Life is funny sometimes. My cousin got married Friday evening, and we all had a great time. My sister is getting married next month. Today was SUPPOSED to be her bridal shower. We wanted to have food, but keep it kind of light, and chicken salad was the idea. Except that my sister doesn’t really eat mayo, so I decided that I would come up with something that would keep her happy too. As you might imagine, I have lots of cookbooks, and although I may not have made anything out of all of them I have read through them, and sort of picked out anything that might come in handy for later. In this case I went to my copy of Heart of the Artichoke for this recipe. I decided to adapt it slightly for my needs. I made everything for the party before I knew it was going to be snowed out!
I had made tea smoked chicken before, but this turned out far better. It also took longer, but I think the results justify the extra time. The nice thing about this particular smoking method is that it was a little less intense. The chicken was pre-cooked and so all I needed to do was give it enough time in the smoke to give it flavor, rather than trying to cook it through. The first step will give you a very tasty broth which you could certainly eat if you wanted. I just don’t have space for that at the moment, but I did taste it, and it was very nice.
6 chicken legs quarters, salted and peppered (I broke them down into thighs and legs just to make them a little easier to deal with)
water to cover
1″ piece of ginger peeled and chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic chopped
4 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces
3 star anise
Season the chicken and allow it to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. Place in a large pot and add the water and all of the other ingredients. Bring up to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, and then remove the chicken legs from the water. Allow the broth to simmer for another 30 minutes and adjust the seasoning. (If you want to keep it. I didn’t.)
On to the smoking! Here is where you want to make sure you have good ventilation! You can use the method I used in my previous post, or if you have a stove top smoker you can use that. I have a Cameron’s stove top smoker, and it works very well. It also uses less of the wood chips or tea in this case.
Cooked chicken legs
1/2 cup tea leaves (Yes, you can use Lipton)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raw white rice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 – 3 star anise crushed
Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine everything but the chicken legs in a bowl, and line a skillet with foil, and add the tea mixture to the bottom if the skillet. Then place a rack on top, and place the chicken on it. Place the lid on the skillet, and turn the heat on high. When you start to hear the sugar crackling and smell the smoke, give it two minutes, and then turn off the burner and place the whole thing in the oven for 10 minutes. Don’t take off the lid to check, or you will lose all of the smoke.
If you’re using a stove top smoker, follow the manufacturer’s directions for how much wood chips (tea) to use. You can still use the time above.
Once the chicken was smoked I pulled the meat off the bones, and roughly chopped it into bite sized pieces.
Next I made the ginger lime vinaigrette.
Vinaigrette dressing are very simple to make, and add lots of flavor to a salad. In this case it complimented the chicken very nicely! You can use a whisk to make this dressing, but I almost always use my food processor. It chops up the shallots and ginger for me, and makes quick work of emulsifying the dressing. Mine is a small one, and for doing recipes like this it works perfectly.
1 shallot finely diced
1 garlic clove minced
2 teaspoons finely diced or grated ginger
(I just dropped all three in the food processor, and let it do what it does!)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?)
1/4 cup neutral oil, canola, grape seed
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
juice of 1/2 lime
I also added about 1 Tablespoon of honey just to balance out the flavors a bit.
If you’re doing this with a whisk, add the shallots, garlic, and ginger to the bowl, and add the lime juice, vinegar, honey, and mustard, and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the oils, until combined. If you have a food processor you can use the same order. It will just go a bit more quickly.
To serve your salads, mix a little of the dressing with the chicken, and then place a handful of spring greens on a plate (I drizzled a bit of the dressing on the greens as well.) Place the chicken on top of the greens, and add some sliced cucumber, and finely sliced scallions! Enjoy! It was a nice lunch with my family even if the shower was canceled!
Lots of people have pets. We have a couple of cats, and they are pretty typical for cats. Cute, crazy, and like to sleep when you let them. They also like to eat, and that is where things get tricky. You see, pet foods often contain fillers. Cats in the wild would eat meat, and that is the bulk of it. Dogs eat a more varied diet, but primarily a meat based diet.
What is in your pet’s food? Let’s face it, your pets need to eat. You probably also don’t want to have your pets eating people food. You also don’t want to cook them special food most of the time. On the other hand, you don’t want to be glutened from your pets food. Go look at the package for your pet’s food. What did you find? Wheat? Barley? Oats? Surprised? I was too. Why do your pets need these? I doubt that they do. Of course grains are cheaper than actual meat and meat products. The cheaper the food the more likely it seems that you will have gluten in your pet food. Obviously, when you have a person with Celiac in your home you want to eliminate as much as possible the sources of gluten that they are exposed to.
This is not just an issue in dry food. Wet food also contains gluten.
The other day we were picking up some more food for our cats, and we found some that actually didn’t seem to contain any gluten. It wasn’t even that much more expensive for a similar amount of food as we normally bought. They also had some canned food, and it was actually marked as being gluten-free and grain free. We generally only feed our cats canned food as a treat.
We picked up a bag of the dry food. Right now we are feeding them a mixture of their old food with the new stuff to transition them to the new food. Some of the dry food formulas do contain oats, but the one we got only had rice.
As it turns out, they really do seem to like this new food quite a bit. When we gave them a can of the new wet food, it looked like food. It even smelled less like cat food than most of the canned cat food I have seen. I won’t say it smelled good, but they seemed to like it!
I guess really this post is just something for you to think about, and be aware of. You can’t control what your cats do, and they are going to go where you may not want them. This is just one more little thing that can help you feel better. Obviously, you still need to maintain normal hygiene standards, but it gives you one less thing to worry about. That is never a bad thing.
Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes I always heard of, but strangely, never had as a kid. I couldn’t tell you why that is, but it certainly is worth taking the time to make. It is such a simple dish, and in many ways, reminds me of the poulet basquaies I made ages ago. I like these kinds of rustic dishes, they are generally pretty easy, and have loads of flavor. Simple ingredients that don’t get screwed up by trying to make them into something they aren’t.
What you need:
chicken, whole, cut up, or breasts if you prefer.
10 – 12 crimini mushrooms sliced thin
garlic, minced how much do you like?
1 onion sliced thinly
1 bell pepper sliced thinly (about the same size as the onion)
1 can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
herbes de provence
That is really it. You could add pancetta, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, fresh basil, you know, that kind of thing.
I decided serve it on top of some gluten-free noodles, and I picked up a box of Schar tagliatelle.
This is pretty straightforward stuff. Season the chicken with salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet, and sear the chicken. When it releases from the pan, flip it over, and sear it on the other side. The second side won’t take as long as the first. Remove the chicken and set it on a plate for the time being.
There should be some oil left in the pan. Throw in the mushrooms add a little salt, and saute them until they are tender. Then add the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Again, add a touch of salt, and saute until it is tender. Add some wine, and bring it to a boil. Scrape the brown bits up. I can’t really tell you how much, I wanted enough of the liquid to get some with the noodles. Next add the can of tomatoes and stir them in and bring the whole thing up to a boil. Add the black pepper and herbes de provence. See how much liquid you have, if it looks like enough that you can get the chicken down in it part way. Put the chicken in with whatever liquid is on the plate, put the lid on the skillet, and turn it down to a simmer.
While the chicken is simmering get the water boiling for your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Keep in mind that the chicken will be fine if it is done a little before the pasta. The pasta on the other hand will turn into a gummy mess while the chicken finishes cooking.
I had been thinking about this for a while, when I was talking to my mom about what she wanted to do for Christmas Eve dinner. She mentioned that she wanted to cook a pork loin and stuff it with something. My idea was to use some apples and pistachios to stuff a pork loin. Amy doesn’t eat pork(except bacon), so I was thinking I would stuff a turkey breast tenderloin instead, but then this opportunity presented itself!
This was a chance for me to do a few things that I don’t get to do very often. While I understand and know HOW to make an “S” cut in something to make a round food into a flat sheet, I had never done it. I had also never made stuffing like this. I made some cornbread stuffing at Thanksgiving, so I had a general idea of how it would work. I was pretty much going to wing it! The final thing that I had never done, but more or less understood was how to tie a roast!
