooling.
That's apple cider vinegar in the blue wine bottle.  When you're making mayo 
for salads I highly recommend it.  The flavor it gives to the mayo is incredible 
- for salads, that is.  I do not want a tomato sandwich 
made with it, come summer.

The ingredients are a cup of each kind of oil, a slim teaspoon of salt, a packed teaspoon of roasted garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and two very small medium eggs.
You can make it with all one kind of oil but I like this half and half 
combination.  The the two medium eggs are very small.  It'd only take one of 
Perlena's Peculiar Hennie eggs.

I make it in the CuisinArt.  It's very easy!
Those are the eggs well processed and the apple cider vinegar
about to be added.
Vinegar is incorporated and roasted garlic and salt are next.
I like to use roasted garlic in it.  You can use fresh garlic to kick up the flavor
a couple of notches but dispose of it within a couple of days.  Fresh garlic has a low pH;
it doesn't keep well.
Almost there!  Slowly...


That's a little over two cups of home made roasted garlic mayo!

Watch!  I'm going to show you the secret to a wonderful texture for chicken for salad.
 Cut the chicken in chunks that will go through the feeder tube on you food processor.
 Turn the machine on...
 And let gravity do the rest!
 None of it is any thicker than 4 mm.  It's almost perfectly shredded!
 Add the pecans and chicken to celery and Wickles.
 Add mayo and stir to combine.  It's not a super creamy
kind of chicken salad.
 It's crunchy with celery and pecans.  The pecans are unexpected and, being roasted,
lend an incredible bent to the flavor.  And the apple cider vinegar will have you
looking for apples in it, too!

Y'all enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This is probably the best cream cheese pound cake.  Period.  It's creamy and cream cheesy, dense, moist, buttery, and cream cheesy.  I had to put cream cheesy in there twice because the cake has a full pound of cream cheese in it.

It came from the Faith Presbyterian Church cookbook, Recipes and Remembrances.  The recipe is from the kitchen of Mrs. Martha McKay, long-time member of the Presbyterian church, Ladies' Variety Club, and styling Southern women everywhere.  She's the epitome of class, coaching the Junior Miss contestants on manners and propriety.  Don't quote me on it, but I'd swear she was a debutante in her youth.
I made this ingredients-smiley-face just for y'all
'cause having you here is better than sliced bread.

 She's the best small-talk-maker I know, her ease of dismissing a conversation as simple as looking down and away. She's a retired teacher but substitutes quite often.  I understand the youngsters groan to see her walk in the classroom, an expected easy day of loafing in class effectively rearranged into productive school work by her very presence.  

I compared her recipe with a dozen others this afternoon and the only thing really different is the amount of cream cheese.  The ingredients show eight eggs.  These are eight medium eggs that were a bit on the small size for medium.  When substituting medium for large eggs always add one more to the number -- two if they're small like these are.
I love the long loaf pan for this cake.

The cake itself is put together like almost any other pound cake.  The directions say to combine the cream cheese, butter, and sugar.  I like to mix the butter and cream cheese first.

 Did you remember to pan coat the loaf pan?  
Go to the Dollar Tree and purchase a multi-pack of these
cheap cheap economical brushes.  When they get yucky
after a couple of uses and washes, throw them away.  

Add sugar when butter and cream cheese are well mixed, creaming together until **snicker** well creamed together.  If you mix it until it's very light and fluffy something weird happens; there'll be a layer of butter going through the cake after it's baked.  That's not a BAD thing and I don't know exactly why it does this although I bet my nephew could, trained chef that he is.  I'm not professionally trained -- I'm learned!

Alternate adding two eggs to the butter/cream cheese/sugar mixture with the flour.  I try to do it in three additions.  It doesn't always work that way, sometimes the flour blops out or three eggs glop in at once.  It's not rocket science:  alternate the two so there are no big clumps of one or the other in the batter.

Add the vanilla last.
:o(  Almost out of Mexican vanilla...

Pour/spoon into prepared pan.
This is a lot of cake batter, making one very large loaf pan full or
one very large tube cake, or two medium loaf pans.
And that's my batter on the spatula.  nnnnomz...

It goes into a cold oven that's now been set to 250 F.

Find something to do for a while, like two and a half to three hours.
I like to blog, listen to whatever I feel like on Pandora,
lurk on FB, and have something good in the
Waterford (never save the good stuff for a perfect day - 
every day is perfect).

