Congratulations Lel Dinner: Part Two

Dessert!  Earlier in the day I was looking around my kitchen and trying to figure out what to make for a celebratory dessert.  On the counter was a large bowl of recently harvested sweet potatoes from my garden.  A handful of fresh eggs from the hen house and hhmm… custard?… pie?… and then I remembered flan!

When I was little, my mom made a pumpkin flan once for Thanksgiving.  I think I might have begged her to make it again every year for the next few years.  That wonderfully light creamy texture dripping with caramel sauce.  Hands down it is a simple yet elegant treat.  I figured if you can make flan with pumpkin then you can make it with sweet potato.

I spent a few minutes scouring the internet for recipes.  I found a few good sweet potato flan recipes, but none that were sugar free.  So I decided to make my own based roughly on the recipes I had found online.  Another difference I made was to make Dulce De Leche for the caramel sauce.  Most recipes do not ask you to do this, but I have found that Dulce De Leche is about the easiest caramel sauce to make.  I find it way easier than water based caramel sauces.  It also has a very smooth creamy taste.  Normally Dulce De Leche is made with sugar, but I wanted to make it without sugar.  So the recipe below is a sugar free version.  If you want a great recipe and instructions on a sugar based Dulce De Leche.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe.  You should also be able to find the video clips from the episode of Good Eats if you want to watch the process in action.

Dulce De Leche Recipe:

2 Cups Milk (I used reduced fat because that is what I had in the fridge, but you can use full fat too)

3/4 Cup of Honey (I had more honey than agave so I opted for honey, but you could substitute agave)

1/4 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

In a small sauce pan place 2 Cups of Milk, 3/4 Cup of Honey, and Vanilla.

On medium high heat bring the milk up to a simmer.  Add the 1/4 Tsp of Baking Soda and reduce the heat to low.  You will want to keep an eye on this and stir occasionally, however when you see foam appear on the surface do not stir the foam into the sauce.  Use a spoon to skim the foam off the top and discard.

It will take roughly an hour to reduce.  I watch the sauce for color, it should turn a golden amber color like those little caramel square your grandmother always had a jar of,  also occasionally dip a spoon in letting the sauce drip off the back to get a sense of thickness.  You are aiming for something along the lines of warm maple syrup.  Keep in mind that it will thicken up a bit when it cools.  Also the photos I took of my Dulce De Leche are a bit dark.  So don’t base the color of yours by the color below.

Pour the finished Dulce De Leche into a jar and store in the fridge.

And now onto the flan!

Sweet Potato Flan Recipe:

1 1/2 Cups of Sweet Potato ( Roughly 1 large sweet potato or a few small ones)

2/3 Cup of Agave Nectar

1 Cup Half and Half

4 Eggs

1/2 Cups Heavy/Whipping Cream

1/4 Tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Wash a few small sweet potatoes or one large one, pierce the skin a couple times with a fork, and place on a baking sheet.  Bake the sweet potatoes for roughly 45 min to an hour.

I made extra because baked sweet potatoes are tasty!  After the sweet potatoes are done roasting, you can let them cool if you want to,  peel and place them in a mixing bowl.  It is time to mash!

After the sweet potatoes are mashed set them aside.  In a separate bowl or the same bowl minus the sweet potatoes add four eggs.

Whisk the eggs thoroughly.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and sweet potato.

This is a good point to prep your baking dish or dishes.  I decided to go with two small baking dishes.  Pour a  1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of the Dulce De Leche on the bottom on your baking dish.  Make sure to reserve 2 TBLS.  Place your baking dish in a larger roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with hot water to at least the half way make on the baking dish you will be putting the flan in.

Okay now back to the flan.  In a small sauce pan heat the half and half with 2 TBLS of the Dulce De Leche.  Gradually whisk the heated half and half into the sweet potato mixture.  Strain the whole mixture through a fine mesh strainer back into the small sauce pan.

Stir over medium heat for one minute.  Remove from heat and pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake at 350F for roughly an hour or until the center is set.  Remove from the oven and place the flan in the fridge for 4 or 5 hours.  This can be done a day ahead.  Once the flan is completely chilled and you are ready to serve.  run a knife along the very edge of the dish.  Place a plate on top of the baking dish and turn it over.  The flan will slide out on to the plate with the caramel sauce dripping down the sides.

