Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beef Stroganoff; Toga! Toga! Toga!

Wow, one cauliflower recipe and the financial world goes to Hell in a hand basket. Banks are failing, the market's crashing, and there are increasing reports of people withdrawing money from "the system". Kinda makes long for the good old days when we were all fat, dumb and happy. Ahhh August, you flew by so quickly.

True; times are bleak. You've lost your job, the interest rate is up on your mortgage, hell! - your house is worth less than what you owe on your car, (unless you own an SUV which means nobody wants it and people put you right below "baby seal clubber" on the environmental hit list).

But look at the bright side; that SUV is so big, the family will have plenty of sleeping room. And really, who cares if the wolf is at the door? It's the bank's door now, let them worry about it.There's only one reasonable thing to do in times like these: PARTYYYYYYY!

That's right, clean out the fridge, crack open the really good wines and have one last blow-out. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow...." *

It was CrabCake2's birthday last week and per tradition he gets to choose the meal. He chose Beef Stroganoff; I know, I know, the coming Depression is going to be especially tough on him. But he's got the right attitude. Crying about the future won't stop good food from spoiling. So, as your home burns while Congress fiddles, crank up Peggy Lee and let's dance one more time.

Beef Stroganoff
by SSSal

2 TBSP Oil
24 oz white button mushrooms sliced, (you can also mix in some Baby Bellas if you like)
1 lb. beef tenderloin cut into 1/2" thick, 1" square slices
3/4 cup beef broth
1 1/2 TBSP butter
3/4 cup minced onion
2 tsp tomato paste
3 TBSP dark brown sugar
1 1/2 TBSP flour
3/4 cup low salt chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup sour cream

12 oz. Egg Noodles

In a large saute pan, heat 1 TBSP of oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot add the mushrooms (if your saute pan is not large enough, you need to work in batches). Do not stir mushrooms for 1 minute. After a minute, lightly salt and pepper the mushrooms and stir to turn. Allow mushrooms to cook, stirring occasionally until nearly all the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Transfer 'shrooms to a large bowl.

Return pan to stove and increase heat to high. Add remaining TBSP of oil. Add beef, searing for approximately 30 seconds (again, if you have a small pan you may have to work in batches, you do not want to crowd the pan). After 30 seconds, use tongs or a wooden spoon to turn the meat. Cook an additional 30 seconds. Now, if you've sliced the beef thinly, it will be properly done. For the squeamish among you, the meat may appear on the rare side, fear note there's more cooking to come.

Transfer the cooked beef to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add beef broth to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Allow broth to simmer until about 1/3 cup remains. Add the broth and brown bits to the mushrooms and beef.

Turn heat to medium. Add the butter. When the butter foams add the onion, brown sugar and tomato paste. Stirring frequently. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes. Note: There will be blobs of tomato paste in the pan. You'll have a chance to get rid of them when you add the chicken stock or you can kill some time by hunting them down with a wooden spoon, your choice.

Note: It would be a good time to start the water for the noodles about the same time the onions hit the pan. Cook according to bag directions.

After 5 minutes sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will take on a grainy texture.

Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk in the chicken stock and wine. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 2 minutes until somewhat thickened. Add any accumulated liquid from the mushroom/beef bowl.

Now, put the sour cream in a measuring cup. Ladle in 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid and mix well. This process is called tempering. If you added the sour cream directly to the simmering liquid there's a very good chance that it would curdle, in which case, losing ones "tempering" would probably take place.

Add the sour cream mixture to the liquid and whisk together. Add the mushrooms and beef to the sauce and stir to combine.

Plate individual serving of noodles, ladle on the Stroganoff. Eat and dream of happier times.

Well that's it for today crablings. While you still can, remember, you can do it, you can cook.


