Cookin again


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Mom bought me a Masterbilt electric smoker last year, and I put it together over the winter...but I didn’t get around to prepping it until 2 days ago.

Definitely looking forward to doing smoked meats & veggies as ingredients or dishes, as well as trying my hand at drying fruits. Maybe some jerkey?


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Monday, I busted out the new smoker.

Planned a pork loin and assorted chicken. This was to be accompanied by some roasted diced Yukon golds in the oven and some California mix on the stovetop. I’ve already thawed one of my bread puddings.

Results? OK honesty time: NOT my best day in the kitchen. Potatoes were good, but below my usual standards.

Still have a lot to learn about smoking, clearly. The TEXTURE of the wings, thighs and pork loin was all good, but the flavor wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

1) I put my wood chips in a little late, so the smoky flavor was subtle. I BET if I had gotten the chips in earlier, I could have put a bit more in, resulting in a better smoke ring. (Mine was barely there.)

2) I need to be more generous with the seasoning. You could taste it, but it was too subtle for a main course. It would still work for an ingredient, though. Those thighs would KILL in some greens or gumbo.

3) I might need more flavorful rubs for both the pork and chicken. I saw all kinds of rubs out there, but I wanted to keep it simple, first time out.

4) I’m probably not going to mix my meats again. The chicken came out perfectly done, but the pork loin was a touch on the dry side. Not inedible, just in need of some BBQ sauce or something.

The end result, as mentioned, was ingredient quality but not quite main course ready. But for a first time out, with a new cooking method? I’ll take it!


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In other news, smokers get messy. I’m going to have to figure out the best way to clean mine properly...WITHOUT helpful Border Collie assistants.

(Thankfully, neither actually reached inside. I don’t particularly want to shampoo greasy smoked pork/chicken smelling dogs today.)


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I don’t like coleslaw. It has a whole bunch of things that I like that, when all combined in one dish, come together in a flavor tour de force that makes me go “Blechhh!”


There once was a Greco-American restaurant in Dallas called Vincent’s, and among other killer dishes. they made a garlicy coleslaw that I would drive across town to get. I mean 30minutes or more- crossing county lines- just to get there to buy this stuff.

After something like 80 years in business, they closed a few years ago. But thanks to the Internet...

Vincent’s Cole Slaw

I’m trying to make it for the first time today. I’m following the recipe relatively closely, but some changes have been made. I can say that having tasted the sauce. It’s still very close to the original.

Changes I made:

1) as Allrecipes posted in their notes, I subbed canola oil for grapeseed.
2) I used more garlic
3) I kinda eyeballed the seasoning amounts, but they’re close
4) because I don’t seem to have a measuring cup marked in thirds, I had to eyeball the amounts of oil, vinegar and mayo too. I think I have a bit more, but that just means I have more coverage with a (possibly) thinner sauce
5) I didn’t use a medium cabbage head, I used a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix which contained green & red cabbage, shredded carrots, and probably some other crunchy veg.

Things I DIDN’T do that I may in the future (for health reasons)

1) I didn’t sub in Greek yogurt for half the mayo
2) I didn’t cut the salt content.


Update: tried my version of Vincent’s slaw.

I am very close, but not quite there.

The carrots in the bag mix probably gave enough sweetness that I didn’t need the sugar that’s in the recipe.

I was right about my sauce being too thin. Too much oil and vinegar, maybe/probably not enough mayo. Good news- Mom reminded me we DO have a. 1/3 cup measuring device, and I found it. Better for next time.

I think I personally would up the paprika a bit more, but I’m not going to mess around with the proportions of the dry ingredients until I see what happens when I get the wet ones right.


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I really enjoy a good seafood salad/dip/spread. I make a few different ones- tuna, crab, salmon, shrimp- you get the idea. One of the best I have ever had was in a Dallas landmark- S&D Oyster Bar. It’s so good, I unashamedly will order one for myself...and it’s meant to be shared. :)

I tried to make my own version, and came close. But I never quite nailed it. Well, I just found out that D Magazine published the recipe.

Here’s S&D Oyster Bar’s sinfully good shrimp spread. (Originally published in D Magazine.)

