My Own Potato Salad

July 31, 2012

I’ve made a lot of different styles of potato salad (for example here and here), but none of Chris Kimball’s recipes has matched my own personal recipe for potato salad. Perhaps I’m biased, because I’ve adjust the recipe over 15 years to precisely match my taste. It uses Balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and red onion instead of yellow onion. I can’t believe I haven’t yet posted this recipe. I give it 4-stars, because it’s just potato salad.

the best potato salad is also my oldest recipe

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $2.50
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 4:30.  Ready:  5:30.

3 eggs
2-1/2 pounds Red Bliss or Eastern potatoes
1-1/2 Celery stalk
1 medium red onion
1 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  1. Hard boil eggs by adding eggs to pan of cold water placed over high burner. Once the water begins to boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from burner and allow to stand for 10 more minutes. They will be perfectly cooked. (see here)
  2. Add potatoes with skins on to a large pot and cover with water. Put on stovetop over medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 35 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile dice onion, and finely chop celery into small pieces.
  4. Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add diced onions and celery.
  5. Dice the hard boiled eggs. Add to mixture.
  6. When potatoes are done remove from heat and rinse with warm water. Make sure not to overcook the potatoes or the salad will be quite sloppy. Keep the water at a gentle simmer and use the tip of a paring knife to judge the doneness of the potatoes. If the knife inserts easily into the potato pieces, they are done.
  7. Empty potatoes into a strainer. Place on cutting board and use a paring knife to peel the hot potatoes. There is no need to hold them using a fork, which will inevitably fall apart or burn your hands. Cut potatoes into small cubes after you’ve removed the skin.
  8. Mix together in large bowl with other ingredients.

Steak Tacos

July 27, 2012

I love Mexican food, but have a hard time finding good authentic Mexican food here in the northern extremes of New Jersey. So my choices are to either drive the 20 miles into the Bronx, or make it myself. Of course we all know Mexican food is not one of Chris Kimball’s strengths. His only recipe is for medium-rare flank steak instead of slow-cooked chuck. So I’m on my own, and have been playing with the recipe for a few months. So far, it’s only 3-to-3-1/2-stars. Better than most Northeastern restaurants, but still room for improvement. I will make updates as I improve the recipe, but after a few tries wanted to post this as a starting point.

I forgot to picture it with lime slices. But don’t forget them.

Comments:

  1. Typically steak tacos would be shredded, but I’ve been making this for weekday so I’ve been trying for tender, but not necessarily shred-able.
  2. My kids love ground beef tacos, a la Taco bell, and I do make them sometimes for a quick weekday meal. But I am looking for a replacement for those days when I will also be eating dinner. (I usually don’t eat dinner during on weekday)
  3. And lastly I wanted to mention that my goal for this year is in jeopardy. This has been such a busy summer, most nights my chauffeuring duties do not end until 8 or 9pm. I will do my best to make up lost time once the school year begins, but I missed 2 recipes from the last issue. This time of year has always presented challenges; I noticed something similar in my ground beef taco post from almost exactly 1 year ago. But this is the first summer when my sons and I are officially on our own.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $8.00
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Small.
Start time: 3:30. Dinner time: 5:30

Chris Kimball doesn’t have a steak taco recipe. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

2 pounds Chuck steak, about 3/4″ thick.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 tablespoon chili powder (once I used a chili toasted and ground it up)
2 garlic cloves
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  1. Separate steak along its natural fat lines, then cut up into 3/4″ cubes. Pat the cubes dry and season with 1/2 teaspoon table salt.
  2. Pre-heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a Dutch oven until just smoking, then brown beef on all sides in two batches; about 8 minutes per batch. Set cooked beef aside on a large plate.
  3. Meanwhile dice onion and peel garlic cloves. Also begin to pre-heat the oven to 350-degree.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the now empty Dutch Oven and saute diced onion together with 1/2 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, using the moisture of the onion to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan.
  5. After the onion has softened add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and chili powder for 2 minutes.
  6. Press garlic directly into Dutch oven and saute for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the meat back to Dutch oven, add the chicken broth and bring up to a simmer. Transfer to your 350-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours until meat is very tender.
  8. Mix in chopped cilantro.
  9. Serving with your choice of toppings: My favorite are: guacamole (or diced avocado), chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream, salsa and slices of lime.

