Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken and Rice Salad?

I saw a recipe over on Cooking.com for a Chicken and Rice Salad, but after reading it, the ingredient list made it more of a main course -- and everyone liked it, especially keeping the lemon vinaigrette on the side.

  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (Toasted for 5-8 minutes in a dry frying pan -- make sure you keep them moving, they can go from toasting to burnt in a hurry.)
  • Two lemons
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 6 green onions (sliced into about 1/2 inch pieces on the bias)
  • 1 cup of peas (I like using frozen peas and then just blanching them to defrost rather than cook to soft)
  • 1 preparation of Basmati Rice, yes, that recipe again. What can i say, I love it!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Regular Olive Oil (to brown the chicken)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • First up, get the rice cooking according to the Basmati Rice recipe. It should be ready once the chicken is done and everything else is cut and ready to mix.
  • Heat a tablespoon of regular olive oil in a saute pan (one with a lid).
  • Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. You can do this with breast tenders or dark meat, but watch the cooking time. The breasts stay nice and juicy, the tenders tend to over cook quickly if you aren't careful.
  • Brown the breasts on two sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  • Add the stock once the breasts are browned and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While the chicken in simmering, zest the lemon.
  • Blanch the peas. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water until they are defrosted. If they are fresh, blanch for only about 2 minutes -- tops. I am not a fan of mushy peas unless I am pureeing them.
  • Juice two lemons
  • Slice the scallions
  • Turn the breasts and simmer for another 7 minutes. I look for an internal temp of 165F. Once there I kill the heat and let it rest in the cooking liquid for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the chicken is resting, whisk 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil into the lemon juice to make a vinaigrette. Once you have the right consistency, add the zest. Reserve for serving.
  • Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and slice into 1/4 inch slices across the grain of the chicken.
  • Put the rice in a large bowl, add the chicken, scallions, peas and pine nuts. Mix well. Serve with a side salad.
The vinaigrette can be used on the salad or the chicken and rice mix, or both. What I found was that some people liked it really light, others preferred more lemon. Using it more like a sauce gave them the option. It really came together quickly, not a bad work night meal.

You might have noticed that I mention toasting the pine nuts in the ingredient list, but never actually toast them while prepping and cooking the dish. That wasn't an oversight. When toasting nuts, I always do them alone and before I do anything else. When you are juggling three pans (rice, chicken, and the peas), slicing the scallions, zesting and juicing the lemons I have found that it's too easy to take your eyes off the nuts for even 30 seconds too long. That's how quickly they can burn, especially in a dry pan and over medium or high heat. So I always get that out of the way.

I did have one serving leftover, so I had it for dinner tonight. I wanted to taste it as a salad, the way the original recipe suggested, and it was good. My only issue was that the chicken was sliced a bit on the large side for a salad, so I did wind up heating it up for dinner. I might try it again for a summer-y salad and halve the amount of chicken as well as cut into small cubes.

One surprising success. My granddaughter has decided that she is my sous chef and even though she made a face after tasting the lemon vinaigrette, she did try it on the dish and enjoyed it! She is nearly the pickiest eater in the house. My wife liked the dish, but avoiding the lemon completely.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pork Tenderloins (2)

I've had some success with braising pork tenderloins, but I wanted to roast them and I went looking for a way to roast them and still keep them moist. This was a knock-off on a recipe I saw Rachael Ray do a couple of years back but I never tried. I think she did hers with a pork loin roast, but I was looking for something for tenderloins, so I borrowed the approach of high heat and short cooking time. It roasted the outside well and the cook time was so short the inside didn't dry out. I tried this method, which worked very well.

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 1 tbs Fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs rubbed Sage
  • 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • Grind the fennel seeds until a coarse powder
  • Add the sage, salt, and white pepper and grind until well mixed
  • Trim silver skin from the tenderloins
  • Pre-heat oven to 500F and position a rack in the bottom of the oven
  • Dry the tenderloins and rub with the spice mixture.
  • Sit in a shallow roasting pan and place in the oven
  • Cook for 10 minutes, turn over and rotate the pan and cook for another 8-10 minutes
  • Aim for 150F-155F, then remove from the oven, place the tenderloins on a cutting board and cover with foil for about 10 minutes. The temp should rise to about 160F-165F.
  • Slice in 3/8 inch slices and serve.
I did up some sauteed onions with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic tossed in for the last 30 seconds of cooking. I used a combination of butter and olive oil and browned the onions nicely. I served this on top of the pork and it helped keep the pork slices, more like medallions nice and hot and the buttery sauce from the onions went well with the pork.

