Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July Potluck

Like so many others, I got together with friends for the 4th of July holiday.  We had a potluck, and so I needed to bring things to share.  By now it's obvious that I am a serious foodie.  I love intricate, challenging. sophisticated cuisine.  However, I am not a food snob.  I freely acknowledge my middle class roots. 

As a child, my grandmother often babysat for me.  A common lunch was that classic; beenies and weenies.  Yes, Van Camp's pork and beans with hot dogs sliced into them.  Now, due to an unfortunate incident of food poisoning, I cannot bring myself to eat canned pork and beans ever again.  But, being nostalgic, and wanting to do something classic, I was determined to do an upscale version.  So, I made my own baked beans, and grilled some very good chicken, apple, and gouda sausages,  which I cut up and added to the beans.

Overnight Crock Pot Whiskey Baked Beans

1 pound(s) small dried white beans (such as navy)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2/3 cup(s) firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup(s) molasses
1/4 cup(s) blueberry wine vinegar
1 cup whiskey
4 cups water
1 Tblsp. Penzey's BBQ 3000 spice mix
2 tsp. dry mustard 
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
2 tsp. kosher salt

Place everything except salt in a crock pot.  Cook on low 8 - 12 hours.  Once beans are soft, add salt.

I was really happy with the results.  I like that the beans required no soaking, or pre-boiling. Sweet, tangy, with a light touch of heat.  The sausages matched well, moist and flavorful, with a little sweetness.

I figured I should bring a dessert.  I went with an old standby, bread pudding.  Now, I grew up in amoderately successful middle class family.  My mother grew up poor, and established some habits growing up that got passed on to me.  One was savinig dried bread.  The heels of loaves, the last unwanted hotdog bun, whatever is left over, gets dried out and saved, then cubed up.  This becomes stuffing, bread pudding, strata, ground into crumbs, all sorts of tasty things.  I keep the bread cubes in storage containers in the cabinet.  There are seperate containers for ordinary and sweet breads.  Now that the spouse is seriously into cake decorating, there are often cake trimmings to dry out and add to the collection.  I think this pudding came primarily from a yellow confetti cake, but there were a few stray bits of chocolate cupcake and poppy seed cake, and maybe other bits.  Considering possible enhancements, I had some sliced almonds, and an open package of dates from the popovers.

Almond - Date Bread Pudding

4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups dried sweet bread or cake cubes
1/3 cup dates
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a lidded baking dish or casserole.  Place bread cubes in dish, scatter dates and almonds over cubes.

In a seperate bowl, combine rest of ingredients, and beat together lightly.  Pour egg mixture gently over bread cubes.  Cover and bake 45 minutes to one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The spouse decided her contibution would be a snack item, so she made fried veggie chips.  I played sou chef for her, using the mandoline to cut thin slices of root vegetables.  This time we used russet potato, sweet potato, golden beet, rutabaga, and yucca root.  She fried them in vegetable oil in small batches at 370 degrees.  She placed the hot chip.s in a paper bag, and tossed them with truffle salt.  They were very good.  The yucca root were surprisingly sweet.  The rutabaga came out of the fryer a little chewy, so we placed them in a 325 degree oven for a couple of minutes, and they crisped right up.

Everything went over well, we didn't come back with any of the food we left with.  Hope everyone had a happy Independence Day.

Happy eating!

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