Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Figure-Friendly No-Bake Cookies

My Venture into No-Bake Cookies

This recipe is lower in sugar and fat than many other desserts. I've tried making this recipe using sugar-free preserves and artificial sweeteners (and no added sugar at all) but I really did not like the artificial taste that it had. For this reason, I opted to use reduced-sugar preserves, which do not normally use artificial sweeteners, a small amount of sugar, and a small amount of Splenda. Reduced-fat peanut butter works great in this recipe and I highly recommend it. These cookies are full of nutrients so it's a little hard to think of them as dessert. The cocoa powder is full of antioxidants and flavanols. The milk provides some Vitamin D and protein. The preserves have Vitamin C and the peanut butter has protein and Vitamins A and E. The oatmeal adds a nice dose of fiber. That added fiber can help to cushion the glycemic impact the sugar might have on your blood. All of that is nice but the reason I make these is because they're quick and easy to make and taste really decadent! They are so fudgy! The fact that they're figure-friendly is just another perk.

My mom and sister love this recipe and I think you will too. Enjoy – and happy not baking!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Figure-friendly No-bake Cookies
(Printable Version)

2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup low-fat milk (skim works OK)
1/4 cup sugar
2 pinches salt
3 TBSP cocoa powder
1/2 cup reduced-sugar strawberry preserves
1/4 cup peanut butter (reduced-fat works great)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 to 3 TBSP Splenda (depending on how sweet you like things)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Add a piece of wax paper to a small cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer to chill.

To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, milk, sugar, salt, cocoa powder, and strawberry preserves. Use a fork to break up any large pieces of strawberries. Whisk often and bring to a light simmer then immediately remove the saucepan from the burner. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and Splenda. Whisk lightly to incorporate the peanut butter. Add the oats and use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture. Allow the mixture to rest in the saucepan for 6 minutes – stirring after 3 minutes. This resting period will allow the mixture to firm up slightly.

Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to place mounds of the mixture on the chilled cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the cookies to fully gel. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. These cookies when properly prepared should not be hard and brittle. They should be soft and fudgy. Makes 1 dozen ping-pong-ball size cookies.

Note: I tried this recipe using sugar-free preserves without success. To me, sugar-free preserves have a very artificial taste that is distracting in this recipe. Reduced-sugar preserves are not normally made with artificial sweeteners (but do have a reduced amount of sugar).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scalloped Potato Pot Pie

My Venture into Potatoes

Who doesn't love potatoes? Potatoes can be part of a healthy diet and provide a fat-free way to get important vitamins and minerals. That is, unless you make this dish. This recipe is not fat-free. It's not reduced-fat. It's comfort food at its finest. I think I owe one of my chins and both of my thighs to this very recipe. I'm not saying you should eat this every day. Make it for special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or Tuesday's.

The filling is like thick scalloped potatoes. It's not meant to be soupy. I used to be a vegetarian and made this dish without the bacon. To flavor the cream, I used vegetable bouillon instead of chicken – and it was tasty that way. Still fattening, of course – but meat-free. You might opt to use some cheddar cheese instead of parmesan (or a combination of the two). If using cheddar, I highly recommend grating your own because pre-shredded cheeses do not work as well. I also recommend using 2% cheddar. Otherwise, the filling can get rather oily. Don't be frightened by the amount of garlic. You need it to flavor this quantity of potatoes. If you're in the mood, feel free to make your own pie dough!

I need to take a class on how to get a nice, clean piece of pie out of the dish on the very first try. You'll have to excuse the top photo – it was the best piece I could get out of the dish. The first piece looked like I scooped it out with my bare hands. The second piece wasn't much better. If practice makes perfect, I'm going to have to make a lot more pies!

I took some pictures, ate a piece of the pie, and quickly threw the rest in the trash. It was horrible. You'll hate it. Bacon, potatoes, onion, garlic, and pie dough all taste bad. It would have definitely tasted better with tofu. And Brussels sprouts. When it was baking, my apartment filled with the most INCREDIBLE aromas. Wait. They were BAD smells! Bad smells! It would have smelled so much better with tofu and Brussels sprouts. You believe me, right?!

This dish is really easy to make and feeds a crowd. It's so warm and comforting – your family will love it. Better yet, fix 'em some tofu and Brussels sprouts and your family will treat you like a queen. You know, like Marie Antoinette. Of course, the peasants hated her so she was guillotined – probably after making them eat tofu and Brussels sprouts. Hmm. Something to think about. In any case, enjoy – and happy spudding!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Scalloped Potato Pot Pie

(Printable Version)

1 3-oz package real bacon bits (sold in the salad dressing aisle)
1 TBSP butter
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cream
1 tsp chicken-flavored bouillon (or 1 cube of bouillon)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup freshly grated parmesan (or sharp cheddar)
2 lbs russet potatoes (3 medium), peeled and thinly sliced
2 refrigerated pie dough sheets

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon bits and cook them for a few minutes to re-crisp them and freshen their flavor. When crispy, spread them out on a plate to cool.

Add the butter to the saucepan. When melted, add the scallions and cook about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Add the cream, bouillon, and pepper then stir to combine. Heat the mixture until it is hot but yet not simmering. The goal here is to melt the bouillon and infuse the cream with the onion mixture. Take the pan off the heat and allow the sauce to cool slightly while you are preparing the remaining ingredients.

