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!