Beef Stir-Fry with Bell Peppers and Black Pepper Sauce

February 29, 2016

A home run from the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated (March 2016). The beef is deliciously flavored, but the biggest news is that, while finding time to caramelize, the beef also remains tender. This is achieved through two tricks; (1) soaking mix of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 5 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated did some measurements and calculates that just 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda will yield meat that is 20% more tender; it does so by raising the pH on the surface of the meat, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond which keeps the meat more tender and moist. The second secret (2) is soaking the beef in a velveting mixture for 15-to-30 minutes.  This

Flavorful and tender beef

Flavorful and tender beef

Today’s recipe is similar to this 9-year-old recipe. That recipe caused me some confusion while grocery shopping and I inadvertently bought only the green pepper (not buying the red pepper as well). I bought the snow peas called for in the old recipe; but then forgot about them and did not include them in today’s recipe (not called for but would have made up for the lack of red pepper).

Chris Kimball’s guidelines for good stir fry:

  1. Prep your ingredients in advance; be prepared for quick cooking time.
  2. Our domestic stove-tops are shaped for a non-stick skillet, not for a wok.
  3. Limit stirring during cooking so that food can develop color.
  4. Sear meat in batches so that it doesn’t steam.
  5. Add aromatics last to preserve flavor and avoid scorching.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 5:45 PM.

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

Beef and Marinade Ingredients:
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound flank steak
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

  1. Trim flank steak and slice into 2-1/2″ strips going with grain; then cut each strip crosswise (against the grain) into 1/4″-thick slices. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add sliced beef and toss until coated. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Add soy sauce mixture to beef, tossing to coat, and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, begin to cook the steamed white rice (see basic recipe below). The vegetables (bell peppers, scallions, garlic and ginger) and aromatics should all be prepared while the beef is marinating. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and slice into 1/4″-wide strips. Cut the scallions as follows: slice the white parts thinly on the bias, then cut the green parts into 2″-pieces.

Sauce and Vegetable Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 scallions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  1. In second small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper. Whisk until combined.
  2. Set 12″ non-stick skillet over high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil  until it just begins to smoke. Add half of beef in single layer, and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Flip and continue to cook for 1 more minute until spotty brown on both sides. Empty cooked beef into a third clean bowl. Repeat this step with remaining beef and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.
  3. Return skillet to high burner, and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Pre-heat until the oil just beginning to smoke. Add bell peppers and scallion greens. Cook for 4 minutes until vegetables are spotty brown and crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Empty cooked vegetables to the bowl with the beef.
  4. Reduce burner to medium-high heat and return skillet to burner. Add 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently; until becomes lightly browned.
  5. Return beef and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine.
  6. Whisk sauce to recombine the ingredients. Add sauce to skillet and cook and stir for 30 seconds until sauce has thickened. Serve immediately over a bed of rice.

Basic White Rice:

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

1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
2 cups water
3/4  teaspoon table salt

  1. Put rice in colander and rinse using cold running water until the water becomes clear. Set colander over bowl and set aside.
  2. Put medium saucepan over medium burner and pre-heat butter or oil. Add rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until rice becomes chalky and opaque; stirring constantly.
  3. Add water and salt to pot. Increase burner to high until comes up to a boil; swirl pot to blend ingredients.
  4. Cover pot. Reduce burner to low and allow to simmer without stirring for 18 to 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat, and place a clean kitchen towel; folded in half; over saucepan; replacing the lid. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Use a fork to fluff the rice before serving. Makes about 4-1/2 cups of rice.

Skillet-Barbecued Pork Chops

February 21, 2016

My two sons love barbecue so I wanted to make these indoor, skillet-based pork chops. The recipe is very straight-forward the biggest problem is finding the rib chops that are between 3/4-and-1″ thick.  My supermarket always sells chops cut very thin. Fortunately, I was able to buy a beautiful roast and cut the chops myself. Due to my mid-week schedule, I changed the brine from a 30-minute brine (using 1/2-cup of salt) to a all day brine (using 3 tablespoons of salt), which let me cook them in about 45 minutes; otherwise add 30 minutes to the overall preparation time. The results perfectly cooked and very flavorful, A delicious 4-star meal.

Delicious indoor BBQ pork chops

Delicious indoor BBQ pork chops


  1. If you cannot find natural pork, you can still used enhanced pork, which is injected with a salt solution. But skip the brining in step 1 and add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the spice rub.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 6:45 PM.

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

Pork Chops Ingredients:
1/2 cup table salt
4 bone-in pork rib chops between 3/4-and-1″ thick (8-to-10-oz each)
4 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Trim the chops of any excess fat and make slits , sides slit according to illustration below (see note above)
  2. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts water in large bowl or container. Submerge chops in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Spice Rub Ingredients:
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, measure out 2 teaspoons mixture into medium bowl and set aside for sauce.
  2. Transfer remaining spice rub to pie plate or large plate.

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons light molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

  1. Grate 1/2 an onion on the large holes of a box grater.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients in the bowl with reserved spice mixture; setting aside until after the chops have cooked.

Cook the Pork Chops:

  1. Remove pork from the brine and use paper towels to pat dry. Dredge pork in pie plate with spice rub; coating both sides with spices. Gently press so that rub adheres to meat. Pat chops to remove loose/excess rub.
  2. Set 12″ heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium burner. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until just begins to smoke. Arrange chops in skillet in pinwheel formation. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until charred in spots.
  3. Flip chops and continue to cook until second side for 4 to 8 minutes. Remove chops when an instant-read thermometer reads registers 130 degrees; setting on a clean plate or baking sheet.
  4. Wipe out pan using paper towels . Lightly brush top side of each chop with 2 teaspoons bbq sauce.
  5. Return skillet over medium burner. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until begins to smoke.
  6. Set chops in pre-heated pan with the sauce-side down. Cook for 1 minute without moving until the sauce has caramelized and charred in spots. While cooking, lightly brush the other side of each chop with 2 teaspoons sauce. Flip chops and cook the second side for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes until they registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Remove chops from skillet and put back to plate or baking sheet, tenting with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, during which time the internal temperature should rise to about 145 degrees.
  8. Meanwhile, add remaining sauce to pan and cook for 3 minutes until thickened to a ketchup-like consistency. Brush each pork chop with 1 tablespoon of sauce and serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.
Slow brine instead of the fast brine called for in the original recipe

Slow brine instead of the fast brine called for in the original recipe

Wheat Sandwich Loaf

February 14, 2016

For over 5 years I have been baking my son’s sandwich bread, adjusting and adapting to my changing kitchen and lunch needs. Today’s recipe re-ingrates whole-wheat flavor back into the loaf. I looked at this old wheat sandwich bread, recipe from Chris Kimball; but reduced the wheat germ by 50% to soften the over-powering flavor of wheat germ (a flavor my kids don’t enjoy). Also, I adapted the recipe to skip the 24-hour timeline; this recipe finishes in about 2 hours. 4-1/2 stars; still working on getting seeds to stick to the top.

Wonderful wheat flavor

Wonderful wheat flavor

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $1.30.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 8:10 PM.

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

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)
1-1/4 cup milk (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons wheat germ

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups bread flour (1 lb)
4-ounce whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 to 3/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid; fruit fresh or other powdered Vitamin C. (Alternatively mix 1 teaspoon white vinegar)
Seeds for top; e.g. toasted and chopped pepitas

  1. Adjust an oven rack to low-middle position, and pre-heat oven to 200-degrees, then immediately turn it off. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise in a cool kitchen.
  2. Add water and milk to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity); heat in microwave for 1m until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in yeast, sugar, wheat germ, and olive oil; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  3. While the yeast hydrates, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  4. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out anything left at the bottom of the measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes. The dough will become smooth, add a little more flour or water if necessary.
  5. Spray bowl with non-spick cooking spray, put dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in warm, but turned off, oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The dough will double in size. (Never allow dough to rise into a turned on oven)
  6. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. (I nearly ruined my first beautiful loaf by forgetting).
  7. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan. Spray top of dough with tap water and roll up into a tight log. Move dough into pan and softly press so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Spray top with dough with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the dough from deflating in Step 10.
  8. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan). Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for between 25 minutes to 35 minutes; until the dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.
  9. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 425-degrees.
  10. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with tap water from a spray bottle, and place loaf pan in 425-degree oven. Set kitchen timer for 25 minutes corresponding to the total cooking time. After 8 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 9 additional minutes until the top crust reaches your desired color. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top from over browning; baking for remaining 8 to 10 minutes.
  11. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will reads 205-degrees when the loaf is done. Carefully remove bread from pan, and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing (ensure that loaf is no warmer than 80-degrees).

Shrimp Scampi

February 6, 2016

Finally! Chris Kimball has badly needed to update his 16-year-old Shrimp Scampi recipe, which used just 1 tablespoon of vermouth and lacked lemon flavor. Over those 16 years I have adapted his old recipe, and published my own personal updates about 6 months ago. I felt that that recipe was much more well-rounded.

After adding them back to the reduced sauce

After adding them back to the reduced sauce

Today’s recipe is an even greater improvement. The biggest news with this recipe is a change in cooking technique; poaching the shrimp in homemade stock rather than sauteing them. By replacing the ever-so-slight caramelization of the shrimp, with a much more aggressive caramelization of the shells. Today’s recipe offers more tender shrimp and better flavor of the sauce; a win-win. 5-stars.

Caramelization from the empty shells; not the shrimp

Caramelization from the empty shells; not the shrimp


  1. Chris Kimball recommends serving with crusty bread. But to make a meal out of this I recommend serving with pasta, potatoes or rice.
  2. Extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound) can be substituted for jumbo shrimp. If you use them, reduce the shrimp cooking time in Step 10 by 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Chris Kimball says he prefers untreated shrimp, but if your shrimp are treated with sodium or preservatives (such as sodium tripolyphosphate) then skip the brining in Step 3.

Rating: 5-stars
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 5:10 PM.  Ready:  6:00PM

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

Brine Ingredients:
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-to-20 per pound)

Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. The best way to defrost shrimp is to leave them in a covered bowl overnight in your refrigerator; The next day rinse then with cold water. If you didn’t defrost your shrimp last night, fill a large bowl of cold tap water. Put shrimp in colander and submerge in cold water. After 10 minutes change the cold water and allow another 10 to 20 minutes to defrost. Peel (and devein) the shrimp, reserving the shells for Step 2.
  2. Start to boil water for pasta, potatoes or rice. Starting at the beginning is imperative because it can take longer to prepare than the actual scampi.
  3. If your shrimp are treated with sodium or preservatives (such as sodium tripolyphosphate), skip the following brining steps (and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the sauce in step 12). To brine your shrimp, add 1 quart (4 cups) water to a large bowl and dissolve 3 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add shrimp to brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Remove shrimp from brine and use paper towels to pat them dry.
  4. Put a 12″-regular skillet over high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add shrimp shells and cook for 4 minutes, stir frequently, until the shells and skillet start to brown.
  5. Briefly remove skillet from burner; reduce burner to medium. Add 1 cup white wine and thyme springs. Once the bubbling is over, put skillet over medium burner and gently simmer for 5 minutes; stirring occasionally.
  6. Meanwhile, thinly slice 8 cloves of garlic. Chop your 1 tablespoon of parsley. Cut 4 tablespoons of butter into 1/2″-pieces.
  7. Strain mixture through a colander into a medium bowl; discard the solids. You should be left with 2/3-cup of liquid.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon cornstarch.
  9. Wipe out your skillet using paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, sliced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to skillet, and set over medium-low burner for 3 to 5 minutes; until the edges of the garlic begin to brown.
  10. Add the 2/3-cup of reduced wine to the skillet and increase burner to high until it comes up to a simmer. Reduce burner to medium. Add raw shrimp to liquid, cover with lid, and cook for about 5 minutes; stir occasionally. When the shrimp are opaque, use a slotted spoon to remove shrimp to a medium bowl.
  11. Continue to cook sauce over medium burner and add lemon juice (from Step 8). Cook for just 1 minute to allow to slightly thicken.
  12. Remove skillet from burner and add 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.  If you did not brine your shrimp than add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and adjust according to taste. Return the shrimp to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Toss to combine, cut 1 lemon into wedges, and serve with the lemon wedges separately.


Easy-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

February 4, 2016

Today, I gave a hungry co-worker a hard-boiled egg; mentioning that I made it using a new recipe. “Hard-boiled eggs don’t have a recipe,” they laughed. While 5-years ago I would have agreed; I have marveled at the perfectness of each hard-boiled eggs that I have cooked for the past 5-years (following this recipe). Look closely at the photo below; how often do your eggs look like that? Before I began following that recipe, my answer was never.

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

While extremely simple to make, hard-boiled eggs have two perennial problems. First, there is the green coating surround the yolk, which comes from overcooking. While green eggs are perfectly harmless to eat; it smells a bit like sulfur and usually turns slimy after a day or two in the refrigerator. Why is it so easy to overcook your eggs? Because adding eggs to boiling water requires a different time depending upon how many eggs you cook. Each additional egg delays the moment when the water comes back up to a boil. Getting the timing right is key; an issue that Chis Kimball solved 5 years ago. (and continues to solve using today’s recipe).

The second problem with eggs are their sticky shells. Nearly six years ago I did a comparison of different methods for peeling hard-cooked eggs. The winning method is best, but still is perhaps 90% (at best). I usually found myself peeling eggs while they were still warm and storing them in a tightly sealed container. Chris Kimball has claimed to have solved the problem; “There’s no need to peel the eggs right away. They can be stored in their shells and peeled when needed.”


  1. The timing is for large eggs that are cold from the refrigerator.
  2. The recipe uses a steamer basket. But if you don’t have one, Chris Kimball says that you can place the eggs directly into the 1″ of water; using a spoon or tongs.  The smaller amount of water will come back to a boil more quickly that a fuller pot; which will work on 6 or few eggs without altering the timing.
  3. If you are using a steamer basket, this recipe will work on any number of eggs that will fit into a single layer.
  4. The prior cooking technique I had been using for the past 5 years is given by Cook’s Country is here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: 60-cents.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 6:00 AM. Ready at 6:30 AM.

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

6 large eggs

  1. Add 1″ water to a medium-saucepan. Set over high burner and bring to a rolling boil; about 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully set eggs in steamer basket and move into saucepan with boiling water. Cover and reduce burner to medium-low; maintaining a boil; and cooking for 15 minutes.
  3. When eggs are almost done; combine 2-cups of ice cubes with 2-cups of told tap water into a medium bowl.
  4. When eggs are ready use tongs or slotted spoon to move eggs into the ice bath; allowing to stand for 10 minutes before peeling.

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