Even though we’ve had an incredibly mild winter I still can’t help but want some of the comfort foods that go along with this time of year. This is a classic rendition of that childhood favorite (at least mine anyway). It’s simple to prepare and any leftovers will freeze and reheat well.
1 Pound dried split peas
1 Smoked ham hock
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 Cup finely chopped celery
1/2 Cup finely chopped carrots
2 Teaspoons minced garlic
1 Pound Smithfield ham, chopped
1 Teaspoon salt
3/4 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 Cups water
1 Bay leaf
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme
- Place the peas in a large pot or bowl, cover with water by 2 inches and soak 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain the peas and set aside.
- Score the ham hock. Place in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Add the celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until just soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Add the ham hock and ham and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown.
- Add the drained peas, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add 8 cups of water, the bay leaf and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. (Add more water as needed, if the soup becomes too thick or dry.)
- Remove the bay leaf and discard. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, and serve immediately.
Optional – Top with homemade croutons and/or crumbled bacon!
What do you do when the kids didn’t eat all of the bananas they asked you to get at the store last week? Easy, make some banana bread and get a few more days use out of that over ripe fruit.
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup Walnuts, or Pecans (optional)
In electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and butter until fluffy.
Add baking soda to milk and stir well. Next add the white vinegar to the milk and stir again. Add mixture to batter along with bananas, vanilla lemon juice and salt and mix will.
Add flour and beat until smooth. Remove bowl from mixer. At this time you may stir in the nuts, if you prefer.
Bake in large greased loaf pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Remove from oven unto wire rack immediately. Wrap in plastic wrap when still warm to keep moist.
Served warm with a little softened cream cheese this makes a great breakfast.
Thai Orchid, located at 86th St. and I-69, is just north of my office. For whatever reason, it took me a long time to try this place. I kept driving past and thinking “I should try that place sometime”. The day I finally took the plunge (about two years ago) I was not sure what I would be in for. I’ve been there countless times since and thought it was time for a review.
The restaurant is right next to the Phantom Fireworks mega-store and seats about 60. There’s a cash register/bar in the back and the overall decor is nice. Wait staff are always very attentive and always helpful with questions you might have about a dish.
I always assumed Thai food would be similar to Chinese food. I could not have been more wrong. Being a big fan of noodle dishes the Pad Thai was the only way to go for my first Thai dish.
When my server asked “how hot?” (mild, medium, medium hot, hot, extra hot, and Thai hot) and not knowing the heat scale I decided to opt for “medium”. It turned out to be the right choice for a Thai novice. I’m now requesting medium-hot and will someday be adventurous and attempt the hot. I can’t ever see me requesting “Thai-hot”. That sounds like a death wish to me!
If you’ve never had Pad Thai here’s what you’re missing… Tender rice noodles and bean sprouts mixed with a somewhat sweet and spicy (you decide the heat level) sauce. Add your favorite protein (shrimp, chicken, pork, tofu) or vegetables then top with scallions, and crushed peanuts. I’m a big fan of the pork and chicken versions.
The flavors are unique and very addictive. I can’t think of another noodle dish that tastes anything like Pad Thai. Of course this just scratches the surface of the Thai menu. There are a lot of items to choose from including many curries and seafood dishes.
The one appetizer always ordered by my family, without exception, is the Golden Bags. Golden Bags are stir-fried ground chicken, carrot, and corn wrapped in a wonton skin. It’s then tied with green onion and lightly deep-fried. They come 6 to an order and have a sweet dipping sauce on the side.
Thai Orchid has a great lunch combo too. You get a coconut based soup, salad, spring roll, wonton and your choice of main course (curry or noodle dish). All of this for $6.99! It’s a great value and a lot of people take advantage of it during the week.