Equipment you’re going to need:
Sharp knife, boning, non-flexible slicer or utility
Some kind of roaster or sheet tray
An accurate thermometer
I figured the first thing I would do is make my stuffing.
1/2 loaf Scharr baguette cubed (I didn’t end up using all of this, but I was winging it, so just used what I needed.)
1 Jazz apple diced
1/2 cup pistachios after being shelled. Crushed
salt and pepper
6 fresh sage leaves fine chiffonade
1 Tablespoon approximately fresh rosemary chopped
1 pork tenderloin
Follow the directions of the Scharr bread. Or use whatever you have handy. This would be a good place to use up leftover gluten-free bread. I didn’t have any, so I did what I had to. Allow it to cool, and then cut it into small cubes. Combine all of the other dry ingredients of the stuffing, pour in a little bit of the chicken broth at a time to get all of the bread moist. It doesn’t need to be soaking wet.
Next we need to make an “S” cut in the pork. Using a knife you’re comfortable with, slice about 1/3 of the way from the top almost all of the way through. Then turn it around and cut the lower part the same way. This will give you a flat-ish sheet to stuff, and roll up.
Spread the stuffing on the pork loin. You’ll want to leave a little space at the edge so that you can roll it. Then to keep everything in place you’re going to need to tie it with the butcher’s twine. There are a number of ways this can be done. The easiest is to cut several lengths of string that you can slide under every couple of inches and tie securely. The best knot for this is a fisherman’s knot, (That is what we always called it, but a butcher might call it something else) which is a basic overhand knot with an extra tuck through the open loop . The other way is a little trickier, and involves making loops and tightening them up and making another loop, and only actually making knots at the end. Which is what I did. The one in the foreground is stuffed, and the one in the background is not. I cut it wrong, and tied it back up so that it would cook more evenly!
Season the outside with salt and pepper and roast it at 350 degrees until your thermometer reads 150F if you want medium and 160 if you want it well. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for about 10 more minutes. During that time the temperature will continue to rise. Also, the juices in the meat will redistribute during this time. Just let it sit covered with a piece of foil.
This turned out to be pretty tasty, and we all enjoyed it. I even stuffed a chicken breast for Amy with the same stuff. (She didn’t care for it, but she doesn’t really like stuffing, and doesn’t think fruit and meats go together, so…) All told, it was a very nice evening with my family, and that is never a bad thing.
So, when I was a kid we would, from time to time, make a trip to a local Chinese food place. This was before the days of P. F. Chang, and gluten and basically everything. Once I was old enough to drive, it wouldn’t be unheard of for me to go to the same place and get the same thing. OK, there were several places I might go, but I almost always ended up with the same dish until I was in my 20′s. Sweet and Sour Chicken or pork depending on my mood… After that, I might go wild and have General Tso’s Chicken, but the Sweet and Sour was always there as a possibility. This pattern continued in college once I found the appropriate Chinese restaurant in town. My favorite had a fountain in the dining room… and many interesting evenings were spent there with friends.
Now, since going gluten-free my options for Chinese food are a lot more limited. That makes me sad, because I always loved it. Realistically, I know that this kind of thing is something I am easily capable of doing, but I never really tried it until today. Next time I might make a few adjustments, but it was good, and pretty close to what I expected. I’m pretty sure it is not particularly a traditional Chinese dish, but it is how I was exposed to Chinese food, and I would imagine I am not the only one.
I found this recipe in a book called Chinese Cooking The Food and the Lifestyleand, then adjusted it slightly to make it safe and also to use what I had or could buy.
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (I used San-J gluten-free tamari.)
1 Tablespoon of sake (I know, sake is Japanese. Chinese rice wines are harder to find!)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or sesame oil
Just put the chicken in a bowl and toss with this mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes or so. The chicken won’t get breaded like we all always had before, but it is fine. You could make a tempura batter with rice flour and deep fry it if you just have to have that element. Trust me though, this is good, and probably healthier! If you do make the tempura you’ll need to drain the chicken and then try to get it as dry as possible. Otherwise the batter won’t stick.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (Again, San-J GF tamari)
Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ketchup and soy sauce, and mix well.
Next we’ll deal with the veggies.
1 small onion cut in large dice 3/4″ across or so
1 or 2 carrots thinly sliced on the bias
1 bell pepper cut the same size as the onion
In a second bowl
3 green onions finely sliced
1 clove garlic minced
So, now we can put the whole thing together! Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or if you have a wok use it! Saute the chicken in the large skillet until it is nearly cooked through, and remove from the pan. Wipe it clean and add a little more oil. Then saute the ginger, scallions and garlic until fragrant. This might take a minute. Add the rest of the veggies and saute them until they start getting tender. Return the chicken to the pan, and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Then add the sauce to the pan. Serve over rice and enjoy your trip down memory lane! I know I wish I had some chopsticks!
If you think about it, one of the first tools that we probably developed over the course of our evolution was a knife or edged tool of some sort. It is such as basic tool, and yet it is amazingly useful. That is why I wanted to start with it for this series of posts. It is a very important tool for all of us when we cook something, but it is very easy to use in ways which are less effective, less efficient or less safe than it could be. The kitchen can be a dangerous place to work, and yet most professionals don’t end up cutting ourselves that often. Last year I cut myself twice. That might be more than you did, but I spend a lot more time in the kitchen than most people.
Today we are going to talk about using your chef’s knife. This is the real workhorse of your kitchen knives. The others are more specialized or really not all that useful. The small serrated utility knife is the worst! The chef’s knife comes in many different shapes and sizes. I have several, all different, and I like them all!
First lets talk about the parts of a knife. First the obvious, there is a handle and a blade. There are a number of parts within each of these. The point, the tip, the edge, and the heal of the blade are the sharpened side of the knife. The part of the blade opposite the edge is the spine. The handle will vary depending on the construction of the knife, but it should be comfortable to hold in your hand. The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. The tang can be partial, or full. A full tang will be the full length of the handle, and the sides of the handle will be riveted to it. A partial will only be part of the length of the handle. You can also have a rat tail tang. It is a thin tang that extends into the handle. This is typically in cheaper knives, and you will not see it at all. This is not to say that a knife with a rat tail tang is a bad knife, just less expensive. The other part of a knife handle to know about is the bolster. The bolster is where the blade meets the handle. On some knives there is an actual bolster, and it is part of the blade that is part of the handle. On other knives it is more of a conceptual thing. The area is still there, but the blade just joins the handle.
Now what? Well lets talk about how to hold the knife. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, there’s a handle. That is what handles are for.” Well, yes, and no. You probably hold the knife with all four fingers on the handle.
As you can see I don’t hold a knife the same way you do. The bolster (remember that?) is sort of in the palm of my hand. My index finger is curled over the spine , and the blade is pinched between it and my thumb. The rest of my fingers are on the handle. My grip may shift a little when I’m holding the knife to actually cut something, but you get the idea. As you can see, my fingers are still all out of the way of any cutting parts. What does this grip do for you? By moving your hand closer to the working part of the knife you gain quite a bit more control. It doesn’t really seem like it would make that big of a difference, but once you try it, and stick with it for a bit, you will NEVER go back.
Why do you get more control? I’m not sure I can answer that, but you do. Today while I was at work I tried to slice some onions holding the knife the way I used to, and I just felt like I had no control over anything that was going on at the business end of things. Believe me, you want the control! At least in part this is because you don’t have to work as hard to actually hold the knife. Since you are not working as hard to hold the knife, you can be more accurate with your cuts, you can cut more without getting tired, cut things faster (with time and practice), and be safer overall. That last point is important, and relates to this… A sharp knife is ALWAYS safer. While that may seem counterintuitive, it is true. A sharp knife requires less effort to make a cut. Then when you are not struggling to hold the knife, and feel more secure holding, cutting becomes effortless. This is important because you are going to cut yourself! The sharp knife in your hand will cut you, but you won’t have been struggling to get the edge to bite into the skin of a tomato, and slip full force into your pinky finger causing a ragged tear of a cut. When you cut yourself, it will have clean smooth edges, and won’t actually be as deep, because there was much less force behind the blade. The nice clean cut will be less painful, and heal much faster. (Yes, it will hurt either way.)
