Monday, September 20, 2010

Deep Fried Pimento Cheese Balls

I love-love-love pimento cheese. I can't help it; I'm Southern, so along with biscuits and white gravy, fried pickles, and Moon Pies, pimento cheese is part of my DNA. I made a batch for a party last weekend, but the recipe makes so much that I had a lot leftover. What to do? Keep on eating pimento cheese, veggie bacon and avocado sandwiches for lunch each day? (Maybe. There's nothing wrong with that.) Or ... I could fry it.

Generally, I'm a bit appalled by some of the over-the-top fried, heart attack-inducing and artery clogging foods I see. Really, does a double bacon cheeseburger NEED to have the bun replaced by a glazed donut? Or does bacon even really need to be battered and fried and dipped in ranch, the universal dip for fried foods? Probably not, but I'm biased and so I decided pimento cheese needed to be fried. I experimented a bit with panko, as called for in the only similar recipe I could find on the internet. It didn't work out so hot, as that recipe didn't start with authentic pimento cheese itself, but a mixture egg whites. The balls just dissolved in the hot oil.

Take two, though, was a success! I know this has absolutely nothing to do with seitan and it probably has nothing redeeming about it as good food, but damn! I pulverized Morningstar veggie bacon strips and Cape Cod Sweet and Spicy JalapeƱo potato chips, then mixed in a little flour. The pimento cheese balls were dipped in egg, then rolled in the bacon-chip mixture. I froze them -a very key step- for about three hours before frying them in hot oil for about 30 seconds. I dislike ranch dressing (more for overexposure than for flavor), so I served these with blue cheese dressing, but that was unnecessary. These things were so amazingly delicious! So, next time you have a hankering for over-the-top Southern yumminess, whip up some pimento cheese and fry away!

Laura's Pimento Cheese

8 oz. monterey jack cheese
8 oz. extra sharp Vermont cheddar (white)
6 oz. sharp NY cheddar (yellow)
1 - 1/2 big kosher dill pickle (preferably Claussen's)
1 - 4 oz. jar pimentos, drained
3 cloves garlic
6 oz. cream cheese

1/2 c. mayonnaise (I'd prefer Duke's, but you can't get it up here, so I used Hellman's
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
hot sauce to taste (I always end up using a lot more than I'd guess because the fire really gets subsumed by the cream cheese)
1-2 tsp. veggie worcestershire sauce

1) Using a food processor with a grating blade, shred monterey jack and both cheddars. Add pickle, pimentos and garlic. Add the cream cheese, pulsing.

2) Turn mixture out into a large bowl. Blend in mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, hot sauce and worcestershire sauce.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beef Seitan and Cremini Stroganov

Suddenly, it has become cool enough that I can again cook in my own kitchen. (I'd like to be excited about this, and I kind of am, but then I remember that all too soon it will be below freezing when I wake up and there will be two feet of snow outside. I should stop being so weather-whiny.) Anyway, this means I can get back to trying out more dishes, and last night's dinner was Beef Seitan and Cremini Stroganov.

Okay, so I'm going to go ahead and say that this dish was awesome. It took almost NO time to prepare (assuming you have the seitan on hand already) and was really rich and delicious without being super-heavy. There were no leftovers, although next time I might double the recipe so that, not only could we have had second helpings, we could have it for lunch the next day. And by "we," I mean "I."

Beef Seitan and Cremini Stroganov

one recipe beef seitan (about 9 oz)
1-2 T flour
8 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, sliced thickly
1/4 c red onion, minced
1-2 t garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
3 T butter, divided
3/4 c vegetarian beef broth
1/4 Marsala wine
2 t vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut seitan into cubes no bigger than an inch square. Toss with the flour to coat and set aside. Slice mushrooms, mince onion and garlic.

Add olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to a saute pan over medium heat. When butter has melted, add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, till they exude their juices, about 7 minutes. Add Marsala and raise heat to high; stir well, scraping up any mushroom bits, as they absorb the wine. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove the mushrooms to a bowl and turn the heat back to medium-high.

Add the remaining tablespoons of butter to the pan; melt and add red onion and garlic. Cook, stirring well, about two to three minutes. Add seitan cubes. Tossing gently, let seitan brown (about five minutes). Add mushrooms and broth. Raise heat to high and let the broth reduce to about a third. Remove from heat, stir in yogurt and Worcestershire sauce. Serve over noodles. Yumminess.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dongting Stir-Fried Duck Breast

I know ... it has been a very long time since my last post. That's partially because I've been rather busy, but mostly because, in the summertime, our house heats up incredibly quickly whenever I use the kitchen. This means that, for the most part, we're cooking on the grill (or getting takeaway ... thanks, local pizzeria and Chinese restaurants, for doing your part to help me gain some weight). It also means I don't make seitan at home; that hour or so that it simmers on the stove would turn my kitchen and living room into a steam room.

Even though it's been on the warmer side lately, the evenings are cool, so I've started back with some stove top cooking - but it has to be quick, so homemade seitan's still out. I'm still enamoured of May Wah veggie meats, and yesterday I received a great big package of seitan "duck breast." Hmm, stir-fry?

I've only ever eaten real duck once in my life, and I only vaguely remember it. I think my parents had guests or relatives in town and decided to take them to a new (read: not the neighborhood place with the flaming pupu platter I loved and cockroaches I didn't, but fashionable and located in what was then the suburbs) Chinese restaurant. I got the duck. The only reason this has stood out in my rather fuzzy collection of childhood memories is because of how grossly fatty I found it. Crispy skin, yes, but oozy, squashy, just plain nasty fatty. Yuck. Okay, I know some people love that; I'm not one of them.

The seitan duck has no such drawback. It came frozen in a big (seven pounds?) bag, so I'll be trying lots of recipes, but last night, I used one "breast" to make Dongting stir-fried duck breast. While this version comes seasoned, I think you could easily used homemade chicken seitan because the marinade changes its flavor.

Marinade: I didn't measure, but I'd say a couple tablespoons each if not otherwise noted

soy sauce (some recipes call for a mix of light and dark; I only have the one)
dry sherry
a splash of rice wine vinegar
a splash of chili sauce


one large seitan duck breast (or chicken seitan)
6 scallions
4 chilis, deseeded and thinly sliced (I used a mix of sweet red chilis and spicy yellow)
1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
vegetable oil for cooking
sesame oil for finishing

Thinly slice the seitan and add it to the marinade ingredients; stir well and let it sit while you prepare the vegetables.

Thinly slice the scallions; keep the white bits separate from the green, as you'll add them separately during cooking. Prepare the garlic, ginger and peppers.

Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or large saute pan till hot. Add the marinated seitan and cook, stirring, for a few minutes till it has begun to brown or crisp slightly. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the peppers. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes, till peppers seem to be softened. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites. Cook a further minute, then add scallion greens. Stir to incorporate and turn off heat. Serve with a small drizzle of sesame oil atop.

I served it with brown rice, but noodles would be just as good.

Now I guess I need to explore the world of, well, what the heck one does with seven pounds (minus a little) of duck breast. I think crispy duck might require the oven, so that's out for now, but perhaps there are some moo shu duck pancakes in the future.