Here’s where I think a lot of “ethnic” restaurants miss the mark. I have NO idea what any of the curries are going to taste like and I’m hesitant to shell out the money to end up getting something I don’t like. I would LOVE to see a sampler/combination option that allows you to taste the various dishes (or sauces) without having to order one at a time. A lot of Greek places do this and I’ve found things I like and dislike (and I was able to expand my knowledge of Greek cuisine). This may not be possible (or practical) with the cook to order format of a lot of Asian dishes. That’s a lot of pans for a lot of little portions.
After dining at other Thai places on Indy’s north side my family and I have decided Thai Orchid is our favorite. I wouldn’t hesitate recommend it to anyone. If you’ve stayed away from Thai food because you weren’t sure what it was all about (like I did) I think you’ll be in for a nice surprise (like I was). Give it a try and let me know what you think!
I’m a list maker. I find lists are the best way for me to get things out of my head and free that thinking energy up for more important things. To keep all of our family lists in sync we uses the Our Groceries application.
Our Groceries is a free “cloud” based tool that’s accessible via the web, and applications designed for Blackberry, iPhone and Android. It’s a simple list maker that keeps everyone updated in near real-time. The free version is ad-supported and has small ads at the top of the screen. You can purchase an ad free version for Android and Apple.
My family uses Our Groceries for our master grocery list as well as errands, gift ideas, and even dinner ideas. It’s also a great way to make a packing list for vacation. Creating a list is a one step process and once it’s created you can start populating it right away. One of the cool features is that Our Groceries remembers your list items even after you check them off. Enter an item once and it’s always available for quick entry in the future. This is great for grocery lists where you’re adding the same things every week.
The magic of Our Groceries is in the synchronization. Once all the users in your family are connected (a very simple process that’s done via email) every time you add an item it’s automatically synchronized to the other users lists. Cross something off and it crosses that item off on their list. This all occurs within about 10 seconds.
When our daughter says she needs something from the store, we tell her “add it to the list”. There have been times where I’ll be at the grocery store and my wife will remember that we need something. Se adds it to Our Groceries on her phone and it magically shows up on my phone just a few seconds later. I really can’t stress enough how cool this application is.
Other features of Our Groceries allow you to input your favorite recipes and with one click all the ingredients get added to the shopping list.. Using the web you can drag and drop items so they are in the proper order when you walk through the store. I always put all of the produce at the top and frozen items at the bottom. The next time that produce item is added it will automatically end up at the top of the list. If you want to get really fancy you can assign categories to items so they’re grouped together.
The uses for Our Groceries are nearly endless. You don’t have to synchronize with other people, you can use the application by itself as well. Check it out and let us know what you think!
IndyScan.com always get lots of hits from people looking for holiday food ideas. I first posted this back in 2008 and every December it gets several hundred views. I thought I’d re-post this to make it easier to find for those of you looking for it.
The holidays are the time to break out the big guns and impress your friends and family. We cooked our first standing rib roast a few years ago and it’s the go to dish for at least one family gathering each year. A standing rib roast is NOT a cheap cut of meat but you’ll be surprised how many people you can feed with one of these, so when you break it down per person it’s not as bad as you think.
You order your standing rib roast by the bone. Plan on feeding 2 people per bone and don’t go less than 3-4 bones or you might as well cook streaks. A quality instant read thermometer is key to cooking the perfect roast. You can ball park the doneness with a timer but only a thermometer will tell you how far the inside has cooked. Do yourself a favor & don’t ruin an expensive piece of meat by winging it.
I keep it simple when cooking my roast:
Herbs de Provence
That’s it! Make sure you bring your roast to room temperature (30-45 min) before cooking or you can guarantee it will be raw when the outside is done.
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Put beef, fat side up, in a small roasting pan and brush on a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle all over with salt, pepper and herbs.
Roast beef 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast until thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 115°F, about 1 1/4 hours more.
Transfer beef to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, 25-30 minutes.
Meat will eventually reach 125°F (medium-rare).
Adjust the cooking time accordingly to reach the desired doneness. End pieces will be more done than the center pieces so you should be able to make everyone happy.
Be sure to accompany this roast with a delicious Red Wine Sauce. Enjoy & happy holidays!
