Monday, March 13, 2017

Cold Oil French Fries

I read a recipe somewhere and while it caught my eye, I sorta dismissed it.  Then I caught the same, or similar, recipe in several other places and decided to give it a try, cooking french fries in cold oil . . . and it worked well!

One of the things I rarely make is fresh french fries.  I buy the bags of various frozen kinds and either bake or deep fry them.  The main reason is making french fries from scratch is annoying.  Cutting, soaking, drying, frying at one temp to cook the inside and then cranking up the heat and frying a second time to get the crisp exterior . . . see what I mean, a hassle and very annoying.  So I decided to give this cold oil method a try . . . and I, and my family, was pleasantly surprised.


  • 4-5 potatoes of various kinds.  Like Russets or Yukon Golds
  • 4, or so, quarts of vegetable oil (or peanut or safflower oil) Do not use olive oil, or any low smoke point oil
  • Salt

That's it, that's all it takes.


  • Cut the potatoes in sticks, about 1/4 to 3/8 inch cross-section.  You can go as big as a half inch, but any larger and I would worry about cooking time.  Don't worry about peeling them, the skin, especially on Yukon Golds are delicious fried.
  • Put the fries into a large dutch oven, or heavy bottom pan (to retain heat)
  • Cover by at least an inch in oil, but don't get too close to the top or the oil might boil over once you get it near cooking temp.
  • Turn on the burner to med-high and step away -- not far, you have oil on the stove, but don't mess with them.
  • After about 5 minutes the potatoes will be in a rolling boil. . . Do Not Touch Them.  If you do, they will start breaking apart, this is the point where they are at their most fragile..
  • After about 10-12 minutes they are hard enough to move around.  Be gentle, but stir them around, make sure none are sticking to the bottom of the pot or each other.
  • Keep cooking until they are nice and golden brown, my last batch took over 30 total minutes to cook.
  • Remove to a drain rack and salt immediately.  They may still be a bit soft, the brief draining time will cause them to firm up further.
  • Serve!

Delicious and crispy!  I do like to pull out a couple right when I think they are ready and test, but be careful, the oil is hot and so will the fries right out of the oil.

For some reason I was expecting them to be greasy, but to my surprise they were no greasier than the bagged fries when I deep fry them.  It does take longer than a bagged variety, but not all that much longer.  I also put a thermometer in the oil and make sure it doesn't get too hot (over 390F).  This way the oil doesn't start breaking down and after straining it through a couple of layers of cheesecloth, I can get several uses out of the oil . . . only for frying though.  Not sure how it would work in salad dressing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Chili Verde II

Found a damn good recipe for Chili Verde and one that is pretty easy!  What I really love is how easy it is, especially compared to the other recipes I've tried.  Seriously easy!  I was roasting tomatillos, jalapenos, and other peppers for the base of the green sauce.  Between the prep work and the cooking time, it was pretty much an entire afternoon.  While I liked the result, I tried a number of different things and was kinda iffy on the whole thing.

In my search I serendipitously came across a jarred Salsa Verde (yes, a jarred salsa) that I really liked. Frontera Tomatillo Salsa, it was developed by Rick Bayless -- and anyone who watches way to much food TV knows he's one of the best chefs cooking Mexican-style food and star of the long running TV series 'Mexico:  One Plate at a Time'.  While the salsa isn't as chunky as I like, its got a great taste.  I was wondering about using this in my Chili Verde when I ran across the recipe from the Dad Cooks Dinner blog.

I am a subscriber of Dad's blog and have gotten lots of useful tips, tricks, and recipes.  This one struck me for two reasons.  The first is it uses a pressure cooker, which cuts down on the cook time dramatically.  The second is that while he includes a great homemade Salsa Verde recipe, he also includes a cheater version using the same Frontera Salsa Verde that I recently discovered, along with some canned diced green chiles.  So both prep time and cook time cut down from an entire afternoon to about about an hour.  The longest item is cutting, trimming, and browning the pork.  I also added some fresh diced peppers and cilantro to up the flavor a bit more.  Once I discovered that my regular grocery store had canned Hatch Green Chilis, I was done!  So here is the recipe, hope you like it:


