Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday Pizza Club - The Dough (Part 1)

It was Friday in the Zebra Pen yesterday and that can only mean one thing, Pizza Club. What is Pizza Club? Pizza Club began with my niece and my sissy and brother-in-law back in Dallas. It was a fun celebration of the end of the week and featured my niece and one of her friends and the neighborhood pizza hangout named Slider and Blues. It was a great, family place with games for the kiddos and ice cold beer for the adults - loud, bright and hoppin’ with people. It wasn’t your basic Chuckie Cheese, although Lord knows, we’ve had our share of outings there as well.

Slider and Blues made the most fantastic pizzas. The crust was super thin and crunchy, almost cracker like, with excellent flavor. Toppings ranged from routine to exotic and everywhere in between and it was the perfect food to end a crazy week, especially when you threw in the ice cold brews to wash it down.

Since that time, Sliders is long gone and my niece is now a lovely young lady, all grown up and graduating from college. She moves to Atlanta this month and begins a new job and a new life and although I am so proud of her, the part of me that holds onto the past still treasures the memory of that precious little girl and her best friend sitting there eating pizza with us. Time passes so quickly, so don’t forget to enjoy the moment now, while you can because it will be long gone before you know it.

I’ve tried replacing the pizza from Pizza Club night in an effort to stem nostalgic waves and so far, have been spectacularly unsuccessful in my attempts. I’ve found no pizza places in Houston who can compare (with the exception of Fuzzy's Pizza) and all the national chain suspects fail dismally with ice cold, cardboard pizzas delivered with congealed cheese in pools of fat. Hardly appetizing and sadly not in keeping with the fun spirit that was Pizza Club!

Six months ago, out of desperation I threw out our last piece of ratty, cardboard, look-alike pizza and made the dreaded statement, “I can do better than this!” These are fightin’ words in our house. This statement is usually followed by, “This place is on my black list and I will never eat at ‘x’ place, again…as God is my witness!”

Well get down Scarlett! No one ever wants to be included on my black list. And so it began - my desperate experimentation into pizza, which actually initiated my forays into baking and sourdough. First, let me introduce my starter, Sir Stinksalot, aka Stinky, for short. He is much maligned, but a sure trooper. He’s endured abuse and neglect and kept on growin’ despite my feeble inconsistency as a nurturer and care-giver. He deserves a medal.

Over the last months, I’ve tried about ten different dough recipes from heavy-hitters such as Peter Reinhardt to Jeff Varasano, the obsessed Pizza guy from New York. None of the doughs produced what I was looking for when made by me. I don’t know if it’s the fact that my doughs are hand-made and I’m still not fully developing the dough or that I’m doggedly using All-Purpose flour instead of high gluten flour or bread flour or what. But I don’t get the oven spring with the crusts that I expect. Maybe I’m under-proofing them?

Anyway, I found a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for Grilled Pizza to serve as inspiration for the latest evolution of dough. But I couldn’t just “make it as written”. Oh no, that would be way too simple, right? Yeah, sheesh! So I translated it to a sourdough version. So far, this has been the best recipe for my thin, cracker crust. I would give this a 9, in a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest). B says that he likes this pizza dough when made into pan pizza, his preference, and gives it 9 out of 10. I made an “original crust” which is similar to a hand tossed and I think I must still continue to work on technique. The crust was not thick and fluffy on the outer edge.

Well, each Friday, I hope you will experiment with me as we continue our quest for the perfect pizza. Here are the pictures of this weeks supplicants (can you tell I’m Catholic?) :D. I included the current crust recipe. I apologize for the length of the recipe. There really is no easy or short-winded way to discuss all the variations of this dough. It's simple to make but complex to explain.

In next week’s Pizza Club installment, we will discuss tomato sauce or sauce options for Pizza. Mangia!

Blue Zebra Pizza Crust

Based on the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated
Make 4 (12") original or thin crusts or 1 (10-1/2") Pan Pizza + 2 (10-12") original or thin crusts

7.33 oz All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Starter by volume (1:4:4 ratio = 1 part starter: 4 parts flour: 4parts water)
1 cup Water by volume

Remaining Recipe:
6oz of All-Purpose Flour, +/- 3oz or All-Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Sugar
1-1/4 tsp Iodized Salt
½ tsp Instant Yeast
2 Tbsp Olive Oil


Combine Starter and water and mix to incorporate into a thin slurry. Add flour and mix with a sturdy spatula or dough whisk until mixture forms a doughy paste, similar in texture to “glumpy oatmeal”. Stir it vigorously for about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment. Mixture should sit until doubled (that takes about 4-5 hours for mine at 80 degrees but it will vary depending on the strength of each starter). Once preferment has doubled, place in fridge to retard or immediately mix into the remaining dough ingredients. **See note below to discuss why this is important.

