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Archive for December, 2011

Creamed Corn

20 Dec
Cutting Corn Creamed Corn

M: I never met a vegetable that wasn’t better fresh from the field and corn is a shining example of that rule.  Alright, so technically corn is a grain not a vegetable, but I don’t have a fresh grain policy established yet, so let’s stick a pin in that.  When processing corn, the inclination is to cut the kernels from the cob and call it a day, but if you stop there you are missing out.  The creamy “milk” left behind in the cob is a treasure too easily forgotten.   Now the bad news.  It’s December.  We are big believers in cooking seasonally here at the Skillet, but we let this one linger a little too long before posting and fresh corn is not at every turn as it was a few months ago.  If you simply must, you can get away with 5 cups of frozen corn in place of the ten ears in the recipe and still find a result that is sweet and flavorful, but if you do, it pays to mash the corn up some as you cook it.  Either way, we’re miles beyond the canned stuff with this simple stove top recipe for creamed corn.  Bright and vibrant on the palate, it’ll make you wonder why you even keep that can opener around. If you’re looking for something more conventionally creamy (read: dairy), check out the also excellent corn gravy found in the Community Cookbook.  I can’t argue with either choice.

K: Right, so…I have a confession to make.  I grew up HATING creamed corn with the heat of a thousand fiery suns. Hated.It.  I cannot emphasize that enough. Looking back now I realize that this attitude was utterly unrelated to the dish itself, but really boiled down to two things.  Thing the first is that I thought it was stupid to do anything more complicated to corn than shuck, boil, butter, and I still kind of do in the depths of my heart, but I have relented to practicality.  Thing the second? I hate cutting the corn off the cob.  Hate. Present tense. Still hate it. Oh sure there’s a million stupid gadgets that supposedly make it better, but it’s all a lie.  It’s a pain in the arse no matter what you do.  Sometimes though, something is worth the effort, and I have now made peace with the creamed corn, because it really is worth it.

For those of you who stand firmly in the ‘no-cut’ zone on corn? Use frozen here, and it will still be good.  Better even if you can use a mix of yellow corn and ‘shoepeg’ or white corn.  We can generally find both in our larger grocery stores even this far north. I do this when I’m craving corn in the dead of winter in Boston, and it turns out just fine. It has been served at many a Christmas dinner in this house with no complaints….though I do generally add a generous dollop of cream ‘for company’.

Recipe: Creamed Corn

Summary: Corn fresh from the cob and skillet cooked in it’s own milk.  Sweet and creamy, this one puts canned alternatives to shame.   Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 10 Ears Corn
  • 1 T Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 1/2  c (or so) Water
  • 3 T Bacon Grease
  • 2 T Butter

Instructions

  1. Shuck and silk corn
  2. Using a sharp knife, remove kernels from corn and place in a large bowl.
  3. Make a second pass with the knife, scraping the corn milk from the cobs into the bowl.
  4. Add sugar, salt, pepper and water to bowl. Should be just a a little soupy.
  5. Liquify grease in a skillet over medium-low heat and add corn mixture.
  6. Cook until corn is fully cooked through and mixture becomes creamy.

 

 

 
 

Slow Cooker Crab Dip

15 Dec

Crab Dip

M: So what exactly is Velveeta?  It’s not cheese, despite first glance.  The FDA has all kinds of rules about what can be called cheese, mostly having to do with moisture content and percentage of milkfat (39% and 50%, respectively).  Then we move on to processed cheese, to which some emulsifiers and additives are added dropping rules to 43% moisture content and 47% milkfat. Velveeta?  Not yet.  Think American cheese.  Process cheese food requires a minimum 44% moisture and 23% milkfat which again contains additives, preservatives and texture agents.  Still not velveeta.  Velveeta is what is classified as a process cheese spread, which is a variation on cheese food which must be spreadable at 70 degrees, have a moisture content of at least 60% and and 20% milkfat.   Beyond that you’ve got your process cheese product, which doesn’t quite meet any of those standards (velveeta light lands here).  Imitation cheese is an oil based alternative for which all bets are off.

