Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Firecracker Shrimp

This recipe won the party food contest sponsored by Marx Foods.

The contest attracted 95 entries (including my Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip), and the winning Firecracker Shrimp garnered 353 votes from the readers of the Marx Foods blog.

The Firecracker Shrimp recipe came from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen: Modern Asia.

24 medium tail-on shrimp, shelled (leave tail on) and deveined
1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
1/4 cup (65 ml) water
12 egg roll or fresh spring roll wrappers, cut in half and covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth
Oil, for frying
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet chili sauce , for serving as a dipping sauce

1. Lay the shrimp flat on a cutting board and using a sharp paring knife, cut a few nicks on the inside curve of the shrimp to flatten the shrimp out. Be careful not to cut through the shrimp. Season the shrimp with salt,
2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the water to make a slurry,
3. Lay one egg roll wrapper so that the long side is vertical (short side should be closest to you),
4. Lay the shrimp with tail sticking out to the right and roll the shrimp up (tail should be sticking out),
5. Make sure that the roll is nice and tight. Big air pockets and holes will allow oil to seep in and shrimp to fall out. Dab your finger or pastry brush in the cornstarch slurry and brush on the wrapper to seal the final edge,
6. Lay the firecracker shrimp, seal side down in a single layer on a dry surface and keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying,
7. In a wok, deep fryer or large sauté pan, add 1-1/2 inches (3.75 cm) of oil and heat it to 375°F (190°C),
8. Add the firecracker shrimp a few at a time to the oil and fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes,
9. Drain on a baking rack and serve with a side of sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Crinkles

By Paul Briand

This is another Christmas cookie favorite in our family. This one comes from my sister Ella in Syracuse, N.Y.

So deep is the tradition of these cookies in the family she had to pass it along to my brother David's wife Pamela out in Phoenix because he had a hankering for this cookie, one of his personal holiday favorites. If he can't have the Christmas snow from his years as a kid in upstate New York, at least he can get the cookies.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven 375, grease cookie sheets,
2. Stir together flour and baking powder,
3. In mixer bowl stir together sugar, oil, melted chocolate, and vanilla,
4. Beat in eggs,
5. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture and beat till blended,
6. Cover and chill (I sometimes freeze, this is a really gooey batter for rolling),
7. Using 1 tsp dough for each, roll into balls,
8. Roll in powdered sugar,
9. Place on greased cookie sheet, bake in 375 oven for 10 to 12 minutes or till done.

Makes about 48 cookies.

My sister Margaret recently contributed a recipe for Bird's Nest Cookies. All the cookie recipes originated with our mother, Marge.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

By Paul Briand

This story and recipe caught my eye recently while poking through some news stories from the Associated Press.

Gloria Estefan, pictured at right, is best known for her music, of course. So it's interesting to see how she extends her interests beyond the studio and stage by publishing a cookbook.

Estefan and her husband Emilio own restaurants -- Larios on the Beach and Bongo’s Cuban Cafe -- in Miami Beach, Orlando and Mexico.

"We have a big hardcore following of the Cuban food, and we were getting so many questions from people that go to our restaurants, asking us ’How do you make this?’ and "How do you do that?’" Gloria Estefan said to the Associated Press. "We knew we had to come up with something."

What they came up with is a cookbook: "Estefan Kitchen".

One of the recipes is Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, a scampi really that they call Camarones al Ajillo. The Cuban twist here is the cumin.

1/4 cup olive oil
20 extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pinch salt
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch cumin powder
4 sprigs fresh parsley

1. In a large skillet over medium, heat the olive oil until fragrant,
2. Add the shrimp and garlic and saute until the shrimp starts to turn pink, about 4 to 5 minutes,
3. Use tongs to turn the shrimp once during cooking,
4.Reduce the heat to low, then add the wine, salt, oregano and cumin,
5. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes,
6.Use tongs to transfer the shrimp to serving bowls, then pour the sauce over the shrimp,
7. Garnish with parsley.
Serves two.

The cookbook is dedicated to older Estefan family members with a long cooking tradition.

According to the AP story, Estefan’s great-grandfather served as the chef for two Cuban presidents, while her paternal grandfather managed one of the first Cuban restaurants in Miami. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Consuelo Garcia, shortly after arriving from Cuba in the 1960s started a business serving homemade pan con lechon (roasted pork) sandwiches, ham croquettes and tamales to little leaguers at a Miami park in Miami.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Party food recipe contest

The good folks at Marx Foods are getting into the spirit of holiday gatherings by sponsoring a contest that seeks the best party food recipe.

"We are hungry for the holidays and looking for the best party foods and ideas! Tell us a story, give us party food ideas, presentation tips or original recipes," says the blog.

"What are your favorite party foods, festive appetizers and holiday bites? What do you do to make your party fun? Do you set up your spread under the mistletoe; pair your bites with champagne, or use candy canes as cocktail stir sticks?"

Marx Foods, a mail order that sells upscale food in bulk, sponsors a variety of recipe contests throughout the year, the most recent one for the best comfort food recipe.

The deadline to submit a recipe is Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. EST. The bloggers -- Emily, Katy, Justin and Ryan -- will select the finalists and put them to a vote of readers between Dec. 17 and 21.

The winner, who will receive a $400 gift certificate, will be announced on Monday, Dec. 22. Two runners-up will each receive a $50 gift certificate.

I'm thinking my entry will be my Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip.
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Tomato Basil Tart

By Paul Briand

The story behind this recipe is, frankly, a little hazy. It comes from my sister Kate, who got it from her friend Karen.

It has to do with it was a party and grilling steaks, and how my sister's rear car window got blown out by a stray rock while someone was mowing a lawn.

"And anyway," Kate writes, "Karen is a fantastic cook, and this pie was so good."

1 unbaked pie crust
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 medium tomatoes
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground pepper

1. Unfold pie crust according to package directions,
2. Place in tart or pie pan and flute edges,
3. Line the shell with double thickness foil,
4. Bake in 450 degree oven for 8 minutes,
5. Remove foil and bake 4-5 minutes longer until set and dry,
6. Remove from oven and sprinkle crust with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Cool slightly on a wire rack,
7. Dice tomatoes and arrange in the bottom of the pie shell,
8. Coarsely chop the basil and garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes,
9. In a bowl combine the remaining mozzarella cheese, mayo, parmesan cheese and pepper,
10. Spoon cheese mixture over the basil/garlic, spreading to evenly cover the top,
11. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly,
12. Serve warm and enjoy.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bird's Nest Cookies

By Margaret Briand Wolfe

This cookie recipe is a family favorite. My mother has made them for us every Christmas for the past 50 years (several batches, actually) and now many of her eight children and grandchildren also make them.

The whole family tries to get together for Christmas at my mother’s house in Maine every other year. Everyone shows up with presents (of course) and tins of home-made cookies. Since we are a large crowd these days (the eight children have added spouses and children of their own) multiple batches of cookies, especially these cookies, are required.

