Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I love my girlfriend's cooking, but...

So I'm eating another one of Nikki's Pinterest recipes. As much as I hate to admit it, they're usually very good. This time, it's ham and corn chowder. Very tasty. Here's what I'd do differently.

There isn't enough potato presence. I'd go for more of a riff on baked potato soup vs pennsylvania high school concession stand. I'm thinking double the potato - keep the amount that's pureed in the original recipe but cut the rest into larger chunks and oven-roast them after a butter and bacon salt rub.

Speaking of, I'm definitely going to call bacon on this. It needs lardons and to be thickened with a seasoned flour roux made with bacon fat as its base. Not flour just sprinkled into the crockpot. (love you, honey...)

The corn is great. I would source a bit differently - probably flash-frozen instead of canned - and roast it. Again with spices.

Finishing with bacon salt is nice, but probably wouldn't be necessary. Can't wait to try the remix. Oh and sour cream instead of half and half.

What would I cook it in? Definitely enameled cast iron. Roast potatoes and corn. Cook off lardons, remove them, add flour, make roux. Add all ingredients to the cast iron, cover and bring to boil to activate roux. Stir, then add to crockpot. Season to taste after four hours on low.

Cuisinart Slow Cooker (Google Affiliate Ad)
Lodge Color Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven, 7.5 qt. - Red - Lodge Ename (Google Affiliate Ad)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things I couldn't cook without

Every cook needs the right tools. I'm not picky, but some things literally are indispensible.

Like good tongs. You want them to lock when you're not using them, cause tongs that are long enough to be useful will be unwieldy when fully open. You don't want anything on the tips, and if possible, an easy-grip lock would be great.

That's why I freaking love Oxo. Fifteen bucks and they're the last tongs you'll ever buy. Now for something completely different.

If you're going to cook with nonstick - and let's be honest, we all do it - get something decent. Calphalon owns everything. Yes, you'll probably have to look for it on clearance, but next time you get a bonus, replace everything! And yes, do it through me! I'll get a cut.

Most people aren't going to need anything else if they pick up that rockstar Calphalon package. But I personally can't live without cast iron. I grew up with 100 year-old cast iron seasoned by fifty years of daily bacon. It's so shiny, it's more nonstick than Teflon. Most people aren't used to being able to cook eggs in cast iron without oil but I thought that was the way they all worked.

Finally, everyone has different knife preferences. I could give a fuck, frankly, as long as it's as sharp as possible. But that means I need one of these...

Some people have the technical finesse to use a small cutting board. I do not. When I chop onions, they fly everywhere. Especially if I do my Chen Kenichi impression and double-cleaver it. I need the biggest cutting board available. This one's a good start. Thick wood is best, and I use a different one for meat than veg. 

Stuffed meatloaf

I actually wrote myself a recipe this time. And I followed it. Except for the sun-dried tomatoes. Nikki didn't have any. She had olives but the salt...I'm getting ahead of myself. This is not the recipe I wrote, but it's what I did.

1. Chop half a pound of mozzarella into small pieces. Marinate in a drizzle of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper. (Go easy on the salt - you'll be adding more later) Shake occasionally, or do what I did - make a whole pound and let Nikki nibble, charging her fifteen seconds of vigorous shaking per bite.

2. Roast bacon in the oven. I had twelve slices to the pound, which was too thick. Sixteen slices per pound, or an ounce per slice, should be just perfect. Use good bacon. If you make this recipe with Oscar Meyer bacon, don't tell anyone you got it from me. That shit's wack. Leave five slices raw to cover the loaf while baking.

3. Cut the bacon into very fine strips - by stacking it and slicing straight down - and mix with the mozzarella. Do the Harlem Shake.

4. Caramelize a large white onion. I added a little sugar, which was fine, and half a stick of butter, which was too much. Caramelizing onions takes a really long fucking time. Keep stirring it. Keep it on low. Eventually it'll start getting more and more golden. Keep stirring. I spent an hour and a half. Using a saute pan instead of a high-sided one should work way better. I also chopped very small pieces of pepperoni into this about halfway though. Not really sure if that was a good idea. Tasted great though. Eventually you'll see the individual pieces of onion turning into a mush. Keep cooking, keep tasting. If it goes over, you have to redo the whole thing sooooo....get it right? Everyone should know how to caramelize onions. I'm still learning.

5. Did I mention your meat - one pound each of 85% ground beef, ground veal and ground turkey thigh, as well as the rest of the bacon - should be sitting out so it's not super-cold when it goes into the oven? Totes should be.

6. If the onions are done but there's still excess butter, add some breadcrumbs. I used Italian seasoned. If you do this, make sure to toast the crumbs until you can smell them. Raw breadcrumbs are no bueno.

7. Once the onions are done and you've got your hands free, mix the meat together. Work it just enough to get it half-together, then add one egg and/or breadcrumbs. You're on your own here on consistency. Season aggressively with the same stuff you used for the mozzarella. Portion into three roughly equal balls.

