Thursday, February 24, 2011

Western Rice and Beans, Soup and Sammich, and Using A Raft to Roast

Rice was my Waterloo as a new bride learning to cook for a family.  I usually scorched it, and it came out starchy and clumped together.  Then my wonderful friend and neighbor Grace told me the secret of cooking rice.  It happily has nothing to do with measuring! 
No matter how big the container you are cooking in, nor how much rice you are going to cook, you just need to fill the pot with cold water to cover the rice by 1 inch.  Luckily, we have a handy one inch measuring device close at hand.  That is to say, our thumb from the tip of the thumb to the first joint is one inch.  So, once you pour the water in with the rice, gently shake the pot to level the rice, and measure until you get one inch of water above the rice. 
The next tip she gave me was to really wash the rice in cold running water before cooking.  With the tap running, you fill the pot with water, and carefully pour off the starchy water until the water is mostly clear.  This will ensure your rice cooks up fluffy and not clumpy. 
Once you've rinsed and measured the water, put the pot on the stove on high heat until the water comes to a rolling boil.  Then add a bit of butter and whatever herbs and seasoning you want at this time.  Stir the rice, and cover it with a lid, reducing the heat to a simmer.  Now you need to leave it alone.  Peek after about ten or fifteen minutes, and start testing for doneness.  Once the rice tests done, take it off the heat, and let it sit covered until you are ready to serve.  Then fluff with a fork at the last minute.  If you stir during the simmering process, you will break the rice, and have a clumpy starchy mess.

Managing My Meat Freezer 
We just butchered, so I have put the older meat at the top, and am using it up first.  I have to pay attention to my inventory of meat, and do this rotation, or we will end up throwing out freezer burnt items. I had some bulk turkey sausage packages, so I came up with this Wyoming style version of New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.  All of the ingredients came from either the pantry or freezer, so I will be looking to use this often in my menu planning.

Western Beans and Rice
1 pkg bulk turkey sausage (you could certainly use pork sausage)
1/2 onion
1/2 C finely chopped celery
1 can Pinto Beans with Jalapenos, or you could use pork & beans and a couple pickled jalapenos
2 C V-8 or tomato juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chicken and tomato soup base
Cooked Rice (see above for directions)  I started the rice at the same time as the sausage bean mixture, and they were done about the same time.  I added in 2 T chicken and tomato soup base to the rice, and it came out a rosy color, with really good flavor.
In a large skillet, brown onion and celery in 2 T oil.  Add turkey sausage, and break it up.  When turkey is browned, add tomato juice and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered until rice tests done, and liquid has been reduced by 1/3.  To serve ladle hot rice into bowls, and top with meat and bean mixture.  Serve with corn muffins and honey buttah!

Today is soup and sammich day.  I usually have fresh vine ripe tomatoes in a bowl on my counter, and I make this Tomato Bisque when the fresh tomatoes start to get a little soft.  I cut them in half and place them on a baking sheet cut side up, and season with dried basil and salt and pepper.  I drizzle them with olive oil, or spray them with pam, and bake them at 400 F for about fifteen minutes.  They are delicious and once chopped, and added to the tomato juice,  make an awesome deep flavored tomato soup. 
The fresh tomatoes have been crap lately, so I will have to use canned diced tomatoes in their place.

Tomato Soup
4 T olive oil
2 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp basil
5 whole cloves

1 jug of v-8 or tomato juice
1 large can/quart of diced tomatoes
1/4 C sugar or splenda
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan on medium heat, bring the olive oil and minced garlic up to temperature until the garlic just starts to get golden.  add other spices, and juice and tomatoes.  Add sugar or splenda, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook for fifteen minutes.
The Best Ever Tuna Sammich Filling
2 cans tuna in water drained
1/3 onion grated into the tuna
1 pickle grated, or 2 T pickle relish
1 whole tart apple grated
1/3 C mayonnaise
2 heaping T mustard
handful of caper berries drained
1/2 tsp white pepper
Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.  This is better if made ahead.  Today, I will make the sandwiches with spinach wraps, and add thinly sliced red onions, fresh spinach leaves, and some havarti cheese to the filling.  It is really good on dark rye bread with slices of apple, and cream cheese on the bread.

I buy bologna in bulk.  It seems to have a better flavor, lasts a long time, and is so much better sliced fresh.  It is awesome sliced thick and grilled on the grill, but I also like to grind it to make sandwich filling, or for snacking with crackers as an appetizer.  I have a meat grinder attachment to my mixer, but you can certainly use a food processor to make it.
I also use this recipe to use up left over roast or chicken, or salmon.  I just grind the meat the same, and add in the remaining ingredients.  

Cowboy Caviar, or chopped Bologna Sammich Filling
2 C ground bologna
1/2 C shredded or ground cheddar cheese
1/2 onion ground
1 large dill pickle ground
1/2 C mayonaise
3 T stone ground mustard
Store in an airtight container, and use as a sandwich spread, or as a topper for crackers.

Roasting on a Raft
Tonight we are having beef loin.  I had originally thawed out lamb chops to grill, but the weather is nasty, so we will eat this beef loin instead. 
On a shopping day last month, I happened on to a buy one get one free sale of both marinated pork and beef loin wet packs.  I bought several.  With the sale price, I paid only about two dollars for each one.  Since it is wet pack, I will need to drain off the liquid, and pat it dry before browning it.  I will certainly save the liquid to add to the pan later.
To cook it, I will brown it in oil on all sides in my large cast iron skillet.  I will remove it and add in thick slices of onion and the reserved meat marinade juices to the skillet.  This will be the "raft" the meat sits on to roast in the oven. I will then add the browned loin on top, and season with grill seasoning.  This will go in the oven on 450 F for twenty minutes.  I will let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it, and serving it with salad and baked potatoes. 
I could also use other vegetables to make a raft like sliced potatoes, carrots cut in half or celery sticks.  These vegetables will get bathed in meat drippings, and be delicious, and will keep the meat elevated off the surface of the skillet, allowing for more even roasting. 
When I roast a whole chicken, I make it in the skillet on a raft of onions just like this.  I stuff the inside of the chicken with sliced lemons, and season it with thyme, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.  It makes a lovely Sunday dinner! 

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