Now that we have your dominant hand sorted out, lets take a look at your other hand. We have a couple of goals for your left hand. The first is to hold the food that you want to cut, and the second is to leave it intact!
As you can see in the picture above my finger tips are curled back from the blade of the knife, and the knife is actually touching the index finger and middle finger. As you can see, my thumb is nowhere near the blade at all. This will allow you to hold the food, and guide the knife as it cuts the food.
Depending on the size and shape of the food you’re cutting there are various techniques you can use. For items like carrots or celery that are going to be chopped and are not very tall the easiest thing to do is to keep the tip of the knife in contact with the cutting board, and make a circle with your right hand. Starting with the blade of the knife on the cutting board, lift the blade and draw it toward you. Then as you descend push the knife away from your body still leaving the tip on the board. When used in this way you will be able to chop all kinds of things. Similarly you can hold the knife above the food, and slice downward through it. In this case the tip of the knife won’t be on the cutting board, but you will still use a motion similar to the basic chopping above. You can also use the tip of the knife to slice items like tomatoes or pineapples that have been sliced. These two techniques will serve you very well for almost anything you will be doing.
These two videos show me dicing a tomato and chiffonading some basil. In the first, I used the tip of the knife to slice the tomato, and then I used the variation of the basic chopping motion to dice it. When chiffonading the basil I used the basic chopping motion.
Remember your knife is not something to be scared of. It is actually one of the most useful tools you have in your kitchen!
Not too long ago I saw on Facebook that a bar near my apartment, called The Silver Ballroom, was having a salsa and guacamole competition. I decided to enter. This is about that, and not at the same time.
All of us eat food. (Hopefully, several times a day!) How many of us take the time to actually pay attention to what we are eating?
I pretty much always taste food I am cooking if I can. At work that is not always possible, but I generally get the help I need. When I make a dish the first time I will follow the recipe fairly closely (unless something just doesn’t make sense to me), and the next time I make adjustments as I see fit. Hopefully, you do something somewhat similar when you’re cooking for yourself.
I decided to enter the contest, more or less on a whim. I decided Thursday night about midnight that I would enter the contest that took place on the following Tuesday. Not a lot of time. Obviously, I had recipes that I felt fairly comfortable with, and figured they would be a good start. If I’m entering a contest like this I want to win! So, I realized that I needed to really make sure that I got my recipes right. (To tell the truth, for my salsa and guacamole there is no actual recipe, more of a concept. I just make them, and taste as I go.)
I wasn’t going to write something down, because then I would be following something that constrains me in these, and I didn’t feel like that would be the right way to go. So, I tried to really pay attention to the flavors in each of the dips. I did decide to take all of the salsa ingredients outside and put them on the grill rather than roasting them in the oven. I figured the charring on the pepper skins and tomatoes skins would give me more depth of flavor, and then since I was making some turkey burgers for dinner, and the grill was lit… Once everything was pureed I added the lime juice and salt and pepper and tasted it. Now, really pay attention… Is there enough salt? Bell pepper? Garlic? Jalapeno? etc., and I tried to really take my time tasting, adjusting until I really felt that I had it exactly how I wanted.
When I made the guacamole I did the same thing. I tried to be very precise with my cuts for each of the ingredients to get them exactly the way I wanted them. When you’re using a knife, you can actually impact the flavor of a dish by cutting things inconsistently. Imagine taking a bite of something only to find a large piece of raw garlic… Probably not what you wanted to go for. And it will certainly affect the flavor of that bite. Of course, if people are judging your food on a single bite, you probably just lost a vote…
Obviously, I was trying to get the flavors just right for the contest, but really we can extend this to almost any time we are cooking or eating. If you are already gluten-free you’re used to paying attention to labels on EVERYTHING you buy at the grocery store, right? And while that is a very good thing, there is more that you can do. Take a little time and when you taste the food you’re cooking pay attention to what you’re actually experiencing. Food is far more than taste and smell. Really, all of our senses go into cooking and eating. Look at the food, and notice the colors and textures. Do you hear anything? Maybe it is sizzling as you cook it… Touch it! If you’ve ever handled meat that has gone bad (yuck!) you’ll know that it feels different, as well as smelling different! Of course, that is not all you can tell by touching your food. In short, pay as much attention to the food you’re eating, when you’re cooking it as when you buy it. Take the time and really experience it. That was the challenge I gave myself. It didn’t really add a lot of time to the prep, but it may have made a difference in the end result.
When all of the salsa and guacamole had been eaten, and the votes were counted it turned out that I took first place in the guacamole and second in the salsa! It was a lot of fun to try something that was somewhat out of my comfort zone like this, and give myself a challenge. Of course, that means next year I will have to defend my title I suppose!
With summer and hot weather upon us the grill becomes a favorite way to cook lots of what we eat. Plus, it saves dishes in the kitchen! There is probably not a lot of food that wouldn’t be tasty on the grill. I’ve grilled vegetables, various red meats, fish, poultry, fruit, and even some lettuces. No matter what food you decide to grill there are some basics that will apply.
Depending on your choice of fuel this will be easy or a little more complicated. Depending on what you are going to be cooking, and how you are going to be cooking it you will do different things.
I prefer charcoal, personally, but it is up to you. I know some people have grills with a charcoal section and a gas section. That would be nice for quick grilling sessions on a week night fire up the gas side, and when you have time use the charcoal side. Or if you have people coming over, use both! I have given up lighter fluid, and now use a starter chimney. No more lighter fluid taste! It is easy, and actually pretty fast! You always want to make sure that the coals are ashed over before you start any food. Flames are bad when you are grilling. Flames mean soot, and soot is never good on your food!
When you grill you have several options for getting heat to your food. You can have direct or indirect heat. Obviously, you can use both in one grilling session, and sometimes that is exactly what is called for. Charcoal grills give you more options, but they can also give you more problems. With a gas grill you can use the burner or burners to control how much heat and where it is. When you are dealing with charcoal you have to place the fire where you want it. Obviously if you want a nice even heat over the entire grill you need to make sure you spread the coals under the grill evenly.
How you distribute the heat will depend on what you are grilling. Certain things require even heat across the entire grill. This category would include sausages (brats, hot dogs, salsiccia…), burgers, fish (fillets and steaks), veggies, fruits, chicken breasts. In other words, small similar sized items should go over direct heat. Indirect heat would be best for larger items or smoking. So, if you wanted to grill a whole chicken, or smoke a boston butt for example you want indirect heat. In the case of the chicken you could sear the skin over the hot part and move it to the cooler part of the grill to cook through, or cook the bird through and then sear the skin on the hot side.
When you are smoking you generally want a lower temperature, and to use indirect heat. I do this by piling all of the coals (and soaked wood chips) at one end of the grill, and then putting the smokee at the other end. I am then able to control the temperature by opening the air vent and the chimney. More air flow will give you a higher temperature, but if you close things up too much you starve the fire of oxygen and you end up killing the fire. So you want to find the point where you have enough heat to cook, but you also want to have the fire low so that you can get nice smoke flavor into the food.
2 Let it warm up!
Before you put food on the grill you want it to get good and hot. This will help the food to not stick. I’m not really sure why this is, but in almost every case you want to put the food on a hot surface rather than a cold one. This will also help keep you from having flames, and it will burn off some crap from the grill.
