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Small Plates for Supper

 

Scallop Sashimi

Scallop Sashimi

When we go to a restaurant, we’d rather eat things we either don’t or can’t easily make at home. Why pay outrageous money for an okay steak and so-so salad when we can do much better ourselves? We go to Hawks for crawfish in Rayne and have sushi every couple of months at various places in Lafayette. We don’t do traditional slow-smoked barbecue, so that’s something we look for when dining out. Plus it’s one specialty that lends itself easily to low carb and paleo-friendly.

When we’re on the road for Harris’s work, if I can cook I’ll go along for the ride. I make suppers all but one night and then find an interesting place to try out nearby. Lately I’ve discovered if there’s pork belly on the menu, the restaurant is one we’ll enjoy. First because we love pork belly and two, a chef who features it, loves it as well and usually has a delicious take on the ingredient. Here’s where we’ve had some fabulous pork belly appetizers and some wonderful entrées, too:

The Spotted Horse at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas was the first place we saw it on a menu, and this version combines citrus and Asian flavorings for a sweetish and savory profile. The restaurant is upscale and urban and a great date spot. Even though it’s located next to the gaming floor, you can’t hear the slot machines.

The Spotted Horse at Evangeline Downs, Opelousas, LA

The Spotted Horse at Evangeline Downs, Opelousas, LA

We’ve been to two great restaurants in Jackson, Miss. recently. Saltine is in an old mid-century school. The dining area is retro stylish and through the big windows and across the hallway, you can see the kitchen. Here the pork belly is called PB & J—for pork belly and pepper jelly. It’s served with boiled peanuts and it’s so good. I’d never had boiled peanuts before … I know, I know they’re legumes and not paleo. And like the nuts that they are not, boiled peanuts are reminiscent of cooked beans. It’s not like we live nearby and will make a habit of the goobers, it’s a “when in Jackson,” kind of thing. And the rest of meal was easily made paleo.

P B & J: Pork belly with pepper jelly and boiled peanuts, Saltine, Jackson, MS

P B & J: Pork belly with pepper jelly and boiled peanuts, Saltine, Jackson, MS

Also in Jackson is Walker’s Drive-In. It’s right near Saltine. This landmark restaurant from the 1930s has become an upscale, farm to table restaurant that blew us away. Fabulous menu with so many great paleo-friendly choices, and the pork belly when we were there was called Ham and Eggs. Why it isn’t bacon and eggs, I’m not sure. Harris said it was probably his favorite pork belly app thus far. The chef mixes up his offerings, so if you have a chance to visit, that version might not be on the menu. The vintage dining room is really cool; you can tell the owners preserved and renovated the space rather than truck in artifacts to make it look nostalgic, and the food was superb.

Walker's Drive-In, Jackson, MS

Walker’s Drive-In, Jackson, MS

That got me to thinking about my own take on pork belly. To vary the usual entrée-plus-sides dinner, I added a scallop sashimi appetizer so we could have our own upscale, small plate, restaurant experience. The scallop sashimi couldn’t be easier. I used frozen scallops; the fruit and veg are raw, and the dressing was quick, easy and delicious. You could substitute large shrimp for the scallops. And while sashimi is often raw seafood, in this case it’s lightly poached.

Scallop Sashimi Ingredients

Scallop Sashimi Ingredients

This is adapted from Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique for Perfectly Cooked Meals by Lisa Q. Fetterman et al. I chose to poach the seafood in salted water for less than two minutes per side instead of using sous vide, but you can cook the scallops sous vide at 120 degrees F for 30 minutes. Chill it over ice or in the fridge while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

The unusual yuzu kosho is a spicy Japanese condiment, although minced hot chiles or sriracha can be used instead. Rather of an actual recipe, I’m suggesting guidelines. The remaining components are wash, slice and go. Choose something fruity like grapefruit, something crisp with a touch of bitterness like endive or radicchio and avocado for richness. Make the dressing from a squeeze of the grapefruit rinds, coconut aminos or tamari, some sweet—mirin or honey, a little olive or avocado oil and some form of chile. Simple.