There have been taste test competitions to see who makes the best Bird’s Nest. Try them and perhaps you will have found a new Christmas tradition for you and your family. However, proceed with caution: I have friends I must make them for every Christmas as well as for my extended and much loved family.

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks, unbeaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (unsifted)
¼ teaspoon salt
Raspberry jam (buy good jam such as Trappist or Smuckers – I lost the competition one year because I used cheap jam)
Powdered sugar

1. Pre-heat over to 350 degrees,
2. Cream butter, gradually add brown sugar,
3. Add egg yolks and mix well,
4. Blend in vanilla, salt and flour,
5. Chill dough for several hours (until easy to handle) or overnight,
6. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake for 5 minutes,
7. Remove from oven and depress a well in the center of each cookie, about thimble sized. (I use the flip-side of a wooden spoon to create the well. The well should be large enough to hold some jam once the cookie is cooked),
8. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake 8 minutes more,
9. Remove the cookies from the oven, remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire racks,
10. When cooled sprinkle with powdered sugar,
11. Fill well with raspberry jam.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Golden Chili with Caramelized Onion and Sausage

By Paul Briand

A chili recipe won the comfort food recipe contest that I entered a couple of weeks back.

The winner -- Golden Chili with Caramelized Onion and Sausage -- came from Jessica in Columbus, Ohio, who has her own recipe blog called Sweet Peas and Pumpkins.

The contest featured more than 150 recipes, including my Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Scallops. It didn't make the cut of the 27 finalists.

What's interesting was the interpretation of just what is comfort food. According to Marx Foods, the most popular submission was macaroni and cheese recipes followed by soups, desserts, vegetable side dishes, stew, chicken pot pie and chicken recipes.

Jessica's chili recipe was followed in second by a recipe for Dungeness Crab-a-Roni and Cheese; third was a Creamy Tomato Basil Soup recipe.

Here's the winner:

2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 jalapeños, deseeded and minced
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (regular is fine too)
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1 1/4 pounds (one package) of Turkey Italian Sausage
2 cups of chicken broth
2 - 15 ounce cans chickpeas
1 -15 ounce can pinto beans
1 - 15 ounce can creamed corn

1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil to medium heat and add the onion,
2. Cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes,
3. Add the garlic, jalapeño, cumin, chili powder and oregano, cook for another 2-3 minutes,
4. Add the sausage, breaking it up with the spoon into small pieces (make sure you remove the casing first to make this easier),
5. Once the sausage is browned and no longer pink inside, deglaze the pan (basically, just pour the broth into the hot pan) and scrape the pan to get all those yummy bits off the bottom,
6. Add 1 can of the chickpeas and the pinto beans,
7. In a blender, puree the second can of chickpeas and creamed corn (this gives the chili a better consistency and adds two 'hidden' vegetables to the chili),
8. Add the mixture to the chili,
9. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the chili is the desired consistency,
10. If it gets too thick, just add some chicken broth or even a beer to thin it out,
11. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream and green onion.
Jessica says on her blog that she set out one day to cook a white chili and after some experimenting ended up with the one she described as golden ... appropriate.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cashew Orange Spice Chicken

By Paul Briand

In addition to my blogging duties here at Eats@Home and at Boomer Angst, I post regularly for as its national Baby Boomer Examiner.

Basically, I write each day about any and all issues relating to Baby Boomers, that vast generation of 79 million people born between 1946 and 1964.

Today, I wrote about how Baby Boomers, because they are losing their sense of smell and taste, are fueling the need for spicier, hotter food. They need the spice and heat to compensate for what their senses are telling them is bland food.

In my research I came across a recipe web site that is aptly named:

And I found a recipe, courtesy of Fiery-Foods, for Cashew Orange Spice Chicken that I wanted to pass along:

Half cup orange juice, fresh preferred
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tablespoons chili oil, either Asian or habanero
6 small dried red chilies, such as japonese or pequin
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cashews, either pieces or halves
3 green onions, chopped including the tops

1. Combine the orange juice, rice wine, soy sauce, orange zest, Sichuan peppercorns, and peanut oil in a nonreactive bowl,
2. Toss the chicken in the mixture and marinate for one hour,
3. Remove, drain, and reserve the marinade,
4. Heat the chili oil in a wok or heavy pan to about 350 degrees,
5. Add the chilis and saute for a minute,
6. Add the ginger and stir-fry for an additional minute,
7. Add the chicken and stir-fry until done. Remove and keep warm,
8. Add the marinade to the wok or pan and heat until boiling,
9. Slowly stir in enough of the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce,
10. Return the chicken to the wok and heat thoroughly,
11. Pour the chicken over the rice, garnish with the cashews and onion.

A few words of caution: Note that this recipe calls for peanut oil. Also, this gets a heat level of 5 out of 5 from, making it very hot and spicy. That's because the pequin peppers are very hot, up to eight times hotter than jalapeños on the Scoville scale. You've been forewarned.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Orzo Salad

Speaking of feeding an army ...

My very large family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews (especially on my mother's side), gather every two years at West Point, N.Y., for the Air Force at Army football game. My late Dad retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, so my side of the family cheers for the Falcons. But my mom's family is largely Army affiliated, so they cheer for the Black Knights.

But we combine forces every two years for a reunion weekend that includes some and Air Force - Army traditions and, of course, a tailgate party. My sister Margaret this year brought an Orzo Salad that was a big hit.

Quarter cup red vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Half cup olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound orzo
2 cups red and/or yellow grape or teardrop tomatoes, halved
7 oz. feta cheese cut into small cubes
1 cup chopped basil
1 cup chopped green onions

1) Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice and honey
2) Gradually whisk in the olive oil
3) Season with salt and pepper
4) Cover and refrigerate (can be made up to 2 days ahead)
5)Bring broth to a boil and stir in orzo
6) Reduce heat to medium, cover partially and boil until tender but firm to the bite
7) Drain orzo, transfer to a bowl and toss to cool.
8)Mix in tomatoes, feta, basil and green onions
9) Mix in dressing
10) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Margaret advises you can also add a half cup toasted pine nuts at the last minute if you’d like, but not for a crowd of people if she doesn't know who might or might not have allergies.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Recipe contest

A national food distributor is having a comfort food recipe contest.

The deadline for entries is Nov. 17.

The prize is $250 worth of food from out of Seattle, Wash., the contest sponsor.

So far as of this writing there are 33 entrants, including comfort food recipes for smoked salmon chowder, chicken paprikash, lasagne, and tortilla soup. I tossed in my recipe for Mac and Cheese with Scallops and Bacon.

Recipes are due by midnight on Nov. 17. MarxFoods will select finalists, then the recipes will be voted on by its readers and customers in a poll running from Wednesday, Nov. 19 through Friday, Nov. 23.