This sauce is great on a lot of dishes, especially the Herb Crusted Standing Rib Roast. It’s easy to make and keeps very well. Adjust the amount of horseradish to suit your taste and, by all means, use the prepared stuff if you can’t find (or don’t want to deal with) the fresh stuff.
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all of the ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2 to 3 weeks (if it even lasts that long)
While visiting family over the holidays my sister introduced us to what I’m calling Ghetto Turtles (everyone else calls then Pretzel Turtles).
They are VERY good, easy to make (the kids can do these with some supervision) and, considering the quantity you can make for the price of the ingredients, quite a bargain!
The amounts below will yield 90-100 candies and cost about $12 Try getting that kind of a deal from Fanny Mae…
- 1 Bag small mini pretzels (the square waffle shapes work very well)
- 2 Bags Rolo candies (chocolate covered caramel)
- 1 Lbs pecan halves
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a foil/parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Place one chocolate covered caramel candy on each pretzel.
- Bake for 2-3 minutes.
- While the candy is warm, press a pecan half onto each candy covered pretzel.
- Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
It’s officially cold in the Hoosier State and that means I’m in the mood for hearty comfort food that makes the house smell incredible (and helps keep the winter blues at bay). My wife and I had an incredible tasting menu at Pizzology last year (special New Years Eve event) and the Braised Short Ribs stood out to me more than everything else (although it was all very good). After that meal I knew I had to try to replicate the dish and start serving it to the family on a semi-regular basis.
There are two different types of Short Rib cuts. The ribs can be separated and cut into short lengths (typically about 2 inches long), called an “English cut” or the “flanken cut” which is achieved by cutting across the bones (typically about 1/2 inch thick). This recipe calls for the English Cut and will need 2 ribs per person.
Once reduced the cooking liquid can be thickened with a roux or served as is. The ribs go very well with a starch such as mashed parsnips, or potatoes.
One of the most consistent source for English Style Short Ribs in Central Indiana has been The Fresh Market in Broad Ripple and Carmel. Even if they don’t have them in the case just ask, they’ll most likely cut them fresh for you.
Braised Short Ribs (serves 4)
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon (Spend around $10-12)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 short ribs, trimmed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
Flour, for dredging
10 cloves garlic, peeled
8 large shallots, peeled, and split in half
2 medium carrots, peeled, and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 stalks celery, peeled, and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
6 sprigs Italian parsley
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts unsalted beef stock or chicken stock
Freshly ground white pepper
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large casserole, large enough to hold 6 ribs, over medium-high heat. Season the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper. Dust the ribs with flour and then when the oil is hot, place the ribs into the pot and sear for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until well browned.
Transfer the browned ribs to a plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot; lower the heat to medium, and toss in the vegetables and herbs. Brown the vegetables lightly, 6 to 7 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute to blend.
Add the wine, browned ribs, and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil; cover the pot tightly, and slide it into the oven to braise for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the ribs are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork. Every 30 minutes or so, lift the lid and skim and discard whatever fat may have bubbled up to the surface.
Carefully transfer the meat to a heated serving platter with a lip and keep warm. Boil the pan liquid until it thickens and reduces to approximately 1 quart. Season with salt and pepper and pass through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the solids.
Pour the sauce over the meat. Serve with vegetables of your choice.
This is a family recipe that I grew up on. I promised in the Maple Bacon Ice Cream post that I would share. Since it’s a custard the lemon flavor is smooth and sweet, not tart.
2 C. whipping cream
2 C. half-and-half
1 C. sugar
1/3 C. finely grated lemon zest
6 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3/4 C. fresh lemon juice
Bring the cream, half-and-half, sugar and zest just to a boil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Whisk the egg yolks and salt together in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk until blended.
In a slow steady stream, add the remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly, and continue whisking until blended.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a wooden spoon when a finger is drawn across it; do not allow the mixture to boil.
Immediately pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl and stir in the vanilla. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours, until thoroughly chilled.