Unroll one of the sheets of pie dough and press it into a 9" deep-dish pie plate. Place the pie dish and remaining pie dough in the refrigerator while you are preparing the potatoes.

Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. Do not add the potatoes to water because you need the starch from the potatoes to keep them from sliding around when you cut into the pie after it is cooked. I use a mandolin to cut the potatoes but you can use a knife. Shingle 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the pie crust – stacking the potatoes slightly thicker around the edges and thinner in the middle. There's already a lot of salt in the bouillon, bacon, and cheese but I still like to add a pinch of salt to the potatoes because they suck up so much salt when baking. They taste OK without the additional salt so I'll leave that up to you. Sprinkle the potatoes with 1/3 of the bacon and 1/3 of the parmesan cheese. Spoon 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes. Repeat this process two more times to use up the remaining ingredients. Add another sheet of dough to the top of the pie then seal and flute the edges. Cut a couple of slits in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Cover the edges of the pie dough with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is a deep brown. When properly cooked, you should be able to easily insert a knife into the potatoes but they should still be firm enough to retain their shape. Let cool 10 minutes before serving – if you can wait that long.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chimichangas Blancas

My Second Venture into Chimis

You might remember an earlier recipe I posted for Oven-Baked Chicken Chimichangas. I make Chimichangas a million different ways. The recipe I'm posting today is another oven-baked recipe that is a cheese lover's dream. The filling is quite thick – even after baking. Don't expect a wet or oozy filling even though there's a lot of cheese in it. I've served these both with sour cream and without. The jury is split on which is better. I, personally, am not a huge sour cream fan and prefer to leave it out. Others absolutely insist on having it in there. I'll let you decide. I named it Chimichangas Blancas or White Chimichangas because of the white fillings – white-meat chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, and Monterrey Jack cheese. The filling, of course, has other colors as well but white definitely dominates. If you are worried about the spiciness level because of the jalapeno, don't be! It barely has any heat with that little 'ol jalapeno in it. Trust me. I normally add two or three.

With many of my recipes, I try to fix them at least once with healthier ingredients such as reduced-fat cheeses, less sugar, less oil, etc. I like to compare the taste of the lighter version to the full-flavored recipe (that is, the more-fattening version) because, often times, the lighter alternative does not significantly compromise flavor. If it tastes the same, after all, why eat the extra calories and fat! Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to do that with this recipe yet. If you want to make this recipe healthier, try using reduced-fat cheeses and leave out the sugar, sour cream, and bacon bits. If you make these chimis a more figure-friendly way, leave a comment and let us know how they turned out.

Enjoy – and happy baking!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chimichangas Blancas
(Printable Version)

1 cup roasted chicken breast, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup real bacon bits (the kind sold in the salad dressing aisle)
1 TBSP oil
4 scallions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp table salt
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream (very optional)
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz of Monterrey Jack cheese
2 TBSP fine chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, or spinach
About 7 Flour tortillas (8-9" each)
Oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 400F. Placed the chicken in a large bowl.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon bits until they are crispier then drain on a paper towel. In the same skillet, add the oil and allow it to get hot. Add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno, red bell pepper, cumin, and oregano. Cook for only 1 to 2 minutes then dump the mixture in the bowl with the chicken. Add the cilantro to the bowl as well.

While the bacon is crisping up, cream together the cream cheese, sour cream (if using), salt, sugar, and shredded cheese.

Mix the chicken and cream cheese mixtures together and taste for seasoning.

Brush 4 tortillas on one side very lightly with water then place them in a stack on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the tortillas. Microwave the tortillas for about 25 seconds. This heats the tortillas enough to make them pliable.

Remove one tortilla from the kitchen towel and rewrap the others to keep them warm. Add 1/3 cup of the filling to the center of the tortilla. Wrap the chimichanga like you would a burrito. Fold the left and right sides of the tortilla up over the filling then roll it starting from the bottom to completely enclose the filling. You should not roll the chimi too tightly or the tortilla will tear (or later burst during baking). Place the chimi seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other tortillas – heating additional tortillas in the microwave when needed.

Brush the tops and sides of each chimi with some oil. Bake for 21 to 23 minutes or until the chimis are golden and crispy.

Note: I, personally, am not a big fan of sour cream. In this recipe, the sour cream curdles a little bit when heated which does not seem to bother anybody else – except me. Others tell me that they really like the addition of the sour cream. I'll let you decide. The filling is quite thick in these chimis. You should not expect the inside to be too oozy when fully heated – even when adding the sour cream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fried Rice Risotto

My Venture into Fusion Cuisine

Have you ever had risotto? It sounds really pretentious but it actually originated as peasant food in Italy. It's nothing but creamy rice. It has the BEST mouth feel when you eat it.

