Insert jokey title with “clambake” as term for party…

One pot clambake

Cheesy chive bread

Yes, for two people.  oof.

Yes, for two people. oof.

D and I are big fans of another alternative clam bake recipe from Everyday Food.  That one you do on the grill.  I had never done one of the stove top versions, but I’ve always been intrigued and maybe just a little scared.  Why?  Well, I don’t have one of those enormous New England lobster boiling, enamel coated, monstrosity pots that these recipes seem to call for.  I’ve got the biggest stock pot in the Cusinart set of stainless steel pots and pans that we got for our wedding 10 years ago.  So I didn’t want to run into a situation where there isn’t enough room for the shrimp and clams and this becomes a potato and corn bake.  I’ve also been reticent because we here in the middle of the country don’t so much have access to clams.  I surely didn’t want to buy canned clams (ew!!!!!), and I wasn’t sure if I could find fresh ones at any of my usual grocery stores.  This was not the weekend for a special trip to a fancy grocery store.

My fears were, luckily, unfounded.  The stock pot was a fine size.  And the frozen clams that D found at our normal grocery store (No, not Aldi) were just fine.  You were supposed to cook them from frozen, which is great because I didn’t have to thaw clams in the fridge (ew again!!!), but it did cause a problem for the shrimp.  The clams are the second to last thing to go in.  The shrimp are last.  The recipe has you add the shrimp, turn off the heat, then open the lid back up in three minutes to reveal perfectly cooked shrimp.  I opened the lid after maybe six minutes (distracted) and found some 1/8 cooked shrimp.  I put them back on the heat and gave them a few minutes to finish cooking.  They tasted great.  Here’s what I think happened: the recipe assumes that you have fresh clams and I used frozen ones.  When I cooked the frozen clams, I brought the clams up to the right temperature, but in doing so managed to bring the temperature of the entire pot way down.  So when I added those shrimp to what should have been a warm and steamy environment, it was probably only lukewarm and moderately steamy.  Hence, undercooked shrimp (one more time: ew!!!!).  So if you’re cooking with anything but fresh clams, keep the pot on the heat for the shrimp step.

Oh, the cheesy chive bread?  It was ok.  I made it garlic bread instead because I couldn’t find chives.  With the corn and the potatoes in the clambake, the bread wasn’t really necessary.  It was kind of nice for sopping.  I will say that buying a loaf a shade less than crusty is probably the way to go.  Hacking through that giant, hard loaf to make the cuts in the loaf was grueling.  All that fuss for some garlic bread?  C’mon.

B also tells me that these clambakes ordinarily have sausage.  How this midwestern girl missed out on an opportunity to eat sausage is kind of mind-boggling.  As B noted, what we lack in clams, we make up for in sausage.  That sounded bad.  Never mind.

clambake closeup

Enjoy the swingin’ clambake!

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Buttermilk-cornmeal drop biscuits with honey butter

December 2011, pg. 87

Buttermilk Cornmeal Biscuits

Buttermilk-cornmeal drop biscuits with honey butter recipe 

These biscuits were going to be a perfect addition to our leftover chicken and gravy.  No honey butter for us.  I’m sure it would have been a nice addition to the biscuits if we ate them for breakfast or brunch.  I only help out with the sweeter recipes, and we don’t get as much exercise this time of year, so I reduce sugar when possible.

The biscuits were very easy and quick to make.  It is a perfect addition to a meal if you don’t have a lot of time or don’t feel like thinking too much.  The only problem I had with making the dough was it was very thin, like a batter.  I’m going to take complete blame for the dough/batter because I did use the powdered buttermilk again.  Last month when I made the black pepper buttermilk biscuits the dough was very wet.  Next time I use powdered buttermilk to make a dough, I’m going to add the water slowly and not just use the amount of water the powdered buttermilk container calls for.  So my finished product was a thin biscuit.

