Who's That Girl

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WHO'S THAT GIRL: A higher education obsessed foodie who is documenting her life in the kitchen. I love to cook delicious, gourmet-style foods for those I love and always welcome a challenge in the kitchen. With that challenge comes an impromptu nature. I tend to avoid following recipes to the exact, so you are not likely to find very many posted here. Being that I am a Libra and am learning to be free in the kitchen, the story always goes, "A pinch of this and a smattering of that!" Thank you for visiting -- and happy reading!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Savory Simplicity

I have made a hugely important and wildly successful milestone in my program.

Consequently, life has been busy, complex, wonderful, challenging. And that means I've had less time to commit to the kitchen.


But on this particular evening I made a simple seared salmon with semi-caramelized onions, broccoli and corn with soy milk.

Luscious, light, simple and full. A wonderful compliment to a life full of appreciation. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jiffy-Battered Shrimp and Catfish


Yeah! It's time to make some Louisiana style catfish and shrimp! Just let me get my handy dandy Louisiana Fish Fry and let's get this party sta....

You've got to be kidding me!

Where is my Louisiana Fish Fry?

But it was right here, near the three bags of sushi rice and the mammoth-sized bag of jasmine rice.

No, it was over here, near the rarely used stash of sugar.

Oh, wait...perhaps I put it over by the rice paper wrappings and nori.

Ah! It's in the cabinet where I keep the lesser used spices!

...nope.

Oops. I had to have run out of the good stuff months ago.

But, crud! I've already begun marinating the catfish and shrimp in Old Bay seasoning.

Arrrrghhhhh!!!

Oh top of it, I had no cornmeal in the house. But, by a fluke, I had a box of Jiffy in the pantry. I'd never used Jiffy as a seafood batter. Never even considered it. But I was desperate. Into a bowl it went with a few tablespoons of flour and some cayenne, paprika and onion powder.

Side note: Whenever using flour to bread anything, it is crucially important to not merely season the fish or meat, but to also season the flour. It helps to round out the flavor, and to ensure that the seasoning is evenly distributed.

So, yes, there I was in the kitchen, experimenting big time with this box of cornbread/muffin mix.

I don't even like cornbread! The only reason why I even had this in the house is because I made a casserole for the office a month or so ago and had the leftover box.

Phew!

I beat an egg, dredged half of the shrimp and sent that into the bowl. I also had a reserve for the catfish; same process. I kept a naked bowl of shrimp to determine which process I would enjoy the best.

The verdict: Not bad! OK, so Jiffy seems to have a lot of sugar because, goodness, the shrimp was quite sweet, but perfectly flavored otherwise.

The catfish was good, but I think the fillet was simply too large because the batter-to-fish ratio was off.

Other than that, what a fantastic idea for an emergency! The shrimp came to a perfect crisp! In fact, the taste was more flavorful than the naked shrimp.

For all, I used a wok and frying oil. I find that this is more useful and results in a deeper fry than trying to use a standard skillet. The flavor was not quite like the Louisiana style, but it was worth writing home about. I told my mother and sister all about it the following day.

I may try this again, adding a bit more flour to thin out the sugar content.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Childhood Memory-Inducing Smothered Pork Chops

OK so, yeah, smothered pork chops is more southern than southern California, but that didn't stop my family from enjoy this dish from time to time throughout my youth.

There is something about deep gravy drenching slightly crispy-turned-soft pork chops, always with a sharp and slightly sweet flavor.

The slightly sweet flavor comes from the pork chops being caramelized a bit before being smothered. The sharp tinge comes from the soy sauce. I use it to make my gravy. It's how my great grandmother, Viola, made her gravy. Her teachings have remained with me to this day.

In all, the dish calls for the pork chops (bone in, either thick or thinly sliced) to be seasoned with onion powder, garlic salt and Lawry's seasoning salt. Given the latter two, it is essential to find a balance in seasoning, lest the pork chops taste decorated with a mound of sodium.

It is best to cook the pork chops on the highest temperature possible with a bit of oil. You want them to char only slightly, developing a nice browning that indicates the sugars are being released and cooked to a perfect point.