Scallop Sashimi

Scallop Sashimi

The pork belly was just as good. I braised the belly, julienned some crispy vegetables, and served it with a tamari ( or you can use coconut aminos), ginger, scallion, and mirin or coconut sugar sauce that nicely enhanced the flavors of the other ingredients. Served in soft, butter lettuce, this dish was as paleo as it was yummy. I’ve cooked pork belly many ways in the past few months. If you season it with salt, pepper, some coconut sugar and togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture), and put it in a covered Dutch oven for three hours at 300 degrees F., you have a texture like the one in the photo below. Take off the cover and cook an additional hour and the belly will brown up and get firmer. Your choice. Slice it up. Julienne some cucumber, yellow or red bell pepper, carrot and some paper thin slice of japapeño. Wrap everything up in some soft lettuce like Bibb or Boston and drizzle on the sauce.

Butter Lettuce Wraps

Butter Lettuce Wraps

Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps

Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps

Pork Belly Wrap Garnishes

Pork Belly Wrap Garnishes

Pork Belly - Sous Vide

Braised Pork Belly

Pork Belly Wrap Sauce

Pork Belly Wrap Sauce

Cherries, Berries and Stars

Cherries, Berries and Stars

For dessert try this medley of cherries, blueberries, watermelon and piña colada jelly-shot stars. I found a cocktail recipe I liked, softened a package of gelatin in some of the pineapple juice, then warmed all the ingredients (coconut milk, rum, and honey) over low heat for about three minutes, until the gelatin was completely dissolved. I lined a loaf pan with plastic wrap, poured in the mixture and chilled it for a couple of hours. I found an inexpensive, small-star cookie cutter and punched out the cuties. The dressing was a simple combo of lime zest, lime juice and honey. Taste and adjust per your preference.

For music I’m mixing it up with some random tunes I like right now. Hope y’all are having an amazing summer!

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Shhhh … Listen! Do You Hear the Sound of Sous Vide?

Roast Beef

Roast Beef

No. You can’t hear the sound of sous vide because it’s silent. And powerful. And will transform the way you cook … especially proteins. Never again will you worry about what temperature is right for chicken, beef, pork or seafood. There’s no carry over cooking, so the temperature you prefer for your steak, for example, is guaranteed to be rare, medium rare, or even medium well if that’s the way you like it.

What’s this all about anyway? If you aren’t familiar with sous vide, I’ve had several weeks to use mine and it is a revelation. I’ll take you through the process using the humble chuck roast to produce two different dishes. The cut of meat is the same. The time and temperature varies between roast beef (a fraction of the cost of a rib roast) and a typical pot roast braised on the stovetop or in the oven (think luxurious and fabulous flavor).

Many months ago, the cool folks at ChefSteps.com announced a crowdfunding campaign to support their sous vide cooker, Joule. The video on the Joule link is super. As an early adopter, there was a deep discount on the unit and like many such projects getting off the ground, there were some considerable delays past the anticipated ship date. No matter. It’s part of the adventure of helping great products launch. Now you can order Joule here and here.

It used to be that sous vide was a strictly restaurant technique. The equipment was massively expensive and a rig costs in the plus $1,000 range. But sous vide (which is French for under vacuum) was actually invented for home cooks to make their dishes reliably delicious. It didn’t take off as a home appliance largely due to the high cost. But restaurant chefs love it because a steak can be sitting happily in medium-rare 130 degree F water, waiting for a patron to order it and the chef to sear and sauce it at the last minute. Faster service, exact degree of doneness and satisfaction all around.

