We have a wonderful Austrian restaurant near us on 15th Street in old downtown Plano. It is called Jorg's Cafe Vienna and whenever we get a hankering for schnitzel, this is where we go. The food is top-notch, the atmosphere is cozy, and there is a biergarten where one can relax with a cold Stella Artois on a hot day. I highly recommend this little jewel. Occasionally, I will try my hand at German fare. I have never had the nerve to attempt schnitzel, so I play it safe with grilled bratwurst. I top the brats with a smear of coarse ground mustard and serve with cold applesauce, red cabbage stewed in wine and vinegar, and the above, my take on hot German style potatoes. What you see in the picture is a doubled recipe. What's written below is half that.
HOT GERMAN STYLE POTATOES
4 strips bacon
1 lb red bliss potatoes (about the size of cherry tomatoes), scrubbed and cut in half
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb fresh snow peas, trimmed
1/2 C shredded carrots (I buy a bag of julienned carrots and save the rest for salads or another recipe)
1 1/2 TB apple cider vinegar
1 TB coarse ground mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp or more fresh ground pepper
In a large skillet (an electric one works well), fry bacon until crisp but still flexible. Remove bacon and drain on a paper towel. Turn heat down to low, add chopped onion to the bacon drippings, and cover skillet. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, keeping the skillet covered.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook potatoes until just tender, it won't take very long. They should pierce easily with a fork, but remain intact. If the skins are starting to come off, you've overdone them.
When the potatoes are a couple of minutes from being done, throw the snow peas, carrots and remaining ingredients in the skillet to cook with the onion. Stir well and cover. Roughly chop the bacon. Drain potatoes thoroughly. Add potatoes and bacon to the skillet and toss gently to combine. Serve hot.
My better half took me out for an early Valentine's dinner at III Forks, one of our favorite restaurants. Unlike a lot of upscale steakhouses, this place is a full-plated steakhouse which means you don't have to order your sides a la carte, a good thing considering how pricey the steaks are. It's weird, but my favorite part of the III Forks meal, besides the beef, is their version of creamed corn. I Googled it and found a recipe purporting to be the real deal. I'll have to try it and see.
But I digress. To reciprocate for the wonderful restaurant meal, my husband asked for, and I fixed, scallops for dinner tonight. We both love seafood, but didn't come on to scallops until a couple of years ago. Since then, this lowly mollusk has graced our dinner table quite a bit.
Scallops are best when seared, but I sometimes had problems getting that crispy caramelization. I couldn't figure out if my pan wasn't hot enough, or if it was the type of fat used. Then one night I prepared them and they were a big disappointment. Even my husband, who will eat just about anything not nailed down, gave it up as a bad job. I ran to the computer and Googled. When in doubt, Google; that's my mantra.
I discovered something interesting. There are two types of scallops sold in grocery stores: wet and dry. Wet scallops are treated with a preservative called sodium tripolyphosphate, which causes the little critters to retain water, much like a woman with PMS. Wet scallops are difficult to sear because the cooking process releases their water and they wind up simmering instead of searing. Dry scallops (or diver scallops) are the way to go. The dry version is more expensive, but consider the money you are paying for water retention in the other kind.
Before cooking scallops, rinse them well under running water and, if necessary, remove the catch muscle. This is the muscle the animal uses to close its shell. It's tough and unpleasant to eat, so remove it by prying it off with your fingers or a paring knife. Dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels and season them with a little salt and pepper.
Scallops cook quickly, a couple of minutes on each side should do it. When searing, your pan needs to be HOT. Use an oil with a high smoking point, like peanut or canola oil, and don't use a non-stick pan. Pour just a smear of oil in the pan and heat to where you can see it just starting to smoke. Add the scallops, but do not crowd them. If they touch, they will steam cook. When searing, do not give in to the temptation to peek at how things are doing "down under". Give it a good 90 seconds, then briefly lift with tongs. If you find Nirvana, that beautiful brown color, flip and continue cooking on the other side.
Now that you've got the basics, let's go on to the recipe. It is ridiculously easy.
SEARED SCALLOPS IN SHALLOT BUTTER
1/2 stick (4 TB) butter
2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C finely chopped shallots
1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley
Large "dry" sea scallops (three large sea scallops are generally more than adequate for each serving)
First, make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking until the butter is browned and has that wonderful toasty, nutty smell. Be careful it doesn't burn! Pour in lemon juice and while that sizzles, quickly add shallots and parsley. Cook and stir for about another minute and remove from heat. Keep warm. You can easily double the sauce if cooking for four people.
Prepare and cook scallops as directed above. Plate your scallops and spoon the shallot butter over the tops.
I've noticed a lot of blogs feature recipes, so why not add my two calories? I suppose cornbread is a weird way to start off my recipe page, but the fact is, I'm making chili for dinner tonight (whoops! sorry! that should read supper, the Yankee in me slipped out) and I always whomp up this cornbread to go with it.
This being Texas, it stands to reason that chili (specifically chili con carne) is the official state food, and Texans are a contentious lot when it comes to the merits of really good chili. Basically, it boils down (ha) to beans or no beans. There are those who swear there is an 11th Commandment, thou shalt not put beans in thy chili; and there are just as many who think it borders on the sacrilegious to NOT put beans in chili. Either way, there's meat in it unless you are my sister-in-law, a life-long vegetarian, who makes chili sans meat AND beans. It's actually not bad, if you like heavily seasoned tomato sauce, but back in the days of the Old West, she probably would have been shot for a traitor for such tomfoolery.
Personally, I don't understand why some people get so riled up over something as silly as chili. Beans or no, it's all in how you like it. Now, on to the recipe:
Note: this recipe works best in a 7 1/2 X 11 3/4 glass baking dish.
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 C whole milk
2 - 8.5 oz pkgs cornbread mix (Jiffy is good)
1/4 C veggie oil
1 TB sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 oz jar diced pimiento, drained and rinsed
1/2 C chopped pickled jalapenos (more if you are the masochistic sort)
1 C cream style corn
4 slices cooked, crumbled bacon (or just get a package of real bacon pieces and save the time and the spatter mess)
1 1/2 C finely shredded mild cheddar cheese (or a Mexican blend)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs with milk. Add cornbread mix, veggie oil, sugar, salt and garlic powder, and whisk until well blended. Fold in remaining ingredients.
Lightly grease a 7 1/2 X 11 3/4 glass baking dish (these dimensions are important or your cornbread won't turn out right). Pour batter into the dish and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. This cornbread has a dense cake-like consistency, so test for doneness by making sure the middle is cooked through. Cut into squares and serve hot.
In case you are wondering, my chili has beans, three different kinds.
"I am not
a glutton; I am an explorer of food." How I miss Erma Bombeck!