  • Canned Diced Green Chilis, about 24 oz.  I like Hatch Green Chili's.  They come in 4 oz cans here.  I also like Ortega Fire-Roasted Diced Green Chilis, but prefer the Hatch even though they are not roasted
  • 4 Jalapeno chilis, medium dice (if you go much smaller they pretty well melt away, and I am after the bit of texture you get as well as the flavor
  • 4 Anaheim chilis, medium dice as well
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro (leaves and stem), separated into two piles, half of it chopped (for cooking) and the other half simply roughly chopped for garnishing
  • 16 ounce jar tomatillo salsa or salsa verde, like stated earlier, I like Frontera.  I they also won the taste test on America's Test Kitchen.  If you are going to use jarred salsa, make sure it's one you like to eat, there are a few really awful ones out there.  If you want to go the whole, fresh salsa route, click on the link from Dad's above and check it out.
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes trim off most of the visible fat and hold onto the bone.  I like adding the bone during cooking,  I have tried cooking the shoulder whole and then shredding it, but not in a pressure cooker. 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (for the meat)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (for the onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon roasted ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon roasted ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
Now the fun part.
  • Mix the salsa ingredients and let sit, remember only use half the cilantro, the chopped cilantro
  • If the pork isn't already cut, it's time.  I usually cut and season the meat with salt as I go.  Once I have enough cut to start browning, I get that going as well.  Dad Cook's recipe called for 1 1/2 inch cubes.  I usually go a little smaller, but no larger than 1 1/2 inches.  If you go too small, or a mix of larger and smaller, they might cook uneven.  Remember the meat will shrink during cooking, but if you go much larger than 1 1/2 inch cubes, you may have to cut the meat as you eat.
  • Brown one side of the meat in batches small enough to avoid crowding the pan.  This is one of the tricks I saw on Dad Cooks Dinner.  Browning one side give you the brown-bits on the pan you want for flavor, without having to spend tons of time browning all sides.  It takes about 4 minutes a batch and you have less chance overcooking the pork.  Browning all sides takes forever, and while you do get lots of fond (french for 'brown bits'), you also run the chance of over cooking.  Think about it, a 1 inch cube has 6 sides, that's 24 minutes of cooking!  If you only do two sides, you get fond, but you really don't add enough to change the flavor profile you get from one side. The other consideration is trim off the visible fat!  Since we are only browning the meat on one side, that means there is a lot of fat that might not get rendered, so if you don't trim it carefully.
  • Remove the meat to a bowl.
  • Empty all the fat and return 1 Tbs back to the pot.  If you leave all the rendered pork fat in there, your chili will look and taste greasy!
  • Put the diced onion and peppers in the pot and season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Cook until softened.  Using a large wooden spoon or spatula to move them around and also scrape up - deglaze for those who like fancy  terms - those delicious brown bits left over from the meat.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Clear the center of the pot and put in the spices (garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano).  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Do not burn your spices, you will regret it!
  • Add a little stock or water and scrape the bottom of the pot one more time, make sure the pot is deglazed, then add the rest of the stock/water and the salsa.
  • Return the meat, along with any juices, to the pot and close the pressure cooker and cook for 25 minutes for a stove top cooker or 30 for an electric.  Which sure beats the 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a dutch oven or the 10 hours in a slow-cooker!
  • Let the pressure release naturally, and check the seasonings.  You might need a little pepper, but the canned salsa verde is usually salty enough.  Bottom line, if it tastes flat, it needs salt.
Serve with the lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro, and maybe some sour cream.  I have also served this over rice, which worked out perfectly.

Does the version using all fresh ingredients taste better?  You know, for me it's a toss up.  The two taste different, but I can't place one over the other.  So since the two are about at the same level for me, I'll stick with the quicker version for now.

I plan on playing a little with some of the ingredients.  For example I wonder how beer will work instead of the stock, or upping the liquid content and cooking the rice in the chili.  On second thought, 25 minutes in a pressure cooker might be too much for the rice.  Anyone ever try rice in a  pressure cooker?  Well in any event, be sure and have some fun with it.  Thanks again to Mike Vrobel and his Dad Cooks Dinner Blog.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pasta Salad

I was looking for a side dish that would also serve as a light lunch.  I wanted it cold, mainly because it's hot outside.  I also didn't want anything mayonnaise-based much for the same reasons.  I settled on making a pasta salad.  Nothing earth-shattering, it was just something light and tasty.  I did have a few other requirements.  For example a light dressing, not only not mayo-based but something you don't need a lot of it.  I wanted it to compliment the flavors of the other ingredients, not overrule them.  What I discovered was that you can put pretty much any veggie you like and a wide selection of cold-cuts.  It's more versatile than I thought and it's a great way to deal with a few veggie-draw leftovers.  For example those basil leaves left over from a Caprese salad, or that half a cucumber or onion.  Here's what I did:

I boiled up a pot of the three-color rotini pasta, 12 oz box.  It's not that the green and red one are flavored all that different from the white ones, but the color contrast works nicely.  Cook this slightly past aldente -- and I mean slightly.  If you overcook these, they tend to fall apart.  The reason I go slight past aldente is that since this is a cold dish, aldente pasta tends to become a little harder once cooled down.  My preference more than anything else.  Once cooked and drained, set aside to cool.

