philosophymom (philosophymom) wrote,

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Hey, good lookin' ...

Whatcha got cookin'? This week's Friday Five ask for yummy foods representing various methods of food prep. I had a lot more trouble with the questions than I should have done, but I think that's par for the course at this blog. My answers below, but first, this:

1. What's a yummy pan-fried dish?
I understand "pan-frying" to mean "cooking in a pan over medium heat with minimal fat." It's almost the same as sautéing, except the latter uses higher heat. The point is that you're not submerging all or part of the food in oil ('cause then you'd be deep- or shallow- frying). To be honest, I probably use the terms "pan-fry" and "sauté" almost interchangeably; however, the more whole (as opposed to cut-up) the food is (e.g., a pork chop or a burger or a sizable portion of fish), the more likely I am to say "pan-fried."

That out of the way, you're going to laugh at my answer, because m favorite pan-fried dish is the humble over-easy egg (actually, I usually request mine "over-medium," but you know what I mean). I could eat a couple every day, if I could be bothered to fix them. Of course, that's mostly because I find eggs delicious, and not because pan-frying brings out anything extra in them, so maybe this answer is a cheat.

Okay, then, another yummy one would be skillet-fried potatoes. My mom made the best ones, and her old iron skillet was undoubtedly key to their success: its seasoned surface kept them from hopelessly sticking without an abundance of oil, so she could let them cook long enough to get tender. We're talking small-to-medium potatoes sliced, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked in the pan with a little oil or bacon grease, sliced onion, and a few strips of green pepper.

2. What's a yummy slow-cooked dish?
Okay, now we're talking. I am not a big user of the slow-cooker/Crock-Pot™, because I don't like to leave food cooking while I'm not in the house (which is, like, the raison d'être of such devices). On the other hand, I am a big fan of stews, and many a Saturday at home has been spent nursing a big pot on the back of the stove for hours, maintaining the perfect simmer as the beef cubes within inched toward tenderness, the aroma of spices filling the whole house.

My favorite slow-cooked dish, whether you make it in the appliance or on the stove-top, is a goulash recipe that's been in my erstwhile spouse's family for decades. I will share it here. It's very simple.

     Hungarian Goulash
1 - 2 lbs. beef chuck or round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes (store-packaged stew cubes are fine, but you may have to cut them smaller than they come)
3 Tbsp. flour (I never actually measure it)
2 Tbsp. oil or Crisco (again, I don't measure it)
1/4 cup chopped onion (bet I use more)
1 or 2 whole bay leaves
2 or 3 whole cloves (I use 5 or 6)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
1.5 - 2 cup beef broth (we used to make it with bouillon cubes & boiling water, which is probably why there's no salt in this recipe -- you may need to salt during cooking if you use a low-sodium broth)

1. Coat beef cubes well with flour.
2. Brown in heavy pan, after melting Crisco or heating oil, over medium heat.
3. Add onion; cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Bring to boiling; cover, reduce heat, and simmer (you can transfer to a slow-cooker for this part) about 3 hours or until tender.
5. When goulash is almost done, cook 8 oz. medium noodles according to package directions.
6. Serve goulash over noodles. Be on the lookout for bay leaves and cloves (& remove when you find them).

3. What's a yummy deep-fried dish?
You can get just about anything deep-fried these days. I am not a fan of the idea of those state-fair novelty deep-fried dishes, which all tend to sound like they were invented by a fat guy with a death wish, but there are plenty of mainstream deep-fried classics -- probably just as unhealthy as those lurid carnival eats -- that I do enjoy. In no particular order, they include onion rings, mozzarella sticks (which I have made in my home kitchen), hush puppies, Scotch eggs, and lumpia (which I suppose can be shallow-fried in a skillet).

You asked for a dish, though, so I will single out the one I've had most recently (and would eat right now if it were convenient): samosas. I mean the Indian variety, which is the only one I know (though I understand there are others). I never get the meat-filled offerings; just the standard potato & pea.

4. What's a yummy blanched dish?
A "yummy blanched dish"? Is there a such thing as a "blanched dish"? I always think of blanching as par-cooking; a step on the way to some other main preparation. You blanch tomatoes to loosen the skins so they'll slip off before you drop them into the sauce pot; you blanch almonds so the skins can be peeled before making marzipan; in a highly recommended technique, you blanch french fries (but in oil, not water) before the final deep-fry. Now, all three of those things (tomato sauce, marzipan, french fries) are yummy, but I certainly don't think of them as "blanched foods" (let alone "dishes").

Moreover, I don't actually do any of the above. Blanching is an extra step, and I seldom think the gains are worth the effort. I don't mind those little rods of tomato skin in a cooked tomato dish; I certainly don't use enough marzipan to need to make my own (as opposed to shelling out for store-bought); and, though I might have tried it in my younger and more adventurous days, I just can't get my head around boiling a food in oil, then going on to deep-fry it (in a separate pot of oil?).

Blanching (+ shocking) is, I know, an important step in the processing of to-be canned or frozen vegetables and fruits. Again, however, I usually further cook them once I open the can or package, so by the time they make it to my plate, I'm not thinking of these things as blanched foods either.

The only times I've used blanching as a cooking technique is when making stuffed peppers. If you don't par-cook them a little, they take longer to bake to doneness than whatever you've stuffed them with. Can that be my answer?

(Can it still be my answer after confessing that, while I used to use a pot o' boiling water, I now par-cook peppers by steaming them in the microwave?)

5. What's a yummy smoked dish?
I like certain smoked pork products (bacon, ham, kielbasa, etc.) but it seems odd to refer to any of them as a "smoked dish." The smoking all happens in the processing stage, and after I purchase the product, I further cook it in some way. Wouldn't a "smoked dish," ideally, be something that arrives at the table straight from the smoker?

(See my issue with "blanched dish," above.)

Some things whose processing includes smoking are served without further preparation: smoked cheeses and smoked fish, for instance, can go right from the package to the cutting board and be offered at room temp ... but I'm not a fan of either.

I actually turned to Google for help with this question, and I see that there are, indeed, "dish" recipes designed to be cooked in a smoker (like this mac & cheese!). Alas, I've never tried any of them.

Okay, here's something that is smoked but not further cooked or altered before serving, and it's yummy and I have had it: smoked turkey breast! I don't know if that counts as a dish, but it's a food I've eaten on a dish and enjoyed. I like smoked turkey lunchmeat, too, come to think of it.

There! That was MUCH harder than expected.
Tags: food and drink, friday five, memes

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