Thursday, November 29, 2012

Florida Stone Crab Claws w/ Creamy Mustard Sauce

Florida stone crab claws are one of my FAVORITE treats. The claws are considered a delicacy, and are actually a somewhat renewable resource. One or both claws can be harvested from a live crab; after being returned to the ocean, the crab will regrow the claws. The claws are ENORMOUS, with little black tips; the meat inside is sweet, delicate and incredible succulent.

Stone crab season runs from October 15 through May 15, and, by law, the claws must be sold pre-cooked. Luckily, if you're fortunate enough to find some stone crab claws, the preparation is SUPER easy, since the meat has already been cooked. You can even order them online, from the famous restaurant, Joe's Stone Crab

I got my claws from A&V Seafood Market in Huntsville (for anyone who wants to go there, it's in Hampton Cove, off Cecil Ashburn Dr, in the little strip/shopping center with I Love Sushi and Bicycle Works). Stone crab claws are typically sold frozen and are served cold, so all you have to do is thaw them out! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quick & Easy Chicken 'N Dumplings

I've posted a recipe for chicken & dumplings before. However, most people don't have time to poach the chicken, make the broth, cook down the veggies, and still make the dumplings from scratch. I totally get that; I work full-time and run 4-5 days per week, so I can't always spend hours on dinner either! 

However, I just CAN'T live without chicken & dumplings. Especially today, when I woke up to cold miserable weather, sore calves, and a massive craving for comfort food.  

There are plenty of shortcut recipes out there. Most used canned biscuit dough, the flaky layered kind, cut into little squares. You can also buy frozen dumplings in most grocery stores - Mary B's is a brand that I see pretty often. These dumplings, though, are made from scratch...this is STILL a shortcut recipe, since the dumplings are REALLY easy to prepare. If you can make pie crust dough, you can make these dumplings. You don't even have to worry about having too much flour, since that's what gives the dish that creaminess and thick texture! There are also no veggies in this version, which is how TRUE Southerners eat their chicken & dumplings. The bowl should be a thick, almost gruel-like broth, packed with chewy, pillowy dumplings, and a hearty serving of chicken. 

Other shortcuts include using pre-packaged chicken broth, and rotisserie chicken from the deli. I can make this dish in about 30 minutes; I bring the broth to a boil while making the dumplings, and cut up the chicken while stirring the dumplings in the broth. Easy! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chocolate Pretzel Turtles

Unlike a lot of people, I'm not really scared by candy-making. Fudge? Easy. Caramels? Been there, done thatPralines? Ok, you get the point...

Candies are GREAT for the holiday season; make candy and bring it to potlucks, parties, or office get-togethers. Package them in cute little boxes and you have an inexpensive homemade gift. If you have kids, homemade candies will give them a lifetime of holiday memories

No time for candymaking? Terrified of bubbling, 200°+ sugar syrup? Just want something EASY? How about turtles? 

Turtles have been around for nearly 100 years - basically, a turtle is a pecan, chocolate and caramel candy that gets its name from the fact that the shape of the dipped candy resembles a turtle. Typically, 2-4 pecan halves are on the bottom, then topped/glued together with caramel, then all dipped in chocolate. They're incredibly tasty, but making caramel from scratch, then melting/tempering chocolate can sometimes be a bit much for most people. 

Luckily, this version is MUCH easier. Since I have a ton of pecan halves leftover from pie-making, I knew that this would be a perfect candy to make for a few upcoming holiday parties I'll be attending.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Ultimate Leftover Thanksgiving Sandwich

Remember that episode of Friends, where Ross' boss eats his leftover Thanksgiving sandwich (the "Moistmaker") and he goes crazy? I TOTALLY GET THAT. Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches are one of the GREATEST treats ever. 

Well, I have a pretty huge bag of Cajun-fried turkey leftover from Thanksgiving, and I don't really feel like using it up for soup or chili. Instead, I just want a GOOD turkey sandwich. Most people who know me well know how much I love a Thanksgiving-style sandwich (the "Thanksgiving" is my usual sandwich at Roly Poly). 

This sandwich though? My Iron Bowl halftime sandwich? This sandwich just WINS. Bonus: If you want to make everyone at work jealous, you can make this sandwich the night before - just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then enjoy at work a midst a sea of stinkeye.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie


I know. I promise this is the last pie recipe. I promise I've got some GREAT stuff coming up  (like stone crabs! boozy dranks! taco bell copycats!) soon, especially since my dad surprised me with an entire goat leg, gifted to him from a coworker, who raises and slaughters her own. Thank goodness for my chest freezer! 