The Joy of Eating Grubs and Other Stories of Sunday Morning

I woke this Sunday morning with a few projects in mind.  First of which was to create a smaller pen inside the main chicken run for the chickiechicks and mama.  I had tried a few times letting them out in the main run, however those little chicks would always find some small hole under the fence( missed during my multiple patch jobs) and escape. Plus they managed to annoy all of the other chickens except their mother.   I decided the best plan would be to make a smaller pen just for mama and chicks for their safety and my headache-free Sunday.

They are getting quite big now and love digging for grubs.  Here they are taking a dust bath with Mama.

Here is a picture of Boof our rooster and father of the chicks.

Here is a picture of Rozilla/Rosanne/formally know as Rosie on the left a Boof on the right.  He is really tiny and she is quite large, hence her nickname of Rozilla( pronounced Row-Zirrah).

And a picture of the last of my original flock Betty the Barred Rock and Rosie the Rhode Island Red aka the Cranky Old Ladies/ Oh No You Don’t, Boof!

That is the whole flock.  Although we are still in need of names for the four chicks.  I also have a feeling more chickens are on the way.  I dreamt last night that I got a mating pair of very fancy looking chickens, a single hen who also looked quite fancy/odd, and an ostrich- speaking of odd.  In the dream, I had to call Lel and ask her permission to get the Ostrich because I wasn’t sure if we had enough space. She is laughing now ” As if I get to tell you no about anything with those chickens”.

On to the next project.  Harvest the garden, dig potatoes and prep the beds for winter.  This was the first year that I have had these garden beds.  So I was unsure exactly what to expect for our overall harvest.  I think I did pretty well considering a few set backs in the way of squash. Curse those vine boring grubs!  This was also the first year that I have attempted sweet potatoes.  I figured if nothing else they would make a great screen from the neighbors and the driveway.  I planted them along the bamboo fence I made at the edge of the garden.

And wow did they work well as a cover!  It was really wonderfully beautiful!  Especially when the vines flowered.  I highly recommend growing them even just for foliage.  Easy to maintain, fast growing, and beautiful.  The one thing that made me skeptical about getting any kind of crop was the fact that this was the first year that these beds had been tilled.  In Georgia, this means that the bed was mostly clay and despite all my amendments and tilling( blood, sweat, and, tears), it was still very hard packed.  I really thought it would just be too compact for the sweet potatoes, but I was very, very happily surprised when I started digging this morning.

Not only did they grow, but they were HUGE!

That is the largest mixing bowl I own.  It is an industrial size metal bowl and it is currently full of sweet potatoes!  What a harvest!  I am so impressed by those sweet potato plants!

I also picked the rest of the peppers and tomatoes.  Which in turn led to Breakfast/Brunch!

  • Fried Green Tomatoes, Poached Eggs, and Bacon:

  • Green Tomato
  • Flour or Corn Meal
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cayenne
  • 3 Eggs
  • 4-6 Pieces of Bacon

This is breakfast for two so if you are making it for one or more than two just adjust.  Okay now the first thing that you want to do is to take the eggs out of the fridge.  This is one of the secrets to poaching eggs, you need them to be room temperaturish.  Next step, pre-heat your oven to 425.  I bake bacon.  I find that it is the easiest and least messy ways to cook it.  If you are a stove top kind of bacon person feel free to do it your way.  On a baking sheet lay the bacon strips out one by one.  When the oven is heated stick the sheet pan with the bacon in the oven.  It doesn’t take that long for the bacon to cook.  Maybe 10 min.  Check it often to make sure you get it to the crispiness that you desire.  While the bacon is cooking slice your green tomato.  Try and get the pieces as thin as possible.

Next you want to take one of the eggs and whisk it with roughly 1 TBLS of milk in a small bowl.

Next in a separate small bowl mix roughly 1 Cup of flour or cornmeal with 1 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp cayenne.


In a large skillet preferably cast iron melt 1 TBLS of butter on medium high heat.

Once the pan is hot, start by dipping the tomato slices one by one into the flour mixture first, Coat both sides, then dip into the egg mixture.  Next drop them into the skillet.  add only about four at a time or as many as your pan will hold comfortably.

Flip them over and brown them on both sides.

When you remove them from the pan lay them out on a couple paper towels.

While you are cooking the tomatoes you can put on the stove a small skillet with about an inch of water in the bottom.  Add 1 tsp salt and 1 TBLS of white vinegar.  This is the all time secret to poaching eggs. Don’t tell anyone, make them read my blog 🙂  Room temp eggs and a little bit of vinegar in the water.  You want the water in the pan to be at at a slow  boil, but not a  rolling boil.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Use a spoon to spoon some of the hot water over the tops of the eggs while they cook.  When the white around the yolk is solid remove the eggs and plate them.


