Sunday, March 22, 2015

Southern Fried Apples

Who doesn't love apples? Whether they're raw or cooked, I'll eat them with breakfast, dinner or a snack. Growing up in the Nutmeg State, you couldn't get through the fall without celebrating apple picking time with the Apple Harvest parade in Southington. I can remember my Dad buying us huge, red apples for a dime and the crisp crunch with that first bite. As a kid, I always loved it when my Mother would fix apple sauce with pork chops and to this day, this is one of my favorite combinations. Whenever we have an abundance of apples, we will use our "Rotato" device to peel, core, slice and put up apples. Depending on the time available, I will vacuum seal and freeze them raw (soaked in lemon juice so they don't brown) or can them in pint jars. The canning does take a little more time on the front end, but it's worth the effort when you can grab a jar to fix fried apples to go with a country ham, egg and biscuit breakfast. The sweet offsets the salty bite of the ham.
In a skillet (preferably a black cast iron skillet but a non-stick will work.) melt a stick of butter. When the butter is bubbling, add your raw or canned apples. I have never measured how much sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg or ground cloves I add but it always seems to taste the same. I would start with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and a 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves and nutmeg. Stir well.
Take a taste of the "broth" to see if you're satisfied with the spices. Add more as needed. Bring to a boil.
Let  the mixture cook at medium high to high and turn every so often. When sauce thickens and apples are tender, they're ready to eat. And did I mention these warm apples are incredible over vanilla ice cream?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Easy Cast Iron Skillet Steak

The winter of 2015 has been nothing short of insane!! One day it's 67 degrees and the next you wake up to an inch of ice with a little snow to top it off. To the best of my memory; it's been over 20 years since we've had one this crazy.

The crape myrtle trees were dripping with ice.

My dinner time wind chimes were swaying in the breeze and the pine trees in the background were sagging with the weight of the ice. We will be burning brush this spring as we had a lot of tree and branch damage.
Before the bad weather hit, we made a run to Columbia to buy a whole ribeye for an equally insane price. Andy hand-cut them and we vacuum sealed them for future use. Well, two days went by, Momma was coming over for dinner (or so we thought) and we decided to grill some steaks.The weather men started calling for Icegeddon so we had a change of plans.It was cold and miserable and my big teddy bear didn't want to grill the steaks outside in the cold. I can't blame him; it was miserable! The next best option got discussed and the steaks were cooked up in a cast iron skillet. The secret is hot and quick! I like my steak rare and Andy goes for medium-rare. Anything past that is "ruint" (ruined) in my book, but hey, to each his own.
The steaks must sit at room temperature for a minimum of 45 minutes. I did one full hour. The last 15 minutes or so, turn on your oven and preheat it to 450 degrees. Don't go by the "beep" that tells you it's ready but it's really only 300 degrees, go by your internal temperature gauge and make sure it really is 450 degrees. While the oven is preheating, season both sides of your steak with sea salt, cracked black pepper and a little Chicago Steak Seasoning (or not). We usually keep the extra fat on for the cooking process. Trim it off when you get ready to eat. The extra flavor is worth it!
Coat the bottom of a seasoned cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil. Heat the oil on medium high. I had mine on "8-1/2" with 10 being "high" on my stove. Get your grease sizzling hot. Turn the vent hood on high and hide the smoke detector.
Place the steaks in the skillet. Make sure they have plenty of room. These steaks were about 1" thick. Set your timer and sear them for 1-1/2 minutes. If you're fixing a filet; sear them for 2 minutes. Do not touch them! Let them smoke and sizzle and don't be tempted to cut the time short.
Turn them over and sear for another 1-1/2 minutes. When the timer goes off; put in your 450 degree oven for 2 minutes for medium/medium-rare and 1 minute for rare. We did the two full minutes and will back off to 1 minute the next time. Remove immediately to a platter and loosely lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top. DO NOT WRAP IT TIGHTLY! Let the steak rest for 10 minutes.
TENDER, TENDER, TENDER! Tons of flavor and we all stayed warm.
Momma has no idea what she missed!

Easy Hot Wings and Legs

Hot wings are one of our favorite appetizers. Football on TV (or any sporting game for that matter)? Nothing's better than a plate full of chicken with a liberal coating of buffalo sauce and an ice cold beverage to make them go down better. We have made these three times now and will not be buying them frozen now that we know how easy they are to fix. The first go around, we bought a few packs of really small chicken legs; then we tried tiny peg legs. The last time we bought chicken wings and Andy trimmed them up. The next time we make them, I'll be sure to include pics of how to trim them. Basically we tossed the tip and separated the middle and end portion.After trying all three versions; we have decided we liked the last version best. Yes, it's a little more work, but it's worth it.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat your wings with seasoned flour. I just used a little salt and pepper. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup); set a rack sprayed with cooking oil on top and cover with your chicken pieces.
Let the chicken bake until the skin is a nice, crispy golden brown. On average, for about an hour and a half. These went back in the oven for another 15 minutes after this pic was taken. I also shook the flour off a little better on the following "wing cooking." Keep in mind, the bigger the piece, the longer it will take to bake the chicken. I always test the biggest piece for the correct internal temperature.
Once the wings/legs are done; drop them in a bowl and cover with a little sauce. Add more if needed. They don't need to swim in the sauce. We like Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Wing sauce the best but it can be hard to find locally. If you can get fancy with a bowl; flip and coat the wings to your heart's desire. We're not fancy and I prefer to not clean up food off the floor. Especially when it's covered in RED. Andy put on some gloves and tossed them with his hands to coat.
Break out a roll of paper towels and dig in!