Most people, when they think of Thanksgiving desserts, think of pumpkin pie. Maybe pecan pie, depending on how far South you live. Only here in the South, though, do people think about sweet potato pie. Yep, sweet potatoes aren't just for casseroles covered in marshmallows! 

A sweet potato pie is pretty similar to a pumpkin pie, but more velvety/silky and thick (where pumpkin pie is almost like a custard). Also, the flavor is a bit more pronounced compared to pumpkin pie, which I DO like, but always feel as if it is simply a vehicle for pumpkin pie spice. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie

Yeah, I know. Posting a pecan pie recipe for Thanksgiving. REAL original, Julia. 

Everyone has a recipe for pecan pie. Heck, I've already posted a recipe for pecan pie here, albeit in bar form (side note, it's my second-most popular post - thanks, Pinterest!). There are recipes EVERYWHERE, from Southern Living magazine to the labels on Karo corn syrup. The hardest part about making a pecan pie? Finding pecans that don't cost an arm and a leg (psst, go to ALDI)!

However, I like to think that MY pecan pie is the best. Ok, maybe the SECOND best - my Mom makes a MEAN pecan pie, from a secret recipe handed down to her before I was born. And it's GOOD. Almost as good as her cornbread (yes, my 100% Japanese mother makes cornbread that will make any butter-bean and pork-raised Southern boy want to weep). I've got the recipe, but it's not this one. THAT recipe stays in the vault with me (sorry, y'all). 

I will say that this pie ranks a VERY close second, thanks to a super special Southern ingredient...

Butter Pie Crust Dough

(Deep breath) - Ok, I'll admit something shameful. I love pre-made pie crusts. The roll-out kind you get in the refrigerated section next to the canned biscuits, the frozen ones that hang out near the garlic bread and Cool Whip, and even the graham cracker ones. It's not that I don't KNOW how to make a homemade pie crust - it all goes back to my dough phobia/bread anxiety

There are two schools of pie crust; butter crusts and shortening crusts. Well, technically there are THREE schools, since nowadays some folks do a combination of butter AND shortening - the "hybrid" crust, if you will. Personally, I love a good butter pie crust - the butter seems (to me, anyway) to yield a flakier crust, great for fruit pies like apple, or for your standard "fall" pies like pumpkin, pecan and sweet potato. Shortening crusts, in my opinion, work best for pies like chocolate pie, caramel pie, and cream pies

The key to good pie crust? CHILLING. Keep your butter cold. Use chilled bowls. Don't mix everything on the countertop directly above a hot running dishwasher (I made this mistake. TWICE.). Don't overwork the dough - the heat from your hands will also melt the butter too much. 

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, my pie crust recipe actually comes together inside a food processor. I don't have to touch the dough too much, and it always turns out great for me. Plus, this recipe makes 2 single pie crusts (or 1 double-crust), freezes great, and tastes SO much better than the pre-made kind! 

Butter Pie Crust Dough
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks VERY COLD unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
8 Tbsp ice water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor** and pulse until blended. Add the cubed butter and pulse JUST until a coarse meal is formed - the butter bits should be about the size of small peas.

Sprinkle water into the food processor, 1 Tbsp at a time, and pulse until the dough begins to form moist clumps. Pinch some of the dough; if it holds together, it's ready. If not, keep adding water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and pulse again.

Guess who forgot to take pictures of this step? 

**If you don't have a food processor (or don't want to lug it out of the pantry or take it apart into 14564891 pieces to clean it), simply use a large mixing bowl and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two forks. Once the butter cubes are the size of small peas, sprinkle the water over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, and cut with the pastry blender or two forks.**

Turn the "dough" (it should still be a crumbly mixture, not pulled together like a bread dough) out on a work surface. Divide the mound of "dough" and form into 2 balls, working the dough as little as possible; you should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough, which is what makes the dough flaky.

For an EXTRA flaky crust, press the dough crumbles into your work surface with the palm of your hand a few times before forming balls; this flattens the butter into layers, which makes the crust super flaky. Of course, you can always skip this step and still end up with am amazing pie crust!

Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 48 hours.

You can freeze the dough for long-term storage as well; I squeeze out as much air as possible from the dough rounds, wrap TWICE in plastic wrap (the initial wrapping, then a second wrapping). Then, I wrap in foil, and finally place the dough in a freezer bag. It may seem like overkill, but I've yet to have a pie crust ruined by freezer burn. Just make sure you give the frozen crusts plenty of time to thaw before baking!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Miso Ramen (味噌 ラーメン)

TRUE Japanese ramen is miles away from the 10/$1 bricks ubiquitous in college dorms across the country. Typically, there are four primary broths for Japanese ramen: shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork bone, not to be confused with tonkatsu), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso. 