Like many electronic devices from cell phones to smart TVs, early incarnations of inventions are massively expensive, but if you wait it out, the price plummets. Even a year ago, top-rated sous vide cookers like the Anova were $300. Now on Amazon.com, the price is around $150 and during Amazon Prime Day, it was $99! So the technology is at the point that it is practical for a cook whose kitchen is well-equipped. Makes a great present!

I have to give a shout out to Nomiku as well. This dynamic duo couple—chef and physics dude—toured the country teaching tekkies how to build a DIY sous vide cooker after the chef was dazzled by the ones in her professional kitchens. After time they decided to engineer a cooker that didn’t need a blueprint to construct. And their cookbook, is a gorgeous collection of restaurant-worthy dishes you can make even if you don’t have a degree from a cooking school.

This is the set-up you use for whatever brand of sous vide cooker you have:

Joule Sous Vide Set-up

Joule Sous Vide Set-up

A deep pot to submerge your cooker and your food.

While vacuum sealing your ingredients is ideal, you can also use a ZipLock freezer bag (but not the kind with a slider). The ZipLock freezer bag is safe to use with food in this application, and strong enough for the normal cooking times. If your roast is going to cook for more than 12 hours (I have a pastrami cooking away for 48 hours) then you really should use the vacuum sealer bags. I had a Food Saver on the shelf that I really didn’t use for its intended purpose (freezing food) but I use it now at least every other day. But you can simply add your ingredients to the sous vide bag, lower it into the water and secure the top to the side of the pot with clips, as shown in this video. I’ve made several versions of chuck roast over the last few weeks. The one below was not seared, and I didn’t remove the fat deposits. Not searing the roast didn’t markedly change the flavor, but the chunks of fat were unsightly, so I take them out now when I made roast beef. Because of the higher temperature for a pot roast, it isn’t as noticeable, so I don’t bother with the trimming.

 

Chuck Roast in Sous Vide Bag

Chuck Roast in Sous Vide Bag

For long cooking times, I found these ping pong balls on Amazon which cover the water surface and minimize evaporation. You could use aluminum foil over the top, too.

Sous Vide Joule with "cover"

Sous Vide Joule with “cover”

Once the roast is seasoned and bagged, choose your temperature. I set the sous vide for 135 degrees F for the roast beef and cooked it sous vide for 48 hours, and for the pot roast I used 160 degrees F. and 24 hours. I seared the pot roast in a skillet as well prior to sealing it up. The roast beef was company worthy and is rib roast quality at a fraction of the price. The pot roast was succulent and tender with loads of juice for gravy.

Flavorful and Tender Sous Vide Pot Roast

Flavorful and Tender Sous Vide Pot Roast

To accompany the roast, I’ve got a salad that was instantly dubbed Klaatu Burrata Nikto by Harris and Linds. #scifinerds I started out using the traditional caprese salad ingredients, but found the textures too similar. Over time I’ve added various items. Right now I like thinly shaved fennel, sliced green olives, cucumber as well as tomatoes. For lunch and this photo I also added some thin-sliced ham. Burrata is a mozzarella shell with creamy, soft stracciatella inside. Stracciatella used in this sense is a riff on traditional Italian ice creams or soup. Currently it’s Harris’s hands-down favorite salad. He prefers lettuce-free salads, I’ve recently discovered. While this recipe is not paleo, it is primal, so if you’re down with dairy, it’s all good.

Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad

Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad

The playlist features this year’s Grammy nominees and as usual, Louisiana is well represented. Enjoy!

