Sunday, January 27, 2019

Smoked Lamb Breast, Fried Okra, and Deconstructed Elotes

We are rather odd for Americans in that we like and frequently eat lamb and goat.  Strangely enough, I usually prefer the taste and texture of leg of lamb over lamb chops.

Some time ago I was at WalMart and cruising down the meat case.  Not sure why because I don't buy meat there.  This time though, I ended up buying some.  The reason being they had American raised lamb breast.  Lamb breast is the same cut as pork spareribs.  I decided to give them a try since they were American raised.  I find Australian lamb most often.
A nice package of American grown lamb breast
The lamb breast was seasoned with my general purpose rub that is very good with lamb, pork, and poultry.  It was smoked with hickory until an internal temperature of 180F.  This got the meat cooked to the point of being easily bitten and the fat is melty and flavorful.  You can use whatever rub you'd like.
Lamb breast ready to come of the smoke
Since our Okra was producing well and a few had gotten big enough that they wouldn't be tender enough to eat boiled I made fried okra.  My method for fried okra is simple and yields a good crispy coating.  Cut the okra into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices and toss in seasoned flour.  Shake off the excess flour and dip in an egg wash.  Let the excess egg wash drip off and toss in a mix of corn meal and corn starch.  I use a 4-1 ratio.  You just need enough of the corn starch to help it get crispy crunchy.  Then fry in a skillet or deep fry until crispy and you have the color you desire.
Smoked lamb breast, deconstructed elotes, and fried okra
I'd been seeing Mexican street corn, Elotes, on the cooking shows for some time prior to this.  Since I didn't feel like taking the time to thaw out some ears of corn I decided to make a deconstructed version.  We were quite pleased with how it turned out and have done it several times since.

Deconstructed Elotes

2 cups whole kernel corn

2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup cotija cheese, grated
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbs minced cilantro
pinch chipotle powder
smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt butter in cast iron skillet over med heat and add the corn. Cook, stirring time to time, until the corn picks up some color. While the corn is cooking, combine the mayo, cheese, chili powder, cilantro, salt, pepper, and chipotle powder in a bowl and mix well. When the corn is done, add it to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust if needed. Once on the plate sprinkle with the smoked paprika as garnish.


All these go well together or would do well with completely different menus.  I will say I gave the Elotes recipe to someone that was looking for something different to do with corn.  A couple of days later she let me know it was a hit and her husband cleaned it up.


Give these a try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Steak and Kidney Pie

Uncle T doesn't like to let anything go to waste when he kills and butchers an animal.  As a result, we eat a fair bit of offal.  I always save the heart, liver, and kidneys and if I'm wanting to make haggis I'll save the lungs.  The kidneys are always for steak and kidney pie.  It's hard to beat a meaty dish full of rich gravy.

Most people think steak and kidney pie is British food.  They're probably just the most known for it.  Some time ago I came across an article saying that what we in the United States would call a pie is referred to as pudding in the UK.  What it comes down to is, crust on top is pie and crust on top and bottom is pudding.  What I normally make would be steak and kidney pudding since I usually put a crust on the top and bottom.  Steak and kidney pie would just have crust on the top.  That said, I don't know how accurate that is and I still use pie interchangeably for this dish in whichever configuration I make.
Steak and Kidney Pie
If you are dead set against eating offal you can just make this with beef for a steak pie.  I'm also writing this to prepare most of it in a pressure cooker.  The non-pressure cooked way involves simmering on the stove top for an hour or more until the meat is tender.