Looking far from perfect, the biscuits tasted great!  I really like cornbread, my husband not as much.  However, he had very positive comments regarding the texture of the biscuits from the cornmeal and I completely agree with him.  The honey provided a perfect amount of sweetness to the biscuit.

Biscuits with chicken and Gravy

Pat and I both had the leftover biscuits for breakfast without butter, honey butter, or jam.  They are sweet enough by themselves, but I’m sure if you wanted to add a spread, the honey butter would be delicious.

cheddar bay biscuits and gravy

Cheddar Bay Biscuits and Gravy: G goes rogue again

B made fun of how this looks.  She's just jealous she couldn't eat it.  :P

B made fun of how this looks. She’s just jealous she couldn’t eat it. 😛

The November 2007 Everyday Food recipe is focused on Thanksgiving, so it should come as no surprise that it has waaay more sides than main dishes.  This is great for your average home cook.  Your average home cook isn’t trying to make everything in the issue in a month.  B and I had to get creative to use up all of those side dish recipes.  So my biscuits became a breakfast.  I was walking around downtown thinking to myself about what to do with cheddar biscuits.  I kept thinking “cheddar biscuits, cheddar biscuits”…  Then a wonderful voice in my head added one simple word and said, softly, “cheddar bay biscuits.”  We all have our chain food vices, right?  For D and I, it’s Red Lobster.  I love the fried shrimp and those cheddar bay biscuits.  So I decided to work in some “bay” in the cheddar biscuit recipe by borrowing from some copycat recipes on the internet.  Before I move on to the “and gravy” part…Kyle Kinane’s bit about cheddar bay biscuits and Michael Jackson is genius.  Enjoy.

I had my cheddar bay idea, but I was still stuck on what to serve it with.  Then another genius voice in my head said “biscuits and gravy.”  Like a before and after puzzle on Wheel of Fortune, my head put it together: cheddar bay biscuits and gravy.  Boom.

Ok, this is a combination of three different recipes, so bear with me.  I started with the original Everyday Food Buttermilk Biscuits recipe (Cheddar Variation), but make some cheddar bay changes.  (Here’s a pretty good Cheddar Bay Biscuits copycat recipe that I used as inspiration.)  Follow the Everyday Food recipe with these variations:

1)When you mix all the dry ingredients together, add a teaspoon of garlic powder.  I messed up and forgot it at that step so I had to add it with the cheddar when I kneaded it all together.  That worked out, but I was definitely afraid of over-working the dough.  I should have added it with the dry ingredients.

2)  As for the cheddar part of cheddar bay, the cheddar variation is only in the magazine.  At the part where you knead the dough to combine it, you add 2 cups of grated cheddar.  The recipe also says to add more to the top, but holy moley, that’s already a ton of cheese.  I love cheese more than the next gal, and I left it off of the top.

3)  To finish up the cruise to cheddar bay, I brushed the tops with parsley and melted butter.  Some of the copycat recipes had you mix dried parsley in with the dough, but I don’t have dried parsley and I didn’t think buttermilk biscuits with cheddar cheese and garlic really needed much more!

I had to step back the heat on my oven to about 425 instead of 450 because my biscuits were bigger than the ones in the magazine.  I cut them out with the top of a rocks glass.

Look what washed up on the shores of Cheddar Bay!

Look what washed up on the shores of Cheddar Bay!

Ok, that’s your cheddar bay biscuits.  I must admit that they do not taste exactly like the ones from Red Lobster.  The ones from Red Lobster are far more buttery, but have far less cheese and garlic flavor.  I think you could double the amount of butter and halve the amount of cheese and garlic to approximate the restaurant experience, but I hope you’ll try it my way.

On to the “n’ gravy”.  I got the sausage gravy recipe from the internet only after none of the packages of Jimmy Dean sausage at the grocery store had a recipe for sausage gravy on the side.  C’mon, Dean!  I took this recipe, halved it (huge mistake, we wound up wanting more gravy), but bumped the sausage back up to a 1/3 lb.  I did use whole milk because I have a toddler in the house and one of the perks is that you have whole milk around for cooking and baking.