* Crabby Quiz: "Eat, drink and be merry...", finish the saying and name the source.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Smashed Cauliflower with Corn, Mushrooms & Red Pepper and Other Life Mysteries

Not every meal I prepare turns out well. There have been (are) plenty of courses (entire meals) that turn out as disasters. The perplexing meals are the ones I find God-awful, but that other people love. Invariably the discrepancy centers around vegetables.

If you've been paying attention, then you know that Crabby is highly carnivorous. I understand and extol the virtues of vegetables. I prepare vegetables. I know that vegetables are good for me. I eat vegetables. I hate vegetables.

Most males I know feel the same way: Veggies are nice, some help sop up gravy, they help make the "real food" look good and, if they get caught up with the meat, they don't usually taste too bad. Hooray. My farmer thanks you. My grocer thanks you. My doctor thanks you and my colon thanks you.

Women on the other hand seem to have a genetic attraction to vegetables. Many meals I hate are raved over by the female diners. Whether it's as a main dish, side dish or spousal option, women love veg.

So here's my recipe for one of the most boring of all veg, cauliflower. Actually, my best recipe for cauliflower is: fry a pound of bacon, boil a head of cauliflower, throw out the cauliflower, eat the bacon. Let's assume that isn't a recipe you want to try; this time of year cauliflower are fresh, abundant and massive. They look like something that should taste great. My wife and her friends loved this dish. I thought it dull and tasteless. Go figure.

Smashed Cauliflower with Corn, Mushrooms & Red Pepper
by Crabby

1 head of Cauliflower broken down into small florets
14 oz (1 can) no-salt or low salt chicken stock

1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup thawed, frozen corn (or 1 cup blanched fresh corn)
8 oz mushrooms, white button or Crimini, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed or 1 small leek, sliced (white part only)

1/2 cup sour cream
2 TBSP Dijon mustard

Chopped Chives for garnish

In a medium sized pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add cauliflower. Cover with lid slightly ajar and boil for 15 minutes until cauliflower is very tender. Note: Pay attention to the amount of liquid in the pot. You may need to add water or additional chicken stock. (If adding more chicken stock be very aware of the salt content, most canned stocks are overwhelmingly salty).

Drain off excess liquid into a soup bowl.

Roughly mash the cauliflower. I look for small, bite-sized chunks.

While the cauliflower is cooking heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot add olive oil and butter.

When the butter is completely melted add the mushrooms and walk away for 1 minute. After 1 minute stir the mushrooms and add the garlic. Wait 1 more minute. After that minute add the remaining vegetables. Saute over medium-high heat until vegetables start to show caramelized spots, about 5 minutes.

Add the vegetables to the mashed cauliflower.

In a medium soup bowl mix the Dijon mustard and sour cream. Add up to 1/2 cup of the drained cauliflower stock, (This is a judgement call on your part. If the sauce strikes you as too thick then add the broth. If you like a heavier sauce then omit this step). Mix well to combine. Pour the mixture over the vegetables to coat.

Adjust seasoning, garnish with chopped chives and serve.

There, that's it. A vegetable course that most men will hate but women will find hypnotic.

Other ideas might be to throw in some chopped green onions, crushed red pepper or if you're particularly adventurous, (and would like to appeal to the male Troglodyte in the family), put all the veg in a casserole, cover it with cheddar cheese and broil it until melted and slightly browned. It won't be as healthy, but you'll probably be able to get the kids to eat it.

OK, enough. Next time the carnivore returns, but until then, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Carrot Cake in a Time of Downsizing.

Let's face it, times are tough. Thanks to that adjustable rate mortgage, your dream house just put you into the poor house. You really want to send your kids to college, but that gets further and further away every time you have to fill up your Hummer Consumpto SUV. To top it all off, your nest egg, filled by the golden goose, just got scrambled by some guy at Lehman Brothers.

No, it's not a good time to own anything. This looming hangover from owing "too much" from having bought "too many" reminds me of a recipe story.

Many years ago, I attended business school in the Northeast. What's interesting about this is, while the business school was very good, the overall college had a great reputation for carrot cake.