Steak and Kidney Pie

1-1.5 lbs beef
8 oz kidney
1 onion, diced small
butter
flour
beef broth
salt
pepper
garlic powder
corn starch
1 package puff pastry

Cut beef  and kidney into bite sized pieces.  A more flavorful cut, like round steak, sirloin butt flap, or even chuck is the best choice.  Sautee the onion in some butter.  Toss the beef with seasoned flour and corn starch then brown on all sides in the skillet.  Remove from the skillet and repeat the process with the kidney.  Remove the kidney from the skillet and use more butter and flour to make a dark roux.  Once the roux is done, stir in beef broth until you have a thick dark gravy.  Add salt and pepper to taste then return the steak and kidney to the skillet.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 9 pan and top with the puff pastry.  Bake according to the instructions for the puff pastry.
Steak and Kidney Pie, mashed potatoes, and sautéed red cabbage
This is best served with either mashed potatoes or rice.  It can be to the side or served over them.  Steak and kidney pie is a rich flavorful dish.
Reheated Steak and Kidney pie, rice, and fried zucchini
Kidney's can be found at some grocery stores and most Asian stores will have them.  Usually what they have are beef kidneys.  So go get a package and start making steak and kidney pie.

Give it try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Chicken and Spinach with Noodles Soup

It's a matter of fact in the South that when you are sick you eat chicken soup.  Usually it's a basic chicken noodle soup but sometimes it's a little different.  The past couple of weeks the good wife and I have been trying to fight off some bug that's going around.  Being a large semidomesticated animal I ended up with just a sinus infection and a cough.  The good wife got hit a bit harder.  When she gets sick I cook according to how she's feeling.

A few days ago I'd asked her what she wanted for supper and she said chicken soup, with spinach.  Naturally I made it happen.  It was tasty and easy to bring together.

I used my pressure cooker but the same thing can be done with a stock pot and more time.  The recipe will be written as I did it in the pressure cooker so adjust as necessary.

Chicken and Spinach with Noodles Soup

4 chicken leg quarters
1 box chicken broth
4 oz spaghetti noodles
2 cups spinach, rough chopped
salt
pepper

Place the leg quarters in the pressure cooker with a little water and cook under pressure for 20 - 25 minutes.  The meat should easily pull from the bones.  Pull the meat from the bones and roughly chop and return to the pressure cooker.  Add the box of chicken broth and stir.  Break the spaghetti noodles in half and add to the pressure cooker.  Pressure cook the chicken and noodles for 8 minutes.  Stir in the roughly chopped spinach until it is wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  This will serve 4.
A fresh pot of soup ready to go
Once the timer goes off on the pressure cooking for the chicken you can let it naturally release pressure or you can manually release.  When it finishes after adding the spaghetti manually release the pressure.  When manually releasing pressure follow the manufacturer's guidelines and be safe about it.

We had cornbread leftover so some of it was reheated to accompany the soup.  They went very well together.
A filling and healing supper
Alternate methods to achieve this are varied.  One would be simmering a whole chicken until falling off the bone tender and using the resulting broth for the soup.  Another would be shredding a rotisserie chicken from the store.  Homemade broth is always best but a good quality boxed broth is good as well.

Whether you're feeling poorly or just want soup because it's cold, give this one a try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T

Salmon and Grits?

I'm sure most have heard of shrimp and grits.  If you haven't, you can check it out at Shrimp and Grits.

A gal in a Facebook cooking group had tried to make shrimp and grits and had been disappointed with her results.  She posted what she'd done and asked for advice.  Her next effort had focused on the grits.  She got them right and instead of shrimp had sautéed mixed vegetables and topped it with a bit of salmon.  That got the ideas going.

My bok choy had been running rampant in the garden and due to the warm weather each plant was starting to bolt.  When a leafy green bolts it is sending up shoots to flower.  Depending on the plant bolting can render the favorable part of the plant bitter.  I decided to use the bok choy in this departure from shrimp and grits.  Some of the flower clusters were used as garnish to add color and an extra bit of texture to the dish.

This recipe will be for two with the exception of the grits.  There are excellent uses for leftover grits or you can increase the other to make enough for four.  Oh by the way, use real grits for the best result.

Salmon and Grits

1 cup grits
4 cups water
salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 head bok choy
1 medium onion, sliced
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips

2 pieces of salmon, 6oz each
butter
salt
pepper

Bring the water to a boil and add a bit of salt then stir in the grits.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes stirring occasionally.  When done, stir in the cheddar cheese and keep warm.

