I’m battling to get back to a normal routine the past few days. Part of that is I did make a concerted effort to create a nice dinner for us last night. That offering was Fettuccine Alfredo (with my homemade Alfredo sauce) topped with steak. Note the sauce recipe is towards the bottom on the linked to post.
As always start with fresh pasta:
Wow, focus was off there. 😦 Oh and that’s a loaf of Rosemary Parm Bread next to the pasta, courtesy of Costco. Not as good as homemade, but decent.
While the water was heating up, I stared the strips of steak sauteing in butter and garlic:
I’m throwing in the above picture primarily to show off that colander. This was right before I dumped the water. It was a Christmas present from my mom a couple years back. Super handy as it holds tight to the pot, is heat resistant silicone, and is much easier to clean up than a full colander.
Beyond that, since the camera was acting up, I’ll cut this a little short. Aside from the bread and pasta dishes, I also cooked up some butternut squash and added a touch of cinnamon to it. Viola; one almost gourmet meal:
My food posts used to have quite a following. The weather here has been horrible though; more rain than I saw in 10 years back in California. Then the last two months has been house / moving / kitty drama.
I had a few food posts ready to go, but the pics disappeared (along with motivation). HOWEVER, I did manage to find my birthday dinner pics from… a while back. 😉
Yes, we started with spare ribs. My go to for MY day… for a few years now. No, they’re NOT undercooked either. THAT is insanely deep smoked flavor as they were cooked as low and slow as I possibly could. I think they took about 10 hours. Most quality rib joints only cook theirs for about 6 hours.
There was also some corn bread:
And some homemade mac and cheese:
The Panko breading on top didn’t brown too well unfortunately. Blame the cheeses.
My world famous, made from scratch guacamole (appetizer):
And salad and veggies also, but the pics seem to have disappeared… Well, all but one:
I’m LONG overdue for a food post here, and even this meal was a week ago this evening.
For those who have been following long enough, AND actually reading (RARE), you’ll recall that last weekend was my 2 year anniversary. Thankfully, it was SLIGHTLY less hectic than the actual day.
We had family over and I cooked a big meal for everyone. MOST of it turned out too.
First was homemade Tex-Mex guacamole with tortilla chips as an appetizer:
The main course was Ribeye steaks, slow smoked on the Rec-Tec and then reverse seared on the Weber charcoal grill:
There’s some (turkey) bacon on the top rack that was going to be chopped up and added to the steamed green beans but…
It’s hard to see from the pic, but some of the green beans were bad and turned brown while steaming. So, the beans went into the trash and the bacon got saved for later.
Luckily I had another vegetable in the works at the same time, a combination dish really. I took zucchini and yellow summer squash, sliced them into rounds, seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and rosemary, then topped them with Parmigiano Reggiano.
I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating; Parmigiano Reggiano is WORLDS better then plain old Parm cheese and Infinitely better than the gunk in the green can.
The basic recipe i found online just said to go with the cheese only but I knew a light bit of seasoning would help also. Once you throw the cheese on, just bake at 425 (or 218 degees C) until the cheese turns golden. Oh yes, cut the veggies 1/4 inch or .635 cm thickness. The summer squash turns out a little watery, but everybody loved both:
I also had some sliced baby potatoes for a carb:
Oh and if you’re wondering how those steaks turned out:
That’s as close to I got to a picture of a fully plated meal. It kept saying “Eat Me”, so I put down the phone and did. 😀
BUT… Then There was Dessert:
And this was a bear. The core of the dessert was individual sized, double chocolate mini bundt cakes. It took 3 tries to get cakes that would come out of the molds properly, and I had to thicken the batter almost to the point of being brownies:
BUT, we weren’t done there, nooooo. Next I took some Godiva chocolate, and melted it into a ganash, topped the cakes with Mayfield Cookies and Cream ice cream, and then drizzled the ganash all over them:
We ate good, and I think I’m turning my in-laws off the local restaurants with the quality of my cooking, lol.
