Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pork shish-kabobs

I wanted pork today but not another roast. I decided to buy chops and make kabobs.  I cubed up the chops and put them in a bowl with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, lots of fresh oregano, and a sprig each of rosemary and thyme all chopped up. To that I added 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and juice of half a lemon and tossed it all to mix.  I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge to marinate.  I should have soaked my bamboo skewers in water for half an hour so the ends wouldn't burn on the BBQ but forgot.  Didn't seem to matter. I made up the skewers with just red pepper and a mushroom. I had 3 chops to use up!

The kabobs are served on white rice cooked with half water half chicken stock.  Frozen peas on the side.  Not a complicated meal but I fixed holes in the wall this afternoon that I made when installing new electric cables and outlets into the kitchen wall.  Still a bit more mudding to do but I can now use the microwave, toaster and induction element at the same time without popping a breaker anywhere. So I didn't feel like spending a lot more time in the kitchen.

Leftover Roast Beef Stew with Dumplings

Once in a while I like to have a nice stew instead of stir fry with a leftover roast.  I had about a pound of meat left so I diced up an onion and got it frying.  While that cooked I sliced the roast thinly then into 1 inch strips.  When the onions were golden I took them out of the pan and put in the meat.  When the meat had seared a bit I took it out.  Next I sweated the carrots, turnips and celery.  When those were starting to turn translucent I added a tablespoon of flour and stirred it in.  Next I put the onions and meat back in and added a liter of beef stock.   It sounds like a lot of work putting everything in and out of the pan but it develops flavor in the pan better than just adding stock. I also noticed that the sweated turnip cooked in only a few minutes instead of the usual 50 minutes boiling takes. At this point I added 1/4 cup of pearl barley, a couple of bay leaves and several potatoes diced up.

When the stock was bubbling happily I added some frozen peas and beans to the pot.  While the veggies were cooking I mixed up some dumpling batter.  An egg plus milk to make 1/2 a cup, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and a cup of flour.  I had too much flour so I ended up with a dough instead of batter but I sliced it up and put the pieces in the pot anyway.  With the lid on the slowly simmering pot they should take 10 minutes to cook.  No peeking. 

I guess they look a little like frankendumplings but they were fairly fluffy inside. I've never liked dumplings but that could be because I've never had really good ones.  These tasted ok but I didn't put any flavor in them so they were much like a heavy bread. They are promising enough that I will try again and I'll put some real flavor in them. Hopefully I'll get the batter correct next time. The stew was good but not fantastic. The seasoning that was on the meat together with the flavor of the fresh ingredients were not enough the lift the dish up.  Next time I'll come up with some kind of herb or spice for the other flavors to stand on.


We had snapper again with the new rub.  I found it a little bland after the spicy things we've been having, I think I'll look for something to pick it up a bit.  Another herb like rosemary maybe. I forgot to photograph it again but it looks just like last time. I served it with peas, carrots and mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Round Roast with Greek Salad

Round roast beef was on sale, so were English cucumbers. It's our guest's last night before flying home so a really good meal was in order.  Usually I buy Angus beef but there weren't any roasts out, let alone any on sale, so I decided to see what I could do with the regular beef.  It was about a 4 pound roast with the same thickness it's entire length so it would cook evenly. I used my Beef Rub with about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh golden oregano.  I find the new yellow tips  of golden oregano are really sweet compared to greek oregano. I put my rub, oregano and at least a tablespoon of oil in a small bowl and mixed it into a paste.  Then I evenly coated the whole roast in the paste and seared all surfaces in the hot roasting pan. When all sides were sealed I put the rack back in the pan, set the roast on it, inserted the meat thermometer and put it all in a 250ᵒ oven. It took over two hours to cook so at this point I had an hour relax.

