Friday, May 31, 2013

Pepper Steak

I had a taste for beef so I went directly to the Angus beef counter.  The butcher pointed out two pepper steaks he was about to mark down to clear. Half price is a good deal in my eyes, I'll take them! Vegetables are expensive right now so the only reasonably priced greens was zucchini, which Fern doesn't particularly like. If I sear them and put them in some kind of ratatouille he won't complain, loudly

I got out potatoes, 2 carrots, a stick of celery, a diced onion, 3 cloves of garlic and the leftover half can of tomato paste.  I also added the fresh snow peas from the deck. I started by readying the potatoes and getting them going.  Next, sweating the onion and then adding the garlic. When the sharp aroma was off the garlic I added the carrots. A bit later in went the celery.  When all was sweated I took it out of the pan. 

I  put the two steaks in the hot well oiled pan the zucchini was fried in and left them to sizzle. A teaspoon of flour and two teaspoons of oil in the sauce pan.  Heat till bubbling to cook off the raw flour taste, then add the garlic and sweat it.  Add chicken stock while whisking to smooth out lumps. Add the half can of tomato paste.  The flour will thicken as the sauce cooks so more stock will probably be needed. Add the cooked vegetables and the snow peas to the tomato sauce and taste.  Add more salt and pepper as needed.

I served my steak on my ratatouille which didn't seem to make much difference either way. Fern liked the zucchini done this way so overall it was a good meal. I would prefer to season my own meat next time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Never Buy Tomato Sauce Again!

A few weeks back I made a sauce that I added some tomato paste to and I was amazed at how much it transformed that sauce.  It made me wonder if I could make tomato sauce from tomato paste and skip buying the most expensive ingredient in spaghetti? I had leftover fresh pasta from the other day and Fern has gone south for the day so I decided to experiment.

Start with a roux. I put a teaspoon of flour in a small sauce pan and two teaspoons of oil (not extra virgin olive, it'll turn bitter). I turned the heat up and let the flour and oil bubble to cook the flour taste off.  Once the flour is cooked, browning it more reduces it's thickening ability. Cook it more to make less sauce.

I took the pan off the heat and slowly whisked chicken stock into the roux till I had a thick sauce. I added 3 cloves of mashed garlic and let it bubble in the roux to sweat a little. Next I added half a 5.5oz/156ml can of tomato paste and whisked it in.  I added more stock till I had a nice consistency. That was it, I had a basic tomato sauce for a fraction of the cost of a can of tomato sauce! I added a little dried basil and a tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley. Half a teaspoon of salt, fresh ground mixed pepper. Taste the sauce. If it's a bit too acid add a little more salt.

Serve over the fresh cooked pasta, garnish with a little fresh grated parmesan cheese and dive in! It was a delicious sauce! This tomato sauce is just as good, if not better, than the paste brand's own tomato sauce. This time I used Hunt's but I also like Mezzetta from Napa Valley. This sauce is almost as good as the Mezzetta sauce that costs $7 per jar. I'll check to see if Mezzetta makes a tomato paste. If so I'll be able to make sauce that tastes better than theirs because my chicken stock tastes superior to theirs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fresh Pasta

It's a rainy day so I decided to make fresh pasta for dinner. We're helping a young man get established here so I've been teaching him some basic cooking skills. I made sauce a few days back so all that was required was three portions of pasta. 

Fresh Pasta 
(makes 2 small portions or 1 large portion)

2/3 cup flour
1 egg

Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into it.  Use the tines of a fork in a circular motion to pick up flour into the egg.  Keep moving the fork in a circular motion until all the flour is taken up by the egg. Kneed the dough by hand, folding flour into it until it isn't sticky. To roll pasta by hand take a portion and roll it out as thin as possible then cut it into strips with a knife.  A motorized pasta machine or pasta attachments for a mixer are a really good investment if one plans to make lots of pasta.

Once the pasta is rolled into a long strip, cut it to length before running it through the cutters. Trying to handle 4 foot long fettuccine is just comical. The pasta must be dusted with flour immediately after cutting or it will stick together.

