"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Colcannon and Bacon

    It is early spring, and that means St. Patrick’s day (and yes, St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of technologists, when he drove the snakes from Ireland, he created the first worm drive).

    If I seem a little underwhelmed by the holiday, you will have to excuse me, it is not the holiday, it is all the trappings. Great rowdy, drunken crowds whose sole claim to to being Irish is that they wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button on St. Patties day, and stand around on street corners swilling poor quality beer with green food coloring…

    While the above is rather annoying, the true tragedy of Saint Patrick’s day is the crime of foisting American corned beef and cabbage off as being Irish.

    The New England boiled dinner is a traditional New England meal, consisting of corned beef or a smoked “picnic ham” shoulder, with cabbage and added vegetable items, often including potato, rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, white turnip and onion. When using a beef roast, this meal is often known simply as corned beef and cabbage even with the addition of other vegetables.

    Corned beef and cabbage is perhaps the most common form. Although not a traditional Irish meal, it has become a part of Irish-American culture and is often related (Mistakenly) to Irish holidays such as Saint Patrick’s Day. In Ireland, the closest traditional dish is Bacon and Cabbage (more akin to Canadian style bacon or ham). Corned beef and cabbage became popular in America after Irish immigrants in the eastern United States used corned beef instead of pork in their traditional dish.

    Bacon and Cabbage seems to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day, I love the combination of potatoes, cabbage, onion and bacon all through the cooler months of Fall and Winter!

    The dish consists of boiled or braised bacon (this refers to Back Bacon, almost a loin of bacon which is cured and/or smoked. It does not refer to sliced bacon or rashers which one might fry) served with boiled cabbage and potatoes.

    The dish continues to be a very common meal in Ireland. There are many different variations on the theme of bacon and cabbage, but in general the dish tends to involve slicing the back bacon after it has been well cooked and serving it with whole boiled potatoes and boiled cabbage.

    The dish usually calls for butter for the potatoes (which are often mashed with the cabbage). The potatoes and cabbage prepared in this manner are severed with a white sauce and are often called colcannon

    The bacon used for the meal can vary somewhat depending on individual preference. Usually Back Bacon is used for the recipe, but other cuts of bacon are sometimes preferred. However, the bacon used is almost always cured.

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  • Mega Chops

    For all my friends out practicing their “chops”, and others who love to bust my chops… Time for some serious chops…

    While at the store I found a very good price on a pork loin roast. (Think of it as bone in pork chops, still connected…)

    These chops will render out to be between 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick, so a sear and bake approach will be needed. I will brine them for flavor and moisture, maybe even slater them with Dijon Mustard, olive oil and cracked pepper for an extra taste kick.

    First one must break down the close to primal loin roast and produce 4 thick succulent chops. Then build a brine and soak the chops for 4 hours.

    I’ve dealt with how to make a brine in You have to be FREAKING kidding…. (How to make a Brine), and the effect of salting / brining in Improving Cheap Beef, Gaucho Style, so I’ll not dwell on those items.

    Pork chops are very easy to ruin. The modern porcine critter has very little intra musculature fat, making overcooking to an dry, gristly meat all too common. Braising a pork chop eradicates the fear of overcooking while providing a savory sauce to accompany your meal. The addition of aromatics and fruits enhances the flavor of the meat and the resulting sauce.

    Braising (from the French “braiser”), is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as pot roasting, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added.

    Most braises follow the same basic steps. The food to be braised (meat, poultry, but also vegetables or mushrooms) is first seared to brown its surface and enhance its flavor (through a process known as the Maillard reaction). If the food will not produce enough liquid of its own, a small amount of cooking liquid that often includes an acidic element, such as tomatoes, beer, or wine, is added to the pot, often with stock. The dish is cooked covered at a very low simmer until the meat is fork tender. Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy.

    A successful braise intermingles the flavors of the foods being cooked and the cooking liquid. This cooking method dissolves collagen from the meat into gelatin, to enrich and add body to the liquid. Braising is economical, as it allows the use of tough and inexpensive cuts, and efficient, as it often employs a single pot to cook an entire meal.

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  • Braised / Roasted Chicken

    One of AirMail’s favorite dishes to beg scraps from, she was an absolute chicken fiend.

    Simple Roast Chicken, there is no such thing. Chicken is constantly relegated to the pedestrian side of cooking, when it is a much of a super star as turkey, steak, and roasts. Chicken just needs to be treated properly

    There are MANY recipes and methods to roasting a chicken, from the insanely high-heat, (which produces a delicious fully flavored bird), to the absurdly low-heat, (which makes an incredible moist bird), but none of them provide a nice crisp skin, and a fall off the bone, moist meat bird.

    Now IF I start with a cast iron pan, (all the better to make a pan gravy in…), roast my bird for 30 minutes covered, then add a flavored sauce and finish off uncovered to produce a crisp flavorful skin, then use the drippings to make the pan gravy…..

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  • Spicy Roasted Potatoes

    wedges

    As spoke prior, my holiday dinner in this weekend, not a big deal I’ve found one of the guest’s tries to keep kosher. In this case, I need to provide dairyless alternatives to some dishes. (Whipped potatoes are just right out, as is the creamed spinach.)

    So looking around, I have some nice russet potatoes, some spices, some herbs, hmmm sounds like Potato Wedges or maybe rounds with a curry / cumin finish. Maybe some form of flavored mayonnaise as a sauce, maybe horseradish to match the prime rib ?

    Background
    Potato wedges are a form of french fry. As its name suggests, they are large, often unpeeled wedge shaped chunks of potato that are either baked or fried and seasoned with salt, pepper and spices prior to frying, to give a crispy flavored ‘skin’.

    Potato wedges are popular snack foods in pubs and bars, typically served with condiments such as sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, brown sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, ranch dressing and gravy.

    In some regions of the United States, potato wedges are known as jojos which originated in Ohio and is also used in other areas. Jojos are potato wedges fried in the same vat as chicken and usually eaten plain alongside fried chicken, cole slaw, and baked beans.

    On the East Coast they are also called Western Fries, In Germany, Wilde Kartoffeln (wild potatoes).
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  • Thawing Birds

    big_bird

    I am traveling, so have relegated the purchase, and care of the Thanksgiving birds to other denizens of the lair.

    As usual I am looking for two frozen birds in the 24-28 lb range, and will have them placed in pans in the bottom of the prep fridge to thaw. Note I do not use kosher or flavor enhanced birds as they are overdosed with salt.

    I thaw turkeys using one of, or a combination of the following methods, but the most fool proof is in the refrigerator.

    The key to this method is to plan ahead and allow approximately 6 hours for every pound of bird weight for thawing in the refrigerator.

    This method is the safest and will result in the best bird. Place the bird, in the original wrapping, on a shallow baking sheet in the refrigerator. The following provides guidelines for thawing times.
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  • Slow Cooker Pot Roast

    While shopping I came across the most wonderful small beef tenderloin roast. While this is normally used for steaks, I am considering a pot roast with a rich gravy and mounds of vegetables..

    As it is still warmish, perhaps the slow cooker will provide the perfect method of transporting this hunk o’ meat to a proper temperature and texture.

    Since we are going to use a moist heat cooking method in a slow cooker oven this is technically a braise not a roast. Then again who is counting…

    Since we have the star of the show all planed out, we need a supporting cast. By that I mean veggies, and basically root veggies, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions, maybe some portabello.

    And last but not least we need a liquid, one can use water, but it does nothing for flavor, since this is a pot roast, I’ll use beef or brown stock.

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