Pot Stickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce

July 22, 2014

While comparing different recipes is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, this may be my favorite ATK recipe of all time. These dumplings are filled with flavor, are tender on the inside with have nice carmelization on their bottoms. The soy based sauce is a little predicable, but the saltiness is so traditional that I haven’t yet strayed from the original recipe. The base recipe is very straight-forward, only requiring a little bit of patience during the filling/sealing process. Be careful not to overfill them or they will close properly, but you can squeeze some of the excess out if necessary. The only logistical problem is that the batches take 20 minutes and yield between 12 to 14 dumplings, so unless you have two non-stick skillets they are difficult to make for a regular sit-down dinner for 4 people; coming and going from the table every 20 minutes to eat 3 dumplings. But worth the inconveniences, I absolute love them and give them a full 5-stars.

Perhaps my favorite ATK recipe

Perhaps my favorite ATK recipe

Comments / Issues:

  1. My 12.5″ non-stick skillets (the Chris Kimball recommended T-Fal), makes 14 dumplings at a time, and based upon my wrappers I needed 3 batches. I froze on the batches for cooking next week; they cook the same way with no need to thaw.
  2. I used to be able to buy round gyoza wrappers from my local supermarket. While I guess I may be able to find a local Asian market, in the meantime I am using frozen .
  3. Be careful that the dumplings don’t stick to the sheet pan is step 3. Some of mine did, and I suggest a very light spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Sometimes I just use regular cabbage (rather than napa cabbage), especially around St. Patricks day because it tastes the same and is much cheaper.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $9. For about 40 dumplings.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Last Batch at 7:00 PM.

Filling:
3 cups minced napa cabbage leaves (from 1/2 medium head)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 pound ground pork
4 minced scallions
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed (about 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Dumplings:
24 round gyoza wrappers (see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water, plus extra for brushing

Scallion Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chili oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium scallion, white and green parts, minced

  1. Minced 1/2 head of napa cabbage leaves, add to a colander and toss with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Set over a bowl and allow to wilt for 20 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to press down to extract any excess moisture. Empty into a medium bowl, combine the remaining filling ingredients and mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 24 hours).
  2. When ready to assemble, work with 4 dumplings at a time to prevent the wrappers from drying out. Keep the remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap. fill, seal, and shape the dumplings using a generous 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling per dumpling
  3. As you complete the dumplings, set the on a baking sheet and repeat step 2 until you have made all your dumplings. Once assembled you can refrigerate for up to 1 day, or freeze them for up to 1 month. (If frozen, do not thaw before cooking.)
  4. Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels, which you will use after cooking. Make dipping sauce by combining all ingredients in small bowl, which will make about 3/4 cup.
  5. Brush 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12″ cold non-stick skillet. Arrange 12 dumplings in the skillet with the flat side down, overlapping the tip as necessary. Put over medium-high burner and lightly brown dumplings for 5 minutes without moving.
  6. Turn down burner to low, and add 1/2 cup of water and immediately cover. Cook for 10 minutes until the water becomes absorbed and the wrappers are slightly translucent. Uncover and turn up the burner to medium-high and cook (again without moving) for 3 to 4 minutes until the bottoms are well browned. Put dumplings onto paper-towel lined plate (browned-side down) and allow to briefly drain, before setting onto a serving platter.
  7. Allow the skillet to cool until just warm and wipe out using paper towels. Repeat from step 5 with the next batch of 12 dumplings.
  8. Serve alongside the scallion dipping sauce.

Herb-Crusted Salmon

June 29, 2014

I recently saw this recipe of America’s Test Kitchen, and made if for a visiting friend. The recipe was good, and Chris Kimball’s technique of using bread crumbs to protect the fresh flavor of the delicate, fresh herbs worked wonderfully. But 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon gave too strong of an anise flavor. I’d recommend substituting up-to-half of the tarragon for basil. The recipe have a quick brine to prevent the white ooze that salmon usually gives off as it is cooked. The Salmon was perfectly cooked, but I had to use the higher end of the 18-to-25 minutes cooking time. Because of the relatively-low oven temperature the salmon skin was unappetizingly soggy, not crispy as many people like. I just ate around the skin; next time I think I’ll have them remove the skin for me at the supermarket. I’m not sure why the recipe specifies skin-on salmon. Even Chris Kimball ate around the skin on ATK. 4-stars.

