Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grilled Beef Brisket

Not the corned variety...
Just the cut itself. When cooked properly makes a tasty treat and so versatile.

This brisket was destined for a molasses brine and a hot grill.

To be sure, brining isn't something I do on a regular basis. Mostly, I cook everything fast and hot with little patience for brining or marinating or glazing or basting...but sometimes, the day is just right.

Step 1: Brine
In a large stainless bowl I combined slivers of garlic a generous pour of molasses,  salt, pepper, chili flakes and a cup or so of vinegar. This was rubbed about the beef and then water added just until the meat was covered and allowed to rest in the fridge overnight.

Step 2: Cook
This beast went straight to the grill! Braising, no matter the kind, just wouldn't have done it justice. Get your grill SUPER hot first. you really want to get a big sizzle when you throw the cut on to seal in all of the juices. After a few minutes flip it, turn the heat down, and let it cook on. Make sure to check periodically as any fat may burn. Try Try TRY! to handle your meat as little as possible! And ever EVER pierce!

When is it done? I like my beef on the rare side. Use a thermometer if you want to be precise. I rely on the thumb trick. With your palm up squeeze the base joint of your thumb toward the center of your hand. The super squishy part where the flesh between your index and thumb lie is rare, as you travel down to the base (the meaty part of your thumb) toward your wrist it resembles the texture of a more and more well done cut.

With practice, you'll be able to test the doneness of a cut of meat simply by a well placed finger poke. Springy? still red. Well done will be far more firm.

Step 3? Don't forget to let it rest at least 10-15 minutes. It's perhaps the most important part of the whole thing.

Step 4. EAT!!!! (my favorite part)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sandwich Tutorial

There are two things that I am REALLY good at.... make that three. Making sandwiches,  messing up everything else and fixing that mess so that it seemed intentional. I get it from my Momma. (not the sandwich part though)

I would wager that most of my culinary know how came from learning how to fix atrocious muck-ups. My mom was the queen of turning a failed something or other into a work of art....and at accepting the forthcoming compliments as if the dish on the table was exactly as she intended. I learned an extraordinary amount from her.

One of my favorite memories is of the fallen and burned angel food cake we cooked at Papaw's house. OF COURSE it was surely the ovens fault. It could not the screaming toddlers pounding around the house stomping their feet. It could not the anxious peeking into the oven (and slamming of doors to corral those same toddlers). Oh No! it was the OVEN's fault. I can't remember precisely what was done with that cake. Perhaps we ripped out the still good center and served it with fruit and whipped cream? I certainly remember it taking a good deal of time to fan out the smoke from the kitchen.

Enough about that. I love sandwiches!

The trick is in having just the right proportions of everything, the perfect blend of crunchy and soft, not too thick bread and the layers all in the right order! I like to think of a sandwich as a French style of entree plating; where it is combined in a way that lends harmony to the whole and forbids any one element from taking over.

There are those who relish in the gratuitous "big hunk" of something. I for one feel that a sandwich is best experience through the blending of flavors that can only be accomplished through paper thin slices. There are also those who believe a sandwich just isn't right without a thick hearty slice of bread. Bread, methinks can be wonderful. A big hearty slice deserves nothing more complicated than a hearty slab of cheese, a hunk of salami or a slathering of butter! A sandwich however, deserves nonesuch. It is a far more complicated matter. The filling is the centerpiece and the bread simply a carrier.

 1. Seal and season. The spread I used is a mix of mayo, stone ground mustard, and cholula sauce. Seasoned with thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

 2. Layer and add any special flavors. Lettuce should always lie on the bread to protect it from any sog producing juices. Cheese goes on the other bread slice. (or the meat if you don't like cheese--or split the lettuce if you are going for a vegan sammy) Protect the bread at all cost! I've added a bit of balsamic vinegar over the chicken.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beef Sushi!

Who ever said sushi must be made if seafood probably is a stickler for the "rules".

Rules are good but only exist so that you can break them!

Take New England clam chowder for instance.

Here's a new take. BEEF! Sushi! 

Inside: grilled medium rare slivers of molasses brined beef brisket, cucumber, tomato, horseradish cream cheese, avocado and brown rice.

To dip? (in photo)Worcestershire and Cholula of course! A little creamy horseradish mixed with Cholula made a wonderful dip as well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Frugal Frozen Dinner

I'm going to admit it. I am a tightwad. I am also a bit on the lazy side during the work week when it comes to cooking a healthy dinner. Many nights, I've been known to eat a fried egg and cheese sandwich or to microwave a potato. Let's face it, a potato only serves as a perfect carrier for butter and sour cream not for any nutrition of note.

The alternatives aren't much better. 

Cereal? I hate cereal. The cold quality of it makes me feel like I didn't eat. My meal needs to be hot to satiate my appetite.

Frozen dinners? I tried frozen meals from the grocery for a while. Some are certainly ok. Most are awful. I'm ALWAYS still hungry.

