Tuesday, February 19

Solar Etouffée (a Variation thereof)

February is Mardi Gras month and I had been thinking about those delicious New Orleans foods a lot, lately. Nothing fancy, just something to celebrate the season and etouffée came to mind. Alas, my cupboard was just a little shy of every ingredient – yeah, like that's going to stop me! – and I had to improvise. The results were absolutely yummy (a direct quote from my sister!) and I, most humbly, had to agree. Nothing wrong with getting a little creative in the kitchen -- that's how new recipes start -- right?
We're still going through a cold spell and the outside temperature was in the 40s with not a cloud in sight. My dish was a two-step process and the food would be hot going into the 250°F solar oven, so I wasn't afraid to start cooking at 1:30pm. All was done by 2:45, just as the sun disappeared over the roof of my house. Even though we're starting to get longer days with the sun higher in the sky, ten a.m. until two p.m. is still the ideal solar cooking time for the next few months.

Solar Etouffée (a variation)

1.5 chicken breast, skinned and cut into small strips/cubes
2 Tablespoons JRod's Backyard Grill Chipotle Brown Sugar Rub (a Midtown Market Vendor product!)
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper (no red pepper on hand)
1/2 cup thinly sliced cabbage (no celery on hand)
1 small bag of pearl onions (microwaved and outer skin removed)
1 stick salted butter
1.5 cups chicken stock
8 oz. clam juice (no clams on hand)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon fresh Stevia
3 Tablespoons AP flour
Cooked rice/noodles


Preheat solar oven to 225°F 3-quart covered baking pan

Sweat bell pepper and cabbage in butter over medium heat in heavy skillet. Cover chicken strips with JRod's Rub by shaking in a bag; add to skillet and brown sides. Remove chicken, bell pepper, and cabbage from skillet with slotted spoon and place in baking pan; add pearl onions. Add flour to skillet and cook for approximately 3 or 4 minutes to brown. Combine chicken stock, clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and Stevia and slowly add to flour mixture, stirring as it thickens and becomes smooth. Pour over ingredients in baking pan and mix thoroughly. Cover and bake in solar oven for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Serve over cooked rice or noodles, adding a bit of parsley for garni.

Feel free to accept compliments.

I hope you'll give this variation a try and let us know your results. 


Tuesday, February 5

Solar Tuna Crepes in White Wine Sauce

You know how you can have a song stuck in your head and it just won't leave you alone? Well, this is going to sound crazy, but, there I was, minding my own business, and 'crepes' would not leave me alone. Just when I thought it was gone – CREPES! – would echo throughout my head (Yes, mine can echo because it's empty – or so some people have suggested, over the years). Fine; I can take a hint and went into the kitchen to make a stack of crepes so they would have a few hours to cool. This would also give me time to figure out a filling.
In just a few minutes and a basic mix of flour, eggs, and water, salt, pepper, and some of Bojangles French Fry Seasoning, the savory crepes were in the hot skillet and stacked on paper toweling to remove any moisture.

The crepes were re-stacked and into the fridge for a couple of hours of resting, while I threw together the, uh, filling. Oh, yeah, that's the best part of using crepes -- you can choose a sweet filling or savory, fruit dressing or sauce, it's up to you – they're a super easy method of dressing up a very basic meal. And, because much of the pre-cooking is done stovetop, the final baking in the winter sun is easy, too.

I decided on canned tuna for my filler to show my sister that it doesn't have to taste bad, just because it was in a can. Some leftover cabbage thinly sliced, a medium onion thinly sliced, and chopped mushrooms, would be the basics, softened in 1 Tablespoon of tallow, salt, pepper, mace, parsley; then, returned to the bowl they were mixed in so that I could use the skillet for the sauce.

Crepes were ready to be filled, rolled, and placed side by side in the baking dish. You can see where some were cooked longer than others and browned evenly – but, all were fully-cooked.

In 2 Tablespoons of tallow, I browned 2 Tablespoons of flour, added salt and pepper, one can of creamed celery soup, 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of white wine, whisking it smooth throughout the cooking process and then poured over the crepes. The final touch was shredding 4 ounces of smoked cheddar cheese and a light sprinkling of parsley over all before going into the 275F solar oven.

After forty minutes, the cheese was melted and lightly browned, the crepes piping hot, and we were ready to be served, forks in hand. Isn't it wonderful what can be done with crepes and a little of this and that! Let us know how yours turned out.


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