Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Probably the Most Dangerous Thing I've Ever Cooked: Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Fritters

For all of us who cook a lot, we know that there are some things that are hazardous to make, like anything with melted sugar or flaming alcohol. I remember when I made Julia Child's Coq au Vin, setting a match to that brandy made my hair stand on end. Little did I know that was child's play (yes, pun intended) compared to the corn fritters I'm talking about today.

I had originally intended on making these with canned corn, but the fresh corn is so delicious this time of year, I decided to use it, not taking into account what the moisture inside of the kernels might do when it hit the super hot oil in my Fry Daddy. Be forewarned, you should probably wear clothes you care nothing about, you must have an apron, long sleeves and a splatter screen (eye protection wouldn't hurt either) and all bystanders (including the dog) should clear the area before you begin cooking these bad boys because they do pop.

Don't have a stomach for danger? You can leave out the corn, just be sure to back off on the milk a bit, adding a little at a time until you get a super thick batter that will still slowly slide off of the spoon into the hot oil. For all this trouble and excitement you will be rewarded with crispy, crunchy nuggets that are perfect with a tomato based soup, chili, or best of all, all by themselves with a cold beer while sitting on the back deck observing the neighbors.

Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Fritters

4 slices bacon, drippings reserved
2 ears fresh sweet corn (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising corn meal (white or yellow) or 1 cup regular and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 small onion, grated
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Place bacon in a medium size frying pan over medium heat and cook until just shy of crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to cool before chopping; set aside. Reserve drippings.

Cut corn from the cob (see my favorite new way of shucking corn by watching this video) and place in a medium size bowl. To the corn add the flour, corn meal, sugar, onion, bacon, Old Bay, black pepper, salt and grated cheese. Stir the ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings; set aside.

Heat oil in a small deep fryer or enough in a medium size frying pan to come to about 1" up the side of the pan. When oil is approximately 350 degrees, or when a bit of batter dropped into it sizzles and quickly floats to the top, it is ready for frying. Drop batter one tablespoon at a time into the hot oil, cover with the splatter screen and stand back baby.

Using your splatter screen as a shield for your tender parts, carefully turn fritters to make sure they get cooked on both sides. Once they are golden brown on both sides (this will only take a couple of minutes), remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately while they are warm.

To reheat and crisp up leftovers, place in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 8 - 10 minutes or until they are heated through.

Makes approximately three dozen fritters.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Something From Nothing #26: Egg Drop Soup

Time really flies when you are having fun. It seems like just yesterday that I published my tequila bus post and next thing I know, BAM!, it's been over a week. Well I'll spare you of the apologies, but I do have a good excuse.

I wish that I could say for the last couple of days that I have been vacationing somewhere glamorous, or been wined and dined at some high stakes cook-off, or just doing nothing at all. No, the truth is that for the past week I have been strategizing and fulfilling one of my wildest dreams, to pull everything out of my son's room and clean the hell out of it, and since he's been gone to California for a few days the time was right.

I know that many of you are thinking that I am one of those helicopter moms that does everything for their kids and he should do it himself. Well, to you I say that I have been leaving it up to him for awhile now and that is why it needed a REAL cleaning, not one of those nineteen year old man/boy cleanings. This trash dump needed to have everything moved out and scrubbed. I'm telling you, this room was so bad that it did occur to me that maybe I should just light a match to the whole house and walk away, but I don't have enough years left to spend any of them in prison, so I got out the Windex instead.

Well after hours of cleaning, his room is so beautiful that I actually went up there and drank a glass of wine and admired my handiwork. It is so clean that the half empty glasses of curdled milk and the smashed Milky Way minis in the carpet from two Halloweens ago are just a mere memory. He can now boast that his room is the cleanest room in the house, but probably not for long because his plane lands tonight. Even though he's a little domestically challenged, he's a great kid and I can't wait to kiss his face and hear all about his trip.

Since we now have a few hours before we leave for the airport, I am not only in need of a bit of supper, but I also need to post my next Something From Nothing recipe, so egg drop soup is just what the doctor ordered. Seriously, this post was born from what I had in the pantry and it took only minutes to prepare, which is exactly what these posts are all about. Not only is this soup delicious, but it is easy and economical as well. Just perfect for those times when you are too busy realizing a dream or two to cook.