Shio ramen has a light, clear broth, made with lots of salt. Tonkotsu ramen broth is made from pork bones, pork fat and collagen; the stock is boiled for hours, resulting in a thick, cloudy broth. Shoyu ramen broth is clear, but colored brown from the soy sauce. Miso ramen broth is the baby of the group, only having been around for about 50 years; it is quick and easy to make, and has the added benefit of being ALMOST vegetarian-friendly (contains no meat, but it does contain eggs, while the dashi does contain a bit of dried fish). 

I played around with making a miso ramen recipe for a while, finally settling on using vegetable stock (beef or chicken stock is far too strong in flavor) with a pinch of instant dashi granules and a bit of soy sauce for the perfect broth; salty, but with a rich, tangy flavor that is still light and satisfying. Don't fear the miso - I know it LOOKS gross, but seriously, it's amazing stuff. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

French Onion Dip

A few times each year, I get the French Onion craving. I absolutely HAVE to have some French Onion dip and a giant bag of Ruffles (always Ruffles, never Wavy Lays). The salty chips combined with the creamy oniony stank of the dip? PERFECTION. Just don't get your nose too close to my mouth. 

Side note: I get this same insane craving about twice a year for Oreos, which results in me buying a giant pack of Oreos and a gallon of milk, and ends with a massive stomachache.

Usually, when the dip craving hits, I head out to the closest grocery store to pick up some Dean's, or, in a pinch, some Heluva Good. However, if you take the time to make French Onion Dip from scratch, it's absolutely amazing, and honestly not difficult at all. The key is all in the caramelization of the onions; you want to use sweet yellow onions; Vidalias will work, but can sometimes end up TOO sweet. 

Oh yeah, and, as I'm sure you could have guessed, there is NOTHING French about French Onion Dip. It's a totally 'Merican invention.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bulgogi (불고기)

Here in the South, we LOVE us some BBQ. Alabama doesn't have a particular STYLE of BBQ, like, say, North Carolina, Memphis or Kansas City, though we *DO* have our own "white sauce", which I've posted about before

BBQ isn't just an American thing, either. Bulgogi (불고기) is often referred to as "Korean BBQ", though the name literally translates to "fire meat". Thinly sliced meat, usually beef, is marinated, then grilled over a brazier or on a cast iron dome griddle.  If you don't have a Korean griddle, don't worry - a good non-stick frying pan will work, or you can use a flat or ridged cast iron skillet as well. 

The combination of the marinade and the grilling gives the beef a wonderfully smoky yet sweet flavor. You *CAN* buy premade bulgogi marinades at any Asian market, but it's much easier to make it from scratch, PLUS you know EXACTLY what's in your marinade! 

The key to good bulgogi is the meat. Ideally, sirloin or even ribeye is used, preferably a well-marbled piece, sliced wafer thin. Other ingredients such as cellophane or dangmyeon noodles are often added to the cooking sauce, along with enoki mushrooms or bok choy. Bulgogi is also eaten alone, atop rice, wrapped in lettuce with a dab of ssamjang, a spicy pepper paste similar to gochujang, but with soybean added to the pepper. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

The last time I made bread pudding, I went ALL out. There were fruits and booze and challah (which I had to go to several stores just to find!) and a TON of work, but the results were well worth it - my bread pudding was a PERFECT Thanksgiving dessert.

However, that recipe was pretty labor-intensive, and made a TON. We've got a small family; for holiday meals, it's pretty much just me and my parents, and sometimes Chris. So, we usually have to scale things down a bit, or end up with more leftovers than any of us can handle (and I HATE throwing away food, just because we had too much)! So, this year, I decided to go with a simple chocolate croissant bread pudding, which is easy to prepare, super tasty, and, best of all (for us), it fits in a small 8" dish! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Shuizhu Niurou (水煮牛肉), Sichuan Boiled Beef in Fiery Sauce

Everytime I eat at my favorite local Chinese restaurant, Mr. Chen's, I order the E13, "Boiled Beef in Hot Oil". From the description, this sounds like a totally unappetizing dish, but it's absolutely incredible. Spicy, full of flavor and completely addicting, 

A classic Sichuan dish known as shuizhu niurou (水煮牛肉), tender beef is thinly sliced and cooked in a broth, then combined with vegetables stir-fried in a wok with oil and hot dried chilies. The sauce is thickened, MORE spicy, tongue-numbing chili oil is added, and everything is served, typically in a traditional claypot.