3 Clean the grill!
Make sure there isn’t a whole bunch of burned crap on the grill. A grill brush will do the trick and it is cheap! This will ensure that all of the crap that was left on the grill the last time and burned on there doesn’t end up in your food. If you think about it it makes sense. You don’t want your grilled pineapples to taste like the chipotle marinated pork chops that you had the other night, do you? Clean the grill! (Having said that, chipotle pineapple might be an interesting combo… if you do it right, spicy and sweet almost always works!)
4 Season your food!
This should be a no brainer, but seasoning your food is always a good thing. In grilling, which is a high heat dry method of cooking, if you have a large piece of meat you should consider brining it. This will help you keep your food more moist. You might also want to consider brining things like shrimp which are easy to over cook. Even if all you use is salt and pepper it will make your food taste better when you get through cooking it. I also like to use various marinades and rubs, depending on the meat and the flavor I want.
5 Leave it alone!
Ok, so here is where things get a little more interesting. Whenever you are cooking and add a piece of high protein food to a hot surface it will stick. This is not a problem, just leave it alone! This happens in a non-stick skillet, it happens in a stainless steel skillet, and it happens on the grill. I’ve seen special foil that you can put on your grill to prevent that from happening. I don’t know why you would do that though. A little vegetable oil on the grill before you put the food on it, or a little cooking spray (Make damn sure you don’t get the baking spray that has flour in it, because that would not be gluten-free!) on the food before you place it on the grill will make it not stick. Since you’re leaving it alone you will not tear up the chicken, or steak or burger. What you will end up with is grill marks! (Just like at your favorite restaurant!)
Make sure you have a little oil on the grill, and place your seasoned food on the grill at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the grill grates, and leave it there! After a couple of minutes with your tongs lift the edge of the food very gently, and if it comes up lift it and turn it 90 degrees. If it doesn’t come up easily, let it sit a little longer. Obviously if you are making a burger you should use a spatula, and the angle that you place it is less important. Closing the lid of your grill will help heat the other side of the food, and speed things up a bit. Once you have turned your food and allowed it to sit a little longer you will have nice grill marks on one side of your food.
The second side will go a bit quicker, but with a large piece of meat the grill marks are less important, because it will take longer to finish cooking. If you have a larger piece of meat and you just want the grill marks you can finish it in the oven, and then return it to the grill to essentially remark it. This is fairly common with things like half chickens. You can do them on the grill from start to finish, but it takes a bit of care to not over cook it or burn the skin. It isn’t hard though.
This one is pretty simple! Enjoy the summer, and grilling! There are is almost no limit to what you can grill, and with a little creativity you can really get some great flavors that are much more difficult during the winter, unless you are a serious griller, and then you won’t be hindered by a little snow!
As you’re probably aware the middle of the US is currently in a heat wave… in July we had 15 days over 100F! I’ve been trying to come up with light cold soups for the summer. I decided to skip Vichyssoise because it just seemed a little heavy with all of the cream and potatoes. I might make it once it cools off a little though. I’ve made gazpacho, and a very nice cold roasted pepper soup. The other day I decided to make a melon soup. Served chilled it is sweet, light and refreshing. Frequently in soups like this the addition of some herbs will add some complexity to a rather plain, but very tasty soup. I’ve used mint and basil before, but after thinking about a cocktail I had at my brother’s wedding I decided to take a shot with rosemary. (In that case it was lemonade and vodka with a sprig of fresh rosemary, very tasty, and the rosemary balanced the sweetness of the lemonade very nicely.) This soup will be very easy, and also vegan!
The only real equipment you will need is a blender/food processor and a bowl.
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
juice and zest of one lime
splash of white wine (optional)
sprig fresh rosemary
The first thing you will want to do is combine the water, sugar and lime in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
While the liquid is cooling peel your melons, and cut them into pieces that are small enough to fit into your blender. The easiest way to peel a melon is to cut off the stem end and the blossom end. This will give you flat spots to steady the melon while you peel it. Using your chef’s knife slice down the side of the melon following the curve. You want to make sure you get all of the peel. In this case it is pretty easy to know you have it right when you cut off all of the green.
Once you’ve peeled the melons split them in half. Scoop out the seeds, and then cut the melon into pieces. Place the half of the melon in the blender with some of the water mixture, and puree. You’re going to have to taste this to decide if it is too sweet, or not sweet enough. When you blend the second half you can adjust the sweetness of the soup by adding more or less of the sugar syrup. Hold a little bit back just in case you need to adjust. Transfer the soup to a bowl, and taste it again. (Add the wine now if you are using it, the acid will brighten up the flavors a bit.) Once you have the soup as sweet as you would like you can turn your attention to the rosemary. Set the whole sprig on your cutting board and use the back of a skillet to gently smash it. This will leave it intact, but release more of the oil into the soup. Then simply place the rosemary in the bowl with the soup, and make sure it is submerged. Allow the soup to cool in the fridge and serve in chilled bowls. Maybe top it with a dollop of sour cream for garnish? Eat it just like it is.
This is a very simple soup, but it is very tasty, and very refreshing for a hot summer day.
Summer means many different things to different people. Back when I was a little kid, it was summer vacation. Now, it means grilling (I’ve been working on a post about grilling, and hopefully will finish it soon.) and tomatoes. Oh, and there is always disc golf, but that isn’t really what we’re talking about today. Today is the finals of the PDGA World Championships, BTW! Congratulations are in order for Sarah Hokum (Women’s Open), Ken Climo (Master’s Open)(13x!), and Paul McBeth(Men’s Open).
Tomatoes are really a summer fruit, and the best ones come in the heat of August (at least here) and are generally best when stolen from a neighbor’s plant! Anyway, this kind of thing really just can’t be done with the crappy tomatoes you buy at the grocery store in January. Also, don’t put them in the fridge! This, and the caprese salad are really all about the tomatoes.
Here is what you’re going to need…
1 pizza crust (make your own, or use a premade crust, I tend to keep Udi’s pizza shells on hand, so we went with one of those)
some nice tomatoes I needed 4 or so small tomatoes.
herbes de provence
1 head garlic
fresh basil (I just pulled several leaves off the plant on my kitchen windowsill)
First thing first. Preheat your oven to 350F. Place the entire head of garlic in a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle it with olive oil to coat it well. Close the foil pouch and put it i the oven for roughly 45 minutes or until it is nice and tender.
The next thing is the tomatoes. Slice them about 1/4″ thick. Toss them with olive oil and herbes de provence. Place them on a baking sheet, and roast them for about 15-20 minutes until they are nice and tender.
Squeeze the foil wrapped garlic. When it is soft you are going to unwrap it(Yes, while it is still pretty warm.) and cut the top off of the head. Then you are going to squeeze the little cloves to get the soft, sweet garlic out of them. Yep, its going to be messy. Keep going, it is totally worth it!!! Get it all into a bowl, and discard the skins.
Slice your cheese about as thick as the tomatoes.
If you are making your own crust you may need to partially bake it before you top it, because all you need to do is crisp it up, and melt the cheese.
When your crust is ready, rub it with olive oil, and then the garlic you squished into a bowl. Use as much or as little as you like. I used all of it! Top with the tomatoes, add the cheese, and the tear up basil leaves and sprinkle generously on top.
I’ve been kind of busy doing things, so this post has taken a while to happen. Hopefully, I can get back to posting more often.
A while back I started talking to Jill, a friend from college on Facebook, and we decided to get together and I would show her some things about using a knife. She was interested in learning more about cooking, and this is what we decided to do.
For me a knife is one of the most useful tools in the kitchen, and I feel that it is important for a number of reasons to develop a good understanding of how to use it. The knife is probably one of the oldest tools developed by humans. I’m sure that the earliest knives man created bore little resemblance to the modern kitchen knife, but in many ways it is not greatly changed. A place to hold on, and a part that was sharp. Technology, user’s needs, and most recently ergonomics have caused the many variations in form that the knife has had over the last two million or more years.
Although she does cook she doesn’t always feel super comfortable cooking things and wanted to learn more. I wanted to try to come up with something that would be a little more adventurous, but not get her to far out of what she was comfortable with. I also wanted to make sure that it would be something her kids would eat. (As it turns out, the whole family loved this!)
