Monday, October 11, 2010

my take on n'awlins

As a special treat this Monday, my aunt and uncle were here all the way from Texas!  I’d like to say they came just to eat my good food, but alas, that is not the case.  Since my parents have pretty much always lived on the complete other side of the country from them, none of us have ever been able to visit face to face with each other as much as we’d like.  I’d love to say I grew up with my cousins and hung out with my aunts and uncles all the time, but I didn’t.  Regardless, every time I do see them, it’s like they live next door and it hasn’t really been 5 years since the last visit.  I went on a tangent here didn’t I?  The point is, they’ve up in this neck of the woods to visit their daughter and swung by our place first, so I had the chance to impress them with my Monday Food Fest.  Actually, I was totally scared that I’d pick another dinner like those disgusting hot dogs and then I’d be embarrassed and have to take the whole family out for our favorite Mexican food to make up for it.  I was super stressed about picking the meal... what if it flopped?  What if I couldn’t make it at all?  What if they hated it or I made something they’re allergic to?  What if the mini zebus (yes, that’s zeBUS) escaped the local zoo and charged my house, eating everything in sight?  Ok, I wasn’t actually worried about that.  I think zebus are vegetarians.

ANYWAY, it appeared NO ONE wanted the task of choosing, because everyone - even mr - pretty much refused any kind of decision making responsibilities.  I took a deep breath and dove in.  I went to food.com and clicked on “pasta recipes” (because I was playing it safe - I know I’m pretty good with pasta), and then on “most popular”.  That’s  one thing I love about food.com.  There’re so many ways to be inspired.  You can browse menus or cookbooks, you can search by ingredient, you can peruse by category... you will inevitably find what you are looking for.  I found Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta and figured since *Roxy and *Guido live literally right next door to New Orleans, they’d feel right at home with that.  Then I looked around for some things that would go well with it and decided on Avocado Lime Salad, Garlic Bread (oh, it’s not JUST garlic bread...) and to finish up:  Lemon Cake Pie.  (I know, right?!?)
Luckily, I didn’t pick anything that tested my skill level, because it’s one thing to fail for your husband and parents and another entirely to fail for the relatives you see twice a decade.  Everything went really smoothly.  Cooking wise, that is.  The fact that the kids woke up from their naps early while I was still cooking, I had to clean at least two levels of the house and two bathrooms, let alone the dishes left over from yesterday (ok, ok, from two days ago... it was a LONG week last week, remember?  Don’t judge me) and I nearly set the smoke detectors off YET AGAIN were not so smooth.  But kind of expected on Mondays now.  
I was surprised at how quick and easy the pasta was to make!  I made it ALMOST exactly how it was listed on food.com, with some minor alterations, but I’m still going to include it here because it was that yummy and easy to make.  You may need to adjust portions, I was making this for 7 people. (which turned into 9)
Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta 
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 lb thin linguine, cooked al dente
8 teaspoons cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
2 thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 small package chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
grated parmesan cheese - to taste

Measure the cajun seasoning into a ziploc bag.  Place the cut chicken in the bag and shake so that all the pieces are evenly coated.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken in butter until chicken is tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the flour and mix well so the chicken is coated.
Add the cream, green onion, sun dried tomatoes, basil, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.  
Boil for about 2 minutes, then reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes.
Pour over hot linguine. 
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.
I was expecting it to take a lot longer to make for some reason, and when it was done, I was thrown off guard.  Then I had to rush to make everything else so it didn’t get cold and gross.  
I started making the Lemon Cake Pie while I was making the pasta, and fortunately it didn’t end up flavored with cajon seasoning.  I know I’m showing my novice-ness here, but I had no idea that if you beat egg whites pretty much FOREVER they will get all white and creamy and thick.  Huh.  (Although, when I first started this, I was convinced there was something wrong with my eggs.  Or my mixer.  Or maybe the bowl?  Because they were NOT getting thick.  When I say FOREVER, I mean FOREVER.  It took a long time of beating on maximum speed for them to resemble creaminess.  But I was pretty surprised when it happened.)  And, although I didn’t change this at all (except for adding extra lemon because I love lemon), I’m still going to include it for you right here:
Lemon Cake Pie
1 9-inch deep dish pie crust
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (it’s gotta be FRESH)
3 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups milk 
Put rack on lowest position in oven.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a medium bowl, stir together melted butter and sugar.
Stir in flour, salt, lemon peel and lemon juice.
In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with milk until well blended, stir into lemon mixture.
In another medium sized bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until they hold distinct but moist peaks. Gently fold egg whites into lemon mixture (Don't mix it too much.).
Pour filling into pie crust.
(
I had filling left over, so I put it in a couple ceramic ramekins for bug and cooked it along with the pie.)
Bake until the top is browned and the center jiggles only slightly when pan is gently shaken (45-55 minutes). If the crust begins to brown excessively, wrap it with foil.
Let cool before serving.
I served it with fresh raspberries (to which I had added some sugar and let chill) and homemade whipped cream, and garnished with a candy lemon on top.
Now, I don’t know why, but my pie was really runny.  I think it was a combo of not cooking quite long enough and not letting it cool long enough before eating.  BUT, runniness notwithstanding, I will make this again.  And again.
I got the garlic bread together next (switched up the recipe a bit), and will share my method below.  And because I think this really isn’t just garlic bread, I’m calling it:
(not your average) Garlic Bread
1 stick plus 2 TBSP
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 French bread loaf 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the butter in the microwave to soften.
Put everything in the blender except the bread.
Slice the bread in 1 inch slices - almost but not completely through.
Pour/spread each side of every slice with the garlic butter.
Wrap in foil and cook in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
If you like really crispy garlic bread, open the foil for the last few minutes.

