Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crash Hot Potatoes

A year or so ago, I learned about all the food blogs out there. Well, that's not quite true. I learned there were such things as food blogs a couple years ago. It was when I was hunting new recipes and Googling for stuff that I learned that a good food blog would be a very worthwhile resource to have, especially for someone like me who was "relearning" how to cook and attempting new recipes.

Though I came across Ree at Pioneer Woman Cooks then, I never gave any of her stuff a try, while I certainly admired the images. Back then I didn't buy red potatoes, never mind new potatoes, so while I liked the looks of this particular recipe, thought "pfft, maybe later". Recently I looked up that potato recipe of hers (yeah, 18 months later, I still remembered I wanted to try it -- my mind is a steel trap I tell you) and found what I was looking for. In addition to all kinds of stuff! Her site (I wouldn't call it a blog anymore) has really become a giant thing and it turns out Ree has a cookbook out!

Ding dang! I was hooked, even on her Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Harlequin Romance meets Green Acres meets the Godfather love story. Anyone who knows me knows I won't read that sort of thing unless I have time to kill at a meat-packing plant between protein determinations and the book is free. Even if you hate potatoes, cattle, and kids, you have to look that up, I'm tellin' you! You will be hooked too.

So anyway, I dug up the recipe and tried it out, though I did take a short-cut. Read on to see what I did or click the link below to get the original scoop.

Crash Hot Potatoes

whole red potatoes -- I used 10
olive oil
3 tbsp butter
Kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.

On a baking sheet, generously drizzle olive oil.

Place tender potatoes on the sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.

With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again.

Put a small pat of butter on each potato. Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Bake in a 450°F oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Dayum!  These potatoes were just as good as I'd anticipated 1.5 years ago!  Both Rodney and I enjoyed them immensely and will be trying them again very soon.  And I might even try the original recipe to a T.

  • I paid $4.28 for a bag of red potatoes at Costco, which means it was likely a 10 lb bag.  I probably used 2 lbs, maybe three: $1.28
  • other stuff including oil, butter, salt and pepper: $0.72
Total: $3.  And there were a couple of potatoes left over.  Imagine that...two people eating 3-5 potatoes each.  Crazy.

We had our crash hot potatoes with broiled lemon chicken and steamed broccoli. You should try it. The combo was good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Birthday

I started this little ol' blog one year ago today and am a little surprised I've managed to keep it up. As I've mentioned before, I tend to ride on the lazy side.

Regardless, I'm happy to have posted what I have and will continue posting.  It'll be interesting to see how this blog continues over another year.

Food Plan, 122709

This week is completely a week of playing it by ear.  My folks are in town and Christmas just happened.  I'm sure I'll shop during the week and will go from there. 

Hope your holidays are fantastic!


12/29/09, Ralph's
  • broccoli, $1.28/1.29 lb
  • lemon: $0.50
  • white corn-on-the-cob: $1.58/2 ears
  • whole chicken: $3.46
  • whole chicken: $3.12
  • TOTAL: $9.94
12/30/09, Costco:
  • red potatoes: $4.28
  • TOTAL: $4.28
Grand Total: $14.22.  Likely the cheapest grocery list I've ever had.

Cast Iron Breakfast

Egg and bacon, cooked in cast iron skillets. And that's not a blob on the plate in the upper left-hand corner from poor dishwashing...what sort of spoodge is that on the lens?

This morning, I made some experimental bacon and eggs in my freshly seasoned cast iron skillets. I knew cast iron is supposed to heat evenly and hold heat constantly, making it good for searing steaks. What I didn't know is how quick it gets hot enough to hold the even heat. As with all metals, it only makes sense that the part directly over the heat will get hot first. The real question is how quickly does heat conduct through my cast iron? I used the largest one for bacon and the smallest one for a single over-easy egg.

While I could've, and probably should've, fried chicken in each pan first to further season it by getting grease into every single nook and cranny possible, I thought it would be neato to simply fry bacon. Besides, I wanted to eat some bacon. And use my skillets ASAP.

So I heated the big skillet a minute or so before adding four bacon slices.

I let those slices cook and noticed the centers of the slices were getting done before the ends, so flipped the slices, propping up the cooked middles.

As it cooked, the bacon sort of shrunk. I flipped it again, propping up the cooked middles.

After a minute or so, the bacon was near done and then transferred to drain in paper towel.

The vacant pan was hot and loaded with grease and bacon bits stuck to the bottom. I had to see if bacon would cook in the same pattern or if it would change now that the skillet was much hotter.

