Sunday, February 13, 2011

World Cuisine Challenge: Week 2, Days 4 and 5

The world cooking challenge is going GREAT!  I was spending sometime with my UK fam last night and I found myself lighting up while talking about hamburgers and braising!  I'm amazed more and more everyday at how easy cooking is if you just, like most things...PRACTICE!  I am loving the change in cuisine each week as it teaches me about lots of different flavors and dishes.  A fashion mentor of mine in New York once said that he loved learning something new everyday and I never really appreciated it.  Now, with this new hobby (or cutting edge skill as I like to put it)...I DO learn something new everyday and it excites me!  Okay...let's close out week 2 and AMERICA.

MAAAAA....CAN WE GET SOME MEATLOAF?  -Will Ferrell in "Wedding Crashers".

In middleschool growing up,  meatloaf was a dinner I LOVED.   My mom's (and yes I'm biased)  is one of the best around!  If I'm correct,  I think she put Cheddar cheese in it and anytime it was on the table,  I was a happy girl.  Now that I think of it,  I think she sometimes served my dish from Tuesday as a side..MAC-n-CHEESE with crumbled saltines on top!!!  YUMMMMM!!!!
There is a meatloaf under that bacon!

I have gotten used to using Jamie Oliver now and his dishes have not disappointed me yet so I thought I would give his Meatloaf a try.  Instead of going through the entire process...I'll point out the things I learned.

1)  Crumbled Crackers are GREAT in burgers and Meatloaves!!!
2)  When you ball up your meatloaf prior to cooking,  it looks like a brain (I think).
3)  The secret to making your meatloaf (or anything) better.............BACON.

The Tester** is not here now but I'm pleased to announce that this meatloaf was HANDS DOWN his favorite and the AMERICA WEEK WINNER for best dish.  He LOVED IT and had it for breakfast the next morning too.

Below is the recipe for this delight of a dish.  For all of my American peeps,  this is in the USA Imperial measurements so not need to convert from grams to cups :)!   I have to once again shout out Jamie's book "America".  It is FANTASTIC and I highly recommend it.  I can't wait to continue using it throughout the challenge as America has many cultures covered in the book that will work as I make my way around the culinary world!


Finally....Friday/ Day Five and a dish that I avoided all week as I knew it was never going to be as good as those I had in North Carolina.....Chicken-n-Dumplings.

My mothers close friend used to make me Chicken-n-Dumplings whenever I came home from college, New York or wherever I was in the country that week.  They were, hands down, one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I knew I had to take this recipe seriously and go to a chef who I knew would not let me down.  It had to be Paula Dean.

For those who don't know,  Paula Dean is a Southern Gal who has built a cooking empire with a foundation of butter and good ole Southern charm.   The Tester** and I had the privilege of going to her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia in 2009 and I will never forget the height of the puff pastry on my Chicken pot pie that night...AMAZING!

I had been nervous about preparing dumplings from scratch but Paula's recipe only called for flour, salt and ice tough can it be!?!?!?  While my chicken was cooking in the stock,  I decided to go for the dumpling assembly!!!  It really was quite easy once I got over the fact that the flour wasn't going to fully mix in.  I realized when she said "Spread some flour on a clean surface and roll out your dough"...that there was naturally going to be flour there you go.  Other things I learned while making this dish....

1)  If you cook chicken legs, wings and thighs in liquid and then let them cool,  the meat will FALL OFF the bone.  It is really quite beautiful how moist the meat is as opposed to cooking chicken breast in a grill pan as I always have up to this point.

2)  Dumplings will cook...they WILL.  You don't have to panic when you drop them into your soup.  I had these food poisoning visions but...I left them in the broth for about 10 minutes and they cooked just fine.

Overall,  I was slightly disappointed with these dumplings.  I thought for sure Paula Dean's version would have the best recipe in all the land.  They were good...but not the best I had ever had and I thought those dumplings that I overcame...were a little bland and too dense.  The tester** seemed to like them but he was still going on about the meatloaf so I think his critiquing was biased at this point.    Here is the recipe if you want to give it a go yourself:

Paula Dean's Chicken-n-Dumplings:

Next week is Asia and I'm quite nervous as it is a whole new culinary world for me.  I have traveled there before and definitely have areas where I enjoyed the food more than others so this should be interesting.  I also always let the tester** cook when we have any kind of stir fry.  I'm not sure why it intimidates me so much.  Stay tuned......

I hope you enjoyed this week of recipes and hope that you will try them for yourself.  If anyone has recipes that you think I should try,  please send them my way!!  I would love to include them in the challenge or make them on a weekend when I'm not under a regional/country/continent theme.

Oh yeah, there is one thing I forgot that I learned about those Chicken-n-Dumplings...NONE will EVER be as good as my mothers friend made back in North Carolina.  

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