Flavorful and healthy

I’m on a new kick.  We all know I wander from one focus to the next like a hobo with no home but at least I’m not bored . . . or boring.  I’m always experimenting, learning new things, TRYING new things . . . and I like it.  Testing ideas is a good way to keep your brain in shape.

My latest is crock pot meat.  My first foray into “cook it slow” was chuck roast.  It was wonderful . . . and here’s what I did.

Add the meat to the bottom of the crock pot.  DO NOT add any water.  Trust me, you won’t need it.  Crush a garlic clove and toss that in.  Cut up a carrot and toss that in.  Add some chopped celery, onion, a tomato, red and green pepper . . . sprinkle in some rosemary and some thyme, add 2 tbsp cream sherry, 2 tbsp dry sherry and put the lid on.  Turn it on low and walk away.  This needs to go for about 8 hours.  Lift the lid every so often and poke the veges in around the meat.

When it’s done the meat will be tender and the vegetables will be worthless.  Pull out the meat, dump the rest through a strainer and toss the veges (I feed them to my chickens).  Chop the meat and put it away for later.  Put the juice (there will be surprising amount of liquid) in a separate container and refrigerate both.  When the juice has cooled completely you’ll be able to peel the fat off the top.

This is a great start for stew, soup . . . or eat it just the way it is!  It’s delicious.

If the sherry adds too much flavor, try using two tablespoons of sherry and half a cup of creme soda instead.  Both ways are absolutely delicious.  I haven’t tried it with root beer yet.  I bet that would be good as well.  I added a bay leaf to one batch.

To turn this into wonderful vegetable beef soup dice your veggies (all of the above plus one small potato and anything else you have in your veggie drawer – the latest batch also has cauliflower).  Saute all but the potato in butter, add the potato, the juice and the diced beef and simmer until the veggies are done.

I don’t add salt and I don’t add bullion cubes (mostly beef flavored salt) though you can if you must.  It’s flavorful and healthy and a good eat and it’s a really chunky soup, not mostly broth and few goodies.

The other fish

Simmering to perfection

I’m making fish stock (soupe de poisson) to use in clam chowder.  I make it and store it in the freezer so it’s available when needed.

I scored a mess of half-off frozen fish at Shop n Kart yesterday including but not limited to ling cod, smelt, tilapia, head on prawns and some seafood mix which includes calamari and fake crab (pollack).  I ended up with enough fishy bits to make two batches of stock, so I divided it up and stuck half back in the freezer.  I don’t have a large enough stock pot to make two batches at once.

In this batch I have some whole fish, minus the gills and headed/gutted fish and prawn heads and fish parts simmering with parsley, onions, leeks, shallot, garlic, tomato, bay leaf, orange peel, celery, saffron, thyme and whole coriander.  I don’t think I left anything out . . . Hmm.  Maybe I should go throw in a couple rough chopped carrots.  Once this has simmered for four hours I will strained out the solids.  If there was somewhere I could put that stuff where the chickens could pick it over without the dogs getting into the bones, that would be a plus.  Hmm.  Time to ask Wadly for a temporary pen.

The last time I made bouillabaisse (chunks of fish, in-shell little neck clams, shrimp and scallops cooked in the above fish stock) I had some orange roughy in the mix of fish.  That is the most lovely tasting fish.  Mmm.  Maybe I can sweet talk my brother into grabbing me some the next time he comes for a visit.  He’s got a huge Japanese market where he lives and the orange roughy is fresh!

A twist on split pea

I like soup.  If I make it in bulk I can freeze it in pints and have lovely soup when I feel like it.  I’m currently on a split pea kick.  Today is my fourth batch in the last couple months only today I added a new twist.

It looked so yummy . . .

The first time I bought ham for split pea soup I got the perfect ham with lovely flavor and not too much salt.  The resulting soup was eaten up REALLY fast. Ooo, it was lovely.

I was less fortunate with my second ham purchase.  It was a named brand loaded with salt which pretty much ruined the soup.  I still have some of that ham in the freezer and it took quite a while to get the soup eaten.  I will have to figure out what to do with it.

The last two times I made split pea soup I used a smoked sliced pork shank.  It is the perfect flavor.  The bone and skin add to the flavor of the soup.  You have to remove the bones and skin before serving the soup . . . or not.  Last time I just left the bones and skin in and we ate around them.  I’m not so sure I could do that feeding kids or guests.

This time I replaced half the water with Pacific Natural Food’s roasted pepper and tomato soup.  From what I can tell from taste testing as it cooks, this is going to be AWESOME soup!  <grin>

Okay, ingredients . . . 2 cloves elephant garlic, diced.  Use regular garlic if you prefer.  One medium onion (not a sweet onion, use a good strong flavored make-you-tear-up yellow) diced.  Two carrots, peeled and diced.  Two celery stalks including the leafy tops, diced.  Two bay leaves, some crushed peppercorn, some crushed allspice berry (I get them whole at the local market – use 3-5), a teaspoon of thyme, a sliced pork shank (~2 lbs).  Add a package of split peas (rinse them really well), a package of the aforementioned soup and a quart of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the split peas meet your standard of done-ness.  I like them falling apart but YMMV.

Add milk or heavy cream or a dab of sour cream to the bowls if you’d like just before serving.  Add some crusty garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal.

Variations . . . going on the principal there is no such thing as too many veges, add half a fennel root bulb.  It adds a really nice flavor.  Leeks are good as well.  Enjoy!

Update: The soup was absolutely fabulous.  I bet none of it makes it into the freezer . . .

Seafood bisque

I’ve been trying to come up with a seafood bisque I could eat.  All the recipes I come across are not what I want; a gluten free, thick yet creamy bisque with excellent flavor.  I think I’ve managed it.  I’m going to make it again today to see if I’m truly on the right track.

4 tbsp butter

1 large carrot (diced)

1/4 each green and red pepper (diced)

1/4 large onion (diced)

1 large potato (peeled and grated)

Low sodium Old Bay Seasoning to taste

1 tilapia fillet (complete slice down length, cut cross-wise in ¾” wide pieces)

1 dozen petite scallops

1 dozen 51/60 count shrimp (peeled and de-veined)

1 cup milk

In a large sauce pan melt 2 tbsp butter (medium to low heat).   Add carrots, peppers and onion.   Cook and stir for as long as it takes to get the potato grated.

Add potato and remaining butter.  Stir, stir, stir.  When the mix begins to stick, add a small amount of water.  Stir some more, adding small amounts of water if sticking.  Turn the heat way down, cover tightly and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir again.  If it’s sticking, turn the heat down just a bit and add a bit more water.  The goal is to get the potatoes just cooked without adding too much water.  Once the potatoes are cooked and before they start to fall apart, pour the mix in a blender and blend it.  Don’t over-blend, you want the carrots, potatoes, peppers and onions reduced to a textured pasty liquid.

Return to sauce pan on low.  Add low sodium Old Bay Seasoning to taste.  You will want to add somewhere between 2 tsp and 2 tbsp.  Stir and taste.  You will be adding milk at the end so the seasoning flavor needs to be just a bit strong.  You could add the seasoning at the end, but the amount of stirring required to mix it in would disrupt the fish and scallops, breaking the pieces apart.

Add the seafood.  This is the last time you will be able to stir without damaging the seafood so mix it well.  Cover and let simmer about 5 minutes.

Turn the mix very gently with a spoon to ensure the seafood is fully cooked.  Add milk.  Cover and cook 2 more minutes to bring the milk up to heat.  DO NOT boil once you’ve added the milk.

Garnish with a spray of low sodium Old Bay Seasoning granules and a few drops of heavy cream.

Serves 4.