Thursday, November 29, 2007

Won, Two, Three

After posting yesterday's blog, I got inspired and started going thru the mounds of recipes (bits and pieces, books, and folders) that I keep handy in a disorderly fashion, to look for more Won Ton ideas. Just like a lot of you who like to cook, we all can make our "go to dishes" by instinct, but it can be difficult to "explain" how you make a particular dish to someone. Especially when that someone hasn't prepared that dish dozens of times. I'm a firm believer in making each recipe your own, but let's face it, you better give someone a good foundation to start with and not leave out any part that would cause "structural damage." That's why I went to my treasure chest and found some of the "original great ones" that I count on. From here you can dress them up any way YOU want to. It's also painfully obvious that I really need to come up with a better plan filing recipes. Oh, well.......I'll do that this winter when it's cold and yuck outside.....yeah, just like last year. comfortcook@gmail.com

Won Ton Basics

1/2 C finely chopped Napa or Savoy cabbage
Coarse (sea) salt
6 ozs ground pork (not all lean)
3 Scallions, finely chopped
1TBS finely chopped peeled ginger
1 Tsp soy sauce
1 Tsp Sesame oil

In a medium bowl, toss cabbage with 1/2 tsp salt. Let stand 10 min. Wrap cabbage in a double layer of paper towels: firmly squeeze out excess liquid. return cabbage to bowl: add pork, scallions, ginger , soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well with a fork. Makes enough to fill about 24 wontons. Refrigerate leftover filling up to 2 days.

Making Wontons
1 Work with one wrapper at a time and keep the rest covered with a damp towel. Spoon one rounded teaspoon of filling in center.
2 With dampened fingers, wet the four edges. To make a triangle, fold wrapper in half over filling, making sure the ends meet and the filling is centered; press edges down firmly to seal.
3 Moisten one tip on long side of triangle. Then bring together both tips on long side, overlapping them slightly, press tips together to seal.
4 Fold remaining top corner back. Transfer to an oiled plate; cover with damp towel to keep moist. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

Wonton Soup
Serves 4

24 rectangular or square wonton wrappers
1 recipe Wonton Filling
2 cans(14.5 oz each) reduced sodium chicken broth
coarse salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 to 3 tsp Rice vinegar
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 cups water

1 Make wontons (see recipe)
2 Make soup: in large pot combine broth and 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Add wontons, one at a time; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer till wontons are just cooked thru, 4-6- minutes. Stir in scallions, vinegar and sesame oil; season with salt. Serve

POT STICKERS

1 Make wontons (above 1-2)
2 In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over med-high heat. Add half the wontons and cook, turning once till lightly browned, about one minute per side. Carefully add 1/2 cup water (oil may sputter), cover, and steam until translucent and just cooked thru, 2-3 minutes. Repeat with remaining 1 TBS of oil and wontons. Sprinkle pot stickers with scallions and serve with soy sauce.

Don't be intimidated...these are really easy and so delicious. Really fresh and vibrant. TGIFriday's serves their pot stickers with red cabbage and hoisin sauce on the side, which is a really nice contrast for color. To freeze any wontons, place on a cookie sheet after filling and freeze, thaw in fridge and cook according to directions above. They'll keep up to a couple of months in the freezer.

TIP: Sam's Wholesale Club has frozen pot stickers available. They are quite good and very convenient for a Hot Appetizer option for any Holiday get together. Just follow the pkg. directions. Why kill yourself when you can buy greatness? Let's be reasonable here.

I've got a couple of recipes coming tomorrow per Linda's request for Chicken Tortilla Soup. One is super easy (you only open cans & it's really quick and good) the other is a little more dressed up, but still simple. Thanks for all your FEEDback. Have a WONderful day!!!

Check out "SIMPLY RECIPES" in The Profile section.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Countdown To Christmas....Appetizers!!!