I decided to make a Cuban roast pork with a pineapple salsa. I figured some black beans would work nicely with this as well, and maybe some sautéed veggies.
First thing, lets work on getting the pork ready.
In a blender
8 cloves of garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2 limes, and 3 oranges
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dry oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Add all but the oil, and run until everything is blended. Drizzle the oil in slowly.
Place a 2 to 2.5 pound pork tenderloin in a ziplock bag, and pour the marinade over it. Allow to sit for 3 to 4 hours.
Sear over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, and then move to low temp area of grill until temp reaches 140-150F. Remove from the grill, and allow to rest covered for 10 minutes. If grilling is not your thing, place it in a 300F oven and roast for about 30 minutes and check the temp. Once you reach 140-150F remove it from the oven and allow it to rest. (Or if the weather is against you, like it was when I was visiting Jill. I ended up racing a massive thunderstorm home!)
While the pork is marinating you can get the salsa started. This is easy, and you will not believe how good it is. It can be used on grilled fish such as salmon, or chicken too.
This is where I figured I would be able to get Jill to use her knife, and she did a fantastic job!
1 pineapple (Buy a whole fresh pineapple, don’t be afraid!)
2 green onions
1 red onion
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
With this recipe the biggest challenge is the pineapple. You’re really only going to be using about 1/2 to 2/3 of it. First, cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. This will give you a nice flat place to stand it up so you can skin it. You will be able to see some of the eyes along the side of the pineapple. You want to slice down following the curve inside the eyes as much as possible. Then, turn the pineapple and continue. You shouldn’t have too much trouble following the curve, but you will need to turn it over and finish slicing off the skin. Then you can go back and slice off any of the eyes that you missed.
Stand up the pineapple, and slice down through the core. (You’ll be able to spot it pretty easily, it has a different texture.) Set one half aside, and cube it up later. Cut the half you still have on your cutting board in half. You’re going to have two long wedges of pineapple. Turn them so that the corner is down, and turn your knife at a 45 degree angle and slice out the cores. Slice the remaining pineapple about 1/2″ thick. You’re going to be looking for 1/2″ dice.
Thinly slice the green onions, and finely dice the red onion, and red bell pepper. Cut the stem end off the jalapeño and then cut it in half. Scrape out the seeds and ribs with a spoon or your finger (your hands will burn, wash them before you touch your eyes or anything else sensitive.) Then slice into thin strips and dice it very finely. Mince the garlic. Pull the tops of about 1/4 of the cilantro off and chop it up. Mix everything well toss with a generous splash of lime juice (to taste), and season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
1 cup black beans soaked overnight (They soak up a lot of liquid. I’d try to have a quart total of water and beans.)
1 small onion fine diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tablespoon Thyme
1/2 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon ground ancho chili (or chili powder, in that case, skip the oregano)
salt, but not yet!!!!
Beans are a fantastic food, and we should all eat more of them. They are also easy to cook! Soak your beans over night. When you are ready to cook them drain the water off and put everything in the ingredients above in the pot, except the salt! Cover them with water, and turn on the heat. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Now, comes the tricky part… when do you add the salt? “When the beans are your bitch.” When the beans are at the point that they are tender, but chalky when you bite them is when you salt them. This gives you seasoned broth, and the beans absorb the salt too.
Now, I would probably serve this with some rice, brown rice is healthier, so go with that, or maybe some quinoa.
What do you do with the left over pineapple? You could actually slice it up, and grill it, and then top it with a little bit of whipped cream! Or you could just eat it. (I think that is mostly what happened that day. We all had a tasty snack while we were cooking.)
From what Jill has told me she’s really started to enjoy cooking quite a bit since that afternoon. Of course I had to leave due to a massive hail storm coming, but it was great getting together with an old friend to catch up and spend the afternoon cooking!
I thought it has been a while, and I have some things in the works, but I thought this is too good to not to share with you. Besides, with tomorrow being Cinco de Mayo, it is pretty timely. (Not that there is a bad time for guacamole!)
This recipe is kind of a rough guide, feel free to tweak it as you see fit!
1 avocado, diced (I’ll give you the easy way to do that in a second.)
1/2 red onion finely diced
1 roma tomato finely diced
1/4 jalapeno finely diced (more or less depending on how spicy you like it.)
1/4 bunch cilantro finely chopped
ground cumin, oregano, salt and pepper to taste
lime juice to taste
First thing, split the avocado in half length-wise. Run your knife around the pit, and once you get all of the way around, give the two halves a twist, and they will come apart. Next, remove the pit, this is the dangerous part. Use your chef’s knife, and tap the pit just hard enough to stick in it, and give it a twist. I generally chop through the pit once I have it out of the flesh, but there are other ways. Carefully cut flesh of the avocado while it is still in the skin. The tip of your knife gently following the inside of the skin (but not through!) will slice it nicely. Cut it length-wise, and across. Next, use a large spoon and scoop out the flesh, about half the depth of the avocado, and then scoop again all the way at the skin. Repeat with the other half. You’ve just diced an avocado.
When you cut the cilantro the easiest way to do it is to hold the stems of the bunch so the leaves point down at an angle, and use the blade of your knife to slice the leaves off. Then just chop the leaves.
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl, and mix well. Obviously, as you season you should be tasting to see if you need more of something. You don’t want to dump in a bunch of anything all at once, because it is a lot easier to add things than to get them out. If you like it smoother, smash the avocado as you mix.
I have been aware of preserved lemons for a while, but to the best of my knowledge I had never encountered them. North African cuisine is not something I have a lot of experience with, but the chef recently added a dish to the menu that uses some of the flavors, and it is naturally gluten-free! A couple of major flavor components in this dish are preserved lemons and smoked paprika, and let me tell you it is quite a combination!
Obviously, smoked paprika you are probably not going to make, but you can make preserved lemons if you want. All you need is salt, lemons, lemon juice and a clean jar to put them in.
First, you want to make sure the lemons are nice and clean. There are washes you can use, but I don’t think they have been shown to be any more effective than water. Take your knife and cut down about 3/4 of the way through from the bud end. Then turn it 90 degrees, and cut it again. Once you have all of the lemons cut that you want to hold each one over the jar and pour salt into it. Set them in the jar, and then pour lemon juice over them. The lemons float, so there isn’t a lot you can do about them bobbing up to the surface. I kind of swish them around once in a while when I think of it. I don’t know if it helps. They need to sit for a couple of weeks. Pop your jar in the fridge, and don’t worry about it for two weeks. You’re done with them. They won’t go bad any time soon! The salt and juice will actually soften the lemons quite a bit. Also, the pith will not be bitter like it is in a fresh lemon.We will be using some of these very soon, and I am excited about it. Between the smoked paprika I picked up the other day and these lemons there is a ton of flavor to be enjoyed! Of course there will be a bit more to it.
I have always enjoyed PBS programs, and a while back I found Rick Bayless‘ show One Plate at a Time. Chef Bayless is known for making traditional Mexican food, and not screwing it up. Most of the “Mexican food” that we actually eat around here, and probably near you is Tex-Mex. Not that there is anything wrong with that, at all! It is just that Mexican food is a lot more diverse than you typically get to see.
Amy and I were looking for something to have for dinner, and I grabbed One Plate at a Time. As I flipped through my eye caught Red Chile Marinated Chicken with potatoes. This sounds like my kind of food. Looking through the ingredients there were only a couple of things we didn’t have. Amy and I went to the store and picked up a couple of things, and we were ready to go.
The chicken is going to get a ton of flavor from a marinade that uses chiles and a few spices. Really this is very simple. How much simpler can it get than roasted chicken and potatoes? The marinade is going to take this beyond a plain roasted chicken though.