The traditional liquids used for cooking risotto are white wine and chicken stock. It's often made with mushrooms and finished with some fresh parmesan cheese. Traditional risotto is great so, even if you don't try this recipe, give a classic recipe a whirl sometime. While I really like the use of the wine and chicken stock in traditional risotto, I HATE them in this recipe. They are too overwhelming. My goal was to make a dish with the flavor profile of fried rice but with the creaminess of risotto. The first time I tried experimenting with this dish, the wine and chicken stock took over and you couldn't taste anything else. I then made it without the wine and a liquid mixture of half water and half chicken stock. It was OK but still too strongly flavored (to me) for fried rice. For this reason, I prefer using just one can of chicken stock (with enough water to make 6 cups) or ALL water with no chicken stock. I've also made it with ham and I wasn't too fond of it because the risotto just got too salty by the time it was done simmering.

As pictured, I served the risotto in a cool-looking soup bowl I bought at a factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. That particular factory specializes in "celadon" dishes – using a pottery firing technique that originated in China hundreds of years ago. When fired, the pottery looks liked cracked jade but my amateur photography skills were not able to capture that aspect very well. Sorry – I'm still trying to learn how to use a camera. The dishes were dirt cheap but the shipping cost me two arms, one leg, and the first born of my neighbor's-hairdresser's-first wife's-third cousin once removed (the ugly one with mullet who walks pigeon-toed). The dishes arrived in a HUGE crate – about the size of a refrigerator. At one point, I considered trying to cram the dishes into my carry-on. Wouldn't you hate to have a box the size of a Frigidaire in the overhead bin right above your seat? I'd rather have dishes overhead than a "chatty Cathy" next to me. One time, I was seated next to an older woman on an international flight and, as I was belting myself in, I stupidly said "Hi. How are you doing?" – and she spent the next 10 hours telling me. Oy! She had bursitis, phlebitis, tendonitis, tonsillitis – whatever kind of "itis" doctors had come up with, she had 'em all. She didn't have to worry about the plane crashing because it sounded like she was going to be dead in three days anyway.

Whether you're a fried rice lover or a risotto connoisseur, give this recipe a try one time to see if you like it. It's different – but maybe too different for many people. If you're culinarily adventurous, give it a try! Enjoy – and happy stirring!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Fried Rice Risotto
(Printable Version)

1/2 lb bacon, cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP rice vinegar
5 to 6 cups water (or substitute some of the water with chicken stock)
1/2 cup carrots, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup scallions (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4" thick segments at an angle
1 cup cubed, cooked chicken (from, for example, a roasted chicken)
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Scrambled Eggs
1/2 TBSP butter
2 eggs, beaten

Bring the water to a boil in a large, covered saucepan. Turn to medium-low when it starts to boil but keep it covered at all times. As noted in the recipe, you can substitute part of the water with chicken stock. In fact, I often add 1 can of chicken stock and add enough water to total about 6 cups. You may not need all 6 cups.

While the water is heating, add the chopped bacon to a large skillet (and I do mean a LARGE skillet) then set the skillet on a burner over medium heat. Starting the bacon from a cold skillet will help to render more fat. Cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the onions to the bacon drippings in the skillet. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat. Cook the rice without adding any liquid for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. This helps to give risotto its classic "al dente" bite. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute longer.

By now, your water should be hot. Add 4 ladles of the water (about 2 cups) to the skillet – enough to cover the rice. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir to combine. Using a wooden spoon (which helps to keep the rice intact), stir the rice from time-to-time. Do not put a lid on the skillet. The liquid in the rice should be lightly simmering. If it is simmering too briskly, turn down the heat. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, which should take 4 to 5 minutes. Add another 2 ladles of the hot water (about 1 cup) and allow it to be absorbed by the rice, stirring every once in a while – another 4 to 5 minutes.

When most of the liquid has been absorbed, add the carrots. Add another cup of the hot water and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed – stirring every so often.

By the time the liquid from the last addition has been absorbed, the rice should have been cooking in water for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the peas and one last cup of the hot water. It is certainly possible that you may not end up using all of the water – or you may. It depends on your brand of rice, the humidity, how quickly you’re simmering the rice, etc. You should stir the rice more often at this point. After a couple of minutes, I start heating a small skillet for the scrambled eggs. The rice needs to have been cooking in the liquid for a total of about 18 to 20 minutes.

After the water has been absorbed, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the risotto and stir aggressively.

At this point, quickly scramble the eggs by adding 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the small skillet that you've been heating. Add the beaten eggs and scramble until just firm.

Add the cooked eggs, cubed chicken, scallions, and sesame oil to the risotto and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed with salt, soy sauce, and pepper (if desired). The risotto should be nice and creamy. If it is too thick, add a little more water. If it's too soupy, allow it to cook another minute or so before serving. Serve piping hot topped with some of the crispy bacon you fried earlier.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Light Granola

My Venture into Health Snacks

Have you priced granola recently? It's outrageously expensive! It's also often full of sugar and fat – making the mixture far less healthful than it would outwardly appear. You and your kids will LOVE this recipe. The oatmeal has a ton of soluble fiber, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol when eaten regularly. The dried berries provide needed antioxidants and add natural sweetness to the mixture. Just be sure to buy dried berries without any added sugar. Depending on the nuts and seeds you use, they can add heart-healthy omega 3 fats, fiber, selenium, and Vitamin E. All of that is great but you know what? I eat this because it tastes really GOOD! It's great for an after-school or after-work snack. For breakfast, I often pour some milk over it and eat it like cereal. I also like to add it to yogurt for a quick and healthful snack. When you're craving something sweet, this really hits the spot – without all of the guilt afterwards! And since you're making it yourself, you know exactly what's going into it.