Fit food processor with the plastic dough blade. Don’t use the metal one, because of the heat build up. Add remaining flours and starter and pulse to combine. Allow this to sit for 20 minutes in the bowl with the lid in place to autolyse, this is a time when gluten structure really begins forming and where the liquid from the water will completely hydrate the flour grains. Once the 20 minutes are up, add the yeast and sugar and pulse to incorporate. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix well.
(Note: All the water for this recipe was added during the preferment. You will want to add water because logic tells you, that you don't see any in the bulk of the dough recipe but trust. Wait. Mix. If the dough is too dry, then add water a tablespoon at a time...but it won't be. Trust.)

Once all the ingredients have been incorporated using a brief, pulsing technique, you will be looking for the dough to “come to together” or “clear the sides of the bowl”. Depending on humidity and your flour that day, it may or may not be too wet. Using 15 second pulses, spin the blade in the dough and watch to see the dough condition.

If it does not come together, measure out ¼ cup of flour and add it by tablespoons until dough forms a very moist ball that sits on top of the blade. This could take you as much as ½ cup of flour added incrementally. When you’ve made this recipe once, make a note of how much additional flour you had to add, that way you will know within limits the next time you make the dough and it will be an easier recipe to recreate.

Transfer dough to the counter and knead a couple of times to form a ball. Dough should be smooth and elastic but still be wet and a good deal sticky. When in doubt, err on the side of wet. Place dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl and coat dough on both sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to double in size. This could take 1-2 hours, more or less!

When dough has doubled, gently deflate dough and cut into portions. I get 3 crusts from this recipe: 1 thick crust/pan pizza (10-1/2”) which uses almost ½ of the dough volume and 2 thin crust pizzas (12”) splitting the remaining dough volume.

If making dough for later in the week, place dough in lightly oiled plastic baggies and place in fridge. These will keep up to six days in the fridge because it’s sourdough. If needed, you can freeze the dough at this point. Move dough from the freezer to the fridge the day prior to using.

Forming the Pizzas:
Allow dived dough to rest on a lightly floured counter for about 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent crust from forming. Resting allows the gluten “to relax” so that the dough becomes extensible (able to be gently stretched).

For pan pizza:
Gently coax dough to fill a 10-1/2 cast iron skillet that has been liberally sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina, leaving thicker edges. Cover skillet with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes. Top and bake at 550 for 20 minutes.

For hand tossed pizza:
Flour your hands and wrists well. Form dough into a disk and gently start working your fingers around the edges of the dough, letting the dough suspend in the air and letting gravity help pull the disk bigger. Once big enough, put both fists underneath the dough and use them to gently pull the dough into a larger circle. You are trying to uniformly thin the dough out in the middle while keeping the outermost edges of the dough built up and thicker. If the dough fights you and resists stretching, set it on a lightly floured counter, cover with plastic and allow dough to rest for 5 minutes. Come back and continue stretching until dough is about 10-12” in diameter. Place dough on parchment paper, sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap and an inverted baking sheet with 1” sides and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes. Top and bake at 550 for 8-10 minutes.

For cracker thin crust:
Lightly flour disk of dough and roll out to 1/8” thickness using a rolling pin. Dust top of dough very lightly with flour and gently rub into dough to make it less sticky. Dock dough with tines of a fork to prevent crust from rising during baking. Top with cornmeal. Multiple doughs on parchment can be stacked on top of each other until ready to bake. To blind bake thin crust dough, place the parchment with one dough round into 550 degree oven for 3 minutes. Dough will set and be just at the point of browning on the bottom. Remove from oven and gently flip dough upside down onto parchment. Dough will now have the cornmeal side “down”.

If parchment has browned, pull off browned edges or use a new sheet of paper. Top newly exposed and slightly browned surface and bake at 550 for 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are brown and crisp.

** Blue Zebra NOTE:
Sourdough is a natural levain. That means, there are natural yeasts that eat the sugars available in the dough and create the by-products of carbon dioxide and alcohol. Carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise when the gluten strands trap it and contain it within the dough. Alcohol just adds a little bit to the flavor.