In addition to the $250 gift certificate, the winner will receive a set of biodegradable plates.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Church Supper Pot Pies

The term "enough to feed a small army" doesn't normally apply to families eating at home, unless, of course, you were part of my family that had my mom and dad putting food on the table for eight children. But there are times when you do indeed need enough food to feed a small army.

My focus in this regard is at church, which is located in a university town and which each Sunday during the academic year hosts a community supper for students. It is a challenge for the volunteer organizers to create something that is filling, nutritious and meets the needs of vegetarians in the crowd.

The lasagna recipe, for example, which is designed to serve 50, comes with meat and meatless. There is a chicken pot pie for 50 and a vegetable-bean pot pie for 15.

Let's focus on the pot pies.

Chicken Pot Pie

5 packages frozen mixed vegetables
4 large cans cream of chicken soup
3 soup cans of milk
15 pounds chicken, cut in small pieces
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
Salt, celery salt and pepper to taste
2 boxes Bisquick (10 cups)
3 1/2 cups milk

1) Cut chicken into small pieces
2) Put chicken in pot of water with salt, pepper and celery salt and boil for about 15 minutes
3) Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter until tender
4) Divide all ingredients in half
5) Pour into two 12-by-18-by-2 inch pans
6) Put half of the vegetables on top of mushrooms in each pan
7) Cover each half with the chicken
8) Mix soup and milk together in a bowl and pour over chicken mixture
9) Prepare Bisquick topping by following directions on box, drop by spoonfuls on top of chicken mixture
10) Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Vegetable Bean Pot Pie

1 1/2 packages frozen mixed vegetables
1 large can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 pounds mushrooms, sliced
2 one-pound cans kidney beans, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 soup can of milk

Follow directions as above, substituting the beans for the chicken. Top with Bisquick topping. Cook in 9-by-13 inch pan.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Skillet Shrimp and Rice

I'm constantly on the prowl for recipes to try at home, and I'll draw inspiration from just about anywhere.

There was the Chicken Pepperoni from a Goldie Hawn movie from 1980. And, in an upcoming post, I'll write what I learned about cooking from Spenser, the detective of the Robert Parker series of books.

This one hit me the minute I walked through the doors of the Shaw's market where I often shop. Shaw's doesn't have the cooking show in a box meals offered by Hannaford's and reviewed here not too long age. Shaw's instead has a rack of 30 minute or less recipes; I pocketed a couple and experimented this week with the Skillet Shrimp and Rice.

A word about shrimp. Maybe it's me but when I cook with shrimp -- or more specifically when I eat a shrimp dish -- I hate to wrestle with the tails. I know you can just snip the tails off with a flick of your knife, but I don't like leaving that little morsel of meat behind. So in addition to making sure the shrimp is deveined and peeled I'll make sure it's peeled right down to the tail.

Now a word about the choice between the chorizo or kielbasa that's called for in this recipe. Chorizo packs a little bit of heat. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but for this recipe and bowing to wife Jane's preference for the road less spicy I opted for kielbasa, which is a Polish sausage usually made of pork. I opted for the leaner, weight friendly turkey.

1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
4 ounces chorizo or kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 onion chopped fine
6 garlic cloves sliced thin
1 1/2 cups medium-grain rice
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups water
1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice
1 cup frozen peas

Please note: This recipe calls for the use of a large ovenproof skillet.
Part I
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees
2) Toss shrimp with 1 teaspoon of oil, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a bowl
3) Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large overproof skillet over medium-high heat until smoking
4) Add half of shrimp and cook until lightly browned all over
5) Transfer shrimp to clean bowl and repeat with remaining shrimp. Cover bowl

Part II
1) Reduce heat to medium and add remaining tablespoon of oil, kielbasa (or chorizo), onion and garlic
2) Cook until sausage begins to brown, 5 to 6 minutes
3) Add rice and cook 1 minute
4) Stir in tomatoes, water, clam juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
5) Bring to boil over high heat, cover, and transfer skillet to oven
6) Cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes
7) Remove skillet from oven, stir in peas, and scatter shrimp over top
8) Cover and set aside until shrimp and peas are heated through, about 5 minutes
9) Season with salt and pepper and serve directly from the skillet
Serves 4 to 6.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Applesauce, sort of

I called it an applesauce. My wife Jane said it was more like a filling for apple pie. Whatever it was, it was great with pork.

The need was comfort food. Jane was having a rough week at work, and what better way to feel better about the world than some good old fashioned comfort food, so I decided on some loin chops, which I breaded and baked. It was also apple picking season and we had a bag of McIntosh, which I love for their crunch and tartness when fresh picked.

Since pork and applesauce go together like pork and applesauce (and since the jar of applesauce in the refrigerator was way past its prime) I decided to do a stove-top sidedish for the pork using some of the Macs. The fact that I had some pure maple sugar in the pantry made it all the better.

Six apples -- my choice were the McIntosh -- pared, cored and cut up
Half stick unsalted butter
Maple sugar (or regular sugar)
Cinammon to taste

1) After paring and coring, quarter the apples and then quarter the quarters;
2) In medium skillet over medium high heat, melt butter;
3) Add apple and sautee until the apples begin to soften;
4) Allow the liquid to start boiling away, allowing the mixture to thicken;
5) Mash up the soften mixture to desired texture. At this stage if desired it can be mashed in the skillet to a sauce;
4) Add a tablespoon of maple sugar;
5) Add cinammon;
6) Serve on top of or as a side to the pork.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crabby Guacamole

By Paul Briand

So I'm thinking game food the other day and wondering how I can jazz up a chip and dip in honor of the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.

I'm looking for something special for a special game and come up with Crabby Guacamole -- a twist on the usual guacamole and chips using crab meat and a generous helping of garlic. I like how well the guacamole stands up to the crab, especially with the infusion of the garlic. Given that lobster prices have been coming down, I almost opted for lobster meat, similarly bold in taste, but went with crab meat instead in honor of my wife Jane's Maryland upbringing.

The presentation here is as much a part of the jazzing up as the dip itself, so be sure to set aside the avocado skin as directed.

Six ounces of crab meat
One ripe avocado
3 garlic cloves
Dollop of mayonnaise
Dash of hot sauce
Squeeze of lemon juice

1) Halve the avocado, remove the pit and spoon out the meat into a mixing bowl. Set avocado halves aside;
2) Mash avocado meat;
3) Use a garlic press to prepare the garlic and mix directly into the avocado;
4) Add a dollop of mayonnaise, dash of hot sauce, squeeze of lemon and mix;
5) Gently fold in the crab meat, setting aside about 2 tablespoon's worth;
6) Scoop the mixture into each half of the avocado skin;
7) Top each half with leftover crab meat;
8) Serve on a large plate with yellow corn tortilla chips.

As good as the dip was, it wasn't that much of a good luck charm for my beloved Red Sox. They lost badly 9-1 in Game 3.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

No, this isn't about the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes." But it is about cooking them.

