Dad’s Sherried Pearl Onions

My dad makes these pearl onions on special occasions – Easter and Christmas, I think were the big ones. Along with everything else my parents had on the menu – these were usually the dish that required the most prep time, especially when made for a crowd of family.

So when I went to try and recreate his dish, I made two mistakes. One, I did not call him first to confirm, with total certainty, the exact recipe and the exact preparation process. Two, which is related to the first part, was I had already peeled each onion, raw, by hand.

Don’t do this. I spent 90 seconds peeling an onion. I bet you’re an experienced pearl onion peeler. I am not.

The key is to parboil the onions for a couple minutes, giving the onions a slippery-er bulb which allows the skins to peel slide right off. I had a moment while attempting to keep the outermost layer intact while peeling them bone-dry, that there has got to be a better way to do this. It turns out, there was.

I also would have assumed there was nutmeg in the cream mixture. Wrong. No nutmeg!

I have yet to come across a dish more complemented with a strong pour of cooking sherry. I don’t cook with it often, but I know it adds a nice kick to tomato soup. The sherry is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, delicate onion flavor. And the heavy cream – do I need to elaborate? It becomes perfumed with the onions, and the kitchen begins to take on a holiday dinner aroma, or maybe that’s just me.

Thanks to my dad for giving up this secret recipe for mankind’s benefit – I hope you feel the good feels I get eating this dish on special occasions.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 10 oz. package raw white pearl onions
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons cooking sherry
  • Minced parsley, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut both ends off the pearl onions. Bring a small pot of water to boil and add the onions. Boil for 2 minutes. Strain. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off the onions, being careful to leave the bulbs intact.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the heavy cream, cooking sherry, onions and a pinch of salt.
  3. Bring to a boil, and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the cream is heavily reduced and warm in color, being sure to stir every couple minutes to prevent the heavy cream from burning.
  4. Serve hot, and sprinkle with minced parsley, if desired.

Deviled Jalapenos

What makes a food devilable?

Because I would devil a glass of water if I could.

I’ve oogled over Trisha Yearwood’s Deviled Potatoes. And recently, learned about a deviled crab recipe that originated in the American south. I’m sure there’s a million versions. A food capable of holding in filling must be a requirement, but I gave my imagination ample space to run wild after that.

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Enter jalapenos.

This wouldn’t cut it as a crowd-pleasing recipe – I don’t think. You can remove the seeds and membranes, and leave out the pickled jalapeno if you need to cut some of the burn, but you’re still chomping into a raw jalapeno.

An obvious alternative? Use the sweet, small tri-colored peppers you can usually get in bulk at any grocery store nowadays. If you want to go this route, just substitute the sweet peppers and nix the pickled jalapeno – the preparation instructions will remain the same, with an equally scrumptious outcome.

I’ve been contemplating new ideas for game day bites that can be made ahead of time and tossed on the coffee table. I’ve already made enough buffalo chicken dip in my life to fill a 10-foot hole in the ground.

But my boyfriend can’t tolerate spicy food, even in moderate amounts. I had purportedly added hot sauce to a dish, and after a minute of did-I-didn’t-I, we realized he was feeling heat from the black pepper that must’ve been a bit too freshly cracked.

I haven’t isolated a hard and fast rule as to what makes something deviled. One of my earlier blog posts for Tuna Nicoise Deviled Eggs recounts the history of the word deviled, which essentially meant anything heavily seasoned. Like the deviled egg, this recipe includes dairy ingredients, and presents itself halves-side-open.

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Whether it’s the jalapenos or the sweet peppers that appeal to you, you aren’t going to disappoint your guests with a dairy-saturated cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and aromatic garlic filling.

And it’s about time I gave Buffalo Chicken Dip a much-deserved break.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 10 jalapenos, all cut in half longwise, with half the peppers minced
  • 1 / 2 block room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 / 4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated finely
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3 to 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  •  5 pepperoncinis, minced, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Plate 10 jalapeno halves, mincing the remaining jalapeno halves for including in the filling. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a bowl, combine the minced jalapeno, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and most of the pepperoncinis, reserving 3 to 4 minced tablespoons for garnish.
  3. Equally distribute the filling amongst the jalapeno halves, overfilling them a little bit. Top each half with the remaining pepperoncini.
  4. Pop the plate in the fridge to allow the peppers to chill.
  5. Serve within 2 hours, or the pepper flesh will begin to dry out and shrivel.

 

Stovetop Mustard Macaroni & Cheese

I put mustard in dishes that should not have mustard in them.  Mustard powder is great, but the real-deal condiment adds a great zing to just about everything, in my experience.

Taco meat? Add mustard. Tuna salad sandwiches? Let’s add some mustard. Hummus? Mustard. Clam chowder? Why not – where’s the mustard.

Did anyone else eat cheese and mustard sandwiches growing up? I never really missed the ham or turkey.  I was after that sharp cheddar cheese and French’s Yellow Mustard combo, with so much mustard it would ooze out the edges and seep through the holes in the bread if you pressed down on the sandwich.

The addition of yellow mustard and Dijon mustard to your typical tabletop mac and cheese did not disappoint – and it gave me validation to continue with my bizarre food experiments. I had been adding mustard powder to most of my stovetop macs, but the condiment adds a “what did you put in this?” mystery flavor that’s difficult to put your finger on.

Stovetop mac, if you haven’t made it before, can and should be a staple food in your household. Yes, even if you are kid-less. Admit that you want it – it’s OK, we all do.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is perfect in every way an iconic American staple food can be perfect. But you’re getting so much extra oomph mixing whatever yummy cheese you have on-hand in your fridge to your favorite short pasta, adding some milk or cream, and seasoning the gooey mixture to your heart’s content. Just make sure you’re adding some of the processed stuff – Kraft American Cheese Singles or Velveeta – I will arrest you if you don’t.

Mike Myers, featured in a 1992 blockbuster as the doofus Wayne in Wayne’s World, had his priorities straight when he asked:

“Pardon me sir – do you have any Grey Poupon?”

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 box short pasta
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, of your choosing
  • 10 Kraft American Cheese Singles
  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, of your choosing
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, of your choosing
  • 3 / 4 cup half & half
  • 1 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, cooking the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid before straining.
  2. In the same pot, add the butter, half & half, both mustards, salt and pepper. Immediately return the pasta to the pot.
  3. With the pot on low heat, add the cheeses and stir until the cheese and butter melts completely. Begin to stir in the cooking liquid in small pours until the mixture reaches desired consistency. The pasta will dry out over time, so if you’re going for seconds you may want to add more of the cooking liquid to “re-creamify” it.
  4. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Hankerings’ Caesar Dressing

How do you like your Caesar salad? Are you an extra crouton guy or gal? Dressing on the side? When the waiter comes around, are you insistent on their cranking the pepper mill for an awkwardly long period of time, like me?

I like my topping-to-lettuce proportion to be high – ideally there is barely enough romaine to qualify this as a salad. I’m talking anchovies all over, four-inch-long shavings of parm reg, and a loaf’s worth of croutons on the plate – all coated with a heavy dousing of dressing, a squeeze of lemon and a showering of crushed black peppercorns.

Romaine is the supporting cast in my ideal Caesar salad. It’s there to play host to that medley of saltiness, garlic, briny fish flavor, pepper kick and citric acid.

I want my dressing to incorporate all those yummy add-ons. This dressing does a good job of that.

And because I have vested interest in ensuring your dressing turns out just right, I want to impress upon the importance of using Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Not just in this salad dressing, but all recipes that require mayo.

If I was running for office, their mayonnaise would be in my policy platform. I’ve never been so disappointed with any substitute ingredient in my life – I’m looking at you, Whole Foods’ 365 organic mayonnaise! There’s something about Hellmann’s that helps you forget that you’re eating room-temperature whipped egg yolks and oil. All you know is you’re eating something rich and delicious.

It would be even better if you made your own mayonnaise. I always trust Alton Brown to reveal the best techniques when it comes to specialty cooking processes, and this recipe makes you feel capable of cooking something you might think is too burdensome or overly-complex.

You need and deserve the good stuff – and from experience, it’s a wise move to buy the biggest container you can find. There’s few foods that need to be bought in bulk, and this is one of them.

If you’re a Cesar salad fanatic like me, there’s a lot you will love in this dressing.

All hail King Ceasar! …salad dressing. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 pint dressing.

  • 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 1 / 3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parm reg
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Whir all the ingredients except the black pepper in a food processor until completely pureed. Stir in the cracked black pepper and put into a glass mason jar. The dressing will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Diner-Style Deviled Ham Hash

In this next post of my “no-no” mystery meat recipe series, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite canned meats – Underwood Deviled Ham.

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If you haven’t had it already, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Not for me of course – I loved it from day one. But it’s as American as red, white and blue. If you didn’t eat it growing up, my gut tells me you might – with an emphasis on the word might – not like trying it for the first time as an adult.

My boyfriend wasn’t a fan. He said he wouldn’t feed it to the dog.

You have to give this a try. For anyone who is familiar with this delectable max-processed delicacy, or still reading even after this cautious introduction, you’ll soon realize this is the breakfast hash that was missing in your life.

Deviled ham has a similar flavor to Spam, or any sodium-heavy canned meat product you’ll find in the grocery store. I used to eat it straight from the can. The most typical way to serve it is between two slices of mayo-smeared white bread topped with iceberg lettuce – right where it belongs.

I’ll usually keep a few cans of Hormel’s Corned Beef Hash in my pantry. This recipe is a home-cooked variation of the canned hash, using fresh potatoes and swapping out the corned beef for the deviled ham.

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The ham and potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Alongside a couple of sunny side up eggs, this is just what the doctor ordered when you’re craving a greasy, filling diner-style breakfast.

I went to town and back on this. I probably met my sodium quota for the month. I don’t know about you – but if this hash gives me yet another excuse to eat deviled ham, my GP and I are completely on board with that.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can Underwood Deviled Ham
  • 1 / 3 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, potato, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are near golden and crisp and the onions are near translucent.
  2. Once the hash is almost done, add the deviled ham. Continue to cook the hash so the ham has a chance to crisp up.
  3. Plate the hash and serve hot, with a couple of sunny side up eggs and hot sauce, if desired.