Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trisha Yearwood Shows Her Chops (Actually Chicken) AND A Possible Improvement To Pecan Pie…Plus Is Cheese Better Than Chocolate? And Just How Long DO Eggs Last? AND An Egg Equivalent Chart

I've been away - in Palm Springs - in the land of the wind turbines. I’m just getting my cocktail pictures organized. They’ll be coming soon!

Trisha's Southern Kitchen with Trisha Yearwood 


I completely forgot that Trisha Yearwood was getting a show on the Food Network, so when I started watching Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, I just expected any old Trisha.

But it was Trisha Yearwood, the country singer, wife of Tim or Garth, Brad or Vince or some country great. Wait, Garth is the one and I also remember that Trisha is known for her cooking and has a cookbook out. 

In the first few minutes, we learn that Trisha will be cooking for a friend from LA who will be visiting Nashville. Why do we need random people we don’t care about in the very first episode? If she wants to bring out Tim, sorry Garth, or the stepkids, then fine. OR if she wants to go the Paula route and bring out total characters (who are world famous), that’s okay too. But a girlfriend…who doesn’t cook. Why?

Karri and Trisha met some time ago and then rekindled their friendship when they both worked on Jag. I have no idea if Karri was (is?) an actress, a make-up artist or a gopher. The only one I remember from Jag was the hot guy, Jag himself.

I’ve been told that H resembles Jag and I definitely can see it. Folks also say he looks like Jake from Jake and the Fat Man. (What a horrible name for a show.) The best celebrity I ever got compared to was Sandy Dennis – and, yes, I realize that 99% of you have no idea who that is. (My teeth are so much better.) Oh, I had one more – my dear aunt always saw Tara Lipinski in me, which is really funny because the closest I ever got to ice skating was breaking my leg when I walked outside in the snow when I was a kid.

Trisha starts with a Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese. She says the only thing you need to precook is 8 oz. of elbow macaroni. The pasta goes into a crockpot that looks sturdy enough to go into combat. Ooh, we get a “Trisha Tip” (in white letters with a pale turquoise background) that says we can use a greased 9” by 13” dish instead and bake the mixture at 350°F for 50 minutes. Thanks, hon, for the heads up.

Trisha adds 4 to 5 cups of cheddar cheese (minus ½ cup for the top) and we learn that Trisha would choose cheese over chocolate.  Wow, that’s interesting. I’m not kidding, that IS interesting. Cheese is great, but better than chocolate? I don’t think so. But I admire someone with a strong culinary viewpoint.

Trisha adds evaporated milk to the mixture, which keeps it creamy, she says, as well as whole milk. She adds eggs too. This definitely brings up the add-or-not-to-add egg debate that got raised with meat loaf and meat balls. Of course, eggs will make anything richer and creamier, but with 5 cups of cheese and evaporated milk, I think we could hold off on the eggs. Dontcha think? Plus Pioneer Woman adds an egg to hers. Just saying…

Oops, one more egg issue. Trisha is displaying her eggs in a white crockery egg holder with delicate blue flowers. That pretty pattern belies the predicament of not knowing the sell-by date of your eggs (which, admittedly, in this country we probably get much too worked up about). But still, keeping your eggs in the container in which they came is a much safer practice and then the only question will be how long past that date can you use them. More egg advice at the end of the post.* Oh, and NEVER store your eggs in the door of the refrigerator. It’s the least cold place in the fridge.

Back to the Mac and Cheese, Trisha adds half a stick of butter with salt and pepper, stirs it well and tops it off with the reserved cheese. The whole thing gets cooked in the crockpot for 3 hours and 15 minutes.

I think that sounds just fine, but ever since I started “beefing” up my mac and cheese with vegetables, I find that hard to skip. I soften onions and carrots (lots and lots) in butter. I add diced red pepper at some point. Then loads of sliced mushrooms. I cook that all for a while, then add flour to the vegetables with lots of paprika. Cook that. Add milk and cook until thick. Add cheese. That becomes the sauce for the pasta and then it gets baked. It’s too good!

Trisha stirs all her galump in the crockpot and tops it off with ½ cup of cheese. Oh good, she DOES add a bit of paprika at the end.