8. Press a thin layer of the forcemeat (flavored ground meat mixture, aka the shit you just made) into a square baking pan. Keep memory of the thickness - you'll want to keep it consistent for all three layers.

9. Spread the caramelized onion blend on top of the first layer. Leave room around the edges.

10. Layer two goes on top of the onion mixture. Press around the edges to seal.

11. Mozzarella/bacon on top of layer two. Leave room around the edges.

12. Last layer of meat. Press around the edges to seal. Cover top with bacon. Bake for 45 minutes at 350.

I made one freeform layer on a baking sheet, then topped with the mozz and onions, then covered that with the rest of the meat. It worked well, but the version I wrote should work better. Trying that next time the mood strikes for meatloaf. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Amazing lemonade

So I made lemonade the other day thanks to allrecipes. Equal parts lemon juice, water, and sugar. Yum. Add the zest of one of those lemons.

Then I made another batch. A woman who won't be alive much longer really enjoyed that one. That brought me great joy.

Then I made another one. Just for me. Equal parts lemon juice and mint/purple basil turbinado simple syrup, over a glassful of ice. Love.

The only place with mint worth a fuck in this area is Broad Street Market. If you really want to get some, call the day before. They'll cut some special.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I love you butcher/love you Broad Street

All the meat in my latest recipe was purchased from Lebanon Valley Meat Products at Broad Street Market, Harrisburg PA. If you're in the area and around on market days, you can call in orders to 717-236-2518.

They have something I'd never seen before - beef bacon. It's smoked thin-sliced beef with a ribbon of fat down the middle. Cooks up just like bacon, and is distinctly bacony, but in a beefy way. (Description of the year and it's only mid-January)

Always know your butcher - when she saw I was interested in the beef bacon and asking other customers about it, the woman helping me not was not only very helpful but showed me a strip up close - then wrapped and gave it to me to taste. You cook it like regular bacon.

The other butcher at Broad Street has some too. An African-American man at LVMP's counter told me he goes for the beef bacon because he chooses not to eat pork. I'm thinking a religous adaptation might figure into its popularity.

I deboned my loverly dish and spooned up a bowl. It's really fucking good. I didn't spice the main mix at all, so it's just individual flavors bringing their gusto. The multireduction was a great idea that I will continue to refine and make even more ridiculous.

Next time, larger oxtails, cause I love the chewy meat on them. And a beef shank.

I won't be buying lunch at work for a while.

Shoutouts are in order for the whtie onions to Brandt Farms and for the garlic, shallots, and red onions to Shady Nook. Shady Nook first knew me as "mojito guy" then as "beef stew guy" and now they're getting used to "guy with very, very specific needs cause he's on blood thinners but refuses to stop cooking."

Other details that escaped me initially - I used Kitchen Essentials veg and chicken stocks (because I know their flavor profiles) and Emeril's beef stock. Yes, I know. He's the antithesis to all things that are good and culinary. So fucking what? His stock reduces wonderfully.

The onions for this dish are added last and left on top for as long as possible, with mild stirring every half hour so they don't burn. This is because I filled my pot full tot he brim and had to cook down the onions before adding the beans.

This amount of ingredients in this recipe is enoguh to fill a seven-quart pot to the brim. it'll get lower once you pull the bones out. Make sure to separate the nastiness and bone of the short ribs from their luscious flesh.

A good dose of salt is essential in the flour mix. more updates as events warrant.

What does the end result taste like? Like oxtail soup met beef stew at the bar, then took it home to meet chili, who ended up calling french onion soup to really get into it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tried to make chili, this ain't chili but it worked out well regardless


Here’s what I usually use. Here’s what I need to do better.

Meat. Previously chopped chuck. Today, boned short ribs (the real fucking thing, and they better be this time or I’m gonna murder someone with that giant knife I’ve been using lately), actual chopped chuck (seamboned, natch) and a beef shank at the bottom. A gigantic one. I fucking love those lately.

Beans. Previously canned richfood brand. This time…hmm. Not chickpeas, cause I’m on blood thinners at the moment.

Sausage – before, hillshire farms kielbasa. Now, leidy brothers kielbasa. (ended up being Karns pork sausage, which worked fine. Two links, about 26 inches)

Allium family – no green onions. Again, blood thinners. White onions as before, and a biiig fat Vidalia ifi can find one. Interesting that word autocapitalizes Vidalia. Also, farmer’s market garlic, and for the first time ever in one of my chilis, shallots. Possibly. (Turned out to be two sweet white onions and two heavy onniony onions and three small reds, as well as twelve shallots and two heads of garlic, peeled and sauteed before going into the pot whole)

Tomato – previously, canned paste. This time, tomato gel?  Ro-Tel, always.(actually, none..fuck tomato.)