That's right, carrot cake.
People begged for the recipe, alumni would request it for weddings; as great as the academic experience was, everyone remembered the carrot cake.

After graduation I went to work for a large, three-initialed computer company.
One of my colleagues graduated from the same business school. As fate would have it, this co-worker's father was the head baker for the college in question.

His father held the keys to the vault. His father not only had the recipe for this carrot cake but also oversaw its production.
His father sat, swami-like, at the top of Carrot Cake Mountain.

I pleaded, wheedled, cajoled, coaxed and inveigled. I had to and finally got, the recipe.

Ingredients: 50 lbs of flour....

Nooooo! I held Nirvana in my hands yet had no way to unlock the kitchen door. The recipe called for "pounds of eggs", who ever heard of using eggs by the pound? All I wanted was a recipe for a single, two-layer carrot cake. Curses, foiled again.

I never made the recipe. SeaShellSal and I have spent years trying out other recipes that were similar, but nothing has ever been exactly the same. Maybe someday I'll rent space in an industrial kitchen and give it a whirl. Carrot cake for 2,000.

Until then, here's SSSal's favorite version; CrabCake 2 always requests this as his birthday cake, (as you can see from the pictures). A food processor makes short work of the preparation. The cream cheese frosting is so good it should be against the law. Enjoy.

Carrot Cake
by SSSal

3/4 lbs (about 6 medium) peeled carrots cut into pieces to fit in the processor
1 piece lemon rind (approx 3" x 3/4 ")
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1" pieces
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mace

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9" bundt pan or two 8" round cake pans for a layer cake.

Shred carrots in food processor and set aside.

Process lemon peel and sugar in the food processor. Add butter, eggs and vanilla. Process until smooth.

Add walnuts and pulse to chop and distribute.

In a large measuring cup, stir together flour, baking power, baking soda, mace, salt and cinnamon. Add to the food processor, pulsing until the flour has disappeared.

Add carrots 1/3 at a time, pulsing after each addition until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into floured pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Run spatula vertically through batter to release any air bubbles that may have formed.

Bake bundt for 55 - 60 minutes or 45 minutes for the layer cake, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool slightly and then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
by SSSal

1 stick of butter,(4 ozs) at room temperature
8 ozs. cream cheese (the real stuff) at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar - the whole box
1 TBSP grated lemon zest

Using a mixer, combine all the ingredients and process until the frosting forms a creamy consistency. You may have to refrigerate it for 1/2 an hour or so to make sure it is not too soft.

Spread on cake. Refrigerate to set the frosting if you have time. Bring out to room temp for 1/2 an hour before serving.

This recipe can easily be doubled, and why wouldn't you? Spread it on cookies, on bagels, the family pet; this frosting is ridiculously good.

Well that's all for today. Time to replenish the retirement account, I'll be the one with the metal detector walking the beach looking for loose change. Until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tomato Tree - Day 112

And then there were six.

It's autumn in Michigan. That means cool to cold nights followed by slow warming days. It's hell on the wardrobe. I start the day in long sleeves and jeans and somewhere halfway through I'm wishing for shorts and a golf shirt.

The change in weather is wreaking havoc on the plants. Virtually all the leaves have yellowed. I've had to trim out the dead vines. Six plants, six tomatoes. Three are too small to have any hope of maturing. The three others have a chance. Season's nearly over.

The base of the stand is looking rusty and a bit shaky. Maybe it's my imagination or because Halloween is off in the distance, but I swear I can hear a whispered voice saying, "Go away", every time I get near the planter. Yet, for no particular reason, I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll make it through without tragedy or fatality.

Isn't that what happens in every Stephen King novel?

Come to think of it, the whole Tomato Tree Stand saga would make a good horror story. Well, we're not quite dead yet. Maybe one or two more entries. Tomato Tree Sales VP & Customer Service Guru, Frank at Felknor still has a few days left to respond to my questions.