Roast Beef
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Sous Vide Chuck Roast Two Ways
Sous Vide Chuck Roast Two Ways
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Servings Prep Time
8servings 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8servings 10 minutes
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For the roast beef
  1. Remove the large fat deposits from the roast. You'll have to cut into the roast here and there to do this, but don't cut pieces from the roast. You could leave the fat in, but the presentation at serving isn't as nice. Using twine, pack the meat into a roast shape and tie at intervals to maintain the shape. Continue to the searing.
For either roast
  1. For either roast, heat the oil or ghee in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the seasoned roast and brown on all sides 3-4 minutes per side.
For the roast beef
  1. Fill a large stock pot 2/3 full and submerge sous vide cooker as directed by your cooker's directions. Set cooker temperature to 130 F for medium rare or 140 for medium. You can also set the temperature for higher or lower for your preferred doneness. Cook for 48 hours, checking periodically to be sure the water level hasn't decreased. Add water as necessary to maintain level. The temperature will quickly return to the temperature you've set.Joule Sous Vide Set-up
  2. Add roast to sous vide bag and seal or lower opened bag into the pot with the sous vide bag open. Secure top of bag with clips to the side of the pot to keep water from getting into the bag. Sealed bag can just be lowered into the water.
For the pot roast
  1. After searing the roast, lower heat to medium and add chopped onion. Sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add broth and wine and cook for 5 minutes, scraping up browned drippings. Add roast and onions to sous vide bag and seal or lower opened bag into the pot with the sous vide bag open. Secure top of bag with clips to the side of the pot to keep water from getting into the bag. Sealed bag can just be lowered into the water.
  2. Fill a large stock pot 2/3 full and submerge sous vide cooker as directed by your cooker's directions. Set cooker temperature to 160 F. Cook for 24 hours, checking periodically to be sure the water level hasn't decreased. Add water as necessary to maintain level. The temperature will quickly return to the temperature you've set.Flavorful and Tender Sous Vide Pot Roast
For either roast
  1. Remove roast from the sous vide bag, carefully retaining the juices. Pat the roast dry. If desired, heat 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and sear roast on all sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove to cutting board and cover with aluminum foil.
  2. Make gravy by adding juices to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Reduce the juices for 2-5 minutes, taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve, slicing the roast against the grain. Pass the gravy separately.
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Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad
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Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad
Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad This embellished variation on a caprese salad is a melange creamy, crisp, juicy textures and flavors. It may not make the earth stand still, but it sure is good.
Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad
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Klaatu Burrata Nikto Salad This embellished variation on a caprese salad is a melange creamy, crisp, juicy textures and flavors. It may not make the earth stand still, but it sure is good.
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Ingredients
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Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. Distribute vegetables and ham evenly among 4 servings dishes. Nestle burrata half on top of vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
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Grilled Tuna and Thai Coleslaw

Paleo Grilled Tuna

Grilled Tuna: Paleo, low carb and delcious

I’ve long been a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, and related magazines and sites. Before science and food prep combined to help us understand why certain techniques worked and why some recipes failed, ATK was churning through scores of tests ensuring that soufflés would rise, chickens would would roast to golden perfection and vegetables would be bright and delicious.

But having mastered some many techniques and great recipes, things began to change. I had to adapt favorite dishes to a healthy, paleo profile and decline to make many of the recipes offered each month because they couldn’t be modified. And I wanted to go beyond the scope of Cook’s Illustrated et al.

I read today that Christopher Kimball, who founded the America’s Test Kitchen empire, and branched off to a new venture called Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, is being sued for copying the model he created. It’ll be interesting to see where that goes. In the meantime, I received newsletters over the last several months with teasers about the new magazine, website and cooking school and the first recipe, Thai Coleslaw was a total winner.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street 177milkstreet.com

Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street 177milkstreet.com

Made with Napa cabbage, coconut milk, lime juice and featuring chopped cashews, this is a coleslaw game changer.

Paleo Thai Coleslaw by Christopher Kimball's Milk Street

Paleo Thai Coleslaw by Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

I paired this delicious side dish with easy-to-make Grilled Tuna. A fast, heathy and welcome supper, I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we have.

For music, I’ve selected a three (!!!) hour playlist of Louisiana music. This extravaganza was compiled for our daughter’s recent wedding rehearsal dinner. Harris and I flew to New England with six pounds each of frozen crawfish tails for etouffée and six pounds of Kartchner’s fabulous boudin for appetizers. There was a huge salad, roasted chicken, and my Paleo Apple Crisp for dessert. We also made some mighty powerful Hurricanes for our 25 guests. It was a blast, the wedding was sublime and wonderful time was had by all.