I’m sure I’m oversimplifying all of that a bit by sticking to the numbers there, but what I’m getting at is something we already knew.  Velveeta ain’t cheese.  So why are we using it?  Well, no matter what is in there, it tastes pretty good, the color is pleasant enough, and most importantly, when you melt it, it does not clump, nor does oil rise to the surface.  You get a smooth, velvet-y (velveeta! get it?) consistency just perfect for dipping a chip or two.  I usually overcome my acknowledged cheese snobbery on this front only in Mexican restaurants, where I can pretend queso is an exotic cheese from South of the border instead of little more than velveeta and jalapenos.  I am willing to extend this privilege to include this smooth and spicy crab dip.  This blend of velveeta, monterey jack cheese, tomatoes, peppers and hot sauce (don’t hold back) is just the ticket for that holiday party or to nosh while watching the Panthers throw another one away in the second half.

I will advise that you keep it warm though.  As the velveeta cools off, there is a fine line between smooth, melt-y deliciousness and melted plastic army man.  Stay on the right side of that line and you’ll do great.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Crab Dip

Summary: Velvety-y smooth and spicy, this cousin to queso is a crowd pleaser. Just be sure to keep it warm.  From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1 T Butter
  • 6 Green Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Lb Velveeta
  • 2 c Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
  • 1 10 oz can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
  • 1 Lb Crab Meat
  • Hot Sauce
  • Tortilla Chips

Instructions

  1. Saute green onions and bell pepper in butter in a small skillet over medium heat until soft (about 8 minutes).
  2. Transfer to slow cooker and add velveeta, monterey jack, and tomatoes and cook on high for one hour.
  3. Stir in crab meat and reduce heat to low for another hour.
  4. Season with hot sauce and serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping.

 

 

Cranberry Congealed Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

08 Dec

Cranberry Congealed Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

M: Stepping forth from the Thanksgiving leftovers.  What did the cranberries look like on your Thanksgiving table growing up.  At my house it was jelled cranberries, which emerged from the can with a mighty slooooooorp before being cut into perfect discs of deliciousness.  Loved it.  Still do.  But at some point I got all highfalutin and decided what we really needed were *fresh* cranberries.  Loved those too.  Also still do.  What we never got around to was the Congealed Salad.  That’s jello salad to you and me,  often augmented with the likes of marshmallows, carrots, coconut, what have you.  At many holiday tables the cranberries were unabashedly served in molded jello form.  Never had it.  Not once.  So when this recipe came up, I knew it belonged on my Thanksgiving table and, although the recipe calls for it to be served in a flat pan, i knew this was my chance to embrace the elusive jello mold.  I know for many, of not most of you, the jello mold is such a standard that my fascination might seem a strange, but call it a gap in my culinary upbringing.  The best part was a tip someone shared with me for ensuring it leaves the mold intact.  Dip the bottom in hot water for a moment before turning it.  Slid right out.  Genius!

Not quite a dump and serve recipe, but it is in the ballpark.  Boxes of jello, cans of cranberry sauce and pineapple, hot water.   No mini-marshmallows in sight, so let’s roll with it.  While we call this “Congealed Cranberry Salad”, nobody *really* thinks it’s salad any more than we buy that pizza is a vegetable.  Except this one takes the charade one step further with the inclusion of actual salad dressing.  Come on.  Who are you fooling?  It turns out me.   I dug this “salad”, but the addition of poppy seed dressing really brings it home.  My dinner guests asked if the dressing was actually for the jello.  Yep.  Really?  Mmm hmm.  They got on board.  It ended up a real winner and was the first of the leftovers to disappear.  Loved it.  Hmm. Maybe I just like cranberries a lot.

Recipe: Cranberry Congealed Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Summary: Many Thanksgiving tables would be incomplete without the cranberry jello salad, but the addition of poppy seed dressing takes this one a step further. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 (3oz) Boxes Lemon Jell-O
  • 2 (3oz) Boxes Cranberry or Cherry Jell-O
  • 2 c Boiling Water
  • 1 c Crushed Pineapple, drained
  • 1 (16oz) Can Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 c Mayonnaise
  • 1 T Poppy Seeds

Instructions

  1. Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water.
  2. Stir in pineapple and cranberry sauce (make sure sauce dissolves completely).
  3. Pour into 9 in balking dish or Jell-O mold.
  4. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  5. Stir poppy seeds into mayonnaise for dressing.
  6. To serve, cut salad into portions and top with dollop of dressing.