Ding!  Give it the toothpick test when it gets to smelling too delicious to stand.  It's done!  Cool five minutes before turning out.

Did it turn out perfect?  Nope.  The top crust cracked and some of it broke.  I could google it and tell you every single thing done that made this happen.  But I don't have to.  This cake is delicious (not just this cake but this recipe).  Unless you absolutely burn it up, it will be moist, with continuing moistness until it's completely consumed.  It keeps well, covered, on the counter and it freezes better than any other cake made here.  If you've not made a cream cheese pound cake - well - tomorrow's Friday;  it's as good as any reason I know to make one.

The ingredients and instructions per the cook book are:

16 ounces cream cheese
  2 sticks butter
  1 stick margarine (I used three sticks butter -  I can't tell that it makes a lot of difference)
  3 cups sugar
  3 cups plain flour (cake flour makes a slightly less dense cake)
  1/4 teaspoon salt
  6 large eggs
  1 teaspoon vanilla

Set out overnight the cream cheese, butter, margarine, and eggs.  Cream together the cheese, butter, margarine and sugar.  Alternate adding the 2 eggs and 1 cup of sifted flour with salt added until all mixed.  Add vanilla.  Put in sprayed and floured bundt pan.  Bake for 2 1/2 hours at 250 F.  Start in cold oven.  Makes a large cake.

And there you have it and there I did!!!

Y'all enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Skillet Fried Honey Buns: How to Repurpose Mediocre and Dry Prepackaged Pastry to Artery-Clogging-Blood-Sugar-Raising Awesomeness

Fried honey buns.  MMMmmmm...  Mama's cooked these for our breakfast long before I was ever born.  I cooked them for her earlier this week.  
There's no way to make them part of a healthy diet, trust me, I've looked.  There's no way to excuse the refined sugars and animal fats in the dish.  You have to know that you have to cook these at least once in your life.  If you're a fan of Southern cooking, they'll be worth any temporary inconvenience due to adjustment in diet for the week prior to or after the consumption of them.

Mama said she started griddle frying them this way out of the need to feed her boys (really, I wasn't around when she started).  It'd come as no surprise to y'all to find out the entire fambly has a bit of a sweet tooth.  The brothers loved pancakes with syrup and syrup with biscuits and cinnamon toast by the loaf.  Mama says she looked at a honey bun one day in Mr. Maurice's grocery store and knew it could be heated with butter on the griddle for another sweet breakfast food.  I knew Daddy loved Mama but I'm pretty sure it doubled the day she fried the first one.  

Daddy was the littlest person in the fambly with the biggest appetite and worst sweet tooth.  One of his favorite sweets, when a rice or bread pudding couldn't be thrown together, was to open a can of sweetened condensed milk and eat it with a spoon.    He wasn't a big fan of chocolate, though.  I still think I might be adopted: Mama only likes milk chocolate.

Annnnyways.  I'm sticking close to Mama for the next few weeks and months.  We're going to meet with the surgeon about the mini(sternotomy) AVR the 31st of this month.  When I do a food post, it'll be prepped and cooked out at Mama's house on Havard Lane.  She has the good skillets we all want to rip each other's eyes out over  love to cook in.  Some of them were her mother's-in-law, they're just that durable and well-taken care of.

This is the little flat griddle that's seen more action than Chuck Norris (please pardon me, Mr. Norris, I appreciate you letting me live and humbly pay tribute to your actions that are second only to this little griddle).

Fried eggs for sandwiches, pancakes, grilled cheeses, and honey buns are the only things that have ever been cooked on this griddle.   

Add a blop of butter and turn the heat on medium to heat to melt.  There is no measuring.  A blop is whatever little bit is left in the wax wrapper.  It's usually enough.

When the butter is melted, unwrap (duh) a honey bun.  I like to place it on the skillet with the most stickiness down to get a coating of butter and quickly flip it over.

Turn the heat down and let it gently sizzle a little while.  It's okay to pick up the edge to check on the progress of the crunch crust the sweetened bread is beginning to make.

Don't get distracted by the washing machine, mother's telephone ringing incessantly, floor needing sweeping, etc. to check on it often.  I did.  The crust was a bit, uhmmmm, crustier than normal.  I ate the dark one since my taste buds prefer an almost bitter intensity to food (I think it was from all the chemo years ago -- taste buds have never been the same).

