A Side Dish for The Healthy Folk!

Goat Cheese & Avocado LogOften, when I’m smoking ribs & pork shoulder, I do some not-so-healthy side dishes. Baked beans cooked in bacon fat anyone? Smoked mac & cheese with three types of cheese and a couple cups of heavy cream? It’s so heart-hardening delicious that you can’t pull yourself away.

It’s easy to lie to yourself; we do it all the time: “I’ll lose that extra ten pounds starting tomorrow, or after the new year”; “I’ll save for retirement when the kids are gone and I have extra money.” Well, just like eating unhealthy food, the effect doesn’t catch us for years, so why worry about it now?

I would love to say that the guilt got to me and I made a healthy side-dish for that reason, but really, I just wanted to make my wife happy. She loves goat cheese. Buy a double pack of  goat cheese logs at Costco, put on a fancy place, place some sliced avocado on top along with macadamia nuts and bacon bits. Then add balsamic drizzle and a few splashes of olive oil. Serve with some crackers and place in center of heart attack alley (ribs, pork, beans, mac & cheese, soda).

It’s actually fabulous. My wife had it for a meal.

Happy Eating.

Caprese Salad: Where have you been all my life?

Caprese Salad

Yes, this recipe is simple. And it is something that I have never made before. Oh all the lost time.

A good friend gave us some tomatoes from her garden. I already had a bunch of basil from my brother’s garden so it was time for the Caprese creation.

Caprese Salad

2 Beauty Tomatoes, sliced (Beauty is a Noun here not an adjective. It’s an Heirloom variety).
Fresh Sliced Mozzarella, sliced
Basil Leaves
Olive Oil, to drizzle
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Stack sliced Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Leaves together. Drizzle with Olive Oil. Salt & Pepper to taste.

To make this extra special, get a loaf of Italian Round Bread. Slice it up, drizzle with Olive Oil and broil for 3 minutes. Place the Caprese on top and enjoy. It reminded me of Panzanella: Tuscan Bread Salad.

This was meant to be an appetizer; but we made it a meal for dinner one evening, and a lunch two days later. What a fresh end to summer.

Happy Eating.

Bean Thread Noodles with Pickled Vegetables

About a year ago, my sweet Sister-in-Law gave me a year’s subscription to Bon Appetit magazine as a gift. By reading this magazine, I have been around the world many times from the comfort of my own living room. From the Adalusia region of Spain to Shanghai China to Africa and beyond, I have begun a quest to eat the world’s cuisine. What an adventure it has been so far.

Here is one of the great Asian dish recipes that leaped off the pages:

Bean Thread Noodles

BEAN THREAD NOODLES WITH PICKLED VEGETABLES

6 oz. wide bean thread noodles
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large daikon, julienned
1 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, julienned
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup torn fresh cilantro, divided
3/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, divided.

Place noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let noodles soak until tender but not mushy, 20 minutes; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well. 

Whisk garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, ginger and pepper in another large bowl. Add daikon, cucumber and carrots; toss to combine. Let sit 10 minutes.

Add noodles, oil, half of cilantro and half of peanuts to bowl; toss to combine. Top salad with remaining cilantro and peanuts.

There were some great personal lessons here for me. The first is that I get distracted easily which led me to not buying a daikon. I was at the Asian grocery store here in Salt Lake but forgot to buy one. Having lived in Southeast Asia, I was in complete nostalgia at the store. The chili garlic sauce, noodles, juices and other delights all commanded my attention. Due to that, I did not include daikon in the dish.

The other lesson was that I am sometimes in such a rush to get to things that I scan instead of read. While grating ginger into the marinade, I began thinking that 2 Tablespoons was a lot of ginger. Going back and actually reading (rather than scanning) the ingredients, I saw that it was 2 Teaspoons of ginger, not 2 Tablespoons.

The dish was wonderful. The marinade has a bitter flavor but not enough to overwhelm. It’s just enough that when it touches your tongue, the glands on the side of your mouth begin to water, craving more. Bean thread noodles are a clear glass noodle without a lot of flavor. The marinade does a beautiful job of flavoring those throughout. It reminded me of the Vietnamese Vinaigrette at La Cai Noodle House.

The veggies and herbs make it the epitome of freshness. This can be a great side or main dish.

Thank you Bon Appetit.

Happy Eating

Texas Smoked Brisket with Red Sauce

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

At a recent Kansas City Barbeque Society Event, I was introduced to Troy Black. He was the host of the competition and is quite the legend in the industry himself. Winning 1st place in over 100 of 400 competitions will codify your status.

Troy has a book, “All Fired Up” that I thought I would use as a reference to smoke my first ever beef brisket. One neighbor arrogantly stated, “anyone can smoke a pork shoulder, but only a few can make a good brisket.” Okay, I was a little nervous; Especially since there would be a gathering at our home where I would be serving this first ever brisket.

While Troy even makes his own rub, I went with the Whiskey Steak rub from Cabela’s. From there it was on to the smoker.