Cut the root end of the bok choy.  Slice the bok choy in 1/2 inch strips across the width of the leaf and stalk.  In a large skillet, cook the bacon slowly to render the fat.  When the bacon is almost crisp, add the sliced onion and cook until it starts to turn translucent.  Add the sliced bok choy and turn to mix well.  Cook until the leaves are well wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Melt butter in a skillet.  Place the salmon in the hot skillet skin side down.  Salt and pepper the flesh side.  Turn when cooked halfway through.  An alternative way can be found at Pan Fried Salmon.

Put the cheesy grits in a wide shallow bowl for best effect.  Place the bok choy in a strip across the middle of the grits.  Top with a piece of salmon.
Salmon and Grits with bok choy flowers as garnish
I think you'll enjoy this alternative way to use both grits and salmon in your menu rotation.  I did this a week later using Mahi Mahi and it was just as good.  I think this method will work with any seafood you choose to use.

Give it try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T









Scalloped Potato Stacks

It's been quite some time since I've written anything.  Life and other projects demanding too much time it seems.

I'd been considering taking scalloped potatoes to our Civic League's Christmas party and looking around to see if there were any interesting variations to try.  I saw a mention somewhere of stacks so when it came time to do our Christmas dinner I decided to make potato stacks.

Lovely crispy edges
These aren't any more difficult to make than regular scalloped potatoes but they do have a nicer look on the plate and have the added benefit of each bite being able to contain some of that crispy cooked edge than people like.  They are good for any time not just special meals.

Scalloped Potato Stacks

2lbs potatoes
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 cup milk
Shredded cheddar cheese

Slice potatoes thinly.  I used the 2nd setting on my mandolin and they came out about 1/8th inch thick.  Stack 4 or 5 slices in each cup of a muffin pan.  Make a béchamel sauce using the butter, flour, and milk.  Spoon the béchamel sauce over each stack of potatoes almost filling the cup.  Top each stack with another slice of potato and more béchamel sauce.  Top each stack with shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake at 425F for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the stacks from the cups with a large spoon and serve.
They do well reheated 
I used my seasoned flour to make the béchamel sauce for a little extra flavor.  My seasoned flour has salt, pepper, and garlic powder in it.  I also used smoked cheddar cheese as my topping.  The cheddar was smoked last Spring and has been aging in a vacuum bag in my garage refrigerator.  Cold smoking your own cheese is fairly easy and the results are well worth the time.
This is the original use as a side for Christmas dinner
Give these potato stacks a try and I think you'll be hooked.  Let me know what you think.

Take care,
Uncle T

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Bacon Wrapped Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

A few weeks ago, the good wife told me about a recipe one of her friends had been talking about.  That recipe was for a stuffed zucchini with the stuffing being primarily cheese.  It sounded OK but my preference for things stuffed with cheese pretty much ends at ravioli or tortellini.  I'm not even a fan of cheese stuffed jalapenos but that's a story for another day.  It's been quite some time since I'd done a stuffed zucchini, mostly due to the fact that it's hit or miss with finding zucchini at the store that isn't beat up.  I was doing my shopping the other day and found 3 zucchini that were on the small side but looked good and were in good condition.  I actually bought them with the intention of stuffing them with something.
Bacon wrapped stuffed zucchini and pork chops just on the grill
Once I had the zucchini home, the issue became when to fix them for supper.  It then lead to what to have with it.  I wanted something that could be done outside since it's pretty hot right now and I'd rather not heat the kitchen more than necessary. I settled on smoked pork chops and fried okra.
Smoked and ready to take inside
So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Bacon Wrapped Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

2 large or 3 smaller zucchini
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped approximately 1/4 inch dice
4 oz grated Cotija cheese
1 medium red onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt
pepper
cumin
splash of brandy or Irish whisky (optional)
8 - 12 slices of bacon