Put the pasta in salted boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes depending on thickness.  If it's rolled and cut by hand it will probably take longer to cook.  Tasting the pasta to see if it's done is the way to go here.

Drain and plate the pasta, cover with sauce, sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan and top with a little parsley.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sole with Lemon Almond Sauce

When I asked Fern what he wanted for dinner he said, "Anything light."
That usually means fish but I didn't feel like dealing with snapper so I settled on fresh sole fillets. I had two more cobs of the wonderful sweet California corn and plain white rice to fill out the plate.  I put some soy sauce on my rice but Fern has his plain.

To prepare the fish I cut the fillets in half, salted them and coated them with flour.  The corn on the cob was boiled for 20 minutes and the rice was done in the microwave utilizing the automatic Rice setting. I put the fillets in a pan of hot oil.  The sauce was a bit of butter to brown the sliced almonds then a teaspoon of flour.  I cooked the flour taste off for a minute then took the pan off the heat and added chicken stock till I had a thin sauce. Turn the fish over. A dash of lemon juice, some salt and taste.  If it's too lemony add stock or salt. If it's too savoury add lemon. 

I put a pad of butter on the corn and salted it all round. When I looked at my plate I realized I had a monochrome dinner.  Even a few chives would have helped! It was raining and chives were just cosmetic so I decided to forego them. When I look at the dish now it's appearance really bothers me.  That's a big change in my attitude towards food. A good change.

Despite it's look the food was wonderful. The lemon juice really perks up the fresh chicken stock.  The soy tempers the sweetness of the corn. We both left the table full but not stuffed.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Southwest Chicken with Corn on the Cob

Fern said 'fish or chicken' when I was leaving so it didn't take long to settle on a few nice chicken breasts.  I quickly boned the breasts, got stock going and put the skins on to crisp when I got home.  I seasoned the breasts with:

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)

I put the breasts over the flame on the BBQ for about two minutes each side then moved them to the center, off the heat to roast. It takes 25-30 minutes total cooking time for the chicken breasts. About half way through I poured the chicken fat rendered from the skins over the breasts. 

Corn on the cob I put in a pot of water and simmered for 15-20 minutes. Finished with butter and salt. The rice is plain basmati.  I like soy on mine but Fern likes his white.

Ryan helped in the garden today so he stayed for dinner too.  He really liked the spice rub, it was the best chicken he's had in a while. In the photo the meat is fullly cooked and it is still moist. That is the key.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin Medallions

I was planning on beef steak but there just wasn't a decent deal on anything beef, so I picked up a nice pork tenderloin instead. Initially I thought of BBQing it but decided to fry it instead.  I got potatoes on to cook and prepped the carrots and broccoli for the steamer. Carrots went in first of course. .

The tenderloin I cut into one and a half inch pieces which were pounded flat and coated with flour. I salted the meat then laid the pork medallions in plenty of hot oil.  When they had cooked nearly to the middle I turned them over and put the broccoli in with the carrots. 

I mixed up two teapoons of dijon mustared and one-two teaspoons of honey.  During the last couple of minutes I brushed the mustard mixture over both sides of the pork and cooked the bitterness out of the mustard. I plated the medallions with a little home made apple sauce. The steamed vegetables were finished with butter and salt.  The mashed potatoes have salt, butter and milk in them.

Despite it's simplicity this meal was packed with flavour.  My plating is still a fairly messy but I don't yet have the skill to devise a unified whole from these parts. I do know that putting the protein on the starch will not score points with Fern.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Crab Cakes

It was a steak or fish night and I didn't see any deals on steak. None on fish I liked either.  Lot's of imitation crab out though.  I like crab cakes so I picked up a pack and trotted off home.  

Ryan, a long time friend of Fern's, was going to stay for dinner and he doesn't like mayonnaise so no tartar sauce on the cakes. What can I do instead of tartar sauce?   I have avocado so I could make guacamole and set the cakes on that.  I have tomatoes, I could make a salsa for the top. I put some rice on and got the vegetables out.  I had a few spears of asparagus each.  I harvested the first of the snow peas but it still wasn't enough so I added frozen peas to the steamer too.