The meat was nice and moist, and I did have an afterthought, but I didn't do it (this time). I thought afterward that the brown bits in the bottom of the roaster would make a good pan sauce. Add some stock, water, or white wine and deglaze the pan over a stove top burner. Reduce the liquid down and hit it with a pat of unsalted butter right at the end or maybe add the sauteed onions -- then season to taste and serve over the pork.

It went over quite well, even my graddaughter liked it -- and she is a picky eater. It worked well. I think oiling the surface of the meat and even letting it marinate with the dry rub on it might add to the taste. Well all that is for the next time.

Update: I was re-reading this post and realized that the idea of oiling the tenderloin is a bad idea. Oil + 500F = smoke! Since my objective is moisture, I think I will brine the tenderloins the next time and keep the surface dry. If anyone else has a good idea for roasting tenderloins and keeping them moist and tender, please pass it on. I was able to cut it with a fork, so this method was good, but I am always looking for more.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Caprese Pasta Salad

I love a nice Caprese Salad. Slices of tomato, slices of mozzarella, chiffonaded basil and a nice light balsamic vinaigrette or even just a sprinking of good olive oil. So I was looking for a more summery version, something a little lighter and a bit different.

So I tried to turn a Caprese into a pasta salad and it worked well. I used Rotini pasta because I like the surface area for holding the vinaigrette.

  • 1 lbs of cooked rotini (curly pasta)
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 oz mozzarella
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 6 plum tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • While the rotini is cooking, seed the tomatoes and rough chop them
  • Dice the mozzarella into small pieces
  • Chiffonade the basil (Roll up the leaves as a group and thinly slice into ribbons)
  • Zest the lemon into a mixing bowl, then squeeze the juice into the bowl.
  • While whisking, slowly add about 1/2 - 2/3 a cup of olive oil into the lemon juice/zest to make your dressing. It's a nice light lemon vinaigrette, and not too much so it's never overdressed.
  • Drain and cool the pasta. It doesn't have to be cold, just not boiling hot. I don't like to melt the cheese.
  • Poor the pasta right over the tomatoes, add the cheese and basil, then stir together while adding about 1/2 of the dressing.
  • Key step here . . . TASTE it. You might need a little salt, you might need to add more dressing. only you can make that determination, so don't be afraid! One piece of advice, if you are going to keep it overnight, save any dressing you don't add right away.
  • You can serve immediately, which is how I prefer it. It can keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
If you are going to keep it overnight, I suggest draining any liquid the next day. The tomatoes may lose a lot of liquid. Then taste and add some more dressing if needed.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Parker House Cinnamon Rolls

I took Alton Brown's Parker House Roll Recipe and turned it into Cinnamon Rolls and it worked perfectly! My wife smacked me on the back of the head and told me not to make them again -- which tells me they were successful.

  • 8 oz light brown sugar
  • 1 tbs of melted unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1 tbs of cinnamon
  • 3 oz of softened cream cheese
  • 5 oz of powdered sugar
  • 3 tbs of milk
The Rolls:
  • OK, so make the dough exactly how you do the Parker House Rolls and do the first rise. During the rise - mix up the filling ingredients.
  • Get out a 12x9x3 inch pan and spray with cooking spray.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and roll out to a rectangle, about 16 by 10 inches.
  • Spread the filling over the dough evenly, leave the bottom half-inch of so uncovered. This will aid in sealing it when you roll it up.
  • Starting from the top, roll the dough into a log. Seal the bottom edge with a bit of pressure.
  • Cut into 12 equal pieces and place on their side in the pan. Spread out into a 3 x 4 layout, leaving space for rising around and between each rolls.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes. They should nearly double in size. They will rise a little more in the oven. Mine ended up rising above the edge of the pan after cooking.
  • Melt 1 tbs of unsalted butter right at the end of the final rise.
  • Just before putting the rolls in the oven, brush with the butter on the top for browning.
  • Pre-heat the oven at 400F.
  • Cook the rolls for about 14 min, turning the pan at the halfway point. You might need more or less time depending on your oven.
  • While it's cooking, mix the frosting ingredients together. I find adding the sugar slowly to the milk/cream cheese works well.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes or so then frost and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spicy Smoked Ribs

Three simple steps, Brine the ribs, marinate in the spice rub, and cook slow!