Meanwhile, get your items prepped for the gravy. Once the pork chops are cooked through, place them on a plate with a couple paper towels. Then use the existing skillet to start in on the gravy. I like to add broth -- any type will do. As the broth is warming up, carefully -- ever so carefully -- add the flour in small portions. I have ruined gravy one too many time by adding the flour too quickly, resulting in clumps that resemble light-colored kidney stones.

Once the mixture begins to resemble gravy, I add a bit of soy sauce. Not much, just a few sprinkles. Then I continue cooking the gravy, but more slowly then, until it has the right consistency. I generally have to add more broth, then a little bit more flour. But, in all, it doesn't take long. Toward the end, I add the onion, then add the pork chops and mushrooms at the same time.

After a quick simmer, dinner is served. I love this dish. It always reminds me of childhood and home.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Product Review: Spiced-Butter Sweet Potatoes

I saw these in the freezer aisle and thought, "Oooh! So taking these home."

I enjoy sweet potatoes, but I have generally had them mashed into a pie of some sort. Ever had a sweet potato pie? Goodness gracious!

...though I am having a flash back at this moment. Growing up in Los Angeles, it was common to see men dressed in suits standing on the medians of street junctions, waving these beautiful pink boxes. Inside were individual orders of bean pies. We were huge fans. It was a common ritual. We would see one of these men (Muslims; members of the Nation of Islam) with friendly faces and a newspaper of their religious order, yelling "Bean pie!" It was all part of their fundraising efforts.

My dad was a biggest fan in the family. Or, at least that's how he led on.

I loved when, pulled up to a red light, he would roll down the window, wave a few dollars and exchange a few words, then pull that pink box into the car. Being the eldest, I got to hold it sometimes.

What I have learned is that the Nation of Islam advocated for enjoying the bean pie over the sweet potato pie. This and remains part of an emphasis away from heavy American foods. Actually, now that I think about it, I enjoy bean pies more than sweet potato pies. Bean pies have a bit more complexity and are more ...I want to say dense, but that is not a good word. Bean pies hold together much better. That's what I mean!

Anyway, when I saw this bag by Archer Farms, I had to try it.

Huge disappointment.

OK, so, yes -- I should have read the description. I was mesmerized by the image and the memories of having sweet potato pies earlier in life, so I paid no attention to "spiced-butter" or the description of butter nuggets. 

Not to mention that the calorie breakdown sways too-too heavy toward the carbohydrates. Like, 70 percent of this products resides in the carbs.

It's just that the flavor wasn't very good. But the look and texture, you could tell this product was made from sweet potatoes. But it just didn't taste like potatoes. There is this strange granular feel to it, even after cooking it for 15 minutes (cooked stovetop instead of the microwave, which is one of the cooking options listed on the back).

You can taste the cinammon, but the butter tastes and looks like fake, manufactured butter. Yet it says right there on the cover that it was made using "real butter." Real butter?! How?

Sadly, I only ate about five cubes and tossed it into the trash. What a waste!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Best Homemade Burger Yet

Rarely will I make a burger, lest I have a special request. That was the case here for a lunch order. What made this burger was the rich flavor of the meat and these amazing telera buns.

I had not tried telera buns before. But not being able to find a small bag of sourdough, I opted to try these. I understand that telera is a variation of bolillo bread, which is quite common in this region. You find it at the grocery store in these large plastic bins.

I never buy bolillo. I always wonder how fresh they can possibly be when they are stacked mounds upon mounds without an air seal. I'll have to try them one time so that I may provide an honest review. As for the telera, I cannot recall having seen this bread in the grocery store. Granted, I rarely purchase bread anymore, and when I did, I always (always) went for either Milton's or sourdough.

But these beautiful rounds with melted cheese on top -- couldn't pass them buy.

Nice choice.

I began with the meat, seasoning the ground beef with onion powder, garlic salt, cayenne, mustard seed, ginger powder and ground pepper. I then let the meat sit in the fridge while I chopped up the tomatoes, lettuce and onion.

I sauteed the onions and cooked an egg. I also sliced up an avocado.

Once the hamburger patties were cooked through, I went for the assembly. Having toasted the buns, I smeared them with a sampling of buttermilk ranch dressing and ketchup.

Paired with some roasted sweet peppers and there you have it. There wasn't a need to have another meal for the rest of the day.

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