Rachel gave me a great birthday present in June. It’s a meat thermometer with a remote transmitter so you can spend your Saturday afternoon watching baseball, not having to move to check on the meat. It took about 9 hours but the internal meat temperature finally read “190 degrees.”

The Eight Wonder of the World

The Eight Wonder of the World

We let it stand for 30 minutes then cut it across the grain into thin slices. Now what to serve for sauce? I was planning to serve it with Aus Jus and also needed a good BBQ Sauce. Troy doesn’t lack for sauces either and I found a “Brisket Red Sauce” in his book.

Brisket Red Sauce

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until butter melts and mixture reduces. Remove from heat; serve warm. 

What did I learn: that the brisket came out wonderful. It was moist and tender with a great applewood smoked flavor. It’s easy to dry out a brisket and I was happy that this one was not dry. I also learned that when you place a drip pan to gather Aus Jus drippings, to take that out after a few hours. Just after the three hour mark, the pan had some good juice in it. When you leave that same pan in there for 6 additional hours, there is no juice left.

Also, Troy is from the South and has a strong toleration for spicy, hot foods. His Brisket Red Sauce was a sinus cleaner. Really, all you had to do was walk in the house when we were making the sauce, and your sinuses would be cleaned. It was like tear gas. I added another 3 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to “mellow” it out. If you are going to make this, also cut back on the cumin. We made it tolerable.

Brisket is a delectable treat and I am grateful to learn from some Masters.

Happy Eating

Roasted Beet Salad with Green Leaf Lettuce, Sliced Apples and Feta Cheese

Roasted Beet Salad

Needing to bring a Salad to Sunday Dinner, I was left scrambling as the hour approached. Watching baseball and drinking a cold soda on a Sunday afternoon, seemed much more relaxing than preparing a salad.

We had some beets from Borski Farms which needed to be used. I roasted those, added it to some green leaf lettuce, threw in some sliced apples and Feta Cheese, poured on some Four Leaf Vinaigrette and indulged.

Roasted Beet Salad:

3 medium sized beets
1 head, green leaf lettuce
1 Gala apple, sliced
1 1/2 cups Feta Cheese

Drizzle beets with olive oil, salt & pepper and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. If soft when pierced with a knife, allow to cool for a few minutes then wrap in a paper towel and rub aggressively. Skin should peel right off. Slice beets.

Chop lettuce and place in large bowl. Add sliced apples, beets and Feta Cheese. Cover with your favorite vinaigrette and enjoy.

The beets will also make a great side dish by themselves. My Sister-in-Law enjoyed the leftover beets on their own.

Smoked Herb Butter Chicken

Last week I used the Smoker for the first time this season. It was incredible and I look forward to a summer of smoking. This weekend I will smoke a chicken. It reminded me of the first time smoking chickens:

My love for the smoker grows each time I use it. Traeger recommended this recipe for whole roasted chickens. I quickly fell in love when I found a whole chicken at the grocery store runs $5-$7, cooks in under 90 minutes, and feeds many.

Sous Chef Sam and I made 2 chickens along with Roasted Tomato Bisque and Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Smoked Roasted Chicken with Herbed Butter

8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 scallion, white and green parts finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage or parsley, plus extra sprigs for roasting
2 1/2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1 4-to-4 1/2 pound chicken

In a small bowl, combine the butter, scallion, garlic, minced fresh herbs, 1-1/2 teaspoon of the rub, and the lemon juice and blend well with a wooden spoon.

Herbed Butter

Remove any giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Wash the chicken inside and out with cold running water. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of the rub in the cavity of the chicken. Slip a few sprigs of fresh herbs (see list of options above) into the cavity as well. Smear the outside of the chicken with the butter-herb mixture. Tuck the chicken wings behind the back. Tie the legs together with butcher’s string.

Ready for the Grill. Notice Sam’s fabulous knots?

When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 400 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Oil the grill grate with vegetable oil. Place the chicken on the grill grate, breast-side up, and close the lid. After 1 hour, lift the lid. If the chicken is browning too quickly, cover the breast
and legs with aluminum foil. Close the lid and continue to roast the chicken until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers a temperature of 165 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove the chicken to a platter and allow to rest for 3 minutes. Untie the legs and carve.

We used Rosemary, Basil, and Cilantro in the butter and Rosemary in the cavity of the chicken. Knowing that Sous Chef Sam has a knack for knot tying, I asked him to tie the wings and legs. He would have made the Mafia proud with his knots. I also love that Sam has a similar gift as myself-saying what’s on his mind before thinking about it. After tying the knots he said, “Wow, messing with chickens is kind of morbid. Do you think that most serial killers got their start as butchers?” Oh how I love my Sous Chefs.

As we opened the grill to check on the chickens, the crispiness of the herbed-butter crust was something that belonged in a museum. What a work of art. I stood there in awe, not wanting the ruin the perfection of the moment. “And I knew just as surely, just as clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last” (A River Runs Through It).

The chicken was moist, tender and perfectly crisp. Since it’s only on the smoker for 90 minutes, the flavor doesn’t incorporate as far, but it was delicious anyway.