Now if I can just figure out who that guy is on the deck carrying an axe and wearing a goalie mask.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Baby Lava Cakes; Time Just Keeps Oozing On

Time doesn't so much march on as it seems to just ooze by.

Once we had kids, time wasn't measured by our birthdays, but by the landmarks of our children and their friends.

The first day of school. Little League games. Birthday parties. The last day of school. All these events seemed to just sneak up on us and before you knew it, another year had passed. It's not that our milestones were less important, it's that their events seemed so much more immediate.

Last week we got a "Save the Date" notice. The eldest of friends from Chicago, the 8-year old little girl we met 14 years ago, is getting married.

Old enough to get married! When did that happen?

If she's old enough to get married that means that CrabCake #1 can't be far behind. How can that be possible? If that's true, then that means CrabCake #2 will be leaving for college in a few years!

No, no, no! Something's wrong, I'm sure I was paying attention; how did this get by me?

Days, weeks, years, decades,
time oozes on.

Well in a tribute to WheatonJen, here's a dessert recipe that she found and we've fallen in love with. It's one of those slightly decadent, warm, oozing chocolate lava cakes. The slow, unctuous creep of the chocolate emanating from the cake is always a hit at a dinner party. Come to think of it, its sweet sensuous flow would be great on a honeymoon night; but I digress. So without further delay...

Baby Lave Cakes
by WheatonJen and tweaked by SSSal

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TBSP whipping cream

Combine chocolate and cream in a medium saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool, refrigerate for 45 minutes until mixture becomes firm.

Shape chocolate into 6 equal sized balls. (This is a messy job but the kids love doing it.) Set aside.


3/4 cup butter
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 eggs
3 egg yolks (yeah, yeah I know, but you only live once, so die happy)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup flour
3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

Butter and flour (6) 3/4 cup ramekins. In a medium saucepan, stir butter and chocolate over medium heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until lemon colored, (about 5 minutes).

Beat in the butter/chocolate mixture.

Sift flour and cocoa powder together and add to "wet" mixture.

Fill each ramekin 1/3 full with batter, drop a chocolate ball on top and then fill with remaining 2/3s cake batter. (If you put the ramekins on a cookie sheet it is easier to move them around, but you have to have enough room in your fridge to handle the next step.)

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees while ramekins are chilling.

Remove ramekins from refrigerator and bake for 13 - 15 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes prior to serving.

Quickly invert cakes onto serving plates. Garnish with whipped cream, ice cream and/or fruit coulis (recipe on another day).

Cut into cakes with a spoon and listen to your dinner companions ooh and aah.

Bask in your culinary glory.

Well crablings, that's it. Like all desserts, this one has a lot of fussy steps, but the result is pretty cool. And remember, if WheatonJen can come up with this recipe at the ripe old age of 19, then you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Barbecued Ribs (Sort Of); Cooking & The Perfect Storm

I'd love to be a TV weatherman. You work a few hours a day, play with really cool computers, use complex words like "occluded front" and "temperature inversion", and then you get to go on TV and say things like, "There's a 50% chance of rain tomorrow".

What? A 50% chance of rain. Isn't that like saying, "Here's a coin, heads it rains, tails it doesn't", "Thanks and goodnight. See you tomorrow".

Now I know it's more difficult than that. I believe when a weatherman tells you there's a 50% chance of rain, that means there's a 100% chance that 1/2 of you are going to get wet. But still, a 50-50 chance. Where I come from that's called guessing.

I had a couple of slabs of baby back ribs that had been sitting in the freezer for a few months. Thursday the weather forecast showed rain Saturday, clearing Sunday with a 50% chance of rain. Perfect; thaw, rub, sit overnight, cook Sunday, eat.

Hurricane Ike hit Houston early Saturday morning. It roared through Texas, damaging buildings with 100 MPH winds and inundating the countryside with feet of rain. At it's peak the storm was 600 miles wide.

Due to a "slowing of the low front" and "increased upper atmospheric winds" Ike arrived in the upper Midwest at about noon Sunday. 50-50 chance of rain? It was a deluge and I was 100% drenched. Six inches of rain in 24 hours. Damaging winds knocking down power lines and tearing roofs from houses. Not only did it rain cats and dogs, but also mice, birds, otters and
ferrets. It was a mess.

What was a crab to do? Is Crabby afraid of a little water? Scared he's going to melt in the rain?

HA! I laugh in the face of danger.

So, making a major adjustment to my technique, and feeling uncomfortably like Charles Laughton in "Mutiny on the Bounty", I soldiered on. Refusing to fore go all barbecuing, I stepped outside and took Mother Nature's best shots. I said we were going to have ribs and by gum we were going to have ribs.

I got very, very wet.

But I did succeed. What follows is not my usual approach to rib making, but if you're ever caught in a hurricane dropped to tropical bipolar (sorry, depression),
downgraded to pestilential storm, well then this is the recipe for you. If you can dry out, enjoy...

Crabby's (Sort Of) Barbecued Ribs
by Crabby

2 full slabs baby back ribs
1 1/2 - 2 cups Crabby Rub

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup additional BBQ sauce
1/4 cup orange juice

2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce (Crabby-Q is quite nice)

Crabby Rub
by Crabby

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 onion powder
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup dried thyme
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely ground coffee
(yes, that's right, coffee)
1 TBSP cumin

Combine all ingredients in a large jar. Shake vigorously while your children are watching. Try not to yell at them as they laugh at you. Store in a cool dark place. Use liberally.


At least 24 hours prior to cooking, liberally sprinkle both sides of the ribs with approximately 3/4 cup of Crabby Rub. Massage the rub into the meat. Wrap each rack tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

In a medium bowl, mix the 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and 1/4 cup of orange juice together. Add sliced onions, marinade overnight.

Remove ribs from refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to the start of cooking.

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.

Unwrap ribs and place in a single layer in a large baking dish. Do not overlap the racks; if necessary use two baking pans. Distribute the onion and sauce mixture over the ribs. Tightly cover the ribs with aluminum foil.

Place ribs in oven and bake for 3 hours. Yes that's right, 3 hours. Take a walk, go to a movie, watch the game, just leave them alone for 3 hours.

Pre-heat your grill to medium heat. If cooking in a tropical monsoon don appropriate clothing such as a rain slicker, snorkel, mask and life vest.

After three hours, transfer the ribs to the grill and with the meat side down, grill for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the ribs over and swab them with barbecue sauce. Grill, bone side down for an additional 30 -45 minutes.

Remove from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve with beer (I prefer Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss or Labatt's). I suspect WWBob will recommend a Spanish Rioja.

OK crablings, that's it for today. I don't know what I'll be posting next, though looking at my water-logged hands, something with prunes might be appropriate.

Remember, if you can swim, you can do it, you can cook.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Roast Beets with Lemon, Olive Oil & Mint; Time to Face a False Fear

OK, there are certain foods that I just can't stand. I hate Lima beans; I hate chickpeas; I detest eggplant. There are other foods that I'm indifferent to, like tofu, turnips and celery. I don't hate these foods as much as I see them as little more than culinary Styrofoam - i.e., filler.

So I understand why people hate certain foods. I usually agree with most people on the what belongs on the "do not serve" list. There is one notable exception. I love beets.

Stop! Wait! Don't run away!

Beats me why people are so violently anti-beet. At least with Lima beans and chickpeas there's a valid reason to hate them: they taste awful. Those things are mealy and bitter, beets are used to make sugar. Beets are sweet. Beets stain your hands and change the color of your digestion. Beets are neat.

All I can think of is that most people have only ever tried pickled beets. Yes, it's true, pickled beets are vile. But roast beets are spectacular, especially when served with a tart counterpoint. So, for you adventurous eaters out there, for you intrepid souls willing to face your fears, here is a recipe for roast beets. This side dish works with grilled meats, or the Sunday Roast Beast. It's simple and can be prepared while you're working on the rest of dinner. Try it, who knows, you just might enjoy change your mind.

Roast Beets with Lemon, Olive Oil & Mint
by SeaShell Sal

3 or 4 medium beets, washed and peeled
1 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 TBSP fresh mint leaves, chopped

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place the peeled whole beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 TBSP of olive oil over the beets, mix to cover. Close the sides of the foil, forming a sealed pouch. Place the pouch on a cooking sheet.

Roast the beets until tender, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

While the beets are roasting, put the olive oil, lemon juice and mint in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

When the beets are done, remove from the oven and carefully open the pouch to allow the beets to cool. Cut the beets into 1" - 2" chunks. Place the chopped beets in a bowl.

Pour the olive oil lemon juice dressing over the beets and serve.

That's it. Simple, easy and a nice combination of sweet and tart. It's a dish that works exceptionally well on a fall evening. Another serving option is to add small chunks of goat cheese to the presentation. The zing of the cheese offsets the sweetness on the vegetables perfectly.

Well, that's it for today. Maybe one day I'll try a Lima bean recipe, (I'd advise against holding your breath waiting for that one).

As always, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Vichyssoise - Cool Leek & Potato Soup and The Arrival of Fall

Most mornings I get up and walk the dog. We live in a fairly wooded area, so quite often we meet up with the local wildlife. We've run into ornery woodchuck, hissing possum and anti-social skunks. Of course we've also seen Mallards with their ducklings and mother deer guarding wobbly legged fawns. We also get to watch the slow march of the seasons.

Today was a chilly morning, maybe 40 degrees. The saving graces were the riotous colors that accompanied the rising sun and the mist hugging the low lying ground. In Summer it takes me forever to get out of bed and get started, it seems that Fall does the same to Mother Nature. Days start cold and never quite get up to full heat. It's as though the Earth doesn't want to get out of bed and shake off the mist. Morning dew, Nature's top sheet.

Autumn starts me thinking about root vegetables and roasts. But I can't quite give up the ghost of summer. So today I present a "cool" soup, Vichyssoise. Leek & Potato Soup is rich but refreshing; it's a great first course or, served with a small salad, a nice lunch. Normally this soup is served cold in chilled bowls. But, much like a Fall afternoon, I prefer it closer to room temperature.

There are thousands of Vichyssoise recipes out there, but none better than Julia Child's. I like using heavy cream and keeping a tiny bit of the green parts of the leeks, they add color and a little bite. If you're in a hurry, skip running the soup through a sieve, the end result will be a bit thicker but just as satisfying. Enjoy.

Vichyssoise, Cool Leek & Potato Soup
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Child, Bertholle & Beck

3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
3 cups sliced white of leek (or leave a little green for an intriguing green tint)
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream
Salt & White Pepper

2 - 3 TBSP minced Chives

Simmer the potatoes and leeks in the stock. Puree the soup using a stick blender or food processor. Pass through a fine sieve.

Stir in the cream. Season with salt and white pepper, to taste, (Oversalt slightly as salt loses its savor in a cold dish). Chill.

Thirty minutes prior to serving, remove soup from refrigerator. Serve soup in slightly chilled bowls, garnishing with the chopped chives.

How easy was that? Now some of you are going to complain about the whipping cream. Fine! You could try it with whole milk, but anything "lower " than that and you're on your own. But come on; how many times are you going to make this soup? Why not go for the whole enchilada the first time and then decide if you want to cut back in the future.

Alright, I'm outta here. Don't know what I'll post next time, but remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tomato Tree - Day 98

The tomatoes knew it was happening before anyone else did. In unison, all the plants started to yellow. The ripening of the fruit slowed to a crawl. Leaves started dropping on their own. Fall is coming.