When ready to freeze, stir the lemon juice into the cold custard, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For a firmer texture, transfer to a freezer container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts.
Nothing brings back the childhood memories more than making homemade ice cream. When I was growing up my Grandmother had one of those electric models that used ice and rock salt. The smell of the electric motor mixed with the super cold ice/salt mixture is so distinctive it can take me back to the breezeway in a heartbeat.
Having obtained her recipe for Lemon Custard Ice Cream (future blog post I promise) I purchased the necessary attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (specifically for that recipe). It consists of a double walled stainless steel bowl filed with a freezable liquid and a plastic dasher. The Kitchen Aid churns the mixture to a semi-frozen state which, once achieved, you eat it right away soft serve style or put it in a container and freeze overnight. The entire freezing process takes about 30 minutes. Sounds easy, right? Read on…If you’ve never made homemade ice cream, I mean really good quality homemade ice cream, you probably don’t understand the amount of work, time, and expense that goes into the final product. This time around I opted for a new creation that my daughter and I thought up while talking about food one evening. A quick Google search located a recipe that looked promising.
Maple Bacon Ice Cream. Yes, Maple Syrup, Heavy Cream, Egg Yolks, and Candied Bacon frozen together into a delicious treat that covers that sweet and salty spectrum we all love. So far so good, what can go wrong? Let’s investigate this crime scene piece by piece…
The first step of the process is reducing the maple syrup by about 1/2. This is easily done and takes about 20-30 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it though as it tends to bubble up. Once complete, you set this off to the side and work on the next step.
To achieve the ever so highly desired creamy consistency you need to make custard. This, in its simplest form, involves cream, sugar, and egg yolks. This recipe also has three additional ingredients, Bacon, Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar.
The first step is to “scald” the milk. This just means heating it to 180°F (no more, no less). Once the proper temperature is reached you add the sugar stirring just enough to dissolve. Pour the milk mixture into the reduced maple syrup and heat everything to 160°F stirring so the syrup incorporates into the milk.
Next you beat the egg yolks until pale and start tempering the eggs with the heated milk mixture, beating with a whisk the entire time (unless you want scrambled eggs in your ice cream). After you slowly add about 1/3 of the heated milk to the eggs (whisking the entire time), you pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining 2/3 of the milk. You’re still whisking like a maniac, right?… RIGHT?
Now you are well on your way to a good, basic, custard. Keep stirring, and cooking slowly, until you get a semi-thick consistency. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a heat proof bowl. Make sure you press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the custard to keep the top from forming a skin.
Cool the custard bowl on the counter for 30-45 minutes and then put it into the fridge for 12-24 hours. Yes, 12-24 hours. You’re done for the day. Start cleaning up your mess and find something else to do! Make sure your ice cream making equipment is in the freezer too. Regardless of what you’re using you will want to make sure everything that touches the custard tomorrow is cold.
OK Ben (or is it Jerry?), it’s the next day. You waited the proper 12-24 hours, right? Time to start the next step in this ice cream making marathon…
Start by cooking your bacon (however your normally do it). I use the oven and bake on parchment paper at 350°F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. This was the mistake that ruined the final product. Keep reading for the nasty details.
Time to set up your ice cream making equipment… It can be the old fashioned hand crank (good for making the little ones miserable with the promise of sugar for their efforts), electric crank, or the modern multi-function kitchen appliance method.
This step is easy. Fill your bowl, insert the dasher, turn said equipment on and set your timer for 25-minutes.
While you’re churning, sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon strips and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. Flip and repeat. Allow the bacon to cool again and then chop into bite sized pieces. A brûlée torch would be a great replacement for the broiler process.
That $7 container of high-end custard form the store down the street is sounding pretty good right now isn’t it?
Once the 25 minutes is up you should have a semi-solid product. Add the candied bacon and continue to mix until just incorporated. The ice cream can now be eaten as is (soft serve style) or placed in a container and frozen for another 12-24 hours. I opted for freezer time and was anticipating digging in the next day. We shared some bites of the soft server off the dasher and determined this was going to be a winning recipe.