From my birthday gift garden, this week I had some tomatoes that were still green with no hope of ripening with the advent of dropping autumn night and day temperatures. So rather than waste the tomatoes I went in search of a recipe to use them and found one from fellow a fellow contributor to

Examiner, by the way, enlists contributors from a variety of interests. I write about Baby Boomers. My fellow Examiner Chef John contributes recipes, including this one for Fried Green Tomatoes. This includes a spicy remoulade sauce as a garnish:

4 slices (about half inch each) of green tomato
1 cup flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cub corn meal
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

1) On a rack, salt the tomato slices and set aside;
2) In a bowl, create the breading mixture of the bread crumbs and corn meal, adding some pepper, salt and the cayenne to taste;
3) In another bowl, beat the two eggs with a splash of milk;
4) Put the flour in another bowl;
5) Use a paper towel to wipe the moisture from the tomato slices;
6) Take each slice through the breading process -- first dredge with flour, then dip into the eggs, then fully coat with the bread crumb/corn flour mix;
7) Let sit for about 10 minutes;
8) In the meantime, to make the remoulade, combine equal parts sweet relish and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Add hot sauce to taste and mix;
9) In pan over medium heat use about an eighth of an inch of vegetable oil and add butter;
10) When the butter is bubbly, cook slices 3-4 minutes on each side;
11) Serve with dollop of sauce.

They're perfect as a side to just about any meal. I increased the yield and we had them with Ground Turkey Enchiladas the other night, then I had the leftovers with a ham and cheese omelet for lunch the next day.

Here's a video of Chef John's Green Fried Tomatoes:

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clam Dip

This week's contributor, Sue Rorke, loves to cook but isn't one to follow recipes. "Either I misread them, don't have the exact ingredients, or don't like the exact ingredients -- so I wing it a lot," she said.

Her favorite meal to prepare and eat is pasta and she can turn just about anything from the kitchen into something to toss with pasta, except, she admits, popcorn, which was a recent challenge from her daughter. But it's her clam dip that is requested most often.

"While I am a really excellent cook, and constantly cook food that I love, this is really the only recipe that anyone requests," she said. "My family has been pigging out on it ever since I remember.  Every bowl is a race to the finish."

At stay at home mom in Medway, Mass., she has a start-up business called PhotoMoves, which produces DVD slideshows, poster collages, and website design and set-up. 

1 can of minced clams -- 6.5 ounces
1 package of cream cheese - 8 ounces (Note: the 1/3 less fat versions are okay, too)
1 or 2 teaspoon minced onions
(1 grated carrot)
(1 teaspoon basil)
1) Put cream cheese in a bowl and sort of break it up with a fork. Let warm to room temperature to soften;
2) Add minced onions. Stir with a fork until smooth and creamy;
3) Drain the clam juice into a cup. Add about half of the juice slowly to the cream cheese until the correct consistency;
4) Stir in the carrot and basil;
5) Add the clams and stir until well mixed;
6) Grab a bag of chips and dig in.

Sue recently modified the recipe by adding the grated carrot and basil and said it makes it better.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Teriyaki Marinated Beef Steak

By Paul Briand

Sometimes it's nice to let someone else figure out a dinner menu for you, especially when a hurry-up day doesn't give you much time to think about or even prepare a dinner for four.

Lots of grocers have seen the need to help harried consumers and have come up with prepared or semi-prepared meals. I recently tried one from Hannaford, a large grocery store chain in this part of the country. Hannaford describes these meals as "a cooking show to go: everything you need -- fresh, pre-cut and measured for a fantastic meal you make at home."

Meals are offered to cook four or two, the the store provides handouts listing a two-week menu, so that you can decide on Thursday, for example, you might want the chicken thighs with leeks, olives and orzo, or you might want to wait until Saturday for the Caribbean tilapia with toasted cabo coconut with jicama slaw.

I decided to try the teriyaki marinated beef steak with citrus sesame summer slaw. Indeed everything is self-contained. Ingredients are measured and cut, then bagged or put in a container. Then it's all packaged in a convenient, easy-to-carry cardboard box. Cooking instructions are contained within the label that's taped to the box. Here's a look at what was inside (which you could duplicate on your own):

1 1/2 pound beef loin grilling steak, marinating in a 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce
12 ounces sliced Chinese cabbage
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 small sliced red onion
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons dried ginger
2 teaspoons granted orange peel
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime juice
3 ounces wonton crisps

1) On a preheated grill cook the steak 5 - 8 minutes or until medium rare, transfer to cutting board and let sit 10 minutes. (If cooking under an oven broiler, cook 7 minutes per side or until desired level of doneness.);
2) Place vegetables -- cabbage, carrots and onion -- into a large bowl;
3) Combine ginger, orange peel and sesame oil and mix thoroughly then combine with orange juice and lime juice in a small bowl and mix all together;
4) Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to thoroughly coat the slaw;
5) Thinly slice the steak against the grain;
6) Divide slaw among plates, top with sliced beef and wonton crisps.

The directions go so far as to suggest a complementary wine: a Pinot Noir.

This meal was ready in 20 minutes and was a real time saver given the extent of vegetable and dressing ingredients' preparation that would have been necessary had you done this on your own.

All in all it was very tasty, though I thought it was a little heavy on the red onion. I would have used maybe a half a red onion rather than a whole one.

For more information go to:

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mac and Cheese with Scallops and Bacon

By Paul Briand

In last week's post, I wrote of how great it was to eat a variety of great seafood at a local seafood festival my wife and I attended. In particular, I had the chance to munch scallops and bacon on a stick.

I confess to a passionate love for scallops and bacon. It is my favorite appetizer. Any cocktail party that serves scallops and bacon is a hit in my book. I'm the guy with the toothpick chasing after the server with the scallops and bacon tray, knocking aside whoever and whatever is necessary to get to them.

In that vein, I was moved last week to cook my own scallops and bacon but with a twist -- combined with homemade macaroni and cheese.

1 pound sea scallops -- numbers about 12
1 pound package of thick cut bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Italian fontina cheese
1/4 cup minced onions
Dash Tabasco sauce
Pepper to taste
Splash of white wine
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1) Start by cooking the bacon in a large skillet, set aside on paper towels to drain (break into pieces once cool enough);
2) Retain some of the bacon fat and in the same skillet sear the scallops, browning on all sides;
3) Add a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan, set scallops aside and cut in half;
4) Cook elbow macaroni in 4-5 quart pot of boiling water about 6-8 minutes or until just tender (macaroni will cook more when it's baked);
5) While the macaroni cooks, prepare the cheese sauce in saucepan by first heating milk but not letting it boil;
6) Melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour;
7) Gradually stir in heated milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens;
8) Add onion and cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts;
9) Add dash of hot sauce and pepper, stir;
10) Combine cheese sauce with cooked macaroni;
11) Stir fontina cheese into mixture;
11) Combine halved scallops and crumbled bacon into mac and cheese;
12) Spoon entire mixture into large greased baking dish;
13) Top with bread crumbs;
14) Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This dish feeds 6-8. I like the fontina cheese as an addition because it combines a complimentary taste to the cheddar and has the stringy, cheesy quality of mozzarella.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Corn and Crab Bisque

I had the occasion during the weekend with wife Jane to attend the annual Hampton, N.H., Seafood Festival. Certainly as the name implies, it is a festival devoted to seafood and we certainly got our fill as we trolled the food tents, assessing the offerings from a variety of restaurants from throughout the New Hampshire seacoast region.