Brine ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup table salt or 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 racks baby back ribs (about 2 pounds each), or loin back ribs
  • Dissolve salt and sugar in the 4 quarts cold water in stockpot or large plastic container.
  • Submerge ribs in brine and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Don't go much past 2 hours and certainly not overnight. The ribs are too thin and would absorb too much salt.
  • While the ribs are brining, mix the spice rub.
  • Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry.
Spice rub:
  • 1 tablespoon hot, smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (homemade preferably, Ancho Chile Powder if not)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
If you are looking for a less spicy rub, eliminate the cayenne, switch the paprika from hot to sweet, and double the brown sugar. If it still seems to spicy, use a regular chili powder instead of ancho or homemade.

  • When ribs are out of brine and dried, rub each side of racks with 1 tablespoon spice rub; refrigerate racks for at least an hour, or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and marinate overnight.
  • While the rubs are marinating, soak several pieces of lemon-sized pieces of wood. Soak for about an hour. I prefer hickory or apple wood for ribs.
Barbeque the Ribs:
  • Open bottom vents on grill about 3/4 of the way. Ignite a decent pile of charcoal. I do use briquettes because lump is hard to find and tends to be expensive. Now I use a cut-down gallon milk jug to scoop up the charcoal. I counted it a few times and a typical scoop is about 25 briquettes. For this recipe I start with two scoops, so about 50 briquettes.
  • Depending on the humidity, it should take about 20-30 minutes to get a nice light coat of ash. Push the coals to one side and put two or three pieces of the wood on top.
  • Position an disposable aluminum pan on the opposite side.
  • Put on the grill grate and cover for 5 minutes to heat up the grill grate.
  • After 5 minutes, scrape and oil the grate.
  • Lay the ribs over the aluminum pan (it's for catching any drippings) and position the top vent, wide open, right over the ribs. An alternative is to use a rack to stand them up. Just make sure they are not directly over the coals.
  • Stick a probe thermometer down the vent until it's about half between the cover and the ribs. DO NOT TRUST the thermometer in the hood of your grill. They are notoriously unreliable.
  • Grill temp should register about 350F. If it goes higher, close the bottom vent some. Once you get it settled, it should slowly drop over the next 90 minutes to 2 hours. Grill temp should be about 225F after 90 min - 2 hours. Don't let it drop much further of you might have to re-start your coals -- which sucks.
  • Flip the ribs over and reverse the racks so the one nearest the fire is now the one furthest away. Add about 10 more briquettes and another piece of wood.
  • Continue to cook for about 90 minutes, turned and switching the ribs about every 30 minutes. Only add more charcoal as needed. The grill temp should be between 225F and 250F. Adjust the lower vents as needed. I have found that if you cannot keep the grill temp down at this point, wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil and cook that way. There has already been enough smoke in the ribs, this cooking is more to finish the ribs to the point of being almost fall off the bone.
  • How do you tell they are done? First is temp, you should be looking for about 160F in a meaty part of the ribs. Also, when you pick them up with tongs, hold them up from the short edge with the tongs about 1/3 of the way down the rack. The rack should bend about 40 degrees. This is the nearly falling off the bone stage. If you pick it up and the rack collapses, they are a little overdone. I know A lot of people want it to be falling off, but I like a little bite left in them. I want it to come off the bone with a slight tug when I bite into it. If I need a fork to eat it because the bones come right out, then I feel that I just took away half the fun of eating ribs.
  • Once done, wrap in aluminum foil, if you haven't already done so, and let rest on a cutting board about 10 - 20 minutes.
  • To serve I like to cut into either single bone or double bone portions. I think it depends on my audience.