Paleo Grilled Tuna
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Grilled Tuna
Grilled Tuna: so easy, so good! Take a tip from Cook's Illustrated and marinate the tuna for a full hour in olive oil.
Grilled Tuna
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Grilled Tuna: so easy, so good! Take a tip from Cook's Illustrated and marinate the tuna for a full hour in olive oil.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4servings 5minutes 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 5minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
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  1. Season tuna liberally with salt and coarsely ground pepper. Add tuna to gallon, zip top bag. Add olive oil. Let marinate for 60 minutes at room temperature. (If pressed for time, marinate at least 15 minutes.)
  2. Heat grill pan over medium high heat for five minutes.
  3. Place tuna and olive oil in the heated grill pan and cook for 3 minutes. Turn and cook additional 4 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.
  4. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro or chives.
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Paleo Thai Coleslaw by Christopher Kimball's Milk Street
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Thai Coleslaw
Thai Coleslaw from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street. Slightly adapted.
Thai Coleslaw
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Thai Coleslaw from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street. Slightly adapted.
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
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  1. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and chili. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk until combined.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, radishes, peas, cilantro and mint. Add the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Stir in the cashews and serve.
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Steak Diane

Steak Diane with Mashed Peas and Braised Carrots

Steak Diane with Mashed Peas and Braised Carrots

It’s been a wild, crazy six weeks. On April Fool’s Day, Harris woke up needing to go to the hospital. He was in the middle of a heart attack. That’s what 30+ years of smoking will do. What could have been a terrifying experience, turned out to be surreal in the extreme. An hour and half after we arrived, Harris had passed through the crisis. The wonderful people at Opelousas General Hospital were simply the best. And by ten that morning, we were able to see Harris in the ICU. At the next visiting time at three, he actually looked like he’d been sunbathing all morning. His color was so dramatically improved. Of course there were monitors and a blood pressure cuff, an IV for medication, but he was so much better for the two stents … much better. One artery was completely blocked, the other 80% and there’s still a third that has to be taken care of next week. That will be an overnighter, but without the emergency aspect.

The smoking’s over. And Harris is really committed to paleo. He always liked the meals I prepared for him, and he ate well at home. Out at lunch, restaurant dining, and random snacking and soda drinking was a different deal. And when we went to our new MD, the tale was told in black and white … or should I say in green, yellow and red. My lipid numbers (and not just the usual four that most docs test for) were in the green range, Harris’s were mostly yellow and red. It was a dramatic difference.

We’re all good though. I’m so very thankful.

I tried something new with this post. Instead of preparing the meal during the day and being left with re-heatables or lunch that was supper worthy, I decided to take a chance and prepare our dinner, photographing the resulting dishes. And that’s what I did last night. Lighting has been the bane of my photographic existence, and I think I finally came up with a workable solution. Which even means photos as I’m preparing a meal. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops (pun intended).

We often have pan-seared steak, and it needs a sauce or salsa or relish in my view. A charcoal-fired rib eye is ideal on its own, and Harris has his own blend of oak and pecan wood to add smoky flavor to a nice steak. I like the idea of Steak Diane, but many versions don’t quite make the mark for me. My version is very similar, but I think it hit all the right notes.

For veg I thought peas and carrots would be nice. Some paleo peeps avoid peas and green beans, but my feeling is that if you can eat it raw or barely cooked, it’s fine. Our future son-in-law is British and I’ve long wanted to do my own take on mushy peas. With this side, you’ll have a creamy mash, and colorful greens.

Mashed Peas

Mashed Peas

And what is more natural with peas than carrots? These are gently oven braised in broth with a bit of butter and honey … so good! And they’re so tender, you can add back their lovely green tops by inserting parsley stems in the tops of the carrots. This menu is great for steak night Saturday or an impromptu dinner party.