I showed the corned beef I smoked for this meal in a recent post. Being a contrarian, I had to do something different with it for dinner. We had a long day that day, and after getting stabbed, I didn’t feel like an ornate meal. Truth? They’ll take away my (part) Irish Card, BUT, I’ve always hated the “throw it all in a pot and boil it” thing for corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day. It takes all the flavor right out of everything.
So what DID I end up doing??
Corned beef sandwiches with coleslaw and Havarti cheese on pretzel rolls with fries.
Viola: Corned beef, cabbage and carrots (in the slaw) and potatoes (fries). Untraditionally traditional. 😀
Yesterday evening we finally had a break in the never ending rain (I swear I thought we moved to Tennessee, not Oregon), and we dragged the smoker out of the garage to get some cooking done while we can. It’s going to rain the rest of the week.
Anyhow, I smoked a small ham for sandwich meat, 3 chicken breasts for a dish I’ll be making in the next day or two, a turkey breast for sandwich meat, and a nice piece of corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. 😀
A few hours later…
I had to sneak a little piece of the corned beef also after my mom said it would be tough and I should have boiled it.
Being salt cured, it’s a little on the salty side, and while it was a little bit firmer than my usual brisket:
It was still plenty tender, because my family is from Texas, damnit, and tough brisket of any variety is a crime there!
Seriously, ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that you can talk bad about somebody’s mama before you can trash talk their brisket. 😀
AKA “What the Pho” 😀 To get that joke, one must understand the correct pronunciation of the dish: F-uh, as if you’re starting to drop an f-bomb.
OK, enough bad humor.
I call this “sort of” authentic Pho because I bypassed the painfully slow process of hand making the broth by boiling beef bones. I got the recipe from an issue of “Cook’s Illustrated Best soups and Stews from Around the World”; one of the various ‘best recipe’ titles that Cook’s Illustrated cycles through in it’s publishing.
I changed a few other things from their recipe as well.
First is that they advocated boiling a pound of hamburger in water to make extra flavoring for the ready made broth in the recipe. The trouble here is that they wanted the hamburger thrown out when you strain the broth to get the solids from the spices out. I’m not big on wasting food so it stayed in. Blasphemy to purists I’m sure but again, I’m not going to waste a full pound of beef.
If you want to go the easy route and still get strong beef flavor out of the broth while not using ground beef, drop a packet or cube of low sodium beef bullion into the broth.
Second is we both are not fans of soy beans, so we left those out. 😛
Let’s Get Cooking
First, this will make 6 to 8 decent sized bowls of Pho.
I’m going to proceed under the premise that readers also don’t feel like spending 8 hours boiling bones to make broth and will likewise use store bought bone or beef broth and optionally add beef bullion to that.
As an added tip to avoid having to later pour hot soup through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth, I highly advise putting most of the solid spices into a tea defuser / tea ball / cooking infuser like this one I got from Amazon:
You MAY actually need a pair of them given all the ginger and such that is supposed to be added to the broth.
Oh and as an added note, much like my recent Chile Verde recipe, this is too much good stuff to fit in a normal sized Crock-Pot. You’ll need a jumbo one or a decent sized soup pot.
My Modified Version of the “Cooks Illustrated” Recipe:
First the Ingredients
2 Onions, quartered through root end
12 cups of beef (or bone) broth. This works out to 3 of the standard 4 cup cartons sold in the U.S.
1/4 cup of fish sauce
1 (4 inch or 10 cm) piece of Ginger, sliced into thin rounds
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 tablespoons of Sugar
6 Star Anise pods
6 whole cloves
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon black whole peppercorns
1 (1 pound or 453 grams) boneless strip steak, trimmed and halved
14 to 16 ounces of rice noodles
1/3 cup of chopped fresh Cilantro
3 Scallions, sliced thin
Optional Ingredients and Garnishes
Fresh Thai or Italian Basil sprigs
I actually left out the sugar accidentally and didn’t miss it at all. I also added a couple cloves of pressed garlic to the broth because garlic addict. 🙂 A little extra cilantro got used as garnish as well. Finally, of the list above, the lime was the best garnish to me in terms of really accenting the flavor. Just go light and work your way up.
