Monday, November 7, 2016
I like hot sandwiches better than cold ones, usually. (exceptions: peanut butter and jam, tuna fish) And the Rueben is one of my very favorites. It has all the good stuff in it. And I even make an exception to my usual non-interest in rye bread for this goodie.
I was reading through the book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, (Jennifer Reese) when I decided to follow her directions for making some for dinner. I've only had them while eating out, but this time I'd make them myself. What was interesting was her recipe for Russian Dressing, which apparently is supposed to be used, not Thousand Island. But NOT the commercial stuff, a recipe that turned out to taste a lot like Thousand Island, but way better.
Unfortunately, We scarfed them up before I remembered to take a picture.
All gone. But to make up for it, I'll tell you what to do and give you the recipe for the Russian Dressing!
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Catsup
1 1/2 teaspoons horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon sweet pickle relish
Fresh ground black pepper
Stir everything together and taste for salt.
You can use corned beef or pastrami.
Warm a pile of thin slices in a skillet. Butter one side of a slice of rye bread and put it butter side down on a hot skillet or panini pan. Pile some drained sauerkraut on the bread. (And if you want a great rueben instead of just a good one, use homemade kraut!) Spread a generous dollop of dressing on the kraut, pile the meat on that, and then top with a slice of swiss (I used provolone) cheese. Lay another slice of rye, buttered side out, on it all, and when it's brown or crispy on the bottom bread, flip it. You can lay something sort of heavy on the sandwich to press it down on itself.
You'll like it, believe me!
Saturday, October 22, 2016
There are many ways to try to keep lettuce nice for several days in the 'fridge. When I buy "floppy greens," I like to get them in the plastic clamshells if I'm going to be dipping out of it over the week. Many years ago, I had a Tupperware brand Iceberg lettuce bowl. It was rounded, with a domed lid that snapped on over the top. It was ok, but it was sort of tall, and didn't seem to fit well in some of the shelves, plus you couldn't stick anything on top of it. And since the lettuce went down in the bowl, you always felt you had to wash it after use, even if it seemed clean. It was expensive.
Sometimes I use plastic twist-tie "bread sacks" for my cleaned lettuce. But a head of iceberg is just a bit too big, and sliding romain in and out isn't as nice as all that. There is always some moisture, and you don't want the leaves lying in that.
And then I had the serendipity of finishing the last piece of a grocery store bakery cake at the same time I was looking for something to put my head of lettuce in.
I'm telling you, it couldn't be more perfect! The groves in the bottom piece collect moisture and keep it off the leaves. It's like a little terrarium, keeping the atmosphere damp enough to keep the leaves crisp. There seems to be a lot less browning of the cut ends too. The size is perfect, the lid snaps on securely enough, but pops right off when you work it. You can stash a small plate on top if you need to, and the dome never touches the lettuce inside. And it's free, if you buy a cake! A good reason to buy cake. If you need one.
Friday, October 21, 2016
I am going to postpone more "Masters of the Grill" blog entries until I have my winter grill set-up accomplished. Until then, I think I will turn my attention to Savory Soups and Succulent Sandwiches.
What is your favorite sandwich?
When I was a kid, we used to stop by the little grocery on the way home from church and buy stuff for lunch. Usually, that was a loaf of bread, a pound of bologna from the meat counter, a quart bottle of Pepsi, a bag of mini-tacos (bygone tortilla chips), a foil pack of French onion dip mix, a carton of sour cream, a package of cookies (either Hey Days, Nut Goodies, Lorna Doone, striped shortbread, or Mother's Iced Oatmeal), and the Sunday edition of the Fresno Bee, with the color comics. I used to make a sandwich with two slices of white bread, mustard, a slice of Bologna, and a layer of chips pressed next to the bologna.
Probably the best thing that ever happened to me and sandwiches is my discovery of Real Mayonnaise. I used to think Miracle Whip was mayo, and I didn't like it. I thought it tasted sickly. And then when I had my first mayo, it was like an angel choir sang! I dumped mustard and took to slathering mayonnaise on everything.