The primary taste producing agents are the undercover buddies of natural yeast, lactobacilli, which are naturally occurring pro-biotic bacteria. These guys are good guys. They are great for your digestion and are found in a healthy human gut. They are also found in naturally fermented foods like yogurts, etc. and help you by helping to break down food and keeping the unhealthy gut flora in check (from over running your body). These guys love yeast because yeast produce the food the lactobacilli eat. LBs (lactobacilli abbrev.) in turn, digest this food and give off their own bi-products, acetic acid and lactic acid.

These acids flavor the bread, reduce the pH, making it resistant to spoilage and mold, and generally make a very pleasant sour taste distinctive of sourdough.The down side of LBs is that they cause an acid environment so if you use too much of a starter, it can sometimes cause the gluten strands to fail because the acid tears down the gluten structure and releases the CO2, resulting in dense hockey pucks and door stops.

That is why in this recipe where I use a large amount of starter, I want to retard (or put the guys into a sleep) as soon as the preferment has doubled. You could use a smaller portion of starter in the preferment and let it ferment longer. Either way will produce more flavor components in your crust.These pizzas are sooo good, you will never buy take-out pizza again. So says Scarlett and God who were our witnesses ;) !
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ode To The Homegrown Tomato

Nothing says, “Summer,” like a homegrown tomato.

Ok, I hear you out there in blogland. You are sneering. It’s coming through, loud and clear. And you know what? You are R-I-G-H-T! I do have a brown thumb and every attempt to grow my own tomatoes has sucked wind…badly. (Is it even possible to suck wind in a good way? Hmmm, I will have to investigate that…)

Yes, so I am agriculturally challenged. And I have the PETP folks after me most of my days because anytime I buy plants from the garden store I automatically sign their death warrant. Poor dears, they have a good week or two at least and they tend to get an abundance of water and food. *sniff* By the way, for those of you who aren’t aware, PETP = People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants. ;)

So I cheat...a little. What’s a little cheating amongst friends, right? I buy my homegrown tomatoes. I’m not afraid to admit that one iota. And I adore our farm stand. The stand is more of a little produce shop, really. It’s owned and run by a family who has been in the area for generations and whose family helped to settle the area. The stand sits next to their farm which is a good place for it to sit; since they are selling farm produce…They sell everything this Texan lusts after during the dog days of summer, with my beloved tomatoes topping the list:

Tomatoes – Great big beefsteak tomatoes, juicy yet meaty
Cucumbers – Vine ripened and delicate tasting
Summer Squashes – Several varieties to choose from here, gorgeous
String Beans – Tender and fresh off the vine
Okra – Crisp and small, tender all the way through
Potatoes – Fingerlings and beyond
Onions – All colors sweet and hot
Green Onions – Crisp and grassy with huge fragrant bulb ends
Jalapenos & Cilantro – What Texan could live without these?
Fresh beans and peas – Pintos, Purple Hull, Cream Peas, Black ‘o’ peas
Corn – Sweet, tender and juicy
Peaches – Fresh and in-season from Fairfield, TX (famous for peaches)
Watermelon – Sweet and juicy and waiting for a seed-spittin’ contest
Cantaloupe – Golden globes of juicy perfection
Plums – Sweet and firm with juice that drips down your arm as you eat it
Berries – Fresh in season (alas, we are past berry season here)
Eggs – Fresh from the chicken with orange yolks that stand tall & proud

After a visit to my farm stand, I come home rabid for a good Southern-style veggie dinner. It always begins the same way: sliced tomatoes with a side of sliced onions and cucumbers marinated in home style vinaigrette, followed closely by fresh okra and tomatoes, cream peas cooked in salt pork, corn on the cob and homemade macaroni and cheese made with farm-fresh eggs. A big slice of buttered corn-bread rounds out the menu. If there’s room after, we’ll have a gorgeous lattice-topped peach cobbler, bubbling and juicy and topped with a dollop of homemade Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream. Who needs meat with a menu like that?

Some of my best food memories were eating meals like this during the summer. We never had a garden. Not exactly sure why but I think it had a lot to do with having five busy kids and both Mom & Dad worked long hours. Most of the time, we subsisted on veggies from the grocery and as it was during the ‘60s, much of the veggies were either canned or frozen. Somehow though, we found ways to get at least one or two meals made from fresh veggies produced by local farmers. And those were meals I relished with glee and still make me nostalgic, today.

