Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Savannah Red Rice

I know that I have confessed my love for Anthony Bourdain on this blog before. In fact, I think we all have. All the LadyGirls love Bourdain. What’s not to love? He’s a mega-babe, right? Plus, he cooks. AND drinks. AND tells Rachel Ray to f*ck off. So, I’m down with his style in life.
But, now I am also in love with David Chang and Sean Brock. Because they ALSO cook. And drink (bourbon, specifically). AND probably also find Rachel Ray as offensive as I do. And they are all on the best show to ever come on television, Mind of a Chef. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. It’s on Netflix. You can spend all your free time this weekend watching the genius that is Bourdain narration and Chang/Brock hosting. It’s also on PBS. So, you can support your public broadcaster while you do it. (I realize these last two paragraphs were borderline obsessive, so I kind of don’t want any of these men to read this blog because I won’t look cool, I’ll just look thirsty. But on the other hand, call me, David Chang).

The second season is really amazing, because it focuses specifically on Lowcountry cooking. One episode in particular features a giant pig barbecue and a dinner outside, which basically sounds like the most fun party to ever happen. Chef Steven Satterfield is featured in this episode for his Savannah Red Rice, which made my mouth water the first time I watched it (and maybe every time subsequently).

This brings me to my other current excitement, a challenge I set for myself for the month of May. Last year, several people I know, including one of the LadyGirls, bought into a community farm box to receive fresh produce for the summer. Super great idea, but slightly overwhelming in terms of cooking, particularly if you aren’t familiar with some of the vegetables you’re getting in the box. I was hashing out this particular challenge with a friend of mine, who had lived in Sweden for a while. He said that when he received his box in Sweden, it also came with a recipe book and meal plan for the week to utilize everything in the box. This was brilliant, in my mind. So, building on that, I decided to challenge myself to use something I’ve never cooked with each week in May. How exciting is that for a spring eating challenge? So fun, right?

As I was inspired by the Mind of a Chef episode, and because my condo neighbours don’t seem like the types to want to roast a whole pig in the courtyard, I decided to use okra as this week’s vegetable. I love eating okra, but I’ve never cooked with it. Now that I’ve used it though, I’ll be incorporating it in regularly. This red rice was amazing. My house has never smelled so good! But, be warned- this is probably not a weeknight dinner, unless you do a lot of prep ahead of time. It requires a fair amount of flavour-layering, and therefore there are a lot of steps. Find the full recipe here, but here’s what I did.
Start with a pot and sauté a mirepoix (that’s just French for celery, onions, and carrots, but we’re fancy here) in a good amount of butter and bacon fat (you do drain your bacon fat into a cup in your freezer, right?) But you’re actually not going to add carrots; you’re going to add two cloves of chopped garlic instead. Let that get soft, and then add a can of diced tomatoes, not drained. Also add a splash of apple cider vinegar, chilli flakes, 2 cups of chicken stock, salt, pepper, two bay leaves, and a spoonful of dried thyme. Let that simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Sometimes you have to improvise.
Get out your best cast iron pan. Add more bacon fat and butter to that, then toast two cups of a long grain rice (a southern one, if you don’t live in Canada and shop at Food Basics, in which case you’ll just use rice). Once it’s opaque, add four cups of the tomato mixture, and cover. As with any cooking rice, don’t peek. Don’t lift the lid. (YOU’LL RUIN EVERYTHING). Just time it for 25 minutes. Then turn of the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. STILL do not lift the lid. 

When the rice just starts to simmer, get another pan out. (I told you this was many steps). Add the remaining tomato mixture to your pan, and then add your sausage. I used a nice dried hot salami, but Andouille would be more authentic. That can simmer gently until those five minutes that the rice stands. Add your okra and raw shrimp in at that moment, and let them cook until just pink. (Never overcook your shrimp- they’ll be like Pink Pearl erasers in your dish if you do that.)

Finally, mix it all together. Top with chopped parsley leaves and chives. Barbecued pig and southern beer optional but strongly advised.

Want to take the new veggie a week challenge with us? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tequila Lime Shrimp with Mint

There is an obsession about “easy” food. Everyone wants convenience (which is why we buy meals in partitioned plastic) and of course, they would ideally like it to be healthy too. But it isn’t. Healthy food takes time; there is no drive-thru for balanced meals without processing, preservatives, and enough sugar to permanently damage your pancreas. Of course, generally convenience wins over health, despite our brains and bodies knowing better.

If you own a food television network, you are aware of this dichotomy.  You then might be likely to fill your network slots with either food competition shows, or shows featuring home cooking which promises to offer food in thirty minutes or less. Today I watched an episode with a woman who lives on a ranch and has a best friend named “Hyacinth”.  She was going on a road trip with her two daughters, and therefore her husband couldn’t be trusted to then feed their other two children without supervision. She made a bulk amount of breakfast burritos, with 24 (TWENTY-FOUR!) eggs, cream, bacon AND sausage, cheese, and a pepper or two. She also pre-grated cheese for the burritos, lest someone have to shred cheese all by themselves. Then she says, “I also got whole wheat tortillas, so it’s a little healthier!” OH WELL THEN.

Not trusting her husband to then assay said burritos might be served hot, rather than directly from the fridge, she wrote instructions on how to heat up the burritos on a post-it note, and then stuck it ON the Tupperware. Guess what it said? “Put eggs in the microwave. Heat until hot. Warm tortilla in the microwave. Warm. Wrap with cheese and salsa.” She also made pasta with sauce for her husband to serve for dinner. These also received heating instructions, stuck to the container. Somewhat more complex, these said, “Top pasta with sauce. Heat for two minutes (or until hot.)” Two steps, one post-it. As soon as she got in her big, red, shiny pickup, guess what her husband served their boys? The handmade ice cream sandwiches she had prepared for dessert. Granted, those did not come with instructions so were considerably less intimidating, likely.

This is not to say that easy food cannot be healthy- it can be. It can even be flavourful! Take for example the tequila-lime shrimp I made for my sister’s birthday last weekend. This was so easy, and they were a huge hit. (Much more of a hit than the boozy caipirinhas  I made.)

Start with a pound of peeled, raw shrimp. Marinate them in a bar or a bowl with a quarter cup of olive oil, two teaspoons (or more) of tequila, juice of two limes, a hefty scoop of cumin, a hefty scoop of cayenne, and some minced/pureed garlic. Let them marinate for 1-4 hours, then put them on skewers. Grill for three minutes a side, and then top with chiffonaded fresh mint. Serve hot. Never microwave.  Also, never trust someone named “Hyacinth”.

Let us know your favourite healthy and easy dish in comments below!