Egg Drop Soup

When given a choice of soups at Chinese restaurants, I usually go for the egg drop. I feel I know what to expect because the recipes are usually consistent with few variations. My favorite way to change it up when I make it at home is with the garnishes. I love fried wonton strips, crispy noodles, green onions and cilantro, but recently discovered diced tomatoes which are outstanding.  

4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup corn kernels (I used fresh sweetcorn off the cob, OMG!)
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root (or ground dried ginger to taste in a pinch)
Pinch of pepper (I like white pepper, but use what you've got)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
1 - 2 large whole eggs (this depends on how hearty you like your soup)
1 thinly sliced green onion for garnish or any of the other ideas above

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium size sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the corn, ginger root and pepper; simmer for approximately 5 minutes or until the corn is cooked to your liking (I like mine a little crisp).

While the soup is simmering, mix 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water until it is smooth. Add the slurry to the soup while stirring constantly. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the soup has thickened.

In a small spouted container, whisk the egg(s) with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch until smooth. Very slowly pour the egg into the pot in a circular motion, stirring gently once or twice as you pour. Continue to cook for another moment or two. Remove from the heat, transfer to serving bowls, garnish, and serve immediately.

Serves 2 - 3

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Trip on the Tequila Bus With Don Julio: Frozen Mexican Coffee

I freely admit that I have never been on a party bus until a couple of weeks ago. You know the kind of bus I'm talking about. The ones with blacked out windows, mirrors on the ceiling, the occasional stripper pole and subs that shake your house as they drive past. I've paid for a couple of them for my kids to get to and from prom and homecoming, but I've never ridden on one to an event that I was involved in.

So, last Tuesday I boarded one of these buses complete with a dozen or so of Denver's best bartenders and a strong contingent of Don Julio representatives. We were headed to parts unknown (to me) with promises of picking organic herbs, drinking some fine tequila and having a little lunch. Little did I know that I was going to be the oldest person and the only blogger on the bus, but you know I always figure that stepping out of my comfort zone can only be good for me.

After an hour of riding, and drinking a strong iced Mexican coffee while sitting next to some really fun people, we arrived at our destination. I still haven't figured out if it was the tequila at 10 am or if the others were really that funny, but who cares. It was a fun trip even if the blacked out bus windows did make me feel kind of like I was traveling in the trunk of a car.

By the time we arrived at Lone Hawk Farms outside of Boulder, the Airstream Speakeasy, a one of a kind mobile bar that is on tour promoting Don Julio this summer, was waiting for us. After a tour of the Airstream and the farm we were invited to pick herbs and ingredients and craft our own one of a kind cocktail. Since I was hanging out with a bunch of pros, I preferred to photograph the resulting cocktails which ranged from the sublime sugar snap pea and radish, which was surprisingly good, to the ridiculous tamale margarita, which I passed on tasting due to the presence of a large amount of tamale sediment in the bottom of the glass.

Sugar snap pea and radish cocktail

The famous tamale cocktail being crafted. In all fairness this was the result of a bet over lunch, and maybe just a little bit too much tequila.

After an hour or so we were invited to take a seat at the beautiful table that was set for us by Zolo Grill in Boulder. As if on cue, just as the beautiful roasted organic chicken, Israeli couscous and blue corn tamales were sat in front of us, the heavens opened up and gave everyone and everything a good dousing.

After a delicious, rain soaked lunch, some mixed more cocktails, and some of us (me) took photos for the next couple of hours before boarding the party bus and heading back to Denver. One quick shout out to our bus driver. I don't know if anyone realizes it or not, but these bus drivers are the unsung heroes of the party world. How they manage to deliver high schoolers and party goers safely to their destinations without pulling over and abandoning them along with their ear piercing music and goodness knows what else, is a mystery to me. No wonder she scraped the bus up against a tree while leaving the farm. Don't worry, it was just a scratch.

So that's kind of a quick rundown of our trip to Boulder.  Before I go, I'd like to leave you with some images of our day at Lone Hawk farm. Thanks to my hosts, Dominic, Sergio and Don Julio for inviting me to this wonderful, out of my comfort zone event and giving us enough tequila along the way to set the festive mood. For more information about Don Julio's superior tequila, the Airstream Speakeasy or Lone Hawk Farms in Boulder, please click on the links.