Base – this is where shit’s gonna get absolutely fucking ridiculous. I’m going for absurdity. Three quarts, one each of beef, chicken and pork stock, each reduced to half of its previous volume. Then added over a hot pan that contains the sautéed aliums and a cup each of carrots and celery. Word to the mirepoix. The French know so much about food. (I skipped the mirepoix)

Spices – I wanna go mole. Thinking dark chocolate in addition to chili, cumin, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and a bit of bacon salt.(I have no idea how i spiced it)

Meat gets its own spice rub. Salt, pepper, bacon salt, and flour. Gotta get it all browned off perfectly.
I will be rocking all four burners at once. Three will be reducing my stocks on low, which will be spiked with the sautéed veggies. Numero Quattro will be my gigantor “The giant blue thing is coming to feed you!” cast-iron Martha Stewart pot. Everyone I know has a red one, but I love the deep blue.

Although this could make me change my mind. Sex, in pot form. (first google hit for query “bud shots”)

Workflow goes like this – peel and prep EVERYTHING. Including the kielbasa – leidy’s casing sucks. Start the stocks on ¼ temp. (the goal is a low simmer, anything more is overkill with the amount of time you’ll have.

Splash the cast iron (it doesn’t have to be cast iron – anything nonstickish with a lid that’s big enough for the whole shebang will be fine) with some oil. Once it’s hot, bloom spices until you can smell them, then add the meat. Sear on all sides, then remove. Repeat with all the protein. If you get too much of a crust on the bottom, just hit it with red wine and some silicone persuasion – the results go nicely into any of the other three pots you should have on the stove right now. Reduce the stocks an additional quarter after mixing them together.

Ideally, you’ll make it through this process with lovely brownness on the bottom of the pan. Quickly add more oil, bloom more spices, and clean the pan with the onions, garlic, celery, shallots and carrots.

I haven’t addressed beans at all. Hmm. Fresh would need soaking. Maybe canned is the answer? I hate kidney bean sludge tho. But I love kidney beans in chili. It’s not really chili without them. Maybe a different brand of can. Or….they’re already cooked….maybe I don’t have to tweak out every single aspect of this recipe. So kidneys and white northerns, in pretty much the same ratio as before, is the answer. I can live with that.

What to serve it with? I recommend cornbread or a half/half mixture of Israeli couscous and quinoa. Steamed white rice is never a bad move. On top of roasted mashed fingerlings would be lovely as well.

After cooking, I reread the recipe and see I forgot the shank, bought oxtails isntead, forgot the mirepoix, did the stock reduction to perfection and it was worth every second of bs. Only had two burners to reduce on, so i did it in two pots. Also, it's important to use one can light, one can dark, one can white northern beans, all the same size. still delicious.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

finally nailed macaroni and cheese

two pounds pasta, your choice, i used maffado, i think.
two pounds kraft natural cheese.
half a pound shredded sharp cheddar
bread crumbs, your choice, i used buttered panko
A small glass less than a half gallon of skim milk.

put water on to boil. salt it, please.

milk into its own pot. stir occasionally on medium heat. when tiny bubbles appear, begin cooking equal parts butter and flour mashed together first. let it get to caramel, and then add it to the milk. silicone-coated tongs are great for scraping the roux into your milk.

whisk like a motherfucker.

once the thickening begins and the sauce comes back to heat, start adding the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking until you don't feel the lumps of cheese anymore, then you add more cheese.

to add the cheese wtihout burning yourself (which i did three times before figuring this out) drop it from as low as possible onto the whisk. or be a wuss and use a silpat, you lamer.

burning myself frequently is the name of this blog for a reason.

anyway, once the sauce is all cheesified, taste it, do the napé test (dip a spoon in the sauce, look at the back, then draw a line through the sauce with your finger. if the line stays clear, it's thick enough)

By now your pasta should be done. Cook it al dente, and salt and pepper it aggressively. Place into the eventual cooking vessel. I used my bitch-ass Martha Stewart cast-iron enamel. Blue, like the one Rick Bayless used on his show this morning.

Once the sauce is both thick and tasting the way you want it to, scratter the shredded cheese in the pasta by hand, then add the sauce. quick stir to combine, then top with buttered breadcrumbs and into a  350 oven for  minutes.

It needed 15 more minutes. But it was yummy. Photos on my cell, you know the odds of those actually getting uploaded.

(slim to none)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tonight's stew

amazingly, before I make it.

Check a pork neckbone in a baking pan. In another baking pan, bacon salt baby carrots and a chicken sausage.In another, baby fingerlings that have been olive oiled, salted and peppered. Put in an oven at 350. Cook until done.

Saute one chopped white onion, one small container chopped mushrooms, one small container prechopped celery. (lame, i know, but you can't buy one stalk of celery anymore). When half done, add some beef stock, and cook down further. Reserve.

Sear off two beef shins and add them to the final pot. cover with half subtle cider (not a sweetbomb) and half beef stock. A little red wine is always welcome. Sear off thee pounds of pot roast and add it, then add more liquid to barely cover.

When the pork neckbone is done, that goes in to. The chicken sausage doesn't go in at all - I get hungry when I cook.

Braise the meat until awesome, then remove the sauce (and neckbones), reduce by two thirds, and return to all the ingredients.