While it was cooling, I broke out the chef's knife and started cutting and chopping.  Here's what I had on hand for my first attempt at this sort of salad:

  • 1 whole cucumber, peeled (it was an older one and the peel tends to get bitter), small dice
  • 1 medium red onion, small dice
  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 medium ham steak, also small dice
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 carrots cut and sliced into thin matchsticks about an inch or so long
  • 1 ball of mozzarella (1/4 inch cube dice).  I prefer fresh over the part-skim drier form.
  • 4 green onions, sliced on a bias, about 1/4 inch long
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffon-ed. That is rolled up together lengthwise, then thinly sliced with a sharp knife across the width.  You end up ribbons of basil.

Lastly the dressing, you put 3 Tbs of red wine vinegar in a bowl, add about 2 tsp of Dijon mustard and one finely chopped (or minced) garlic clove.  Then whisk as you slowly drizzle in 6 Tbs of good olive oil (extra-virgin is best).  The ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 seems to work well.  If you drop it to 2:1 it tastes more of the vinegar, and anything over 4:1 comes across a little oily texture.  For this type of dressing, I stay away from the county-style Dijon's, they are a bit lumpy and the flavor doesn't seem to distribute that well.

Once you are done adding the oil, whisk for another minute or two, check the seasoning for taste and add salt and pepper.  It's a nice light dressing and you won't need a lot of it.  In fact it all depends on the volume of the other ingredients.  I usually dress with half and see how things look and taste before I add any more.

And that it.  Just put everything in a large bowl and dress to your taste.  Like I said, this was what I had on hand.  The ingredients for this sort of summer salad are pretty versatile.  If my veggie drawer had a different selection, I would have used that.

An added note, I did this salad a second time and added some diced fresh button mushrooms.  The flavor was good, but they were a little woody.  So the next time, I made up the dressing early and twice the usual amount.  Then I marinated the mushrooms for a couple of hours before doing the rest.  That softened them up and they became more part of the whole instead of a slightly discordant note.

Hard-boiled eggs, leftover chicken or turkey, shredded lettuce, celery, and even a little canned tuna might work well in various combinations.  I am also tempted to spice things up a bit with some jalapeno, cilantro, and even red pepper flake, but that will have to wait until I am flying solo.  Not everyone appreciates such spices.

Ranch Fried Chicken

I made something that went over real well with the family, Ranch Fried Chicken.  I'd heard of it before but the recipes always involved a packet of dry ranch seasoning, which to me never tasted very much like Ranch dressing once cooked in anything, like a meatloaf.  Well I caught an episode of America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Country (I have trouble telling those two shows apart) and they did Ranch Fried Chicken without using the packet of whatever.  It was intriguing.  I couldn't use part of the recipe, since cilantro and cayenne don't agree with my spouse, so I changed things a couple of times and hit a recipe that not only did remind me of Ranch, but the family enjoyed it!