Another personal favorite of mine is the fresh tomato sandwich. And if you are lucky enough to have a bit of bacon, a BLT is a nice combo, too! The Southern Tomato Sandwich is so simple to make. Take two slices of fresh sandwich bread (the fresher the better), Hellman’s Mayonnaise (it must be Hellman’s), Salt and Pepper and heeeeeewwwwww doggy! It’s awesome! Some people add lettuce to this sandwich or else a slice of onion. Those are both great but not necessary in my book. I also adore getting some of the green tomatoes and frying them in a cornmeal breading. Now that’s the taste of a Southern Summer!

Here’s a great, old-fashioned recipe for Homegrown Tomatoes:

Tomato, Cucumber & Onion Salad
Serves 4 – 6

2-3 Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
2 Cucumbers, peeled
1 Medium Purple Onion
Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste

Wash, dry and core tomatoes. Cut each tomato into 8 vertical wedges. Add to medium, non-reactive*, salad bowl. Slice cucumbers in half, lengthwise then cut cross-wise into ½” chunks. Add to bowl. Trim ends off of purple onion and peel off tough, outer layers. Cut onion in half vertical and slice it into thin vertical wedges about ¼” thick. Onions will become separated when you toss it with the dressing. Combine veggies with about 1/2 cup of the dressing and place in a container with a lid, in the fridge. Every few hours go in and turn the bowl to rearrange the veggies within the dressing. This is best made about 2-4 hours ahead but in a pinch, can be served immediately. It will also be good the next day.

*Non-reactive bowl tip: Tomatoes are an acidic food. Using a stainless steel, glass or plastic bowl eliminates any chance of having a chemical reaction occur from the acid and metal coming into contact with each other.

Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette

2 Cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
1 Scant Tbsp Country Style Dijon (You can sub out regular Dijon)
1-2 Tablespoons Fresh Tarragon
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice, squeezed from fresh
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 Pinch of Granulated Sugar
2 Tbsp Water

In small non-reactive bowl, whisk together minced garlic and mustard. Whisk in lemon juice and water. Once combined, slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking with the addition to make an emulsion. Add chopped tarragon, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar. Whisk to incorporate.

Recipe Note:
This is not a sweet dressing. The pinch of sugar will be virtually indistinguishable. The purpose of the sugar is to cut a bit of the acidity of the lemon and help balance it. The licorice or anise flavor of the tarragon is a great combination with both tomato and cucumber, especially when paired with the citrus of the lemon.

This dressing is completely awesome with any veggie salad. It works great with mushrooms and also works well with artichokes and fresh asparagus. You can easily substitute any herb in place of the tarragon, to make it versatile with other dishes. (i.e. Serving a salad to go along with lamb? Sub out the tarragon for fresh mint!)


You know, I always marvel after a visit to “the stand”, how little it costs. Veggies and fruits have become outrageously expensive in the grocery store. For $1.99/lb you too can have hydroponic tomatoes, picked green and ripened off the vine! $1.79/lb will get you zucchini trucked in from California and full of ripped skins and pock marks.

I have estimated that we save at least 50% by buying farm produce and sometimes, it’s as much as 60%! I even get “seconds” which are tomatoes that didn’t make the first cull for only $0.50/lb. Can you imagine only paying $0.50/lb for a homegrown tomato? What’s not to love about buying produce so fresh that only that morning it was on the vine or still in the ground? I love knowing WHO grew my veggies. I heart knowing that my money helps support their family and helps perpetuate the livelihood of the small, family farm.

Hug a farmer! Go buy your homegrown tomatoes today!

Blue Zebra Shopping Tip:
Who isn’t on a budget these days? It feels like inflation is going through the roof, even though the government claims there isn’t any inflation. That’s kinda like saying, “What purple elephant dancing in the middle of the living room?”

But the point is, it’s so hard buying nutritious food when your budget is sooo tight you barely have food factored into it. One of the things that helps me tremendously is shopping for veggies at the farmer’s market or farm stand. I can save 50-60% on my produce costs AND get produce that is often freshly picked the morning of purchase. It has more flavor, better nutrients and saves me money. How cool, yes?

Another thing, when you are at your farm stand, either look for or ask about “seconds” or “culls”. My stand has “culled tomatoes”. These are fruits that have blemishes, or spots or cracks or something that keeps them from selling at full price. They are only $0.50/lb at my market! Can you imagine a fresh tomato for $0.50/lb? What do I care about its looks? It could have giant ears and buck teeth as long as it tastes great! I use them for cooking sauces or for freezing. I just cut off the bad spot/s and move forward through the fog with it. It eats the same! I also will just slice or chop around it and use the tomato as purposed, in salads. It’s a bargain.

