Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Foodie Fourth

To the majority of everyday Americans, the 4th of July is a time for family and fireworks, and while that holds true for me and mine as well, this year was all about the food. Even the girls started off their day in the kitchen, helping me by pitting cherries, before their cousin arrived for an afternoon of fun running in an out of sprinklers and what I would later see as the total destruction of their bedroom (it can't look like a Pottery Barn Kids catalog all the time right?). The cooking for me began last night, making the custard for the Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream, which required an overnight chilling before being put in the ice cream maker this morning. I'll be honest, I have never cared for butter pecan ice cream.... the mere mention of it has always conjured up visions old ladies and the the awful taste of gritty Sandies cookies.But in an effort to redeem a southern classic, I decided to give it a chance, since everything is better homemade. This was no exception- it was rich, complex in its roatsy, buttery, goodness, and delicious. I took the yummyness one step further and placed a scoop of the ice cream between two thin vanilla bean wafer cookies to create truly decadent ice cream sandwiches (had I but the time, I would have dipped half in homemade caramel and rolled it in roasted pecans, but another occasion prehaps). As superb as that dessert was, the Stars and Stripes Tri Berry Pie was the blue ribbon winner- gooey, crunchy, tart, and sweet, overflowing with cherries, raspberries, and blueberries.

I am getting ahead of myself, let's look to what came before dessert... The actual lunch was to be an interesting experiment- I decided to 'put on the dog'. Corndog that is. A southern staple, the corn(y) dog was actually served up for the first time right here in Texas in 1942 at the state fare by two brothers named Fletcher. Anything involving the use of hot dogs I typically shy away from, which means I have not enjoyed once of these homegrown confections in a very long time. All that changed today with glowing (albeit greasy) results. The preparation was actually quite straitforward, insert a stick into wiener, coat wiener in prepared batter, and fry (see recipe below), and was a smash hit with the both the children and the adults. As a requisite veggie (and keeping with the southern theme), I sautéed up some succotash, which was a light (well, lighter) and beautifully colored companion for the dogs. Here is a 'mom ' tip - it is much more effective to tell a toddler to "eat her colors" as opposed to "eat your vegetables".

So that was our Fourth... And thank you to my wonderful cousin Cristin for doing my second round of dishes!

Enjoy the Fireworks (and the following recipes) Everyone!

Homemade Corn Dogs, step by step

2 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for hot dogs

4 TBS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 quarts or so vegetable or canola oil for frying
12 hot dogs

-Insert bamboo skewers or long flat popsicle sticks into the hot dogs and pat dry.
-Place an extra 1/2 cup of flour onto a large plate and coat the hot dogs lightly, but evenly in it.
-Whisk together dry ingredients, then add wet ones, stirring to make a batter (be careful not to overwork or breading will be tough).
-Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot until it reaches 360 degrees, then turn heat to medium to keep the temp steady
-Pour the batter into a tall glass or container and dip the first dog in, letting any extra batter drip off before placing it in the oil and immediately repeat with two more dogs (be sure to refill the tall glass with more batter so the dogs get evenly coated)
-Cook, turning to cook evenly for 5 minutes or until deep golden
-Remove and place on a paper towel lined platter
-Repeat in batches of 3

Sufferin' Succotash

1 TBS olive oil4 slices bacon chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 lb okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut to a large dice
2 cups frozen peas
Kernels from 3 ears of corn
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 TBS unsalted butter
1/4 cup slivered basil leaves

-In a deep skillet heat the oil over medium high heat and add the bacon, cooking until browned
-Add the onion and cook until softened, then add the okra and cook for 8 minutes
-Add the tomatoes, peas, corn and cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or so, until the tomatoes have broken down
-Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the basil leaves

Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup chopped pecans (I prefer them chopped fine)
1/4 tsp salt

-In a medium saucepan combine cream and milk and warm over medium heat until barely simmering (about 5 minutes)
-While that is cooking, in a heatproof bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla and whisk vigorously until the mixture lightens in color and doubles in volume (about 2 minutes)
-Remove cream from the heat, and whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1 cup of the cream into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth
-Pour the resulting egg and cream mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly until place over medium heat
-Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a custard thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (1 to 2 minutes, do NOT allow to boil)
-Allow the mixture to cool completely and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Make Brown Buttered Pecans
-Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat and add pecans, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes, until golden and fragrant
-Remove from heat and stir in pecans
-Cool to room temperature

-Churn the cold custard in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes (or according to manufacturers instructions) then add the nuts and churn another 5 minutes
-Eat as is or place wax paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the ice cream and pop in the freezer

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