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Anne's Kitchen: Staycation cooking

 

Anne Freeze

 

 

Here's to more four-day weekends! Even in retirement, a long weekend feels like a vacation. And as a former restaurant employee, I want to shout out a thank you to all who work to keep stores and food establishments open on holidays. I can still remember working Christmas Eves, New Year's Days and other holidays. It paid the rent, but it wasn't always fun. 

 

But this past weekend, I cooked. Friday night I fried up fresh catfish and bass because I wanted to be sure I had a technique that worked when the grandkids come to visit. Fresh fish, cornmeal and some hot oil made for good eating. I made a vinaigrette slaw to go with it along with sliced oven "fried" red potatoes. The fish was used again for lunch fish tacos. I sliced each large filet in four and reheated them in the skillet before loading a small softened taco with guacamole, slaw and salsa. I made and canned salsa last summer and still have some. I think it's watery, so I mix it with a store-bought brand and then puree them together.  

 

Saturday was the Mississippi Roast recipe from my May 17 column. I did the quick version, and it really is delicious and so easy. Leftovers make for a supper of sandwiches served on a toasted bun with the gravy on top.  

 

Sunday was rib day. Terry and I decided to try and cook them the entire time on the grill. After three years, we still haven't mastered the Weber and so it's a constant learning experience. I used a rub recipe I had in my recipe binder and it was perfect. I love the brown sugar in it, and it wasn't overpowering like one I used to make. True to our nature, we first went online to look at what other grill masters do and decided on a method. We salted the rack first and then put the rub on, careful not to put it on too thickly. We had read that you should be able to see the meat through the rub. Then Terry put coals in the chimney starter and let them turn to grey. We put them in one corner (sort of) of the grill and put unlit coals next to them. Then we waited, and waited, and waited for the temperature to come down to 225 degrees. I have accused Terry of not using enough coals, but this time we seemed to have too many. We went ahead and put the ribs on at 350. An hour later the temp had climbed up again past 400, so I turned the oven on (225 degrees) and we went to Plan B. We finished them for another two hours wrapped in foil in the oven. I let them rest and then painted some sauce on them and ran them under the broiler. After four hours, our grill was still over 350 degrees! So I put some little potatoes in a pouch with olive oil and Greek seasoning and we cooked them. Then I sliced them and tossed them with more olive oil, lemon juice, sliced scallions and minced orange bell pepper for a nice light potato salad. The ribs were scrumptious with a hint of sweetness and a little smokiness. 

 

Our final weekend experiment was strawberry ice cream. I bought an ice cream maker last year and have only used it once for peach ice cream, so I don't have a recipe or technique down pat. I decided to do a custard version (cooked). Basically, it was 6 egg yolks, cream and sugar. This cooked to 170 degrees and then I added a pound of hulled strawberries I had blended with a little sugar. Into the frozen insert and turn the button to "on" and watch the magic happen. Did I say "magic"? After 30 minutes the insert was warming and the ice cream wasn't making. It was delicious, but wasn't freezing. We put it into a container and moved it to the freezer. Then we decided to make another batch with an uncooked recipe. It won by a landslide. In an unscientific taste test, the custard version didn't freeze well and had a sort of gummy mouth feel. The other version was creamy and tasted like ice cream. I whipped up the six egg whites and had meringue kisses in the oven. 

 

So, on the last day of my staycation, with a full tummy and lots of recipe testing behind me, I took to bed and a nap! 

 

 

 

MOMMA'S MERINGUES 

 

 

 

4 egg whites 

 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

 

1/2 teaspoon vinegar 

 

1/8 teaspoon salt 

 

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar 

 

1/2 cup granulated sugar 

 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

 

 

 

  • Sift the two sugars together and put 1/4 cup to the side. 

     

  • Beat egg whites with vanilla, vinegar and salt until stiff. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until the mixture is glossy and shiny. Fold in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the baking powder. 

     

  • Use a pastry bag or two soup spoons and dollop about 2 tablespoons each on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Leave 1 inch between each meringue.  

     

  • Bake about 1 hour at 250 F. until the meringues are dry and very pale brown. If they are the right color but still chewy in the middle, turn the oven off and leave them in for an hour or more. 

     

    (Note: Some recipes use cream of tartar in place of the vinegar. If your oven tends to run hot, cook the meringues at 225 or 200 F.) 

     

     

     

    BARBECUE RUB 

     

     

     

    1/2 cup brown sugar 

     

    1/8 cup smoked paprika 

     

    1 tablespoon salt 

     

    1/2 tablespoon black pepper 

     

    1/2 tablespoon white pepper 

     

    1/2 tablespoon garlic powder 

     

    1/2 tablespoon onion powder 

     

    2 teaspoons cumin 

     

    2 teaspoons chili powder 

     

    1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning 

     

     

     

  • Mix all together. This should be enough for two racks. Keep unused portion in refrigerator. Do not save any that has come into contact with raw meat.

     

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