Braised Carrots

Braised Carrots

For music, the menu lent itself to the French for some reason, so voilà! Bon appétit!

 

Steak Diane with Mashed Peas and Braised Carrots
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Steak Diane
The classic Steak Diane with its sophisticated flavors comes together in minutes for a feast of beefy proportions.
Steak Diane
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The classic Steak Diane with its sophisticated flavors comes together in minutes for a feast of beefy proportions.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4servings 10minutes 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Trim the outside layer of fat from the steaks. With a meat pounder or heavy skillet, gently flatten the steaks to a 1/3-inch thickness. Season liberally with salt, pepper and cayenne.
  2. Heat heavy cast iron or other skillet over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. (Turn on the vent.) Add tallow to skillet. Carefully add steaks and sear for 2 minutes. Flip and sear an additional 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove steaks to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
  3. Add brandy, if using, to skillet, and with a long match or butane lighter with a long stem, ignite the brandy. Allow the alcohol to burn off. Turn the burner on to medium heat. Add the grated shallots and stir, 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  4. When broth has reduced a bit, about 5 minutes, swirl in the butter until just melted and add the Worcestershire sauce. Turn the heat to medium. Add chives, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Return steaks to the skillet, warming them in the sauce until desired doneness is reached. Serve.
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Mashed Peas
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Mashed Peas
Fresh, creamy and bright: Mashed Peas are a side dish with a difference. Flavored with shallots and the fresh herb of your choice, they're downright delicious!
Mashed Peas
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Fresh, creamy and bright: Mashed Peas are a side dish with a difference. Flavored with shallots and the fresh herb of your choice, they're downright delicious!
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4servings 10minutes 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Ingredients
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Ingredients
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. Add peas and shallots to saucepan and add 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir, cooking only until peas are warmed through, but still bright green.
  2. Drain the liquid from the pan and add peas and shallots to blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and purée until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Return mixture to saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Serve.
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Braised Carrots
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Braised Carrots
As lovely cooked as they were fresh in the bunch: braised, tender and sweet carrots.
Braised Carrots
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As lovely cooked as they were fresh in the bunch: braised, tender and sweet carrots.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4serving 5minutes 30minutes
Servings Prep Time
4serving 5minutes
Cook Time
30minutes
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In an oven proof, 12-inch skillet, arrange carrots in a single layer. Add broth, honey, butter and seasonings. Heat skillet over medium heat until broth is warmed and butter is melted.
  2. Cover skillet and place in oven. Roast for 30 minutes or until very tender, but not browned. Check liquid after 20 minutes and add a bit more broth or water if the skillet is dry.
  3. With a small paring knife, make a slit at the top of the carrot. Insert parsley sprig if desired.
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Paleo Fried Chicken and Paleo Strawberry Shortcake

Paleo Fried Chicken: a basket of nourishing, delicious Southern Comfort.

Paleo Fried Chicken: a basket of nourishing, delicious Southern Comfort.

Y’all. When it comes to Southern comfort, fried chicken is king. And for paleo peeps, it’s so hard to turn down the old favorite. But we know better. And now we have it all: perfectly seasoned, juicy chicken in a crackling crisp coating that will satisfy all your fried chicken dreams.

Crispy, crackly Paleo Fried Chicken!

Crispy, crackly Paleo Fried Chicken!

It’s been a long journey to put this recipe together. But I think once you’ve made and tasted this most excellent version, it will be your go-to favorite. It started while I was watching a chefsteps.com video about their best fried chicken. Chefsteps is cuckoo for sous vide cooking. And rightfully so. Here’s the video to see what got my wheels turning. But a sous vide set up isn’t a common kitchen tool, and I wanted to find a way to make the idea accessible to all. Having the chicken already perfectly cooked and then frying the chicken for only a couple of minutes made sense for several reasons.