But, back to judging what the Best Sandwich Ever could be. And one contender, that is somewhat lowly, but is sublime, is the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich.
I know that lots of people start adding extra stuff, like pickles and cheese, to this little masterpiece, but I say, Nay! It is perfect the way it is. And yes, that is iceberg lettuce. I went the floppy greens route, sneering at that "tasteless iceberg" for many years, until I realized I was just being a snob, and that I really did like iceberg lettuce, the mild flavor and the great big crunch.
I used center-cut, thick, peppered bacon, but it really doesn't matter all that much what type of bacon you use. Bacon is good. All bacon is good. Bacon is the King of Meat. Bacon makes everything else taste better. Unless it is rancid. When we bought a pound of bacon, when I was a kid, we COOKED that bacon! We fried that bacon up! Maybe if only one person was eating, a few pieces would be left in the package for a pot of beans the next day, but there was no such thing as leftover bacon from one shopping trip to the next. My grandmother, however, hoarded her bacon. When we stayed over, and we were to be blessed with bacon and eggs, or a BLT, the flat package would come out of the meat drawer, opened up, and one or two thin pieces would be carefully peeled off and laid to fry in the black cast iron skillet. It might be several weeks, a month, or more when the bacon came out again. I began to notice that Grandma's bacon had a different flavor than our bacon. More, well, oldish tasting. Mom suggested that it might be "rancid." Although the bacon didn't taste nice, the word did, and I relished adding it to my vocabulary.
It is a sad day when you have used up the last one of your homegrown tomatoes, because that is the last day that you can make a BLT. It is too much a waste to go to the effort when the tomatoes are less than homegrown-good. Summer's tomatoes, straight from the vine to the cutting board are required. I like to get about two thick slices out of an average size tomato, red, juicy, and exploding with acid-sweetness, lightly salted with kosher salt. Also needed, a big napkin for the juiciness and a fork for getting the pieces that fall out.
I think I lean towards sourdough bread for a BLT. Usually, I just have part of a sourdough french loaf from the day before, so I cut a couple of round pieces off the end, thicker or thinner, depending on my hunger level. And then I treat the bread specially for my tastes. I toast one side very lightly. That is the outside. I toast one side darkly. That is the inside. I like crunchy toast, but if it's one the outside, it scrapes the inside of my mouth.
So there you have it! What do you think? How do you make a BLT?
Monday, September 5, 2016
All the other messing around with recipes is really just a prologue to the real stuff - Pulled Pork. Ahh, the delicious smokiness of a pile of shredded pork, random pieces of the well-seasoned, salty, black bark strewn about like flakes of gold in a pan of black sand, and two choices of homemade sauce to slop over your portion of steaming goodness! Enough salivating; let's get to work.
The reason I am interested in this recipe is the shortened time needed. I have made smoked, pulled pork in my old Webber before, taking the full 10 hours to cook it. It was divine, but I want to see if making it easier cuts down on quality. This recipe has you finish it in the oven. I have read from several sources that say to put your smoke in at the front end, that after the first couple hours, it doesn't necessarily help, and can hurt the flavor.
You can see that I have laid everything out on my newest kitchen helper - wide freezer wrap, shiny side up.
It calls for a "4-5 lb boneless butt roast." What's the deal with the boneless part? Bone-in, baby! This one was 5.5 lbs. It called for a fairly simple rub; 2 parts paprika, pepper, brown sugar, and one part salt. I like to use disposable gloves to handle this part of the process. I HATE getting the moist rub (especially when there is paprika and chili powder) in and around my fingernails! Yuck!
Again, the book calls for the wood chips to be soaked, packeted in foil with slits cut across the top. Then you lay them across the coals. The meat goes on the cool side.
