Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Santa must like to eat! (Chili Verde)

Let's see, Santa brings my wife, among other things, a new computer and a Blue-Ray DVD player. I get a new 9.5 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven and the full 10 years of America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. Around here, that's pretty normal. One year I got a wok and she got a CD player. So in my opinion, Santa must like to eat because I have new toys to play with in the kitchen! Chili Verde, here I come! Anyone have a great recipe?

Now before you start digging, I prefer the spicy New Mexico style of chili verde, at least I think I was in Albuquerque. We were traveling so much it might have been Tucson. No, I think it was Albuquerque. I am pretty sure that in New Mexico when asked if you want green or red, green is spicier than the red. in Arizona it was the opposite. Luckily I like spicy so when I got them confused I wasn't disappointed because while the red wasn't as spicy -- it was delicious. Now the poor Major I was traveling with . . . well let's just say he will never forget which is which!

So seriously, anyone have a really good recipe for spicy New Mexico-style Chili Verde? Here is a recipe I am thinking of scaling up, in volume and maybe in heat. I got it from the Food Channel, courtesy of Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger! Yea, the 'Too Hot Tamales' themselves!

  • 4 pounds pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 yellow onions
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2-3 jalapenos, seeds removed, and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed and soaked in a scant amount of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock


  • Season the pork meat generously with salt and pepper, lightly flour.
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and brown pork chunks well in small batches, on all sides.
  • Lift pork out of pan and place in a wide soup pot.
  • Discard fat and place the onions and peppers in the same skillet and sweat over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until limp, about 5 minutes.
  • Add all of the chiles and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
  • Add the Sauteed vegetables, chopped tomatillos, dried herbs and cilantro to the meat, cover with the chicken stock and bring up to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer.
  • Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Dinner/lunch

I haven't been cooking much, things have been insane. Work has been a bit busy and I got a bit behind on a project! Luckily I work with a terrific team and they got me unjammed! Mike and Kiki are my heroes and TJ really keeps us on track!

In addition my wife opened up her own flower shop, you can imagine how busy things have been for the Christmas season. But tomorrow is Christmas Eve and then Christmas! So gotta plan up a bit of a Christmas dinner. Well in our case more of a Christmas lunch. My daughter and her husband are coming down for a lunch with us and then dinner with his family later. But we still plan on a pretty nice meal.

Front and center is a 'Heavenly Ham' from Dorothy Lane Market. It's along the same line as a 'Honey-Baked Ham' but we found it is a little less sweet for our tastes. The crust is more brown sugar than honey. Delicious! The cooking for us will be the side dishes. Still debating a couple of those, but the planned menu seems to be:
  • Heavenly ham
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Glazed baby carrots
  • Green beans almondine
  • Rolls
The carrots and green beans are the same ones from Thanksgiving. Nothing succeeds like success. Haven't decided on the potatoes, but I am thinking of more a smashed red potatoes. It's easy, here is the recipe:

  • 4-5 lbs of red potatoes, skin on (Baby potatoes or fingerlings work as well)
  • 1/2 stick of soft, unsalted butter
  • 8 oz of cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup of milk, half-and-half, or cream
Prep and cook
  • Cut the potatoes into about equal size pieces for even cooking. Us the smallest potato for a guide. the larger the pieces are, the more 'smashed' the final product will look.
  • Boil the potatoes in heavily salted water until a fork slides in easily. This is important, a fork, not a paring knife. A paring knife would slide in too easily and the potatoes are normally not quite done.
  • Drain well and toss into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. I have found a hand mixer just isn't strong enough. Alternatively, mix by hand with a pretty stuff wooden spoon or hand masher.
  • Add the butter, cream cheese, and milk (or half and half/heavy cream).
  • Mix until just combined. It should be very lumpy. That's why I call it 'Smashed' as opposed to 'mashed'. You can mix it until it's smooth, but the skins will look funny in there.
Good stuff, if I do say so myself. We are still hashing things out, but I think it will be close to what we end up with. I'll post afterward if anything changes. Gotta work on cookies for Santa and some appetizers. Although since we are eating early the appetizers might be munchies for later. My wife is planning on deviled eggs and I am thinking about some shrimp cocktail.

Well Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! I hope your culinary adventures for Christmas are fun and taste terrific! Pass me any interesting recipes!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Southwestern-Style Rub London Broil

Picked up a nice looking London Broil. I was after a flank steak, but the only ones in the meat case were too small, so London Broil it is. Now I really do like Flank Steak, I think it is a more flavorful cut, so I plan to jazz up the London Broil with a take on a Southwestern-style rub.

Now why do I call it 'Southwestern-style'? For one reason I think the cumin and coriander take this part of the way there, but this rub isn't very spicy -- which seems to be the hallmark of most southwest rubs. My wife and one of my daughters don't like things too spicy, so no cayenne, no hot peppers, but still lots of great flavor!


  • 3 tsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp Hot Smoked Paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cumin Seed (freshly ground)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Crushed Oregano
  • 1 tsp Roasted Smoked Coriander
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lb London Broil
Prep and cook:

  • Mix all the ingredients except for the London Broil
  • Trim any excess from the steak
  • Rub the Southwestern Rub on all sides
  • Place in a Ziploc Bag, squeezing out as much air as possible
  • Let it marinate in the fridge for several hours. I usually leave it for 6 hours
  • Heat up a grill pan over medium-high heat
  • Grill the steak on each side for 7-8 minutes, or as long as 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the cut.
  • Allow the meat the rest for about 10 minutes
  • Slice in about 1/4 inch slices making sure to go against the grain of the meat. I usually slice on the bias so each piece has a bit more of the crust of the meat.

I did this the other night and while I think it was a success, my wife and granddaughter did not. It wasn't to unexpected of the granddaughter, she doesn't seem to like any spices. I thought my wife would like it because it wasn't spicy hot, but she thought it was. Oh well, I'm still going to chalk it up to a success because I liked it. My daughter will try the leftovers and I think she'll like it as well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chili Powder

Now here is an ingredient I use often. From making a BBQ sauce to chili and even a dry rub for ribs, a good chili powder is a necessity. I have used a number of supermarket varieties they seem OK. McCormick's regular Chili Powder is usually in the spice rack because it tends to me the most available no matter where I am in the country. But in all honesty it rates near the lowest of the OK list. Durkee is there as well. It's not as available as McCormick, but it does the job in a pinch. They really are my chili powders of last resort mainly because they are pretty mild and not a very sharp chili taste. McCormick's Gourmet Collection Ancho Chili Powder is much better as is Spice Islands. However I have found one that's better. Like most things, store bought is OK, but homemade is light years better.

Alton Brown had a Chili episode on Good Eats where he made his own chili powder. Here is his recipe:

  • 3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 3 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 3 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Prep and cook:
  • Place all of the chiles and the cumin into a medium nonstick saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook, moving the pan around constantly, until you begin to smell the cumin toasting, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Set aside and cool completely.
  • Once cool, place the chiles and cumin into the carafe of a blender or spice grinder along with the garlic powder, oregano, and paprika.
  • Process until a fine powder is formed.
  • Allow the powder to settle for at least a minute before removing the lid of the carafe.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Now maybe being in Ohio is a problem, but I could not get the exact dry chilies. But I found that matters less than I thought it would. Ancho chilies are dried Poblanos and are a pretty mild pepper. Cascabels are a little hotter and Arbol chilies are very spicy. What I found is as long as you mix a mild, medium, and spicy pepper, nearly any combination works well. The last time I did this up I used Anchos, New Mexicos, and Cayennes and the chili powder that resulted made the best pot of chili I have ever made! I had enough to dry rub a brisket before smoking and the taste was amazing!

So like anyone who cooks, recipes are great, but technique is better. I heard a commercial from one of the Iron Chef's, Michael Symon, who said when you learn a recipe, you can cook one dish. When you learn a technique you can cook a hundred. While I might never make a hundred varieties of chili powder, Using a selection of dried chilies, along with a few other spices, and toasting the cumin seeds to bring out the flavor, and then grinding up all the ingredients made a terrific chili powder.

Pass me any other chilies you might try. I think the next time I see dried chipotles, I know what's going in my next batch.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

An Apple Pie you do not want to make

While I had one success this evening, I also had one failure. Since I love posting when things go right, I should also post when things do not!

I made an apple pie loosely based on a couple of other recipes, so I cannot blame them -- I take all discredit. I'm not sure where I went wrong, so I wanted to post the recipe in case someone has any suggestions. The problem was sourness, way too sour! The kind of sour that made you scrunch up your face!

  • 3 1/2 pounds of a mix of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 nine inch pie doughs (homemade or the Pillsbury redi-made pie crusts)
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Prep and cook:
  • Preheat the oven to 400F
  • Slice the apples into about 1/2 inch wedges
  • Toss with 1/2 cup of sugar
  • Let sit in a colander over a bowl for about an hour. This will render several tablespoons of apple juice. Take the liquid and reduce to about 2 tablespoons in a saucepan.
  • Combine the apples, zest, lemon juice, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  • Take one of the pie crusts and place in the bottom of a pie pan. I used a glass Pyrex pie pan.
  • Place the apples in the bottom crust
  • Pour the rendered and concentrated apple juice over the top
  • Cover with the second crust, tucking the edge under the edge of the lower crust and crimp
  • Brush the egg wash over the top of the pie
  • Sprinkle with 1 tsp of sugar
  • Cut 4 slits across the top for venting
  • Place on a half-sheet pan
  • Cook for 1 to 1 1/4 hours at 400 until the crust is nicely golden brown and the filling is bubbling
  • After about 20-30 minutes check the edge of the crust, you may need to cover them with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
  • Let cool for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before slicing.
Like I said, it was so sour, even though only two of the 6 apples were Granny Smiths. I was very disappointed as were everyone else. It was my first pie and I admit cheating by using the ready-made crust, but the crust wasn't the issue.

Any advice? I am planning to toss this recipe away and looking for a new one. This one was very disappointing, very!

Turkey Schnitzel (breaded turkey cutlets)

I picked up a package of turkey cutlets, very thin slices of turkey breast. They can be pretty versatile and don't have a very strong flavor of their own, so they can match up with most anything.

Now I call it Schnitzel, mainly because a traditional schnitzel is veal or pork, it's breaded and fried. So it's more technique than ingredients. So here is my version.

  • Flour
  • 1/2 tsp of Hungarian Smoked Paprika
  • Three eggs
  • 2 cups of bread crumbs (I prefer Panko-style)
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (Fresh is preferred over a green container)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 package of turkey cutlets, about 8-10 cutlets
  • A half-sheet pan with a wire rack
  • Stir the flour, salt, pepper and paprika together in a bowl/dish. You'll be coating the cutlets in this, the first of three dippings
  • Beat the three eggs in a second bowl/dish
  • Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a third bowl/dish
  • Pat dry each cutlet
  • Coat in the flour mixture, shaking off any extra
  • Coat in the egg wash
  • Cover in the bread crumb mixture
  • Set on the wire rack
  • Repeat for all the cutlets
  • Preheat the oven to 200F. This is for keeping the cutlets warm once they are cooked. Put an oven-proof plate in the oven.
  • Heat up 2-3 tbs of olive oil in a saute pan
  • Saute two cutlets at a time, about 2 minutes on each side (depends on thickness)
  • Once nicely golden-brown and crispy, stash in the oven
They really are nice plain like this. I did them just like that tonight, with a side of the basmati rice and a salad. There are various sauces and gravies you could serve. Since you are cooking multiple sets of the cutlets, the pan oil and residue are not good choices for a pan sauce.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Courtesy of Alton Brown!

I saw these on his show "Good Eats" and had to try them. I usually use Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips. They have a great flavor. I tried the more traditional Nestles Semi-Sweet but found they just didn't have much flavor. I also tried to go high end with Ghiardelli's Bittersweet Chips, recommended for cookies by America's Test Kitchen. While they were very chocolaty, they were also way to bitter for my tastes. I guess I need sweetening up.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Optional 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • A scoop or disher. #20 makes large cookies, smaller scoops make small ones. Adjust cooking time based on cookie size.
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixer

Prep and cook:
  • Heat oven to 375 F. Don't skimp on giving your oven plenty of time. If you cut this short you might ruin the first batch.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.
  • Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  • Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl.
  • Add the sugar and brown sugar.
  • Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips and optional walnuts.
  • Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet, if you are using the large scoop. I usually wind up with 12 -16 per half-sheet pan. My wife likes small cookies.
  • Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. For medium cookies, 11 minutes. For very small cookies, 6 minutes.
  • Cool and store in an airtight container. Someone told me they would last several days -- but that never seems to happen around here.
    A couple of tricks:
    • I never cook more than one tray at a time. While two trays, rotated and swapped works in theory, I have never gotten even cooking.
    • Parchment paper is a godsend. It also makes it easy to get them off the sheet pan quickly. If you leave them on there too long they keep cooking.
    • I usually use two half-sheet pans, alternating between batches. I find better cooking on a cool sheet than putting fresh dough on a hot pan.
    • Rule of thumb, if the cookies are completely brown in the oven -- they are overdone. Adjust your next batch accordingly.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Basmati Rice

    Rice has long been a favorite dish, but the cooking has always been a challenge. Often I get starchy rice that clumps or undercooked rice that was hiding from my tasting spoon when I was checking on doneness. Ida Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, suggested this recipe and so far it's come out perfect every time! Of course it's slightly different than hers, but it really is mostly hers.

    • One cup of Basmati Rice
    • One small onion finely diced
    • 1 3/4 cups of water
    • 1 Tbs of unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt


    • Cook the butter and onions over medium heat in a saucepan until translucent, Do not allow them to fry.
    • Add the rice and toss until all of the grains are coated with the butter.
    • Add the water and salt, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, it should take about 15 - 20 minutes.
    • Kill the heat and let it sit covered for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better. Don't be tempted to open the lid, just leave it alone.

    Right now you have a great tasting dish, albeit a little plain. There are times this is exactly what I want. Now The Barefoot Contessa liked to add 1/4 cup of chopped scallions and 2 Tbs of chopped parsley. That is great, but the reality is you can put just about anything you want in here.

    My preference is to tie in the flavors used in whatever main dish I am serving. For example with my Orange Marinated Flank Steak, I like using the zest of one orange. If you do something like add orange juice to the cooking liquid, or orange supremes, you will make it too 'orangey', but the zest adds a nice touch and compliments the main course. Rosemary or thyme are also great additions. A little cumin can really change the flavor and goes well with pork dishes. So what I am really saying is don't be afraid to experiment.

    For example I once did a braised pork shoulder and the braising liquid was apple juice and sage. I added a small bit of diced apple and some chopped sage to a small amount of rice to check the flavor. The apple browned, which was a turn off, but the sage tasted great. So when I served the dish I had added a few sage leaves chopped fine and just a little bit of apple juice. So take a little rice and test your thoughts out before you assemble the final dish. Trust me, creativity tastes better than you might think!

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Orange Flank Steak

    I love flank steak! It's a great cut for quick grilling or even slow braising. My Mother cooks a terrific stuffed flank steak. It's one of my go-to meats. You know, you have 30 minutes before having to run out and take the kids to softball practice or marching band and you need to throw something together in a hurry. Here is a favorite recipe that you start marinating before you leave for work and it can be quickly grilled or broiled in 15 minutes after work.

    • Zest of one orange
    • Juice of one orange
    • 1/2 cup of orange juice concentrate
    • 1/2 tsp of crushed oregano
    • 1/8 cup of a mild vinegar, like rice wine or white wine vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp of salt
    • Several turns of black pepper
    Whisk together all the ingredients and pour over a 1 1/2 lb flank steak in a Ziploc bag, try and remove as much air as possible. A vacuum system, like FoodSaver also works well for marinating. Place it in the fridge and head out for the day. If you are home, turn the bag over a couple of times. Once you get home from work, turn it over while it's still in the fridge, since it might be a while until you prepare it anyway.

    • Preheat the oven to 275F.
    • Remove the flank steak from the marinade and rinse the surface marinade off, especially if you are grilling. The marinade will burn on a high heat. Pat dry.
    • Set it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. This is to raise the temperature of the meat from the fridge. I know many folks just let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so, but a suggestion from America's Test Kitchen had me try this. After 30 minutes on the counter a flank steak goes from about 40F to 50F, not really enough to help avoid overcooking the outside while the inside is still cold. In the 275F oven the steak quickly goes from 40 to about nearer to room temperature and you get a much better sear.
    • While the meat is in the oven, reduce the marinade to about 1/2 it's original volume, simmering over medium heat.
    • Preheat a grill pan, preferably one with raised lines for good frill marks. I like a cast iron one for heat retention.
    • Remove the steak from the oven and lay it on the hot grill. Cook for about 7 minutes on each side. Check the internal temp and you should be about 130F.
    • Remove and let rest for several minutes under some aluminum foil.
    • Add a tablespoon of butter to the marinade and whisk in. This gives it a creaminess and helps to thicken it.
    • Get the side dishes ready, I usually like some mashed potatoes or basmati rice and a veg.
    • Once everything is ready, slice the meat into no more than 1/4 inch slices going against the grain. You should also slice it on the bias to give each piece more of the seared exterior.
    • Arrange the slices on a platter and either top with some of the reduced marinade or serve the marinade on the side.

    Thanksgiving leftovers

    So tired of turkey yet? Which is one reason we tend to have a ham at Christmas. But the annual question is what to do with the leftovers form Thanksgiving dinner. This year we had a pretty significant amount of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.

    Of course the obvious is turkey sandwiches, which is an old standby. Turkey, mayo, salt, and pepper on potato bread is a classic for good reasons! A Hot Turkey Shot (an open-faced sandwich of bread, Mashed Potatoes or Stuffing, with Turkey and then gravy served hot) is another!

    After a couple of days the desire for Turkey wanes as you consider options. Now last year I did a turkey hash that wasn't bad, but I need to dig up that recipe again. This year went with a turkey salad that even my granddaughter -- the ultimate of picky eaters -- liked. I did have to hold the onions until I made her sandwich. A little thyme when a long way to give this a distinctive taste.

    • Turkey! White or dark meat, it really doesn't matter. I prefer a mix, but for some reason the white meat tends to get eaten on sandwiches first. Cut it up pretty small.
    • 1 small onion diced fine.
    • 2 celery stalks, also diced fine.
    • Several sprigs of fresh thyme, very finely chopped.
    • A bunch of cherry or grape tomatoes halved or quartered, or an avocado diced
    • Mayo, about a cup. The amount really depends on the amount of turkey.
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    • toss the turkey, onion, celery, grapes/avocado, and thyme in a large bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of mayo and mix well. Add more mayo until you get it coated. Do this in steps because it's easy to add more, hard to take it out.
    • Taste and add salt and pepper if needed

    Yes, it's simple, but pretty flexible. I have found that tomatoes along with the avocado tends to bring a bit too much moisture to the party. Other ingredients included in the past are sun-dried tomatoes, julienned carrots, sliced radishes, shredded lettuce, and even slipped in the occasional jalapeno. Some of what goes in depends on what you have handy in the house. I have also made it without the tomatoes or avocado, but I like the butterness of the avocado or the acidity of the tomatoes with the turkey.

    While it makes great sandwiches or wraps, you can also serve it on a small salad bed of arugula, which adds a nice bitterness. Or on endive leaves as some finger food.

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Thanksgiving -- Success for the most part!

    This year my wife had a number of other things to do -- all involved with her jewelry business and opening a flower shop next month. So guess who had to handle cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Yup, me! The good news is everyone survived! The bad news? Well there wasn't any, not really, although one recipe wasn't as well received as I would have liked, but brining the turkey and the changes to the stuffing went well. Here are the recipes, if you are interested. The menu was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans almondine, fresh Tuscan bread, glazed carrots, and salad. Oh and we can't forget my granddaughters favorite nibble, large black olives. She likes to put them on her fingers and wave at Aunt Jen. Yes, she's all of 6 so it's cute. Now if she it still doing it as 16, we might need to talk.

    Turkey Brine:
    • 16 cups of water
    • 1 cup of kosher salt
    • 16 oz of chicken stock
    • A good handful of cracked black peppercorns (give peppercorn a crack with a rolling pin or meat mallet. Don't crush, just crack them.
    • Two cinnamon sticks
    Preparation and brining:
    • Boil the water and add the salt.
    • Once the salt is dissolved, add the other ingredients and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Don't boil, just keep a low flame under it and the water will absorbe some of the flavors from the other ingredients. I plan on looking for some more interesting recipes for Brine for next year.
    • Pour into a large bowl, add about an equal amount of ice to cool it down quickly. It must be cool, preferably cold, when it hits the bird. Warm or hot brine might actually start cooking the turkey.
    • Clean the turkey and remove the giblets, neck and other pieces and parts.
    • Prep a large container, either a brining bag or even a bucket.
    • Place the bird in breast side down and add the brine to cover the bird
    • If you need more liquid, dissolve more salt into water and add. If you don't add more salt, the solution may not be salty enough, depending on how much liquid you need to add.
    • Brine for 4-6 hours before cooking in the fridge or a cooler packed with ice. You can brine for longer, but remember to keep it below 40 degrees. I prefer the fridge. If you are going to brine overnight, turn the bird once in a while.
    Now to cook the bird:
    • Pre-heat oven to 350.
    • Remove the bird from the brine and rinse completely.
    • Stuff the front and rear cavities loosely if desired.
    • If not stuffing, place a quartered apple, a quartered onion, several sprigs or thyme and rosemary. This helps keep it moist and adds aromatics.
    • Tuck the wings under the body and place in a roasting pan. A raised rack helps as well, but I haven't noticed much difference in the turkey, just in getting it out of the pan.
    • Coat the skin in vegetable oil, then salt and pepper the outside.
    • Cook for 2 1/2 hours. About each 30 minutes baste with liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan, or melted butter.
    • It's done when the breast is at 160F. I also check the stuffing and want to make sure it reaches 150F.
    • Let rest for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and slicing. Carryover raises the breast to about 180F and the stuffing to 165F.
    I actually had two problems.
    • Even after nearly 80 hours in the fridge, my bird was still frozen. I couldn't remove the plastic bag with the giblets or even get to the neck. I ended up setting the bird in the sink, covered in cold water for an hour (changing the water ever 15 minutes) to get it defrosted enough. It did cut an hour off the brining time, but the bird still came out incredibly moist.
    • The brining bag was way to big for my 13 lb bird and I ended up doing to innovative knotwork to tie up the bottom corners with the top of the bag. if not, I would have needed to quadruple my brining solution. I might try a bucket next year.
    OK, that was the turkey and much to my surprise, even the refrigerated leftovers were still moist today. As you can guess, you know what I had for lunch? A turkey sandwich -- just turkey, mayo, salt and pepper!

    While the bird was brining, I whipped up the stuffing. I used some of it in the bird, and cooked the rest while the turkey was resting. Then, as a cheat, I mix the stuffing from the bird with the baked stuffing and it all ends up tasting like it had cooked in the bird.

    Stuffing ingredients:
    • 1 Large onion, small dice
    • 2 large celery stalks, small dice
    • 1 large Granny Smith apple, small dice
    • Several rosemary sprigs, stripped off the hard stalks and finely chopped
    • A handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped
    • One stick of unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 bag of herbed Pettridge Farm Stuffing
    • 1 cup of chicken stock
    Prep and cooking the Stuffing:
    • Mix all the ingredients -- EXCEPT for the stock -- and reserve until you stuff the bird
    • After stuffing the bird loosely, place the rest of the mixture in a baking dish, 1 1/2 quart is usually perfect.
    • Add 1 cup of chicken stock, cover and place in the fridge.
    • Once the bird comes out, put the baking dish in a 400F oven uncovered.
    • If the top browns to much before it's hot enough, cover.
    • Once it's done. mix with the stuffing removed from the bird. I check the temp, looking for 155F. It usually sits covered for 5-10 minutes so carryover works there as well.
    I liked it, as did most everyone at dinner. My wife suggested a sweeter apple, so I might try that next time.

    Giada DeLaurentis inspired Mashed Potatoes:
    I caught most of this recipe on the food channel show on Thanksgiving. It looked interesting, so I figured why not! I liked it, but thought one ingredient was a bit overwhelming, so I made a few small changes.

    Mashed potato ingredients:
    • 4 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
    • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 4 ounces of prosciutto, diced, with fat rendered.
    • A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
    • 1 cup of milk
    • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
    Preparation and cooking:
    • Boil the potatoes in heavily salted water, about 15-20 minutes, until a fork slips in easily.
    • Drain and then return the potatoes to the hot pan. Stir around for a few minutes. This helps get rid of any lingering moisture.
    • Mash while adding the butter and milk.
    • Once smooth, add the prosciutto, mozzarella, Parmesan, and parsley.
    • Place in a baking dish, 2 1/2 quart worked well.
    • Cover with the Panko breadcrumbs
    • Once the turkey is done, you can pop this in the oven for 20 minutes, uncovered at 400F. This can go in at the same time as the stuffing.
    • It's done once it's hot and the topping is nicely brown.
    The original recipe called for more prosciutto and Parmesan, but we found then to be a bit overwhelming, especially the Parmesan. leftovers made great potato pancakes with the addition of beaten eggs.

    Glazed Baby Carrots:
    • Steam a couple of cups of baby carrots until just about done. They should have softened slightly, but not too soft.
    • The carrots can also be set aside until the turkey is resting.
    • Add a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan along with 1/4 cup of light brown sugar.
    • Once the brown sugar has dissolved in the butter, add the carrots.
    • Toss until thoroughly coated and heated all the way through.
    • Top in the serving bowl with some chopped Italian flat leaf parsley.
    A pretty easy side dish. The glaze is simply sweet and goes well with the carrots. My final recipe is actually the simplest of all.

    Green Beans Almodine (which is a fancy way of saying green beans with sliced almonds):
    • About 1 1/2 lbs of green beans
    • Sliced almonds
    • Olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    Prep and cooking the green beans:
    • Trim the ends of the beans, remove any strings.
    • If they are large and thick beans, you need to blanch them (place in boiling for 2-3 minutes and then shock them with ice water to stop the cooking and retain the green color. If they are thin (less than 1/2 inch thick), you do not need to blanch them.
    • Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt
    • You can cover them in plastic wrap and hold them for several hours in the fridge.
    • Once the turkey is resting, heat up a little olive oil in a saute pan on med-high.
    • Saute the green beans until heated. They can show a little color, but not too much.
    • Place in a serving bowl and top with a handful of sliced almonds.
    As you can see it's one of the easiest recipes. I usually save this for last. They are best fresh from the pan. Hot, still have a snap to them, great taste. The almonds add a compliment rather than taking things over. I've tried walnuts in the past, but the flavors didn't work for me. Pecan's weren't bad. Blanched pastachios are an option I want to try ever since I saw a chef on Top Chef blanch them. I had never thought to blanch them before. Anyone know how they go with green beans?

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Weekend cooking plans -- Flat Iron Steak

    I think a Flat Iron streak is a great idea for tomorrow. If the weather doesn't let me grill outdoors, I have a nice cast iron stovetop grill -- as long as I don't smoke up the house to bad.

    • 2 lb Flat Iron steak. If you haven't tried this cut, you should. It's from the chuck, very flavorful, quick cooking.
    • Salt and pepper
    • Garlic salt
    • Pull the steak out of the package, my meat counter has them hermetically sealed.
    • Rinse, dry and salt and pepper.
    • Let sit for about 30 minutes under plastic. This lets the salt work and raises the temperature of the meat. I hate putting ice cold meat on the grill.
    • Heat up the grill, medium-high heat on either the grill or stovetop griddle.
    • Hit it with some garlic salt. I know this sounds like a lot of salt, but the first salting does little for flavor and more for the surface texture of the meat.
    • Cook approximately 6-8 minutes per side to an internal temp of 130F. The exact cooking time is based on the thickness of the steak.
    • Rest under foil for 15 - 20 minutes.
    Slice in 1/4 inch slices across the grain to serve.

    This goes incredible with a loaf of fresh bread, some sauteed onions and corn on the cob, in season. This time of year I think the onions and bread will work, maybe with a salad.

    As leftovers, those rare occasions when there are leftovers. Cold thin slices on a salad make a great lunch!

    Not sure what I want to do on Sunday. Might need to wander through the meat department and see what strikes my fancy.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Potato Lasagna

    I am always looking ways to work on side dishes, especially potatoes and other starches. Here is one I haven't made in a while, but I am thinking of doing it for Thanksgiving. Actually since my wife has another project for Turkeyday morning, I get to do the whole dinner!

    • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled ·
    • 2 large Idaho baking potatoes, peeled ·
    • 2 large red skinned potatoes, skin on ·
    • 1/2 cup olive oil, in a bottle, for drizzling. or to taste ·
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic ·
    • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (preferably yellow) ·
    • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella ·
    • Salt and black pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Oil bottom of an 8x10-inch baking dish.
    3. Using a vegetable slicer or very sharp knife, slice sweet potatoes as thin as possible.
    4. Slice baking and red skin potatoes as you need them, to prevent browning.
    5. Cover bottom of dish with a layer of Idaho potato slices, slightly overlapping.
    6. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with garlic and cheeses and season with salt and pepper.
    7. Top with sweet potatoes, then red skin potatoes, seasoning and sprinkling each layer.
    8. Continue layers until all potatoes are used up, reserving enough cheese to fully cover top layer.
    9. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes are fork tender. Remove and let sit before cutting.
    I can't remember where I got this recipe, looks like something from the Food Network for some reason. In any event I plan on building it the night before so I'll let you know how it turns out.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Chicken breast braised in OJ

    Wanted something quick for dinner, and I had a pack of chicken breasts in the frig. But the challenge is cooking large breasts and adding anything resembling flavor. So I swiped another technique I saw on America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country.

    • Pat dried three chicken breasts.
    • Salt, pepper, thyme, and a little hot Hungarian paprika on each side.
    • Heated up a little olive oil in a large frying pan (one with a lid).
    • Browned each side of the three breasts for about 3 minutes per side.
    • Added 2 cups of OJ and brought up to a simmer.
    • Covered.
    • Flipped the breasts after about 8 minutes.
    • At 16 minutes checked the temp (165)
    • Went another 2 minutes and temp at 170.
    • Rested 10 minutes under aluminum foil while prepping the side dishes.
    Came out moist, tender, with a slight orange tang and a touch of spice from the thyme and paprika. Good stuff!

    I did want some carbs on the side, but still haven't picked up an onion to do basmati rice the way I like -- and tired of potatoes. So I tore up several flour tortillas, hit one side with a little olive oil and salt. Put on a cookie sheet until crisp (350F oven). Worked well. A touch of lime would have made it perfect. Maybe next time.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Chili and more Chili

    One of my favorite dishes is Chili. Now I make two versions, depending on my audience. I have a mild -- well mild for me -- that most folks seems to like. The other has been nicknames 'Uranus Buster' and 'Chili from Hell'. Here is the recipe I got off of America's Test Kitchen and made a few tweaks. It's my mild recipe and I am planning to make it next weekend to take into the office for no special reason.

    • 4 strips of bacon
    • 2-3 lb chuck roast -- I like chuck because of the flavor and marbling. It's perfect for low and slow.
    • One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes.
    • 1 can Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
    • 1 medium Onion
    • 4 Jalapenos
    • 3 tsp Chili Powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp of Cumin
    • 1/2 tsp of Dried Oregano
    • 4 gloves of garlic
    • 4 cups of water
    • 1 tbs of dark brown sugar
    • Masa flour or corn starch for thickening
    Prep work
    • Cut Chuck Roast into 1 inch pieces. Make sure you remove any hard pieces of fat or very large fat deposits.
    • Small dice the onion
    • Core and seed the jalapenos, then finely dice.
    • Seed the chipotles
    • Run the tomatoes and chipotles with the adobo sauce together through the food processor until smooth.
    OK, time to build your chili
    • Cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces
    • Crisp the bacon in a dutch oven, rendering all the fat.
    • Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and the fat to a bowl.
    • Add back a tablespoon of the fat
    • Brown the meat in 2 or three batches, adding more bacon fat as necessary. It's critical for taste to brown. If you overcrowd the pan, the meat will just steam.
    • Once the meat is done, set it aside
    • Add another tablespoon of bacon fat and then the onion. Cook until softened.
    • Add the jalapenos, cook until you can smell them
    • Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic. By doing this in a relatively dry pan, you can bloom the spices and release the oils.
    • When that is fragrant, add about a cup of water and de-glaze the pan (scrape up any bit from the bottom of the pan, those equal flavor!
    • Add the rest of the water and the tomato/chipotle mixture
    • Return the crisp bacon, beef and any drippings back to the pan.
    • Also add the brown sugar
    • Bring to a simmer and simmer covered for an hour.
    • Then uncover and simmer for another 30 minutes. (Whether or not you need more depends on the meat. At this point it should be ready to fall apart. If it's still tough, give it another 15-30 minutes as an uncovered simmer.
    • Toward the end of cooking (about 5 minutes before you are done), add 2 tablespoons of Masa Harina Flour, or 2 teaspoons of corn starch to a small bowl. I prefer Masa because of the corn taste.
    • Mix in a small amount of cooking liquid and whisk together. This lets you add a thickener without getting any lumps.
    • Mix into the simmering chili and cook for 5 more minutes. You should notice a thickening of the sauce.
    That's it, a hearty, meaty chili prepped and cooked in about two hours. I have also done this in a crock pot and cooked on low for about 8 hours. The only thing to be careful of is getting all the goodness from the pan you brown the meat in! Next time I plan my hotter chili, I'll post the recipe. For a teaser it used Spicy Italian Sausage and habanero peppers!

    One alternative to Masa or corn starch is crumbled up tortilla chips (corn variety) or corn muffin mix. I haven't tried the crushed tortilla chips, but it was in an episode of Good Eats and might be a fun change. I would watch the salt level on that one. With the corn muffin mix, mix 2 tablespoons in a bowl with a couple of ladle fulls of the cooking liquid to remove the lumps. Whisk until well blended, the microwave for 1 minute. Then stir this into your pot and simmer for another 5 or so minutes. You should see it thickening. I have tried the corn muffin mix and it worked well. Whatever you do, avoid corn meal. It's like sand and not in a good way.

    One other note. I have found it's nearly impossible to know just how hot your jalapenos will be. I have had some as spicy as okra and others that I swear rivaled habaneros. So if you are worried about something being too spicy. Add two and see how the liquid tastes after about 30 minutes. You can add more then. If you wait too long, the jalapenos won't break down and add their goodness to the whole pot. That's not a bad thing, because the little bit of raw jalapeno can come across like a garnish.

    As for additions. I usually don't add any. But I have used some chopped fresh onion, cilantro, cheese, and even sour cream. Usually one at a time. They can add a little something, but I find it isn't really needed. Crackers are a matter of choice, and I do prefer oyster crackers over saltines. They hold their shape where the saltines dissolve like glue.

    Braised Beet Brisket

    When you can't slow smoke a brisket, braised is the next best thing! This is tonight's dinner:

    • 4 pieces of bacon
    • One onion, sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 1-2 bay leaves
    • 4 cups apple juice
    • 1 small brisket, about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs
    • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
    Preparation and Procedure
    1. Crisp the bacon, rendering the fat in a dutch oven
    2. Remove bacon and fat
    3. Add one tablespoon of fat back into the dutch oven
    4. Over high heat brown both sides of the brisket, about 2-3 minutes each side. Add more bacon fat if needed
    5. Remove the brisket and add in another tablespoon of bacon fat to the dutch oven
    6. Add in onion and cook until softened
    7. Add the garlic (Crushed)
    8. Once the garlic is fragrant, add about 1 cup of apple juice and de-glaze the pan
    9. Add the rest of the apple juice and the bay leaves
    10. Bring to a boil, lower the temp and add the brisket and any juices that came out of the meat after browning. The liquid should just barely cover the brisket.
    11. Simmer for 2-3 hours, turning the brisket every 30 minutes.
    12. It's done when the meat is ready to fall apart when you lift it out of the liquid
    13. Remove the brisket and cover to rest
    14. Crank the heat back to high and add chili powder, pepper, and salt. Reduce by one quarter to one-half of the original liquid volume. Melt in two tablespoons of butter and serve as a pan sauce on the side. Note - if the volume is too much to reduce in 5-10 minutes, pour some off.
    Just slice the brisket across the grain and serve with the pan sauce. Tonight's sides will include butter noodles and canned pear slices. But it pretty much goes well with any starch and veg or fruit. I went with canned peaches because my wife loves them -- with a little cream cheese. I was planning basamati rice, but I like cooking that with onion and I used my last one with the brisket. Added onion to the shopping list.

    Sweet Potato Pudding

    Planning a carry-in? How would you like something sweet, easy, and can be served hot or cold? Works for me! My sweet potatoes are baking right now because I need to carry it in to the office tomorrow.

    Pudding Ingredients
    • 4 medium baked sweet potatoes mashed
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
    Topping Ingredients
    1. 1/2 cup pecan pieces
    2. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    3. 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
    3. With an electric mixer, beat together all the pudding ingredients until smooth and light.
    4. Pour the pudding into the baking dish.
    5. Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl
    6. Dot top of pudding mixture with the topping mixture
    7. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes (checking after 30).
    It's done when it's nice and bubbly and the center reads about 165F. I found if it's less the center doesn't set, but if I wait until a knife comes out pretty clean, the outer edge is overcooked.

    Cool and then cover. Refrigerate overnight. Can be reheated before serving, or served as is.

    Update: The carry-in was today and an nearly empty dish and several recipe requests make it seem like the Sweet Potato Pudding was a success. I am usually a little disappointed about anything left in the dish, but you should have seen the pile of food. Toward the end we were inviting over offices over! We left 3/4 of a cheesecake on the table! That rarely happens. Well actually it's in the frig for tomorrow.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Roasted Potato Salad

    Here is one recipe I now make several times a year. My older daughter had be bring to a pot luck and my younger daughter asked me to make it for her Christmas party. This is a recipe I call a success!

    • 3 lbs small red potatoes, fingerling work well also -- but avoid baking or real waxy potatoes
    • 1 small bunch of spring onions, or 1 small red onion
    • 3 oz ham
    • 2 celery stalks
    • 2 hard-boiled eggs
    • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
    • Mayonnaise, about 1 cup
    • Mustard, 2-3 Tbs
    • Mirrin (Rice Wine Vinegar), or Apple Cider Vinegar, about 1 Tbs
    • Fresh Dill
    Prepare the potatoes
    1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
    2. Clean and halve the potatoes. If you have a mix of large and small ones, third or quarter the larger ones to about the same size as the halves. This keeps the cooking even.
    3. Toss with some olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper.
    4. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, start checking after 30.
    5. Once a sharp knife slides in and out easily, they are done. Pull out and put in a bowl to cool some.
    While the potatoes are cooling, prep the rest
    1. Chop the spring, or red, onion into small pieces
    2. Dice the celery into pieces about the same size as the spring onion
    3. Dice the ham
    4. Coarse chop the eggs
    5. Prep the dressing:
    • Place the Mayo in a bowl and whisk in the Mirrin. This is less for taste as to thin out the mayo a bit and add a little acidity
    • Add half the mustard and taste. Keep adding mustard until you get the taste you want. I keep going until the mustard can tasted lightly. Rule-of-thumb if the mustard smacks you in the face as opposed to kissing you on the lips -- add more mayo :-)
    • Add 2 Tbs of finely chopped Dill. Add more to taste
    Put it all together
    1. Cut up the potatoes into quarters or sixths. You are after a bite-sized pieces.
    2. Place potatoes in a large bowl
    3. Add ham,. onions, celery, eggs and peas
    4. Pour 3/4 of the dressing on top and gently mix. You have to be gentle or you might end up with a mashed potato salad. If you are worried about your potatoes might be a little soft, refrigerate them for 30 minutes before dressing.
    5. Add more dressing as you mix -- if needed. It's always easier to add more than take out.
    Refrigerate. It's actually better the next day.

    There you have it. I have tried many variations and some went over well, other less so. For example a little sun-dried tomato or roasted red pepper was great. Chicken was a bust. Cucumbers or fresh tomato added to much liquid to the dressing. But please feel free to experiment and pass any good ideas back to me.

    New Blog -- New Topic!

    I've been having some fun with my other hobby blog (Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!) that I decided to do one concerning my other hobby, Cooking. Here I plan on dropping in recipes, maybe comments on various cooking shows and books. The plan here is to also wander the blogsphere for other cooks, connect up and even experiment.

    Am I a good cook? Not yet. Without a doubt my wife is a better cook. But for me cooking is fun, for her it's a chore. So I am willing to stretch a bit and try something new. Most of the times the results are edible -- unless you ask me about the salt pork I tried in baked beans, inedible is the kindest word that comes to mind -- and well received.

    Hope you enjoy your visit here and if you have a cooking blog, drop me a link. If you have a recipe to share, either send it to me to post, or tuck it in a comment. Not sure where this will go in the end, but it'll be an enjoyable trip.