YuMMMM!

Gluten Free Peach Cobbler

Observing from atop the refridgerator.  Pookha and Ballou. Cheering/critiquing my technique.

Yesterday, Lel bought some beautiful organic peaches, that were on sale, at the local market.  Returning home she requested/begged for peach cobbler.  Last winter, I made this cobbler for the first time with apples and it has been one of Lel’s favorites ever since.  This cobbler can be made with just about any type of fruit you would consider baking in a pie.  In the past, I have made this with apples, cherries, and berries. I suggest playing around with what ever you have on hand or whatever fruit is your favorite.  This cobbler makes a wonderful breakfast with a few spoon fulls of plain yogurt and it is so easy to make you can even whip it up that morning.

  • Gluten Free Cobbler Recipe:

  • -4-6 Peaches (apples, cherries, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, etc.)
  • -Sugar, Honey, or Agave
  • -Lemon
  • -Orange
  • -Oatmeal
  • -Butter

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Wash and Slice the Peaches and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Squeeze a lemon and half an orange.

Add roughly the juice from one lemon and the juice from half an orange to the peaches.

Now it’s time to sweeten the peaches.  For this cobbler, I used a little bit of sugar (1 Tbls) and a little bit of honey ( 3 Tbls )  depending on the fruit, you may need to change the amount of sweeter you use.  I have made this completely sugar-free before by using a blend of agave nectar and honey.  The best way to tell how much sweetener to add is to just test it.  Add a little and then taste a piece of the fruit.  Peaches are naturally very sweet (organic) and don’t need much extra help.  However, berries or tart apples will need a little extra.  You will also want to add whatever kind of spices you might want to use at this point.  Peaches are great with a tsp. of vanilla and a touch of orange or lemon zest.  Apples are wonderful with 3/4 tsp. of ground Cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. of ground Ginger.  You can really play around with this recipe to suit your tastes.

After the peaches are all mixed up and look something like this, spread them out in a baking dish.

Now it is time to make the topping.  In a mixing bowl, put roughly 2 Cups of Rolled Oats.  Grind up a 3-4 Tbls of rolled oats in a blender or cut them up by hand using a large kitchen knife.  You are looking for the general consistency of flour.  If you have some gluten free flour on hand you can use that instead of grinding up the oats.  I am allergic to the store brands of gluten free flours (I  know we would fit right in at the allergy parade) so I make my own by grinding oats or rice up in the blender
(I suppose that is for another post).  For the cobbler, you only need a couple of Tbls of flour to hold the whole thing together.  Now add the 2-3 Tbls of oat flour to the bowl and also add 2 Tbls of your preferred sweetener to the bowl.  Cut a half a stick of butter into chunks and add that to the bowl.  Now with your hands, squish the whole thing together (mmmm.squishy).  If you need to add more butter, cut the other half of the stick into chunks and add them as you need.

You want the end product to look something like this-little bunches of oats stuck together and crumbly.

Spread the topping evenly on the peaches.  Bake in a 350F oven for 30-45 min. or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.

Breakfast is served!

Well I hope that you will enjoy this cobbler as much as we do! Cheers!  I am off to the Tractor Supply to pick up a few things for the furry and feathered.

Roasted Fig Preserve

  • Roasted Fig Preserve Recipe:

  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 LBS Ripe Figs
  • 3/4 Cup of Sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Thinly slice the lemon into rounds.  Line the bottom of a baking dish with the lemon slices.

Wash and halve the figs.  Then lay them in the baking dish on top of the lemon slices.


Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the figs.  Now pour 1 Cup of water over the top of the figs.  Cover the pan with tin foil and roast in the 300F oven for 2 hours.  After 2 hours remove the tin foil and increase the temperature of the oven to 400F.  Continue roasting the figs for another 1 and 1/2 hours.

Then spoon the mixture into 1/2 pint or jelly jars.  You can keep this in the fridge for up to a month or you can drop the jars in a hot water bath.  Roughly 5 minutes for 1/2 pints.  Although it is still recommended to keep this preserve in the refrigerator because it is not completely saturated with sugar.

Friday Night Dinner: Turkey Meatballs, Homemade Sauce, and Fresh Baked Bread!