  • Finely chopped fresh Dill (5 Tbs, divided 3 and 2)
  • Finely chopped fresh Parsley (5 Tbs, divided 3 and 2)
  • Finely chopped fresh Rosemary (3 Tbs, divided (2 and 1)
  • Finely minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • Buttermilk (1 cup)
  • White Vinegar (2 tsp)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp)
  • Black Pepper (1/2 tsp)
  • AP Flour (1 cup)
  • Cornstarch (1/2 cup)
  • Garlic Powder (1 tsp)
  • Old Bay Seasoning (2 tsp)
  • 6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (yes, boneless and skinless, it really does work)
  • Dry, salt and pepper your Chicken Thighs
  • Mix the Buttermilk, Vinegar, 3 Tbs of Dill and Parsley, 2 Tbs of Rosemary, Salt and Pepper, and minced Garlic in a bowl.  
  • Reserve a quarter cup as a dipping sauce.
  • In a separate bowl combine the Flour, Cornstarch, Garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning.
  • Soak each Thigh in the Buttermilk mixture to coat.  No need to brine or marinate for long period, that's the benefit of using chicken thighs.
  • Dredge in the Flour mixture and set aside.
  • Preheat 2-3 inches of Vegetable or Peanut oil to 350F degrees is a vessel wide and deep enough for some frying.  I usually use a cast iron dutch oven.
  • Once the oil is hot, gently, and I do mean gently, slid in two pieces of chicken.  Fry for approximately 7-8 minutes.  You do have to keep adjusting the flame to keep the oil about 350. 
  • You will see a drop in temperature when the pieces are added, but it should recover quickly.  If it falls too far, you might need to cook one piece at a time.  About the 3.5-4 minute mark turn over the pieces.
  • Remove to a paper towel for just a few seconds to get some of the surface oil off.  
  • Then transfer to a wire rack over a sheet pan to drain off any more oil.  If the oil remains hot enough, there is usually very little oil drained off.
  • Repeat with the other three batches.
  • Let the last batch rest while plating, using a little of the reserve buttermilk mixture as a dip.  I have also found Ranch Dressing and even Frank's Red Hot are excellent accompaniments rather than the buttermilk mixture.
  • I have made as many as 6 batches (12 thighs) and the first pair of thighs were still plenty hot when I was done.  If you are making more, I recommend placing your wire rack/sheet pan in the oven at 200 degrees.  It will keep it hot without cooking it further and shouldn't start drying out out before you are done.
Some notes:
  • Do not let the oil go too high.  Not only can you burn your chicken, but if you let it get over 400F, you shouldn't strain the oil and reuse.  I use two strainers and a double piece of cheesecloth between them to strain my oil and I can set several fries out of each container.  I don't use it for anything other than frying.  You wouldn't want to make a salad dressing out of it.
  • The chicken is also good cold and even as leftovers.  I know it sounds like a sin, but I simple put the leftovers in a plastic ziploc bag.  It's never going to be as crispy as freshly fried, so I have given up trying to maintain the crispness.  None of the techniques I have heard of seemed to work overnight anyway.

Sous Vide Cooking

I picked up a Sous Vide Cooker (Anova Precision Cooker) and have been experimenting with it.  So far, so good!  Chicken breasts come out perfectly cooked and incredibly juicy.  I vacuum-packed two of them with some thyme, froze them, and then dropped them in 145F water for two hours.  After letting them cool, I diced them and mixed in some chopped celery, onion, mayo, and some seasonings and had a great tasting and basic chicken salad.  Served with some lettuce and lunch is on.  Going to be doing some more soon!  Pork Tenderloin is up next!  I'm thinking of dicing it and tossing into a sweet-sour sauce -- NOT on of those sickly-sweet red jarred sauces -- I'll let you know how it turned out.

Only downside of sous-vide cooking is the time.  It's not for a quick meal after work.  However, I have found that if you cook it ahead, you can simply dice, brown, and mix it into just about anything else and time is less of a problem.  Just a bit of planning.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pressure Cooker Soft Chicken Tacos

I've been doing more cooking lately, but haven't been blogging about it.  I will try and get things down on paper . . . so to speak . . . more often.  Recently I did a Root Beer BBQ sauce that came out great and last night I did chicken thighs in the pressure cooker and everyone loved them.


  • Chicken Thighs (about 2lbs):  I used skinless and boneless thighs, but you can use bone-in.  I do recommend removing the skin, it's kinda nasty in the pressure cooker.
  • Canned Tomatoes (1 14.5 oz can of crushed or diced)
  • Onion (1 chopped)
  • Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
  • Chicken Stock (1/2 cup)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Serve with:
  • Tortillas (I like soft, taco size)
  • Lettuce (about 2 cups shredded)
  • Tomatoes (2 fresh, diced)
  • Onion (1 diced)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa


  1. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs liberally.
  2. Heat some olive oil in your pressure cooker, medium heat
  3. Add the chopped onion, saute until softened
  4. Add the minced garlic, saute for about 30 seconds
  5. Add chicken stock and de-glaze the pan
  6. Add the chicken and canned tomatoes
  7. Seal the lid and let the pressure rise to it's limit
  8. Cook for 10 minutes under pressure and then turn off the heat
  9. Let the pressure release naturally.  It will take 10-15 minutes.
  10. Once the pressure is gone, remove the lid and take the chicken out with a slotted spoon
  11. Shred the chicken between two forks and return to the cooking liquid to stay warm and juicy.
  12. Once the rest of the meal is ready, spoon the chicken into a serving dish, it's OK to have some of the cooked onion and tomatoes as well.