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Thousand Island dressing
1/4 cup fresh green onions, minced
1 small onion, grated
4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground horseradish

Boil shrimp for 3-4 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain and chop cooked shrimp. Blend softened cream cheese with mayonnaise and salad dressing. Stir in shrimp, minced green onions, grated onion, Tabasco, seasoned salt, and horseradish. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

I can say ours was pretty good. We used green onions only, and added some parsley. We didn’t use Thousand Island dressing- or any other- at all. And we found that we preferred using decent sized shrimp because of what we did.

To get the color without the dressing, we puréed about 2/3 of our shrimp, then folded in the rest, which had been chopped into nibble sized chunks. Popcorn shrimp puréed better and more quickly, but the whole ones didn’t have the flavor punch that chunks from bigger shrimp did.

So we get at least the cocktail sized ones.


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Among the things served at our house on Father’s Day was something I now call Onion Overload.

It’s a hamburger topped with grilled onions. With Dietz & Watson Onion cheddar cheese. On an onion roll. Had some potato chips w/French onion dip, too.

Yes, I was farty as hell.

(No regrets!)


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I’m a big fan of- and subscriber to- America’s Test Kitchen’s websites (also including Cook’s Illustrated and Cooks Country). Many of their vids I like best, though, are behind a paywall.

However, the techniques in this potato recipe are close enough to ATK‘s as makes no difference. Great texture.

Personal note #1: I’ve done the ATK version several times. Their recipe calls for duck fat, but suggested canon grease as a reasonable substitute. Since I’ve never seen duck fat in stores, I first tried it with bacon grease.

‘‘Twas brilliant!

Since then, I’ve also tried it with drippings from beef, olive oil, corn oil, and other fats. IMHO- and without any scientific info to discuss WHY- using animal fats results in a better flavor. Don’t get me wrong, the veggie oil versions disappeared from the plate with great rapidity, so I’d have no qualms about doing a vegetarian or vegan version,

But there just seems to be something butter & the others are bringing to the dish the veggie oils just don’t.

Personal note #2: I “cheat” these days and just use the baby golds, quickly quartered and unpeeled. So far, no complaints.


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Recently, I modified this:

Mom, after approving this idea last week, decided she didn’t want mushrooms in this. To be fair, I have been going a bit shroom crazy in the kitchen, so that’s on me. So I had to tweak it. Of course, since I’m using a German sausage instead of Italian, that was a given.

I was going to use baby Yukon Golds, but there is already pasta in the dish, and both my pantry and the grocery were out of the tiny ones. So I went with a pair of medium sized zucchini, sliced into many medallions.

I also have a bunch of chopped red and green onions on hand, so I opted to save myself a little more chopping.

Dry seasonings were black pepper, basil, oregano and parsley. The salt came from the sausage, low-sodium broth and a can of diced low-sodium tomatoes.

To that, I added some halved San Marzanos, a handful of chiffonaded spinach, a splash of lemon juice and another of Chardonnay.

When plated, it was topped with shredded parrano.

Here is the dish, in process:

And served topped with shredded parrano cheese:


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When I lived in Tacoma as a kid, a schoolmate introduced me to sliced apples dusted with cinnamon and topped with american cheese as an after-school snack. I’ve been eating that ever since then.

But recently, I wondered what it would be like with different cheeses. I was originally going to try it with some Vermont cheddar slices, upbut had already used them on sandwiches. So today, I tried it with Swiss and with smoked Gouda. Separately, of course.

The Swiss wasn’t a good option. It’s flavor was almost completely overwhelmed by the apple & cinnamon. And it was a fairly good Swiss, too.

The Gouda, OTOH, not only stood up to the other flavors, it maintained a distinct and pleasant contrast. I’m not sure it as better than the American, but I would definitely do again.

I still feel that the cheddar will be better than any of those, though.


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In other news, I have @20-30 people coming for Thanksgiving, the biggest number I’ve fed since 2015. PLUS, one of the families coming has a kid who will be celebrating her birthday that day.

So. Much. Fun.