Fuchsia's recipe calls for making your own hot chili oil with Szechuan peppercorns and dried chili peppers; I royally messed this up the first time I made this dish. Hot oil spattered EVERYWHERE, and I burnt the peppers and peppercorns to a crisp. So, I decided to use jarred/bottled hot chili oil instead, which turned out GREAT! Even better, this meal can be thrown together in just a few minutes! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of those dishes that doesn't really need a lot of introductions. It's comfort food at its best, perfect for the chilly, yucky (dreary and rainy) weather we've been having lately, and, with a rotisserie chicken shortcut (along with a canned broth and refrigerated pie crust shortcut), easy to prepare. 

Plus, who DOESN'T love chicken pot pie??

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oh, Facebook...

Sigh. Facebook just LOVES to spring those unannounced changes on us, don't they??

Recently, I learned that Facebook has made some changes to their pages. Now, if you have "liked" I Believe I Can Fry on Facebook, you may or may not see my new posts in your news feed. Basically, only about 10-15% of my followers will get to see my posts. If I want more people to see a post, I have to pay Facebook to "promote" my post and page. Me pay Facebook? That's unpossible!

So, if you aren't seeing all of my posts, that's why.

Seriously, I'm too broke to pay Facebook for promotions. This page is just me, cooking and sharing what I prepare. I don't have any sponsors, I'm not getting paid, and the cost of all the groceries and everything comes out of my own pocket. The little bit of ad revenue I DO get (it's NOT a lot, trust me) helps offset the cost of the domain/linked Flickr account

Anyway, back to Facebook. You can TRY to get more of my posts in your feed by going to  my page, clicking on the little gear symbol just to the right of "Like", and selecting "Add to Interest Lists" or "Add to my Favorites". Supposedly, this is supposed to ensure that you won't miss any of my posts, but many other bloggers have noticed that this isn't a guarantee. 

Basically, the only way to GUARANTEE that every Facebook user who has "liked" my page sees all of my posts in their news feed is to pay. 

Luckily, you can skirt Facebook and subscribe to I Believe I Can Fry via RSS Feed or email. With email, you don't need a Reader; I make a new post, you get a new email message. Simple as that.  Just go to the main page and look over to the right, just under the Facebook widget. You won't get spammed; all you'll get from me are new posts! 

I don't have a Twitter account; I tried it a few times, and it's just, eh, not for me. Sorry, y'all. I'll keep linking all of my new posts on the Facebook page, but just know there's other ways to get my posts too! 

- Julia

EASY Pad Thai (ผัดไทย)

Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) is one of, if not THE most popular Thai dishes here in the US. It's a simple dish of stir-fried rice noodles, cooked with eggs in a sauce of fish sauce and tamarind paste, and topped with any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken or tofu. One of Thailand's national dishes, pad thai is easily customizable, and topped with all sorts of goodies - peanuts, cilantro, fresh lime - the possibilities are endless!!

Making pad thai at home can be as easy or as difficult as you make it - the traditional recipes call for hard-to-find ingredients like tamarind paste and fish sauce (ok, so maybe fish sauce isn't THAT hard to find). Shortcut recipes often use a pad thai concentrate paste, which isn't exactly the easiest to source, either! 

This recipe is meatless, but you can simply add thinly sliced grilled chicken or cooked shrimp to the skillet just before adding the rice noodles in order to make this a heartier meal. All of the ingredients can be found in pretty much any grocery store; best of all, this recipe only takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and most of that time is spent on soaking the rice noodles! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Baked Spaghetti with Italian Sausage

I have a really kickass baked ziti recipe, and I've been meaning to share it with y'all for, um, like two years now. I actually thought about making it tonight, but, after doing a quick inventory of the fridge and pantry, I realized I had EVERYTHING to make my baked SPAGHETTI instead. Well, everything except mushrooms - I forgot about the ones in the crisper and they're looking a little liquid

This recipe is actually a lot like my baked ziti recipe; however, this recipe uses a smaller dish, so its PERFECT if you're not feeding a crowd. For us, it feeds two with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. My baked ziti recipe feeds an army, and I can't seem to halve/reduce the recipe and still have it turn out ok. This recipe was PERFECT for the night before the Vulcan Run!!

This is basically everything that is great about spaghetti, lasagna and casseroles, all wrapped up in one incredibly easy to prepare meal.