Flip it over to melt the glaze and caramelize it a little big and voila:  fried honey buns.  

All you need is a fork.  Y'all enjoy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mama and My Birthday: Nothing is Ever Easy With Mama

It's 9:16 in the morning of my 51st birthday.  They've just taken her back for the first of several procedures.  We don't know exactly what procedures, only that they will or won't show her eligibility to have world-class cutting-edge-technology surgery at Ochsner's Heart and Vascular Institute, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Favorite Child paid for me and Mama to come over Monday evening and stay in Southern Suites Marriott.  There was a ground floor accessible room.

We took it.  Our delight in finding the queen bed squishy comfortable was only dimmed by the affable and warmly friendly staff and easy access back to Ochsner's.

 Easy, that is, once google maps was re-consulted to make sure where we were was where I thought we should be. Joy!  We were closer!  It's amazing what a change in directional course can do for navigation!

Mama didn't eat this morning, her gut instinct of standard-fasting-before-testing proven true.  They're doing an angiogram now, three and a half hours after our arrival here.  We left the hotel at 8:11, arriving here at 8:37, almost an hour before her check-in time.

 "Well, you can never tell about weather or traffic."  I know she wanted to add "or your driving,"  but didn't.  It's my birthday, you know.  Less passive-aggressiveness is her special gift to me today.

This is not an easy trip for her osteo-arthritic bones to make.  Riding jostles her last good nerve that's managed to remain healthy enough to be considered 'good' some fifty years now.  She'll be stiff and stove up for sure going home tomorrow or Thursday afternoon. I'm glad Joe is coming over and she's riding back with him. Favorite Child always has an analgesic effect on that nerve.

She's difficult to live with when she's scared.  She wants me as close as possible here today.  She's glad there's no hotel room tonight.  She told me, "I won't have to be scared with you in the room."

 Scared?  No way...  It's a hospital with real security officers with real guns.  She's scared she will hurt beyond the normal hurts?  No. She's scared she can't be strong without me.

I'd like her healthy enough to not use me as an excuse for any negative thing in her life.  I'd love for her to be healthy enough that I don't use her as an excuse to not excel.  Joseph Heller's Catch 22 is everpresent as I find the very situation that can make my situation better can only make it worse.

Brrrrrr.... At 2:35 I'm sitting in room 309 on the short stay cardiac wing - waiting for Mama!  Some cute creole wearing scrubs and a sweater fetched me from the brightly lit CathLab waiting area to this cave-ish sort of room of maximum efficiency and minimal space.

Reba's come over with specialty birthdaycupcakes
and gumbo!  I had a little of each cupcake (the pralines are my favorite, devil's food with peanut butter cream icing a close second).    The gumbo is pretty good, too,
but I've had better closer to home.

The thermostat was on 68 when I walked in.  It was promptly dialed up to 80.  Mama can't stand the cold.  She's already going to be ill as a hornet from hunger; a cold room would certainly finish off that last remaining nerve.

At 3:30 Dr. Ramee comes in, her blood pressure is dropping, he'd like to put a stent in the coronary artery that's blocked.  He believes it will help.

At 4:30 Dr. Ramee's physician's assistant, Kristen, fetches me and Reba from the room, bringing us around the way, past the darkening walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, to the waiting area of the cardiac care unit.  There was no time for the stent, epinephrine was begun when Dr. Raymee went back to her side at 3:30, her blood pressure continuing to drop to critical levels from an anaphylactic reaction to the contrast used for the angiogram.

It's my concern, my fear, that something will go horribly wrong.  Something will happen and not only will I be left without Mama, I'll be at the end of creative energy.  The last of good deep thoughts will have come and gone and nothing innovative is left.  I'll be one of Those People.  You know the ones.  You shake your head and you say "Poor Thing, what will she do now?"

She has to fit the parameters of the trial study;  has to have this almost non-invasive surgery to fix the aortic stenosis.  We have to live...

And here I am, at 10:28 in the evening of my birth day, thankful to be another year older, even more thankful my mother's at a world class hospital and her cardiologist literally writes the text book on high-risk cardiac care.

It's been something else but I wouldn't expect anything less.  After all, nothing is ever easy with Mama...