Since I already buy family packs at the grocery store, I decided to try my hand at making my own frozen meals. This was my first dish. It is surprisingly easy and tastes yummy when reheated. With these, I come home from work, pop the whole frozen concoction into a ceramic bowl out of the plastic and microwave for 5-6 minutes on med-high power. Done! a whole serving of veggies to boot.

What's in the Bowl?
1/2 cup of cooked brown rice
1 c heaping of frozen stir fry veggie mix
3 oz grilled chicken
Green curry "sauce"

Green Curry Sauce
1 can lite coconut milk
1 tb green curry paste
1tb heaping, corn starch

In a small sauce pan, blend half of the coconut mild with the paste over a med-low heat. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining coconut milk with corn starch. Keep stirring and add to the warming mixture. Cook while stirring for two-three minutes stirring constantly. 

You can certainly omit the corn starch if you'd like. Or use some alternative like arrowroot, tapioca etc. The purpose of the starch is as a binding agent fro the milk which tends to separate and look funky when overheated or reheated. The taste is the same regardless of the addition. 


Boxer-Rooney hates young obnoxious dogs. He relishes sun soaked naps, visiting the neighbors and rolling in the grass just after a bath. He also happens to love yogurt!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Before there were leftovers....

I think I can be assured that the majority of us are on budgets these days. As a single gal, home owner and dog own budget is a little tight to say the least. Who knew those dang dogs woud be so expensive. It's a good thing he's so darn cute!

I live alone, but I buy the family packs of everything. Why pass up such a great deal? Isn't that what freezers are for?

I always cook myself something special on grocery day...or in this case the next day since I went shopping so late in the evening.

Above, Grilled chicken which I brined overnight (recipe below) served with caramelized onion strings, roasted garlic, fresh tomatoes, a chiffonade of baby spinach and basil over grilled polenta cakes and a honey balsamic glaze.

I can't tell you how much I laugh (on the inside of course) when I hear someone gushing about some fancy reduction or glaze or such. As if these things hold some magical sway and are completely out of reach of the average cook. Not so I tell you. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At a recent food show I saw a gentleman in what was probably a $150 chef coat. Fine pressed cotton twill, black piping, monkey fist buttons, custom tailoring, embroidery. It fit him like a glove and I'll admit, he did look quite impressive. His sale item? Ha! I nearly spit on him as I popped a pear slice in my mouth drizzled with his "make anything gourmet" sauce which was a "6 hour balsamic reduction". He was charging a ridiculous figure for a pathetically puny amount. I'm pretty sure I was mad at him for about an hour. Pulling the wool over these innocents! The nerve!

My friends, for those of you that don't already know, the only thing this guy did was dump a large quantity of balsamic vinegar into a pot and cook it until it was half the volume it began at. I made just such a concoction for the meal above. What did I do? I poured about a quarter cup of vinegar into a small sauce pan, added a tb of honey--just because my vinegar is particularly pungent and cooked it until it started to resemble a syrup. All told, maybe three minutes. Maybe.

The beauty of these sorts of reductions is that the possibilities are endless and like the guy in the chef coat said, they really do make any meal feel gourmet. Just don't pay that much for it! Instead splurge on the really nice balsamic and make your own!

Chicken Brine:
1/4 c salt, rice wine vinegar & honey (i used local buckwheat honey--a tad on the spicy side)
tsp each cayenne, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and mustard powder.
juice of a lemon and lime
whisk it all together, pour over chicken in a large bowl, add water until chicken is covered.
Allow to set in refrigerator overnight (24 hrs is best). Drain and grill 'em up!

If you've never brined poultry before, don't be alarmed at the almost cooked appearance of the chicken the next day. Acid "cooks" protein. It still needs to be properly cooked of course. Hope you enjoy!

Johnny says Woof!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The yellow rose bush that was....

I must confess!

Today, I killed my rosebush.

Beautiful yes? But I despise them in my yard. I'll take them in bouquets handed to me by suitors all day long. Please, please don't grow in my yard!

I can't seem to get within 10 feet of the thing without coming out with my clothes ripped, my skin set with the mark of a future scar, my pony tail pulled out and my temper flaring.

Today, it got the better of me. All I wanted to do was work a tad on scraping the old paint off my house for my slowly progressing renovations.

I did save the blooms. Sadly, these will be the last blooms from THIS yellow rose bush. For now, they will brighten up my kitchen.

Quicker Picker-upper

It seems most snacks are geared toward people with a sweet tooth. I've never had one. I'd choose a hearty pot roast heavily laden with horseradish over a chocolate cake any day of the week, and even on Christmas.

Here though, is a snack I can live with. Fresh, tart blueberries, vanilla yogurt (I like Tillamook's--not too sweet and local!) and a sprinkling of almonds.

Granola would probably go great in here, but I'm a tad bit picky on granola. I've yet to find a variety that I absolutely love. For now, simple almonds will do.