Karri arrives and they stare into the crockpot with Trisha insisting they wait the additional 10 seconds until the timer goes off to try it. Karri wants to dig in right then. “Hello lover,” she says when she gets a good look at the finished product. I like Karri. Maybe having a friend over wasn’t such a bad idea and I won’t even mention that line is what PW said to HER Mac and Cheese. 

Trisha serves up the mac and cheese. The egg has made the filling look kind of custardy, which I don’t think the dish needs. Isn’t a rich Mornay sauce enough for mac and cheese? I say deep-six the eggs.

I’ve just seen who her friend is! Wow! Karri played Lt. Harriet Sims in Jag. She was married to the goofy guy, I think. Oh, that IS cool. I love famous people.

Next up is Trisha’s Pee-Cahn Pie. She says that’s how they say it in Georgia. That’s how I say it and I grew up in the Bronx. (Actually, I say Pee-Can.) Trisha says Bob is coming over and that you shouldn’t have dinner without Bob. I thought his name was Garth! And "coming over"?!! Is there trouble in paradise? “Bob” turns out to be a “bowl of butter”. Funny.

For the pie, Trisha mixes together 1 cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of white sugar, “a couple of eggs”, 1½ teaspoons vanilla, 1 tablespoon flour (??? in Pee-Can pie?) and 2 tablespoons milk. Oh and “bob”, of course, goes in at the end. She says to whisk the whole thing and not use a mixer. That’s just what I do. She also has Karri break the eggs into a separate bowl, so if you get some shell in there (which Karri does), it doesn’t get in the entire mixture. (Obviously, Trisha isn’t just a pretty voice.)

Now this is different. CHOPPED pecans go INTO the pie and HALVED ones go on the top. Hmmm. Trisha pours the mixture into a pie shell that I hope she made herself. Then she tops the pie carefully with halved pecans… Oh, they just go around the edge. That IS a very different way of dealing with the pecans. I wonder if I would have the courage to change my age-old ways. Maybe.  (And I did NOT say old-age ways.)

They go shopping in just the kind of store where I bet I could find my new(ish) favorite thing.

We learn the secret of Trisha’s mother’s fried chicken – to brine it overnight, so not only is it super crispy, but the chicken itself has lots of flavor.  (Read that as tastes salty…not that I’m complaining.)

Trisha salts (more?) and peppers the chicken and coats it in flour, while Karri cuts up potatoes for the mashed potatoes and they go into a pressure cooker.

The chicken gets fried in peanut oil heated to 375°F. (Even though you’ve increased the price per serving of this dish considerably, peanut oil is the most desirable oil for frying because of its high smoking temperature.)

Another Trisha Tip - “Check oil temp by sprinkling flour into it. If flour sizzles, it’s ready.” UNLESS it’s too hot, in which case it will still sizzle. Use a thermometer.

Trisha cooks the chicken on each side for 15 minutes. (I've always followed J of C’s recipe where you brown it until crispy and then finish it in the oven.)

NOW this is weird. Trisha COVERS the pan while it’s frying. I can’t tell if the crispiness is gone in the finished product. WHY does she do that? Isn't a lid the archenemy of crunchiness? I know it keeps the kitchen cleaner, but won’t the chicken begin to steam? She takes it out and places the chicken on a rack to cool.

Trisha makes gravy for the potatoes. This is something wonderful that I ALWAYS used to make…again from the Joy of Cooking. You empty out most of the fat from the pan you cooked the chicken in – often a cast iron frying pan -  add flour and cook it for a bit and then you add MILK and perhaps some stock too. And cook until thick. OMG, it is so amazing and rich and homey and the perfect thing for mashed potatoes. Let’s see how T does it.

She says the gravy gets made using a 4-4-2 ratio of ingredients. (Those are the exact Joy of Cooking proportions) She scoops 4 tablespoons of oil with the crunchy chicken bits into a clean (nonstick, ick) frying pan. Why doesn’t she just use the pan she cooked the chicken in? She adds 4 tablespoons of flour and cooks that and then adds 2 cups of whole milk slowly, whisking all the time. She seasons it. It sounds good, but I would use ½ cup stock in place of some of the milk. And, really, you can get away with 1% or 2% milk.