I got more than my fill with lobster stew, scallops and bacon on a stick, and lobster roll. It also inspired me to try something new in the kitchen for dinner, which I'll talk about next week.

The festival included some cooking demonstrations, and we watched Ron Boucher, a restaurant owner and instructor, show how to prepare his recipe for sweet corn and crab bisque. Boucher (pictured here, photo courtesy of his web site) owns Ron's Landing in Hampton, N.H., and Chez Boucher, his French cooking school.

Here is the bisque recipe he presented at the festival:

12 ears of corn on the cob, hulled (Save the used cobs, you'll need them later.)
1 each bay leaf
1 stick unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 each Vidalia onion, diced
16 ounces crab meat
8 cups seafood stock (Boucher recommended the clam juice that you can buy bottled at your local food store.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 package fresh basil, stemmed and chopped
2 ounces butter
2 ounces sherry

1) Hull all of the corn off the cob and reserve;
2) Melt butter on low heat in a large soup pot. Add the diced onion and hulled corn kernels, cover and sweat on medium low heat for about 12 to 15 minutes. (In the demo, he talked of the importance of sweating to covert the starch of the corn into sugar.);
3) Add the seafood stock and blend well;
4) Tie all of the fresh basil stems together along with a bay leaf and fresh thyme and drop them into the pot along with the corn cobs;
5) Bring the soup to a slow simmer and once at a simmer cook it out for 20 to 30 minutes;
6) Remove the corn cobs and fresh herbs. Puree the soup with a stick blender to a pulpy consistency;
7) Add the crab meat, chopped basil and heavy cream. Bring the soup back to a simmer, adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper;
8) Optional: Finish the soup with a little butter and splash of sherry if desired.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Easy Chili

By Paul Briand

My son David called the other evening from college, not about money or his courses, but about my easy chili recipe. I've used this recipe often and cooked it with him most recently when we were together for a few days toward the end of his junior semester in London. We made this chili in his dorm kitchen and shared it with the friends he'd made during his semester at King's College.

He was entertaining again and couldn't remember the specifics of the recipe. So here it is for David and you.

1 1/4 pounds hamburger
1 onion
1 green pepper
Several cloves garlic
16 ounce red kidney beans
Chili seasoning mix
24 ounce jar of salsa

1) Chop onions and green pepper;
2) Peel and mash (or rough chop) the garlic. Use more to satisfy your own particular garlic need, by the way;
3) In a large skillet at medium/high heat, sautee onions, peppers and garlic in heated olive oil;
4) As the vegetables just begin to soften (about three minutes) add hamburger;
5) Cook hamburger thoroughly and drain excess grease from pan;
6) Add chili seasoning mix and completely stir through the mixture;
7) Add kidney beans undrained and completely stir through;
8) Add salsa, stir through and reduce heat to low/medium;
9) Add a bottle of your favorite beer, a little at a time to control the foamy head;
10) Heat through, about 10 minutes, stirring as needed;
11) Serve with any number of toppings -- sour cream, shredded cheese and sliced jalapenos for example.

Now, there are about a billion chili recipes out there. Okay maybe not that many, but do a Google search of "chili recipes" and you'll get 690,000 results.

What I like about this recipe, besides the fact that it's quick and easy, is its versatility. The versatility comes with the salsa, because, once again, there are about a billion salsas out there. You can choose a mild, medium or hot salsa. You can use a thin salsa, a chunky salsa, or a southwestern style with some beans and corn in the salsa. And there is versatility in the beer you use. With some darker beers the hops and caramel will add a certain nuttiness to the chili, less so with lighter beers. And, of course, you can elect to cook without the beer and add up to 1 1/2 cups of water instead.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fried Meatballs

(Editor's note: This week's contribution is courtesy of Dick Schuler, pictured here, originally of Oswego, N.Y., where his grandmother -- his Nana -- was famous in their neighborhood for her cooking, especially her homemade pasta drying throughout the house. Dick is now a resident of Minnesota and is the author of "An Italian Family Cookbook of Family Treasures." He describes his recipes as follows: "Each recipe has is own unique story and the best part is the book open with the family history of my grandparent’s journey from Italy to the U.S. in the early 1900's.")

By Dick Schuler

Nana’s three specialties were her sauce, homemade pasta and the ultimate family recipe, fried meatballs. The unique thing about Italian cooking is each family has a slightly different recipe. Our family sauce had several variations from household to household. Some of Nana’s siblings would use olive oil, some would use pork in place of beef. Nana did not add oil to her sauce so it was always seemed smoother and thicker. She would also change up the meat she would use in her sauce. She would use either ground beef, stew beef or meat balls.

Pasta was served twice a week in our house. I carry on that tradition of having pasta twice a week with my family. Nana would make her homemade pasta noodles the old fashion way. She used an old broom handle and the dinning room table as a work space. She would roll out large sheets of dough with the broom handle and with a knife cut the sheets into long strips. To dry them she would hang them over clothes bars, clothes line and the backs of chairs. The pasta would dry for a day before she would cut it into short lengths and send off paper bags of pasta to our relatives and friends. I can still smell the flour and egg mixture from the old house and hear her hands scrapping the dried dough and flour off the old broom handle between each stroke of the roller.

Our most popular and traditional food is our fried meatballs. For almost 100 years our family has been either frying or adding to the sauce these great flavorful treasures. It was my mother’s job to supply the meatballs at all the family gatherings.

The meatballs were the trademark food from our kitchen on old East Ninth Street in Oswego, N.Y. Everyone wanted to taste the meatballs whenever she made them and most of the neighborhood knew when she was frying them. The aroma of garlic would quickly spread out of the cast iron skillet and into the neighborhood. She was the master of the meatball recipe and my mother was second. My Uncle Joe would try to copy it but he could never get the same taste that came out of Nana’s skillet, I think he was light on the garlic. I was fortunate enough to help them mix and be part of the unique measuring process.

I can get the same results and duplicate the unique flavor to this day. See, the trick is when you add the garlic and you’re not measuring, you would add a little and taste the raw meat mixture until you hit the exact combination and flavor. People tell me I am crazy for eating raw hamburger but this is the only way to tell when you have added the correct amount. But to get this right you still need to know or have experienced the flavor before. Believe me there is no better smell or sound than the sizzling oil in the frying pan than that of meatballs cooking.