Make this granola and make it often. Your body will thank you. Enjoy – and happy snacking!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Light Granola
(Printable Version)

2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup oat flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup Brown Sugar Splenda (or 2/3 cup Brown Sugar)
2 TBSP sugar-free pancake syrup (or real maple syrup)
4 TBSP butter, melted
2 cups of mixed dried fruits, nuts, and seeds (apricots, cherries, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, gojis, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc)

TIP: I never buy oat flour. I just dump some oats into my food processor, whiz for about a minute, and then I have oat flour! It's so much cheaper this way and is so easy-to-do.

Preheat oven to 275F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, and Brown Sugar Splenda. Stir to combine. Add the syrup and stir well until the syrup is evenly distributed. Add the melted butter and again stir until all of the oats are evenly coated.

I like little, crunchy nuggets of granola when I eat it. To make the nuggets, grab a small handful of the granola mixture and firmly squeeze it in your fist to make glob. The mixture should hold together fairly well. Over a rimmed sheet pan, gently break the blob into smaller nuggets. Repeat with the remaining mixture. When finished, you should have a single layer of larger nuggets, smaller nuggets, and loose pieces of oatmeal. Don't move the granola once it is in the sheet pan or the nuggets will fall apart. Some people do not like larger nuggets of granola. If you prefer granola with loose pieces of oats, just dump the granola directly onto a sheet pan after you have mixed everything together. Just give the sheet pan a quick shake to evenly spread everything out.

Bake the granola for 20 minutes. Take the sheet pan out of the oven and very, very gently stir the granola. You, after all, do not want to break apart the nuggets you made earlier. Put the sheet pan back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so for a lightly toasted granola. If you like your granola really toasted, you can leave it in for several more minutes. Remove it from the oven and leave it in the sheet pan until it has cooled completely. The granola will get crispier as it cools. Toss with your desired mixed dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Store in a sealed container.

After you make this the first time, make a note to yourself and decide if you would prefer the next batch to be sweeter or less sweet. I actually prefer my granola less sweet so I often add less Splenda than this recipe calls for. Others have preferred more sugar in theirs. You decide!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Peach Tartlets

My Venture into Stone Fruit

I love any kind of stone fruit (or fruits with pits). Peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries – you name it, I love 'em. During the summer when they are in season, I'm in heaven.

I made these tartlets for a dinner party a few years ago. They are so quick and easy to make but they look like they could be sold in a fancy, schmancy pastry shop. During dessert, I passed around a bowl of granola so the guests could decide for themselves if they wanted a crunchy topping or not. I like these tartlets either way, with or without a granola topping, so I decided to post a photograph with one of each so you could see the difference and decide for yourself.

During that dinner party, one of the guests, Bob, commented that he liked to grill stone fruits. Judy, one of the other guests, corrected him and said that the term is actually "stoned" fruits and not "stone" fruits. She reasoned that he would say, after all, scrambled eggs and not scramble eggs or grilled chicken and not grill chicken. Bob countered and said that she would say log cabin and not logged cabin or brick wall and not bricked wall. I, personally, thought that "stoned fruit" sounded reeeeally odd and should only be used to refer to fruit that had been partying too much at an all-night bong party at a college frat house. Unfortunately, the debate got rather heated and ended up with one of them storming out of my house. I learned my lesson. Never serve fruits with pits at dinner parties because of the potential violence that might ensue.

Whatever terminology you use, you have to try this simple but elegant dessert. Enjoy – and happy stoning!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Peach Tartlets
(Printable Version)

1 refrigerated pie dough
1 large peach or nectarine, unpeeled
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Small pinch salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 TBSP peach preserves
Granola for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Heat a skillet on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. While the skillet is heating, cut the peach or nectarine into 12 slices of equal size.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. When the butter has just melted, sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly in the skillet. Do not let the skillet get too hot. Add the peaches and lemon juice. Swirl the pan around to evenly coat the bottoms of the peaches and bring the brown sugar mixture to a light simmer. Once simmering, cook the peaches for about 2 minutes then flip and cook 2 minutes longer. Do not allow the syrup to aggressively simmer when cooking or you will boil away too much of the liquid. Periodically swirl the pan to keep the mixture evenly heated. Pour the peaches and accumulated brown sugar syrup into a bowl and allow the fruit to cool slightly.

Unroll the pie dough and cut three 5 1/4" circles out the dough. I, personally, use the lid of a large container of oatmeal as a guide to cut out the circles. Remove the excess dough from around the cut circles and use it for another purpose. Fold over about 1/3" of dough around each circle and flute the edges – making sure to build up the sides enough to keep the syrup from spilling over when baking. Add the tartlet shells to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Heat the peach preserves for just a few seconds in the microwave to make them easier to spread. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the warmed preserves on the bottom of each tartlet shell. Shingle 4 slices of peach in each tartlet. Pour a tiny amount of the brown sugar syrup in each tartlet – but not too much or it will spill over when baking. It's OK if you have some of the syrup left because you may need some after the tartlets are baked.

