21 November 2011

Corn Pudding

This is the amount of corn pudding that I will eat today:

But this is how much corn pudding I wish I were eating today:

And when you make this corn pudding, you will wish that you also owned 54 ramekins that you could fill up with corn pudding and eat in one day. Or give to 54 friends. If you have 54 friends. Which I don't, because I spend too much time at home, photoshopping ramekins.

And if you're wondering if I actually sat here and counted all those ramekins, then I'm wondering how much time you really think I have. Because seriously, what a waste of time, to sit around counting photoshopped ramekins. The actual act of photoshopping ramekins, however, is meaningful, productive, and satisfying, and that is why I am not ashamed to say that I stay home and photoshop ramekins.

If you're wondering why this corn pudding is so delicious that I could eat 54 ramekins of it, well, the secret is heavy cream. Lots of it. Eek. You probably won't believe it, but I actually winced a little as I poured the cream into the custard. And poured. And poured. And poured. You can substitute half & half for the heavy cream, and it's almost as good. And the advantage of that would be nothing. So go ahead and pick up a quart of heavy cream next time you're at the store, because you WILL be doubling the recipe, because everyone will eat ALL of it, and you WILL want more.

And if you're wondering what other amazing photoshop skills I have, I can tell you that this is the limit of my talent. Duplicating objects and pasting them all over the place is about all I can do. See below.

It's a valuable skill. I think you'll agree. So if you have a little extra time, I could teach you how to do this, or you could just make corn pudding, depending on which skill is more important to you.

Corn Pudding
~Adapted from Emeril Lagasse (Original recipe is confusing; the directions are a little unclear. I also made a few substitutions/changes.)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 small red pepper, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half & half)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Havarti or cheddar cheese
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish ( or lots of ramekins) and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the corn, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the cayenne, and cook, stirring, until just tender and starting to turn golden, 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Make the custard. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, sugar, thyme, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper until frothy.

Put half of the corn mixture in a food processor with a little of the custard and blend until smooth.

Add the pureed corn and whole corn mixtures and the cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onions and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared dish and bake until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. (If using ramekins, watch carefully, as they will cook in about 30-40 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

02 November 2011

Mommy & Me: A Trip to the Meat Locker

Tired of the same old playgrounds day after day? Crowds at the museums got you down? Looking for a new experience that will be fun for you AND your toddler?

Dress him warmly and take him on a trip to Peoria Packing’s Butcher Shop, where heaps and heaps of unpackaged meat are piled in open bins. You get to walk right up to the bins, choose your cut of meat, and put it in a plastic baggie all by yourself! Fun for the whole family!

Just look at that!

The sight of the abundantly pink mounds of flesh may be overwhelming to your child, who has probably not experienced such prolonged exposure to meat. When I went with my 15-month old, it was certainly a challenge to keep his pudgy little hands off of the raw meat as I was bagging it. He was strapped to my chest in a carrier, so I had to hold the bag two feet in front of me so he couldn’t reach the meat. But then his giantbaby head was in the way, and I couldn’t see what I was doing, and I kept missing the opening of the bag. Luckily, everyone else in the open-air meat locker was too excited about MEAT PILED HALFWAY TO THE CEILING to notice the lady who could only get her foot-long oxtails into a plastic baggie by turning in circles and holding her flailing baby’s hands in her mouth. The things we do for our children…

Oxtails. Very difficult to place in a plastic baggie while you are also holding a small human.

Recipe follows.

Why didn’t I put the baby in the shopping cart, you ask? Because this place is so crowded that the shopping carts cause traffic jams, and sometimes you have to leave your cart four aisles away so that you can get to the cut of meat that you’ve spied, and I don’t trust my joyfully carnivorous son in an aisle of meat all by himself. Left to his own devices, he might climb out of the cart and start leaping from one meat-piled cart to another, helping himself to the $.89/lb. drumsticks. DID I JUST SAY $.89/LB. DRUMSTICKS? WHY, YES, I DID.

I could go on and on about the prices at Peoria Packing. Actually, I will go on and on.

Oxtail, $3.99 per pound.

Pork shoulder, $1.69 per pound.

Chicken wings, $1.29 per pound.

NY strip steaks, $4.99 per pound.

Beef strips for fajitas, $3.29 per pound.

Italian Sausage (done on premises), $1.69 per pound.

All in all, I purchased 58.9 pounds of meat for $27.30. Unfortunately, in my excitement about my inexpensive fleshy treasures, I had forgotten that I had parked my car almost three blocks away. Carrying 60 pounds of meat and 20+ pounds of little human is a task that I do not wish upon anyone. But the real tragedy is that I did not get a picture of us. THAT would have been something for the baby book.

Braised Oxtail. Why not? It's only $3.99 per pound.

Spanish-Style Oxtails Braised with Chorizo

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 2003 (epicurious recipe here)

The recipe calls for pieces of oxtail that have been chopped into 2- or 3- inch pieces. If you can find whole oxtail (you can at Peoria Packing!), shred the meat from the bones when the braise is done, and it will make for a more appetizing presentation.


· 6 lb. meaty oxtails (2 whole oxtails, or 2 oxtails chopped into 2- 3-inch pieces)

· 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

· 1 teaspoon black pepper

· 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

· 3/4 lb mild Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage) (original recipe says ¼ pound)

· 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

· 4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

· 4 garlic cloves, chopped

· 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

· 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (use smoked if you can find it!)

· 1 cup dry white wine

· 1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée, coarsely chopped (including purée) in a food processor

· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

· 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar ( I always forget about this step and it’s still been delicious. Let me know how it is if you end up using the vinegar!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

· Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

· Remove and discard casing from chorizo. Cook chorizo, onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

· Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

· Optional: remove oxtails from pot let cool, then shred meat from bones. Add back to the stew.

· Skim fat from sauce, then stir in cilantro, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

· Note: Oxtails improve in flavor if braised 2 days ahead (add cilantro and vinegar just before serving).