Parker House Rolls

These rolls turned out great on my first try. Yes, they are courtesy of Alton Brown from Good Eats. Some folks have mentioned that maybe i watch too much Food TV, but my counter is that cookbooks are great, but when the show not only explains but shows you how to do it, you can't beat it. What I like about Good Eats is that not only does he give clear directions, but he really seems to do it right in front of you. Well anyway, back to the rolls,


  • Nonstick spray
  • 8 ounces warm whole milk (100 degrees F)
  • 2 1/4 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 15 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, 3 ounces at room temperature, 1 ounce chilled and cut into 16 small cubes

  • Spray a half sheet pan with nonstick spray and set aside. An alternative is to use a Sil-Pat mat. I liked the mat and it worked great.
  • Place the milk, sugar, yeast, flour, egg yolks, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine on low speed for 1 minute. Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and rest the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. I did put the yeast into the milk and sugar and gave it a few minutes to bloom before adding it to the mixer. I was worried about the yeast and the salt. I know, I know, probably nothing to worry about, but everything else I have read is to let it bloom before letting it near salt. Anyway, it worked.
  • Add 2 ounces of the room temperature butter and mix on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and you are able to gently pull the dough into a thin sheet that light will pass through, about 8 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll and shape with hands to form a large ball. Return dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a 16 by 3-inch log. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 1 3/4-ounce portions, about 16 rolls. Using your loosely cupped hand, roll each portion on the counter until they tighten into small balls. Working 1 at a time, use a rolling pin to roll each small ball into a 3-inch circle or oval. Use the side of your hand or a small dowel to make an indentation across the middle of the circle. Place a small pat of chilled butter into the center of the indentation, then fold in half and gently press to seal the edges. Place the rolls, top-side down, onto the prepared sheet pan, spacing them evenly. Melt the remaining 1 ounce butter and brush the tops of the rolls. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. I did have one problem here. I couldn't put all 16 rolls on one sheet pan. I squeezed in 12 and put the other 4 in the freezer.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and bake until the rolls reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
  • Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

They came out great. My wife made a suggestion of hitting them with a little more melted butter once they came out of the oven. I'll try that next time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alton Brown's Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce

I caught this recipe on an episode of Good Eats and liked it quite a bit. It's pretty simple, but it had a lot of ingredients, which gave it an interesting flavor.


  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Prep and finish:

  • In a sieve over a medium non-reactive saucepot, strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot.
  • Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the tomato juice.
  • Stir and cook over high heat.
  • Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer.
  • Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.
  • Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed.
  • Set the tomatoes aside.
  • Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat.
  • Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.
  • Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  • Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization.
  • Remove the pan from the broiler.
  • Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove.
  • Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.
  • Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid to the tomatoes.
  • Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Enjoy! I think a few substitutions might work.

  • Capers aren't something I usually have, so I was thinking mushrooms or maybe black olives or both.
  • Sherry vinegar is also something I don't always have, I wonder how balsalmic would work. I love it in a vinagrette in a Caprese Salad, so I might give that a try -- or maybe white wine or apple cider vinegar, I usually always have those.
  • The sugar did make it a little sweet for the rest of my crew, so I might trim that by half and maybe add a little chili powder with it. Going to have to experiment with that one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Warm Potato Salad

I came across a Wolfgang Puck recipe for a warm potato salad and it sounded interesting. However I can't find the recipe. But since I did read it, I tried to re-create it as best I could and the result were delicious. So hat's off to Chef Puck for being the inspiration. If I find the recipe again, I'll compare and see how close I got.

  • 1.5 lbs fingerling or small red skin or white potatoes. I used small whites. Whatever you do -- no baking potatoes.
  • Salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
  • Fresh or dried parsley
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • A small white or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 Tbs of sugar
  • Fresh ground back pepper
Prep and assembly:
  • Cover the potatoes and the garlic clove pieces in water, add a teaspoon or so of Kosher salt.
  • Boil until tender. I use the knife test. Of course the smaller the potatoes, the quicker they will cook. Whatever you do, do not overcook or you will have warm potato paste instead of a salad.
  • Remove from the water and let sit while prepping the marinade.
  • Small dice the onion
  • Whisk together the vinegar, water, oil, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp of parsley, and the onion.
  • Let the marinade sit and slice the potatoes to about 1/4 inch slices. Next time I think I will try an egg slicer.
  • Pour the marinade on top of the warm potatoes and let sit for 20-30 minutes. The volume of marinade might not cover them completely, so you might need to stir them gently. An alternative would be to place everything in a Ziploc bag and turn every 10 minutes or so.
  • After 30 minutes, heat a little oil in a large saute pan on a medium heat.
  • Strain the most of the marinade from the potatoes and toss the into the oil and saute for about a minute. You aren't looking for browning as much as you are to reheat the potatoes quickly. A little browning is OK, but too much and you will burn them because of the sugar in the marinade.