Bake the tartlets for about 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned and the syrup is bubbly. If any of the peaches look a little dry, add a little of the brown sugar syrup you reserved earlier. After baking, top with some homemade granola or granola cereal (if desired).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped Li'l Smokies

My Venture into Evil
You should NOT make these. I beg you. They are evil! These things are like the LSD of fattening foods. Eat one and you'll be addicted for life. EVIL, I say!!!!

Whoever made the first recipe for those bacon-wrapped Li'l Smokies coated in brown sugar deserves a medal – or at least a wooden stake through their artery-clogged heart. The only problem I have with the original recipe, which uses only Li'l Smokies, bacon, and brown sugar, is that sometimes the brown sugar does not melt completely on top of the bacon. When eating them, you will occasionally bite into a Smokie that still has little crystals of unmelted brown sugar – and that bugs me. I then set out to perfect that nearly perfect recipe. After experimenting with several different coatings, I decided a simple glaze of brown sugar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard made them absolutely irresistible. Maple syrup goes perfectly with the bacon and the Dijon mustard gives it a very subtle background note.

This recipe is not as bad as I make it out to be. After all, I only used 12 ounces of center-cut bacon instead of a full pound of the fattier stuff. Don’t listen!!! It's the Smokies talking! You can't trust them. They're EVIL! Immediately after baking and photographing these sinful things, I ate one or two, you know, just to make sure they turned out alright. Well, maybe it was three. OK, OK! It was FIVE! I couldn't stop so I had to throw them in the trash and sprinkle them with potting soil so I wouldn't be tempted to grab one out of the trash later on. They're EVIL, I tell you! When these were baking, I sat there looking at the stove like a hungry dog – eyes fixed on the oven door and ears perked up at attention.

You will absolutely HATE me if you try this recipe so I recommend that you leave this webpage as soon as possible. Now I need to go take an aspirin and cry myself to sleep. Wait. Before I do that, I wonder if I could brush off some of the potting soil on a couple of the… SEE!!! EVIL!!!

Enjoy – and happy resisting these lovely morsels!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Bacon-Wrapped Li'l Smokies with Brown Sugar and Maple Glaze

(Printable Version)

1 lb Li'l Smokies
12 oz center-cut bacon

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup ( the real stuff!)
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

I, personally, do not like to use toothpicks to keep the bacon attached to the smokies. If you prefer to use toothpicks, as many other similar recipes do, by all means do so.

Empty the Smokies onto some paper towels and blot them dry. Dry Smokies will allow the bacon to adhere better. Place the dried Smokies in a single layer (keeping them separated) onto a small cookie sheet. Place in the freezer for 45 minutes.

While the Smokies are in the freezer, cut the bacon into thirds. Separate each piece of bacon and place it on a large cookie sheet in a single layer. The well chilled Smokies and bacon will help to keep everything from getting too slippery when your wrap the Smokies later. Put the bacon in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When it is nearly time to take the Smokies out of the freezer, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make the glaze by whisking together the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, and cayenne (if using). Whisk the mixture well to ensure that the larger pieces of brown sugar have broken up.

Wrap a piece of bacon around each Smokie, pressing firmly on the final edge of the bacon to better ensure it does not spring open during baking. Try not to stretch the bacon when wrapping the sausages. Place the bacon-wrapped Smokies onto the foil-lined sheet pan, seam-side down. Continue with the rest of the bacon and Smokies. Using a spoon, put a little bit of the thick glaze on top of each bacon-wrapped Smokie – trying to coat each one evenly. You should have just enough glaze to do the entire batch.

Bake the Smokies for about 35 minutes or until they are lightly brown on top. Immediately transfer the Smokies to a serving plate or a slow cooker set on low to keep warm. These a very addictive. I apologize in advance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Easy Chow Mein

My Venture into Crispy Noodles

Chow Mein. Americans normally pronounce it like "Chow Main" but it more correctly pronounced "Chow Mee-on" in Mandarin Chinese and is translated as fried noodles. In Hong Kong, it is typically made with noodles that are thin and crispy. In other areas of China, it is made with larger, spaghetti-size noodles, which are served soft. I love either preparation!

This recipe is certainly not authentic but it is still good nevertheless. I use good, 'ol Ramen Noodles as a bed for some crunchy veggies. The noodles are boiled like normal then fried like hash browns in a skillet with a little oil to make them crispy on the outside. I get chicken and veggies from a salad bar and quickly cook them in a soy-sauce based concoction and serve the veggies on top of the sauted Ramen Noodles. This is one of those dishes I made in college when I wanted something cheap, quick, and easy-to-make. Today just happened to be one of those days! I needed something quick to make for dinner and the veggies on the salad bar looked particularly fresh so I decided to make my Easy Chow Mein and share the recipe with you all. Enjoy – and Happy Chowing!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Easy Chow Mein
(Printable Version)

1 package of Chicken-flavored Ramen Noodles
3 cups water
1/2 TBSP butter
1 1/2 TBSP vegetable or peanut oil, divided use

2 cups of chicken and vegetables from the salad bar (such as scallions, bell peppers, mushrooms, snow pea pods, bean sprouts, carrots, water chestnuts, baby spinach – whatever you like!)