The Grill can fit 6 chickens at a time. Any suggestions on recipes?

Happy Eating.

 

Spicy Smoked Pork Chili!

Sous Chef Jesse prepping the pork shoulder for the Smoker

Sous Chef Jesse prepping the pork shoulder for the Smoker

Never have cooked a chili before, I was a little nervous about not only being a participant in a chili cook-off but helping to organize the event. The pressure was on so I decided to research, then improvise.

The first thing I knew that I needed to do was to smoke some meat. How about a pork shoulder?

 

In a Hearty Fall Soups class with Chef Todd Leonard, we had made Texas Chili and Beans. I improvised here and there (mostly with pork shoulder instead of beef). It was a lot of fun.

Spicy Pork Chili cooking

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pound sweet onion, medium dice
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
28 oz can, San Marzano Tomatoes
10 ounces Anaheim chili pepper, small dice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup masa harina, or cornmeal
Pinto Beans, as needed

Smoke the Pork Shoulder, tear apart by hand

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sweat the onions & garlic then add the Anaheim chilies, cook until soft. 

Add the juice from San Marzano tomatoes into pot, then hand squeeze tomatoes. Add salt, black pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and cumin. Simmer for 2 hours. 

Make a slurry with a masa harina and 1 cup cold chicken stock. Stir the slurry into the chili. Continue to cook until broth thickens. Add pork shoulder, cooked pinto beans. 

Thin with additional chicken stock if needed. Serve, enjoy. 

Spicy Pork Chili

It was a lot of fun and it was almost gone by the time the night was over. Now for the next chili: this will have ground beef and italian sausage.

Happy Eating

In Honor of Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day dish from last year

Every Valentine’s Day since 2003, I have a tradition of cooking Rachel dinner. It started as a way to save money and avoid the crowds, but has become something that we both really enjoy. Since I love to cook, this works out well. It also keeps me from having to be part of the mass of men wandering through the store looking at cheesy valentine’s balloons, flowers, and chocolates. Yes, you can tell that I am a romantic.

Each year it is a dish that we have not eaten before. I always do a lot of research looking for a dish that is very “Rachie.” She loves fancy cheeses and breads, so when I came across the Goat Cheese and Mango Quesadillas dish, I knew that I had found the Valentine’s dinner for this year. Here it is:

Goat Cheese and Mango Quesadillas:

4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

1. Spread goat cheese on tortillas. Divide mango, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro on one half of each tortilla. Fold tortilla over filling.

2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook quesadillas until cheese softens and tortillas are crisp and browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut each into 4 wedges. Serve it and Love it.

These were a huge hit. Once Rachel found out that goat cheese was in the dish (even before she knew the entire recipe), I was a hero. The creaminess of the goat cheese really mixed well with the other ingredients. The red onion added a sharpness that makes your mouth water.

Try it soon; you will love it also. You know where I found this recipe: Everyday FOOD magazine. There are quite a bit of good recipes here.

Happy Eating.

Now what is Hometown Slop?

So really, where did the name, Hometown Slop, come from? Let me tell you. Every Sunday morning I like to make a breakfast sandwich. Over time it has become very sloppy and very delicious (if I may say so myself). There have been numerous variations until the most recent one. This one has stuck. Like many of the dishes I make, I don’t follow a recipe. It was a lot of “some of this, some of that, I think I put this in last time.”

Here it is: Hometown Slop Sandwich:

2 pieces sourdough bread
2 large eggs
2 pieces honey ham
4 leaves fresh basil
Dash of salt
Dash of fresh ground pepper
Dash of paprika

Directions: Toast the bread. Cook the eggs over easy (very important); dash with salt & pepper while cooking. Fry the ham. Place eggs & ham on bread with basil and paprika.

Be sure to not lift sandwich far from the plate when you take a bite. The over easy eggs will run onto the plate. This becomes your dip for the rest of the sandwich. Remember: dry food is terrible food. Dip, bite, and enjoy. Your spouse will be disgusted with you but let’s face it, they probably are already.

So the “sloppy” sandwich gave rise to the name. After I repeatedly made the sandwich, I asked Rachel what a good name for a diner would be. What do you think? Would you eat at a diner named Hometown Slop? It just might happen one day.

Happy Eating.

Breakfast Smoothie: My 5 Hour Energy!

Starting back in September, Rachel and I began having smoothies for breakfast. They are healthy, filling and refreshing. Just recently, she made a new smoothie that was wonderful and now we are on top of the world.

Having received a Ninja Blender as a Christmas present, it makes it all the more easy to throw things in the there. Sous Chef Jesse told me that he & his friend even put an old cell phone in their Ninja Blender and it worked beautifully.

Breakfast Smoothie

1 Red Delicious Apple, sliced
1 Cup Fresh Spinach
1 Banana
1/3 Cup Greek Honey Yogurt
1/3 Cup Milk (or Silk Milk)
1/2 Teaspoon Flax Seed

The apple, spinach and yogurt make a perfect plural marriage. It also gets you loaded up on fruits and vegetables to start the day.

Happy Eating

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