I cut the avocado into four sections, peeled the skin off them and mashed them in a bowl. I quickly added one tablespoon lemon juice so it wouldn't turn black. Mix in half a teaspoon of salt and put plastic wrap over the bowl to keep the colour.

In the blender I put two tomatoes, a tablespoon of chives, plenty of parsley, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of cumin, several dashes of tabasco and pulsed it to coarsely chop the tomato.  I tasted it.  Too much cumin. A added another tomato, puréed it and tasted again.  Perfect.

Instead of caramelizing the onion I decided to use chives from the garden. I diced up half a stick of celery and added it to the chives.  I added half a teaspoon garlic powder and one teaspoon onion powder. I put about half a teaspoon of salt in but it wasn't enough, they were a little bland.  I added one teaspoon of paprika and ground some mixed pepper into the bowl. One quarter cup of flour, to hold the egg to the crab. I shredded three quarter pound of crab and broke an egg on top.  Tossed till it was evenly mixed. 

I took the middle section of a three day old loaf of alpine bread and put it in the blender.  A few pulses and I had a soft panko like texture. I formed small cakes and set them in the breading, tossed, then set them on the counter. I put the cakes in a large frying pan with hot oil and put the vegetables on the steamer.  When I had a nice brown on the cakes I turned them over.  The vegetables were almost done so I drained them and put them in the pot on medium low heat with extra virgin olive oil.

I plated the rice on the warm plates and made a base of guacamole for the cakes.  I set the cakes on the guacamole and put a dollop of salsa between them. Finally, I put the vegetables beside the cakes. 

I thought it was all pretty good but Fern didn't particularly like the bland crab cakes. Maybe I'll try real crab if it ever goes on sale. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meat Loaf

It's been rainy and cool so something warm and comforting was calling out to be cooked.  I wandered along the meat counters. Not fish. Not Angus steak. Not pasta. Not chicken. Not pork. Hmmmm. How about  meat loaf? I picked up a small pack of ground pork and went back to the Angus section and picked an equal size package of lean ground. Asparagus was on special so I picked that up too.

I put the meat in a bowl and added 2 tsp salt, a palm full of bread crumbs, 1 tbsp paprika, fresh ground pepper, two finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 tbsp dried oregano. Mixed it all up with both hands. I put 1/4 cup tomato ketchup in the bottom of a loaf pan and laid the meatloaf on top.  I put two sprigs of rosemary and two of thyme on top and put it in the oven at 375ºF. I should have also put a couple of bay leaves on top but didn't think of it till it was too late. It took an hour and a half to cook.

I made mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus.  The carrots I did in the microwave and when they were done I put a drop of molasses in them hoping to get that brown sugar taste without extra sugar.  I got the slightly bitter molasses taste overwhelming the carrots.  I'll use brown sugar next time or just butter and salt, like the asparagus.

A friend dropped by just before dinner so I made extra for him and he was very happy to accept.  He loved the meatloaf, so did Fern and I thought it was pretty good too. Next I know I can make it even better.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Curry Chicken with Peanut Sauce

We haven't had chicken in a while and it was time to make fresh stock so I picked up a couple of chicken breasts. When I got home I boned the breasts and put the bones in the stock pot with an onion, celery, carrot, clove garlic and 2 bay leaves. Brought that to a boil, actually it boiled over but there is a good side to that.  All the foamy impurities were boiled out of the pot so I didn't have to skim the stock.

I was in more of a curry mood but not coconut so doing the usual creamy curry wasn't where I felt like going.  I like peanut sauce so I decided to pound the breasts to double in size, coat with salt and Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder then serve with peanut sauce. I put rice on and readied the steamer for the vegetables.  The BBQ was warming up for the breasts.

I cook the chicken over the heat for the first 8 minutes so I can get crossed grill marks on the meat.  Then I move it off the heat to roast for the remaining 12 to 17 minutes. I poured the skin fat over the breasts in the BBQ to keep them moist and carry the flavour into the meat.  The peanut sauce was simple.  I put a teaspoon of flour in the pan and enough oil to make a paste.  I cooked the flour taste off for a minute then added 1/4 cup chicken stock. I added more stock till I had a thinner sauce.  I added 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and  2 teaspoon soy sauce. I should have added a few drops of rice vinegar to the sauce to brighten it up but I didn't think of it.