Oh and as for the ginger… I have NO idea how much that’s actually supposed to be. Their description makes it sound like ginger comes in neat little log rolls. Trust your cooking instincts there is all I can advise. Our food turned out fine.
I put the ginger, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick (after breaking it into 3 pieces) into the defuser. As for the pepper, I used coarse ground black pepper instead and added it directly to the broth. One teaspoon will not overpower a full pot of Pho broth.
Lastly, with the 8 onion quarters, 6 of them were supposed to be cooked with the hamburger that was added to the broth and later filtered out. Using this more direct method, you could drop them into the broth and let them simmer, fishing them out later with a ladle or slotted spoon, OR save an onion and just add some onion powder or dehydrated onion to the broth. Neither are ‘official’ since Pho broth is supposed to be pure liquid, but the final product tasted great to me.
The remaining half an onion is supposed to be sliced super thin to add to the finished Pho. I used a mandolin for that .
Not this type:
The Cooking Process:
Cooking can be relatively fast with this method, but I advise slow cooking to let the broth simmer and fully absorb the flavor from the spices. Ideally an hour and a half to two hours.
Start by adding the broth, optional bullion, onions (if so desired), black pepper and two cups of water to your soup pot. Put the spices into the defuser as noted above then add the defuser to the liquid mix. Heat the mix on high and bring it to a hard boil briefly. Once it hits a hard boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer. The magazine says 45 minutes. I’m a huge fan of low and slow however.
While the broth is simmering, put the steak into the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. The goal is to get it to be cold enough to be firm and easy to thin slice, bit not actually frozen. If you’re lucky enough to have a deli slicer for meat at home, cutting the beef into thin strips will be super easy. If not, a properly sharp knife will do the job fine once the meat is firm.
Getting the meat as thin as possible is important because traditionally the meat is cooked in the bowl by the sheer heat of the broth.
Next up, while the steak is firming and the broth is simmering, we deal with the rice noodles. They take a little different process than wheat based pasta.
First place the noodles in a large container and cover them with hot tap water. Soak them until they’re pliable; about 10 to 15 minutes. Once they’re pliable, drain them then put them into a pot with 4 quarts of boiling water until almost tender. This will only take 30 seconds to a minute. Immediately drain the noodles and divide them among individual bowls.
Turn back up the heat on the broth to bring it to a rolling boil again. While it’s reaching that point, divide up the steak and shaved onion into the individual bowls. Serve immediately along with the previously listed extra garnishes and some extra fish sauce as a possible additional garnish.
A Couple Final Notes:
First, if you’re like me and have issues with potentially getting scalded by soup being dished out at a rolling boil… You can bypass the need to do that by cooking the rice noodles till fully tender. Also, you’ll want to spread the steak pieces out on a plate and microwave them for 30 seconds or so; until they’re losing the red and are light pink. Bring the broth back up to the point it’s just starting to boil and then add it to the bowls as above. The noodles will be soft and the steak pieces should finish cooking also while still being very tender.
Next, for those who get apoplectic over the idea of eating red meat (like my mother), I’m told that there are restaurants out there who substitute chicken broth and chicken breast for the beef ingredients and it supposedly works fine. Never tried it. I’m just putting it out there as an option for those with dietary restrictions or preferences. 🙂
Lastly, a warning! If you’ve never used Fish Sauce before…
It smells like dead fish that’s sat out in the sun decomposing for a couple weeks. The quarter cup that’s added to the broth quickly loses it’s scent and adds just a hint of flavor to the dish. I certainly wouldn’t want an open bottle sitting on my table as an added garnish though. “How It’s Made” (a TV show that walks viewers through the creation of various things) says fish sauce is used in Asia as a substitute for salt.
That being the case, I’m tempted to try soy sauce as a replacement.
Either way, the food turned out spectacular. My first time making it, but we will definitely be making it again. Is it official, purist Pho? I don’t know. Tastes good however. 😀
With the weather having turned cold, I made some homemade from scratch chile verde to fight back against the cold weather. 🙂
It took some searching to find an authentic, made from scratch version of the recipe. Too many were canned this and canned that. Blah! I finally found one on NoRecipes.com(a jab at AllRecipes.com perhaps?), and am reproducing it here along with a few notes about what worked and what didn’t.
Before we get started, there’s a few important things to note.
First, the oil is going to be used to sear the pork in a dutch oven or pan before adding it into the mix. Ifyou want to get creative, you could cook it on a smoker instead (which I would have done, weather allowing), or some other way. It will also be simmering a while in the final pot so try not to cook it beyond a medium rare so as to avoid drying it out.
Second: As best I can tell, the honey and cinnamon in the ingredients list only serve the purpose of reducing the heat or spiciness of the dish. The seeds in the peppers, especially the Jalapenos, are what generate that heat. If you prefer a milder Chili Verde and remove all the seeds, I’d avoid the honey and cinnamon as they’ll give the dish an unpleasant aftertaste without the heat to balance them
Third: This is a large recipe and will NOT fit in a standard size Crock-Pot or similar slow cooker without halving it. It will easily feed eight hungry people, particularly if you serve it on a bed of rice like my family (and my Latina godmother) used to.
Lastly: If you want to stay kosher / halal, or just find pork unhealthy, boneless skinless chicken breast works fine as a substitute for the pork.
The Prep Work:
Prep Time is supposedly 10 minutes, but I call shenanigans on that. Roasting and peeling the peppers should count as prep work not cooking. Total time with prep and cooking is just under 3 hours, but most of that is just letting it simmer on the stove so the flavors meld together.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to it’s highest setting or put it on broil.
Step 2: While the oven is preheating, Wash the Poblano, Anaheim and Jalapeño peppers and cut slits in them to prevent them from popping. Put them on sheet pans along with the garlic (skin side down), and onions.
Step 3: Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them thoroughly to remove as much of the waxy residue from their surface as you can. Cut slits in them to prevent them from popping in the oven and put them on sheet pans as well.
For those that have never seen a tomatillo, here’s what they look like with the ‘husk’:
AND, without the husk or stem:
Shopping Tip: Tomatillos are peppers, but also related to tomatoes. You can tell if they’re ripe by judging the firmness, just as if it were a tomato. If it’s hard, it’s not ripe. If it’s firm but has just a little give, it’s ripe. If it’s soft, it’s going bad.
Step 4: Put the green chili peppers in the oven and roast until their skins have blistered and started to blacken. Flip them over and roast until the second side matches:
Step 5: Roast the tomatillos in the oven until they’re soft and lightly scorched on top.
NOTE: The main reason for steps 4 and 5 is to soften up the peppers and blister up the skins on the green chilis for peeling. It does impart a little flavor also though. If you want to up the flavor factor, fire roast the peppers on a hot BBQ or over a gas stove burner instead of in the oven.
Step 6: When the green chilies are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. Remove as much skin as you can from the peppers. It doesn’t have to be a perfect job. The work will be similar to peeling the skin off an onion. Once that’s done, remove the stems and seeds along with any light colored membranes. Then remove the stems and seeds along with any light-colored membranes. Peel the garlic.
Remember the above note about seeds here. The Jalapenos are the hottest of the three green peppers, while the Anaheim and Poblano are typically milder. It won’t hurt to leave some seeds in, or even all of them if you like spicy food.
Step 7: Toss all the roasted green chilies, tomatillos, onions, garlic, and main recipe portion the cilantro into a food processor and process until no large chunks are remaining:
Steps 8 and 9 can be skipped IF you decide to grill the pork (or chicken) instead:
Step 8: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch over over medium-high heat until hot. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork.
Step 9: Add the vegetable oil to the preheated pot and add the pork in a single layer, leaving a bit of space between each piece of pork (if it doesn’t all fit, then do this in two batches). Let the pork brown on one side undisturbed and then flip and brown the other side.
If grilling or slow smoking the meat, cook to the same level of doneness.
Step 10: Add the green chili and tomatillo puree to the pot, along with the chicken stock, honey, cinnamon (both of which are optional depending upon seed content of the mixture), cumin, oregano, and salt. Scrape up the browned bits of pork juice from the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the Chili Verde simmer until the pork is fall-apart tender (about 2 1/2 hours).
Lastly, adjust the seasoning to taste and then serve over tortillas, rice, scrambled eggs or whatever excites you. 🙂 Garnish with the additional cilantro and the cotija cheese.
A Couple Quick Final Notes:
First, three hours may seem like alot of time in the modern world, but it’s worth it. Most of that time is just letting it simmer also. No real work to that beyond occasionally checking and stirring it. You will NOT get flavor like this from canned products and a quickie version.
Secondly, the leftovers will slowly get a little spicier as they sit. That’s normal due to the tomatillo seeds (and possibly some of the others) being left in it. Freezing should stop that process and may be necessary depending upon how much leftovers you have anyway. 😉
If you really like spicier food, you might want to try doing steps 1 through 7 a day or two before and keeping the puree in the fridge until cooking day.
And my personal thanks to NoRecipes.com for posting this authentic recipe.
It’s been a couple of days, but I’m back with a tasty food treat. Last Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. No big deal for me, other than I like to see the commercials. They’re typically more creative than the average advertisement. As with last year, I made some snack type food to nibble on while we were parked in front of the TV.
I kept it a little more basic this time since it ended up being just the two of us. However, the weather allowed for pulling the smoker out of the garage and making some slow smoked chicken wings! 🙂
Step One: Brining
I started by wet brining the wings, and apparently forgot to get a picture of doing so. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, wet brining is soaking a piece of meat in salt water. This adds moisture to the meat and the salt breaks down (tenderizes) the meat as well. This results in a moister, more tender piece of meat. I find it’s particularly helpful with previously frozen meat. As an added note, poultry and pork brine well, but beef shouldn’t be brined. Beef loses too much of it’s natural juices when brined, which means lost flavor.
Wet brine recipes are all over the internet, and the standard ratio is one cup of salt to one gallon of water. Personally, I think that tends to be a bit strong, and I go roughly 1/2 that. It will take a little experimenting for you to find a ratio that works for your individual tastes. You want the meat tender, but not too salty tasting after cooking.
You can also add other ingredients to your brine mix. I vary mine a bit, but minced garlic always makes it into the brine.
There’s also dry brining. That is basically putting the meat into a bed of salt or dry rubbing salt on it. I’ve yet to try this method for fear of the meat being too salty. HOWEVER, it’s supposed to be good for poultry. Wet skin tends to turn rubbery during cooking, and dry brining is one way to help prevent that. More on that in a little bit. 😉
Step Two: Prep
The next thing to do is dry off the wings as best you can,with some paper towels, for the reason previously mentioned. Before we get to putting a dry rub on the wings though, let’s mention another trick to getting crispy skin on your grilled chicken. That being to dust it lightly with either baking powder or corn starch. Baking powder is an old restaurant trick for this situation since it’s relatively flavor free in light doses.
After drying and possibly dusting with baking powder, there’s the dry rub.
I personally use a simple mix of Salt, Pepper and Garlic most of the time. Options are almost endless here however. Most stores carry several flavors also. Other favorites of mine are Greek, Chipotle and Lemon Pepper. There are thousands of recipes all over the internet also if you want to make your own.
My only two pieces of advice there are use fresh spices, and avoid sugar. Well, also if you make enough to have extra, store it in an airtight container. It’ll last longer. Sugar is really unnecessary though if the rest of the flavors are properly balanced. Some cooks like it because it caramelizes and helps produce a bark on the meat, but good grilling technique can eliminate that need also.
Step 3: Onto the Smoker!
After putting some sort of dry rub on the wings, they’re ready for the grill:
The big lesson in the picture above is to space them out. This gives the smoke as much surface area as possible to soak into the meat and flavor it.
Cooking the wings is a little tricky. The lower the temperature, the more time the smoke has to get into the meat. HOWEVER, to ensure a nice crispy skin on the wings, they need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of 275F to 300F or 135C to 148C.
If you cook at 200F, it will take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to a proper internal temperature of 165F (74C), which is the temperature the US government says is needed to kill all possible bacteria in the chicken. If you cook at the 275F to 300F range mentioned above, you can reduce that cooking time to roughly an hour and a half total.
A compromise option I use, and have mentioned here before, is to get the meat to an internal temperature about 30F below finished, then put it onto some direct heat like my Weber charcoal grill. This will put a nice sear on beef or pork, and help crisp up the skin on chicken.
As a side note, searing a piece of meat after slow cooking it is technically called a reverse sear. A normal sear occurs at the beginning of cooking. A normal sear is done to lock in moisture. Slow cooking does the same thing however, and will allow smoke and rub flavors to penetrate the meat.
That difference in temperature I found via experimenting. It seems to allow just enough time for the meat to develop a sear without drying it out. The reverse sear step can go fast regardless, so I advise closely monitoring the meat at his stage to avoid drying it out.
Step 4: EAT!
Serve with whatever dressing or sauce sounds exciting OR enjoy as is to truly savor the smoke flavor.
The above pic from Sunday reflects me skipping the reverse sear step. The weather was lousy, and my back was hurting. I crisped them up in our air fryer after this picture which made them much nicer.
They definitely turned out better than the game, or the commercials.
Emeril is one of my favorite chefs. Almost every recipe of his that I’ve tried has turned out great. This one was no exception.
I will add a couple of notes here however:
Emeril’s 2 can’s of low sodium beef broth, 29 ozs or 8/10 of a liter, are not near enough liquid to make this soup. With the amount of meat and vegetables that go into this, it’s almost too thick to be a stew with that amount of liquid. Even more true if you use dry pasta in the recipe.
Bottom line; plan on having about twice that much to get the soup at the consistency in the picture above, or at least be ready to add water.
You also might want to make a little more meatballs than the recipe calls for. This made a crock put full, as you all can see. That’s about 8 decent sized bowls of soup. There were only a couple of pieces of meatball left by the time we got to the last two bowls.
OH… and if you’re using a crock pot and dry pasta… The pasta will NOT be cooked in 15 minutes like Emeril says… More like somewhere around an hour and a half. I *did* add that in late also. Past experience has taught me that slow cooker soups tend to dissolve pasta if it’s added in right at the get go.
I almost forgot…
A bowl of the soup finished, and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and served with some garlic Parmigiano Reggiano toasted bread on the side. 🙂
I’m overdue for a food post here. 🙂 I did this one a while back, and have just had too much drama to deal with.
Almost as fun as the cooking for me. It all started with the bottle of spice in the upper right corner of the picture. We found a cute little shop that sold spices for just about every kind of cooking you can think of. One of the bottles we bought was for fried chicken seasoning.
When it came time to do the chicken for dinner though, we were already behind schedule for the day and stressed out. I just plain didn’t feel like the mess of creating a batter dredge for the chicken. The end result is we decided to put the chicken on the smoker just using the seasonings without all the extra flour and oil.
Chicken that tasted exactly like fried chicken but with a deep smoke flavor also. It was really juicy and tender. Total winner; all the flavor of fried chicken with none of the fat and carbs!
We had it plain the first night, but the leftovers got served with veggies and topped with a bit of cream of mushroom soup as gravy:
This one was a fun experiment that turned out much better than I expected. It just goes to show that there are options for making classic unhealthy food into something healthy that still tastes great. It’s a process of discovery I’m enjoying more and more.
While I did mine on our Rec-Tec pellet smoker, this could just as easily be done baked in an oven. I’d recommend on a wire rack to let the skin crisp just a little as it bakes.