You can often find peaches with the same dilemma. Bruised spots can be cut out. So try your local farmer’s market or farm stand and experience the economy provided by cutting out the middle man. Get “it” fresh off the vine!

(“This message brought to you by the family farmers of America.”) ;)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mulligan Stew For Me, Please

Can you believe this individual breakfast serving, as large as it is, included 2 eggs, Mulligan Stew, a homemade English muffin, a huge serving of grits with real, unsalted butter and coffee and only cost $1.00 to make? It's true!

Eggs as most people know are an excellent way to stretch a food budget. Why do you think coffee houses are so successful? Everyone seems to adore breakfasts no matter the time of day, served as an eye-opener in the morning or late at night after a long evening spent dancing and partying with friends. It's a perfect way to start or end the day! With the mark-ups on breakfasts what they are, the coffee houses are making a fortune cooking it for us! Well, ok, maybe not a fortune but they are turning a tidy profit.

But ask any mom from circa 1950 and she will tell you that breakfast for dinner was one of the savvy ways to stretch a dollar when money was tight, especially towards the end of your pay period or month! I remember eating breakfast for dinner at least one time every week and sometimes more often! Figure that today a dozen eggs can cost as little as $0.79 cents/dozen. The fresh, brown farm eggs I use only cost me $1.40/doz at my farm stand, just $0.12 each! They pack a wallop of superior protein per egg and work great in so many dishes.

Mulligan Stew is a great dish to serve with or without eggs. The combinations of these ingredients and the cooking method may very well have other names in different states or even countries, but in my family it was called Mulligan Stew and it originated during the Great Depression which occurred after the big stock market crash in 1929. My mom's mom, we called her Gay, created this as a way to feed her growing family, having very meager food and money at her command.

The original recipe I am going to share with you stretched to serve 6 people: a mom, a dad and 4 growing children (3 girls and 1 hungry boy). She fed these 6 people on 3 strips of bacon, an onion and a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce (whichever she happened to have in her empty pantry).

Also, the original dish was served over toasted slices of your basic five cent loaf of sandwich bread and each person received two slices of toast with a bit of the Mulligan Stew topping the toast. No eggs were served. No grits graced the table. It was coffee (if they had enough money for it) or plain ole' water. I asked my mom how on earth this recipe fed 6 people and she replied, "The momma and the papa didn't get much to eat."

We had 5 kids in our family and until she died, our grandmother(Dad's mom, WaWa) lived with us, making it 8 people in a tiny cracker box house that kinda resembled the houses being built in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", the typical 1950s style ranch houses on standard little lots. It's funny, but I remembered our house feeling big and the yard being "enormous" lol. To drive by it today, it is so small. I still don't see how we all lived so well within its comforting walls.

I digress, though. My mom used to make this recipe for us as children. It too was a way to make her budget stretch further than it had any right to stretch. I want to remember seeing this dish at the end of every month...but reality was that we probably saw it throughout the month! She never got tired of eating it. To this day, Mom still loves Mulligan Stew. Imagine feeding 5 children on about 3-4 slices of bacon, 10 slices of bread and a can of tomatoes!

Wow! It's so easy to forget how blessed we are and that right now, today, despite the economic prosperity most of us enjoy, there are people who are making "dishrag soup" out there, trying to feed their babies on a nickel or less per day. Not to be maudlin, I just find that it helps to keep things in perspective and keeps me counting my blessings and thanking God instead of whining about what I want and don't have...

So back to Mulligan Stew. I was feeling nostalgic and thought I would go ahead and reveal the dish that inspired the name for my blog. This is a wonderful dish, penny-wise or not. It can appear very basic and easy or it can take on an elegant slant, depending on how it's served and with what accompaniments. To me it embodies the flavors of the South. Forget about pouring off the fat, here. This dish was meant to let the fat help assuage hunger signals by giving a rich mouth feel and a satisfied tummy. It isn't greasy, believe me!

I hope you will try this recipe. It is so quick and easy to make and warms you up all over. It's basic comfort food! And for those of you who have never experienced Southern grits! They are a perfect butter delivery system.

Mulligan Stew
Serves 4 or 6 (in a pinch!)

