Friday, July 30, 2010

Pork loin back ribs

Ribs with fresh Colorado corn and chard

I think I should clarify one thing about the smoked salmon I posted the other day. It’s nothing like lox or gravlax. If you imagine salmon which has been baked but has an intense smoky flavor, that’s what it’s like. The wok-smoker method results in what would be called “hot smoked” fish.

Now, on to something new. The Manager’s Special case at Safeway had a full rack of pork ribs (just a shade under 3 lbs.) for only $5. What a steal. Finding myself a little short of time I decided to try a different way of cooking them. There wasn’t time to wait for a dry rub to do its thing. I just salted and peppered them well and baked them for 2 hours. They were finished right after dinner and at this point I doused them with some spices, let them cool, and refrigerated them for 2 days until we were ready to eat them.

I was surprised at how interesting they were. Many recipes calling for a dry rub encourage you to reserve some spices and add them near the end of the cooking time. The way I did it kind of echoed that. In my book it was a success.
These ribs are more or less Memphis-style dry ribs. You certainly are welcome to brush them with some bbq sauce.

Pork back ribs
c. 3 lb. rack of pork ribs
salt and pepper
ground cumin
garlic powder
onion powder
pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) or sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the fell (membrane) from the concave side of the ribs. Rub generously with salt and pepper on both sides.

Line a baking sheet with enough foil to fold over the top of the ribs to seal them in. A whole rack is quite long, so I cut them into 2 sections. Place the ribs on the foil, meaty side down, add about ¼” of water and enclose them in the foil.

Bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours until the meat is completely tender. Open the foil packet and sprinkle the ribs all over (to taste) with the cumin, garlic and onion powders, and pimenton. At this point you can do the finishing cooking, although I preferred to let the ribs cool and absord the additional spices. You can refrigerate them for as much as a couple of days if you wish, re-covered with the foil.

When ready to finish them, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fold back the foil to expose the ribs and turn them meaty side up. Bake until heated through and somewhat browned, c. 30 minutes. Let them rest for 5 minutes, cut into individual pieces between the bones and serve.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Smoked salmon mousse

Ok, ok, it's a picture of leftovers. Good leftovers.

Last night we attended the FEDUPs annual pot-luck supper. FEDUPs = Foodies Eating Diverse and Unusual Platings. We gave no instructions to the members as to what to bring. That suggests an unbalanced menu, but it’s the way we like to do it.

I’ll describe the most unusual dish: Busy Woman’s Miracle. Put ground beef in the bottom of a casserole; top it with mushroom soup concentrate; top that with tater tots; bake. It was very good in a 50’s sort of way.

Peter and I contributed: home-wok-smoked salmon mousse crostini, a garden fresh salad (everything in it came from our backyard plot except the citrus dressing), and cheesecake with a Zweiback crust.

This group has been meeting monthly for 4 and ½ years. We visit ethnically diverse restaurants in Denver, of which there are zillions. It’s been a wonderful source of varied eatings and gatherings of interesting, funny, and witty friends.

My salmon mousse started with the wok-smoked salmon I posted a while back. I put it in the food processor and kept adding other stuff until I got what I wanted. Amounts below are not guaranteed to be precise.

Smoked salmon mousse
1 lb. wok-smoked salmon
6 oz. cottage cheese
6 oz. sour cream
1 tbsp (or more) capers
2-3 tbsp juice from the caper jar
salt and pepper

Put everything into a food processor and puree. Add more sour cream to thin it to desired consistency. Serve with toasted baguette rounds.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whatever you have omelet/frittata

I hadn’t had any intention of documenting this omelet/frittata until it came out from under the broiler. It looked so good and, moments later, tasted so good, I just thought I’d share. Now, mind you, nobody ever has exactly the same leftovers in the fridge, so if you try anything like this it will be your very own.

For dinner last night I tried a Rachel Ray recipe for oven-fried Mexican peppers, coated with egg and breadcrumbs and baked at 400 degrees for 18 minutes. I won’t make it again quite the same way. The peppers did taste quite lovely though. Subsitute any cooked peppers (or cook them for this recipe) you might have. The hotdogs just happened to be in our possession (in the freezer).

This is an easy way to throw a lunch on the table.