I think that I would rather have a table full of "Finger Foods" in front of me, than a Steamboat of Beef on a steam table, any day. Hold on....this is entirely my belief and I know that in my own household, I am alone in this opinion. Therefore, we have BOTH!! Don't get me wrong, I am in the middle of all of it, but I love the fun and playfulness of those great little savory snacks, that seems like everyone has a different recipe for. You can taste a dozen new things and go back for seconds (and thirds) on the particularly yummy "Oooh, I love that!" tidbit. What a great way to try out new tastes. My girlfriend Beverly and I are real culinary team mates in every sense of the word. She and I have the best little get togethers and our husbands just sit back and reap the delicious rewards. One of my favorite dishes of Bev's is her Hot Spinach and Artichoke dip. I always ask for it anytime we get together where food is involved. I am of the consensus, that cheese makes anything better, and if cream cheese is involved in anyway...I'm in. Some folks stuff celery with cream cheese, but my vessel of choice is a spoon. More than once in the middle of the night, a butter knife has also worked. I'll ask Bev to give us her recipe, but as far as I'm concerned, she will always be the one who makes it for me. "Shout out to Beverly!...email me the recipe" comfortcook@gmail.com . I'm gonna include her Quiche recipe this month soon, as it's a great brunch treat for the Holidays.

I'm going to share a couple of really easy and delicious favorite appetizers along with little lesson on Won Ton 101. The sausage ones were a big hit with Gerald's co-workers for their Halloween potluck and Connie from there has asked me for the recipe. It's taken me awhile as I literally was flying by the seat of my pants and came up with the filling from what I had available the day before. Getting this in a proper recipe format is not really my forte, but I'm not here to be graded...I'm here to share and have some fun. Let me just say that I do indeed have these ingredients on hand. I am a food nerd and like to be able to go to my pantry or fridge at anytime and find basic ingredients that are really a part of my food repertoire. I have a pkg of Won tons in my produce drawer as we speak and am never without ground pork, ginger or at least 5 kinds of cheese (in various colors and textures.) I realize this is not normal behavior, but I do keep an interesting pantry. Thanks for your patience Connie, this one's for you!!!

WON TON APPETIZERS

Preheat oven to 350
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Drsg mix (mix as directed)
1 lb Chorizo Sausage uncooked bulk ( Kroger) or pork , Italian or Hot Italian sausage
(I used the Chorizo for my last batch)
3 Oz. softened cream cheese
1 C shredded sharp cheddar
1 C Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack ( I used Pepper Jack)
1 Tsp ground Cumin
1 TBS Chili Powder
1 Tsp Granulated Garlic powder
1 Tsp Salt/1 Tsp Ground Black pepper
1 Pkg Won Ton Wrappers ( or can substitute egg roll wrappers, cut into quarters)

Brown sausage and mix in all spices and seasonings. DRAIN well. Set aside. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray ( I used the small sized cup muffin tin, but can certainly use larger one.)Put Won Ton squares in muffin cups, getting down to bottom of pan. Bake for about 5 minutes until a little golden. Remove and bake next pan. Watch as these can burn easily!

Mix together sausage, Ranch dressing, and cheeses. Spoon into Won Ton cups and return to oven till cheese just melts. I top off the Chorizo ones with a little dollop of Sour cream and a fresh cilantro leaf. The Italian or pork sausage ones, can be garnished with Green or Black olives slices (Italian) or dried cranberries or raisins on the pork. It's all up to you.
TIP!!
If you are going to travel with these ( for a potluck or whatever) line a crock pot with foil and place the Won Tons in layers (with foil between them) and turn on low when you arrive at your party. Always start out with a hot Crock pot from home, that way it doesn't take forever to heat up. Turn it off to travel and on low when you arrive. Wait to garnish till you set out your appetizers. These are a great room temperature food, so don't fret about keeping them piping hot. Remember this can be mixed and matched any way. You can also substitute Mozzarella for the Jack cheese for the Italian ones. That's what I do.

