Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts with Jalapeño and Cilantro Sauce

April 2, 2016

It’s been a few years since Chicken Breasts were my “go to” meal; recently I have been opting more for thighs. Today’s recipe slow-bakes chicken breasts in a low, 325-degree oven; then gives them a quick sear on the stove-top. Generally the breasts were moist, but a few of the slightly smaller pieces overcooked. For me, the biggest problem with this recipe is trying to brown a round breast in a flat skillet. Only 60% of the skin browned; leaving the sides of the chicken covered in flabby skin. The sauce was nice and bright. The chicken is a slightly below average 2-1/2 stars, while the sauce is 4-stars.

Side skin is flabby and unappealing

Side skin is flabby and unappealing

Comments:

  1. The cooking instructions for the second-side of the chicken were very confusing; I did not understand what they wanted so I just cooked the second side of the chicken.
  2. There are a few alternative for the sauce; including Tahini and Honey Sauce or Spicy Butter Sauce.

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

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

Chicken Ingredients:
4 bone-in chicken breasts (total of about 3-1/2 pounds)
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  1. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. And prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil.
  2. Working with one breast at a time; trim away any excess fatty skin from the thick end of the breast. Carefully work your fingers under the skin to separate the skin from the meat. Leave the skin attached and the top, bottom, and at the ribs. Sprinkle each breast with just under 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, then lay the skin back in place. Poke 6 to 8 holes in the fat deposits of the skin using a paring knife. Set on the prepared baking sheet with the skin-side upwards. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  3. Bake in 325-degree oven from 35-to-45 minutes until the chicken reaches 160-degrees. While the chicken bakes; prepare the sauce,
  4. Remove from oven when the chicken is ready, and pre-heat a 12″ regular skillet over a low burner for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and swirl so that the pan is evenly coated. Put chicken into skillet with the skin-side down, and turn up burner to medium-high. Cook for 3-to-5 minutes without moving the chicken; the skin will become crispy and well-browned.
  5. Flip the chicken and prop the thick-side of the breast is facing downward, continuing to cook for 1-to-2 minutes more until browned.
  6. Remove to serving platter and allow to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Jalapeño and Cilantro Sauce Ingredients:

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
3 jalapeño chiles
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Trim and coarse chop the cilantro. Stem and seed the jalapeños, if would want a spicier sauce include some of the seeds.
  2. Add all ingredients (except for olive oil) to your blender and process for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the blender and continue to process for 1 more minute; until the sauce is smooth.
  3. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it becomes incorporated. Empty into a serving bowl.

Beef Bourguignon

March 12, 2016

I make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon a few times a year, her 5-star recipe is here. However, I find myself making the same substitutions, time-after- time, so wanted to discuss the changes. First, I never make her recipe using the 3-pounds of beef called for in her recipe. I always buy a 5-to-5-1/2-pound roast. If I am going to expend such an effort; it is either for a larger group of friends or I want the leftovers to last me well into the week. Second, I never blanch my lardons; and usually just use thick-cut bacon. I simply cannot but “chunk bacon” but will sometimes use salt pork. And lastly, I have yielded to Chris Kimball’s approach of using frozen pearl onions. To me, they are not important enough to worry about peeling dozens of little boiler onions. But of any adjustments I make, this laziness has the biggest negative impact.

A little more liquid would have been perfect

A little more liquid would have been perfect

While I increased the liquids to try to compensate for the 5-1/2 pounds of beef; I was still lacking liquid. Next time I will try increasing the beef broth to 3-1/2 (I had used 3-cups today). I already updated the recipe below; which not-coincidentally means that I will use the full standard 32-ounce container of beef broth (while I always make my own chicken stock, I rarely make my own beef broth). Overall, this larger batch is not quite as good as Julia Child’s original recipe. Almost as good; 4-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. Julia Child says to use a casserole pan, but I always use my 7-quart dutch oven.
  2. While not called for in the original recipe, I also wrap the lardons into cheese cloth before adding them back to the pot in Step 10. This saves me a huge effort in trying to pick out the lardons when discarding the spent carrots and onions.
  3. Be sure to choose and begin your side dish of boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles or rice; start boiling the water as you begin to braise the boiler onions.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $30.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess? High.
Started: 12:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

You can see a version of Julia Child’s original recipe here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below. I separated the recipe into sections so that I wouldn’t have to scroll so much while preparing the recipe.

Making the Stew:
10-oz thick-sliced bacon
5 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2″ cubes
2 carrot, sliced into 1/2″ wheels.
2 onion, sliced into rings.
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 bottle red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
3-1/2 cups brown beef stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves mashed garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
2 crumbled bay leaf

  1. Cut the bacon meat into lardons (sticks 1/4″ thick and 1-1/2″ long), and sauté lardons in a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until lightly browned and has rendered much of its fat. Remove bacon to a side dish with a slotted spoon, and wrap in single layer of cheese cloth (tied closed with kitchen twine).
  2. Preheat your oven to 450-degrees, and set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven.
  3. Cut beef into 2″ cubes then pat dry using paper towels; they will not brown if damp. Heat leftover bacon fat in Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add four or five beef cubes at a time. Sauté until nicely browned on all six sides, then remove and let rest in a large bowl. It will take 4 to 5 batches, between 8 to 10 minutes per batch. While the beef browns; prepare your carrots and onions.
  4. In the same fat, saute the sliced onions and carrots until slightly browned for about 5 minutes. Pour out any excess fat; of which I had none.
  5. Return the beef to the Dutch oven and toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  6. Evenly sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set Dutch oven uncovered in of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
  7. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this will brown the flour and give the meat a light crust).
  8. Remove Dutch oven from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees.
  9. Stir in red wine, and 3-1/2 cups beef stock; which should barely submerge the meat.
  10. Add the 2 tablespoon tomato paste, 3 mashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 crumbled bay leaf, and the wrapped bacon lardons (as well as the bacon rind if you have it). Bring up to a simmer on the stove-top.
  11. Cover pot and return to oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

Brown Braising the Onions:
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1+2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
1/4 cup of brandy

  1. About 1 hour before the meat is done, begin to heat your water for the accompaniment: potatoes, egg noodles or rice.
  2. About 30-minutes before the meat is done, begin preparing the onions and mushrooms. Assemble you herb bouquet, by adding 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a small square of cheesecloth and tying with kitchen twine.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
  4. Add boiler onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 6 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. They will not brown uniformly.
  5. Add 1/2-cup of beef stock, the herb bouquet, and a little salt and pepper (to taste).
  6. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes; swirling occasionally; until the onions are very tender but still hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Discard the herb bouquet and set cooked onions aside.
  7. Wipe out skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Once the bubbling begins to subside add the quartered mushrooms. Toss and swirl pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of brandy and flambe until flame subsides. Remove from burner and set aside.

Final assembly:

  1. After 3 to 4 hours in the oven you beef should be very tender. Pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a large bowl. Empty into a fat separator (or use a wide, shallow spoon to skim fat off) and allow to settle for 5 minutes.
  2. Wipe out the Dutch oven and return the beef; empty the lardon packet, then distribute the cooked boiler onions and mushrooms on top. Discard the spent carrots and whatever else is left in your sieve.
  3. De-fat the sauce into a saucepan, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. You should have about 4 cups of sauce; about the consistency of heavy cream. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper according to taste.
  4. Pour the thickened sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
  5. Serve, arranging stew on a platter surrounded with boiled or mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice. You can also decorate with chopped parsley.

Pasta Frittata with Sausage and Hot Peppers

September 12, 2015

After returning from my nearly month-long trip to Africa/Europe, I am eager to start cooking again. I saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen which automatically recorded while I was away. The recipe has a few technical issues that prevented it from surpassing 3-1/2 stars, but those problems are easily rectified and this can make a delicious meal. The Frittata does not need to be piping hot, in fact, I enjoyed a slice after it had cooled for about 30 minutes more than my first slice. 3 Tablespoons of coarsely chopped cherry peppers was a little too overpowering; next time I will try two tablespoons of more finely chopped cherry peppers, to even out and moderate the heat. While the Parmesan cheese may play a more key role is the other variations of Frittata, it is lost in the bold flavors of sausage and peppers. Overall 3-1/2 stars.

Good, but a few flaws mar final meal

Good, but a few flaws mar final meal

Issues:

  1. 8 minutes was not enough time for the top of the frittata to set in Step 7, but the pasta was fully browned. I would recommend adding the eggs when the pasta is only lightly browned in Step 5/6, which will give more time for the egg to set.
  2. Because I lost some of the liquid egg when I flipped the frittata, the top did not brown to my liking, even after 5 to 6 minutes. I think the fix in issue #1 will rectify the browning issue as well.
  3. I am not sure why, but pouring the egg mixture concentrated the sausage and peppers in the center of the frittata. I would recommend redistributing it in Step 6.
  4. Parmesan cheese is too subtle and is lost among the other bold flavors. I would recommend either more Parmesan or switching to a bolder cheddar cheese.
  5. I think a few scallions or chives would complement that flavors of the existing ingredients.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

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

Ingredients:
8 large eggs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped jarred hot cherry peppers (or 2 tablespoons finely chopped)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
2 garlic cloves
3 cups water
6 ounces angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. Grate Parmesan cheese until you have 1/2 cup. Coarsely chop 1 to 2 cherry peppers, and chop two tablespoons parsley. Peel 2 cloves of garlic and slice thinly.
  2. Add eggs, Parmesan, olive oil, cherry peppers, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into a large bowl. Whisk until egg is an even yellow color. Set aside.
  3. Slice the casing on 8 ounces (about 3 sausages) and remove meat from the casing; crumble. Add neat to 10″ non-stick skillet and continue breaking up using a rubber spatula. In 3 to 5 minutes, the sausage will be half-cooked and the fat rendered, add sliced garlic, stir and cook for 30 seconds, then add to bowl with eggs from Step 2.
  4. Wipe out skillet with paper towel, and set over high burner. Add 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Break the pasta in half lengthwise and add to water. Stir occasionally until it comes up to a boil, then continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes until the water has evaporated and the pasta begins to sizzle.
  5. Turn down burner to medium and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes more; swirling pan (but do not stir) and use a rubber spatula to loosen the pasta to prevent the pasta from sticking. Use the rubber spatula to lift and peek under the pasta to check its progress.
  6. When the pasta is lightly browned, use the rubber spatula to push some of the loose pasta up the sides of the skillet, until the entire sides of the pan are covered with pasta. Empty the egg mixture over the pasta, and use tongs to lift some of the loose strands of pasta, but being mindful not to disturb the crispy bottom of the pasta. Ensure that the sausage and peppers are evenly distributed throughout the frittata.
  7. Immediate cover and cook over medium burner for 5 to 8 minutes until the top of the frittata is just set. It is important that the top is set or the egg will spill everywhere.
  8. Slide frittata onto a large plate and invert onto a second plate. Slide back into skillet with the browned side upwards, and use the rubber spatula to tuck the edges into the skillet. Continue to cook for 2 to 4 minutes until the second side is lightly browned.
  9. Remove skillet from burner and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Use your hand or the pan lid to invert the frittata onto cutting board. Slice into wedges and serve.

Chicken Flautas

June 19, 2015

I love recipes with lots of leftovers so that I have food to bring to work for lunch the next day. This recipe is perfect; making between 20 and 24 flautas; enough for almost an entire week’s worth of lunches. Generally Chris Kimball does not make very good Mexican food; this is a recipe that I’ve personally been developing for about 9 months; trying to make my lunchtime chicken taste more like pork or beef. The results are very good; I use tomato paste, dark beans and a few anchovies to add meaty flavor (no, of course it doesn’t taste fishy). I used chicken thighs because they won’t dry out if I cook them until they become shreadable. I guarantee; you will not believe that you are eating chicken. 4-stars; great depth of flavor, but there are textural issues with the tortillas when reheating in the microwave. Optimally, reheat them in conventional oven.

So good you'll forget it's chicken

So good you’ll forget it’s chicken

With beef prices roughly double from what they were a few years ago, I have been eating a lot of alternatives. I posted these pork taquitos earlier this year. While pork is more flavorful with a richer, more succulent texture, chicken is a healthier option.

Comment:

  1. The topping you add can elevate these flautas from 4 to 4-1/2 stars. Some of my favorites toppings include: guacamole or diced avocado, sour cream, lime juice, and of course, salsa. Also, after the tortillas have become crispy (or if reheating in a conventional oven) I love to sprinkle grated cheese over the top and run them under the broiler until the cheese browns a bit.
  2. Sometimes, instead adding vegetable oil to the pot, I use the skin from a few pieces of chicken and render out the fat; using that chicken fat in lieu of vegetable oil. It adds about 4 to 5 minutes; bit does two things: (1) adds flavor, and (2) also helps build up the fond on the bottom of the pan which translates into deeper flavor in the final flautas.
  3. If reheating prepared pre-made flautas, bake in oven at 300-degrees until heated all the way through; about 20 minutes, flipping half way through reheating. If you have to reheat them in a micowave, bake them in Step 14 until the tortillas become very hard, and flip them half way through re-heating.
  4. When I first was developing this recipe I did not add the cheese to the mixture, rather I topped the  chicken prior to rolling (in Step 13) with grated cheese. This had two drawbacks; first the flautas I prepared first had more cheese than the last flautas in the second batch. But beyond that, as the cheese melts during baking it oozes out the open ends and burns.
  5. 4-lbs of chicken thighs yields 1-1/2 pounds of shredded chicken meat. I think I prefer to use closer to 5-lbs.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $11 for 20 to 24 flautas. (plus toppings)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:30 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s doesn’t have a recipe for flautas. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1/2 bag dried, dark kidney beans, or 29-oz can of beans.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (see Comment #1)
4-to-5-lbs bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion
2 jalapeno
1 red bell pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 clove garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (3 filets)
juice from 2 limes
1/3-cup chopped cilantro
8-oz mild cheddar cheese
20 to 24 small fajita-size flour tortillas
Server with diced avocado, diced tomato, salsa

  1. For best results, soak 1/2-pound of dried beans for 8 hours or overnight. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons salt for 2 quarts of water. Otherwise if you don’t have dried beans or the time to soak them overnight, you can use 29-ounce can of dark kidney beans.
  2. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Pre-heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil a large dutch oven set over medium-high burner; when the oil begins to shimmer. Place half the chicken skin-side down in skillet; cook for a total of 7 minutes, turning once, until both sides are golden brown. Wipe out pot using paper towels, add another 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil and repeat this step for the second batch of chicken.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients. Dice your onion and jalapeno, removing the seeds (as desired to control the heat of the final flautas). Peel the 2 cloves of garlic. Also in a small bowl, add 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  4. After you are done cooking the second batch of chicken, reduce burner to medium. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, your onion, jalapeno, bell pepper and  and 2 teaspoons salt; allow to soften over medium burner for 5 minutes. Use the liquid exuded from the vegetables to deglaze the bottom of your pan.
  5. Add tomato paste and pressed/minced garlic; continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the contents of the spice bowl from Step 4; allowing the flavors to bloom for 1 minute.
  6. Add chicken stock and beans, bring up to a simmer over high burner. Cover pan, turn down burner to medium-low and maintain a simmer until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thighs registers about 185-degrees, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
  7. Remove chicken to cutting board and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.
  8. Meanwhile, turn up burner to medium and allow cooking liquid to gently boil; about 20 minutes. The beans should become thickened with very little liquid remaining. Meanwhile, begin to pre-heat your oven to 375-degrees.
  9. Use your fingers (or two forks) to shred the chicken, discarding bones and anything that feels like excess fat or cartilage. Add shredded chicken directly to the pot once your beans have finished reducing.
  10. Zest 2 limes and squeeze their juices; adding to the pot; mixing until everything is evenly combined.
  11. Grate cheese on the large holes of a box grater and add shredded cheese to pot. Mix until evenly combined.
  12. Prepare a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray.
  13. Prepare the flautas in batches of 10 to 12. Form 1/4-cup (2-1/2 ounces) of chicken mixture into a line in running along the center of tortilla. Tightly roll up flauta and lay on baking sheet so that the weight of the flauta holds the tortilla closed.
  14. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then flip for 5 minutes. If you plan to re-heat them in the microwave then bake until the tortillas become very hard.
  15. Repeat from Step 12 with the second batch.
  16. Serve immediate with toppings of your choice (see comment #1).

My 500th recipe: Pot-Au-Feu

May 20, 2015

Wow, my 500th recipe; five years in the making. For such a momentous occasion I wanted to make something special;  so I picked Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) from the May/June issue. Chris Kimball calls this recipe “Simple Pot-Au-Feu“, because it uses only one cut of meat, plus it’s made entirely in one day. Instead of cooling overnight and peeling the hardened fat, this recipe calls for skimming the fat using a ladle. I used a fat separator; as there was a lot of fat. As with many of Chris Kimball’s recent recipes, instead of brown meat on the stove-top, this recipe uses his technique of “browning” in the oven.

Best meal of the year; so far.

Best meal of the year; so far.

The dinner was fantastic; my first 5-star meal of 2015. The flavors were well-balanced; the bone-marrow infused parsley sauce was powerful, and the soup bones made for the most delicious broth I’ve ever tried. The staggered cooking time for the vegetables in the final steps meant that everything was perfectly tender, without anything being overcooked. Next time I might try to brown the beef on the stove-top, because I think the “caramelization” is a little muted as written in today’s recipe. I would also recommend serving with crusty bread; a little crunch was the only thing this meal was lacking.

Additional Comments:

  1. One traditional suggestion for the extra bone marrow is to spread it on toasted bread as an accompaniment.
  2. Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) refers to the traditional cooking method of putting inexpensive cuts of meat and root vegetable into a pot and into the fire.
  3. I have three kinds of salt, but didn’t buy flake sea salt. My regular sea salt was in grains, so I used flaky kosher salt in lieu of sea salt for the final dish (in step 14)

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $38.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: 1:00 PM. End time: 6:00 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Meat Ingredients:
3-1/2 to 4-lbs beef chuck-eye roast, boneless
1-1/2-lbs marrow bones
Kosher salt
1 onion
1 celery rib
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Parsley Sauce Ingredients:
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
10 cornichons, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Vegetables:
1-lb small red potatoes, between 1″-to-2″.
6 carrots
1-lb asparagus
Kosher salt and pepper
Flake sea salt

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Pull your chuck roast into two pieces, which should naturally come (mostly) apart at the seam. Trim away any large knobs of fat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, then use 3 pieces of kitchen twine per piece to tie into two separate loaf shapes.
  3. Peel and quarter onion and thinly slice celery stalk crosswise (not lengthwise).
  4. Put tied beef, bones, onion, celery, bay leaves, and peppercorns into Dutch oven. Add cold water until it comes up halfway the sides of roasts; about 4 cups. Set over high burner until simmering. Partially cover the Dutch oven and put into 300-degree oven for 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours, flipping beef over halfway through cooking time.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the parsley sauce, by combining all ingredients into small bowl, cover and set aside at room temperature.
  6. Towards the end of cooking time; prepare your vegetables. Cut your potatoes in half (or quarter any potatoes that are larger than 2″). Cut carrots in half cross-wise; then quarter the thick halves length-wise, and cut the thin halves into two lengthwise (sounds confusing; each carrot should yield 6 pieces).  Trim asparagus by snapping off the cut end; wherever the asparagus naturally breaks is where each individual stalk needs to be trimmed (as if the asparagus knows).
  7. When the meat is fully tender, a sharp knife can easily slips into meat, but it should not be shreddable, remove the pot and turn off oven. Use tongs to remove beef loaves and set on large platter and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Return to turned-off oven to keep the meat warm while you finish cooking.
  8. Set bones on cutting board and use the end of a spoon to remove the marrow. Mince marrow until it is paste-like and add 2 tablespoons to parsley sauce.  Save any remaining marrow for another day.
  9. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl. Use a ladle to skim and discard the fat from the broth (I used a fat separator). Measure out broth (I had just under 2 cups), and augment with cold water to make 6 cups; adding back to Dutch Oven.
  10. With the Dutch oven over high burner, add potatoes and bring up to a simmer. Reduce burner and continue to simmer for 6 more minutes. Add carrot sticks and cook for 10 minutes. Finally, ass asparagus and continue to cook all vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes; until everything is tender.
  11. Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables to large bowl, and toss them with 3 tablespoons of the parsley sauce; sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  12. Taste broth and adjust salt; leaving in pot.
  13. Remove beef from oven and set of cutting board. Cut away twine and slice against the grain into 1/2″ thick pieces.
  14. Arrange large, shallow bowls into individual servings. Arrange vegetables, slices of beef, and drizzle with 1/3 cup broth. Top with a dollop of parsley sauce, and sprinkle meat with flaky sea salt. Serve, passing the extra parsley sauce separately.

Pork Taquitos

February 3, 2015

When in college a person eats Ramen noodles because they are inexpensive. But there was a time in college that frozen taquitos comprised a significant part of my weekly menu, not because they were inexpensive, but because I thought they were delicious. At the time it never occurred to me that I could make them for myself; they were beyond my young culinary capabilities. Fast forward 20 years, when I tried them again, all that I could taste was their flaws; leathery tortillas, dry meat, lackluster spices (plus a bunch of chemicals and preservatives). I felt the same way when I went back to my hometown in my 30’s. It had been the focus of my life; I had known every nook and cranny of the sleepy little town. Or when I see my ex-wife; a woman who I loved just 3 years ago; but to whom I now feel nothing (opps, a little too revealing; but she never reads my blog). The bottom line is this: Life only moves forward; just as I outgrew my home town, nothing can make eating frozen taquitos appealing again. No amount of horses and men can make Humpty Dumpty whole again. If taquitos are to ever be part of my future, so that I can share them with my kids, it is up to me to figure out how.

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to preprare

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to prepare

Chris Kimball does not have a recipe for taquitos. Of course I don’t generally trust his yankee-palate when it comes to “Mexican food”. I have been developing this recipe over the course of the past year, and am only just giving it 3-1/2 stars because there is room for improvement. The flavors are rich and delicious, but the flavors are not completely and properly balanced. Infinitely better than frozen taquitos, and represents a good starting point. I post another recipe when this recipe goes above 4-stars. (Please feel free to offer suggestions).

Comments:

  1. To freeze taquitos, put on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag; they can be frozen for up to 3 months.  To use frozen taquitos: put in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. I used flour tortillas tonight, but generally make them using corn tortillas. There is a common (mis)belief that taquitos are made only with corn tortillas, and that flautas are only made with flour tortillas.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 1PM. Ready at 6PM.

5-lb bone-in pork butt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups (16 ounces) beef broth
2 medium onion
2 jalapenos
2 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (4-ounces)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
12 corn tortillas (6 inches)
Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole, salsa and lime slices.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300-degrees. Trim away any excess fat from the pork, and remove any skin (especially if you ended up with a pernil).
  2. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in Dutch oven set over medium-high burner until oil begins to shimmer. Sear pork for 5 minutes per side; about 20 minutes total.
  3. Add beef broth to Dutch Oven, bring it up to a simmer, cover and bake for 4 hours until the pork is extremely tender. Remove pork to a large bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. While the pork cools, strain the braising liquid into a fat separator and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard any solids.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
  6. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon of pork fat (from fat separator) into now-empty dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add onions and jalapenos to pot, sprinkle with 2 teaspoon table salt. Saute until tender; about 5 minutes.
  7. Press garlic into the pot, and add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and cayenne; cook 1 minute longer.
  8. Pour 3/4 of liquid from the fat separator into the pot, using the liquid to deglaze the pan. Reduce for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  9. Meanwhile, use two forks to shred pork, then pick through with your fingers to discard any clumps of fat or other unappetizing bits. Add pork to pot with sauteed vegetables.
  10. Add grate cheese, and lime juice. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
  11. chopped cilantro,
  12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  13. Soften tortillas by wrapping them a paper towel and microwaving them for about 30-45 seconds.
  14. Put 2 tablespoons of filling over lower third of a tortilla. Roll up tightly, using gravity to hold the taquito closed. (You can secure with toothpicks; or mix up your own paste by adding water to flour). Repeat rolling process with remaining tortillas.
  15. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Prime Rib Roast Beef with Jus

January 16, 2015

I made this recipe for a very special prime rib dinner with my two sons. This is only the second time I’ve every made Prime Rib; the first time was two years ago and only 3-stars, based upon flaws in the recipe. Today’s recipe made a delicious jus, which added great flavor to every bite of this incredible tender roast. Next time I might incorporate a bit of the herb crust from the first recipe; but the jus is an absolute necessity. The results were excellent; 4-1/2 stars. An incredibly special meal.

Perfect medium (My family won't eat medium-rare)

Perfect medium (My family won’t eat medium-rare)

DRY-AGING BEEF AT HOME:
While a was able to buy my smallish, first-cut rib roast on sale for just $40, a roast that size typically sells for double that price. And to make matters even more expensive, I love dry-aged beef for its concentrated flavor and extra tenderness. But dry-aged beef is only available from the butcher (and would have cost over $100). So for a few years, I’ve been “dry-aging” my  beef at home; only on expensive cuts of beef, and only when the recipe’s tenderness requires leaving the beef pink. I explain the steps below in the instructions, but more or less you wrap it in cheese cloth and leave it to dry on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for a week. I’m not sure why, but Chris Kimball has taken down this dry-aging technique from his website.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that dry-aging adds $3/lb, but the reality is that dry-aged beef is only available from butcher (who generally sells meat more expensively than my supermarket). For thicker roasts, there is a difference between the 21-day dry-aging that a butcher does, and the 7-day aging that we are capable of with our residential refrigerators. But still, it is worth the minimal amount of effort.
  2. As I mentioned above, the roast was delicious, but I think if I applied a bit of the herb mixture the roast would have been 5-stars. But, there is no need to apply herb-mixture to the fat cap.
  3. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5-1/2 hours before dinner.
  4. Typically a first-cut beef rib roast (ribs 9 through 12) will weigh about 8-pounds. I was able to buy a smaller roast of 5-pounds, because we were only three people eating dinner. While I generally love eating leftovers, reheating prime rib loses a lot for the perfect tenderness.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $45.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start 5-1/2 hours before dinner.

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

1 first-cut beef rib roast
1-1/2 pounds oxtails
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt (preferably) or table salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, medium-bodied, such as Côtes du Rhône
1-3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1-3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Dry-Age Beef a week before dinner:

  1. About a week before dinner, remove the roast from packaging, rinse well, and pat completely dry with paper towels.  Wrap the meat with three layers of cheesecloth, Place on wire rack with the fat side up; set over a sheet pan and place in the back of refrigerator (the coldest part). After 24 hours, remove, unwrap, discard cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Place back in refrigerator for up to 6 days undisturbed.

Day of Dinner:

  1. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5-1/2 hours before serving. Remove cheesecloth, cut away the fat and trim the ends and any discolored parts of roast.  Allow roast to sit a room temperature for 2 hours for more even cooking.
  2. After 1 hour, set a rack to the lowest position in your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees. Rub the oxtails with tomato paste and add to roasting pan. Cut your onions into eighths and toss in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to cover your onions. Roast ox tails/onions for 45 minutes until the are browned; flipping oxtails half-way through cooking. Remove pan and set aside.
  3.  Reduce over temperature to just 250-degrees.
  4. After roast has stood for 2 hours, pre-heat a 12″-skillet for 4 minutes over medium burner. While the skillet pre-heats, rub the ends and fat-side of the roast with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of ground pepper.
  5. Put roast in skillet with the fat-cap down for 12 to 15 minutes; until the roast is well browned. Use tongs to stand the roast on each cut-side; browning each side for 4 minutes. (Do not brown the rib-side). Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Use 3 or 4 lengths of kitchen twine to tie the roast back to the ribs.
  7. Push the oxtails and onions to the sides of the roasting pan, and set roast with the bone-side down. Roast for 1 hour; check the internal temperature to ensure that it is 70-degrees (adjust the oven temperature up or down depending upon the internal temperate of the roast).
  8. Continue roasting for another 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours. The roast will be rare when the center of meat registers about 122 degrees; 130 degrees for medium-rare. I cooked my roast to a kid-friendly 135-degrees.  Remove the roast and set on a cutting board; tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  9. While the roast rests, spoon off fat from roasting pan. Set roasting pan over 2 burners on your stovetop. Add wine to pan and use the liquid to de-glaze the pan; reduce by half for 3 minutes. Add beef broth, chicken broth, and thyme. Cut twine on the beef; remove ribs, and re-tend roast. Add the ribs with the meaty-side down to the roasting pan. Continue to cook for 16 to 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to 2 cups.
  10. Add any accumulated juices from the cutting board back into the pan; heat for 1 more minute. Use tongs to discard the oxtails and ribs; then strain the jus into a gravy-boat; pressing down on the onions to yield as much jus as possible.
  11. With the browned-side up, cut into 3/8″-thick slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and serve immediately, passing the jus separately.

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