Whatever you have omelet/frittata
4 large eggs
2 tbsp lite sour cream
¾ cup frozen corn
2 turkey hotdogs, cut into 1/4” rounds
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler with a rack in the second slot from the top of the oven.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sour cream, salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick pan. Toss in the frozen corn (not necessary to thaw it) and hotdogs. Stir them a bit for about 2 minutes. Pour in the eggs and top with the cheese.

When the bottom of the concoction is set, place it under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until the top is set. That’s it. Serve it up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pacific rockfish in packets

It’s blurry picture Tuesday. I just declared it so.

Had a hankering for fish last night. Bought a piece of Pacific rockfish (never heard of it before) at a good price. Decided to follow Jenn’s lead and make packets to put into the oven. Didn’t have any very interesting ingredients to flavor it with, so I just stayed with a splash of Shaoxing wine, lemon slices and olive oil.

Also made fried green tomatoes. Found the tom’s at our favorite farm stand (named Heinie’s, a name I would have changed long ago!). These were the best I've ever had, prepared just like milanesa - dredged in flour (with s and p), egg and homemade bread crumbs. The other delight was yellow wax beans, steamed 8 minutes and then poached in butter for 4.

Here’s the recipe (it’s almost cocktail hour).

Pacific rockfish in packets
10 oz. rockfish filet (or other fish)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry white)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch each of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the fish into 2 equal-size pieces. Marinate in the wine, lemon oil, s and p for 30 minutes. Make foil packets for each. Place the packets on a baking pan and bake for 12-14 minutes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Asian pork burgers

We were getting a little low on proteins in the freezer. Only some shrimp (just ate that Sat.) and 2 packages of pork chops. I chose the chops. After thawing and trimming there was 12 oz. of meat. Perfect for burgers.

My last pork burgers was Indochine-style and I wanted something Asian but not exactly that. I hit on a very simple solution which was to mix scallions and preserved black beans into the burgers. They came out very well.

A quick word about preserved black beans: you’re only going to find them at an Asian market. The wondrous thing about them is that, being cured and salted, they last virtually forever in the fridge. We’ve had ours for years!

We had a lovely side dish, braised chard served room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.

Asian pork burgers
12 oz. ground pork
1 large scallion, minced, white and greens parts
1 tbsp preserved black beans

Put the pork into a bowl with the scallion. Mash the black beans in a mortar and pestle or by whatever means you can. Add to the pork and mix it all up well.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet (5 on the 1-10 dial). Cook the burgers for 5 minutes on the first side. Reduce burner to 3 and cook second side 5 more minutes, or until done through and through.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Butter-poached salmon filets

I bought some wild Alaska salmon yesterday at King Soopers. It has an odd name, which I don’t happen to remember. On sale for $4.99 lb. Wonderfully fresh. My intention was to repeat my Salmon Burgers a la Hubert Keller (on this blog – 11/10/09, and pictured above), but we got home a little late from the gym and I changed the plan to just butter-poaching the filets (much like yesterday’s pork chops).

This picture was obtained from a free site on the web. That’s exactly what my salmon looked like. I was in too much of a hurry to eat, so didn’t photo my own dish.

I asked the fish monger for 12-14 oz. He cut me a piece that was a little over a pound! The good news: Peter is downstairs right now finishing up a salmon salad from the leftovers to go into sandwiches for lunch.

Lately when I’ve been using ramen noodles I’ve saved the little flavor packets. I had one with shrimp flavoring and it’s the only seasoning I put on the fish. Use just salt and pepper and it will be more than fine.

Butter-poached salmon filet
2 salmon filets, about 1 lb., skin on, pin bones removed
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat (6 on my 1-10 dial). When the butter is melted and just about to brown, put the filets in skin-side down. Cook 4 minutes.

Turn the filets and turn off the burner. Let the filets cook in the residual heat for 1-2 minutes. 1 minute will give you some rare areas in the thickest part, 2 minutes – more like medium rare. Use you own judgement.
That’s it in a nutshell. No need to rest the fish the way you would meat or chicken. Just spritz it with some lemon juice, sit down and relish it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Butter-poached pork chops

Start with a top-quality pork chop, the kind with the t-bone in it, proceed; end up with a ravishingly tasty and tender result. How? That's what I'm here to tell you.

Back in March I posted what I then called "gentle" pork chops. I dare say last night's version were the best I've ever done with a pork chop. I think some of it is the cut of meat. March's version was bone-in loin chop, whereas this time I had the classic pork chop cut, about 3/4" thick and with the tenderloin attached (that's the oval of meat just above the bone at the top of the picture).

I have an interesting idea to try sometime. I hacked off 2 bits from one side of each chop. It was mostly fat with a bit of meat running through it. These pieces I nuked for 1 minute (they had been brined and I wanted to test for saltiness). What I ended up with were 2 scrumptious bits. I'm now wondering if nuking the entire chop might be an option. That's for another day.

Butter-poached pork chops

2 pork chops, brined for 2 hours

black pepper

paprika (smoked or sweet)

1 1/2 tbsp butter

Rinse the chops under cold water and dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika to taste, but don't add salt. Make sure to get them to room temperature before cooking.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high (5 on my 1-10 dial) until the butter is melted and seems ready to brown. Put the chops into the pan and immediately reduce the heat to 3.

Cook the first side about 4 minutes. Turn them and continue cooking 4-6 minutes longer. You'll need to cut a slit near the bone to ascertain doneness. If the interior of the meat is just a bit pink get the chops off the heat. Let them rest on a cutting board (but not in the pan) for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grilled chicken with yogurt, hot pepper and garlic

My gratitude to Jenn for sharing her first preparation from her new book, “Planet Barbecue”. (You can see her post dated yesterday, July 21.) Inevitably I made a few modifications. I cheated by using powdered garlic instead of fresh. Also, I was using chicken legs and thighs instead of skinless breasts. Mine was skin-on. The original called for some lemon slices. Turned out I didn’t have a lemon.

This is a superb recipe. The flavor is indescribable – bold, assertive, BAM!

Grilled chicken with yogurt, hot pepper and garlic


1 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 cup Greek plain yogurt

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

salt and pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

2 chicken legs, 2 chicken thighs

Directions:Make 2 slits in each chicken piece in the meatiest parts.

Place red pepper flakes and paprika in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of warm water, stir, and let stand until a thick paste forms, about 5 minutes.

Place the pepper paste in a bowl and add the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, and garlic; whisk together to mix. Place chicken in a shallow dish and pour marinade over, making sure to turn the chicken to coat both sides. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature (about 60 minutes).

Preheat broiler and place a rack in the second position from the heat element. Place a wire rack on a baking pan and lubricate with cooking spray. Shake off excess marinade and place chicken on wire rack. Place baking pan with chicken under the broiler. Turn the chicken pieces every 5 minutes for a total cooking time of 20 – 25 minutes. For me it took 20, but then the chicken wasn’t icebox cold when I started.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sweet corn and black bean salad

We got our first Colorado sweet corn a couple of days ago. I bought enough for us to steam for dinner and also to make this salad. It’s loosely based on Rachel Ray, but only loosely. Light and nutritious, it’s a quintessential summertime dish.

Sweet corn and black bean salad
3 ears corn, steamed and cooled
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ medium red onion, finely diced
½ green (or other color) bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (or both)
1 tsp ground cumin
juice of ½ lime
splash of tabasco or sriracha (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Cut kernels from ears of corn. Put into a bowl with beans and onion.

Microwave the bell pepper for 30 seconds with just a splash of water. This is an optional step. We prefer the pepper not to be totally raw.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Spam and Velveeta Fajita

I love the alliteration of the title!

I got this idea a few days while bantering about food via email exchanges. In Denver I’m known for doing whacky things with Spam. I happen to like Spam, but rarely eat it. I know, I know, some of you are figuratively looking down your noses at me right now. Takes this as an edible spoof, which is exactly what it is intended to be.

I kept telling Peter the main ingredients were to be secret. Finally, just before starting to cook, I spilled the beans. Turns out he absolutely loved it.

Our weather is so hot right now that I debated about doing this. On the other hand, the majority of ingredients are the condiments – at room temperature. So I made my decision to proceed.

I recommend the cast iron skillet because then you serve it in a manner very much like a Mexican restaurant.

This calls for a limerick.

There is a great thing known as Spam,
Which can stand in quite well for some ham.
Add to it: Velveeta,
Tortilla or pita.
Jalapeno will give it some wham.

The Spam and Velveeta Fajita (for 2)
1 12 oz. can Spam
1 6 oz box Velvetta, diced
sour cream
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into strips
½ medium red onion, sliced
1 ½ avocados
1 small tomato, chopped fine
½ tsp garlic powder
lime juice
salt and pepper
lettuce, shredded
1 jalapeno, unseeded, sliced into super thin rounds
1 tbsp olive oil
4 (or more) flour tortillas

Slice the Spam lengthwise into ¼” slabs.

Heat a pan of water to the boiling point. Turn off the heat and drop the Spam into the water. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove Spam and allow to cool. Cut across into ¼” batons.

Put the sour cream into a small bowl.

Mash the avocado with some lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir in chopped tomato. Put the avocado, lettuce, jalapeno, Velveeta, and the bowl of sour cream onto a suitably large platter. Take it to the dinner table and place it where your companion and you can both easily reach it.

Heat the olive oil at medium in a cast iron skillet. Add onion and bell pepper and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Saute until just softened, 3-4 minutes. Add batons, increase heat to medium high and toss the mixture until the Spam begins to color. Take the pan directly to the table and place it on a trivet.

While the Spam cooks, wrap 4 tortillas in a kitchen towel. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Sit down, assemble, and eat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pork and vegetable stir-fry

I’m adapting and recycling a post from October ’08 which was called “The power of ramen”. I know there are those who might consider these cheap noodles a copout. But when you consider how little they cost, how good they actually taste, how quick they can be prepared, and how versatile they are, logic tells me it’s a path I want to continue to go down.

There are two reasons I want to air out my ramen thoughts: I’ve made a number of stir-fries with them recently, and back in ’08 no one was ever reading my blog. I’ve included a recipe for a stir-fry I just made for lunch. Bear in mind that the ingredients can be almost anything.

To prepare the noodles even before you know what you’re going to do with them: boil them for 3 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water, drizzle with olive oil or sesame oil, toss to coat and so that they don’t stick together. Now you’re in business for a pasta-style dish, a soup, a stir fry, a late night snack (warm or cold). I generally don’t use the flavor packets that come with the noodles, although I did sprinkle just a bit of it on the lubricated noodles to add some flavor to my skirt steak stir fry.

For a normal adult appetite 1 pack of ramen per person is perfect. (I’m channeling Jacques Pepin here: “one pocket pair pairson”.)

I’m sure you know that you can buy these in bulk, 5 or more packages together, for a total cost of about 30 cents each. I always have them on hand. Now don’t get me wrong, we cook a lot of real pasta in this household. It’s just such a convenience to use ramen from time to time.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. Search for my “The power of ramen” for more ideas.

I’ll close with a limerick:

There once was a man who loved ramen,
Though others would think they are common.
He boiled those worms
And then came to terms
With multiple apps, now say “amen”.

Pork and vegetable stir-fry
2 packages ramen noodles
10 oz. pork chops, boned and sliced
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
¼ large onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup braising greens, mustard, kale, endive or romaine
fish sauce

Boil the noodles for 3 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water, drain, drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with a bit of the flavoring packet. Set aside.

Before boning and slicing the pork, marinate it for 2 hours in the rice wine, soy and vinegar. Rinse, dry, bone and slice.

Heat a wok over high heat (7 on my 1-10 dial). Add 1 tbsp veg. oil. When the oil is hot, stir-fry the pork for no more than 2 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

Put the onions and jalapeno into the wok. Stir-fry 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Fry 1 minute. Add peas and greens. Fry 1 minute. Transfer all this to a bowl.

Add a little more oil. Put the pork and ramen into the wok. Toss constantly until hot. Add back the veg. Season with a little more rice wine and soy and add some fish sauce.

Keep tossing until everything is heated through. Serve.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Just between you and me

I have a wonderful list of blogs I follow daily. You can see them listed just above. I don't bake or make desserts, so I don't comment on those types of things. Even so, I love having a network of devoted cookers and eaters.

Just know that I appreciate you all and will continue to monitor your postings daily. Bless you all for your devotion to all things foodie.

Your friend and fellow blogger,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Asian wings

This is one of my least fortunate pictures. When it’s time to eat I just don’t feel like spending a lot of effort with my quirky little camera. I applaud so many of you for your magazine-quality photos. As for me, as long as my food tastes good I will just live with my limitations.

It was time to haul the chicken wings out of the freezer, brine them, and recreate my recipe for Asian-flavored wings. It’s very easy. The reason for this particular flavor choice is that Peter put together some Thai-style noodles with peanut sauce. ‘Nuff said.

I chose to limit salty ingredients due to the 2 hour brining I did. If you don’t brine the wings, add fish sauce and/or Chinese cooking wine (both of which are salty).

Asian wings
3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp sriracha sauce or other chili sauce
2 lb. chicken wings, tips removed and cut into individual pieces
sesame seeds (optional)
juice of 1 lime

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Add the wing pieces and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a shallow baking pan with foil and lubricate it with cooking spray. Arrange the wings on the pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds if using. Continue baking until cooked through and tender, 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle with lime juice before serving.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pork paillards

“Pork paillards” – I’m so pleased with the alliteration. Where is everybody this morning? It’s Saturday at 10 am here in Denver and I just had a look at the blog to see what's been posted. Nada. Oh well, maybe a little later. I get such a charge out of all your recipes. (I confess I tend to skip the baked goods … I’m not a baker or a sweets eater.)

Here’s the thing about cooking pork this way: the perfect cut is boneless loin chops, although I’ve used bone-in, thin-cut chops (just boned them out). With loin chops I would cut them into 1” strips, brine them, and pound them thin. I have sliced through them to make thinner pieces, but it’s kind of hard to do and maybe a little dangerous. This dish is absolutely not greasy if the oil is hot enough.

There’s nothing complicated about the technique of making paillards. Turkey, chicken and pork are all excellent for this. I have tried numerous times to make this with beef to no avail. For some reason it’s always tough. Do trust the very short cooking time. You won’t regret it.

To brine: 2 cups water, 2 tbsp kosher salt, 2 tsp black pepper. Dissolve salt in the water, add to the pork in a freezer bag or other container, make sure the pork is completely submerged. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Rinse and dry on paper towels before proceeding.

Pork paillards (serves 4)
1 lb. pork loin chops or regular chops, boned
smoked paprika
black pepper
all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten (sometimes 1 is enough, or add some egg white from a box if you have it)
2-3 cups bread crumbs (preferable unseasoned – Panko is good too)

One by one, put the brined pork pieces into a freezer bag (you can use the one they were brined in. Pound them very thin, less than ¼” if you can.

Put the chops on a baking rack on your cutting board. Sprinkle 1 side of the meat with black pepper. Press it with your fingers to help it adhere. Now, using a small sieve, sprinkle with smoked paprika. I do only one side because smoked paprika can easily hijack a dish. Again using the sieve, sprinkle with a light coating of flour. Turn them over and sprinkle with flour.

Dredge in the egg and then the breadcrumbs, pressing to get a good coating. When finished put the rack on a plate and refrigerate. This can be done way ahead, just be sure to take the pork out 30 minutes before cooking.

In a large skillet heat 1/8” maximum of cooking oil over medium-high heat (7 of 10 on my burner dial) until very hot. The oil is ready when a pinch of flour sizzles energetically when dropped in. At this point I always wait another 30 seconds. The most crucial aspect of this recipe is the hot oil.

Carefully lay in the breaded pork (in batches as necessary, keeping cooked pieces in a warm oven until everything's done. Cook 45 seconds only. Turn with tongs. Cook 45 seconds more. Remove to a plate covered with paper towel to drain for 1 minute. Serve.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tater tots redux - from scratch



Can’t anybody just follow a recipe and not tinker with it? Ah, but it’s the tinkering that’s the fun part.

I was inspired by Jenn’s posting the other day of her version ( of my Simply Potatoes tots to try a from-scratch version. The Simply Potato company told me via email that their products are basically 70 % pre-cooked. Ergo the necessity to figure out just how long to boil my potatoes before shredding. Here goes:

A large russet potato yielded just about 3 cups of shredded potato. To make this recipe make sense, I’ve written it as if there is 1 cup of potato. Therefore a person should multiply as necessary depending on how much potato you actually have.

I wanted to form my tots right on the baking sheet and so dispensed with Jenn’s method of heating the sheet while the oven heats. To compensate I increased her oven temp to 450 degrees and stayed with her 5 minutes per side.

I hope I haven’t made this more difficult by writing up the plan as if there is 1 cup of potato, but no 2 taters are going to be the same size.

Tater tots redux – from scratch (each cup of potato will make about 5 tots)
russet potato, par-boiled and shredded
The following measurements are for 1 cup of shredded potato:
1 tbsp lightly beaten egg white (or egg whites in a box from the store, which is my preference)
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Peel the potato and cut it into quarters lengthwise. Put into a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. When it boils add some salt to the water. Boil 5 minutes, drain, and rinse under cold water. Dry with paper towels.

Using the grater blade in the food processor grate them. Measure the amount of potato and multiply the other ingredients accordingly. Put them into a large bowl and toss with all remaining ingredients. I prefer to toss the dry stuff, then add the wet stuff. Form the tots using whatever mold you can come up with. Jenn used a small ice cream scoop. I use a napkin ring and press them with the top end of a caper jar (it fits perfectly into the ring). Refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes so that they firm up.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the tots on the sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn them over and bake 5 more minutes. Switch the oven to broil and move a rack to the top position. Broil the tots 2 minutes per side until well-browned. Be sure to leave the oven door ajar so that the heating element doesn’t cycle off and on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Maple-glazed ham

This was a comforting and tasty meal. The sides include braised curly endive with tasso ham and a condiment of homemade kim chi. You read that right, kim chi. The 3 ingredients married very well. The potato salad was an excellent palate cleanser to balance between the greens and the salty, slightly sweet ham.

A nice slice – shown whole, and with the fat and bone trimmed out.

I’d been wracking my brain (hard to do sometimes) for new ideas. The wok smoker has me slavering for more smokey protein. I’ve seen recipes on the net for both pork chops and chicken (and of course salmon). But, for the moment, I went with one of those nice ham slices you can get in any supermarket. This couldn’t be easier.

Maple-glazed ham
1 ham slice, about 1 1/4 lbs.
1 tsp unsalted butter
maple syrup
black pepper

Remove the little round bone from the ham and trim it of most or all of its fat. To do so you will be reducing it to various sized pieces. No matter.

Heat the butter in the pan over medium-low heat until the butter has melted. In the meantime, brush the top of the ham pieces with maple syrup and sprinkle them with pepper. Put the ham in the pan glazed side up. After 3 minutes, turn the ham and glaze the top side and add pepper. Continue warming it for 3 more minutes. That’s all. Serve and enjoy.


The NY Times has a feature in the Sunday magazine every month or so called “Recipe Redux”. They will reprint a recipe from (sometimes) many years ago and then do an update with a prominent NYC chef. It’s quite interesting and leads me to today’s posting.

Our old friend, David, gave us this family recipe 25 or so years ago. It’s basically sloppy joe mix, but done in a fashion that’s super quick. Peter and I think we made it once long, long ago. Having some miscellaneous cuts of beef on hand I got a hankering for a sloppy joe. Here’s David’s super quick version followed by my take on the idea. The name is David’s old family moniker. He probably told us where it came from, but who remembers that far back?

1 lb. ground beef – browned
Mix together:
2/3 cup catsup
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp mustard

Simmer mixture 5 minutes, add beef, serve on hamburger rolls.

Gooflop Redux
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ large red onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef – made from whole cuts
1/3 cup catsup
6 oz. tomato sauce
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup low salt V-8 or tomato juice

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add beef and brown well.

Add all remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spicy Supercrunchy Fried Chicken

I put off posting this morning in the hope that more folks would see the most recent one, Wok-smoked salmon. But got to move on.
It’s been our tradition for a few years to make real fried chicken for the 4th. A recipe from our collection (page 75, which means it’s from the ‘80’s) has been our go to. It was by Mark Bittman, known as “The Minimalist”. I find just one serious flaw with his approach. It has to do with how the flour gets added. I did it his way and will print it in its original form, but next time I’ll dredge the chicken in the flour and not toss it by hand. It got a bit pasty. Still tasted really good.

I also like that it’s shallow frying which doesn’t require too much oil. If it looks a bit over brown, it was. However, it did not taste burned. I guess I really succeeded in getting the oil hot! Also, as usual, I brined my chicken, but it's optional for you.

Spicy Supercrunchy Fried Chicken
1 chicken cut into serving pieces, or 8 to 10 leg and thigh pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp curry powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tbsp minced garlic (or garlic powder to taste)
cayenne pepper to taste
1 egg
1 cup flour
vegetable oil
lemon or lime wedges for garnish

In a bowl, toss chicken with salt, pepper, curry, allspice, garlic, cayenne, egg and 2 tbsp water. Add flour and toss with your hands to coat thoroughly. Let sit while you heat oil; at this point chicken can marinate, refrigerated, for up to a day. It’s advisable to let the chicken come to room temp before cooking.

Use your widest skillet. Add oil to a depth of ½”. Heat over medium high (6 of 10 on my range). When a pinch of flour sizzles instantly in the oil, it’s ready. Turn heat to high (8 of 10). Cook chicken in batches. Add the pieces slowly so as not to drop the oil’s temp. Cover skillet, reduce heat to medium high, and cook for 7 minutes.

Uncover skillet, turn chicken and cook for another 7 minutes. Turn again and cook for up to 5 minutes to an internal temp of 160 degrees. Turn as necessary to even the browning. Remove to paper towels and let rest a few minutes or longer. Any temp for serving is fine. Serve with lemon or lime garnish.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wok-smoked salmon

I can see from my watch list that we’re mostly taking a break to deal with holiday festivities, which I assume means some major league cooking. Me, too. I started on Friday by making a stir-fry using some skirt steak I got at an excellent price. I won’t post that ‘cause I’ve done a couple of similar stir fries recently.

However, last night I ventured into uncharted (for me) territory: smoking salmon in my wok. This isn’t my recipe. It’s adapted from the Cooking Channel program “Chuck’s Day Off”. I changed the ingredients of the marinade slightly, subbing in some maple syrup instead of white sugar. Safeway was selling wild-caught Pacific Northwest salmon at 1/2 price!

I also altered the methodology somewhat. Chuck called for dissolving the marinade ingredients in hot water and then putting the salmon into it. I didn’t like that idea. I figured the salmon would start cooking. So I let the marinade come to room temp first. The package of mesquite wood chips said to soak in water for 30 minutes. Chuck indicated just to pour a ½ cup water over the chips in the wok. I went with the package directions.

Chuck wants you to marinate the salmon overnight. I only had 3 ½ hours. I suspect there would be an even greater depth of flavor with a longer time, but the taste and texture of the final product was so astounding as to be mind-boggling.

Home-smoked salmon
3 cups hot water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
4 tbsp kosher or coarse salt
2 4-6 oz. salmon filets, skin-on
1 to 2 cups mesquite wood chips
olive oil and lemon juice for garnish

Dissolve the first 5 ingredients in the hot water and let it cool to room temperature. Put the marinade and the salmon into a non-reactive container and weigh the salmon down so that it stays submerged. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove salmon from marinade and discard the liquid. Rinse salmon under cold water briefly to remove excess salt. Put it on a rack, skin side down, for 1 hour until it is completely dry. Do not pat dry.

Soak the wood chips (any flavor you like) for 30 minutes in water.

Prepare wok smoker: Lay 2 layers of foil in the bottom of the wok to protect the pan from getting charred. Add 2 handfuls of wood chips and place it over high heat. (8 on my ranges 1-10 dial. Once the smoke gets really going you can reduce to 6.) Position a bamboo steamer over the top of the chips, and set the salmon fillets inside.

Cover the wok with a lid or foil and let the salmon smoke for 20-30 minutes, or until its flesh is firm to the touch, and its edges are brown, crusted and caramelized.

Remove salmon from the wok, remove the skin if you wish (I did), and transfer to serving plates. Drizzle with olive oil to garnish and serve with a salad.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Home-ground beef

An excellent post appeared among the blogs I follow. It’s at Mel offers numerous and right on the money tips for making the perfect burger.

I’m going to amplify on it with a brief discussion of making burgers starting with whole pieces of beef. Why do that? Simple. I am a bit paranoid about the idea of buying supermarket ground beef, what with all the scares over the years. You can, of course, cook your beef well done, but I like bright pink to almost red in the middle of mine.

The first picture is of a bone-in chuck steak. Bacteria on a whole piece of meat will only be on the outside. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Drop the beef in and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Remove the bones and cut the meat (including all the fat, but not any gristly sections) into strips. I then use my Mixmaster’s grinding attachment with the fine blade. The gray from the outside will disappear.

So, you don’t have a grinder with your mixer? Use your food processor. Cut the meat into 1” pieces and pulse it in the processor until you get the texture you want.

It is now safe to cook as rare as you like.

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