The potatoes finish their five minute pressure cooking and go into a mixer. That’s what I do too. Another Trisha tip – use red potatoes, they’re lighter (huh?) and less gummy. They DO make great mashed potatoes.

Trisha turns on the mixer and adds a stick of butter and some milk with salt and pepper.

Everything’s done and they serve up plates and eat standing up. It looks pretty dang good, but the gravy is a bit stodgier than I like it.

Back to the pie. We never see it served the first time. But Karri and Trisha pretend to be getting water late at night, when they’re really getting all the food out to dive in again. They eat the pecan pie out of the pie dish. Germs, ladies!

This was a good start. Trisha is accomplished and affable. But there’s one thing I don’t get. The Pecan Pie in its beauty shot at the beginning looked like it had crystallized sugared pecans on top - like pralines. I thought the whole thing might have been topped with those jewels of candied nuts, which is a really interesting spin. She didn’t do that, but I might.

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*Egg Issues

This is the simplest explanation of egg dates:
Every egg carton is marked with a “Julian date”. It’s a three number code on the end of the carton, which stands for the date the eggs were packed. THIS year, a leap year, 001 is January 1st, 099, for example, is April 8th and 366 is December 31st. Eggs are safe to eat four to five weeks past the Julian date.

The “sell by” date is the date after which the supermarket cannot sell the eggs. Normally that date is not more than 30 days past the Julian date, depending on the state, so you can eat the eggs safely for a week after the sell date.

One home remedy type of way to determine if your eggs are still good is something I learned from the Joy of Cooking eons ago! Put the egg in a clear bowl or measuring pitcher of water. If it stays on the bottom on its side, it’s fresh. If it stands up at an angle or straight up, but still stays on the bottom, it’s less fresh, but still good. If it floats to the top, it’s old. Throw it out and do not use it.

Since we’re on the topic of eggs, here’s the chart I usually use (from the Georgia Egg Commission) of egg equivalents:


LARGE
JUMBO
X-LARGE
MEDIUM
SMALL
1
1
1
1
1
2
2
2
2
2
3
3
3
3
4
4
3
4
5
5
5
4
4
6
7
6
5
5
7
8


If the recipe calls for 4 extra-large eggs (and, mostly, that’s in Ina’s recipes), use 4 OR 5 large eggs. After that, use one more large egg than extra-large. So if the recipe says 5 extra-large eggs, use 6 large and so on.

For TEN (or more) extra large eggs, go up by two:
10 extra large eggs = 12 large eggs

2 comments:

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I don't think I'd want mac and cheese in a Crock Pot. Wouldn't you miss the crispy edges on top? Wouldn't it be gloppy. I don't want the M&C to be too dry, but I do like to be able to cut it in squares. I've never used eggs in mine, and doubt I ever will. I rarely ever make it (SPP won't touch, so what's the point), but I think the way I make it serves me well.

I always brown my fried chicken and finish it in the oven. Frying it all the way through sounds simple, but even in a deep fryer I have trouble getting the temperature consistent enough so it never gets too hot and burns the outside without cooking the middle. Let's hear it for the oven! I hear Ina Garten does it that way too, so you can rest that your way is superior!

I am trying to remember what novel I read where a character's mother tested the eggs using the water method. The narrator mused that this must be why you say, "Last one in is a rotten egg," when you and your friends jump into the pool. Rotten eggs float. (Does this mean the first one in drowns?)

Sue said...

I agree about the crockpot, even if I prefer Mac and Cheese slightly browned to actually crusty and crispy.

Yeah, the frying pan/oven approach to fried chicken is definitely the way I do it. But I do believe that in the South, they often let it cook entirely in the frying pan, so I’m not going to bust her chops for that. BUT why the lid? I know it probably helps the chicken to cook all the way through, but then Trisha should take off the lid for the last ten minutes…

Was this the book you were thinking of?
EGGS by Jerry Spinelli? That’s the only thing that seemed reasonable when I searched for “Character in novel tests eggs and says last one in is a rotten egg” and I found THIS.

Oh! There’s also the book “Last One in Is a Rotten Egg!” by Diane de Groat. Hmmm. Who knew eggs could inspire so much literature?