I hope you get a chance to try these out. I plan on making several batches this month. I also freeze the unfilled baked Won Ton cups to use for other fillings. I do a great Chicken Salad in them for my catering events. The empty baked cups can be frozen on a cookie sheet, removed and put into a moisture proof container and will keep in the freezer up to 6 months. Can be baked filled then frozen, same way and reheated in oven till hot. Will keep in freezer 3 months. Tomorrow, I've got a great Pot Sticker recipe that is an absolute favorite of mine.

Thanks to Linda and Amber for their comments on the fried turkey post. Linda, I will definately switch up on the oils to differentiate the poultry. And Amber, you are so right about the fried turkey being moist. Brining is also a great way to have a moist turkey, or chicken, too. Bev brined her turkey for the first time this year and is a convert. Just goes to show that we have so many more options today and how great it is that we can all share new and creative ways to enjoy old favorites.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Learned This Thanksgiving

Hello! I hope everyone out there had a beautiful and love-filled holiday! Mine was great as the boys and friends all stopped by and stroked my ego with their culinary compliments. It doesn't hurt that they eat out 99% of the time and most of those choices are decided according to a college student's budget. So when Mom lays out a spread of anything that remotely resembles a real meal, they dig in with "ummms and ahhs." It has taken years to reach this level of appreciation from them and I savor the moment.

I fried a turkey this year. My Master-Bilt electric deep fryer is a great piece of equipment and works like a dream. Preparing the turkey was easy, just got it ready the night before and let it do it's thing overnight. It was a moment of truth when Gerald and I lowered the bird into the hot oil and I was tickled to see all that hot, bubbling peanut oil cover that entire turkey. We were like a couple of kids with something new for a change. We set the timer and I went on with the rest of our dinner. Gerald kept an eye on the fryer, and one eye on football, so we wouldn't burn down the house. We did all this in the garage, as part of the beauty of the Master-Bilt is that you do use it indoors. I suggest you cover anything in close proximity of the oil, but other than that it was easy as pie.

The turkey came out 45 minutes later and I let it sit till the potatoes were mashed and we were all ready to sit down to eat. Prayers were said and we dug in. That's when the umms and ahhs started and "this is the best turkey I ever ate" was said around the table. All but for one. ME. This wasn't Thanksgiving turkey...this was a big fried chicken!!! Immediately I started thinking that my perfect roast turkey and cranberry sandwich was ruined. These leftovers were not going to work. I sat back and let the others enjoy their "turkey", and made plans to go to the grocery Friday while they still had turkeys on sale. That one I would roast.

I guess because I do fry chicken at least a couple of times a month and I do use peanut oil and I do brine it first, for me this was just a regular meal on steroids. I can certainly understand the hoopla, because everybody I shared my table with loved it. Craig, one of our boys best friends even called me on Saturday to ask if I'd fry a turkey for his Mom and then brought one over that I cooked for his family on Sunday. It looked gorgeous, too and Gerald and I cut off a piece to "test", (quality control you know) and it was great. By then I was over the Thanksgiving mindset and appreciated the fried turkey for just what it was. I did buy a 15 lb. turkey that is in the freezer and as soon as we finish this pork roast that I smoked on Sunday,(I was bound and determined to get some sandwiches out of this holiday) I roast it like always and I'll get my real turkey sandwich with a fresh batch of cranberry sauce and a big ole loaf of sour dough bread. There's alot to be said for tradition.............

So, I do like fried turkey, just not when it's the only poultry option and maybe not on Thanksgiving. I realize I'm in a minority here. But, it was great fun to try something new and if you are considering getting a turkey fryer, I highly recommend the Master-Bilt. It does a fine job and Gerald says it's easy to clean, too. (Thanks Gerald!) You can do all kinds of great meals with it low country boils, wings, etc. So let's move forward to Christmas and all those goodies. I'm working on some Christmas ideas and will be posting them soon. Please sign up and let me hear from you. I would love to be able to post some of your comments and get everyone involved. Have a great day and treat yourself well........................

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