An hour before the roast should be ready I peeled potatoes and readied the broccoli and carrots.  I decided to make a Greek salad with the English cucumber(the skin of these long thin cucumbers is not bitter so they don't need to be peeled). I finely diced a thin slice of red onion, 2 tomatoes, 5 inches of cucumber and 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley. I halved several black olives, crumbled feta cheese (cow feta) over top and whisked up a dressing of 1/3 extra virgin olive oil 2/3 other vegetable oil, the juice of half a lime and a pinch of salt. It tasted great!

The roast was delicious despite being the cheaper beef. It didn't have that distinctive Angus flavor but everything else was there and lifted it up to it's full potential. I put a little chicken stock in the potatoes and vegetables while they were cooking and that really bumped up their flavor as well.  Broccoli and carrots were the vegetables de jour. I served everyone large portions and every scrap was eaten before the dogs got to lick the plates.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Southwest Chicken on Caesar Salad

This new southwest spice rub is absolutely delicious on chicken and makes a wonderful meal with a Caesar Salad.  The spice rub didn't call for cayenne but it really needs a little heat so I added it to the rub.  I like this even more than the Cajun rub I've been using.

The chicken was done on the BBQ.  Mine has 3 independent burners so I light the two end ones and turn them down to low when it's heated up.  I sear the chicken for about 3 minutes each way on each side to get the grill marks, then move it to the middle off the heat to roast. I let the chicken roast for a total of 25 to 30 minutes total cooking time. I let it rest and cool down 5 minutes so the moisture doesn't escape as steam when I cut into it.  A 1980's dish but fresh never gets tired.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Battered Pork Cutlet

The company left this morning so it's back to cooking for two.  We went out for Thai food last night, prawns and asparagus, it was good and the restaurant looks over the water. Tonight I felt like white meat but not chicken. Pork cutlets caught my eye.  Coated in corn flour and fried they taste pretty good. Mashed potatoes and I decided to have the remaining cauliflower with the leek flower stalks.  They look like beans there but taste like heaven!

I decided to get creative with the chops.  I put corn flour in a bag and shook the cutlets to coat them. Next I mixed up an egg, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, mustard powder, corn flour, corn meal and fresh oregano. It was too thick and I had to scrape it off the first one to have enough to coat the second but I got them both in the pan.  The coating cooked up nice and crunchy and not greasy so it was a good texture with the slightly chewy meat. The taste was nice too.  I have our homemade ketchup on it.  I'll describe making that when we have some tomatoes to can.

I'm tired.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Angus Round Roast

My neighbor asked me to water her garden while she was away the other day. Surprisingly I remembered so she came over with a bunch of leeks to say thank you. She also pointed out that the flower stalks are edible too. I made Coq a leeky soup from the ends and I cut the flower stalks into bean size pieces to add to the vegetables. The soup was very good and a nice beginning to the meal.

I forgot to photograph the plates again so I showed the aftermath.  My plating is still firmly entrenched in the suburbs so you aren't missing much anyway.  The roast I lightly seasoned with my beef rub so the drippings wouldn't be too salty for gravy.  Then seared all round on the stove before putting in the oven at 250ᵒ. When it was done I set it to rest and added red wine to the pan to deglaze it and set that reducing.

This is the first time I've done vegetables the way a restaurant would.  I steamed the vegetables to about half cooked then put in cold water to stop the cooking process.  When I was almost ready to plate I tossed the vegetables in some oil and a few drops of sesame oil.  I thought the sesame flavor would go well with the nutty rice oil.  They do go well together but not with a cheese sauce. It seems that soy sauce pushes the sesame flavor to the background in Asian cuisine. With no soy sauce in this dish the sesame was front and center and at war with the cheese sauce.

The other innovation in this meal was the leek flower stalks.  They were onion but very sweet, definitely something to have when available. Had I not put sesame oil in the pan this medley of vegetables would have been fabulous. The cheese sauce was simple oil, butter and flour cooked a bit then some chicken stock, milk and grated cheddar.