So how was it?  Do you even have to ask?  It was cheddar bay biscuits with sausage gravy on top.  It was super good.  I just wish I would have made more.  Luckily, I have four more biscuits in the freezer ready to bake.

 

G&D-giving

G and D’s Mini Thanksgiving

#nofilter

#nofilter

D and I have a tradition of having a mini Thanksgiving ahead of the actual holiday.  Because there are so many people at the actual celebration, it can be hard to get a chance to spend any time together.  We didn’t do one last year because J was less than a month old and took all of our energy.  So we brought back the tradition this year.  Plus, it gave me a chance to knock out some recipes for the blog.  Plus plus, stuffing > not stuffing.

One mistake: not breaking this meal up with something like a salad or cranberries or green beans.  Look at that picture!  It’s sepia-toned it’s so stinkin’ brown.  Brown onions, brown stuffing, brown gravy, brown turkey skin.  Yikes.

I’m going to start with the low-light and work my way up.  The turkey.  We always get the Jennie O perfect turkey breast in a bag.  You don’t thaw it, don’t season it, don’t baste it.  Just stick it in the oven and wait until the timer pops.  Except ours didn’t have a timer, and I didn’t notice that until it was already overcooked and crazy dry.  Oops.  At least I found the thing on sale.

Sugar-glazed pearl onions

I was maybe going to make these for the big Thanksgiving, but D talked me into trying it first.  That was a good call.  This took forever, and it wasn’t all that tasty.  The first step, where it says to cook on medium low until the liquid has evaporated?  Yeah, 30 minutes later and it was still super soupy.  That’s when G got impatient, cranked up the heat and pretty much boiled off the liquid.  The next step where you get them golden went pretty well.  The actual vinegar and thyme was tasty, but really it was just onions.  Nearly an hour for a bunch of onions?  You’d better be caramelizing onions for some french onion soup or something.  Mmmmm….french onion soup….

Simple stuffing (Sausage variation)

The sausage variation is only in the magazine.  You add 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of the casing, to the veggies in the pan after they are softened and cook until browned.  Then, move on to the add wine step and follow as always.  I used sourdough bread instead of Italian bread, and I’m quite happy that I did.  Sourdough gives you just a little more flavor and cuts against the richness ever so slightly.  Also, this recipe doesn’t give directions for you to cook this on its own.  The turkey breast had you cooking it at 375 so I cooked this in a 8 x 8 pan at 375 for 25 minutes then browned it uncovered for about 15 minutes.  That’s another thing.  I halved this recipe to just make one pan.  I regretted that.  Who has ever wanted less stuffing?  Rookie mistake.  It was delicious.  It’s tough to say if that’s just because stuffing is delicious as a general proposition.

Cranberry-pear cake bars

Where did that corner piece go?

Where did that corner piece go?

Yet again, MSLO is kiiiiilling me by not putting one of the recipes online.  The November 2007 issue seems to be especially bad for this.  Sigh.  My version of the recipe after the jump.

Anyway, the cranberry bars were amazing.  They were very moist and blondie-like in flavor although cake-like in texture.  The batter definitely seemed like a muffin batter.  I am fully planning to try making this as muffins someday.  Maybe with a struesel topping.

Oh, and I had a small piece with two different Ben and Jerry’s coffee ice creams as a semi-frozen Kaffee und Kuchen.  Coffee heath bar crunch was the best with the cake.  Coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz (coffee ice cream with espresso-flavored chocolate chunks) was the better of the two on its own.

coffee heath, cake, coffee and espresso fudge chunks.

coffee heath, cake, coffee and espresso fudge chunks.

It was an awesome Thanksgiving dessert, day after Thanksgiving breakfast, dessert to send to work with your husband, all around sweet treat.  Thank you, Beck family of New Canaan, Connecticut.  You’re all geniuses.