3 oz dried ancho chiles stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 3 1/2 pound chicken
10 small red skinned potatoes, washed and halved
First, heat vegetable oil in a skillet and add the chile pieces, and lightly toast them. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was a little over excited and skipped the toasting. It was still fantastic, but it would have been better if I had done it.) Then place them in a bowl with two cups of water to rehydrate them for about 20 minutes. You might need to put a small plate on top of them to keep them from floating.
Place the chiles(and the water, there is lots of flavor in that!), garlic, spices, sugar, salt (to taste maybe a teaspoon), and vinegar in the blender. Puree until smooth. Set this aside.
Now for the fun part! Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? I have, once, but I will do it again! Spatchcocking a bird refers to flattening the bird out by removing the spine and breaking the keel bone. To do this you will need a pair of kitchen sheers. A paring knife might also come in handy. Place the bird breast down on a cutting board, and using your sheers, cut along one side of the backbone. Then do the same thing all the way up the other side. I found it easer to start at the larger opening in the chicken. Once the spine is out, carefully open up the body. Turn the chicken skin side up.The next thing that you need to do is to break the keel bone from the ribs. The easiest way to do that is to just make a fist and smack the center of the breast. You may have to hit it several times. You’ll know when it breaks. The breast will be a lot more flexible.
Put the bird into a plastic bag or bowl and pour about half the marinade over the bird. You want to cover the inside and outside. Leave it in the fridge like this for at least an hour, and overnight would be great.
Preheat your oven to 375F. You want to tuck the legs back so that everything cooks evenly. Cut a slit in the skin between the thigh, and the breast, and tuck the end of the leg into the hole. I also tucked the wing tips under the thighs. (You can see this in the picture below.) Place the bird skin side up in your roaster. Toss the potato halves in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange them around the chicken. Pour 1/3 of a cup of water in the roaster, but not on the chicken. Cover the pan. Our roaster has a lid so we used that, but foil will also work. Put the chicken in the oven. Every 15 minutes or so you are going to take the cover off, and stir the potatoes. This will help them cook evenly, and also get them coated with the chicken juices and adobo that you rubbed all over the chicken. Your total time will depend on a number of factors, but you will probably be looking at roughly an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. You should use your instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You’ll be looking for 160F.Once your chicken is at 160F, get the leftover marinade, and spoon some of it over the chicken, and potatoes. This will act as a bit of a glaze. Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, but leave it uncovered.Now we are to the hard part. Take the bird out of the roaster, and put it on a cutting board, and cover it with foil. Don’t touch it for about 10 minutes.
Did you make it? Cut the bird between the breast halves, and between the breast and thighs, and serve.
Amy and I didn’t really get a chance to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Valentine’s Day. We went to lunch for my birthday, but I never had a chance to make her a really spectacular dinner that night. I told her that she should figure out what she wants, and I would make it for her. She decided that she wanted cheese ravioli. I never really liked cheese ravioli, so I asked Mario Batali(via Twitter) what would be the best blend of cheeses. He replied, potato, ricotta, and parmesan. Who am I to argue with Mario Batali?First I made the filling:
1 T oil
2 T butter
2 cups Yukon gold potatoes cubed and boiled
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic cut in half
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ricotta
1/8 cup parmesan
1/8 cup pecorino romano
salt and pepper
herbes de provence
Boil the potatoes until the are tender in salted water. Saute the onions until they are tender. Place the milk, butter and garlic in a small pot, and bring up to a simmer over low heat. Place the cooked potatoes and onions in a bowl and add the milk mixture and mash the potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients. Place in the fridge to chill while you make your pasta.
As far as the pasta goes, I pretty much used the same recipe and method as I used a while back for my butternut squash ravioli, and it worked great. I did use a different flour blend this time. I used Andrea’s flour blend. It works well for anything I have tried it for. Other blends will work fine too. Amy bought me a very nice French rolling pin for Christmas, and it works wonderfully! I was able to roll the dough out thinner this time. (I used an empty wine bottle last time, and it worked ok. The rolling pin worked much better. Although I grew up using the roller style I really like using the tapered type. It is more comfortable for me.)
I let the dough rest for a little while, although it wasn’t strictly necessary. Then I rolled out the dough. Each ravioli gets less than a tablespoon of the filling, and then is sealed up with a little water along the edge of one piece. You will also want to crimp the edges with a fork. You don’t want your filling coming out of the ravioli you worked so hard to make! I find it easier to work with half of the dough at a time. This means that I can work with fewer ravioli at once. Get them filled and roll out the next set. If you wrap the dough in plastic it won’t dry out.
By now you should have a large pot of boiling salted water ready.
Once all of your ravioli are filled drop them in the pot. You want to be gentle, they are delicate. Slide them in one at a time, making sure not to crowd the pot. I got ten ravioli in at once with no problem. When the ravioli float they are done. The filling is already cooked, and there is not very much so they don’t take long to heat through. I’d guess they took about 4 minutes, tops.
While the ravioli were cooking I melted some butter in a skillet, and when the ravioli were done I drained them well, and transferred them to the skillet. I poured in a little white wine, and let it reduce a bit. Next, I added a couple of tablespoons of pesto. (I’ll talk about making pesto soon, but this was pre-made.) I gently stirred the pasta to distribute the pesto, and added about half cup of heavy cream, and as soon as that came up to a boil I added parmesan to the sauce. I added it slowly, and mixed it in until the sauce had thickened nicely. All that was left was to get them onto a plate! I had some asparagus, a salad, and a glass of wine. It was a nice way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!
My family tends to get that I really do enjoy cooking, and that frequently means that I get some really cool gifts. This year, for example I got a stovetop smoker from my brother and his wife! Obviously it can go in the oven as well. It has a lid that slides on for smaller items, and works pretty well. I tried it a few days ago with some chicken breasts, and was pretty happy with the results. Of course that made me think what else can I do with this? I have a feeling I am going to be smoking lots of things. It is actually very nice since you don’t want to rush it there is time to do other things while dinner is cooking!
The other day Amy told me that she was going to hang out with a friend on Friday night. That meant I was on my own for dinner! I also happened to go to the grocery store and find a deal on a very thick pork loin chop. You can see where this is going…
In the past when I make BBQ I make a dry rub, and leave that on the meat. Typically I BBQ ribs. My method involves my dry rub, and then braising the ribs in beer in a foil pack for several hours. It is the old low and slow thing. 250F for 3 hours means that the bones actually pull out of the St Louis style ribs. Then I sear the outside over the charcoal grill, and throw on sauce. (I know, but I’m from St Louis, and that is kind of how it goes.)
I don’t really have a recipe for my dry rub, I just kind of eyeball it.
Brown sugar, kosher salt, ground ancho chili, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, thyme, ground black pepper, sometimes ground mustard if I happen to think of it. Everything gets combined, and then spread evenly on the meat.
As far as the smoker goes… I’m going to use the hickory chips. Obviously I have no idea if you have a smoker or not, but if you do you should follow the instructions as far as using yours. Mine I started on the burner which gets the wood chips started. For my smoker they are essentially sawdust. You just have to spread a couple of tablespoons in the bottom. It has a large pan, with a smaller pan that fits inside with a removable rack. Then a lid for the whole thing. I poured about half a Bard’s beer in the drip pan figuring a little flavorful liquid wouldn’t hurt anything, and then drank what was left! (What would you have done? Yep!)*
So, everything looked like it does in the picture above, and I turned on the burner. After a minute or two I started seeing wisps of smoke coming around the drip pan, so I slid the lid over the whole thing, and slid it into the oven I had preheated to 250F. Obviously when you put a piece of meat in the oven at 250F from less than room temperature you are not in a hurry to eat, and I figured 2 solid hours would get me where I wanted to be.
Two hours later…I used my thermometer to make sure I had reached a safe temperature, and I was in good shape. Now, I closed the lid, and let it rest for about another 15 minutes. (This was hard. I pulled the bone out of it accidentally, and a chunk of meat came with it, so good!!)