"Fall" is a word I've tried to avoid around the tomato tree.

We've had a few truly cool nights, a couple down into the low 40's and once even to 39 degrees. My tomatoes have taken on a duller sheen. Maybe it's the dew in the mornings, maybe it's the drop in sunlight, but the plants have started their death rattle.

The large potted plant is down to 2 pieces of fruit. The tree has about a dozen tomatoes left to ripen. But, as Ceres predicted, the fruit on the tree in substantially smaller than the fruit from the large pot.

Sigh. The dying of light.

No calamities this week. Though it's obvious that we're down to one or two more entries in the Tomato Tree Chronicles.

So it's time to break out the light sweaters and start preparing for hibernation. I have a few grilling recipes left, but very soon I'll be slipping into full autumn cooking. Until next time...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rotisserie Chicken Crabby-Style; Hurray, Football's Here, Football's Here

As a kid I hated the start of the US Tennis Open, it meant school was about to begin. As I got older I loved seeing the US Tennis Open because it meant I was back at college. It also meant that football's here.

As many of you know, the Crabbys live in the Ann Arbor Michigan area. Ann Arbor is also home to the University of Michigan. The University is world renowned for its academics and research in the sciences, arts and medicine; but the truth is, if you travel around the U.S. and say "University of Michigan", the vast majority of people will respond with one word: "football".

Six times a year, the stadium becomes the third most populous city in the state of Michigan. Everything is painted maize and blue, and woe unto ye should you wear Buckeye (Ohio State) colors, (N.B., around here, Buckeye has an unusually pronunciation, the "B" takes on a definite "F" sound).

I did not attend UofM, but I enjoy watching football. Of course for me it's not just the game, but the food too. So while the faithful bemoan what appears to be a difficult "transitional" season, Crabby worries about what to eat before, during and after the game.

Well today's recipe is perfect for your typical football game. The major work is done the night before and the cooking can be started at half-time, checking on progress done during TV commercials and eating starts right after the game ends. Perfection.

This meal works best with a rotisserie attachment to your grill, though it could be prepared in your oven at 350 degrees with similar timing. It won't look as spectacular, but it will still taste great.

Crabby's Rotisserie Chicken
by Crabby

1 Roasting Chicken (approx. 4 lbs.)


1 orange, halved
1 lemon, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Crabby Rub, divided (see below)

Squeeze the juice of the orange and lemon halves into a large bowl. Save the rinds and flesh.

Add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix well to combine.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Place the roaster in a large resealable bag (gallon size should work just fine). Place the orange and lemon halves inside the chicken cavity. Pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and massage the bag to distribute the marinade.

Carefully reopen the bag and sprinkle half (1/4 cup) of the Crabby rub onto the chicken. Reseal the bag and refrigerate at least 8 hours, and preferably overnight.

One hour before cooking, remove the chicken from the marinade and lightly pat dry. Discard the marinade as well as the fruit halves from inside the cavity. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Crabby rub over the chicken and allow it to come to room temperature.

Set up your rotisserie grill attachment. Preheat the rotisserie burner. Mount the chicken onto the grill spit, tying the legs to insure a stable bird.

Rotisserie grill at medium-high heat. Grill temperatures vary widely and are especially sensitive to the outside temperature. Check the bird after 15 minutes to see if it is crisping too quickly. If it appears too browned, reduce the temperature. Otherwise check the chicken again after an hour or so. An instant read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh needs to read 180 degrees. Start testing the doneness after 45 minutes.

When done, remove the chicken from the spit and allow to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Carve, serve, eat.

Now if everything has worked out right, the chicken will be ready just as the game ends, (or you could start the bird at the beginning of the game and it should be ready right around halftime). I'll let WWBob chime in with some wine ideas. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook. And, oh yeah, Go Blue!!!

Crabby Rub
by Crabby

I normally make a large batch so as to have it sitting around for last minute seasoning.