The vegetables were done so I cooled them under running water.  Then I put them in the pot with some extra virgin olive oil.  They warmed up while the oil cooked. I have been doing my vegetables this way for nearly a year.  It always produces better tasting vegetables. Of course, it didn't occur to me to think about what extra virgin olive oil cooked onto vegetables is going to taste like with peanut sauce.

I served the chicken on the rice with peanut sauce over top and vegetables on the side.  The vegetables were good until I had some peanut sauce.  The peanut sauce was good until I had some vegetables. There might have been more wrong with this meal but that seems to be the worst part.  The vegetables just didn't go with the meat and sauce. If I had stir fried the vegetables the dish would have been much better.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roast Pork with Chinese and collard greens

Fern had to drive to Vancouver to see a specialist. It's 8 hours minimum travel time due to two ferry trips each way, so it's an exhausting trip in one day.  Also, he'd be home late so I decided to do a pork roast, it'll be hot when he gets home. It didn't hurt that roasts were on special so I found a little one, maybe two pounds.

When I got home I immediately readied a brine with 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons salt, 2 tsp sugar and one tablespoon molasses. I used an immersion blender to dissolve it all.  In went the roast so it was covered by brine and put in the fridge for a few hours.  Even half an hour brining will help so it's always worth doing if you can squeeze in the time.

About two hours before Fern's estimated arrival time I put the roast on a rack in a small roasting pan. I laid 3 bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary and a sprig of thyme on the roast, inserted the meat thermometer and put it in the oven. I use a digital thermometer with a cable out the oven door which I highly recommend.

Our neighbour Deirdre dropped off some fresh greens from her garden so we even had fresh new vegetables to try. I wasn't sure what to do with them so tasted them both.  The Chinese greens tasted like cabbage and the collard greens tasted neutral. Collard greens are another type of cabbage but they didn't have the usual cabbage flavour.  They were sweet and seemed to meld with all the other flavours on the plate. I sliced up both bunches of leaves and readied the steamer which took the Chinese cabbage.

I had potatoes boiling on the stove when I took the roast out of the oven.  I immediately put the roast on the cutting board, removed the herbs and covered it with foil.  A roast has to rest out of the oven so the moisture driven out by cooking is drawn back into the meat.  Also, the moisture has to be cooled below boiling so it doesn't escape as steam when the roast is carved. This small roast I was planning to rest at least 20 minutes or until Fern arrived home.  Turned out to be 30 minutes and the meat was still warm and delicious.

I put the cabbage on the steamer and let it cook a bit then put the collard greens in the boiling water beneath.  A few minutes later they had softened so I drained and strained them both.  Then I tossed them in separate pans with butter and salt. The Chinese greens are plated on the right.

In the roasting pan I sprinkled a teaspoon of flour over all and put a quarter cup chicken stock in it.  A little salt and pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce along with a few drops of red wine vinegar.  Heat to simmering and stir the dried drippings into the gravy.

We weren't thrilled with the Chinese greens, neither of us likes cabbage but the collard greens were really good. The steak was perfectly cooked for our taste, medium rare, so it was tender and juicy. The gravy was really good too, glad I took the extra trouble. 

Angus Rib Eye Steak

Once in a while I splurge and buy a nice steak, this was one of those nights. I picked two Angus rib eye steaks with a little marbling in the eye and a little fat around the outside.  Fern doesn't like fatty meat so I have to trim his a bit. 

I did the baked potato in the microwave and removed it before it was completely cooked.  I set it on foil and added salt, butter and fresh chives. I rolled up the foil and put the potatoes in the BBQ but not over the heat.  The steak had just salt and black pepper on it and it was cooked for 8 minutes on the BBQ. Rotating and turning it over so it gets crossed grill marks on both sides.