Friday Night Dinner 9/7/12 : Turkey Meatballs, Homemade Sauce, and Fresh Baked Bread!

We held this weeks Friday night dinner at our house, so I got to spend the day in my kitchen working on dinner and wrapping up a few other projects.  Despite the 90 degree plus temp and the %100 humidity of the kitchen I did actually have a great and very productive day.  I harvested enough tomatoes from the garden to fill a large mixing bowl, prepped them for canning/saucing, baked a loaf of bread, made sauce, canned the extra tomatoes, made meatballs, herb butter, and fig preserves (which I will tell you about in another blog post).  So where to start…

I suppose we should start with the bread.  This my quick and dirty recipe for fresh homemade bread.  It is not a gluten free bread, but I do use Organic King Aurthur flour.  King Aurthur Flour’s  “ Non-GMO Statement follows: “Because of the many uncertainties surrounding genetically modified wheat, and based on input from our customers and employee-owners, King Arthur Flour does not support the introduction of genetically modified wheat, nor its use in King Arthur flours. For more than 200 years, King Arthur Flour has provided customers with flour products that are pure and naturally wholesome. Using genetically modified wheat as the basis for King Arthur flours would run counter to our centuries-old commitment to natural quality, so we don’t do it, plain and simple.” Irene @ KAF. Lel has found that despite a gluten allergy she has had no reaction to the bread and baked goods I make at home.  We believe that this might have something to do with the fact that I use only Organic Non-GMO Flour.  I am not recommending that anyone believe me and my theories, but it seems to be true for Lel and a couple other friends of ours with Gluten allergies.

  • Bread Recipe:

  • 2- 4 Cups Organic King Aurthur Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Organic King Aurthur Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Packet or 2 Tsps Yeast
  • 1 TBLS Kosher Salt
  • Three Count  Olive Oil
  • Water

If you are lucky enough to have a stand mixer, this is a really easy bread recipe.  If you don’t have a mixer it is still easy, but obviously more labor intensive.  The first thing I do is put about a 1/4 cup of warm water in the bowl for my stand mixer.  Sprinkle the yeast on the water and then cover the top of the bowl with a kitchen towel.  Wait about 5 or 10 minutes for the yeast to start bubbling.  Once the yeast is bubbling add another 2 cups of water to the mixing bowl.  Attach the whisk attachment to your mixer or if you are doing this by hand get a whisk out.  If you are doing this in a mixer turn the mixer on 1 and start adding flour slowly.  When you get to batter texture add the salt and olive oil.  I just pour from the olive oil bottle and count to 3.  Also add the 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour now.

At this point switch the whisk out for the dough hook on your machine (or a wooden spoon if you are doing this by hand).  Turn the mixer back on to 2 and slowly add more flour.  When the dough comes together in one mass on the dough hook only add enough to keep it from sticking to the sides.  Once it stops sticking to the sides, let it be kneaded by the machine for a few minutes- if it starts to stick again just sprinkle some more flour along the side of the bowl.  Knead the dough to the point when it is elastic and only slightly sticky.

If you are doing this by hand, use the wooden spoon to mix flour into the dough- only adding a little bit at a time.  When the dough has come together, take it out of the bowl and start kneading it on a floured surface.  Sprinkling flour as needed on the the dough and then the surface to keep the dough from sticking.  Kneading the dough to the point when it is elastic and only slightly sticky.

At this point transfer the dough into an oiled bowl.  Cover the top with a kitchen towel and place the bowl in a warm place.  I place the bowl somewhere near the oven and start preheating to 425 for baking.

When the dough has doubled in size.  Sprinkle some whole wheat flour on the top and punch the dough down.

At this point I have my baking sheet ready with a piece of parchment paper.  I sprinkle some whole wheat flour on the surface of the parchment paper and spread the dough out.

Now I do what is called a letter fold  by folding one side toward the middle then folding the opposite side toward the middle.  Make sure that you sprinkle each side with whole wheat flour.

You also want to turn it 180 degrees and do another letter fold.  I forgot to take pictures of this part or the next part:(  I then shape this into a loaf form by pinching the bottom together and sort of squeezing the whole thing into shape.      Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel and let it rise.  When the loaf looks about the right size (it doesn’t exactly double)  put it in the oven at 425 for 15 mins and then reduce the heat the heat to 350.  It usually  take another 30 mins, but I stay close to the kitchen in case it is finished sooner.  You can smell the bread when it is about done.

