Friday, December 25, 2009

Beef Tenderloin Roast

For Christmas dinner this year I made a stuffed beef tenderloin roast. It was a whole beef tenderloin that I butterflied open and stuffed with a mixture of herbs and vegetables.
I started by sauteing chopped crimini mushrooms, onions, and garlic in a mixture of butter and olive oil until they were softened. I then de-glazed the pan with some red wine, added some fresh rosemary and thyme, and cooked the mixture until it was slightly reduced.
The beef was seasoned on all sides with salt and pepper and then the mixture was spread out on one side. With the some help, I tied up the beef with butcher string to close it up and create a roast.
The roast was then rubbed with a little vegetable oil to get it ready for the grill. I prefer to use vegetable oil over olive oil when I am going to cook something over very high heat because its smoke point is so much higher and it will hold up better during the cooking. I cooked the roast over lump charcoal on my grill. I started by searing all sides of the roast over high direct heat to develop a crust. Then the roast was moved off to one side and cooked with indirect heat until my remote thermometer registered 135 degrees. The roast was then pulled from the grill and wrapped in foil. Once wrapped in foil to rest the temperature continues to climb 5-10 more degrees.

We chose some simple side dishes for this meal. I made roasted broccoli and criss- cross potatoes.
The broccoli was made by marinating it in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rice wine vinegar. It was roasted on a foil lined sheet pan at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes until some of the edges started to get a nice char on them.

The potatoes are made by first slicing large baking potatoes in half. Then you can slice shallow cuts through the potato in opposite directions. Rub the potatoes with salt pepper and good paprika and then baste very liberally with melted butter. The potatoes get baked at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until crusty and tender.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coconut Shrimp with Mango-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Coconut Shrimp are a popular appetizer that is easy to make at home.

For this recipe I used one pound of fresh wild caught pink gulf shrimp in the 15-20 count size range (15-20 shrimp per pound). I highly recommend using fresh shrimp for this recipe if you can get your hands on them. There is a huge difference in the taste between wild caught gulf shrimp and some of the frozen farm raised tiger shrimp you may find that are a product of Thailand. One pound of shrimp will be more than enough as an appetizer for 6-8 people.

Start by cleaning your shrimp if needed. The fresh shrimp will need to be peeled and de-veined. I remove all of the shell except for the last part of the tail. Removing the veins on these shrimp was a easy step because I was going to butterfly them anyways. After removing the shell, just slide your knife down the back of the shrimp about 1/8"-1/4" deep and this will expose the vein that can be removed and washed away under some running water.

With the shrimp washed, I seasoned them lightly with salt and fresh black pepper. I then began the breading process by rolling the shrimp in flour. The flour is followed by a egg wash, and then our breading mixture. For the coconut breading I used a 2/3 mixture of shredded sweetened coconut and 1/3 panko or Japanese bread crumbs. After the shrimp are breaded they can be covered and placed in a cookie sheet in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.

The shrimp are fried in enough vegetable oil to cover them at 350 degrees for about 4-5 minutes. Cooking times will vary based on the size of your shrimp. When the shrimp are golden brown remove them and place them on paper towel to drain.

A simple and delicious dipping sauce for these shrimp is reduction of mango and ginger. Peel a fresh ripe mango and cut up all the flesh into small cubes. Place the mango into a stock pan with 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (any vinegar on hand will do), and salt to taste. Cook the mixture to boiling and let it reduce and simmer for about 15 minutes. Finish by blending the mixture in a blender until smooth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homemade Egg Noodles

With cold and flu season upon us, there is likely to be homemade chicken soup in your future. The best accompaniment with chicken soup is some nice thick egg noodles. They are very easy to make and turn your soup into the ultimate comfort food.

Start by making a mound on a clean surface consisting of 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix the dry ingredients well and make a well in the center of the mixture. To the well add 2 whole eggs and 3 tablespoons of water. Scramble the eggs with a fork gradually working the eggs into the flour. Bring the mix together with your hands and knead for a few minutes until it all comes together as a workable dough. You may need to add a few more tablespoons of water to make this possible depending on conditions. Move the dough to a floured surface and roll out to your desired thickness. I rolled my batch out to about 1/8" thick. We like our noodles a little thicker, almost on the verge of being a dumpling. Keep in mind that the noodles are going to just about double in size when they are cooked. Slice your dough with a pizza cutter into your desired width of noodle. Drop the noodles into boiling broth or soup and cover to let simmer for about 8-10 minutes until they are done. The end product will blow away any store bought noodles, and its a great way to add a little comfort to your meal.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jaeger Schnitzel

To help celebrate Oktoberfest this year I was in the mood to try to make a traditional German dish called jaeger schnitzel. The recipe consists of cutlets of pork, veal, or beef that are pounded out thin, breaded, and fried. The cutlets then get topped with a rich and creamy mushroom gravy. Schnitzel translated to English literally means chip or cutlet. The word jaeger translates to hunter, which my pay homage to the act of hunting the wild mushrooms that were traditionally used in the recipe.

I made this recipe using slices of pork tenderloin. The pork was pounded out to about a quarter of an inch thick and seasoned with salt and pepper. I then used the traditional breading method of flour, followed by beaten egg, followed by bread crumbs. I used panko bread crumbs for a little extra crunch. I then shallow fried them in a cast iron skillet a few minutes on each side until golden brown. The schnitzel were then topped with a creamy mushroom gravy that I made using crimini mushrooms.

For side dishes I made some traditional roasted potatoes and some not so traditional roasted broccoli. The potatoes were large diced, tossed in olive oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried rosemary. The potatoes were cooked at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes and tossed about every 15 minutes during cooking.

The broccoli was a new twist that I felt like trying out. I tossed the large broccoli spears with sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, crushed garlic, pepper, brown sugar, and sesame seeds. The end result was a basic teriyaki marinade. I cooked the broccoli at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes turning half way through cooking. It really turned out well as the sesame seeds toasted nicely lending a nice nutty flavor to the broccoli.

I served the dish with traditional German garnish of fresh lemon and chopped parsley.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hush Puppies

Is there anything better to accompany fried food than hush puppies? I think not. The origin of the hush puppy is debatable. Stories range from fisherman throwing balls of corn meal to their dogs during fish fries, to southern civil war soldiers tossing the balls of fried corn meal to quiet their dogs upon the approach of union soldiers with the command "hush puppy".
Although I do not know the true origin or the hush puppy, I do have a pretty good recipe.

  • 1- 16oz can cream style corn
  • 1 egg - beaten
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 1-1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 white onion -finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Combine all the ingredients well in a bowl and let set for 5 minutes. Drop by the rounded tablespoon into preheated 350 degree vegetable oil. A good batch will consist of 8-10 hush puppies. After about 4 minutes you can flip them similar to frying donuts. This will encourage even browning. They should be done after about 8-10 minutes. You may want to take out a "tester" to see that they have cooked through. Place the cooked hush puppies on paper towel to drain and lightly salt to taste. Please be careful, as I know these have been known to overshadow the main dish on several occasions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mussels with white wine, garlic, and basil

Mussels have long been a staple of diets in Europe. It seems to me that currently in the U.S. mussels remain an under utilized item. Mussels are now readily available fresh in most of our modern supermarkets. Here is a simple and delicious application for one of my favorite mollusks.

Plan on using about 1 pound of mussels per person. When you get the mussels home wash them in cold water. Discard any that are open, or do not close when tapped on the counter. You may also have to tear of their "beards". Mussels have a small stringy extension outside of the shell that they use to attach themselves to things in the ocean.

There is not much of a recipe here just a list of ingredients. For two pounds of mussels, I start by sauteing one half of a finely diced red onion, and 8 cloves of crushed garlic, in olive oil over medium high heat until softened in a large stock pot. After a few dashes of salt and pepper, slide in the mussels, and 1 finely diced medium tomato into the stock pot along with 2 cups of white wine and cover. I usually prefer to use a nice chardonnay for this. The wine does get sweeter as it cooks so you want to start with something that is a little on the dry side. Let the mixture cook for 5 minutes, stir, and add 1/4 cup of finely sliced fresh basil and continue cooking for 5 more minutes or until all of the mussels have opened and the liquid has slightly reduced.
The best presentation for this meal is with some warm and crusty french bread and the same nice white wine that the mussels were cooked in. Be sure to serve with extra broth as it is great for dipping the bread in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

With summer upon us there are so many great light appetizers that can be made while we are getting the grill ready for the main course. One of my favorites is a lettuce wrap that is filled with grilled marinated chicken, fresh veggies, and topped with a spicy peanut sauce.