Should make enough for 12-15 tacos, depending on how loaded you like them.  Serve with the condiments of your choice.  I like keeping it simple with lettuce, fresh onion and tomato, salsa, cheese, and sour cream.  But whatever you like will work!

This isn't a very spicy dish because a couple of family members can't handle spice.  There are plenty of alternatives:

  • Season the chicken with Chile Powder or Cumin, in addition to salt and pepper
  • Use Salsa instead of canned tomatoes for the cooking medium.  You should be able to eliminate the onions and garlic if you use salsa instead.
  • Use Beer or Apple Juice instead of Chicken Stock
  • I do recommend Chick Thighs over Chicken Breasts, I have had very little luck with breasts in the pressure cooker.  They get surprisingly rubbery and dry.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blood Sugar and Oatmeal Choco-chip cookies

OK, it's been 2 months since my last post.  My blood sugar reading has been pretty stable, today was 104, 7 day average 102 and 30 day average 101.  I had one low reading, low as in way off the norm, of 90.  I took it twice to make sure I didn't mess anything up.  But I think it was because I had a very busy day, very physically busy, and really ate light, including very few carbs, much lower than normal.

I also had two high reading, 126 and 128 about a week apart.  Both of those readings were after eating out.  I think I need to work on making better choices whenever I eat out, but to be honest, i don't like eating salads in most places.  I don't mind a side-salad instead of fries or potatoes, but most of the larger, meal-sized, salads are nearly as bad as most of the rest of the menu.

To help deal with that, I've downloaded a bunch of restaurant menu nutritional information PDF's to my phone and PC. This way I can plan what's better on their menu than take guesses.  Hopefully that will help.

As for cooking, so far I have been keeping things pretty basic.  Grilling meats as opposed to other preparations, lots of greens and salads, and for snacking I've been making batches of oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies that contain about 10-12 carbs each.  So two cookies for a mid-afternoon snack satisfy a little sweet-tooth and don't do much in elevating my blood sugar.  I evaluated a number of recipes and settles on one with minimal white flour and use walnuts and Spenda Brown Sugar blend instead of straight-up brown sugar.  I've estimated the carb count based on several recipes and the best part . . . the whole family likes them, so I make them in large batches and they usually last most of a week.

  • 1 Stick of Crisco Butter Flavor shortening (16 Tbs)
  • 4 Tbs of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Cup and 2 Tbs of Spenda Brown Sugar Blend
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Cup Unbleached White flour
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 4.5 cups of Old-Fashioned Oatmeal
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2.25 tsp baking soda
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  2. I melt the butter while beating the shortening on low.  Once it's melted I add it to the bowl of the mixer to combine.
  3. Then I add the brown sugar blend and beat on medium until well blended.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla.  Beat on medium until well combined.  I have tried to beat until light and fluffy, incorporating more air, but I haven't seen it make much of a difference.
  5. While the liquid ingredients are beating, I combine the oatmeal, white and wheat flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl and mix well.
  6. Once the liquid ingredients are ready, I incorporate the dry with the liquid about a quarter cup at a time, on low.  It comes together as a very dry mixture and I usually have to switch to my dough hook to mix.  
  7. Once done, I toss in 1.75 cups of chopped walnuts and 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Be careful here, the mixer will be working very hard!  You might need to push the mixture back down to get it well mixed.
  8. I prep two cookie sheets with parchment.
  9. Using a tablespoon scoop, I scoop up a level tablespoon and place on the cookie sheet about 1.5 inches apart.  I get 25 per sheet.  The cookies don't spread a lot.  If you are after more of a flat cookie, up the butter content.
  10. Bake one cookie sheet at a time, 7 minutes, then rotate and cook another 7 minutes.  When I pull one out, I put in the next right away.
  11. Once out, I pull the whole parchment sheet off onto a cooling rack so they don't keep cooking on the hot sheet.  
  12. After rotating, I prep the next sheet.
I get about 125 cookies.  Once cool, I bag them up in two gallon-sized zip lock bags.  Like I said they last between 5 and six days around my house.  Because of my blood sugar, I limit myself to 6 a day, two about 10 AM, two about 3 PM, and if I get munchie after dinner, two more.  So far. so good!