My Kitchen Help :  Miko

  • Herb Butter Recipe:

  • 1 Stick of Butter Softened
  • Mascarpone
  • Roasted Garlic or Boiled Garlic
  • Fresh Herbs of Your Choice
  • Basil
  • Chive
  • Oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper

I have made this spread a many different ways and with many different combinations of herbs.  Feel free to experiment with whatever you have in season.  In the winter, I use flat leaf parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.  If you make extra it is great to freeze in small balls and use on grilled meat.  For last nights dinner, I used fresh basil, chive, and oregano from the garden.  This was not originally on my menu plan, but Lel requested it a hour or so before everyone was going to arrive so I decided to whip some up 🙂 It is very easy to do in a short amount of time, the only problem being that there really wasn’t enough time for me to roast garlic (I was also trying to cool the house down before everyone arrived and turning on the oven again was not an option), there is an alternative to roasting garlic though.  My quick and easy method of boiling the garlic will soften it to the point that it can be smashed into a paste. Voila!  Or if you have garlic paste you can use that as an alternative quick fix.

Peel about 6 garlic cloves and place in a small pan of boiling water.  Boil the cloves for about 5 minutes or until they are soft. While they are cooking, I finely chop the herbs and place them in a small bowl.

Once the garlic is done add it to the bowl.

Now take the back of a spoon and smash the garlic and herbs together.  It will look a little something like this when you are done:

       Now that you have all the herbs and garlic all smashed up, add the softened stick of butter and the Marscapone.  Be sure to mix it up well so that it is all one consistency.  Now add a few turns of coarsely ground pepper and salt to taste.  Mmmmm. Put the spread in a small serving dish.  If you are ready to serve or close to serving let this sit out at room temp since it is easier to spread if it is soft.  If not, just stick it in the fridge until about a half hour before serving and then take it out to warm up.

  • Fresh From the Garden Tomato Basil Sauce:

  • Fresh Roma Tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil
  • Garlic
  • Salt to taste

My garden is at it’s peak right now.  I have more ripe tomatoes every day.  Yesterday I collected a large mixing bowl full of ripe Roma tomatoes.  If you are canning right now, this is a great easy sauce to make because you are already blanching the tomatoes and removing the skins for the canning process.  I suppose you could also just can the sauce, but we didn’t have any leftovers so I haven’t tried this yet.

To start the process yesterday I first blanched and peeled the tomatoes (if you would like direction on this step see my post on canning tomatoes).  Once I had a bowl full of peeled tomatoes I was ready to start the sauce.  Peel almost a whole head of garlic. Mmmm, garlic…

In a large pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom and the peeled garlic cloves.  Turn the burner onto medium low heat.  You want the garlic to cook slowly and not brown.  When the garlic is soft, it is time to add the tomatoes.

  I added enough to fill to about the half way mark on the pot.  I was saving some for canning, but I could have easily added all the tomatoes.  This sauce cooks down over a few hours.  If I had added more tomatoes, we may have had left overs so I would recommend adding enough to fill about 3/4 of the pot if you have them-next time I make this sauce I plan on doing it that way.  There is so much flavor in these fresh tomatoes that you really can’t go wrong on how many you add.  At this point I put the pot on the back burner and let it simmer on a very low flame for roughly 2 hours.

After a few hours of simmering I add some coarsely chopped fresh basil to the sauce.

Put the lid back on and start working on the meatballs!

  • Turkey or Chicken Meatballs:

  • 2 Pound of Ground Turkey or Ground Chicken
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • 6 TBLS Masa (for gluten free) or Organic All Purpose Flour
  • 2 egg
  • Finely Chopped Oregano and Basil
  • Finely Chopped Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • few grinds of pepper from mill

I have made this recipe with both ground turkey or ground chicken.  Some people don’t like turkey so I make these meatballs with chicken for them.  If you like turkey I recommend the turkey.  In my opinion, it has more flavor and  is great for all that mood-enhancing brain chemistry.

Ok so once you have the parmesan grated, your garlic chopped, and your herbs diced.  Stick them all in a large bowl.  Add the masa (if you are doing gluten free and flour if you are not) to the bowl.  Also add the 2 eggs.

Now add the 2 LBS of ground turkey.  Using your hands knead all the ingredients together.  When they are well mixed, roll them into balls with your hands.  I have found that after kneading the meat all together if I wash my hands and have them slightly wet before making the balls, the meat will stick less to my hands making it easier to work with.