Before we get to the final product let’s review what we have in this so far…
Making your own ice cream at home is fun. It takes some time but the end result is usually worth the effort. In this case we were into this recipe for about $30. We used some of the best ingredients we could get our hands on and were happy to know exactly what was in our frozen treat.
- Heavy Cream $6
- Organic Brown Eggs $4
- White Sugar $2.50
- Brown Sugar $2.50
- Indiana Maple Syrup $10
- Nueske’s Aplewood Smoked Bacon $5
I actually did not add all of this up until after the fact and realized how expensive this little adventure turned out.
The ice cream has had its 24-hour rest in the freezer. To be honest I almost forgot about it since we started this process 3 days ago…
The end result was firm and very smooth frozen custard with chunks of candied bacon. Exactly what we were trying to accomplish! This is GREAT! Let’s dig in…
But first, let me ask you this… How many of you keep a little stash of bacon fat in the fridge for fried eggs and things? OK, we have a few virtual hands raised out there, good. Now, how many of you would take a spoonful of said bacon fat and place it in your mouth? Really, no one? OK…
Remember a few steps back where we put sugar on our bacon and placed it in the broiler? Notice how I neglected to remove the bacon, drain on paper towels and place on a fresh piece of parchment before starting the candying process? Once the sugar is melted it all kind of blends together and in the rush to melt the sugar, and not burn it, you sometimes fail to notice these things.
I scooped a generous portion into a dish and dug in.
First bite? AWESOME!
Second bite? Really good!
Third bite? Uh oh… what is that? It’s like a piece of butter or something… Wait, there’s no butter in this… Eww, it’s all over the roof of my mouth and covering my tongue. Why can’t I taste anything?
Oh, crap… It’s frozen bacon fat. It’s not just a little frozen bacon fat, it’s a lot of frozen bacon fat. The tell-tale white streaks are running throughout the custard… Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present… Maple, Bacon, Bacon Fat, Custard!
It was awful… I wanted to like it but that mouth coating of bacon fat just ruined it for me. I still have it in the freezer of any brave soul wants to come on over and try it out. It’s being thrown out tomorrow. The bacon fat was not noticeable when the custard was in soft server form (and directly out of the ice cream machine. Only after it has time to solidify did it become noticeable..
In retrospect, the maple custard was awesome by itself. I think the addition of some toasted pecans would make it really good. The next time we make this I’m substituting bacon for nuts. In fact, I may be tossing that little container of bacon fat I see every time I open the fridge. It’s going to take a little time for me to get over this one.
As with any recipe, the devil is usually in the details. Had I thought to properly drain and blot the fat off the bacon I’m convinced this entire experience would have ended quite differently.
For those of you interested in making this for yourself, I’m including the recipe below. Be sure to learn from my mistakes and drain that bacon!
Maple Ice Cream with Bacon
- 12 oz of the best maple syrup you can afford
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 20 oz heavy cream
- 14 oz milk
- At least six strips of caramelized bacon, cut into bacon bit sized pieces (I used brown sugar for the candy coating).
- Cook the maple syrup down to 1/2 its volume about 3/4 of a cup. This stuff tends to boil over so take it slow and low. Check it frequently and do your best to keep it away from a full boil.
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, and syrup reduction. Stir to dissolve the maple syrup reduction. Bring to a bare simmer. Depending on the temperature when it is added, you may find that the syrup reduction solidifies. Do not fear. When you get above 160 degrees F, it will easily mix into the liquid.
- While the milk and cream are heating, mix the yolks with the salt. Beat well.
- Temper the eggs with the dairy mixture by slowly adding about 1/3 of the liquid(in two or three additions). Remember to whisk constantly during the tempering process. Add the eggs mixture to the remaining milk mixture. Stir constantly until the temperature reaches 175F.
- Cool to room temperature overnight. Freeze in your ice cream machine and add the caramelized bacon at the last minute or so of freezing.