Frozen Mexican Coffee

Although we were served delicious iced black Mexican coffees (cold brewed coffee, coffee liqueur, and tequila) on our bus trip to Boulder, I wanted to give you the recipe for one of my favorite frozen drinks that I haven't made in years, probably since my bartending days 100 years ago. If you haven't had a Mexican coffee or frozen Mexican coffee before, you are in for a real treat.

1 great big scoop of coffee ice cream or vanilla ice cream and a splash of strong cold brew coffee (method follows)
1 ounce coffee liqueur
1 - 1/2 ounce reposado tequila
Agave nectar or simple syrup to taste (optional)
Whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon to garnish if desired

Place ice cream, coffee liqueur, tequila and agave nectar in a blender. Blend until ingredients are smooth. Pour into a stemmed glass. Serve as is or top with whipped cream and a pinch of cinnamon.

Cold Brew Coffee

Hot brewed coffee is higher in acids than its cold brewed sibling, leaving iced hot brewed coffee with a sharp, acidic flavor. I agree with the the cold brew proponents that say this method of brewing produces a smooth, almost chocolate flavor. It takes hardly no effort but it does require a little bit of time. I think the effort is totally worth it if you are a summertime iced coffee drinker like me.

1 cup of your favorite ground coffee
3 - 4 cups cool water
2 large glass jars (at least 1 quart) with at least 1 lid
2 cone type coffee filters and 1 rubber band for securing to the jar, or a fine mesh tea strainer for filtering

Pour coffee into one of the jars. Add cool water and gently stir a couple of times to incorporate; cover loosely with lid or set a coffee filter over the top to keep out any dust or debris. Set aside on the counter top for 12 - 24 hours (I've tried both and can't really tell the difference) to brew.

Place filter inside of the remaining jar, securing it around the rim with a rubber band. Pour coffee and grounds into the filter (or tea strainer) a little bit at a time allowing it to drain into the clean jar; repeat with all of the coffee. Discard grounds, cover and place into the refrigerator where it will keep nicely for a couple of weeks. When you are ready to serve, pour a splash of coffee over a glass of ice, adding additional water, cream and/or sugar to taste.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Independence Day 2014: Street Corn Dip

Sidewalk art outside my local supermarket. Well done Jerod!

As everyone in the world knows, it is Independence Day in America tomorrow. Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming America's independence from Britain. Seeing how strong the pound is against dollar these days, I wonder who has the last laugh, but never mind, we're happy anyway.

To see how proud we Americans are of our country, all you have to do is look around and see the symbols of patriotism that are popping up everywhere. I found two big examples that just sprung up out of nowhere on my everyday route of walking and shopping. If you are an American, your heart can't help but swell with pride when you see these colors fly.

Local Castle Rock artists have partnered with the city's police department to paint nine bridges so far in the city in an effort to curtail graffiti in the area. These artists not only volunteer their talent and time to create works of art like these, but also use donated materials to create them. This one lives on the trail that I walk every morning.

Street Corn Dip

I can't sit by and watch everyone else do red, white and blue posts and me do nothing. Since I think that the white cake with raspberries and blueberries is a bit over done, I thought there might be a market for a savory slant on the red, white and blue theme.

This is just an easy little dip with vibrant flavors that will certainly be a big hit at your 4th of July gathering. No matter how you celebrate, big or small, this Mexican street corn inspired recipe with its bright, spicy flavors will be a welcomed addition.

1 - 8 ounce can corn, drained or 1 cup fresh corn cut off the cob
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons shaved Parmesan,sharp cheddar or crumbled cojita cheese
1 garlic clove, crushed
Zest of 1 lime
1/3 - 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
Tortilla or corn chips to serve

Mix together corn, mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan, garlic and lime zest in a medium size bowl; cover and allow to sit at least 1 hour if possible. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with salsa. Serve with tortilla chips.

I've made several versions of this dip. I sometimes like to grill the corn and add cilantro to change it up a bit. It is also good with chopped green onions, bell pepper or jalapenos. I invite you to use my base and make it your own.