In a large skillet add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Put the burner on medium high.  When the oil is hot, place the meat balls in the skillet.  Be sure to add only as many as will easily fit-  leaving a little room between each ball.  I have to cook these in two batches.  Brown them on all sides and leave them covered in between turning.

When the meatballs have browned on all sides add them to the sauce.  Let them simmer in the sauce for as long as you want.  Last night I left them simmering in the sauce for roughly an hour before serving.

We are just about done with this meal.  Except I am going to let you in on one of my Biggest Secrets- I am going to publish one of my dressing recipes!  It is simple and yet people love it and are always requesting/demanding/begging me to make it for them.  Soooo, here are the basics:

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First step in the dressing is to peel and smash 1 clove of garlic with the back of your knife.

I am making this dressing in a 1/2 pint jar.  Put the smashed garlic in the 1/2 pint jar.  Put about 1 Tbls of Kosher Salt in the jar.  I measure by hand, but I would say it is about 1 Tbls of salt.  For this dressing I used Basil and Oregano.  I might have added a little chive, but I can’t remember.  I usually just add what I have on hand as far as fresh herbs go.  However, my basic herbs of choice are always Basil and Oregano.  Add a few grinds from a pepper mill.  Okay now here is where I think the secret is (unless you believe that I can imbue love into my food) put the lid on and shake the dressing up.  Now let it sit and marinate without the oil for at least an hour.

The picture above is to give you an idea of the balsamic vinegar measurement.  The picture was taken when the only thing in the jar was the garlic and the salt.

       The picture above is the finished product (prior to the last shake) to show the measurement of the Extra Virgin Olive oil.  It will be roughly about equal to the amount of vinegar you add to the jar.  Now give the whole thing a good shake and you are ready to dress your salad.  You can also let this sit indefinitely.  We usually use it so quickly it isn’t sitting too long, but you can keep it in the fridge or at room temp and it will last for at least a month if not longer.  If you keep it in the fridge, remember to bring it to room temp and shake it before dressing.

       For last nights dinner I just made a very simple salad with red leaf lettuce, grated Parmesan, and a drizzle of this dressing.  Really excellent accompaniment to the pasta, meatballs, and bread.

       Oh, I forgot to mention the pasta.  For last night’s dinner we just used a store bought fresh pasta.  I recommend using what ever kind you like.  Whether it is gluten free, fresh, or dried. Or homemade….but that is another blog post 🙂

Friday Night Dinner: King Crab Leg Boil

Friday night dinners started a some time last spring.  Every week a few of us get together at either our house or Adrianne’s house to make a really fantastic meal.  Last Friday there was a resounding request for crab boil.  The first time we made this dish it was a sort of combination of Lel’s Louisiana roots and Sofia’s contribution of King Crab Legs-though it’s roots were experimental it became an instant Classic!

King Crab Boil:

The Ingredients:

  • The Eats:
  • 2 per person King crab legs
  • 2 pounds of Shrimp (for five people with some left overs)
  • small potatoes (depending on how many left overs you want I go with about 2 potatoes per person)
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (sliced in to inch and half thick slices)
  • A couple of bunches of asparagus
  • 1 ear of corn per person
  • a box of baby portobello mushrooms
  • The Spices:
  • 6-8 smallish yellow onions
  • 5 heads of garlic
  • 2 bags of boil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few sage leaves
    a few sprigs of oregano
  • a few leaves of basil(optional)
  • 1 TBLS of whole pepper corns
  • 2 Lemons halved
  • a little chunk of ginger
  • Hot peppers
  • Cayenne (optional)
  • Kosher Salt

How to start:

First things first you will need a really big pot!  I use my canning pot (8 Gallons).  Fill this pot with water leaving about 3 or 4 inches at the top.  Place on the stove and start heating.  You can add the spices to the pot of water while it is cool.

       It is a good idea to get the boil boiling with the spices at least 30 minutes before you add your veggies and seafood.  For this boil I had more time on my hands so I actually started it about an hour and a half before I even added the artichokes.  It really helped to enhance the flavor- if you have the time I would recommend taking it.