After an hour, I wasn't all that happy with the amount of smoke I had seen curling out of the vents. It just didn't seem like enough, to suit me. After two hours, about when they say to put it in the oven, I ripped a packet open, and saw..... Unburned wood chips!!! Grrr! So that is that with the chip packets. I don't trust them, I don't like them, a waste of foil, unpredictable, even if they are more tidy. From now on, it's wood on coals! I dumped the chips on top of the (still hot) briquettes.
I left it there for about another three hours.
The smoky aroma filled the house. The bark was beautifully dark, but not burnt.
The meat fell apart, succulent and juicy.
I set out the condiments. (Plus some grilled vegetables.)
The recipe came with two sauce recipes. The mustard-based South Carolina one was such a hit with my husband, that I suspect I will have to just keep a jar in the fridge for topping various foods; meats, zucchini, pancakes, frosted mini wheats, whatever. I liked best the Lexington Barbecue sauce, which is a mostly vinegar base sauce, with a bit of ketchup, pepper flakes, pinch of salt, pepper and little sugar.
I have to say, that for me, I see no reason to fiddle with the Webber all day long to do pulled pork any more. This is the way to do it!
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Well, enough of salmon on the grill! Ok, just one more. (When I think of the word "Salmon," I have a word association with "Samlon," the aquatic species in the book, Legacy of Heorot. If you like SciFi, you'll like it."
This recipe looked cute, so that's why I decided to try it. I've never planked a fish before. This one looked more accessible to me. I bought some flash-frozen wild sockeye, enough for the three of us. I also decided to cook it on my little Q Webber gas grill. No reason to haul out the big guns for a little project like this one.
Instead of using lemon zest and pepper, I minced up pieces of my preserved lemons to go along with the pepper and oil.
I made up the little foil boats and cut slits in the bottom. Soaked wood chips were to go in them, with the fish nestled on top.
Right away, a meat bee approached and became obnoxious!
I electrocuted him.
I treat fish like soufflé. Everything else waits on the fish. So I went ahead and skewered some mushrooms and zucchini (inspired by a previous MOG recipe), and took some leftover cooked corn on the cob and slathered it with ranch dressing to sear a little. A little sourdough boule wrapped in foil awaits its turn.
The fish is on, the heat is high. So where's the smoke?
Waiting for some wisps of smoke.
The chips never got with the program. I guess it was just too short a time to get them going.
The dinner was delicious. We also had steamed fresh spinach with sautéed onions. The fish was... Ok. Honestly, I like baked salmon. And it's a breeze to do, and get cooked perfectly. So from now on, I'll stick to other critters, like shrimp, if I want to grill seafood.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
I remembered about halfway through making this chicken recipe that some time back I had decided not to make kebabs any more, and why. I am sure there are reasons why one would go through the process of cutting up pieces of food, thread them onto metal spears, flip them around trying to cook them evenly, and then just slide them off onto a plate to eat them, when one could throw big chunks right on on the grill and then cut them up on the plate. Perhaps you are camping and there is no grill handy, so the food goes on a stick, or perhaps you are camping and forgot the plates and have to eat the food directly off the stick. Anyway, this recipe looked good, and fairly quick and easy, and I forgot what I decided about not doing kebabs.
The problem with the effort these took mostly lay in the fact I had determined to follow the recipe in the book. If I had been making this up as I went, I would have decided to go Greek, and said, "Tzatziki sauce, ok, a bunch of Greek yogurt, some lemon juice and garlic and salt to taste, and then stir in some cukes. Hmm, let's see, what sounds Greek for a marinade? Olive oil, lemon juice, and let's see what green herbs sound good. Guess I better light the coals!" Instead I was jumping around all over the page following the specific instructions for each part of this recipe. Plus going back to the the "why this recipe works" intro for those specific little bits that aren't tucked into the recipe itself.
I had never brined anything before, and this looked like an easy way to check it out. It called for boneless skinless breasts, which I wouldn't have used because they would likely have gotten dry and maybe overcooked on the grill.
After they had almost been in the required 30 minutes, I saw that they were supposed to already be cut up in 1" chunks. So I did that and threw them back in the brine for a while longer. Meanwhile, I made up the oily marinade.