Overall it was the most complex meal I have put together so far, soup, 2 sauces, 3 vegetables, potatoes and roast beef. It was challenging to have it all ready at once but I managed fairly well.  Par cooking the veggies made that portion of the meal much easier to finish at the right time. I will use that technique when I have a difficult or complex meal to prepare.  For a simple meal it probably isn't worth the extra trouble.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sole Almondine

The fish counter had fresh sole on special and what's fast, easy and always impresses? Sole Almondine! The fillets were larger than usual and had a few short small bones that could not be gotten out.  I decided to just leave them and see if they cook out. I know I had a few bones in my fish but I didn't encounter any while eating, so I guess with sole, the bones can be ignored.  Mashed potatoes and vegetables round out the meal.  The vegetables were microwaved, some habits are hard to break, but I did squeeze fresh lemon juice on them just before serving.

The almonds I lightly cooked in some butter before making the sauce.  The sauce was simply a little more oil and a pad of butter with a shake of flour in it.  Cook the flour taste off then add a splash of chicken stock and juice of half a lemon and a good dash of salt. If it's too thick add a little chicken stock and taste to see if it now needs more lemon.  It will impart flavor to the fish so it must taste good!

The fillets I cut in half to make them manageable and dredged them in salted flour before putting in a hot oiled and buttered pan. I should have my pan a little hotter next time so they get a bit browner. The sole is so thin that it cooks in a minute so next time I will have my starch and vegetables ready when the fish goes in the pan. My timing was bad and I had to put the fish in the oven for a couple of minutes while I finished the vegetables and potatoes. I felt it got a little soggy waiting so as soon as the fish is done get it on the plates and in front of the diners, it doesn't like to wait.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Southwest Chicken - for real this time!

After my earlier faux southwest chicken I felt I really owed southwest flavor a fair chance. So after a little research I have come up with this:

 Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

This recipe from The Grub Files: Cooking with Camissonia didn't include cayenne so I didn't add any but I found I missed the little heat I usually expect in this cuisine so I made it optional. I left the skin on the breasts just to see if crispy skin was better.  It wasn't, it tended to burn.  So next time I will use skinless boneless breasts and I'll add cayenne.

The rice is my own blend of brown and red basmati rice combined with pearl barley.  I cooked the rice with half chicken stock, half water and a little salt.  Served with grated Parmesan on top it is reminiscent of risotto but with a nuttier flavor.

The vegetable ragout was a diced onion fried golden then removed from pan.  Sliced mushrooms fried and removed then zucchini fried. When the zucchini is almost done add everything back to pan and add the yellow pepper. Add some salt and pepper and an ounce or two of chicken stock. Cook this down and serve.

The chicken was delicious and quite different from Cajun so this mix gives me a whole new range of dishes to create.  It should go well with fish, pork, lamb and goat. Ok, no one sells goat around here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can't Be Beat Burrito

Again no photos, hopefully one day I'll remember I have a camera in the phone in my pocket. In any case, it started with making really good chicken stock. It tastes phenomenal.  I fried a diced onion to golden then put a pound of ground angus beef in the pan and seared it then turned down the heat.  I added at least 4 tablespoons of  taco seasoning and about an ounce or two of chicken stock.  While that was cooking down I made a salsa with diced fresh tomato, a slice of red onion , a jalapeno pepper (seeds and membranes removed), Italian parsley (my partner doesn't like cilantro), fresh lime juice and salt and pepper. After the salsa I mashed up my 3 for 99 cent over ripe avocados, added some salt and fresh lime juice to make guacamole.  Finally, I grated some cheddar cheese.