3 pounds ground beef
1/2 loaf of stale Italian bread
5-6 teaspoons of garlic power (be prepared to add more)
3 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ground Parmesan cheese
1-2 eggs (start with one, if mix is too dry add a second

1) Start by breaking up the ground beef in a large bowl;
2) Take the bread and wet with warm water to soften but not saturate, wring any excess water out. Break up the bread into the meat;
3) Add the egg and mix in slightly;
4) Add the garlic, pepper, salt, and cheese. Mix thoroughly using your hands;
5) Now the tough part – taste the mix if you dare to determine if you lack anything. If anything you will need more garlic powder (experience tells me). Shake some in lightly covering the top of the mix and re-mix again. Repeat the test if you like;
6) Use your hands to shape and roll into individual meatballs
7) In a wide and deep frying pan add oil about ¼ inches deep. Preheat on medium and add meatballs. As you add them flatten slightly so they are not a true ball shape, this will allow them to cook more even;
8) Cook for 2 minutes and flip;
9) Once both sides are browned you should be OK to remove and place on a platter or bowl. I usually line the bowl with 2-3 paper towels to absorb any excess grease. Let cool and enjoy.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Linguica Hash

By Paul Briand

I distinctly remember my first Homecoming Weekend as an alum of the University of New Hampshire as if it were yesterday, even though it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. A bunch of us planned to meet mid-morning for a big tailgate party before the football game. And we planned to do it up right with Coleman stoves and grills and lots of good food and friendship to share.

I wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary and decided to make a hash, substituting the usual corned beef with linguica, the Portuguese sausage that I had sampled during a then recent visit with a former work colleague living in New Bedford, Mass. New Bedford is a fishing community with a significant Portuguese population. (The mother of Emeril Lagasse, the renowned chef, was Portuguese and he grew up in Fall River, next door to New Bedford, by the way.) I pre-made the hash at home then brought it in a dish that could be reheated on one of the portable stoves.

A word about linguica: It is a pork-based sausage typically seasoned with onions, garlic and paprika. I use a mild version, because of the others I tend to cook for at home. For a spicier version, use chorizo, a Spanish pork sausage made with chili, garlic and paprika.

Package of linguica, about 1 pound
6 medium sized potatoes
1 large Vadila onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Dash of hot sauce

1) Cook the linguica (grilling is recommended, made easy with a Pannini grill if you have one);
2) Cook the potatoes (prepare them as you normally would for baked potatoes);
3) Rough chop both the linguica and potatoes, place in large mixing bowl;
4) Add chopped onions and garlic to mixing bowl;
5) Add parsley, cilantro and pepper to taste and dash of hot sauce, and give everything a good stir;
6) Heat oil in large skillet (I use leftover bacon fat);
7) Add the hash mix and cook through,. using large spatula to turn the mixture so that the hash takes on an even brown texture;
8) Optional: Add half cup of water (or milk), reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until water is absorbed and hash is crisp.

Recommended serving: with over-easy eggs; there's nothing like that egg and yoke combining with the linguica and hash.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meatloaf - the TV "Throwdown"

By Paul Briand

"Hello, my name is Paul, and I'm addicted to the Food Network."

If there isn't a support group -- like Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous -- for Food Network junkies, there ought to be. We can be a desperate lot, watching the culinary experts like Emeril and Bobby Flay when we ought to be doing something more productive. But I view my Food Network viewing as being very productive. In the same way that a good book can inspire me to write, a good cooking show inspires me to cook.

I have three Food Network favorites: "Emeril Live," "30 Minute Meals" with Rachel Ray, and "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." And the more I watch Guy Fiori, who hosts "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Guy's Big Bite," the more he's growing on me.

Each brings something a little different to the table. Emeril Lagasse is a little high end, but I like to watch and learn from his technique. A lot of people dump on Rachel Ray's cooking methods, but I like the 30-minute recipes and the in-the-kitchen shortcuts. I especially like Bobby Flay and his "Throwdown" -- the challenge to go one-on-one against someone else's recipe. He'll choose a popular dish from a local restaurant -- like the meatloaf from the Colucci Bros. Diner in Hyannis, Mass. -- and go to their location in an attempt to one-up them with a better recipe of the same dish.

Since I'm not taking copious notes during a cooking show, I'm often left wondering whether I might be able to find the recipe for a dish that I found intriguing and might want to try in my own kitchen for my own eats at home.

I did some rooting around in the Food Network web site to determine just how easy it is to find a specific recipe. Trust me, they have lots and lots of recipes that are accessible right from the home page. But I wanted to know how easy or difficult it might be to find a recipe for the meatloafs I saw on "Throwdown" this week

There are two ways to do it. If you know the name of the show, you can sort through by name ("Throwdown") and either the episode topic ("meatloaf") or the week that the show aired. You can also click on "TV Schedule" and sort through the information until you find the episode and the recipe you were seeking.

Here are the two recipes from the meatloaf throwdown, with due credit to the postings on the Food Network:

Colucci Bros. Meatloaf
Salad oil
1 carrot, small to medium dice
2 stalks celery, small to medium dice
1 medium onion, small to medium dice
2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
Dash Worcestershire sauce
3 slices bread
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs

1) Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
2) In a medium-sized saute pan, put 2 dribbles of salad oil and heat over medium-high heat.
3) Add the carrots, celery, and onions and saute, about 5 minutes. Put aside and let cool.
4) In large bowl put the carrot mixture, ground beef and remaining ingredients, except for the bread, the bread crumbs and ketchup.
5) Soak the bread in cold water, then squeeze water out (like a sponge) and drain it. Add to the ground beef and mix. (A stand mixer is may help make it easier).
6) Add the bread crumbs and mix.
7) Roll into firm loaf, spread ketchup over the top, and place into preheated oven for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, or until cooked through.
Take out and serve hot.

Bobby Flay's Meatloaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
1 yellow onion, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano
1 1/2 cups ketchup, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1) Pre-eat oven to 425 degrees F.
2) Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat.
3) Add the zucchini, peppers, onion and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes.
4) Stir in the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
5) Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and the vegetables and mix until just combined.
6) Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7) Whisk together the remaining ketchup and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl then brush the mixture over the entire loaf.
8) Bake the meatloaf for approximately 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
9) Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

By the way, each "Throwdown" episode has two local judges to determine whose recipe is better. In the battle of the meatloafs, the Colucci brothers beat Flay.
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Crab Cake Stuffed Peppers

By Paul Briand

By nature of her birthright, my wife Jane loves crab. Born and raised in Maryland, how can she be anything but a crab lover?

We took a Maryland/Delaware vacation two years ago. For the couple of days we were in Maryland, she had to eat crab -- and I'm talking crab for breakfast, crab for lunch and crab for dinner, Eggs Benedict made with crab, crab cakes, and soft shell crab. It was as if some crab-eating gene re-emerged after years of dormancy.