1/2 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 TBSP rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes

Whisk the cornstarch and water together until the cornstarch has dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add three cups of water to a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil, start heating a small skillet on a separate burner over medium heat. Add the ramen noodles (but not the seasoning packet) to the boiling water. Cook the noodles for 3 minutes. Turn off that burner momentarily, drain the noodles, and return them to the hot sauce pan. Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and the ramen seasoning packet to the noodles and stir to combine.

Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the small skillet that has been heating. As soon as the oil is hot, dump the noodles into the skillet and flatten them into a layer about 1/3" to 1/2" thick. Cook the noodles for about 4 minutes or until they are brown and crispy on one side. Flip the pancake of noodles and add 1/2 tablespoon of oil around the edges of the pan and swirl the pan a little bit to allow the bottom of the noodles to get coated in the oil.

Meanwhile, wipe out the sauce pan with a paper towel and return it to its original burner and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add 1/2 tablespoon to the saucepan and allow it to get hot.

When the noodles are nearly done, add the chicken and thicker veggies (such as chunks of carrots, bell peppers, etc) to the hot sauce pan. The veggies may sizzle and pop so be careful. Stir-fry the chicken and veggies for about 30 seconds. Re-stir the sauce because the cornstarch may have settled to the bottom. Add the remaining veggies and sauce to the sauce pan and allow the sauce to come to a boil and thicken – which should happen in only seconds. Stir the chicken and veggies to coat them well. As you will see, there will be no excess sauce to make your noodles soggy. Slide the noodles onto a plate and pour the chicken and veggies on top of the noodles. If cooked properly, the vegetable should still be very crispy. Serves two (or one if you're really hungry).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tres Cocos Cake (Three Coconuts Cake)

My Venture into Coconuts

There are two kinds of people on earth. Those who love coconut and those freaks of nature who don't. Thank goodness I'm not judgmental. I love coconut! I really fell in love with coconut years ago during my first few trips to Malaysia. Of all the places I've been, Malaysia ranks as one of my favorite places to go. It's absolutely beautiful, has incredibly friendly people, is inexpensive, and has some of the best cuisine you will ever eat. In fact, Malaysian cuisine is often infused with coconut in one form or another. Malaysia is the world's largest producer of palm oil and you can see oil palm "plantations" throughout the country.

Malaysia also grows, of course, coconut palms – which produce the coconut that we use in recipes. On one trip, I was on a bus that stopped at a coconut farm. Although the farm had machines to do most of the harvesting of the coconuts, they had a young guy who was capable of climbing the trees with the agility of a monkey. Without gloves or shoes, he would shimmy up the palm tree in a matter of seconds, cut off a coconut, and then slide back down. All of this climbing without shoes had unforeseen consequences. He REALLY needed a pedicure!

As a tourist attraction, they had a small coconut palm that was growing out of the ground at a strange angle instead of straight up and down. Visitors were told that, if they could reach the top of the tree and knock off a coconut, they could have it for free. I was young and stupid and was talked into trying it. They indicated that it should be an easy climb since the tree was not vertical and I would be allowed to wear gloves and shoes. "Easy," of course, is relative. My big, 'ol body trying to climb up that little palm tree was like a grizzly bear trying to climb up a garden hose. After several failed attempts to get more than a meter off the ground, I was finally able to get more than halfway up the tree. I used my thighs to tightly squeeze the tree while using my arms to pull myself up little-by-little. As I climbed, I looked down at a sea of anxious colleagues – not sure if they were more concerned about me or the poor palm tree. At one point as I neared the top, the tree had bent over so far towards the ground that I was almost upside-down and finding it difficult to hang on . I had a vice-grip on the palm with my thighs and that was not doing my, uh, personal belongings any favors – if you know what I mean. Somehow, I managed to knock off a coconut and get off the tree. When I got off, somebody kindly pointed out that I could have bought a coconut for 5 cents at the stand nearby.

The inspiration for this recipe came from two sources: 1) My grandmother's Sunshine Cake and 2) a Tres Leches Cake. I used elements from each and ultimately decided to call it a Tres Cocos Cake – or Three Coconuts Cake. Technically, I use coconut in four ways but let's not split hairs. In any case, it's the ultimate coconut experience. And trust me, baking this cake will be far easier than climbing a palm tree to knock off a coconut. Enjoy – and Happy Climbing!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Tres Cocos Cake (Three Coconuts Cake)
(printable Version)

1 white or yellow cake mix, prepared per the package instructions (with eggs, oil, and water)

1 cup coconut milk
1 15 oz can Cream of Coconut (such as Coco Lopez sold in the aisle with Pina Colada drink mixes)
8 oz can crushed pineapple (undrained), refrigerated
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 3.5 oz box of coconut cream instant pudding mix
1 8 oz container of whipped topping
1 1/4 cups shredded, sweetened coconut – toasted

Prepare and bake the cake per the package instructions. Let cake cool in the pan for 45 minutes.

Whisk the coconut milk and cream of coconut together. Pour 1/2 cup of the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. You will need this reserved mixture later for the topping.