I moved it to a plate, and pulled it apart with a couple of forks. This is really pretty easy to do. If you have cooked the pork enough it will pretty much shred into bite sized pieces just sticking the forks in and moving them a little.From this point if you don’t know what to do I don’t really know if I can help you!!! Serve with your favorite sides, and enjoy. I’m not going to even get into the entire BBQ sauce debate. Do what you like!
I have leftovers which are going to make an awesome lunch or two!
* What I ended up with was fantastically tasty, but not quite as smoky as I had hoped for. I think I know why. This is only the second time I have used it, so I am still kind of getting used to how it works. I may have made a mistake or two with the whole thing. Not bad mistakes, but they may have prevented me from getting as much smoke as I would have liked. First, the ignition temperature of wood, is 275F. If nothing else the temperature in the oven wasn’t high enough to maintain the burning chips. The second mistake was probably the beer in the drip tray. The beer in the drip tray will never go above the boiling point of water (give or take), and since the beer is directly on top of the wood chips it kept the pan cooler than it needed to be for a consistent smoke to happen. Without the beer it may have been ok with the wood in the oven at the slightly lower temperature since it started burning on the stove top. I really don’t mind making mistakes this tasty! Plus now I have an idea of what to do different for next time!
A couple of days ago I was waiting for orientation to start for a second bachelor’s degree. My previous degree was in the arts, and is only useful in that it fulfills lots of general requirements. I was kind of unfocused when I went to college. My degree is in General Studies, because I changed my major several times, and I just wanted to get out.
Today I started to work on a degree in dietetics. After a lot of reflection I realized that I would have a lot to offer people as a dietician, plus I have a different perspective that will help me when dealing with clients/patients. I can already cook my ass off, plus I was actually good at science when I was in school, and I have some pretty amazing support and a fantastic tutor if I need help. My friends and family have been very supportive of me going back to school, and that has been great. Although I hope I don’t end up needing a whole lot of help, my sister just got her PhD in biology… well there was more, but I am not sure I can explain… It involved traveling, and monkey poop. If I need help, I’m pretty sure she will be high on the list of people I call!
It has taken a while for me to finally make it to this point. There have been several false starts, and a lot of frustration. I’m sure there will be lots of challenges coming up, but I have a lot more focus and understanding of where I am headed now than I did when I was 18. Realistically, what the hell do most 18 year old kids know about what they want to do for the rest of their lives? What challenges will they face? Do they know what their real strengths are? These are things that I know I have worked out over the last twenty years, maybe not completely, but I am better off now than I was then.
Twenty years after I graduated from high school I finally found a direction that actually makes sense for the skills I have, the way I think, and that I actually do want to help people feel better. I’ll be in my early to mid-forties before I finish with this degree, but I am excited about it. Of course it would have been nice to know all of this 20, even 15 or ten years ago.
I’ve also given myself a goal that I will be working on over the course of the next several years that I think will be a huge help for anyone with a dietary restriction/food allergy/food sensitivity. That is enough about that now, but when I am ready you will know what I am doing, and you will be excited!
After writing my post about making coq au vin a while back, I realized that when I’m in the kitchen I have some advantages. I would like to help you develop a similar set of skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are not interested in spending your life in a kitchen. However, there are a lot of skills that you can learn at home that will serve you well, and my goal with this little series of posts is to help you learn some of them.
Your first job in a commercial kitchen is washing dishes. While you do that, you also learn to do some prep. Frequently, it involves chopping a pile of stuff into whatever size and shape the chef would like. There are lots of terms to learn, and techniques to be practiced. During one shift I cut thirty pounds of various vegetables into 3/4″ pieces for roasting. What does that do for you? Practice, practice, practice. There was plenty of time, and there was lots to do. During this time I was told things by the chef and sous chef like, “I need 2 pounds of mirepoix for stew” or “roll cut these carrots”. Essentially, you will spend a lot of time with a peeler and a knife.
This is how people have always learned to work in a kitchen. Each skill builds on the next. Going to culinary school speeds up the process some, but it still won’t give you the hours of practice with each skill that you would have working under a chef.
Once you have the hang of fabricating vegetables, you will be moved onto other tasks. Next you might be given the job of using the vegetables, and some other materials to make basic stocks. Essentially, you will be making the basic components of what is needed for lunch, dinner or a party that is being catered.
When the salad guy stops showing up you might get a promotion from dishwasher to the salad station! This is kind of how kitchens work. Each one is different, but generally the first station you do is salads or pantry. This is sometimes called Garde Manger in the brigade system used in large kitchens. As you move from station to station you learn new skills. One of the first things you will learn on the salad station is how to make salad dressings, and other things like pesto. During service (when food is being served to guests in the dining room) you will make salads, sandwiches, cold appetizers, and some hot appetizers that can be done quickly. Generally, these are very simple things to do, but you will be busy. This gives you the chance to really practice what you have learned and apply it. (Usually at high speed!)
So, the goal of this series of posts is to walk you through the things you would learn as a dishwasher or pantry cook. We’re going to do things like make a vinaigrette, make pesto, use a knife properly, cook eggs, and maybe make some candied nuts. There are probably a few other things as well. Then, I will show you how to use what you just made. These are all tasty, easy, and useful. Hopefully, this will inspire you to try some new things, and eat something great!
I’m not really sure why, but 2011 was the year that I meant to do more posting, and ended up not doing as much. My goal this year is to increase my blogging somewhat. I’ll also be attending school again, and obviously that will have to take a central role, but knowing the class load I have for this semester I don’t think it will be a huge problem. I have a few ideas to work through for you, and hopefully they will be very helpful for both the gluten-free and non-gluten free readers.
Hope you all have a great 2012, and I hopefully will have something yummy to post for you in the next few days! I know I have some interesting projects for myself.
My New Year’s resolution that concerns you… “This year I am going to cook my ass off!”
Of course right about now you might be thinking, “But that needs to marinate in red wine overnight??!?” And you would be right. So I made kind of a quick and dirty coq au vin. It had most of the right stuff, and tasted pretty damn good, but it wasn’t quite what you would get from a traditional recipe. Of course, it took a lot less time too! Total time: under two hours to go to the store to get a few things I needed, wash a few dishes, and get dinner cooked and on a plate! With a traditional recipe you would still be braising your chicken (If you had already marinated it!). I found this on the Epicuirous web site, and figured I’d give it a shot. I kind of tweaked it a little, but I almost always do that.
4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons or thick strips
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I only had two handy so I went with that, but I had plenty of the sauce left.)
8 oz crimini or button mushrooms quartered
2 medium onions quartered (or you could use small onions like cipollinis or pearls.)
4 cloves garlic minced
1.5 cups dry red wine
1.5 cups chicken stock
Chopped flat leaf parsley
I didn’t thicken this, but I did let it reduce. You could use a corn starch slurry if you want to thicken the sauce a bit before you serve it. The recipe called for a few tablespoons of AP flour to be whisked in, but that isn’t really helpful in our case.
The first thing to do is heat some oil in a skillet, and add the bacon. Over medium heat cook the bacon until it is crisp and brown. Remove it from the pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sear the chicken on both sides, and remove it.
Now you can add the mushrooms, onions and garlic to the pan and saute them until they are lightly browned. Now, as you can see in the pictures there is a bit of brown stuff on the bottom of the pan. That is a good thing, and it is why I didn’t use a non-stick skillet for this. That is fond. What that means is that we have a sauce to make! Deglaze the pan by pouring in part of the wine and scraping the bottom with your spoon or spatula. This will loosen up the bits from the bacon, etc.. Then add the rest of the wine and the stock, and bring it up to a boil.Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, turn down to a simmer and cover it. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in chopped parsley, and serve! In this case I served it with some roasted potatoes and asparagus! Not too bad for a Tuesday night! Oh, and of course it was gluten free. Like I said you could thicken it with a corn starch slurry, in that case you would want to take the chicken out when you were ready to serve, and whisk it in while the sauce boils.