The boil bags are an easy way to buy a bunch of spices that you need for a boil with out buying a bunch of spices.  If you have an amazing spice rack and want to make your own bag- the basic contents is Mustard Seed, Coriander, Red pepper, Bay leaf, Dill seed, and Allspice.  Some boil bags will say spicy or extra spicy, if you like spice and you know that everyone eating likes spice go for the spicy bag.  If not, I suggest adding your own spice to taste.  I like to add hot peppers (the peppers in the picture are called Cajun bells) from my garden and cayenne.  I started adding a little fresh ginger to my boils and it really adds to the body of the flavor.  I only add about an inch by inch chunk.  I also like to add a couple of extra bay leaves, some fresh sage, fresh oregano, and a few leaves of fresh basil- mostly because I like to experiment and have an herb garden.  You will also want to add two lemons halved.  Squeeze the lemons into the water and then drop the whole thing in.

       Okay, so now for the salt.  I just sort of eyeball it- or hand measure to be exact.  I put about 2 handfuls in to start.  You have a lot of water to flavor!  Once the boil heats up and the salt dissolves, taste the boil for saltiness.  At that point add more if you need to.

Now add the Onions.  I just take the skins off and leave them whole.  The garlic I don’t bother peeling,  I just break the bulbs up and throw them in skin and all.  When the whole thing is done the garlic will be soft and can be squeezed right out of it’s skin.  It’s just like roasting garlic in it’s skin.  Very tasty!  Now you can just put the lid on and let that all come to a boil.

While you wait for the boil to do it’s thing, start working on prepping your artichokes.  If you are not familiar with cooking artichokes the first thing you want to do, after you wash them of course, is take some kitchen scissors and snip of the very top of each leaf you can get to.  There is a small spinney part at the top of each leaf that does not feel so good on the hands or in your mouth, so it is best to get rid of this before eating.  You won’t be able to reach all the leaves as they become tighter around the top of the artichoke. The next thing that you want to do is to cut the very top of the artichoke off.  I recommend using a very large, sharp knife.  You will notice that there is a stem.  You want to remove this part as well so that when serve the artichokes they will sit nicely on a plate or bowl.   When you are finished the artichokes should look something like this:

Now that you have your artichokes prepped, start to prep the rest of the veggies.  I leave the potatoes and mushrooms whole.  I thickly slice the sweet potatoes.  For the asparagus, you just want to snap of the bottom bit that can be little woody.  Shuck the corn and snap the ears in half.  When you are done it should all look a little something like this:

After the boil has been boiling for some time and you are about 30-40 minutes from eating the appetizer, it is time to put the artichokes in the pot.

       At this point I also start melting butter in a small sauce pan with a little garlic.  Don’t underestimate how much butter your guests will like with their boil.  We usually go through a pound or more with five people.  It sounds like a lot, but between dipping the artichokes, crab, shrimp, veggies…  You will see how quickly a pound of butter can disappear!

The Artichokes are going to want to float.  I like to use tongs to push them under the water and get some of the air out of them.  They will always float, but I think it seems to help get the water and flavor of the boil all the way on the inside.

It takes about 30 minutes give or take about 10 minutes on either side.  The real trick is just testing them.  After they have been boiling for a while, use your tongs to  pull on one of the outer leaves.  If it pulls off easily they are probably close to done.  Let the leaf cool and then try eating.  If the bottom part of the leaf is soft and easy to scrape off with your teeth, you are ready to pull the artichokes out of the boil.

I didn’t capture a picture of this part because everyone was too excited to eat!  I serve the artichokes individually in a small bowl.  Each person gets their own artichoke and their own little (or not so little) bowl of garlic butter.  Then we put a big plate in the center for the discarded leaves.

If you think you will be eating the main meal right after the artichokes, you can put the crab legs, shrimp, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms in the boil right before you sit down to eat.  It takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes for the crab legs, shrimp and everything else to cook.  After around 10 to 15 minutes I pull the crab legs out of the boil.

At this point I throw the corn, asparagus, and for this particular boil I also added some green beans that I had picked that day in my garden.

I only give the boil another 4-5 minutes.  Test the asparagus as a good measure time.  When the asparagus is done pull everything out of the boil.  The easiest way I have found is to have a really big bowl on the counter next to the boil and use a small wire mesh strainer to sort of go fishing.  Then just dump your catch into the big bowl.  I serve the boil this way too.  I put the crab legs on one platter and everything else in a big bowl or platter.  Add a couple of tongs for everyone to serve themselves and you are ready.  Eating crab is inherently messy and is done with your hands so this serving style fits the atmosphere that will soon be created by your hungry guests.  Sleeves rolled up and fingers covered in butter.  Enjoy this meal with great friends and few cold beers!