A pad of butter in a frying pan and a flat bread on top. When it was hot I took it out.  Not exactly what I was thinking of but too late to change now so I set the dry side on a plate.  I laid a strip of meat mixture, a strip of grated cheddar and a few leaves of baby lettuce and arugula onto the buttered flat bread and rolled it up.  I spooned some fresh salsa over the Burrito followed by a strip of guacamole. A few dollops of sour cream over top, chopped chives to garnish and serve.  It was delicious!  I could taste the butter but it melded with the other flavors.  The chicken stock gave such a beautiful background flavor that the other ingredients really sang. It was the first time my partner really enjoyed Mexican style food, he took the leftovers to work next day!

Not Cajun Snapper!

We have company so my usual routine to photograph dinner isn't working out but the food is still great!
I wanted to try something a little different since I'm finally wearing out Cajun. I like the heat and full flavor but I'd like something a little different. I was looking for a southwestern type flavor and this rub definitely has that influence with a little cumin.

Snapper Rub

1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cumin

Make sure to remove any small bits of skin still on the fillet. The skin tastes really fishy and unpleasant so you have to get it all off. Season the fillets and pop them in a hot frying pan. Mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side round out a full, different and satisfying meal.

Friday, May 18, 2012


My partner's brother is staying with us so it was time for a rare treat.  We had two more roasts from the deer our friend shot so we thawed one out for dinner. I went quite light on the beef rub so I could use the pan drippings for gravy.  First I seasoned then I seared the roast all round then forgot to put the beef fat on top.  It was moist and delicious anyway. I cooked it to 146ºF so it should be medium rare. I put a little chicken stock and red wine in the pan drippings with a little flour and reduced it while I finished the vegetables.  I poured the juices from the resting roast into the gravy.  Mashed potatoes and mashed turnip, carrots and broccoli buttered and the pan gravy to top it off. A rare treat, we have one more deer roast in the freezer.  The liver was the most delicious part, then the tenderloins.  This roast was mild in flavor and very tender. It was a local deer, I think from east of the airport. I don't know if the local deer that eat my tulips would taste better.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When the cat's away, the mouse has rib steak!

My partner doesn't like fatty red meat so when he goes to the big city overnight that's usually what I have. I finally found the two holes in the bottom of the pool.  No idea how they got there but I had to dig out my scuba mask and dive to the bottom of the pool to apply patches.  COLD!

The Angus rib steak (marked down half price to clear, a deal always tastes better) I simply seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked it on the BBQ.  The baked potato I did in the microwave then finished in the BBQ with the steak.  Frozen vegetables for convenience but cooked in chicken stock and served with butter so they have lots of flavor. A simple dinner for one after a hard days work.

Roast Beef with Mushroom Red Wine Gravy

The usual prep with beef rub and searing all sides then slow roast in 250ºF. For the sauce I fried the mushrooms in a little oil and butter then took them out.  Then I built the roux with a little oil and flour in the pan and cooked off the flour taste. Thin to a paste with stock and add red wine and mushrooms.  Reduce the wine while the vegetables are cooking. A good meal and nice way to use up the last of a bottle of red wine.

Madras Curry Chicken

I'm opening the pool and sorting out the deck and back yard so I've been too tired to write at the end of the day, although I have tried to keep the culinary standards up. I have a Panasonic Genius microwave with a moisture sensor and a rice button that does perfect white rice every time. Needless to say we usually have rice when I've been busy.  This was just a usual curry.  Brown a diced onion then remove onion from pan.  Add celery and carrot and sweat them a little, then add the green pepper and finish sweating. Remove vegetables from the pan and put the flour dusted chicken in.  Brown the chicken then add 2 or 3 tablespoons of curry powder and a pinch of cayenne. Cook a bit more then add the onion and vegetables back in and thin with a little chicken stock.  Next add a couple of diced tomatoes and simmer the whole lot till the chicken is cooked. If it gets dry add a little more stock. Serve over the rice with peas, a delicious easy meal.

A simple variation is to use half a can of coconut milk instead of tomato. Vigorously shake the coconut can before opening.  If there are still lumps of gelled coconut try to get half of it.  This will melt as soon as the milk gets warm.