The carrots and broccoli were done in the steamer and finished with xv olive oil in the pot. Looks like I forgot to put some home made yoghurt on the potato but I didn't miss it.  Somehow just putting a potato on the BBQ seems to add flavour. The vegetables were slightly over done but not mushy so they were still pleasant to eat.  The steak was medium rare, juicy and full of flavour. Yum!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Homemade Frozen Yogurt

I made yogurt yesterday.  I heat the milk to 180ºF in a double boiler, then cool it quickly to 110ºF in sink of cold water. Add some yogurt from the previous batch and put in the machine to ferment. I have the Yolife with the high lid so I am able to make 2 one liter jars and 1 500ml jar at the same time. I gave a jar to Kevin the gardener who loves lots of yogurt and works for free. I'll make him all the yogurt he wants! He phoned later to ask what to add to the yogurt, it's too sour.  Sugar, start with 3/4 cup in a liter of yogurt. Then add more till it tastes the way you like. He hasn't called back so presumably he succeeded.

To turn the yogurt into frozen yogurt add one cup of sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 cups yogurt, 1 cup milk and 1 packet gelatin.  The gelatin has to be sprinkled in a quarter cup cold liquid then the same amount of boiling water is added to dissolve the gelatin. Then add the gelatin to the ice cream maker. Churn the yogurt.

The carrot cake was a half recipe from a 13x9 cake. I lined a bread pan with parchment then:

Carrot Cake

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large or 2 small eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple (I used chunks)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix the wet ingredients, then the dry.  Put in a 350ºF oven for 40 minutes.  Test for doneness with a toothpick. Only crumbs, not batter, should be on the toothpick.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup (250gm  1/2lb) cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

Cream the warmed butter and cheese.  Add vanilla, then sift in icing sugar and beat till fluffy. Cut the cake in half horizontally and fill with layer of frosting.  Replace top piece and frost with remaining icing. 

Fern says it's the best carrot cake I've ever made and the best he's ever tasted. I know that's hyperbole but it does mean he likes it. The frozen yogurt is light with a lemony tang. It washes the cream cheese icing down leaving the mouth clean for the next bite. This is a perfect example of two components working together to deliver more than either could alone.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pork Chops

Pork chops were on special so I bought the smallest pack, which was still too much.  Half of that chop would have been plenty. Anyway, cauliflower was also on special so I bought a head of it too and trotted off home.

I got the potatoes on to boil first.  Then I readied the carrots and cauliflower for the steamer.  I sliced up an onion but wasn't sure what to do with it.  I decided to season the pan with caramelized onion so I put some oil in and the onions. The chops I seasoned with salt first then I put them in a bag with corn flour and shook to coat them evenly.  I ground some mixed pepper on the coated chops and and shook some mustard powder on too.  I got a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme from the garden for each chop. I took the onions out of the pan and put the chops in with the rosemary and thyme laid on top. Then I put the cauliflower and carrot in the steamer. 

I put the herbs aside into the hot oil while I turned the chops.  This released the flavor much better when I laid them back on the chops. I'll cook the herbs for a few seconds first next time. When the chops were nearly done I put the onions in with them.  

Plated the chops with the onions on top. I put butter in the cauliflower and carrot with some salt and pepper.  The potatoes were mashed and butter and milk were whipped in with a fork. An immersion blender will turn potatoes into a stiff, unpalatable paste.

Fern said several times during dinner that the pork was really good. It was well done but not quite dry so it was pleasant to eat. The rosemary and thyme were in there as was the mustard and the sweetness from the corn flower. Fern loves caramelized onions so it's almost cheating to put them on the plate. He'll 'LOVE' it.

It's interesting to note that we didn't have Fern's ketchup with the pork and neither of us missed it. That's probably a first.

Crab Cakes

I like these crab cakes because they are a terrific flavor/price bargain.  I use Louis C. Kemp imitation crab with 3% real crab. It has a crab like texture, the taste is good and it's less than $4 per pound. Real crab is $17 per pound. I can afford to serve these cakes every week whereas real crab would be a rare treat.

I keep varying the recipe to see if I can improve the result.  This time I didn't, they were still good, but not better.  I started by caramelizing a diced onion to which I added two crushed and chopped garlic cloves. The caramelized onion didn't melt into the crab mixture very well so there were incongruous dark spots in the crab. The flavor wasn't improved either so that was my first mistake. I should have used shallot or red onion and sweated it with the garlic and a little celery, that would have produced a better result.

I broke the crab apart and added 3/4 cup flour to the crab, that was my second mistake. I was hoping the extra flour would hold the cake together better and give nicer browning. It just made them really heavy, half a cup or less would have been plenty.  I forgot to add salt at this point but I should have added 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the crab. That was my third mistake.  I did manage to grind some pepper into it.

In a separate bowl I thoroughly whisked a very large egg.  Two small eggs worth at least, and added it to the crab. I mixed in the egg, onion and garlic into the crab and flour. I formed 4 balls and flattened them into patties.  The extra flour made them extra sticky so they held together better but they also stuck to my hands and the counter. I put them in plenty of hot oil but they quickly progress from brown to scorched so I keep an eye on them. Next time I will try putting them in hot oil for a minute so they are seared, then turning them over and turn the heat down to medium so they cook without burning. Turning them again to finish cooking the first seared side. Hopefully that will give me the result I'm looking for.

I also made basmati rice, carrots and broccoli.  The carrots and broccoli I did in the microwave but near the end I drained the water and added extra virgin olive oil then returned them to the microwave to finish cooking. I took them out 30 seconds before then end of their cycle so they weren't quite as over done. It worked surprisingly well.  The broccoli still had a little firmness and the oil was pleasantly cooked.

The tartar sauce is just 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon sweet green relish. The amounts can be varied to personal taste.

The crab cakes tasted good but could have been better.  They were much too heavy though. I could only eat one, the dogs shared the other. The extra flour made a huge difference, I probably could have made small dumplings with them and fed a crowd.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Angus Giant Slider with Artichoke Potato Salad

The only thing that looked good at the store was ground angus beef for burgers. Sorry, Giant Sliders. We had steak the other day, so red meat again was a bit soon but I decided to go with it so giant sliders for dinner. I picked up the smallest package of meat, less than a pound, a couple of multigrain kaiser buns, tomatoes on the vine and iceberg lettuce. Then back to the kitchen. 

I diced up a slice of red onion and cracked an egg into a bowl with the meat. I tried to add some bread crumbs but the bag was empty so a little dusting and some seeds was all it got.  A good sprinkle of salt, half a teaspoon is about what I used.  Black pepper, I think it's better with beef. Chili Powder, up to a teaspoon and two shakes of mustard powder. I mixed it all up and managed to make 3 somewhat goopy patties.  The third for the dogs of course. I managed to get the sliders on the BBQ in one piece.  I gave them a minute or two extra to firm up before rotating them to get crossed grill marks. I turned them over and did the same to get the grill marks.  

I had the buns in the toaster oven crisping up.  I buttered them lightly then added mustard and relish.  Two thin slices of tomato and some julienned iceberg. A paper thin slice of red onion to give it some bite. The plate is filled out with yesterday's potato salad, so look there for the that recipe.

My Burger stack didn't make it down the stairs to the dinner theater, should have used a toothpick. Next time. Fern really really liked the burger giant slider, so did I and the dogs are still licking the plates. I'll definitely have to make artichoke potato salad again too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Savory Chicken on the BBQ

I finished the new enlarged chicken run today so I wasn't in the mood to bone chicken and make stock, but I did it anyway.  Then I pounded the breasts to double in size and seasoned both sides with salt, mixed pepper, paprika, savory and fresh garlic. Then I laid a sprig of thyme and one of rosemary on each breast and sprayed them with oil. Then I put them in the BBQ for 20 minutes total cooking time. I put them over the heat for a few minutes to get some grill marks then moved them off the heat to let them roast. 

I put the bones, an onion cut in half, a carrot cut big, a stick of celery cut large, a bay leaf and a clove of garlic with skin in a pot of water and brought it to a boil.  Once it boiled I skimmed off the foamy goop on top, that's what makes stock cloudy. Then I turned it down to simmer for 30 minutes. So I have fresh stock for sauces, soups, gravies, the dog's food when he whines it isn't good enough.

That left the skins which I put in a small frying pan fry till crispy on both sides then give them as a treat for the dogs.  That leaves a pan of chicken fat.  I put the chicken fat on the chicken in the BBQ at about it's half way point which adds both flavor and moisture.

The potato salad was potatoes cut small cooked and cooled.  To that I added a stick of celery diced small, half a small red pepper diced small, chive flowers broken up, half a cup of artichoke hearts and mayonnaise. I should have let the artichoke hearts drain a little because the oil made the mayonnaise too runny.

The green salad was baby spinach and arugula (rocket) dressed with walnut oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper.

When the chicken was done I took it out and let it cool on the plate while I finished the salads.  Fern liked the potato salad even though it was over dressed/runny.  He loved the green salad. Commenting more than once while eating it how good it was.  Same with the chicken.  It was delicious. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Angus Strip Loin

I've been working on the chicken run expansion so I didn't want to fuss with dinner.  A steak on the BBQ would top off the day nicely and not be too taxing to make. Some nice Angus strip loins were on special so I picked up a couple of nice ones and headed for home.

I peeled the potatoes and put them on for mashed and cleaned up a carrot and got it in the steamer.  When the carrots were half way I took them off and ran them under cold water to stop cooking. I put the steaks on the BBQ and added frozen peas to the carrots before returning the steamer to it's pot of boiling water.

The BBQ was on high and the steaks were done 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they should be done  with nice grill marks.

When the peas are done drain them and put the veggies in the pot with extra virgin olive oil to finish cooking. I managed to scissor and few chives over the potato. Still a suburban plate but it sure was tasty!

Pan Fried Snapper

Fern was using my truck to transport the kayaks so I dusted off my electric bike and headed off to the store with fish in mind for dinner. Snapper was on special, one of our favourites. I bought a nice 300gm filet (a bit over half a pound), picked up a few other items and headed home. A warm day like this in May I've never seen in my 33 years on this coast, it was a beautiful ride home. 

First I mixed up some

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
1/2 tsp cumin

There isn't enough salt in my rubs so I salt the fish first then sprinkle the rub over. Of course before seasoning I removed the bones, there's usually 5 or 6 bones down the center from the head. I pull them out with a pair of pliers. 

I had potatoes on and got the carrots into the steamer.  At the carrots half way point I added the broccoli to the steamer. The snapper went into hot oil in a frying pan.  I watch the color change move up as the meat cooks, when it reaches the middle, turn it over. (by color change I mean from translucent to opaque white. The change is subtle.) It helps to have pieces of fish not much bigger than the lifter, they're easier to turn. Cut a large piece in two to make it more manageable.

Tartar Sauce

2 parts Mayonnaise 
1 part sweet green relish

Don't make too much, my snapper is drowning in it. I steel feel compelled to finish the last of something if it will go directly to my artery walls.  The broccoli was almost done so I drained the vegetables and put them in a pot with xv olive oil on medium low heat to finish cooking. I mashed the potatoes and added butter, salt and milk then whipped them with a fork.  Don't over process potatoes, they turn to paste.

All in all it was a pretty good meal.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Roast Pork

I felt like pork today and the best buy was a sirloin roast so I picked one up.  I sliced the fat on top into a diamond pattern and brined it in 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar and 3 tablespoons salt. It soaked for about 3 hours.  I inserted a meat thermometer and laid 3 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and one of rosemary. It roasted at 325ºF for about 2 hours.  I took it out of the oven and covered it in foil on the cutting board.  It rested at least 20 minutes so the juices were drawn back into it.  If I don't let it rest, all the moisture escapes as steam when it's cut and the meat is dry.

Mashed potatoes shouldn't need explanation, but somewhere among my posts there is a description.  The carrots went in the steamer first, followed by the broccoli and when the broccoli was almost done I drained it all and finished it in xv olive oil on medium low heat.