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Buttermilk Biscuits: Two Ways

Buttermilk Biscuits

The November 2007 issue included a fairly awesome buttermilk biscuit recipe, along with three suggested variations.  I made the mixed herb variation, M made the black pepper variation, and G went really rogue on the cheddar variation which you will soon learn about in another post.

Those little flecks are flavor.

Those little flecks are flavor.

Like many other recipes in this issue, I could only find the base recipe for buttermilk biscuits but no discussion of the variations.  So basically, if you want to make the mixed herb variation, do this:

In step 1, add a 1/2 cup of your favorite fresh chopped herbs.  I did a blend of thyme, chives, and dried parsley (because it’s what I had).  Add less of the intensely flavored herbs live thyme and rosemary (if you choose rosemary) and more of the lighter herbs like parsley and chives.

*adpated from page 48, November 2007, issue 47

It is a pretty simple recipe.  You make the dough, you roll the biscuits out, you cut them out, you bake them.  No surprises.  They are really tasty.  I loved the flavor of chive in the biscuits.  I just ate them straight.  They were so flavorful they didn’t need butter.  After the second or third one, I started to realize how salty they were.  Salty in a good way, but easily that salt could have been cut without really cutting the flavor.

I mentioned this to M before she made the black pepper variation.  Let’s hear about it, M!

If you want to make the cracked black pepper variation do the following:

In step 1 add 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper to the dry flour mixture.  In step 3 after brushing biscuits with butter, sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon more cracked black pepper.

*adapted from page 48, Issue #47, November 2007

Biscuits with cracked black pepper.

Biscuits with cracked black pepper.

I completely agree with B and the simplicity of the buttermilk biscuits.  I did stray from the actual recipe for two ingredients.  Following B’s recommendation, I decreased the salt to only 1.25 teaspoons not two.  I also used a cultured buttermilk powder (which you can find at most grocery stores in the baking aisle with the flour and sugar).  My mom turned me onto the powdered buttermilk because I hate wasting food and I would never use all of the fresh buttermilk that I would buy.  So powder it is and I think it works great!

I did find the biscuit dough very wet before adding flour to it on the work surface.  It reminded me of drop biscuit batter.  In the future if I want to cut corners with the recipe I may just drop the dough on a cookie sheet and bake them that way.  The dough was fine once I added quite a bit of flour to it.

I served my biscuits for dinner as a side to vegetarian chili.  They went very well together.  P and I really liked the black pepper flavor and of course the butter!  I must confess my biscuits don’t look quite as nice as B’s, for at least two reasons.  First, I don’t have a round cookie cutter, so I used a football.  Second, I blame it all on my less than mediocre oven.

Zucchini Spice Bread Gone Wrong… Sort Of…

Doesn't that look autumnal?  It smells autumnal...

Doesn’t that look autumnal? It smells autumnal…

So once again, we have stumbled onto something I have never baked before.  I tend to go for banana bread personally (usually because I fail to eat all the bananas I purchased and need to do something with the remainder!).  I also wasn’t sure I would love the Zucchini Spice Bread recipe so I decided to get it out of the way quickly.

For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.  The combination of spices is just so delicious smelling (and tasting).  I baked this on one of the first pretty chilly days we had here so I had the added warmth from the oven and the lovely spices wafting around.  It was so cozy that I had to go throw on some knee socks to really get the effect I was going for (I have a thing for knee socks).

I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

I let it bake for 50 minutes.  I inserted a toothpick into the center and it came out clean.  I let it cool in the pan for a bit.  When I returned to the kitchen it had collapsed! Somehow that darn toothpick test got the best of me and it was still a bit doughy in the middle.  I didn’t discover exactly how doughy until I had cut into it and I ended up trying to finish the baking process in the microwave.  As a result the texture was not quite as glorious but the flavor was still pretty awesome.  So when you bake this, because you should, maybe do a double or triple toothpick test to make sure it is really done!!