Makes a bit of a mess

Makes a bit of a mess

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns that the fillets must be the same size and shape in order cook at the same rate. I followed his advice and bought a 2-pound center-cut salmon fillet, which I cut myself into four even pieces. Of course, the fishmonger did sneak a bit of the tapered tail end into my fillet, but just a bit.
  2. Actually, I used slightly under 1/4 cup of tarragon and it was still too strong an anise flavor. I bought one of the 99-cent package, which yielded slightly more than 3 tablespoons. I loved the freshness of the herbs, so next time will use 2 tablespoons of tarragon and 2 tablespoons of basil.
  3. I had to cook my salmon for the entire 25 minutes to get it up to 125-degrees.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $17
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 6:00

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

Salt and pepper
2-pounds center-cut salmon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons beaten egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted)
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Lemon wedges

  1. Pour 2 quarts of water into a large bowl and dissolve 5 tablespoons f table salt. Cut the salmon into 4 evenly sized fillets, each between 6-to 8-oz. Put the 4 fillets into the brine and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. Set a 10″-skillet over a medium burner and melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Add the 1/2 cup panko and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes; stir frequently; until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Empty into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
  3. Chop 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted). In a second small bowl, mix together the chopped tarragon, mustard, and mayonnaise
  4. Remove fish from brine and use paper towels to pat dry.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier clean-up), then set a wire rack inside. Lay a 12″x8″ piece of foil onto of the wire rack (or fold to attain the proper size), and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly arrange the salmon fillets with on top of the foil with the skin-side down.
  6. Use a spoon to spread the herb mixture over the tops of the fish.
  7. Mince the fresh thyme so that you have 2 teaspoons, add to cooled bread crumbs. Combine egg. Evenly sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the fish, and use your fingers to press down so that the bread crumb adheres.
  8. Bake in 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 125-degrees. It should still be slightly translucent if you cut into fish with a paring knife. Allow to rest for 5 minutes on the serving platter, while you cut a lemon into wedges for serving.

Singapore Noodles

June 21, 2014

While the sizable ingredient list made me think that these Singapore Noodles would be delicious and flavor-filled, the end result lacked the expected punch of flavor.  Because there is no sauce and I only bought 1 extra lime, it meant that I was left with a boring meal after my lone lime was used up. Upon closer examination of the ingredients; shrimp, bean sprouts, rice noodles, etc., the meal relies on a bell pepper and two tablespoons of bloomed curry powder for its flavor. Be sure to include the optional cayenne for any hope of flavor. The recipe is by no means bad, but doesn’t justify the nearly $20 price tag; 3-1/2 stars. 3-stars after I ran out of lime.

Good, but lacked flavor

Good, but lacked flavor

Comments:

  1. You will need 2 limes for serving as wedges. Otherwise the blandness owing to the lack of sauce will make you wish you cooked something else.
  2. Chris Kimball mentions that there are two types of curry powder; “sweet” and Madras. While he doesn’t recommend one type or the other, I can tell you that the regular “sweet” curry powder was insufficient to impart much flavor. If I had the choice I’d go with the Madras, but don’t think it’s worth buying another bottle to add to my already-full spice cabinet.
  3. Rice noodles not in Asian section of my supermarket, but rather gluten-free section. There was no rice vermicelli, so I bought the rice noodles that seemed closest.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $19
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00. Dinner time: 5:00

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

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
6 ounces rice vermicelli
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound),
4 large eggs
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced to paste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2/3 cup chicken broth
4 ounces (2 cups) bean sprouts
4 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 limes, 2 teaspoons lime juice, plus 2 limes for serving wedges

  1. If shrimp is frozen, defrost in cold water. Prepare the shrimp by peeling and deveining. Remove the tail and cut into 1/2” pieces.
  2. Boil 1-1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons curry and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne to a 23” non-stick skillet. Set over medium-low burner and cook for 4 minutes until becomes fragrant; stir occasionally.  Remove skillet from burner and set aside.
  3. Put noodles into a large bowl, and pour boiling water over noodles and briefly stir. Allow noodles to soak for 2-1/2 minutes until flexible, but still not soft; stir half way through soaking.
  4. Drain noodles and empty onto a cutting board and cut into thirds. Return noodles to the empty bowl. Add curry oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Combine by tossing together using tongs. Set bowl aside.  Add 4 large eggs to small bowl and beat lightly.
  5. Minced garlic and ginger, and set aside together. Remove stem and seeds from bell pepper and cut into 2″ long match sticks. Thinly slice your shallot.
  6. Use paper towels to wipe out skillet and add 2 TEAspoons oil. Put over medium-high burner and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer.  Add cut shrimp pieces to skillet. Cook for about 90 seconds without moving to brown the bottoms. Stir shrimp and continue to cook for another 90 seconds.
  7. Push to one half of the skillet. Add 1 teaspoon oil to cleared side of skillet, and add the beaten eggs into the empty  side of the skillet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for 1 minutes until the eggs set, but remain wet; stirring eggs lightly.  Stir shrimp together with the eggs and continue to cook for 30 seconds more until the eggs are fully cooked. Empty shrimp-egg mixture to second large bowl.
  8. Turn down burner to medium. Add 1 teaspoon oil into the empty skillet and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook, and saute for 15 seconds. Add bell pepper and shallots and cook for 2 minutes; stir frequently. Empty to bowl with shrimp.
  9. Turn burner up to medium-high. Add 2/3 cup chicken broth and bring up to a simmer. Add soaked noodles and cook for 2 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed; stir often. Add noodles to bowl with shrimp/vegetables. Combine.
  10. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and lime juice, and toss until combined. Serve on a warmed platter and serve passing 2 limes worth of wedges separately.

 


Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

June 13, 2014

While I never consider meatloaf the height of culinary perfection, it is still an easy to make kid-friendly staple. In the past, I have only made glazed meatloaf (see here and here), but the mushroom gravy in this recipe is delicious. A nice alternative to a ketchup-based glaze. Thankfully, the recipe is very conscientious about the mess, reusing the same non-stick skillet a three times. No better nor worse than a standard, glazed meatloaf; but definitely different. 4-stars.

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

I brought the leftovers to work twice for lunch. It re-heated nicely and the sauce kept the re-heated meat from being too dry. It worked out better than I thought it would.

Comments:

  1. While Chris Kimball says that you can supplement your burger drippings with melted butter or vegetable oil, I ended up with way more than the 2 tablespoons called for in Step 9.
  2. I didn’t have a coffee-filter to line my mesh strainer, so just used a paper towel in Step 2.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:30. Dinner time: 6:30

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

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup water
16 saltines crackers (or 18 round saltines)
10 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves
1-lb ground pork
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-lb 85% lean ground beef
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 375-degrees.
  2. Rinse the dried porcini mushrooms, and microwave for 1 minute in a small bowl with 1 cup of water and covered with plastic wrap, until water begins to steam. Allow to soften for 5 minutes. Remove porcini and mince, and strain the water through a coffee-filter-lined fine mesh strainer, reserving 3/4 of a cup.
  3. Process your crackers in a food processor for 30 seconds until they are finely ground, then empty into a large bowl.
  4. Add half your white mushrooms to food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times until finely ground.
  5. Mince your onions, and peel your 4 garlic cloves (mince them if you don’t have a garlic press).
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a 12″ non-stick skillet, place over medium-high burner and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute the minced onions for 6 to 8 minutes until browned. Add the mushrooms from the food processor (reserving the remaining mushrooms for gravy in step 9) and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Press the garlic directly into the skillet and cook for just 30 seconds. Empty into bowl with the saltines and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Add ground pork, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup of the reserved porcini liquid to the bowl with the cooled onions/saltines. Gently knead until mostly combined. Add beef and knead until thoroughly combined.
  8. Empty meat into the same skillet and form into a 10″x6″ loaf. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees. Use a spatula to move to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.
  9. While the loaf bakes, thinly slice the remaining white mushrooms. Remove any solids from the skillet, leaving only 2 tablespoons for fat in the skillet (you can supplement with melted butter or vegetable oil if you are short). Pre-heat over medium-high burner until the fat begins to shimmer.  Saute the white mushrooms and minced porcini mushrooms for 6 to 8 minutes, until they become deep golden brown. Meanwhile mince thyme.
  10. Add minced thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and 1/2 cup reserved porcini liquid, and 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the skillet, bring up to a boil then reduce burner to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened; occasionally whisking. Taste gravy and adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
  11. Slice meatloaf and serve with gravy.

Shredded Beef Tacos (Carne Deshebrada)

February 7, 2014

For years I’ve been complaining about Chris Kimball’s lack of steak tacos. Instead, he mostly has recipes for chicken tacos (see here and here). So I was pleased to see that the new March/April includes Shredded Beef Tacos, as I have been making my own simple steak tacos. Overall, Chris Kimball’s tacos are delicious, and he uses a few great techniques. He uses a bottle of bear and cider vinegar as the braising liquid. He uses whole chilis instead of lackluster chili powder. Chris Kimball also skips the traditional browning of the beef on the stovetop in favor browning in the oven (at end of step 2). Unfortunately, the recipe costs and astonishing $34, and the cabbage/carrot slaw is a lot of extra complexity for just a little payoff. Most of the extra cost was from using $8/lb boneless ribs instead of $3-to$4/lb chuck. Also, I found the clove/cinnamon too strong, though not so much so that it ruined the dish. Overall, I doubt that I will make these tacos again exactly as given, but there are a lot of improvements here that I will adopt. 4-stars.

Final tacos are delicious

Final tacos are delicious

Comments / Issues:

  1. While I paid $24 for 3-lbs of boneless beef, I could have paid just $12 for chuck. And truthfully, looking at the beef I think that my butcher was using  meat from the first few ribs (i.e. the chuck section). Chris Kimball wants to use rib meat to boost the beefiness, but if $34 seems to much to spend, then you can easily substitute a nice chuck roast. Especially if you use the cloves/cinnamon then I doubt you will notice the difference.
  2. The recipe calls for queso fresco (fresh cheese), which is traditional for Mexican tacos. My supermarket doesn’t carry queso fresco, so I had to import my queso from the Bronx. Chris Kimball says to substitute feta, but I think I would prefer to substitute a non-traditional Monterrey Jack and/or sour cream.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use a fine mesh strainer and a 2-cup measuring cup in step 6. I used a fat separator, which was much more efficient than skimming the fat from the measuring cup using a spoon.
  4. Leftover beef can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and you should gently reheat before serving, being careful not to dry out the meat.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $34.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30 PM. Game time 6:30 PM.

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

Beef Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 ounces (4 to 6) dried ancho chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion
3-lbs boneless beef short ribs
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
Lime wedges

  1. Lightly crush your 6 garlic cloves and peel. Remove and discard the stem and seeds from your dried ancho chiles and tear into 1″ pieces. Slice your onion into 1/2″-thick rounds. Trim away any excess fat from your beef and cut into 2″ cubes.
  2. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. In a Dutch oven, add bottle of beer, 1/2-cup vinegar, ancho peppers, tomato paste, crushed garlic, 3 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Set out onion rounds into a single layer on bottom of pot, which will keep the meat elevated. Arrange the beef on top of onion in single layer.
  3. Cover your Dutch Oven and bake at 325-degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
  4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the cabbage-carrot slaw; see recipe below.
  5. When the meat is browned and tender, remove the beef using a slotted spoon and set in a large bowl. Loosely tend with aluminum foil.
  6. Empty pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Do not wash pot. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and onions. Put the remaining solids into a blender. Allow liquid to settle for 5-minutes so that the far rises to the surface. Add de-fatted liquid to blender, supplementing with water so that you are adding a full 1 cup.  Blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Add sauce back to the empty pot.
  7. Use two forks to shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Once the beef is cool enough to handle you can shred with your hands.
  8. Bring the sauce up to a simmer over a medium burner, add shredded beef and mix to ensure evenly coated. Adjust salt according to your taste.
  9. Finish making the cabbage/carrot cole slaw, see step 3 below. Warm your tortillas in the microwave. Crumble the queso fresco onto a serving small platter, and slice a lime into wedges.
  10. Spoon beef mixture onto tortillas, topping as desired with cabbage slaw, queso fresco and lime juice.

Cabbage/Carrot Slaw Ingredients:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 head thinly slice green cabbage (6 cups)
1 onion
1 large carrot
1 jalapeño chile
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. While the beef cooks, prepare the cole slaw. In a large bowl, add 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Whisk until dissolved.
  2. Prepare your vegetables adding to the vinegar mixture as you go. Slice the cabbage in half, remove the core, and slice thinly. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Peel the carrot and shred. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeno, and mince. Toss to cover everything in vinegar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but up to 24 hours).
  3. Drain cole slaw and mix in chopped cilantro just before serving.

Simple Steak Tacos

January 13, 2014

I have been making simple steak tacos for a few years, and wanted to update you with the progress I’ve made on my recipe over the past few months. Chris Kimball doesn’t have much in the way of similar recipes. While they only take about 20 minutes of effort, they do take just over 2 hours to make. So far, it’s 4-star, but this particular batch came out closer to 4-1/2 stars, because of the refried beans and extra-slow cooking of the steak (This batch took an extra 30 minutes for the chicken broth to evaporate).

Easy and delicious
Easy and delicious

Comments:

  1. I love shredded steak tacos, but they take longer and it’s impossible to make them on a weekday. This recipe will yield tender, but not necessarily shred-able.
  2. My kids love ground beef tacos, a la Taco bell, and I do make homemade ground beef tacos occasionally for a quick weekday meal. But on days that I also eat dinner (I usually don’t eat dinner during on weekday), these make a much better alternative but will take at least an hour longer to make.
  3. If you have a little refried beans then apply a thin layer to tortilla before assembling your tacos.
  4. 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.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $9
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium. (if you have a splatter screen for browning the beef)
Start time: 4:00. Dinner time: 6:15

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

1-1/2 to 2 pounds Chuck steak, about 3/4″ thick.
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
Total of 1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 cups chicken broth (22 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Corn or flour tortillas
Garnish with your choice of: chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, grated Monterrey jack cheese, salsa, sour cream, diced avocado (or guacamole) and lime wedge.

  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 2 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. Repeat this step with the second batch of beef using 1 additional teaspoon of oil.
  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 and saute for 1 minutes.
  6. Press garlic directly into Dutch oven and saute for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the chicken broth and cider vinegar, and use the moisture to deglaze the pan. Add the meat back to Dutch oven, and bring up to a simmer. Transfer to your 350-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours. Cook, uncovered, until meat is very tender, stirring beef half way through.
  8. Mix in chopped cilantro after your beef is done cooking.
  9. Prepare your corn tortillas my placing directly over the flame of a medium burner (without any pan), until warmed and very slightly charred.
  10. Serving with your choice of toppings.

French Pork Stew

November 16, 2013

Today, I am posting my 400th recipe. At times, my life as I live it today bears almost no resemblance to my life when I posted my first recipe; this Creole Fried Chicken on New Year’s day 2010. That was a lifetime ago; so much has happened, so many recipes cooked, and so many lessons learned. Just as Chris Kimball has forever transformed my daily cuisine, this blog has taught me patience at a time when patience is what I most needed.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

When this recipe was first published a few months ago, I was very excited to make it during peak “stew season”; that time of year when chilly outdoor temperatures make my warm, aroma-filled kitchen feel like the most inviting place on earth. In that sense, this recipe was a complete success. But while the hours of wonderful smells evoked the expected Pavlovian response, the actual stew was a bit of a disappointment. The stew was very well balance, but I had expected it to be more flavorful. After going to the trouble (and expense) of finding 3 kinds of pork I was not excepting it to be so mild. The hints of smokiness were barely discernible (using ham hocks). Overall, the stew makes a nice meal, but I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed in the outcome. Beef stew is still your best bet. 3-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. While the recipe calls for either 1-1/4 lbs of meaty smoked ham shank or 2 to 3 smoked ham hocks, I would recommend against the ham hocks. I used 3 ham hocks, but it yielded so little edible meat that I question if it’s worth the effort. I wish I could have found a smoked ham shank (whatever that is).
  2. Chris Kimball says that this recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance. In fact, the recipe gets better the second day.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

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

Herb Bundle:
10″ square of triple-thickness cheesecloth
6 parsley sprigs fresh parsley
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 whole cloves

Stew Ingredients:
4-lbs boneless pork butt roast
2 onions
5 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 meaty smoked ham shank (1-1/4 lbs) or 3 smoked ham hocks (2-lbs)
4 carrots
1-lb Yukon Gold potatoes
12 ounces kielbasa sausage, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded (8 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Cut a square 10″ piece of cheesecloth (triple-thickness, as customarily packaged). Add parsley springs, thyme sprigs, unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and whole cloves. Fold or break parsley and thyme so that it fits, then tie the herb bundle using kitchen twine.
  2. Prepare pork butt by pulling apart at its seems. Trim away and discard any hard or excess fat, and cut into 1″-to-1-1/2″ chunks.  Cut the onions in half, and cut away the non-root end, but leave the root-end attached.
  3. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 325-degrees and set an oven rack to the middle of the oven, making sure there is enough room for the covered Dutch oven.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, add 5 cups water, 4 cups chicken broth, ham chunks and whole smoked ham (or ham hocks). Place over medium-high burner until it comes up to a simmer. Use a spoon to skim off any of the scum that rises to the top.
  5. Bake for 1-1/2 hours at 325-degrees, until the pork is tender.
  6. Meanwhile, peel carrots and cut off the narrow end, and cut the thick end in half lengthwise. This will leave you with three equally thick pieces per carrot, which you can then cut into 1/2″ pieces. Scrub your potatoes and cut into 3/4″ pieces.
  7. Use a slotted spoon to fish out and discard the onion and herb bundle. Remove the ham (or ham hocks) to a plate. Add carrots and potatoes to pot, cover and continue to bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, once cooled, use two forks to shred the ham into bite-size pieces. Throw away the bones, skin and any large chunks of fat (esp from ham hocks). Cut the kielbasa in half lengthwise (it will probably break into two or three pieces), and cut into 1/2″-thick slices. Shred the cabbage which should yield about 8 cups (even though that seems like a lot), and chop 1/4-cup of fresh parsley.
  9. After vegetables have cooked for 20 minutes, add shredded ham, kielbasa and shredded cabbage to pot. Stir briefly, cover pot, and return to oven for a final 20-minutes.
  10. Season with salt and pepper, and add chopped parsley. Serve.

Grilled Turkey Breast with Mango and Pepper Salsa

October 9, 2013

I’ve made this turkey before, but my Kingsford coals would petered, and I’ve always had to finish cooking it in the oven. Today, the charcoal didn’t die and the turkey turned out fantastic. The rich smokiness and odd shape convinced everybody that I was serving pork, but the lean turkey and flavorful, sweet topping made for an extremely healthy meal. Proof that healthy food can be delicious; if you have 3-1/2 hours. 4-1/4 stars with minimal mess.

So delicious you'll forget its healthy

So delicious you’ll forget its healthy

Comments:

  1. When I was looking back at my past blog to make the recipe, the recipe seemed hard to follow. So today I wanted to make the recipe clear and simple. I’ve also made this recipe as deli meat for my kid’s school lunches. Last year I even tried making an herb butter for the turkey (which was a mistake).
  2. I’m not completely sure why my charcoals were successful today, when they have failed in the past. My theories are: (1) the unseasonably warm temperatures helped keep the grill hotter, (2) I emptied the coals in step 6 before they were completely covered in grey ash; i.e. after 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes. That might have helped stretch out the coals burning time. (3) Or it’s possible the Kingsford may have tweaked their formula, based upon past issues.
  3. Chris Kimball tries to explain how to tie a butcher’s knot. But watching this season’s ATK gave better advice; use a double starting knot so that you can tighten your knot without slipping as you make the second knot.
  4. The recipe for this Salsa isn’t listed under the “related recipe” of the turkey, and the exact measurements weren’t given on the ATK episode. But I finally found the recipe for Mango and Pepper Salsa here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 2:30 PM.  Ready:  6 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2-cup wood chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Ground black pepper

Mango and Pepper Salsa Ingredients:
1 large, ripe mango
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 small shallot
3 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Table salt
Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsalted pepitas

  1. Use your fingers to separate skin from meat, then use a knife to cut the whole skin from the breast, being careful that the skin stays in one piece. Set the skin aside for the time being. Use a boning knife to completely remove each breast half, cutting down along the rib cage and following the curve until the breasts are free. Discard the bones or save them for making turkey stock. (I ended up with 4 pounds of meat/bones for stock)
  2. Cut one 36″ length of kitchen twine and seven or eight 16″ lengths of kitchen twine.
  3. Evenly sprinkle both sides of each breast with a total of 4 teaspoons kosher salt (2 teaspoons per breast). Lay one breast on the cutting board with the cut-side facing up, then place the second breast with the cut-side facing down. Arrange so that the thick end of one breast is over the tapered end of the other breast, which will eventually result in a cylinder of turkey with a roughly equal diameter. Lay the turkey skin over the breast, tuck the ends underneath the turkey.
  4. First, loosely tie the 36″ length of twine lengthwise around the turkey. If you try to over tighten the turkey halves will fall apart, and you’ll have to start over. Then very firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at the center of the roast (see note above about tying a double starter knot). The tighter you tie the center string the more evenly your roast will cook. Next firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at both ends. Finally continue tying up the roast with kitchen twine until it is bound at 1″ intervals.
  5. Once the knots are tied, stretch the skin (which is already tied underneath) so that it covers as much of the roast as possible. Put the roast on a wire rack, set over a rimmed sheet pan. Place it uncovered in refrigerator for 1 hour. Meanwhile soak 1/2 cup of wood chips in water, so that they’ll smoke rather than burn.
  6. With about 20 minutes to go, ignite a full chimney started filled with charcoal. It should take about 20 minutes until the coals become fully ignited. Empty the coals on half the grill, leaving the other half without any coals. Drain the wood chips and sprinkle evenly over the coals. Allowing the grill to preheat for 5 minutes will make it easier to clean.
  7. Rub 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the roast and sprinkle with pepper (it already has plenty of salt).
  8. Place the roast near the coals, but not directly over them. Cover and close the bottom vents half-way, then set the top vents 2/3rd-of-way closed. After 30 minutes rotate the roast 180-degrees. After another 40 minutes the internal temperature of the roast should reach 150-degrees.  If your internal temperature is not 150-degrees, begin to preheat your oven to 375-degrees because your charcoal won’t be enough.
  9. While the turkey is on the grill, make the salsa. Toast the pepitas in a small skillet for 4 to 5 minutes, and mix into salsa just before serving. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the mango. Cut the fruit away from the pit, and then cut into 1/4″ dice (Chris Kimball gives advice on dicing Mangoes). Remove pepper’s white core and seeds, and cut into 1/4″ dice. Mince the shallot and cilantro. Add all the ingredients except the toasted pepitas to a medium bowl (or serving bowl).
  10. Move roast to the hot-side and cook, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes, rotating every few minutes so that the skin browns evenly until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  11. Cut away twine and slice into 1/2″-thick slices. Add the toasted pepitas to the mango salsa, and serve.

Cuban Shredded Beef (Vaca Frita)

September 21, 2013

Having just returned from Mexico my Latin taste buds are their peak, so I was excited to try this Cuban recipe. While I’ve never heard of Vaca Frita (Fried Cow) before, it seemed similar to cuban Ropa Vieja (which means “Old Clothes”).  However, after tasting I see that the recipes are very different, the Vaca Frita is browned, and is not shredded. Traditionally, this recipe is made with expensive Skirt Steak, but Chris Kimball substitutes inexpensive Chuck Roast.  I was very skeptical that $3/lb chuck could be even remotely compare to $10/lb skirt steak. But the smashing technique called for in step 8 of this recipe is brilliant, fooling my eyes into thinking I was really eating beef costing over three times the price.

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Comments and Issues:

  1. I used the full onion called for in the recipe, but I think that 1 regular sized onion was too much. It may not have helped that I overcooked the onion a bit, turning it sweet.
  2. I didn’t have orange juice, so I squeezed squeezed half an orange.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

2 Lbs boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Kosher salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 limes: 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 onion
2 tablespoons dry sherry

  1. When selecting the beef, choose a well-marbled roast.
  2. Pull the roast apart at the fat seams. Trim away any large knobs of fat, but don’t remove all visible fat. You will use some of the rendered fat in stead of vegetable oil. Cut the beef into 1-1/2″ cubes.
  3. Place 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high burner, add beef cubes, 2 cups of water and 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or 5/8 teaspoons table salt).  Bring up to a boil.
  4. Reduce burner to low, cover the skillet, and allow beef to gently simmer for 1h45m, until the beef becomes very tender. Chris Kimball suggest that you check the beef every 30 minutes, adding water so that the lower 1/3 of beef remains submerged. However, I saw very little evaporation during the simmering, and did not have to add any water.
  5. Meanwhile, press 3 garlic cloves directly into a small bowl, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. In a second small bowl, add orange juice, lime zest and lime juice. Set aside both bowls until Step 12.  Cut onion in half and thinly slice.
  6. After 1h45m, increase burner to medium and remove the lid from skillet to allow the water to evaporate. Allow to simmer for 3 to 8 minutes, or until all water evaporates and the beef begins to sizzle.
  7. Using slotted spoon, move the cooked beef to a rimmed baking sheet, then pour fat from skillet into a small bowl.
  8. Place sheet of aluminum foil over beef and, flatten the beef with a meat pounder or a heavy sauté pan until it is 1/8″ pieces. Pick through to remove any large pieces of fat or connective tissue. Some of the beef will become shreds, but most will resemble skirt steak in texture. If some pieces are too large you can just tear them in half.
  9. Rinse out the skillet and dry it using paper towels to dry; put over high burner. Add back 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat to skillet (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle, then saute onion and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions become golden brown and some spots become charred.
  10. Add sherry and another 1/4 cup water. Cook for 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Empty onion to bowl (you can use your serving bowl to minimize clean-up).
  11. Put now empty skillet back over high burner, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Again, pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle. Add beef and cook for between 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef becomes crusty and dark golden brown.
  12. Decrease burner to low heat, and move beef to sides of skillet. Saute garlic mixture in the center of the skillet for 30 seconds, then remove skillet from burner. Add orange juice mixture and sauteed onion, and stir until combined.
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with wedges of lime.
A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak


Cuban Picadillo

April 20, 2013

While Chris Kimball tries to translate Cuban-Style Picadillo into a simple weeknight recipe, his recipe fails badly. I know Chris Kimball’s Yankee palate usually under-spices his Latin-themed recipes, but his problem in this case is that he seems more interested in attaining tender ground beef than developing the flavors by browning the meat. His trade-off left the recipe with bland, but tender, ground beef/pork. I recommend that you do not make this recipe. You will be disappointed. It is my lowest rated recipe in the past year. The leftovers sat in the refrigerator, until I got tired of looking at them and threw them away. A 2-1/2 star disappointment.

Disappointing; but easy to make.

Disappointing; but easy to make.

Comments:

  1. While Chris Kimball recommends serving Picadillo with rice and black beans, and optionally topped with chopped parsley, toasted almonds, or chopped hard-boiled egg, I didn’t include any of that as the supposition was that this was going to be an easy weeknight meal.
  2. There is also a variation with fried potatoes. I guess the fried, diced potatoes might have helped the flavor.

Rating: 2-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:10 PM.

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

1 lb ground beef (85% lean)
1 lb ground pork
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 garlic cloves, minced
14-1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup raisins
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  1. In a medium bowl, combine beef, pork, water, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stem and seed you bell pepper and cut into 2″ pieces. Cut the onion in half and then into 2″ pieces. Process the bell pepper and onions separately if you have a small food processor. Pulse about 12 times until the pieces are chopped to about 1/4″.
  3. Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and preheat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute chopped vegetables, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt for 6 to 8 minutes. While the vegetables cook, drain your tomatoes and chop them coarsely, and peel your garlic cloves. When the vegetables have begun to brown, press your 6 garlic cloves and saute them for 30 seconds, then add tomatoes and 3/4 cup wine, using the liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes almost dry.
  4. Add 1/2 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup raisins and 3 bay leaves bring up to a simmer, then reduce burner to medium-low. Add meat to the pot in 2″ chunks. Return to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and eventually using 2 forks to break the meat into 1/4-to-1/2″ chunks. Meanwhile coarsely chop your olives, and rinse your capers.
  5. Remove and bay leaves, and add chopped olives and capers. Increase burner to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes. The sauce should become thick and should coat the meat. Add vinegar and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper and vinegar) according to your taste. Serve.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 274 other followers

%d bloggers like this: