Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Awards Season - My Superbowl

I am not a football fan, what I miss out on, football food. As I have previously mentioned, I LOVE a slow cook. For my personal Super bowl, The Golden Globes, I decided to make BBQ Pork Sliders on pretzel buns. Before I jump in to the meat preparation, I first have to sing the praises of pretzel buns. Costco has a slider sized pretzel roll that is chewy, soft and flavorful. I don't know what magic is in there but I like it.

For the pulled pork portion, I bought a decent sized pork roast. Pork has a good amount of fat around it that will melt and make a wonderfully tender meat. The first thing I did with it was take the roast out of the fridge and make a spice rub. I took smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. I rubbed the roast ad then let it sit out for about an hour, bringing it to room temperature and the seasoning soak in. Then I put it in a very hot pan, brown each side really well. The slow cooker, while fabulous, doesn't really brown meat.
In to the slow cooker, I put the pork roast, 2 cans of beer (whatever you have, this time I used a dark beer) a can of roasted green chilies and a diced onion that I cooked quickly in the pan where I seared the meat. Set it at higher cook and walk away.
While the meat was cooking, I started making the barbeque sauce. The base is ketchup; I also included a coke, brown sugar, Worchester sauce, apple cider vinegar as well as all the seasoning I used in the rub (smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper) this mixture is really to taste, like more acidic sauce? Heavier vinegar. Sweeter sauce? Brown sugar or more coke. This sauce is time for creative expression! Use mustard, soy sauce, or ginger, whatever flavors you love. Let it bubble and reduce, and there is sauce.

After about 5-6 hours, the meat is falling apart. Take it out of the slow cooker and shred it. I am incredibly picky about fatty pieces, so I might err on the cautious side, but like all meat. I put the pulled meat in to a pan and pour sauce over it. I will sometimes sauce the sandwiches individually to mix it up, use the leftovers for tacos, quesadillas or other options.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sushi, Poke, Who Cares.....

I distinctly remember the first time I ate sushi. I was in San Francisco for the first time and up until then NEVER thought I would enjoy raw fish. After my first bite of raw tuna, I knew it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. My favorite version of sushi is any variation of spicy tuna. What is it about the amazing spicy heat that warms from within mixed with the mix of soy and sesame flavor? Intoxicating, I have come to  understand the term "umami". OK, I know, I am being dramatic, but it is GOOD.
Sushi remains to be an art that I would rather enjoy from the table instead of the kitchen. That being said, when I found out how easy it was to prepare the spicy tuna mayo mixture it was time to give it a whirl.
What is very important when preparing this, get fresh tuna. I would say the previously frozen is fine, but prepare and eat the same day if possible. However, this mayo is also really good with shrimp.
To make the spicy mayo, it is very simple. Mayo, Sriacha (but my favorite is the garlic chili sauce in the asian food aisle by the Sriacha), sesame oil (spend the extra for a high quality sesame oil and keep in the fridge it goes bad quickly) and a splash of soy sauce. Of course adjust the amounts based on how spicy you like it. So start small, and build. The reason I love the garlic chili sauce is it has more flavor and not just heat. Don't get me wrong, it is spicy so be careful.

When using tuna, I first briefly marinate the tuna steak in soy sauce, ginger, a little lemon and a little lime. It really only needs to be in the marinade for a very short time. The citrus will actually start cooking the fish and the texture will get mushy. So really 15-20 minutes max. I usually let it sit while I cut veggies. In a bowl, I dice cucumbers and green onions finely and then cube up the tuna. I then mix in the magic spicy mayo.
I love to serve this as a dip appetizer with fried won tons or serve it on a platter with the tuna mixture on top of won tons. I also call this a version of Hawaiian poke (po-keh). They have a bunch of versions of chopped up tuna mixed with different flavors. Enjoy tuna!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Drink aka Buttered Rum

In our house as kids, my parents were big fans of the traditional "Tom & Jerry" drink mix. I remember them making an alcohol-free version for us that had a light sprinkle of cinnamon on top. It was the epitome of Christmas season for me until I had my first sip of buttered rum. It was like liquid brown sugar with a shot of buttery goodness. I thought though, I think I can do better.
I took it on as a personal mission to perfect a recipe. The first time I made it, way too much butter. When I melted it in with hot water and took a sip, my lips were shiny with a buttery sheen and my lips felt like I had Vaseline on them. Then, I made one with too much brown sugar, taste was good and fine, but it didn't mix quite the way I wanted it to with a frothy creamy look. So I did some research online with ingredients. Some of them had vanilla ice cream in them. So I decided to give it a whirl. Take in mind, this is in no way a healthy drink.
This holiday season, it was perfected. The below amounts made 8 small mason jars for gifts this year.
2 sticks of room temp butter
1 quart of mostly melted vanilla bean ice cream
1-1/2- 2 bags of dark brown sugar
season to taste with:
ground ginger
ground cloves
ground cardamom (a little goes a long way)
ground nutmeg
The first thing to do in a mixer is combine the softened butter with the brown sugar. Once they are thoroughly mixed, slowly add in the softened ice cream. Mix that together. Then start seasoning to taste.
When it is complete, it should be a creamy texture, almost like batter. When ready to add 1-2 heaping spoonfuls to hot water and a favorite alcoholic beverage. Some of my favorites are Jameson, brandy or this year I made an infused bourbon with orange and that combination was fantastic!
Enjoy through the winter!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FINALLY... Grilling season is HERE!

I am a self proclaimed freak about certain foods, I don't like bananas or banana flavored things - except banana bread. I hate beans - except green ones. Craziest of all, I HATE GROUND MEAT. I am not sure where that came from, but I just can't get over the texture. I love steak, no go hamburger. This normally doesn't bother me, but this time of year, I love the smell and the idea of a really great burger. Here was my solution!
I bought a giant portabella mushroom. I rubbed it with smoked paprika, rosemary, bacon salt (mentioned in early posts and DELICIOUS) and olive oil. I let it sit for a while in the rub and then put it on the grill.
While that was marinating, I also prepared some giant asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper and a heavy dose of balsamic vinegar. I also put them on the grill. Word of caution on grilling asparagus, use large stalks, cook them quickly and be careful, they easily slip between the grates.
Once the mushroom was grilled well on both sides, I flipped it so the top of the mushroom was on the grill. I filled the inside of the mushroom with gorgonzola cheese. When it got gooey and melted, I sprinkled pieces of bacon on top. I put it on a bun and dug in to a delicious grilled "burger" with asparagus.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long break from the blog...

Busy work and life has distracted me from writing here! I hope I am back in it now, just because I was away from the blog doesn't mean I have been away from cooking. Unfortunately all of the cooking for spring just hasn't happened for me yet because Mother Nature has not cooperated. I actually made not only a batch of delicious chili but biscuit bread pudding. I am hoping this is the last of that!
I have made this version of chili a number of times, but I have to say this was my favorite one. As I might have mentioned before, I don't do ground meat. I also am not a fan of beans. However, I have always loved the idea of the flavors of chili. So I made beanless pot roast chili! I first seared the seasoned pot roast (salt and pepper and cumin) in a very hot dutch oven. After the pot roast has a good brown crust take it out and add in thinly sliced onions. As the onions cook they pull up the delicious brown goodness left in the bottom of the pan. Then I put it all in the slow cooker. I add 2 cans of light sparkling beer. (like the champagne of beers, Miller High Life). I also add a good handful of cumin and some beef stock. I let the beef cook for about 6-7 hours on low. After the meat is falling apart, take it out of the slow cooker, remove the fat and shred the meat. With th cooking liquid, drain off the fat and put the remaining liquid in a pan on the stove and start to reduce it. Then I add a can of fire roasted chilis, Ro-Tel tomatoes and the shredded meat. To the mixture, I add cayenne pepper, more cumin and some cinnamon. I took the cinnamon addition from a pot roast recipe I make that I got from "Big Daddy's House". It adds a warmth to the chili without the heat.
When I served it, I changed from the typical cheese/sour cream topping to creamy polenta mixed with cream and 4 cheese mexican mix. Instant polenta is amazing! I highly recommend it as an alternative to mash potatoes and this was so good as a fill in for corn bread. I also topped it with some diced avocado.
The other comfort warm food I made was a bread pudding that was inspired by Paula Deen. She made bread pudding using buttermilk biscuits. I used store bought biscuits and diced up about 4 of them and put them in a round baking dish. I then made a custard with 4 eggs, about 2 cups of half and half and then added diced up candied ginger, a good palmful of cinnamon, grated nutmeg, vanilla paste (I have a bourbon vanilla paste I got at the Golden Fig that is DELICIOUS)and white chocolate chips. I poured the custard over the biscuits and then put it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes until it rises a little and the custard cooks together. While it was baking, I made a caramel glaze with butter, dark brown sugar and half and half. I added some bourbon in the mixture once it melted and let the alcohol cook out. The scary thing about caramel making is melting sugar. There is something about putting heat on sugar that turns it in to actual molten lava, but OH is it worth it. Make sure to let all the sugar and butter melt together otherwise the sugar stays a little grainy. Who am I kidding though, it still tastes good. I LOVE bread pudding, because of the warmth and cozy feeling it just oozes (sometimes literally), I typically make it with white bread and the biscuits added a great texture and creaminess.

Monday, June 21, 2010

MORE Summer Salads

I had a friend over for dinner and promised that I would be experimenting on her. I am pretty sure she was a little scared.
I had seen on a couple of Food Network shows, grilled romaine salad. I have always been a traditionalist when it comes to lettuce, it should be cold. UNTIL NOW! I purchased a bag of romaine hearts and sliced them in half (keeping the core at the bottom so they don't fall apart on the grill). I brushed them with olive oil and put them right on the grill. They cook very quickly, so move fast. They spent the most time on the cut side, but I moved them around. Then I took them off the grill and went inside. I made a lemon/dijon vinagrette with lemon (juice and zest), a hefty couple of tablespoons of dijon, chopped shallots, some salt and pepper and a little honey. Whisked it together with olive oil and ready... I crumbled some bacon and gorgonzola cheese over the top and yum.
Along with the salad, I decided to try grilling pizza dough. I have seen it done a number of times. Why not? Well, I learned a few things grilling it. Before I put it on the grill, I brushed olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper on one side. The first thing I learned that I should have cut the dough in half to start with. The entire Pillsbury pizza dough, 9x13 fitting crust is too big to manage. Thank you kitchen shears. I did end up with some pizza dough globs that I grilled. They were unattractive but still yummy. Secondly, I thought since this was the first time, I would put it on the higher grate on my grill to have more indirect heat. It just took a long time and got sticky. I moved the sliced pieces to the bottom.
I had intended to put grilled mushrooms on the pizza, but got the no-go from my guest because she said if it was between drinking battery acid and eating mushrooms she might have a tough time deciding but would lean towards battery acid. So I just put on a cream cheese spread I made with some CSA items, more dill and chopped up green garlic. After both sides of the pizza crust had some grill marks, I spread on the cream cheese mixture on the crust and let it get bubbly.
Overall, the experiment was a success. I learned a few things for next time, but I will continue to perfect it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Favorites from the box and summer salads, part 1

This week in the box we got more lettuce, but there were 2 treats I really enjoyed. 1, strawberries. It is truly amazing how different strawberries straight from the farm taste vs. the grocery store. They were really tart and melt in your mouth. Number 2, fresh dill. It was possibly the best dill I have ever had. The first thing I did with it was add it to the lettuce to make a salad. I blanched asparagus, cut those up and added chopped green onion. I made a quick lemon vinagrette with simply, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, shallot chopped finely and olive oil. The second thing I did with the dill was roast small yukon gold potatoes with more dill, chopped shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper, and cayenne. Dill and potatoes make some magic connection, I couldn't stop eating them! (this goes back to my long enduring love of potatoes and the statement I have made "I have never met a potato I didn't like". )

I really do love salads in the summer. The abundance of fresh vegetables makes them easy and there isn't much that is more refreshing and cool to eat when the temps rise. I am sure many people have had the "Asian" salad that I put in quotes because it uses bag cole slaw and Ramen noodles. In addition to being a summer picninc standard in MN, it is actually really tasty. Last night I did my spin on this salad. I used a bag of broccoli slaw (if you haven't had it, delicious AND nutritious), shredded rotisserie chicken, green onion and a package of beef flavored ramen noodles. I took the ramen flavor packet and combined it with some sugar (probably a heaping tablespoon), soy sauce, sesame oil (just a little), rice wine vineagar, cayenne and olive oil. I whisked together like a vinagrette and tossed the slaw, green onions and chicken together. Then topped only what I was eating with the crunchy ramen noodles (don't add all of them to the dish otherwise they will get soggy). It was a perfect summer dinner salad. More salads to come!