There were some pan drippings so I made a little gravy with it and it was phenomenal.  I put a teaspoon of flour in the pan, worked it into the fat and cooked it a minute.  Then in went 1/2 cup chicken stock.  That was it, just stir and serve over the potatoes and meat.  All the flavor from the meat, brine and herbs was in the gravy.  That's my best gravy to date.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Extra Juicy BBQ Boneless Chicken Breast

I spent the day in the garage building a plant potting cart from the double SS sinks Fern found somewhere. It turned out great but I was too tired to struggle with a complicated meal. I felt like chicken but I didn't feel like making stock, so I didn't, I simply boned the breasts and turfed the bones.  I did fry the skins for the dogs and I simply salted and then seasoned the breasts with:

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)

and put them on the BBQ. To fill the plate I just put rice on to cook and readied frozen corn for the microwave. I put soy sauce on my rice but Fern likes his white so that's how I serve it.

I grilled the chicken over medium low heat in a 2 min x 2 min, turn over, 2 min x 2 min to get the crossed grill marks on the chicken.  I've been wondering lately if grill marks in only one direction would look better on chicken. I'll try that next time. Anyway, once marked I put the breasts off the heat in the center of the BBQ to finish roasting for 25-30 minutes total cooking time. The BBQ stays somewhere between 300-500 degrees as it is opened and closed.

Usually the chicken fat left over from the skins I cool and put in the garbage but this time I had an idea. I poured the fat over the chicken on the BBQ and moved it off the flame so the fat didn't burn. What a difference it made! The fat carried the spice rub into the meat and cooked the juices coming out, that's what the white fluff is on the meat where it was nicked. The result of sloppy knife work on my part. It looked a lot more appetizing on the plate than it does in the photo. 

That one little addition turned this "It's hot food, just eat it." meal into a taste sensation!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spaghetti with Spinach and Arugula Salad

I removed a wisteria vine from the backyard before it destroyed the fence.   I haven't worked that hard in years, I'm stiff, sore and tired. So what to make for dinner? Fern said "Spaghetti?"
"Perfect. Sauce is in the freezer!"
Relieved at not having to go shopping I rested a bit.  When it was time to boil water for pasta and reheat sauce, I thought it would be nice to have a little salad too. I harvested as much arugula as the plants would give and put a handful of walnut pieces on a tray in the toaster oven.  Half a toaster cycle cooks off the bitter taste on the nuts.

I tore all the spinach and arugula leaves in half and put them in a bowl with the nuts.  I took a small chunk of cheddar cheese (feta would be better) and cut small cubes into the salad.  In a separate bowl I put 2 teaspoons walnut oil and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar. A pinch of salt, mixed pepper, whisked it up and tossed the salad with the dressing.

It was all very good and most importantly, we both ate our salads. When I make a large salad it looks like a huge challenge after a plate of pasta but this small salad was just right. I described the sauce the other day and the pasta is Barilla so there's not much to write about the spaghetti.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Southwestern Chicken Curryish

It was another chicken night and I had some tomatoes to use up.  The curry powder I have has a bitter after taste which I think comes from garam masala not being 'cooked' before grinding and incorporation, a good reason to mix my own. I don't like bitter so decided to use some curry components instead. I put some rice on to cook and seasoned the chicken breast with salt and:

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)

I put the chicken breasts on the BBQ to get grill marks then moved them over off the heat to finish roasting. 25-30 minutes total cooking time. Can also be finished in 350ºF oven. 

The tomato curryish was simply a diced onion caramelized, then a half stick of diced celery is added to sweat.   Three  tomatoes diced are added to the onion and celery. I kept the heat medium-high as long as possible  because I wanted to cook down the tomato in the few minutes I had. To the tomatoes I added 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon coriander and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. I added the frozen peas about 5 minutes before serving. I plated the chicken on white rice and the tomato sauce over top.

The cumin and coriander gave the dish a curry like smell and taste but without the bitterness. That's the curryish because I wouldn't call a true curry. It's important to note here that cumin and coriander are components of both my Southwestern Spice Rub and pretty much any curry. None of the other ingredients clash so it is safe to mix these two very different spice combinations. 

Fern said he wasn't expecting to like this dish, Southwestern Curry didn't sound particularly good. It was though.  Fern tasted it and immediately said it was delicious! Success!! A new way to prepare the same old thing and it's easy!