Maintaining heat, I carefully placed three fresh slices of bacon in the hot, fatty skillet and let it cook until I thought the bacon was ready to flip.

And I flipped it.

Once it looked like it was ready to flip again, I flipped them and sort of scootched them around in hopes of promoting more even cooking.

And flipped them again, keeping the scootched orientation, and let them continue cooking until they were finished. I flipped them onto the paper towel to drain.

Which left a super hot, super fatty, super bacon bit-y skillet. Since there seemed to be an increase in speed and somewhat more even cooking in the second batch, it only made sense to try it again.

So I very carefully added three more slices of bacon in the skillet and let them fry.

Which they did, quite quickly, before I flipped them.

Earlier than I'd expected, they were done and draining on the paper towel.

Now that I had a bigger pile of bacon than what I'd originally anticipated, it was time to try frying an egg in the small skillet.

I poured some of the bacon grease and bits into the small skillet as it was allowed to heat over medium.

After it got pretty warm, I worried there would be egg-sticking possibilities. So I added a small pat of butter.

And let it melt and swirled it into the bacon grease to make it homogenous. Then I added the egg, which started frying like crazy.

Over easy was immediately cast aside in hopes of an edible egg. I split the yolk with my spatula and did my best to flip the egg quickly. This process allowed me the opportunity to learn that flipping an egg in a really small iron skillet it not the easiest thing in the world.

Resulting in a fairly overdone over hard yolk broken egg.

Breakfast this morning was certainly bacon abundant. Rodney was goofing around at a swap meet, looking to score a fantastic treasure.  It was up to me to eat this bacon. Being the good trooper that I am, I completed the task at hand.

While munching on my pile of pork and rubbery egg, I thought about the morning lesson. My big cast iron took a long time to heat completely while the little one seemed to heat real quickly. Is it size to heat ratio?  Or is it because the biggest one was in the worst shape when I seasoned them and thus was a little out of whack? Will the big one be better conductively with more seasoning? Or is seasoning only a benefit in respect to non-stick-ivity?

Eggs in cast iron are probably not a good idea unless it's a bigger skillet and not quite so hot.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How to Season Cast Iron

I'd been considering getting some cast iron skillets for a few months now so I can try doing steak the Alton Brown way. And make stuff that is supposed to yield brown bits that need deglazing -- all of my skillets are non-stick so the deglazing part for me is just going through the motions and adding flavor. And fry chicken.

Well guess what Rodney gave me for Christmas! A set of cast iron skillets. I love it that these have been rescued and will take good care of them.

Now the question is: how in the heck do I clean them up? Each one is pretty rusty, the largest one being the worst in condition. Fortunately, none of them have major rust pits. From what I can tell it's surface rust.

I placed the cast iron in the sink and ran hot water to cover the iron. The fact that our hot water comes out nearly boiling was a good thing.

Once I could stand the temperature of the water, I went at each skillet with the rough side of a Scotch-Brite sponge.

By now I was getting a little disgruntled. The sponge only removed the minimum of rust. There was a ton left! Already I had 20 minutes invested, it's 12:40 AM, Home Depot was closed and I needed a stiff brush. Something hard core.

Rodney came to the rescue! He had this brush in the garage he was going to use for welding or something. Originally intended for "aluminum only", it is now "cast iron only".

I drained and refilled the sink with nuclear reactor hot water and got busy with the brush.

And kept working on it.

By this time, I had an hour and two tubes of elbow grease invested. Fortunately, I didn't need anymore.

I rinsed each skillet, fired up three burners and cooked off the water. While waiting, I cranked the oven up to 350°F.

Once completely dry, I poured about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into each skillet. Then I smeared that oil all over the skillet including the bottom and the handle with a paper towel.

Doesn't that paper towel look disgusting? It's only iron, so it's no big deal. But look at how the skillet shines!

Once the skillets are completely wiped down with the smallest amount of oil possible (too much will make a gummy mess -- I learned that with my cast iron grill pan), I stacked them up, inverted them and placed them on a rack in the oven.

I placed a sheet of foil on the lower rack in case there was too much oil and it drips. If it drips, it's a good indicator that there was too much oil, which means the skillets will be gummy and I'll have to start over. So be kind to yourself and use the oil sparingly!

After an hour, I turned off the oven; let the cast iron cool. Check out my handiwork.

Tomorrow we'll see how bacon fries in this sucker.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Help set the table -- the ham's ready!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken Soup, reheated

Tonight we had the chicken soup again. Rodney reheated it on the stovetop and wow, look at how much rice there is! That's a trip. But oh so very good.