It called for minced parsley. I went ahead and got Italian flat parsley since I already knew I didn't much care for the regular stuff. Turns out I don't care for this either. The odor is sort of strong and medicinal, and bitter. Just like the other parsley, only a little more tender. So I measured out and put in the small amount it called for, even though I had a big bunch that was going in the trash after this.
Mixing up the sauces, re-checking which ingredients went into which one, handling the raw chicken like toxic waste to keep from contaminating anything with germs, and my kitchen was getting pretty messy. Plus my lemon kept squirting juice from the squeezer on the pages of my cookbook. I had to wipe it down with a damp rag so that when I closed the book they wouldn't stick together. So now I'll always be able to find this page, since it's wrinkly and curled.
One thing I retained from my previous kebab days was the habit of putting the different things on different skewers. I like the better control of the cooking process. Even if the book says to do it the other way.
Onto the hot coals! Instead of piling them on one side, I left the hot spot in the middle and moved the sticks off to the side when they needed slower heat. I used an instant read thermometer to make sure I didn't cook them a minute longer than necessary.
Aren't these skewers the cutest? Plus, they are flat so the food doesn't twirl around when you turn them over.
My sister gave them to me, and each one is different.
I had more chicken than I needed for the recipe, so I did a second batch slathered with leftover home made pesto.
The pita bread is wrapped in foil. I followed the instructions to sprinkle a bit of water between two of the four breads to soften them as they steam. Grocery store pita can be sort of inflexible and dry.
I made the dressing following the recipe, except I couldn't bring myself to use chopped mint. I like mint in mojitos and tea. Not food. I pinched in a little oregano to make up for the omission.
In the end, they were very delicious. The chicken was moist and tender, and the seasonings all complemented each other. And I used little foil squares like the illustration to keep the Tzatziki off my hands.
See? Looks just like the picture! (Except I used yellow onions instead of red. Always changing something!
Saturday, August 27, 2016
My aim is to have fish on Fridays. Fish is supposed to be good for you, especially salmon, and we have a great meat market, so I like to try to do that. This little recipe seemed worth a try. Fish wants to fall apart on a grill, so the method the book comes up with makes me want to try it.
You make little foil pans for each piece of the fillet to ride in as it sizzles and makes grill marks through the foil.
I went to R&R Meat and Seafood Market and got a nice fillet of fresh coho salmon. The directions said to pull out the pin bones, which I usually do anyway, and to skin it. It was not as easy to cut the fillet off the skin as I'd thought it would be, especially since I was trying not to abandon even a sliver of $10 a pound salmon on the discarded skin.
The thin edges, I just left the meat on the skin and planned on cooking them on a foil, as is.
The sauce, I found intriguing. I called for 1/2 c jalapeño jelly, 1/2 c packed cilantro, 2 scallions ( I used a shallot, since that is what I had) 2 garlic cloves, 1 t grated lime zest, 2 T lime juice, and 2 T butter. You blenderize everything except the butter, heat it to barely a simmer, take out a quarter cup of sauce and set aside, then stir in the butter to the rest of the sauce. The small amount of sauce gets spread over the fillets as you lay them in their little foil boats.
The grill gets a pile of hot coals in the middle.
The boats get laid. On top of the coals, of course!
They cook and sizzle smartly for about five minutes, supposedly getting crispy and brown on the bottom. Then you are supposed to turn them over with tongs, coat them with half the rest of the sauce and move the boats to the cooler edges to finish cooking.
It didn't go as smoothly as I'd wish. Fish is so delicate and quick-cooking. Because of the sugar in the glaze (from the jelly) it did want to blacken a bit, so when you saw the burned edges under the fish, you wanted to check the underside. But then you saw it wasn't crispy yet, just steamed looking. And the coals were really hot for hanging over it with tongs. So I moved them around and messed with them until I was as satisfied as I thought I could be.