Now Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe in this month’s magazine for Lemon Chicken that uses the technique of sautéing the bird pieces until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp, then finishing the cooking in the oven. I made sure to cook the white meat only to 160 degrees F., and the dark parts to 170. Even though the chicken’s final fry is a mere minutes, I didn’t want the chicken to be overcooked. I also used two methods before the fry: one batch of chicken had just come out of the oven and I let it cool down on the counter for about 20 minutes, so it wouldn’t be screaming hot when I put it in the batter. The other batch I’d cooked the day before and refrigerated. I also put it out on the counter, in this case, so it would come up in temperature and not be stone cold. Both worked beautifully.

Paleo Fried Chicken: the first sear.

Paleo Fried Chicken: the first sear.

There’s no standing over three quarts of hot grease for upwards of 30 minutes per batch, and since healthy oils are not cheap,  there’s no need to spend a lot of money on this homey dish. Because you’re only cooking the coating, you only need about a cup and a half of coconut oil (you could also use lard … ummm …. yum!) And it only takes 2-3 minutes per side to achieve crackly perfection.

Ready to batter and fry.

Ready to batter and fry.

So then onto the batter.

This coating leads to Paleo Fried Chicken greatness!

This coating leads to Paleo Fried Chicken greatness!

One of the drawbacks to paleo cooking can be using substitute ingredients for things like wheat flour. Alternative flours often taste like their origin: coconut and almond for example. And these flavors can be very welcome in certain preparations, but truthfully, fried chicken isn’t one of them. Enter the master geeks at America’s Test Kitchen. A few months ago they published a paleo cookbook, Paleo Perfected. There are 150 recipes, most of which are not new approaches to paleo dishes. Scrambled eggs with sausage and peppers, bison chili, pan-roasted chicken with zucchini and tomatoes … these are pretty basic and common. But the few recipes that address flour-based favorites, are what I wanted to explore. And the fried chicken batter delivers in spades.

The downside to the America’s Test Kitchen recipe is that they don’t use whole chicken parts. It’s a recipe for chicken fingers. And let’s face it. That’s okay for kids, but real deal fried chicken means bones and skin. By combining chefsteps idea of pre-cooking, and using Cook’s Illustrated’s sauté and roasting method, plus their paleo batter, I think I’ve got the fried chicken hat trick.

Keep the coconut oil around 375 degrees F.

Keep the coconut oil around 375 degrees F.

Let the crispiness begin!

Let the crispiness begin!

There is just a hint of almond flavor that pretty much disappears after the first couple of bites. And unlike other paleo coatings and batters I’ve tried, this one is actually crunchy. It was still crunchy at room temperature and I re-warmed a few pieces for lunch the next day and the crispiness was all there. Harris loved this chicken. His only comment was that it was too mild. So ramp up the black pepper and cayenne, and use your own favorite flavors … this recipe can take the heat.

I do hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

So what Southern icon could be more complementary to fried chicken? Strawberry Shortcake. Here I used a reader-requested cupcake recipe in Bon Appétit from the California bakery, Mustache Baked Goods. It isn’t sugar heavy; the texture is perfect; the berries only need a kiss of honey; and the topping is either whipped coconut or heavy cream.

Paleo Strawberry Shortcake

Paleo Strawberry Shortcake

For a tangy, fresh contrast to the chicken, make my Sneaky Coleslaw. Then it’s picnic time!!

Sneaky Coleslaw

Sneaky Coleslaw

With this country meal, you’ve gotta have some country tunes. With the exception of Willie and Merle, the artists are new. I think you’ll like their tunes.