Cherry, Plum and Raspberry Jam

July 24, 2012

I love the ability to stretch the richness of summer’s bounty and make it last all year-long. This is my third year of making summer jellies and jams. Once I’ve finished pitting the fruit, my kids love to join in. They thinks its fun to help with cooking the fruit and watching it transform into jam. They would like to pour it into jars too, but it’s too hot for them to handle. I’ve learned that you cannot increase the size of the batches or the jam/jelly will not set properly. So I make a few batches, which also lets me create variations. Each batch is slightly different, today I made Cherry, Plum and Raspberry Jam. My all-time favorite was a Triple berry Jam (Blackberry, raspberry and strawberry) that I made from one of those U-Pick places, but I haven’t found another u-pick place since.

Fresh jam makes for great slice of toast

Comments:

  1. I find that I have better results if I use 1-1/2 boxes of pectin rather than just a single box.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $12 for 5-lbs of jam.
How much work? Small/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Finish time 8:30pm

3 pounds Cherries
1/2 pounds dark-skinned plums (about 2 large)
1/2 pounds raspberries
4-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons red wine
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1-1/2 box sure-jell powdered fruit pectin
1/4 tsp. almond extract

  1. Run jars through dishwasher on high heat. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.
  2. Bring large pot with hot water to a light boil. boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer.
  3. Quarter and pit the plums. Pit the cherries. Finely chop all fruit.
  4. Combine plums, cherries, and lemon juice into an 8 quart pot. Cover and cook over low heat until juices form, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
  5. Uncover your pot. Increase the burner to medium/high. Add pectin and bring to a full boil; about 20 minutes longer. (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred)
  6. Add in sugar and return to a boil. Once it has returned to a full boil, continue for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Remove from heat, skim off any foam and immediately ladle into hot jars. filling to within 1/8 inch of tops
  8. Wipe jar rims and threads with a slightly damp paper towel. Top with two piece lids and tighten.
  9. Process closed jars in hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary
  10. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (Once cooled, if lids spring back when pushed down then they are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)


Respect, Discipline and Honesty

July 21, 2012

OK, this has nothing to do with food. As a father, the moments when I am most proud of my two sons are usually private. The first time my son beat me outright in Chess (I always play full speed). When my son bring home a 100% on a test for a subject he’s been struggling with. Watching my older son’s amazing 7th Grade Concert. But last night was one of the rare nights when my private pride spilled over into public accolades, as my youngest son Nico stood before 500 fellow students and parents to receive a trophy that measured half his height.

Nico holding his Spirit Award trophy.

 

Nico can not do the most push-up nor is he the fastest runner. But the Spirit award was given not for outright achievement, but for intestinal fortitude and the strongest heart. The award reflected that Nico never gave up mentally, even when his muscles were not strong enough to give more. He learned everything he could. He gave 100% of his effort everyday. Knowing my son; this is his highest praise, a reflection of his success with the thing he has most struggle with. There are no words to describe my intense pride as I watch Nico stand up in front of so many people to receive this particular award, and at this particular, tumultuous time. There are no words.

I am lucky to live in a town when the Police Department runs a 2-week summer camp for kids going into 6th grade. Essentially it’s a mini boot camp, where they show the kids: CSI, high-speed driving, K9, helicopters, etc. More importantly, the camp instills responsibility in a way that is difficult for a loving father to emulate. They put into action the three most important words: Respect, Discipline and Honesty. My only “job” was to make sure he has clean clothes, and to get him there on-time. Nico had to make and pack his lunch, pack his own supplies, and make sure he wore the right color shirt. One day Nico accidentally wore his dirty, white shirt, instead of his clean blue one. Excuses were not important. My heart melted when he apologized because he made me late for work, having to go home and get his blue shirt. He took responsibility for his mistake and did his push-ups without complaint.


Braised Beef Short Ribs

July 20, 2012

My supermarket had beautiful boneless beef ribs on sale, and I was eager to slow-roast them on my grill. But I needed extra flexibility today (my son finally got home from the Jersey Shore about 3 hours late). I settled on this 5-star recipe because I could easily adjust the oven’s temperature, which I eventually lowered down to 250-degrees. Everything worked out perfectly, and I even had time to cool off in the town pool. The ribs were tender and delicious. The sauce was silky smooth and rich, like a gravy. I served them with mashed potatoes, but it could also be served with bread or buttered noodles. I originally made this recipe 2 years ago, I gave it 5-stars then, and I give it 5-more-stars today.

It felt out-of-season, but the meal was delicious

Comments:

  1. I browned the beef in 3 batches, though the recipe said that it would fit in two batches. It did not fit, so the extra batch added 10 minutes.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $23.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 1:00 PM. Planned Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

3-1/2 pounds boneless short ribs
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 medium garlic cloves
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
4 large carrots
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

  1. Trim away of excess fat; I had none. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Evenly sprinkle the ribs with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
  2. Set a large Dutch oven over medium/high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to smoke.
  3. Brown the beef in 2 to 3 batches, cooking ribs for 5 minutes without moving. Flip and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. If there is too much smoke you will need to reduce the burner.  When browned, transfer ribs to a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Repeat the browning with remaining batches, adding 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil before each batch.
  5. Meanwhile, peel the onions. Thinly slice them from pole-to-pole.
  6. When the Dutch oven becomes free, reduce the burner to medium. Cook onions for 14 minutes until they begin to brown; stirring occasionally to ensure the cook evenly. It may be necessary to add a tablespoon or two of water if they begin to become to dark.
  7. While the onions are cooking, adjust a rack to the lower/middle position of your oven. Pre-heat it to 300-degrees.
  8. Mix the tomato paste into the Dutch oven and cook for about 2 minutes. Press garlic directly into the oven and cook for just 30 seconds.
  9. Increase burner to medium/high and add 2 cups of red wine. Reduce for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  10. Meanwhile, peel the carrots and cut them crosswise (into wheels) into 2″ pieces. Add beef broth, carrot slices, thyme and bay leaf.
  11. Add the beef and any accumulated beef juices to pot. Cover and bring to simmer over the burner, then move to the 300-degree oven. Cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, use tongs to turn the meat every hour. The meat will be ready when it is fork tender.
  12. With 5 minutes to go, sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Use tongs to move the meat and carrots to a serving plate and tent with aluminum foil
  13. Strain braising liquid using a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator, pressing down on the solids with a rubber spatula to remove as much liquid as possible. Throw away the solids.
  14. After allowing the fat to rise for 5 minutes, return the sauce to dutch oven and reduce for 8 minutes over medium burner.
  15. Remove the pot from burner and mix in gelatin. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce with salt and pepper according to taste.

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Salami and Mozzarella

July 16, 2012

With the hot weather this is the perfect recipe, because I cooks on the BBQ and keeps my non-centrally-air-conditioned kitchen cool. The “secret” of this recipe is to cut pockets into bone-in chicken breast, rather than the more common butterfly-and-roll technique, which results in less leakage. I had previously made a version using prosciutto and fontina, which was 4-stars. This turned out almost equally good, but using the salami and mozzarella that I already had in my refrigerator. The results were flavorful, well-balanced taste with minimal effort and clean-up. 4-stars.

Great recipe made on the grill to keep your summer kitchen cool.

Comments:

  1. This recipe comes with a new knot. But it left the chicken bundles very loose. So I gave up and went to a regular old double-knot.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Ready at 7:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original charcoal grill version is here .  My descriptions of how I cooked it it today are given below:

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
Table salt
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic gloves
1 tablepoon chopped fresh basil
2 ounces mozzarella
8 slices salami
Ground black pepper

  1. Remove butter from refrigerator and allow to soften on the counter-top. Trim and access fat or skin from the chicken breasts.
  2. Cut a pocket in each breast. Start on the thicker-side of the chicken, slicing horizontally leaving a 1/2″ attached to hold the butter and melting cheese.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve 3 tablespoons of table salt in 1 quart of cold water. Brine the chicken breasts in refrigerator for 30 minutes; covered with plastic wrap.
  4. Light a full chimney starter of charcoal (roughly 100 briquettes), allowing about 20-minutes for the coals to fully ignite. Dump coals over half of grill, leaving the other half empty to form two distinct heating zones. Replace cooking grate, clean, and then season the grate by dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; then use tons to wipe grate with oil.
  5. With the charcoal starts, cut the mozzarella into four 3″x1/2″ sticks. Roll each stick cheese inside two slices of salami.
  6. Mince your garlic and chop your basil; add to small bowl, the add softened butter; mix.
  7. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, and dry the inside and the outside using paper towels. Sprinkle with ground pepper.
  8. Spread 1/4 of the butter mixture inside the pocket of each breast. Put salami-wrapped cheese inside each breast and fold over to enclose. Wrap with three 12″ pieces of kitchen twine. Tie using a simple double-know, then trim away any excess twine.
  9. Start grilling the chicken, skin side down, over the hot side of grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip a cook the other wide until it is slightly browned; about 4 minutes.  Finish cooking the chicken on the cool side of grill (position so that the thicker end of the chicken is closer to the fire. Cover and cook for 25 more minutes. The internal temperature of the chicken from be 165 degrees.
  10. Tent with foil on carving board; and let rest for 10 minutes.
  11. Cut away twine. Carve breast meat away from bone using a boning knife to follow the contour of the bone. Slice into 1/2″ slices and serve.

Wrap the cheese in salami so it doesn’t leak


Pulled Pork Sandwiches

July 12, 2012

I’ve made the few Pulled Pork recipe (see here and here). But with the recent heat wave, I wanted a recipe that I could cook outside on the grill. Unfortunately, the final 2 hours required me to cook the pork inside, which meant my kitchen heated up to about 80-degrees. However, the heat in the kitchen was worth the pain, because the pulled pork turned out fantastic. You should start the spice rub the night before, and it will take you the entire day to make. This recipe is 15-years-old, so I adopted some techniques from newer recipes to help even out the cooking (see comments below). The sauce was rich but not too overpowering, and not too vinegary like the Lexington pulled pork. Overall, 4-1/2-star. The best pulled pork I’ve had.

Delicious, but takes the whole day to make.

Comments:

  1. The recipe as originally written takes 10 hours. I cut a few hours off my slicing the roast horizontally to create two smaller roasts. In my opinion, this was two benefits. First, the interior of the meat will come up to temperature much quicker, resulting in more evenly cooked meat. Second, the spice rub has twice as much surface area to work it’s magic. Chris Kimball sometimes uses this horizontal slicing technique in his more modern recipes, and I think it worked out perfectly all around.
  2. Another recent development in slow-roasting is to place a few unlit charcoal briquettes technique underneath the lit charcoal. This extends the life of the fire so that the temperature stay above 300-degrees for at least two hours. For the third hour, I still had to add more briquettes.
  3. I put the dry rub on the roast at 10AM

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $16.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12 Noon. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to for this recipe. The recipe for the sauce is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

Pulled Pork Recipe:

1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 bone-in Boston butt pork roast, 6 to 8 pounds

  1. Combine all spices in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Slice roast horizontally into two thinner roasts. Evenly spread the spice rub into the roast. Use two layers of plastic wrap to tightly wrap, put on a plate and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 3 hours).
  3. Remove roast from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Soak four 3″ wood chunks in tap water, using a plate to ensure that the wood stays below the surface of the water.
  4. About 15 minutes before cooking, light a chimney starter half-filled with briquettes
  5. When the charcoal is ready, spread 10 unlit briquettes on one side of the grill. Even spread the lit charcoal ontop of the unlit coals, leaving half the grill completely empty. Put the soaked wood chunks ontop of charcoal, and replace the cooking grate. Open the bottom vents completely and the top vents half-way.
  6. Put the roast in a disposable aluminum pan, and put it on the cool side of the grill. Cover so that the vents are over the meat, which will draw the smoke to better flavor the meat.
  7. After two hours, add 8 to 10 additional briquettes so that you can maintain a cooking temperature of 275-degrees. Cook for a total of 3 hours on the grill.
  8. About 15 minutes before the meat is ready to come off the grill, set a rack to the middle of your oven. Preheat to 325-degrees.
  9. Cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake for 2 more hours; until the meat is “fork-tender”.
  10. Put the entire pan in a brown paper bag and fold it shut. Let the roast rest for an hour inside the bag.
  11. Empty the meat onto a cutting board and separate into large sections along the lines of the fat. Scrape away any excess fat. Use your fingers (or forks) to thinly shred and put meat into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of BBQ sauce and stire to combine. Serve of buns or bread as sandwiches.

Western South Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce Recipe:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion
2 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup ketchup

  1. Mince the onion and peel the garlic.
  2. Put a 2-qt saucepan over a medium burner and pre-heat oil  until shimmering. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Press garlic directly into the pan and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients (except for the ketchup). Stir to combine, bring up to a boil.
  4. Reduce burner to low and add ketchup. Cook for 15 more minutes until the sauce has thickened.

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