During that trip I got all the benefits of learning about the Blue Crab, for which Chesapeake Bay is famous. I learned about lump crab meat. I learned how to take a mallet and bust into a crab to find said lump meat. I was encouraged, but declined, to read "Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay" by William Warner. But as a souvenir of the crab eating extravaganza, I did acquire some Old Bay seasoning, a requirement in any recipe for Maryland crab cakes.

On occasion I like to surprise Jane with a meal at home of crab cakes. I hit a moment of inspiration -- or madness, the two are closely related after all -- one time when I thought about making the crab cakes as I normally would, but then stuffing them into a red peppers. I make stuffed green peppers with the usual hamburger/rice mixture, so I wanted to vary the theme a little with red peppers and crab.

Here are a couple of variations on that particular theme. You can prepare the peppers as you normally would for stuffed peppers -- halve them, remove stem and seeds, blanch in boiling water, then put into cold water. Or you could try roasting your peppers over a grill beforehand. As for the peppers themselves, red peppers work really well, and I'm experimenting with roasted Poblano chili peppers.

As for the crab, no doubt it's expensive. You can get it prepackaged for about $22 a pound, not something you'll make a habit of, but something that creates a special something for a special eat at home occasion.

1 pound crab meat
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
Dash of favorite hot sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1) Combine and mix everything into a large mixing bowl except the crab and bread crumbs;
2) Add crab to mixture and mix gently;
3) Add bread crumbs to mixture and blend in;
4) A chilled mixture makes it easier to handle when forming into patties, so put mixing bowl in refrigerator and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees;
5) Halve and seed two peppers (or three peppers, depending on size);
6) Grill for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally;
7) After peppers are grilled, set aside on baking pan sprayed with cooking oil;
8) Remove crab meat mixture from refrigerator and form into patties;
9) In large oiled frying pan, brown patties on both sides;
10) Remove patties and one by one stuff them into halved roasted peppers;
11) Place in oven and heat through, about 5 minutes.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Red Sauce with Sausage

By Paul Briand

Everyone should have a red sauce at their disposal for home cooking. There's no need, frankly, to depend on Ragu or any other canned or bottled brand when there are a lot of people to feed and the menu calls for a hearty red sauce with your favorite kind of pasta.

My red sauce comes from an amalgamation of influences -- from my mother (and her ethnic mix of Italian and Ukrainian), my sister Margaret, a girl I dated a while ago, from reading cookbooks and from a bit of experimenting on my part. In other words, when it comes to eating at various homes over the years I've paid attention, absorbed hints and bits of data, churned them up and made them my own.

Besides the ingredients, what I like to absorb from good cooks is technique. For example, I picked up a technique for cooking the Italian sausage from a Silver Palette cookbook my mother gave me for Christmas in 1999. It recommended pricking the sausage with a fork and boiling them in a large pot or skillet in about a half inch of water over medium/high heat. Then let the water boil away and continue to cook the sausage until brown on all sides. Remove the sausage to a plate, discard the fat, but don't clean the pot/skillet. Add some olive oil and use that accumulated goodness at the bottom of the pot to then start preparing the sauce itself.

The other technique that I picked up but don't necessarily use is the addition of a little sugar to, obviously, sweeten up the red sauce. And the aforementioned bygone girlfriend also shredded some carrot into her sauce to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes.

As for the sausages I like to mix sweet with hot -- I buy a package of each. It creates a surprise in every bite -- sometimes tangy, sometimes not. I also substitute the sausage on occasion with ground beef or ground turkey, depending on my level of nutritional guilt at any one time.

2 - 2 1/4 pounds of Italian sausage (half sweet, half hot)
3-4 cloves garlic, mashed
Green pepper, sliced
Vadalia onion, sliced
8 ounce package of sliced mushrooms
28 ounce can kitchen ready tomatoes
29 ounce can tomato sauce
12 ounce can tomato paste
Cup of red wine
Parsley, oregano, sage, basil - a tbsp of each

1) Cook sausage in large pot or skillet as described above -- prick links with a fork, boil in about half inch water over medium/high heat, let the water boil away then continue to brown sausage on all sides. Set sausage aside, drain fat but don't clean the pot/skillet;
2) Add olive oil, and sautee garlic, pepper, and onions 3 minutes;
3) Add mushrooms and cook mixture another 2 minutes;
4) Add kitchen ready tomatoes and tomato sauce and give a good stir;
5) Add tomato paste and give another good stir to get the paste well into the sauce;
6) Add the red wine and add the parley, oregano, sage and basil;
7) Stir and reduce to a simmer.

Now, I'm sure you've heard it said that the sauce should simmer just about all day. I say, "Fuggedaboutit!" A half hour, 45 minutes tops of simmering and stirring and you'll be good to go. Cook your favorite pasta and toss a salad. One note about the salad: In my mom's kitchen we never, ever had tomatoes in the salad on the nights she served spaghetti and sauce. Too much tomato, she said. I still hold that as sacred today.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chicken Pepperoni

By Paul Briand

There are lots of things we can take away from sitting through a movie: the quality of a particular performance, the story line, the special effects, whether it's funny or scary. But there's one movie from a long time ago that I remember for one thing and one thing only: chicken pepperoni.

The movie was "Seems Like Old Times," a 1980 romantic comedy written by Neil Simon and starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Charles Grodin. The chicken pepperoni was served toward the end of the movie, and while I can't remember the context of the meal at all I do remember thinking: "I have to have that recipe." The idea of combining my favorite pizza topping with chicken went to my culinary yin and yang of eating something spicy and a little naughty (the pepperoni) with something that's fairly common on the family dinner table (chicken).

The movie didn't offer a recipe; it was a scene in which the dish was being served. And at the time almost 30 years ago, there wasn't an Internet to be had to search for a chicken pepperoni recipe. Do a search now and you'll find thousands -- 691,000 if you believe the Google search results.

Back in 1980 it was just dumb cluck luck that I stumbled across a chicken pepperoni recipe in the Boston Herald newspaper, courtesy of Joseph Foti, the chef at Florence's restaurant in Boston, winner of a chicken pepperoni cook-off of some kind. Foti has since died but his recipe lives on in my collection of favorites.

Olive oil
Flour for dredging
4 chicken breasts
1/4 pound pepperoni, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 red peppers, sliced
1 1/2 ounces chablis or other white wine
Pepper, parsley and oregano
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 cup peas

1. If not boned already, bone chicken, remove skin, cut into eight pieces
2. Use cooking mallet to pound breast pieces flat
3. Dredge chicken in flour
4. In heated large skillet with olive oil, brown chicken on both sides and remove
5. In clean skillet with dash of oil, briefly sauté pepperoni, drain oil
6. Add chicken to pepperoni
7. Add onions, peppers and mushrooms and sauté three to four minutes
8. Stir in wine and pepper, parsley and oregano
9. Add tomato sauce and stir
10. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
11. Add artichokes and peas, heat through until bubbly and serve

Makes four to six servings.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hamburger Stroganoff

In the Briand Special recipe that I posted here a few weeks ago, I said it was the first thing I learned to cook, something my father created by happenstance. But no man -- nor woman, nor child -- can live on Briand Specials alone.