All the flavor and crunch: none of the guilt.
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Paleo Fried Chicken
Paleo Fried Chicken: Never envy the fast food empires any longer. Here it is: crunchy, crispy, juicy and seasoned to perfection. And all paleo, all the time! For superior results, use a pasture-roaming chicken. This recipe is adapted from America's Test Kitchen: Paleo Perfected.
Paleo Fried Chicken
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Paleo Fried Chicken: Never envy the fast food empires any longer. Here it is: crunchy, crispy, juicy and seasoned to perfection. And all paleo, all the time! For superior results, use a pasture-roaming chicken. This recipe is adapted from America's Test Kitchen: Paleo Perfected.
Servings
4servings
Servings
4servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. Using a meat pounder or a small heavy skillet, pound the thick end of the breast pieces to about 1/2 inch so all pieces will cook uniformly. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the skillet and add chicken pieces. Do not crowd. Make two batches if necessary. Place chicken, skin side down and cook without moving for 8-10 minutes until skin is deep golden and crisp. Remove white meat from skillet and reserve. Turn dark meat pieces over and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes.Paleo Fried Chicken: the first sear.
  3. Add white meat back to skillet, skin side up. Place in oven and roast 10-12 minutes, checking that the temperature of the white meat is just barely 160 degrees F. and the dark meat registers 170 degrees. Remove from the oven. Place chicken pieces, skin side up on a plate and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Alternatively, cook the chicken up to two days prior to frying and refrigerate. About 20 minutes before frying, remove chicken from the refrigerator and set on a plate at room temperature.
  4. To make the batter: in a large bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder, almond flour, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. Whisk in the seltzer water and let sit for 15 minutes. This is necessary for the batter to properly hydrate.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Or lower the temperature to 200 degrees if you have just roasted the chicken. Place wire rack over a baking sheet and place in the oven. Ready to batter and fry.
  6. Whisk in cream of tartar and baking soda. Using a deep, medium-sized sauce pan, melt 1 1/2 cups coconut oil. Be sure the level reaches just over half way up the thickest piece of chicken. This depends on the size of the pan. If needed, add additional coconut oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.This coating leads to Paleo Fried Chicken greatness!
  7. One piece at a time, coat the chicken in the batter and allow the excess to drip off. Gently place the chicken in the coconut oil Do not crowd the pan. The temperature will drop when the chicken is added, but must remain at or near 375 degrees or it will be greasy. Fry chicken for 2-3 minutes or until deep golden brown. Flip pieces over and fry an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken to baking sheet in the oven.Let the crispiness begin!
  8. Continue frying the remaining chicken. Serve hot or at room temperature.All the flavor and crunch: none of the guilt.
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Paleo Strawberry Shortcake
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Paleo Strawberry Shortcake
Paleo Strawberry Shortcake: Light, airy almond cakes topped with honey-sweetened strawberries and whipped coconut or heavy cream.
Paleo Strawberry Shortcake
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Paleo Strawberry Shortcake: Light, airy almond cakes topped with honey-sweetened strawberries and whipped coconut or heavy cream.
Servings
18servings
Servings
18servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Lightly coat edges of cups and tops of 3 standard 6-cup muffin pans with nonstick spray and line with paper liners.
  2. Use finely ground almond flour or sift regular almond flour through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl; discard any large pieces. Whisk in baking powder and ¼ tsp. salt. 

  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and whisk in almond-flour mixture and 2 tsp. vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake cupcakes, rotating pans top to bottom halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 15–20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool.
  4. To assemble: cut cakes in half horizontally. Spoon berries on top of bottom half. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Top with remaining cake and top with additional cream and berries.
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Sneaky Coleslaw
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Sneaky Coleslaw
My house recipe for coleslaw. Great with any roast meat, fish or birds.
Sneaky Coleslaw
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My house recipe for coleslaw. Great with any roast meat, fish or birds.
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, add onion and vinegar. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, add cabbage, carrot, sauerkraut and drained onion. Reserve vinegar for dressing. Mix together the mayonnaise (or olive oil), stevia, and seasonings. Pour over vegetables and toss to combine. Taste, adding vinegar or other seasonings as desired.
  2. Sneaky Coleslaw
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