Heat a skillet with some oil to medium heat.  Put in the diced onion and garlic and cook until just starting to turn translucent.  Add the chopped mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Let the mushrooms cook down until most of the moisture they release has cooked away.  If using, add the brandy or whisky so it cooks down as well.  While the mushrooms are cooking, slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seed bearing part.  Once the mushrooms are done, transfer into a bowl and add the grated Cotija cheese and stir.  Divide the mushroom mixture between the zucchini halves ensuring the zucchini are well filled.  Once all the zucchini are filled, wrap them in bacon.  Each zucchini should take two slices of bacon to be completely covered.  Place the bacon wrapped zucchini on a grill with indirect heat and add whatever wood you prefer for smoking.  Smoke at 250 - 275F for 20 - 30 minutes until the bacon is done and the desired color is reached.  Once done, serve and enjoy. 
A fine tasty supper, everything cooked outside
Any mushroom you like can be used in this and I think shitake mushrooms would be very good but the baby bellas are what the store had when I picked them up.  If you don't have or can't find Cotija cheese you could use some good Parmesan, Romano, or a nice Grana instead. 
Cross section
If you don't have a grill or don't want to fool with the grill these can be done in the over just as easily.  I'd put them on a baking rack over a cookie pan and bake at 375 for 15 - 20 minutes.  This should leave the bacon browned but chewy and the zucchini with still a little bite to it.  If you want the bacon crisp and the zucchini soft then increase the time.  If you bake them, keep an eye on them because this is just an estimate based on experience with my oven.  Your oven my vary.

This would do well as a side with any protein you choose.  I almost did grilled salmon but changed my mind and pulled pork chops out of the freezer instead. 

Give these a try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Pasta with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

I was pondering what to do with half of a butternut squash I had left and decided to use it with pasta.  After some consideration and an internet search this is what I came up with.

With this recipe, the flavor of the butternut squash and the cheese blend in a rich creamy bit of goodness.  The cheese you use it up to you though a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago will do best.  I used Asiago because it was the first one I saw in the cheese drawer of the refrigerator.

Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

3 cups cubed butternut squash
8 oz bacon, cut in 1/2 inch lardons
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 - 4 oz Asiago cheese, grated
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 - 3/4 cup heavy cream
6 sage leaves, fresh
1 tsp thyme leave, fresh
salt
pepper
6 - 8 oz dry spaghetti

Cook the pasta according to package direction.  Slowly cook the bacon in a deep skillet until the fat has rendered and it's almost crispy.  Remove the bacon to a bowl.  Add the onion and garlic to the bacon grease and sauté 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the butternut squash and stir then cook 4 - 5 minutes.  Add 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.  Add the white wine, sage leaves, and thyme then stir.  Let the wine cook down then add the chicken broth.  Let it simmer until the chicken broth is reduced by half.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.  After it has cooled some, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.  You may need to break it down into smaller batches.  Return to heat and bring to simmer.  Add the heavy cream and stir.  Stir in the grated cheese until melted and well incorporated into the sauce.  Stir in the reserved bacon.  Taste and add more salt if desired.  Once the pasta is finished cooking, add it to the sauce and mix well.  This will serve 3 - 4 people.

I was able to blend in one go since we have the Vitamix.  With the Vitamix running I was able to add the heavy cream followed by the Asiago in small chunks.  I used 4 oz of Asiago and 1/2 cup heavy cream initially.  After tasting, both the good wife and I liked it but I thought it could be a little better.  I added a heavy pinch of salt and another 1/4 cup heavy cream.  That slight change greatly boosted the flavor.
A rich tasty supper
I'd also made fresh bread from a No-knead recipe I've adapted to my own needs.  It is simple and you can make just about any crusty bread with this recipe.

Crusty Bread

3 1/2 cups break flour
13 oz warm water, 110 - 115F
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

Put the yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl and pour in the warm water.  Stir and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until is makes a soft dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the oven with the light on.  Let rise for 90 minutes.  Sprinkle a little flour around the edge of the bowl then use your spoon to push the dough away from the edge of the bowl then roll the dough ball around the bowl.  Dump out on a floured surface and cut into 2 - 3 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a long rope and place on a parchment paper covered sheet tray.  Repeat for the rest of the dough.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.  After the 2nd rise, make 3 diagonal cuts in the top of each loaf.  Put into 400F oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.

This bread is great for soaking up the leftover butternut squash cream sauce.  These two are perfect together.  Give these a try and let me know what you think.

Uncle T