So it fell to my mother Marge to refine my cooking skills, a necessary chore back in college when I went off as a first semester junior to work as a full-time newspaper intern in Gloucester, Mass., for the Daily Times. I would be living on my own, cooking on my own, and my mother felt the need to arm me with some of her dinner recipes.

When I think back on Mom's Hamburger Stroganoff, I have more vivid memories of it as a leftover than I do as the dinner main course. This was back in high school in the mid-1960s and I remember during the weekends, after sleeping through most of the morning that I would get out of bed in search of something with a breakfast element but had the greater substance of lunch.

On those lucky occasions when there was leftover stroganoff I would butter two pieces of toast, heat up some the leftovers and top the toast with the stroganoff. My interpretation of chipped beef on toast? I'm not sure, other than hunger, what drove the interest of having reheated stroganoff on buttered toast, but I remember it being a great weekend brunch when it was available.

1 Vadalia onion, sliced
Two garlic cloves, crushed
1 8-ounce package of sliced mushrooms
1 - 1 1/4 lb hamburger
1 cup beef broth
Sour cream, two tablespoons

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
2. Add onion and crushed garlic cloves
3. As onion starts getting limp add mushrooms
4. Add and brown hamburger
5. Once the meat is fully cooked drain off excess fat
6. Add a generous dusting of flour and stir
7. Squirt a generous helping of ketchup into the mixture and stir - the mixture should wet but not runny
8. Stir in the cup of beef broth and adjust heat to low, stirring as the mixture thickens
9. Add two generous tablespoons of sour cream and stir through
10. Add 3 teaspoons of the Sherry.

Serves 4 to 6.

It works well without the Sherry, but not as well ... something about the sweetness of the sherry with the hint of sour cream.

I've served it with a variety of starchy sides -- over egg noodles (which you see most often), or over rice, or with baked potato (you can't let the rest of the sour cream go to waste after all). And leftovers over toast? Why not.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Easy spinach and artichoke dip

By Paul Briand

Many years ago, newly single from divorce, a family event required me to bring something either as an appetizer, side dish or dessert. I could have taken a pass, but I was intent on holding my own in the contribution department. So I chose an appetizer, having no idea however what I would make.

What I hit upon after some research, primarily through the web site, was a recipe for a dip that involved spinach, artichoke, various cheeses and garlic.

While my epicurean curiosity was pretty high at that time, it wasn't high enough nor was it well funded enough to seek out and buy all the different types of cheeses that the recipe called for. So I substituted the various fresh cheeses for the bagged shredded cheese. And rather than the water crackers (that I always thought were pretty bland) I opted for Triscuits.

I came away having learned two things: That I could hold my own in terms of contributing to the family table and that fresh garlic in the kitchen is a wonderful thing. I ended up peeling and pressing into the mixture more garlic than was necessary, but I discovered by happenstance that a lot of garlic -- and I mean a lot of garlic -- works well in this particular combination, especially against the saltiness of the Triscuit crackers.

1 can of artichokes in water (do not use artichokes in oil)
1 package frozen shredded spinach
Head of fresh garlic
1 package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 package shredded Italian blend cheese
8 ounces mayonnaise

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Drain artichoke hearts and dice into small pieces
3. Thaw the spinach in microwave
4. Combine diced artichoke and thawed spinach in mixing bowl
5. Remove husks from garlic cloves and use a garlic press to add garlic to artichoke/spinach mixture (use as much garlic as you dare ... the more the merrier, I say)
6. Stir mayonnaise into mixture
7. Fold package of Italian blend cheese into mixture
8. Fold Monterey Jack cheese into mixture, holding back about a cup
9. Hand mix thoroughly and transfer mixture into a 2-qt glass baking dish (preferably one that has a cover)
10. Use remaining Monterey Jack as topping over mixture
11. Cover and bake until the mixture is bubbling hot, about 20 minutes
12. To add some color and texture to the cheese topping, uncover and continue to bake another 10 minutes
13. Serve hot with Triscuits
Note: This dish is easily reheatable in the microwave in your glass baking dish, and (by the way) I use my baking dish as the mixing bowl ... less to clean up.

It's become a favorite among the family and friends for whom I've made it. It's The Dip, The Biggest Dip at the party. It's a warming dish, tremendously suitable for those chilly and cold evenings of fall and winter, but I brought it as recently as Fourth of July to a family party. It's also very filling; it can almost stand alone as a meal. It holds up very well to reheating and every time you get that blast aroma of the garlic it's well worth it.
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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Briand Special: An introduction to Eats@Home

By Paul Briand
Eats @ Home
Broad Cove Media

My mother is a terrific cook, but the first thing I learned to cook was from my father, who ironically was not a cook. At all.

He was an academic, able to analyze the finer points of James Joyce's "Ulysses". In the kitchen he was, at best, pragmatic. It was the pragmatism that led to his creation of what he called the Briand Special, the first thing I ever learned how to cook.

The Briand Special, as my family well knows, combined a slice of fried bologna and a fried egg between two pieces of a toasted English muffin.

Sounds a lot like an Egg McMuffin, no?

In fact, we in the family like to think that my dad through sheer happenstance sometime in the 1960s invented the Egg McMuffin before
Herb Peterson did it in 1972 as a way for McDonald's to introduce breakfast into its menu known primarily for burgers, shakes and fries.

I've cooked my share of Briand Specials over the years, but with the influence of my mother and other excellent cooks over the years I'm able to hold my own in the kitchen. There's no greater compliment to me while I'm making dinner than to have my wife come up the stairs when she returns from work and say, "Oh, that smells so good."

My intent with Eats@Home is to share some stories and recipes. Folded into those personal stories will be the stories of other contributors, including professional chefs in the seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine. When they're not cooking at their restaurants, I'm wondering what they're cooking at their homes for themselves and their families. I'll let them tell their stories, ask them to share their recipes.

As for the Briand Special:

Slice of bologna (dad used Ocar Myer)
One egg
One English muffin

1) Bring a frying pan to medium heat and add butter to coat;
2) Toast English Muffin;
3) Cook bologna;
4) As bologna browns cook egg over easy;
5) Butter the English Muffin;
6) Add bologna and egg;
7) Garnish with ketchup to taste.

Serves one.

Family lore seems to agree that a Briand Special is not a true Briand Special unless the egg is cooked over easy, yoke in tact. That way, in taking your first big bite, yoke will spill from your sandwich (be careful to have a plate under it). You then sop up the yoke as you eat your sandwich, which creates an interesting looking palette of red ketchup mixing with yellow yoke. A piece of advice: Have lots of napkins on hand.
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