If you’re anything like me you have a turkey carcass wrapped in foil that you have no idea what to do with. It probably has a leg, a couple of wings, and a breast that have not been touched. I’m not going to just hack at the turkey until I think it isn’t going to be any good to eat though. Hopefully, you won’t either!
The first thing you want to do is get the meat off of the bones. The legs and wings are pretty easy to deal with. You can remove them just like you would on a chicken, and then pick the meat off the bones. The breast that is still intact on your bird may be a bit more daunting. It is not as hard as you think.
To deal with the breast use your chef’s knife and cut straight down, parallel to the keel bone, and then follow the contour of the rib cage. This will cut off the majority of the the breast. It is not hard, but it can take a bit of practice. Once you have it cut off you can lay it down on a cutting board and slice it for serving.
If you decide to make stock, (and you should) it is really very easy. Take the carcass, skin, bones, and whatever leftover bits of meat are clinging to it, and place them all in a pot. Throw in some garlic, onions, celery, and carrots, some bay leaves and thyme, and cover with cold water. You should not salt your stock. If you decide to reduce it you will end up with a sauce that is too salty. You can always add salt when you want to use it. Put the pot on the stove and bring it up to a simmer. That is all, but you don’t want the stock to boil or it will be cloudy. The simmering water will break down the collagen in the bones and you end up with gelatin. This is a good thing, and your stock will be nice and viscous. (I was always freaked out by the brown jelly on cooked cold turkey as a kid, what did I know? I get it now!)Simmer your stock. After a few hours, strain out the solids and cool it down. When your stock is cool it should have the consistency of jelly. From there you can do lots with it. You can make sauces, soups, you could freeze it to use later. Freezing it can be very helpful since there is a good chance you may not use all of the stick you have before it goes bad. If you freeze it in small portions you can add it to things when you need it.
Hopefully this will inspire you to tackle that turkey in your fridge! Stock is very easy, and we both know you have the raw materials already. Just go ahead and do it! You won’t regret it.
Like the last several years, my Thanksgiving will be spent at work. The place I work will have over 200 people for lunch. That means I will be in early, and out at about the normal time. It also means that I don’t prepare my own turkey. Amy will be doing that for her family, and keeping as much of it gluten-free as possible. (Everything that will be prepared here, and any leftovers will be gluten-free!) My family will be having dinner when I get there. I’ll get off work and head to mom’s for dinner. Pretty much as soon as I get there I will be carving the turkey, and eating. For the last several years I have brought something to dinner. This year I have decided that I am going to make a pumpkin cheesecake! The obvious problem is the crust, but a lot of recipes also call for a little flour in the filling. This recipe handles all of the problems, and it tastes great! Everybody who tried it really enjoyed it!
I wanted something that would taste similar to the traditional graham cracker crust. I decided to go with some Honey Nut Chex. The Chex are a bit sweeter than the graham crackers so I left out the extra sugar that gets added normally.
The first thing you need is a spring form pan, roughly 9 inches across. What I did is put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom so it was held in place by the two pieces. This should help it not leak, and also make it easier to deal with later. (At least that is my theory. We’ll see how it works when it comes time to serve it.The first thing we’ll need to do is make our crust.
1 cup Honey Nut Chex crumbs (This took quite a bit more than one cup)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Like I mentioned before I used Honey Nut Chex, they are gluten-free, and taste great. Since they are a little sweeter than graham crackers I didn’t add any extra sugar to the crust. Crush the Chex so you end up with a cup of crumbs. I poured them into a zipper bag, and used a wine bottle to crush them. Once you have fairly fine crumbs, mix them with the melted butter, and mix well. You want the mixture to just stick together a little. Then press the mixture into the bottom of your spring form pan. I tried using my fingers, but I ended up with more on my fingers than in the pan. I ended up using a fork to spread the crumbs evenly.
Bake the crust for ten minutes in a 350F oven, and then allow it to cool completely. This will give you a nice solid crust for the cheesecake.
This is the first cheesecake I have ever made, so I did quite a bit of searching to find a recipe that I liked. I knew that I was going to have to skip the crust no matter what recipe I used. I found one that I liked on Good Housekeeping’s web site. I did slightly modify it, but it was nothing that would affect the way it baked. I also doubled it, so Amy’s family could have one, and mine could have one too.
For the filling for one cheesecake:
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
1 1/4 cup sugar
15 oz can or half of the 29 oz can that I had (Libby’s is gluten-free and what I used)pumpkin not pumpkin pie mix
3/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons of bourbon or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I used the bourbon)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (my tweak)
1/4 teaspoon salt
First thing, put the cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer, and beat it for a minute. Then with the mixer on low add the sugar, and mix until it is blended. Next add all of the other ingredients except the eggs. With the mixer on low make sure that everything is well mixed. Next add the eggs, one at a time and allow each one to be completely mixed in before adding the next. I’d let it mix a little longer just to make sure everything is combined.
Here is where things start to get interesting. Place your spring form pan in a larger pan. Pour the pumpkin filling into the spring form pan. Open the oven and set the whole thing on the rack of your oven. Pour hot water into the outer pan, about an inch up the side of the spring form pan. This will help keep the custard from cooking too quickly since the water will never go above 212F.
Close the door and set a timer for 1 hour and ten minutes. DO NOT open the door until the timer goes off. When it does, gently move the spring form pan without removing it from the water. If the center just giggles a little you are good to go. Take the whole thing out of the water bath, and allow it to cool on a rack. After a couple of minutes take a thin knife, and run it around the side of the cheesecake to release it. This will help prevent cracks on the top as it cools. After a little while pop it in the fridge and allow it to cool over night. (This will be hard, it is going to smell fantastic!)
There was a sour cream topping that was included in the recipe, but after doubling the recipe I didn’t have enough, and decided that whipped cream or Cool Whip would be fantastic as well.
Leave it in the spring form pan until you are ready to serve. What I did (because I didn’t want to scratch my new non-stick), is open the sides and lift it off, and then take the parchment and slide the cheesecake off of the bottom very gently onto something I could cut it on. After we had all had a piece I just slid it back on to the base and put the sides back on.I had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you did as well. This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, and certainly worth the time and effort to make it!
Early in our relationship I took Amy to a restaurant that I really like. It is this tiny place in what is a not very good neighborhood of St Louis. The place is called Fritanga. It is a Nicaraguan restaurant, and they serve some of the most fantastic food I have ever eaten. It is not a fancy place, and you don’t ever want to go if you are in a hurry. On a busy night all of the tables will be full of people eating, drinking and talking, enjoying the food and relaxed atmosphere as well as the company of the others at their table.
Once I went gluten-free I knew that there would be some sacrifices that I would have to make when dining out. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Fritanga is almost entirely gluten-free!!
Amy likes the pollo al achiote, and I like the lomo de cerdo asado. The two dishes are actually pretty similar, either chicken or pork, marinated in achiote or annatto paste. Annatto seeds are ground with various spices such as cumin, and oregano. It is a very tasty combination, but not hot. I was at Global foods the other day and ran across a container of achiote paste. After seeing how easy it was to use the achiote when I made my chili at work I decided I would try my hand at the pollo al achiote from Fritanga.
The first step for this dish is to marinate the chicken. Pork loin could also be used. The lomo de cerdo asado that I frequently eat there is a thick pork loin chop that is marinated in achiote and grilled. To make the marinade combine a tablespoon of canola oil, and a tablespoon of the achiote paste. This stuff goes a long way, and it will impart a fantastic color and very nice flavor to the chicken.
Combine the achiote and your chicken and allow it to sit for several hours in the fridge. You could grill or bake the chicken. In this case I decided to just bake it.
At Fritanga this would be served with gallo pinto or black beans and rice, with a side of a really tasty slaw, and plantains. The Plantains are served one of several ways. They give you a choice of either chips, tostones or maduros. Any of those are fantastic choices. I personally really like tostones! Unfortunately, I didn’t think to pick up any plantains. When you have them what you do with them depends on how ripe they are. You can make chips when they are green, tostones when they are yellow, and maduros when they are pretty well black.