This helped me to understand why I need a food processor.  
And lastly, I threw together the salad - literally.  I didn’t separate the parts, like the recipe online describes, I just tossed it together.  I also used way more avocado and no green onion because my mom is allergic to them.  My version:
Avocado Lime Salad
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 head green leaf lettuce, torn into large pieces
4-5 small tomatoes
5 medium ripe avocados
1 medium cucumber - sliced then cut in fourths
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, mix the garlic, olive oil and cumin well.  Throw in the lettuce and toss.  Throw in the tomatoes, avocados, cucumber, salt and lime juice and toss just this - leaving it on top of the lettuce.  Sprinkle on the cilantro.
And that was that!
The result?  Delicious!  Phew!  I was relieved that Roxy and Guido love spicy food and more relieved that I didn’t burn/goo-ify/wilt anything or set the house on fire.  All in all, the dinner was a big success.  Adding to the festivities, Lise had to pick K up late, so K ate with us, and then Lise joined us later.  It was a crowd!  And the food was crowd-pleasing.  Roxy loved the sun-dried tomatoes in the pasta.  Guido loves avocados, so that was a plus.  mom and dad loved it all - even though the chicken burned mom’s mouth, she went back for seconds.  mr loved the pasta, liked the salad and thought the bread was overpowering.  So if you aren’t in love with garlic like me, maybe you won’t like the bread either.  The dessert was the star of the show, yet again.  Though runny, it was AMAZING.  I highly recommend it.  
And that, my friends, is the story of how I brought a bit of n'awlins north and how I somehow managed to convince two of my favorite aunts and uncles that I am a domestic goddess.  Thank goodness for shower curtains to hide things behind (like dirty laundry) and rugs to sweep things under.  And thank goodness for food.com. 

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Come on - of course I don't have an uncle Guido.  Unless you do.  In which case no, no, I would NEVER make fun of that name...












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6 comments:

Lisa said...

I love lemony desserts. Yours looks so delicious with that lemon sauce oozing out. I want a bite of that.

Michele Pacey said...

Wow Kimberly. You're a food goddess in my books. Your meal sounds like is was absolutely fantabulous. I have to admit that I had NO idea what the title meant when I read it and it took me until the last paragraph of your story to figure out what the H you were talking about. New Orleans, got it!!! It takes me awhile... Awesome story and thanks for those recipes (i don't really cook but I might one day. It could happen...) P.S. Your newest follower = ME

Lori@Paisley Passions said...

That entire meal looks scrum-diddly-umcious! WOW! Thanks for sharing it on Thrilling Thursday @ Paisley Passions. Hope you come back next week and join in on the party :)

~Lori S.

Lila Jo said...

Looks great, can't wait to try it!

Terrell said...

This all looks just seriously amazing!!! YUM! I've never even heard of Lemon Cake Pie...but I'm SOOOO going to have to try it! I heart lemon desserts! I am happy to be your newest follower and would love to have you as a friend at Frou Frou Decor! Be sure to link up your sweet creations at my weekly party, Fabulous Friday Finds! Hope to see you there!
Hugs,
~Terrell @ Frou Frou Decor~

Line said...

"Novice-ness"?! Is that what you call preparing such a feast?! Well, then, I'm really glad you shared your "lack of experience" with us!
Thank you so much.
linedupuy(at)hotmail(dot)fr

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