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 onion powder
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup dried thyme
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely ground coffee
(yes, that's right, coffee)
1 TBSP cumin

Combine all ingredients in a large jar. Shake vigorously while your children are watching. Try not to yell at them as they laugh at you. Store in a cool dark place. Use liberally.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crabby-Q-Sauce and The Rigged Election

This past Sunday, Crabby and SSSal were invited to an annual Labor Day BBQ. ButterBoyC, a retired banker and ChinaFlyer, a nautical engineer, along with their long suffering wives are the event's hosts. As you might imagine, combining an engineer with a retired banker ensures that the production of this feast is as entertaining as the eating.

Look, Crabby loves his kitchen gadgets, but I've never needed earth moving equipment, power tools or assorted ropes, chains and pulleys to prepare a meal. When I need a last minute something for dinner, I go to the supermarket, these guys bop over to Home Depot.

Last year they cooked an entire pig in the ground. Regrettably, results were mixed. They had trouble keeping the temperature steady and Porky came out decidedly underdone. They weren't amused when I suggested that they try the in-ground technique again this year, but with addition of some imported Hawaiians to cover the actual cooking.

Rather that revisit Pig in A Hole, they built their own smokehouse. Armed with internet plans, wood, power tools and determination, they succeeded admirably. The ribs were truly spectacular. "Falling off the bone" and "Melt in your mouth" are normally over-used descriptions, but not this time. Well done gentlemen; I can't wait until next year's event.

Sadly, the day was not without controversy. Part of the event was a BBQ Sauce contest. Participants were asked to submit 1 quart of sauce and all attendees voted for their favorite.

Now Crabby has lived in Chicago. He is fully aware of the concept of "vote early and often". But Crabby refused to submit to the politics of the past. Crabby refused to wallow in the muck. Crabby took the high road;
Crabby offered a vision of hope.

Crabby was a sucker.

I finished second in the voting. The winner had a surprisingly large number of votes cast in their favor. In fact, there are rumors (unconfirmed) that the winner received more votes than attendees at the party. Furthermore, many of the winner's votes had suspiciously similar penmanship. Lastly, the winner is married to a cousin of one of the hosts, thereby forever answering the question, "Who do you have to sleep with to win this contest?". Bitter? No thanks I have plenty.

OK, enough; deep breath, out with the bad air, in with the good. In a stunning show of magnanimity, here's "a" recipe for Crabby-Q-Sauce. Normally I give you crablings all my secrets, but, in the time honored tradition of over-baked cooking egos, I'm going to hold back a couple of secret ingredients from my "competition" sauce. This is the base to all my CrabbyQ sauces, feel free to experiment with your own ideas. The photos show it served over grilled pork roast.

by Crabby

1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup cola
4 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup lemonade (that's right, your favorite lemonade)
1 TBSP granulated garlic
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1 tsp hot sauce (I like srichacha, use more for a spicier result)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp marjoram

Warm the canola and sesame oil over medium-high heat. When warm add the onions and cook until soft and beginning to lightly brown, approximately 7 - 10 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, if you desire a smoother texture, use a stick blender to attain your desired consistency.

Now, here's the tough part, simmer for an additional 0 - 60 minutes until you achieve the thickness you desire. The sauce is ready after the first 20 minute simmer, but it will be a little thin. However, that "thinness" makes it perfect as a glaze for grilled meats.

If you decide to continue simmering the sauce REMEMBER, the sauce will thicken when it cools. It's one thing to have a thick, luscious, slow moving sauce, it's something else again to have a jello-like brick jiggling like your Aunt Edna sidling up to the all-you-can-eat buffet at Kountry Kitchen.

Note well: I always pay close attention to the honey-to-hot-sauce ratio. Srichacha is very spicy, so be ready to add a little more honey to the mix.

No more bitterness, no more recriminations,
I've moved on. But just remember, Crabby has a good memory and revenge is a dish best served cold.

To everyone else, remember, you can do it, you can cook.