This basic recipe would work with 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts. A good portion is to start with 1/2 a boneless skinless chicken breast per person. After a quick wash and trim I marinate the chicken for a least an hour in a mixture of 1 can coconut milk, 1/4 cup teriyaki marinade (substitution would be 1/3 cup soy sauce and 2 tablespoons brown sugar), the zest and juice of one lime, two cloves crushed garlic, 4 tablespoons sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.

While the chicken is marinating you can prepare the spicy peanut sauce which will be the dressing for the lettuce wraps.
1 cup fresh smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hot water
4 cloves garlic, finely minced and mashed 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the ingredients well and set aside. After allowing the sauce to rest for a few minutes, taste for seasoning. You may want to add more cayenne pepper for spice for may need to add a little more water to reach the desired consistency. A good consistency for this sauce would be comparable to a salad dressing.

Grill the chicken in whole pieces until well done with a nice char and slice thin for serving.

Fillings for the wraps can vary but for these we used fresh bean sprouts, thinly sliced carrots and cucumber, and green onions. It all gets wrapped up and eaten like a taco, but in place of the tortilla we use a nice leaf of butter, bibb, or romaine lettuce. Top with a splash of lime juice and a drizzle of the peanut sauce.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beef Brisket

Beef brisket is a very affordable and forgiving piece of meat to bbq. The brisket comes from the chest of the cow so it is a very large and tough muscle that requires long and slow cooking. 
I start with the large primal cut that comes in its original packaging. These usually weigh 12-18 lbs. I would say that the main factor that limits when you can cook a brisket is the cooking time. I started with a 15lb brisket and ended up with a total cooking time of about 12 hours. Start by washing the brisket and seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You can also use your favorite bbq rub in this step. Keep in mind that most commercial bbq rubs contain a large amount of sugar that will burn on the grill. This will require you wrapping the brisket up with foil to protect it sooner than normal. 

For cooking such a large piece of meat the grill needs to be well preheated. We are looking for 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. I use both the side fire box and the main chamber on my grill. Once the grill is up to temperature and the dampers are closed down it will maintain its heat for several hours at a time. Having the extra coals in the main chamber come into handy for cooking appetizers or other side dishes over direct heat if so inclined. You will need to check and add fresh coals to the to the grill every 1-2 hours during the cooking process to maintain a constant temperature. The first 2 times that I add fresh coals I also add some mesquite wood chips that have been pre-soaked in water. 
Above is the brisket after 8 hours of cooking with indirect heat. At this time you will notice that the outside of the brisket starts to form a thick layer that is called "bark". To prevent the brisket from overcooking and also to further aid its cooking, we wrap it in foil. This process is known as the "Texas Crutch" on the competitive bbq circuits. This is similar to the process I use with my ribs. I wrap the brisket up in heavy foil with equal parts apple cider vinegar, apple juice, and water. Make sure that the brisket is well wrapped and no liquid escapes. The brisket is then left on the grill over indirect  heat for 2-3 more hours. After a few more hours on the grill the brisket should be done. I like to unwrap the brisket and give it one last quick sear over direct heat to give it a good final crust on the outside. Remove the brisket from the grill and tent with foil to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  

Thinly slice the brisket across the grain to serve. It will be pull apart tender, and juicy. You can serve it with your favorite bbq sauce if you want, but it really does not need any.
***Notice the pink ring around the outside of the meat. This is from the smoke penetrating the meat while cooking.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

At my house we always say,"If you already have the grill going, you might as well be cooking something." My favorite appetizers to cook on the grill while waiting for dinner to finish cooking are bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers.

  • 16 Jalapeno peppers, washed and dried
  • 1 Block of cream cheese
  • 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 Green onions, chopped
  • Dash each salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • 16 Strips of thick cut bacon
  • 16 Toothpicks, soaked in water for 10 minutes

Start by combining the cheeses, green onions, and seasonings in a bowl and set aside.
Slice about 1/3 of the peppers off lengthwise. I like to leave the stems intact so that you have a handle to pick them up with. Scrape out the seeds and white membrane inside the peppers using a small spoon. Wash the peppers with water to get out any extra seeds and set aside. I suggest wearing some latex gloves for this step. The oils from the peppers do not wash off your hands very easily. You will find this out the hard way if you are a contact lens wearer like myself.

Spoon and pack the cheese mixture into the peppers. Wrap each pepper with one slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Make sure to wrap the bacon around the pepper so that most of the cheese filling is covered.
I like to cook my peppers on a charcoal grill but these can just as easily be prepared on a gas grill. These are usually something I like to make while I am slow cooking a pork shoulder or a beef brisket. 
Start by putting the peppers on the grill over indirect heat meaning that the heat source is off to one side of the peppers. Cook the peppers over the indirect heat for 20-30 minutes or until most of the bacon has begun to render down. This also gives the peppers a chance to cook through.
After the bacon has cooked down and the peppers are starting to feel softened, move the peppers over to the direct heat for just a few minutes to give them a quick char. Be very careful to watch these when they are over direct heat because the bacon can burn very quickly. Remove the peppers to a platter to cool. It is best to let the peppers rest for a minute or two before serving because the filling will be extremely hot.I promise that you will always find yourself saying that next time you need to make more!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings is old school classic American comfort food. There is just something about its wholesome simplicity that I find myself craving from time to time.
The base of the dish is really good chicken broth. I start this by simmering a whole organic chicken with carrots, celery, onion, parsley, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Start with cold water, just enough to cover the chicken, cover, and bring up to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through. I pull out the chicken and set aside to cool. The broth gets strained and added into a clean stock pot. Once the chicken is cooled it gets pulled into large chucks with the skin removed and set aside.
The broth is brought up to a simmer and thickened slightly with some corn starch.
Diced carrots, celery, and onions get sauteed in some butter until softened and then added into the stock pot along with the chicken.
The stock can now be brought up to a low boil in preparation for cooking the dumplings.
The dumplings are a simple recipe consisting of flour, baking soda, buttermilk, butter, and salt. I roll the dough out into about a 1/2"thickness and cut into strips with a pizza cutter. The strips are added to the boiling stock, covered, and allowed to cook for 10-12 minutes.

We garnish with a little fresh parsley and black pepper.

Now that is some good classic comfort food.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

The votes were tabulated from the poll I had on my blog and the dish that people most wanted me to make was herb crusted rack of lamb. This lamb dish gets seared on a hot grill, coated with lots of fresh herbs, and then finished in the oven. The end result is super tender lamb with a crispy flavorful coating.
We were serving 4 people so I started with 2 small racks of lamb. The racks had already been frenched, meaning that the extra meat and fat around the bones had been removed. Having the bones exposed makes for a more impressive plate presentation as well as making them easier to handle and cook evenly.
The lamb was given a good coat of salt and cracked black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to get it ready for the grill. We grilled the lamb over high heat on all sides. What we are looking for here is adding some good color and flavor to the meat. The lamb is removed from the grill while it is still rare and set aside to rest while we make our herb crust mixture.
I start the herb crust with some fresh bread crumbs. I used a store bought loaf of French bread that I sliced, toasted in the oven, and ground into crumbs using a food processor. The crumbs get set aside so that we can next make the herb mixture in the food processor. I started with a handful each of fresh mint and flat leaf parsley. I added in the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh rosemary 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/4 cup of fresh shredded parmasan cheese and gave it a few pulses. Next I added in 3 cups of the fresh bread crumbs and began to combine while adding a drizzle of olive oil to bring it all together. The end result is a bright green speckled breadcrumb mixture.

It is now time to bread the racks of lamb. I began by well coating the lamb with dijon mustard. The mustard is the glue to hold on the crumb mixture. Then I coated the lamb with the bread crumbs and pressed them tightly with my hands. The lamb is now ready to be finished in the oven. I placed the lamb into a 375 degree pre-heated cast iron skillet with a light drizzle of olive oil. After 10 minutes of cooking, I flipped the lamb and continued to cook in the oven for about a total of 20 minutes. I used an instant read thermometer to make sure we pulled the lamb from the oven when it was about medium rare. After allowing the meat to rest for about 10 minutes, I sliced the lamb into individual chops and served.

We served the lamb chops with a porcini mushroom risotto, mashed potatoes with parsnips, and toasted sesame seed asparagus.