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So, this is our prospective menu- subject to change- for Turkeycaust 2018. I’m cooking about half of it. Besides the store-bought fried turkey, any dish with (Guest) beside it is being brought by someone else:

Thanksgiving Menu 2018

Cheese Platter/Charcuterie

Steamed Turkey
Fried Turkey
Baked Ham (Guest)
Roast Beef (Guest)
Shrimp Creole
Oyster Dressing
Schnitzel (Guest)
Duck (Guest)
Turnip Greens w/smoked Turkey
Maque Choux
Potato Salad
Sweet Potatoes (Guest)

Zucchini Bread
Bourbon Pecan pie
Cherry Blitz
Birthday Cake (Guest)
Ice Cream
Banana Pudding (Guest)
Bacon Apple Pie (Guest)

Soft Drinks
Wine (Guest)

As if that were not enough, one of my cousins- who is arriving in town tonight (but not staying with us)- has asked that I make some of my beef pasta salad.

My kitchen & my body will be feeling the pain!
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‘Tis the season! make edible gifts, of course. One of the ones I give to the greatest number of people is a homemade no/low sodium trail mix. I make a big batch, then divvy it up in baggies for the recipients. I’ve been trying to standardize my mix a bit, and it’s getting close. Currently, I do:

1lb each raw or roasted (unsalted) cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and macadamias
1.5-2.5lbs raw pecan halves
1lb dried pineapple chunks
1-2lbs of raisins. Sometimes the regular kind only, sometimes a mix of goldens, jumbo reds, and whatnot.
1-2lbs chopped dates
0.5-1lb shelled sunflower seeds, preferably unsalted depending on availability- will use salted if necessary

Optional: 0.5-1lb dried cherries, blueberries or cranberries,
Optional: 0.5lbs Brazil nuts

I tried other stuff- shredded coconut, banana chips, Chex, pretzels- but, tasty as they were, they each introduced issues I didn’t want to deal with. Usually, they’d get stale/rancid before the other stuff in the mix, but banana chips seem eerily immortal.

And today, I bought @$320 of nuts and dried fruit, plus 24 1lb tins and their liners.

So it begins...
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Do you have a place to sign up to get on a mailing list for the trail mix? You pay shipping cost, right? Holiday spirit and all?:p


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:). It’s pretty easy to D.I.Y. once you figure out what ingredients you like and where to get them. But nuts & dried fruit aren’t exactly cheap, so I don’t make it often. And as it turns out, the entire 12lb batch I made is slated to be given away as Christmas gifts to locals- none gets mailed this year. Even I just got nibbles :(


OTOH, I did a variant on that simple pork chop dish (mentioned a few posts up) the other night.

Buttered my 2 baking sheets, and I mean thoroughly. (I used unsalted.) Upon each I laid down a layer of thinly sliced yellow onions. On top of that, a layer of thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes, nicely seasoned. On top of those, I placed my liberally seasoned pork chops, and baked them at 350F until the chops & onions started to brown.*

That’s it. Easy peasy. The chops and potatoes come out tender, buttery and garlicky. The onions are slightly carmelized.

The key is using the right ingredients:

1) I always use a decent butter, not margarine or oil. It not only provides a non-stick layer, it also reinforces the flavors of the onions & potatoes.
2) I have tried different cuts, but thinly cut, bone-in chops seem to work best. Part of it has to be their relatively high fat content.**
3) my seasoning is simple but thorough. I use any of a few reduced sodium or salt-free spice mixes of garlic pepper or garlic & herbs, but any savory mix YOU like for pork will work- just make sure you get good coverage of the potatoes and both sides of the chops.

Next thing I’m cooking this week is a 7.8lb rib roast I bought today. $4.47/lb.

* Don’t worry if the onions stick a little. Scrape off those brown bits with a spatula and you’ll find them crispy & yummy.
** I haven’t tried it with this particular recipe yet, but you should be able to do essentially the same thing with other fatty meats, like chicken wings or thighs.
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Been doing some cooking for the holiday. Some of it was just for the immediate family, some for giving as gifts.

This was dinner from just a day ago: prime rib roast, some Yukon gold potatoes, and a mix of onions, portobellos, and whole garlic cloves that were nestled underneath the rib roast. So feast your eyes upon:


Next up, here are some pix from the process of prepping the batter for the bread puddings I’ll be baking tomorrow. We like to let the bread crumbs- this time, French baguettes I sliced then toasted- soak overnight to maximize the flavor distribution refine the texture.

Bread pudding, inchoate: