Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MOG - Bone-in Chicken Parts, and Butternut Squash

I had the wild idea that I would plod through the book, doing each item in turn, sort of like Julie and Julia, as she works her way through Julia Child's French cookbook. But, nah! I'll be picking and choosing. Today it was chicken, even though chicken is 66 pages into the book. I've done chicken parts on the grill before but I'm always hoping for new tricks.

First, the Butternut Squash. I like it and am always looking for new and nice ways to eat it. You takes your squish, and you cleans it out and then you peels it with a knife (or fat vegetable peeler). Make sure you get all that whitish fibrous layer under the rind. Slice into half inch thick slices and simmer for about 4 or 5 minutes, until tender but firmish. The cooking on the grill is just to heat them and give them a nice finish. Dip them out of the water and drain, then drizzle/toss some oil on them, and sprinkle some salt and herbs and stuff on them. Then you can just set them aside until you're ready to cook them.

Now, back to the chicken.

I do enjoy cutting up chicken! A nice sharp knife and the knowledge of exactly where to cut makes me feel clever. I made all my kids learn too, so the wouldn't be at the mercy of the precut parts in the grocery store with all their little bone pieces and odd sizes.

Now here is a true side-note. There was a recipe for making portabella burgers, so I thought, all that grill space, why not kill THREE birds with one stone? So I bought one mushroom and prepared it. It said to scrape the gills out for better flavor. I'd never done that before. It did make it look more attractive.

Now back to the chicken.

I made up one of the suggested dry rub recipes, Tex-Mex Spice rub. It makes more than you need, so I get to use it again. 1/4 cup ground cumin (I lightly toast and grind my own cumin seeds), 2T chili powder (I use the mild Pasilla from the packets in the Mexican food aisle), 2T ground coriander (see cumin), 2T dried oregano (I was short so I used half thyme), 2T garlic powder (I always use granulated), 4t kosher salt (I used around 3), 2t unsweeetened cocoa powder (I guess because of the mole sauce connection), 1t cayenne (I substituted 2t of chipotle chili powder, to get some flavor with the heat).

As you gaze upon this pile of seasoned chicken parts, I beg you to notice the white paper underneath. OMG! Why didn't I think this up before? It is Reynolds freezer paper, the same stuff you get your cuts wrapped in from the butcher. It is tough, plasticized on one side, super wide and comes in a big honking roll, pretty cheap at Winco. I used to use paper plates or waxed paper when I didn't want to have to wash a cutting board or a countertop or baking sheet after dealing with raw meat, oils, or seasonings. And when you get your foods ready, you can wrap them up in it and stick it in the fridge to await your fire. (I'm thinking of getting my kids a roll of it for Christmas)

So apparently, putting a foil pan between the piles of coals helps even out the temp and lower it a bit. (Along with catching the greasy drippings) I didn't want to trash my last foil pan, so I just made one out of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Waiting on the coals seemed like a good time to tap the latest brewski. A mild little saison I made a few weeks ago to get back in the groove. Cheers!

It's interesting how the directions called for me to cook them exactly opposite of my previous way. I used to brown the pieces over a center pile of coals and then set them off to the side to finish cooking. Here, you arrange them in the cooler middle, and then after a set amount of time, you move them over on top of the coals to brown. One advantage to this way is that there were much less flare-ups. Some of the first fat rendered off onto the foil at the beginning so I didn't have to deal with it during the browning.

Once the chicken registered done according to the instant read thermometer, I moved it to the middle and cooked the rest of the food. (The foil packet is a hunk of sourdough) One problem I had was the the coals were already too cool to do the squash like I wanted. I stirred them up, which gave me a little blast of heat that helped. I guess I might have used more coals. Even though it feels wasteful, it is ALWAYS better to have a few too many than too few!

I cut the mushroom up with a pizza cutter into wedges for a side. I liked it without the gills. Less "wet" and gross-looking, and good flavor.

Dinner is served!

Everyone pronounced it very good.

Monday, August 22, 2016

MOG - Burgers for Everyone, pg 6

I was surprised to see that the first item in the book, Great Backyard Burgers, call for an internal temperature of only 120 degrees for medium rare! I just don't trust rare hamburger that much, and I thought it was universal by now. But the instructions for the burgers on the next page are led by "These days, many backyard cooks prefer grilling burgers to medium-well and beyond." Yup! This recipe is for me! But the problem is, as they explain, that when you cook them through, they can end up dry and tough. The rescue is a "panade," a mixture of starch and liquid. You will recognize one form of that as ingredients in meatloaf. But I didn't think about the science of the thing. "Starches from the bread absorb the liquid from the mild to form a gel that coats and lubricates the protein molecules in the meat...keeping them moist and preventing them from linking together and shrinking in to a tough matrix."

The other suggestion I followed in this recipe was to use 80 (lean) 20 (fat) ground beef, rather than the 85/15 I usually buy. It's America's Test Kitchen, after all, and they said it won the taste tests!


I doubled the recipe. After all, who goes to the trouble of a charcoal grill for 4 burgers?

A couple pieces of white bread, crusts removed, mashed in a bowl with a quarter cup milk. About a tablespoon and a half of steak sauce - Whoops! no steak sauce in the fridge, so I used a couple teaspoons Worchestershire sauce and a couple teaspoons sweet barbeque sauce. Add in a couple of minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon or so of black pepper, and a teaspoon of salt. ( I always reduce the salt in these kinds of recipes by about a third, which seems to work best for my tastes.)


Then you sort of fluff the meat in to the mix. Sort of mixing, but not heavy-handed. Finally, to do it right I had to abandon the fork and do it the old fashioned way, with my fingers.


Then, as the directions say, you lightly toss each portion from hand to hand, into a ball, then gently flatten. Sort of fun. My husband was amused, and it made a satisfying plopping sound. The last thing to be done was to press a dimple in the middle.

The dimple works. I've noticed this from before. If you don't make a dimple, the burger puffs up like a flying saucer in the middle. Because the bottom and sides are both cooking at once, the sides compress the middle like a belt, squishing the burger up towards the path of least resistance, the top.

Meanwhile... The grill. Because my fancy new Weber has a gas canister starter for the coals, I didn't need a chimney, just dumped them in and sparked the gas. The pile of coals, when ready, went onto one side of the grill, for maximum heat.


There was lots of flamin' and searin' going on, and I was careful to keep an eye out for total conflagration, but it seemed to be ok. Once both sides were quite dark and crusty, I did move them over off the briquettes to finish cooking a bit. I plated them when the instant read thermometer read 140-145, as per directions, even though I saw some pinkness. (Slide it in sort of top and sideways to get maximum temperature reading exposure)


A few seasoned zucchini slices went on with the last batch.


By the time we were ready to eat, all the pink had disappeared and the juices weren't boiling anymore. The burgers were dark and crusty, and tender and moist. They were also quite thick. Although I had some trouble keeping some of the burgers together when I turned and moved them around on the grill, now they were sticking together well enough.

They were seasoned just right. At first it seemed like I should really have gone to town with the spices during the mixing, but I realized this was a better way, to let the flavor of the beef, the char, and the condiments shine. And I'd have to say, some of the best burgers I've had!

MOG - "Masters of the Grill" series

Not long ago I got a fantastic new Barbeque, a deluxe Weber on its own stand. I ran across this book at Barnes and Noble, and I was perusing it, a friend who had also just bought an identical grill to mine, walked up to say hi. Under his arm were a couple of grilling manuals he was considering. I knew it was a sign for me to take my barbecuing up to the next level.

I bought the book and decided to go through it, as thoroughly as reasonable, and blog about my results. Therefore, let the MOG begin!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ye Olde Porke Pie

I saw a reference to a raised English traditional pork pie on Facebook the other day, and I dreamily considered how much better everything tastes when it's between two crusts. I'm always interested in historic and ethnic types of foods also, and when I was a Civil War reenactor, most of my "letters home" contained references to pork pies. So I thought it seemed like to right thing to actually make one myself.

I'm not going to give the recipe here, you can look it up if you want to make one yourself. But I'm thinking you can enjoy this one vicariously through me.

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie

The filling: The filling is minced, seasoned pork, in this case, boneless shoulder. I used my food processor to make quick work of that.


The strange thing is that it is plopped down into the crust without any sauce. But what you do is, after you bake it like that, you pour the jelly through a little hole cut in the top crust to fill in all the empty spaces. Then it is left to chill in the refrigerator. This pie is intended to be eaten cold, as a sort of picnic food, so the jelly stays set up until you eat it. They suggest that you can use a packet of gelatin, but since they gave instructions for the traditional pork jelly, of course I had to try that.

So you do know what makes the jelly part of the broth?

They call them trotters over there. I guess we just call them "feet."

The crust is also different from what you might be used to. It has to stand up to some rough handling so it has to be harder than a tender flaky pie crust like we are used to. Using hot water and doing some kneading does the trick.. It called for a huge amount of lard, which I luckily had from never getting around to making those tamales back in December.

Just working with all that hot greasy lardy stuff made me suspect I wouldn't be craving a bite of the pie for a few days.

The traditional way is to use a "pie dolly" to build up the straight sides of the crust. It won't need further support, and the way you can tell for this method is if there is a little slump at the sides. I used a straight sided jar covered in plastic wrap for my form.

At the same time I also made a mini pie in a custard cup, sort of a tester.

Big meat wad gets dropped into the crust.

I sealed the lid on top and brushed beaten egg all over it.

And then I cut the little hole on top for the pouring of the jelly, to be accomplished later on.


The pies are done! I tested with a meat thermometer, just to be sure. After they cooled down, I poured the jelly in the holes. It didn't take all that much, I guess the meat didn't shrink as much as I thought it might.

The next day, I cut the little one open. Isn't it pretty! And it really was pretty tasty. The crust didn't seem as greasy and lardy as it had while I was cooking it. In fact, it seemed to be pretty much like a commercial crust. Which is scary, since it makes you realize how much fat is likely in them and you don't realize it. I felt free to leave all the crust on the plate that I didn't feel like eating, knowing that it really is mostly a carrier for the contents, like the trenchers of old.

After eating it cold for a few days, I heated a piece up in the microwave. That was also tasty. The jelly melted and softened up the bottom crust and made it taste nice and porky.

So there you have it. It was interesting making it, and also eating it. Cork even liked it. Which surprised him.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Shawarma-Like Chicken

Have you ever seen those towering posts of meat chunks all piled together, slowly roasting in their spices and juices at a Mediterranean eatery?

The other day I had a sample of "Shawarma Fries," and Shawarma rice bowls. I purposed to go home and fix up some kind of seasoned meat that would be similar.

Sometimes you get a little bored with all the seasonings you usually use. Not that you quit liking them, but you need something exciting once in awhile! This direction seemed fun. I looked in my cookbooks but didn't see anything right off, so I turned to my next source, the Internet. I found a good looking recipe on a food blog that I have used before.

The marinade was nicely interesting, and I had good hopes. A little nervous with the amount of cinnamon, but trust me, it works. You use a couple pounds of boneless skinless chicken, half thighs and half breasts, or all thighs if you want. I thought it was a humorous how she sort of begs you pretty-please DON'T use all breasts; they don't have enough fat in them to work right. I remember when the breasts used to be the premium cut of the chicken and cost a lot, but now it's the thighs!

I marinated overnight. Then you cut them into about 3 pieces and bake them for about 15 minutes on a baking sheet. She also gives the option of roasting over a BBQ for this step, but I saw no advantage.

After you bake them, they are sliced into shawarma-sized strips.

Then here is the interesting part. You sauté the slices in more olive oil until the smallest pieces are crispy. I went ahead and drained them in a colander.


I decided I wanted to make rice bowls, so I cooked up a skillet of rice. I like Basmati rice, so that's what I used. I took the leftover olive oil, seasoned and flavored with drippings, and used it to sauté the rice, a la Rice-a-Roni. Then I salted and watered it and cooked it.


I was really pleased with the results and consider it a "keeper."

I could print out the recipe, but really, you will enjoy making it from her pictures and descriptions much better than just my recipe words.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Facebook cooking

Guest Post by Mel

You know those annoying too-easy-to-be-true, carefully designed to hit maximum brain craving recipes that pop up in Facebook? The ones that encourage you to "make sure you post this to your wall so that you can reference it later!!!!!!!!!!", as if there is one moron left in this world that hasn't figured out that doing so is actually sharing it with like all your gazillion friends who of course want to see the recipe as well as the million memes about *your* pet issue?

But I digress.

It finally happened. I finally had to put this idiocy to the test. Could I totally be missing out on some of the best kept secrets known to (wo)man of how to make succulent cravables in *my* kitchen? Could it be that instead of a shelf full of carefully vetted cookbooks, a binder full of my mother's recipes, and a handful of tried and proven cooking blogs, what I really needed was merely some pretty pictures and emoticons?

Project 1: It's it's onion it's...

Please go ahead and convince me that the product of this recipe isn't meant to evoke the promise of friend onion rings. But then you realize it's APPLES, and CINNAMON and SUGAR.....and well, I was sold.

Not so much when I saw the recipe.  That was an awful lot of of ingredients......

...And a lot of instructions.  That included graduating sizes of biscuit cutters to cut perfect little apple rings. 

Being not-a-food-blogger I don't *own* biscuit cutters and decided that cutting out the core in each apple slice and *not* wasting 75% of my apples just preserving a thin ring was the way to go. 

After making up the batter I belatedly realized it was just a glorified pancake batter, not some sort of fry coating. Ah well. I used plenty of oil in a deep cast iron skillet determined to get that fried coating look of the original picture....and ended up with this....

Fried pancake covered apple rings. That were tossed in a cinnamon sugar mixture.

I'll leave it up to you to make that "as advertised" with "reality" comparison side by side image.

I ate 2 or 3 and threw the rest of way.

Not impressed. Nothing special. Certainly not worth the effort. Lesson learned. For the next needed to be simpler. Trendier. And for goodness sakes not include a list of ingredients and directions that took several screen shots to capture. Because obviously a real facebook recipe should be both cravable AND simple to make for someone with the attention span of......squirrel!

Project 2: I'm craving cinnamon rolls

This recipe was perfect. I found myself on a Saturday morning with a cinnamon roll craving and....a can of biscuits. A couple days prior I had scrolled through a facebook recipe that explained itself in pictures and seemed simple enough while delivering some sort of monkey bread-cinnamon roll experience  that promised to be heaven on earth. It skipped most of the pit falls of the previous recipe, making it clear that anyone with the ability to purchase ingredients and hold it together for 5 or 10 min could in fact make something so unforgettably delicious it would be a Saturday morning staple in my household for all time. As a bonus, it was simple enough I remembered both it AND how to make it DAYS after seeing it.

Getting into the spirit of things, I decided to try my own hand at a little food-blog-picture-taking.

Cut biscuits into pieces. Ignore the dirt on the counters.

Throw into oven safe skillet. Admire how well the black cast iron errr color coordinates with stuff like the black burners. Just like a real food blogger.  Promise yourself to wipe down the oven top....later. 

Heat up an approximate amount of butter. The "recipe" was rather vague on this but the pictures were very helpful and showed 2 sticks. But also a far more vast quantity of biscuits then I possessed. So I compromised on part of a stick. Which was then melted boiled in the microwave until the inside of said microwave was thoroughly buttered. As one does occasionally. 

I dumped in the rest of my cinnamon and sugar mixture I had sitting in the cupboard and declared it good enough and poured it over the top of the little doughy tidbits. 

Now I was a bit concerned since the recipe had shown biscuit chunks positively floating in a primordial soup of butter, cinnamon and sugar while some black color coordinated implement enticed them to swim underneath the surface. 

Mine were merely tossed and dripping like little sun tanners on the beach. But, I swallowed hard and decided that a butter/sugar crack mixture that came half way up the side of the skillet was almost as good. 

I placed in the oven, once again admiring how well my kitchen color coordinated!  

 Tada!!!!!!  Now for the critical part - flipping the monstrosity over. It was made very clear in the recipe, having made it in a bundt pan, that flipping it was critical to quality control.

Voila!  I scraped the rest of the cinnamon sugar tasties out of the bottom of the skillet and dribbled on top. This was looking promising!!!!!

Verdict? ummm....well. It was really buttery. Too buttery to be cinnamon roll. Sorta....meh. So much promise...but on delivery fell short. The biscuit dough was just a carrier which is fine, except there was too much of it not to help deliver with taste. The amount of butter was overwhelming and I was suddenly glad I hadn't sacrificed the entirety of my butter inventory to replicate the primordial soup. Maybe a garlic bread version would have been better. Maybe with copious amounts (more) of cinnamon and sugar it would have been outstanding (what isn't improved with more cinnamon and sugar?). But time I'll just whip up my mother's biscuit no rise cinnamon rolls and have cinnamon rolls. Or buy the can of cinnamon rolls that is sold right next to the biscuits.

Project 3: The one that really did work

I found this not on facebook, but on a google search, armed with a gallon sized bag of raw almonds and the faint recollection that someone once told me almond milk was easy to make. And they were right.

It's easy, delicious, explains itself in pictures, and doesn't require exact measurements.

Make sure you post this on your timeline so you can easily reference it later!!!!!!! ;)

Soak raw almonds in water, enough to cover the almonds, for 1-2 days. Drain. (remind yourself to wipe down your counters...)

Put in blender with twice as much fresh water. The almonds plump during soaking and I use the dry volume of almonds to determine how much water to add. Shown is 1c. almonds (pre soaking) and adding 2 c. water.

Blend to smithereens.

And then blend some more.

Finished unstrained product. 

Lay a cheesecloth across a bowl. Or if you are me and don't own cheese cloth, use a damp (*cleanish....cleaner then my counters I swear!) kitchen towel. 

Squeeze the beejeezus out of it. 

Save or discard the almond fines (can be stored in fridge and used within 2 days, or can be spread and dried on a cookie sheet and used in flour type applications). 

Refrigerate the almond milk and use within 2 days. 

And this recipe is as good as it looks folks, I pinky swear promise. 

***Yes the towel was clean. What do you take me for? An uncivilized heathen who thinks black is the new kitchen coordinating color? ;)