"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Roumanian Sarnie

    STEAKSANDWICH

    Warm weather after a week of below freezing, but still not that warm, so firing the grill is just not an option. But I have an incredible, irrepressible, driving taste for grilled meat. Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, hot and savory….. Time to examine the various tools in my kitchen.

    First of all I need fire, with a 6500 btu per burner Vulcan Gas range, I suppose that is covered. Next I need a griddle / sear pan, enter the cast iron griddle pan, properly seasoned, it’s ready for some serious smoking heat…

    Now meat, it has to be fairly thin, but with a good bit of marbling, looking in the freezer I find I am out of rib eye / prime rib, but do find a section of skirt steak. Just the prefect meat for this. Maybe I’ll brown off some bacon to render some drippings to sear with, and to add another dimension of flavor to the meal.

    The term skirt steak refers to a cut of beef steak, from the plate. It is a long, flat cut that is prized for its flavor rather than tenderness. Sometimes a flank steak is used interchangeably with a skirt steak, but it is a different cut of meat.

    Skirt steak is the cut of choice for making fajitas, Northern Mexican arrachera, Cornish pasties, Chinese stir-fry, Cuban Churrasco, and authentic Bolognese Sauce.

    To minimize their toughness skirt steaks are either grilled or pan-seared very quickly or cooked very slowly, typically braised. Because of their strong graining skirt steak is sliced across the grain for maximum tenderness. To aid in tenderness and flavor, they are also often marinated .

    The skirt steak is sometimes called Roumanian Tenderloin or Roumanian Strip in New York deli restaurants and steak houses. It is commonly grilled or barbecued whole and often served with fried onions and potatoes or baked beans.

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  • Hungarian Chicken and Dumplings with onion

    chickenndumplingswo

    Yet another adventure in my search for cold weather comfort food. Food that tastes good, is reasonably good for you, does not require the budget of a small mid-eastern principality to afford, and serves the desire for hearty, hefty meals that cold weather brings. The people of Eastern Europe have been producing this for more than several centuries. Some of my closer associates have deep ties into Hungary and the Ukraine, so I have reached out to them and asked for examples. I have not been disappointed in the reaction.

    Background

    Traditional Hungarian dishes are prepared, using a wide variety of Good, Fresh, ingredients, including meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, cheeses and honey, using centuries old traditions / techniques for spicing and preparation.

    Hungarians are quite passionate about their soups, desserts and pastries and stuffed pancakes, with rivalries between regions in preparation of the same dish. Other signature Hungarian dishes would be Paprikash (paprika stew, meat simmered in thick creamy paprika gravy) served with nokedli (small dumplings), Goulash, Gundel Pancake (pancakes served in dark chocolate sauce) and Dobos Cake (layered sponge cake, with chocolate buttercream filling).

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  • Roasted Veg Soup

    bakedpotatosoup

    Soo, winter has arrived. And brought baggage as well.. 9 degrees, before wind chill this night. Time for real comfort food, say a rich potato soup, fortified with my chicken stock, reinforced with crumbled bacon, and lengthened with roasted fall / winter veggies.

    Soup is a food that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavor is extracted, forming a broth.

    Traditionally, soups are classified into two main groups: clear soups and thick soups.

    The established French classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé.

    Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used: purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, flour and grains.

    I’ll start with slow roasted potatoes, leeks sauteed in bacon drippings, and pack my soup with my chunky bacon cubes, butter, sour cream, cheese, and my brown stock….

    Perhaps serve with cibatta sticks, a side salad to make a hearty lunch or a soup course for a larger meal.

    This is almost perfect comfort food for the cold and weary.

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  • Cajun Red Beans and Rice

    As the projects roll on, I need a dish that can cook without a lot of care, I also need a dish that will be hearty and tasty.

    Trolling the panty, I have some “Sangre de Toro”, A classic red bean of Mexico. Whether it’s New Orleans red beans and rice, chili or just a bowl of beans, I think Sangre de Toro (or “Bull’s Blood”) is a tremendous bean. Dense and meaty, it has a good pot liquor and can be used whenever red beans are called for.

    Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (not originally of Cajun cuisine) traditionally made on Mondays with red beans,[ vegetables (bell pepper, onion and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf) and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. Meats such as ham, sausage (most commonly Andouille), and Tasso ham are also frequently used in the dish. The dish is customary – ham was traditionally a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. Similar dishes are common in Latin American cuisine, including moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.

    Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans style dishes to be commonly served both in people’s homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants continue to offer it as a Monday lunch special, usually with a side order of either smoked sausage or a pork chop. While Monday washdays are largely a thing of the past, red beans remain a staple for large gatherings such as Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties. Indeed, red beans and rice is very much part of the New Orleans identity. Jazz trumpeter and New Orleanian Louis Armstrong’s favorite food was red beans and rice – the musician would famously sign letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong”.

    I will break with tradition and use brisket rather than tasso (ham), as I have a half cut that should be used.

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  • Lentils Soup / Stew

    LentilSoup

    I’ve been recovering from the flu, by pushing on several projects for different clients and as such have not had a lot of time to cook or post. While at lunch yesterday, I happened into a local soup shop. The smells were incredible, but one emerged from the melange or aromas to peak my interest. Smooth, yet with a hint of exotic spice, I did spend some time tasting the various soups to find it was a thick lentil soup, almost a stew. The most amazing thing, no meat. While it was very good, I feel it could be outstanding with the use of homemade chicken ot beef stock..

    Background
    Lentils have a short cooking time and a distinctive earthy flavor, used in preparation of inexpensive and nutritious soups and stews all in almost all corners of the planet. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in the Middle East as mujaddara or mejadra, they can be cooked together as khichdi, a popular Indian dish. Lentils are used throughout India, the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East.

    For many vegetarians, lentils have long been part of the diet as a common source of protein. Usually, lentils are boiled to a stew-like consistency with vegetables and then seasoned with a mixture of spices to make many side dishes such as sambar, rasam and dal, which are usually served over rice, or with flatbread.

    To prepare lentils, first one sorts them for damaged lentils, stones and such, rinses them until the water runs through and comes out clear, soak the lentils for an extended time and discard the water. The lentils are then boiled in water or broth. They may be cooked on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Cooked lentils will usually require thinning: adding more hot water or broth to the cooked legumes until the desired final consistency is reached.

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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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