Serves about 6.

I'm not sure how close I came to Chef Puck's original, but it turned out terrific. I would have never thought of the re-heating technique although I do recall Good Eats doing something similar -- only Alton Brown applied the dressing while it was hot and then let it sit in the fridge to cool off.

Anyway, I really liked it. The next time I plan on cutting the onion into thin rings and adding some garlic to the marinade. What I really liked about this recipe is you can make it ahead of time and re-heat right before serving. I do plan on removing the marinade after no more than an hour of soaking because I am after a nice potato flavor, not to heavy on the vinegar. But I figure it can easily sit at room temp for a while, or the fridge until I am ready. I also intend on reheating a little more gently if they have been in the fridge.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I got a new toy -- Pressure Cooker

I haven't done a lot of interesting cooking lately, been pretty busy. But for St. Patrick's I decided I wanted Corned Beef. My problem was that it was on a week night and takes about 3 hours to cook. I did cheat a little and picked up an already corned beef brisket, but I was still facing 3 hours of cooking time. So I broke down and bought a pressure cooker.

I went for a stove-top model rather than an electric one. I liked the idea that you could brown meat and saute other ingredients before popping in the meat and cooking it under pressure. So a nice 8 quart pressure cooker is now in my arsenal. So I did have my corned beef.

It worked well! Not perfectly, but that's more my fault being a first-time pressure cooker user, but it did work pretty well. I ended up with a nice corned beef dinner. Plus the left over corned beef was my breakfast this weekend. Cut up and rendered like bacon and mixed with some eggs and scrambled -- Yum! I didn't do anything special, just followed the package directions on the John Morrel Corned Beef. I have corned my own in the past and plan to do it again soon. Just didn't have the 10-14 days once I made up my mind.

I also did a Pot Roast on Saturday and it went pretty well also. A nice 3.5 lb bottom-round roast.

  • 3-4 lb Pot Roast (Bottom round worked well, plan to try a chuck roast next)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 2 celery stalks (finely diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (finely diced)
  • 1 cup of beef broth
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
    1/2 tsp of dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in the pressure cooker.
  • Brown the meat on all sides and remove.
  • Toss in the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until softened.
  • Add garlic, mustard, and paprika and bloom (heat until fragrant)
  • Add broth, brown sugar, and vinegar and de-glaze the pan (scrape up any brown bits off the bottom). The liquid should come up about halfway up the meat. Add more broth/vinegar if needed.
  • Return the meat and any juices.
  • Put on the lid and cook at pressure for about 75 minutes.
  • Once the meat is done, remove from the pot. It should try and fall apart it it's done. If it still feels really firm, continue cooking for 15 more minutes. If you are doing nearer to a 4 lb roast you might have this problem.
  • Cover the meat on a cutting board or plate. I usually use a plate to catch any liquids.
  • Reduce the liquid in the pot by half. If the vegetables are still chunky, you can use a stick blender and reduce them. Personally I like the rustic chunks.
  • Once reduced, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter and serve as an pan sauce. You can mix in some flour and make a pretty good gravy.
  • I slice the pot roast into 1/4 inch slices and lay on a serving platter. You must use a very sharp knife or it will just fall to pieces.
  • I put a little cooking liquid on the serving platter to warm it up before adding the sliced roast and top with a small amount of the reduced liquid.
Like I said it came out pretty well. Next time I'll be adding some root vegetables during the last 30 minutes of cooking. I didn't try it here mainly because I didn't have any potatoes and only had baby carrots left. I was worried about them coming apart in the cooker. So next time I'll be better prepared.