3 Strips Bacon, cut up, raw
1 Large Onion, chopped coarsely
1 15-1/2 oz Can Tomato Sauce or
Chopped Tomatoes (I used chopped), with juice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic Powder, or
2-3 cloves Fresh Garlic, crushed -
(It depends on how garlicky you like it!!!)
1/2 can Water, measured in tomato can to rinse it out
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sautee the bacon on medium low until about 3/4 of the way done. You want to "sweat" out and render the fat, so you are looking for a slow cooking here in order to keep as much of the liquid in the pan as possible. Add chopped onion to bacon and grease in the pan and continue to saute over medium low until the onion is soft and translucent. You will actually cook the onion beyond the translucent stage and will cook it until the edges start to brown and caramelize. Add the can of tomato product with it's juices, along with the 1/2 can of water. Add the garlic and salt and pepper. Allow Mulligan Stew to simmer over medium to medium low heat until the sauce has thickened a bit, about 20-30 minutes. You still want it a bit on the soupy side, so that it will "go further" and feed more people! Taste at the end of cooking and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot off of the stove!

Blue Zebra NOTE:
I like to serve this dish plain as it was originally intended to be served, over toast. But it makes an excellent brunch or breakfast dish (or dinner!) when served with eggs. Fried or poached, both preps work well from a taste perspective. It's also easy to poach the eggs right on top of the stew in the same saute pan. Simply crack your eggs on top of the stew (I like to make a little "egg indention" for each egg) and cover with the lid to the pan. Poach for 3-5 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are still lovely and runny. So rich! You'd forget you were penny-pinching with this recipe! Scoop the poached egg and stew out together and serve on top of toast or toasted English muffins as I did today.

For a low carb and more upscale alternative, serve the stew and poached egg over an artichoke bottom or a sauteed Portobello mushroom cap or on top of a "raft" of asparagus spears instead of the toast or muffin. Serve toast points on the side if you have the carbs to spare. Mmmmmm!

Mulligan Stew works great as a quick sauce for pasta or as a tomato based sauce over chicken, pork or fish or seafood (scallops, shrimp and crawdaddys are fabo-tastic). If you are going to use it as a sauce for meat or fish, simply season your meat/seafood with salt, pepper and granulated garlic powder (not garlic salt!!) and sear in a pan with a bit of oil or butter until it's brown on the outside but still raw inside. Transfer to the Mulligan Stew pan and let it simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes or until the meat is done and the sauce is thickened.

Blue Zebra Cooking Technique Tip: Saute, Sear, Sweat
Sauteing, searing and sweating are three basic techniques of cooking. Doing each of these properly results in completely different taste elements to the same ingredient! Learn how to do each one well and the technique can be extended "laterally" - which means you can apply it to any number of different ingredients, preparation steps and recipes. It opens a whole new arena and repertoire of foods you can cook!

A "saute" generally tends to use a higher heat and a shorter period of time on the heat. The object is to let it cook undisturbed so that the side of the ingredient exposed to the pan surface will sear and get a caramelized crust. The purpose for this is because this browning builds flavor and complexity. The browning consists of sugar molecules and proteins actually caramelizing from the heat. Often, cooks look for the browned residue left in the bottom of most non-stick pans after the browning has been completed. This is called "the fond" and is particularly wonderful if the heat is moderated during sauteing so that you promote browning but avoid burning. The fond is usually deglazed, or released from the pan bottom by the use of a liquid addition and gentle scraping with a spatula. Once released, the liquid and browned bits are allowed to reduce and then seasoned and used as pan gravy or juice. With sauteing, you are generally looking for the food to be cooked and ready for plating.

A "sear" is done like a saute only much, much shorter time and maybe even a little higher heat. The objective of a sear is to caramelize the outside surface layers of an ingredient without cooking it throughout. With a sear, you want to seal the outter surface in order to protect the moisture inside of the ingredient. It effectively "seals" the substance, providing you don't pierce the seared surface. Usually 1-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the ingredient is all that would be required to sear something over high heat in a heavy saute pan. The thicker and heavier a pan, the less likely something is to burn while searing and generally, the heat will be more even. Meats or fish and some shellfish are prime examples of items that would be seared in a pan prior to adding to a sauce or liquid to finish cooking or prior to putting into an oven to finish roasting.

A "sweat" is done at a lower temperature from a saute. The purpose of this technique is to soften the ingredients and break down the cell walls, releasing the sugars within the product but doing it without any browning. It not only keeps a sauce lighter in color, since there is no caramelization but there is also a more delicate flavor associated with this technique. You will usually see this technique applied most frequently with ingredients such as onions and garlic or mirapoix, a French word denoting the "French Trinity" or combination of onions, celery and carrots in varying degrees of "chop". The sweat is usually a first step in building complex flavors for soups, stews, braises and sauces of many types. You would rarely sweat a meat or protein, for example. Read more->