So I pulled them off the grill and served them with a mushroom and homemade pesto linguini my son fixed up for me.
They were ok. I wasn't prepared for how sweet they would be. We all agreed that the cilantro came through loud and clear. They were nice and we ate them all up. But my personal opinion was that they were too sweet for my taste, the flavors in the sauce were too busy arguing with each other to meld and get along on the palate. And the fuss of making them on the grill was much more than the reward was. I think I'll try one more salmon recipe I see in this book, and then I'll probably go back to just cooking my salmon fillets in the oven.
Friday, August 26, 2016
"Introducing White Barbeque sauce."
Well, that sounded intriguing. And I had one chicken left from the twin pack I had bought the day before. I liked the idea of the smoke too, so I bit.
Page 242 in Masters of the Grill, from America's Test Kitchen.
There were a few new things to do in this recipe. One was to halve the chicken. I have butterflied one before, but not cut it completely in half. It was a cinch. I went ahead and removed the keel bone along with the backbone.
Guess what, it is basically creamy salad dressing. I love mayonnaise and could eat it out of the jar with a spoon, but I'm iffy on creamy salad dressings. 3/4 c. Mayo, 2 T cider vinegar, 2 t sugar, 1/2 t horseradish, salt, pepper, and cayenne (again, I used chipotle powder). Blenderize it and stick it in the fridge while you get everything else ready.
Now here's a thing I hadn't really done before (well, maybe once years ago, but I don't remember it well). You make a smoking packet. Soaked chips get folded up in foil and and then you poke a couple slits in the top only, not the bottom. When your coals are ready, you drop it on top of one side of the briquette piles.
For the chicken, you rub the halves over with a small mixture of spices. Salt, pepper, cayenne (chipotle). Now the idea is that the chicken, having more exposed meat by being split in half, will absorb more seasoning and smoke.
Here's where we use that "disposable foil pan" otherwise known as a piece of heavy duty foil with the sides turned up under the chicken, in the "cool" area. Put the chicken skin side down and cook until you get about 120 degrees at the thigh, about a half hour.
Uh Oh. I was supposed to open the bottom vents half way. The view from the top was all covered with foil and flames. The bottom was pretty hard to make out, with all the stuff in the way. I need to get a sharpie and make a mark where half way is, since I am sure I will forget to check it in the future also.
The recipe actually called for two chickens, but I just used the one I had. So now I have sauce ( otherwise known as "creamy salad dressing") left over.
So you are wondering, where does the sauce come in? That's where we have a glitch in the recipe, I believe. The actual directions don't even mention it until the very end, where you "brush chicken with remaining sauce, carve, and serve." You have to read back to the intro to the recipe where it says they "coated the chicken with (the sauce). The chickens were basted in this sauce two times during cooking..." I wasn't sure. Was I supposed to coat the chicken before I even put it on the grill? Well, I didn't because at first I was following the recipe directions.
So now I'm gettin' some sauce on. I flipped the chicken halves and slathered them. The sauce is kind of melty and boily on the surface. For the first half hour the smoke steadily poured out of the foil pack, and now it seems about petered out. I used mesquite chips. I am most fond of hickory, but I feel that is pretty strong for chicken, and prefer mesquite over hickory here.
I didn't care for the look of the sauce on top of that once crispy skin, so I briefly laid them over directly on the coals to get a quick sear.
I slathered again and kept them skin side up, still on indirect heat until the instant read thermometer read 175 at the thigh, about another 15 minutes. Seemed a shame to waste the coals, so I split some Chinese eggplant, oiled and seasoned them, and cooked them up on the hot briquettes.
Don't they look incredible?
And they were the most delicious little poultry pieces I think I've ever had. Juicy, smoky, savory.
I think that I won't worry too much about what sort of white creaminess I use next time; some mayo, some vinegar, salt, pepper, etc, but the way I cooked them was really a success. And next time I'll slather it on before I even put them on the grill and see what that does.
I will definitely put a star on this page!
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
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.