I served it with some potato salad (Roasted Potato Salad) and some corn. Not a bad late evening meal after a great day (Warm, sunny, light breezes -- best last Winter day we've had in a long time.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pork Tenderloins

I've tried a number of ways to cook up pork tenderloin and to often for no reason at all, they dry out. I've monitored time and temperature close, but all to often I get a dry, sort of tasteless meat. So I finally hit on a foolproof way -- braising. But not a long braise. I have done this in a crock pot and it works, but that takes 6-8 hours. Recently I had two tenderloins in the fridge and nothing else readily available. But I wanted to cook it in less than 40 minutes. So I decided to try something, and it worked well.

  • 2 Pork Tenderloins
  • 3 cups of water (Other liquids can be used, but the first time I did this I used water.
  • 3 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • Salt and Pepper
Prep and Cook:
  • Open the tenderloins and rinse, pat dry.
  • Trim the silver skin from the tenderloins
  • Season well with salt and pepper on each side
  • Slice onion in about 1/4 inch thick slices. Break up and salt and pepper them.
  • Mix the water and soy sauce.
  • Sear in a frying pan with a little oil about 43 minutes per side. You are after a nice brown crust.
  • Add the onion and water mixture and cover
  • Braise for 30 minutes -- this is not a boil, but more a simmer so watch the heat.
  • Cook to about 155-160 internal temperature.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • While it's resting reserve a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and strain the cooked onions from the liquid.
  • Put a little cooking liquid on the serving platter. This helps warm the platter and also provides a little juice for the meat.
  • Slice against the grain in about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick slices. Fan on the serving platter.
  • Cover with about a 1/4 cup of cooking liquid and the cooked onions.
  • Serve and enjoy
The addition of the cooking liquid doesn't do much to keep the meat moist. If it's not moist when you slice it, it's too late. The danger is overcooking. While you are braising, if you cook it to 180 or higher, it's going to be dry. if you find it that high, you do have an alternative. I'll discuss that in a moment.

You can use other liquid. I have done this with Chicken Stock and Apple Juice and like it. I have also use a number of spice mixtures, but found I like to keep it simple and the taste of the pork stands out. I've also used sliced apples instead of the onion, but you won't have anything left to spoon over the meat, the apples tend to break way down. What works well there it to reduce the cooking liquid into a pan sauce while the meat is resting. A little added butter and it's silky and smooth.

If you do find the braise heated the meat to 180 or over, you can save it, but it's not going to be quick. Take the pan and put it in a 225-250 degree oven. Let it continue to braise for about 90 minutes. The temperature of the meat actually goes above 200 and the meat shreds nice. It is a little dry, but it will taste well. Because this time while the meat is resting in a little of the braising liquid. Take the rest of the liquid and add chili powder (3 Tbs), Worcester Sauce (1 tsp), brown sugar (2 Tbs), garlic (1/2 tsp), powdered mustard (1/4 tsp) and whisk in while the liquid is reducing by about half. Yes, what you are making it a BBQ sauce. Shred the meat and put it back in the sauce. It sounds weird because a picnic shoulder would do this much better. But remember you are trying to save a dry tenderloin and this way works fairly well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Korean/Chinese Mandoo

Last week my wife set up her jewelry kiosk in my office building, so we got to see each other more than usual. For lunch there are several places in my building, most pretty simple -- you know salads and sandwiches. One is a pretty good Chinese restaurant. Now I do like good Chinese food and the first time my building had a Chinese Buffet it was a disaster. Picture, if you would, a short line of various canned Chinese food in steamer trays. It was . . . . well . . . disgusting was the word that came to mind. It didn't last long!

A few years back a contractor came in and opened an actual Chinese lunch place. The menu has about 30 things, beef, chicken, pork and seafood and even a few vegetable dishes. Most are served with a side of rice, a fried honey chicken wing, and a Mandoo -- a Korean or Chinese fried dumpling. I had found myself partial to the Combination Rice, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken Lo-Mein, and Mongolian Beef. Since my wife also likes Chinese I introduced her to what is frequently her favorite, the Mongolian Beef. Surprising me, she loved the Mandoo. Her next day's lunch was an order of the Mandoo and a large iced tea.

So that got me thinking -- I know, dangerous -- why not try my hand at making them! So I did what I usually do and went digging for a recipe. I found one interesting on on Food Channel and another one a website I found through Google -- TasteMemories. At this point I'm not sure which one I will attempt, but both looked interesting. Food Channel looks easier, but TasteMemories looks much more flavorful. I'll let you know which I do on Saturday and how they turn out. If they are good I will post the recipe here, including any tweaks I might make :-) What I have loved about reading through the recipes, there isn't much you can't put into one of these dumplings and go wrong -- well I certainly hope not.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Did Chili again!

Ran the Chili recipe again, this time a double batch so I had some at home as well as taking in a small crock pot full for the office. An empty crock pot is a good sign!

Made a couple of small changes. Still use chuck roast meat, but I am not as happy with it's texture after 2 hours of cooking. It does fall apart nicely, but it still is a touch chewy. I am debating cutting into smaller pieces or braising the meat separately before building the chili itself. Still debating on that one. I do know I want the meat to be less chewy.

It also was a little on the thin side, sauce-wise. I used corn starch instead of corn muffin mix and I might not have used enough. It had a great taste, without the slight corn taste I get from the muffin mix. I might have to pick up some Masa Harina flour next time! That seemed to be the perfect thickening agent for chili, but I haven't found a small package. Five pounds of masa flour tends to go bad. Guess I might have to find another use for it. maybe homemade corn tortillas?

Gotta weekend coming up and might have a few inches of snow. So gotta think of a few new recipes, something nice and hearty. Maybe an Irish Stew one evening! Anyone have a good recipe?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Shrimp Scampi, I hope.

I would like to surprise my wife with a little Shrimp Scampi tomorrow night. Like most of the stuff I cook, I have never cooked shrimp outside of tossing some raw shrimp on a grill. So here is my plan:

I am going to start with a bag of pre-cooked shrimp. I know, it's cheating, but I want to concentrate on the butter-garlic sauce this time. Next time I'll try raw shrimp.

Following some advice, I picked up pre-cooked jumbo shrimp and made sure the only ingredient is Shrimp! I will defrost in some hot water for about 15 minutes before starting on the sauce.

The sauce, I was thinking about a verblanc sauce, but thought that might be too heavy, so I am going to simplify it down a bit. A stick of unsalted butter, melted, two minced garlic cloves sauteed for about a minute lightly. Then toss in the defrosted shrimp to heat through -- trying to be careful not to overcook it. A little lemon juice right at the end and a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with either rice or angel hair pasta. So how do you think it sounds?

I'll give it a shot and see what happens. I know many scampi recipes also call for wine or vermouth, shallots or onion, and even Parmesan cheese. I am going to keep it pretty simple.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Skirt Steak tomorrow night

I didn't get a chance at the Chili Verde, no tomatillos. I guess they aren't in season, so I'll be patient. In the meantime anyone who want to share a recipe, please pass it on.

Since I am holding off on that, I am thinking of some Skirt Steak with a bit of Chimichurri Sauce. Here is a recipe I will try. I'll pick up the fresh herbs on the way home. It's courtesy of Michael Chiarello. I'll let you know how it turned out.

Chimichurri Sauce:
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I have seen a number of other recipes, including finely chopped onion, lime juice, green onions, even a mild pepper like a poblano. The first time with a recipe I usually stick to it and then mess with it the next time, especially if there seemed to be something missing. For some reason the onions seem like they would be a good fit, well we shall see. If I mix it up and it doesn't have the expected impact, I always have some yellow onion in the house :-)

The skirt steak will be pretty simple. I love it quick grilled on a hot grill pan with nothing but a little oil, salt, and pepper. Skirt steak cooks in a flash, so don't turn your back on it. Now some might suggest that Chimichurri is a bit overkill on skirt steak and that a bottle of A1 is all you need. Sorry, A1 is OK, but I think it's overkill on thin cut like a skirt. I prefer a sauce that will add it's own level of flavor and still allow the meat to shine. A1, , is good with a thick cut, like a sirloin, but for skirt it's like using a shotgun on a mosquito.