After the cake has cooled 45 minutes, poke holes all over the cake (I use a chopstick). Slowly pour the remaining coconut milk mixture all over the cake. Allow the cake to rest for 10 minutes then cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (but preferably overnight).

After the cake has fully chilled for several hours, toast the coconut per the package instructions. Spread the toasted coconut onto a large plate or sheet pan and allow it to cool completely.

In a bowl, whisk the chilled crushed pineapple, lemon juice, instant pudding, and the 1/2 cup of reserved coconut milk mixture. Place the bowl in the fridge for about 5 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up some then fold in the whipped topping until no white streaks remain. Spread the topping over the cake and sprinkle on the toasted coconut in an even layer. You may not wish to use all of the toasted coconut depending on how thick you want the top coconut layer to be. Refrigerate at least 1 additional hour (and preferably longer) to allow the topping time to firm up. Keep refrigerated.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hobo Bags

My Venture into Stylish Leftovers

September 10, 2009:
Thank you to everybody who voted for a permanent name for this recipe. If you read my blog earlier this week, you probably saw that I temporarily named this recipe "Bindbeggobo Bags". I then asked my blog buddies to vote on one of three choices for a permanent name. The results of the poll were:

Hobo Bags -- 42% of the votes
Bindles -- 30% of the votes
Beggars' Purses -- 26% of the votes

As such, this recipe will henceforth be called Hobo Bags! Thanks again everyone! You can read the original post below.

* ~ * ~
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

September 8, 2009:
This is a great way to use up leftovers. You could serve these at an elegant dinner party and your guests would never know that you were using up leftovers from last night's dinner.

I have the worst time naming recipes. I put a lot of time and effort into developing recipes and absolutely no time in naming them. I was reading an article recently about poverty during the Great Depression and saw a few people carrying, what I call, "hobo bags." You know, the kind where someone puts his belongings in a handkerchief, ties it to a stick, and carries if over his shoulder? During these tough economic times, that got me to thinking about doing a culinary equivalent. I wanted to use leftovers, which many people look upon disparagingly, but use them in an elegant and inviting way.

After creating this "recipe," I started thinking about what to call it. I came up with three possibilities: Beggars' Purses, Bindles, and Hobo Bags. Beggars' Purses already have a culinary equivalent. They are small, dainty, and are often made with phyllo dough to enclose a filling – which can be sweet or savory. Instead of kitchen twine, they are decoratively tied with edible components such as chives or the green parts of scallions. In this respect, my creation is merely an extension of that concept.

In popular culture, a "Bindle" is the correct name for a cloth or a blanket tied around one end of a stick for carrying items – with the entire array being carried over one's shoulder. Particularly in cartoons, a bindle usually has a polka-dotted or bandanna design. This is truly the mental image I was going for. The problem is that many people do not know the word "Bindle" and, therefore, this name might be lost on many who later see this recipe.

Hobo Bags also conjure up the image of what I am going for. It might be a good choice for a name but it is also the name of a style of purse that is still popular today. Gucci, Coach, and others have competing looks for these designer bags. In today's world, therefore, more people may associate "Hobo Bags" with designer purses rather than their more traditional (and certainly, more humble) definition.

So what should I name this creation? That's where you come in. Today, I am experimenting with a "poll widget" that will allow you to vote for one of the above choices. You all, therefore, will decide the name! In the right column of my blog, you will see a poll section that will only be visible today and Thursday. Vote and let me know which name your prefer. I'll share the results on Friday when I post my next recipe. Thanks for your help – and happy voting!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Hobo Bags
(Printable Version)

1 Refrigerated Pie Dough
1 wooden skewer
Cooking Twine

1/3 cup or so of cold, leftover pot roast or brisket, cubed
1/3 cup or so of cooked cubed potatoes or thawed cubed hash browns
1/2 TBSP butter
1/3 cup or so cups frozen mixed peas and carrots, heated but not fully cooked in the microwave
2 scallions (white and light green parts only), minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup leftover gravy from a pot roast (or use store bought), cold or room temperature

Preheat oven to 400F. Soak the skewer for 30 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

While the skewer is soaking, add the peas/carrots, scallions, garlic, a little salt and pepper, and butter to a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. If using frozen cubed hash browns, you can throw those in the dish as well but add another 30 seconds or so to the cooking time. After cooking, stir well and set aside until the skewer has fully soaked.

After the skewer has soaked for 30 minutes, place the sheet of pie dough in a small bowl (maybe 5" wide) so that the sides of the dough overhang the edges by a couple of inches. Start by adding about 1/4 cup of the meat to the bottom then add about 1/2 cup of the veggies (peas, carrots, and potatoes) on top of the meat. You should not overfill the bag because you will not be able to close it properly and tie it. Do you still have enough room to fit a little more meat and veggies in the bag? If so, add some more. Add a couple of tablespoons of the gravy to the top and tap the bowl on the countertop to get the gravy to settle. Can you add a little more gravy and still be able to close the bag and tie it? If so, add another tablespoon or two of the gravy. You can even more but an excessive amount of gravy weakens the pie dough and allows it to easily split during baking.

Gather up the sides of the dough and gently squeeze it about 1" from the top. Take about 8" of cooking twine and wrap it around the seal and tie it like a shoe. Trim the twine as needed.

Carefully remove the tied bag from the bowl and place it on the parchment paper. Remove the skewer from the water. I, personally, like to break off several inches from the skewer since I think it is too long for the size of the bag. I'll leave that up to you. Slide the pointed end of the skewer through the dough where you gathered the seam until it just peaks out the other side. Bake the bag for about 30 minutes but start checking after 25. The bag is done when it is golden brown and delicious. This recipe serves 2 but can be easily doubled, tripled, or more depending on the number of people you are feeding.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Easy Stromboli

My Venture into Pizza – Jelly-Roll Style

Holy Stromboli, Batman! You're going to love this recipe. It's quick and easy to make – and tastes great, too. I'm using the term "recipe" very generously since you don't have to measure anything when making it. Stromboli can be made a million ways but, regardless of the ingredients, it is always rolled up like a jelly roll and baked. Marinara sauce is not a usual ingredient but is sometimes added. Occasionally, I add basil and roasted red bell peppers before rolling it up – VERY yummy indeed. Experiment and add the stuff you like.

The first time I ever had Stromboli was in Little Italy in New York. I walked into a deli that had dozens of salamis hanging from the ceiling. Specialty cheeses were on display and the wonderful odors coming from the kitchen area were out-of-this-world. If a bus had run into that deli and killed me at that very moment, I would have died a very happy man.

A little, old Italian lady was skillfully cutting, what looked to me like, a loaf a bread that had been stuffed with meats and cheeses. Not knowing what it was, I asked her. She looked at me and grimaced and said, "Stromboli!". Her annoyed tone suggested I had asked a very stupid question – as though I had just asked her what a dill pickle was or something. Like a drill sergeant, she ordered, "You sit. You eat." Having just had lunch, I said, "Oh, well thanks but I just..." She then put her hands on my shoulders and forced me to sit on a stool and yelled, "eat, EAT!!!". Oh, oh, OK. She may have been old but she was spry. In a fight, she probably could have taken me.

Anyway, she slapped a slice of Stromboli on a paper plate and handed it to me. Even though I had just had lunch, I was drooling at the sight of this slice of beauty. It was crusty. It was meaty. It was cheesy..and very HOT since she had just taken it out of the oven. I asked her for a glass of water and she said, "No. No water. You drink wine." Wine? At 1:30 in the afternoon? I love New York! So, I sat there and ate Stromboli while drinking red wine from a plastic cup embossed with the cartoon characters from the Flintstones. Since I was leaving the next day, I decided to buy some stuff from the deli including some salamis and a bottle of their delicious marinara sauce.

When I arrived in Wichita and was on my way back to my house, I kept smelling Italian food and wistfully thought about that wonderful deli in New York. When I got home, I realized that, what I had been smelling, was marinara sauce. The bottle had broken during the flight and drenched all of my clothes and numerous Christmas presents in a red, albeit tasty, tomato sauce. It looked like I had stabbed somebody and stuffed them in my suitcase. It wasn't pretty. That day, I used several 4-letter words – and a few in Italian, too!

You have to try this recipe. You and your family are going to love it. Enjoy – and Happy Labor Day!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Easy Stromboli
(Printable Version)

1 13.2 oz can Pillsbury Country Italian Bread dough
6 to 8 thin slices Genoa Salami
A couple pinches kosher salt (plus more for the top)
Good sprinkling of garlic powder
A few pinches of dried oregano (crushed between your fingers) – plus more for the top
A couple pinches of red pepper flakes
A liberal sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan (plus more for the top)
6 to 7 pieces of provolone cheese, broken in half to facilitate rolling
Pizza Sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed sheet pan.

Unroll the bread dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Unrolling this kind of dough can be challenging sometimes so have patience. When unrolled, the dough should form a rectangle. Lay the dough so that the long edge is closest to you. Make sure the dough is not overstretched in some spots or the filling will burst out in those areas.

Place 6 to 8 slices of Genoa Salami on dough – leaving a 1/2" border around the edges. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt, some garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Add the parmesan and provolone cheese. It's easier to roll the dough when you break the provolone in half (or even smaller) when adding it to the top of the dough. Finally, add as much (or as little) pepperoni you want on the top of the provolone – making sure to leave a 1/2" border around the rectangle of dough.

Starting from the edge closest to you, roll the dough jelly-roll (or cinnamon-roll style). As you roll the dough, make sure to keep all of the ingredients tucked inside and pinch the ends as you roll to keep the filling from slipping out. Carefully pinch the seam shut (and the ends) and place on the sheet pan seam-side down.

Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with kosher salt, dried oregano, and grated parmesan.

Bake 25 minutes or until the crust is a deep brown. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting into 1" slices. Serve with some warm pizza sauce for dipping.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Barbecue Beef

My Venture into Easy BBQ

To me, anything tastes better with barbecue sauce on it. If I could add barbecue sauce to my Fruit Loops without attracting the unwanted attention of mental health professionals, I'd do that. In the U.S., barbecue sauce recipes differ from state-to-state. This sauce is quite sweet. If you are not into sweet barbecue sauces, this recipe is not for you.

The recipe below assumes that you will be barbecuing the entire 3 pounds of brisket. To be honest, I don't normally do it that way. I like to braise the brisket and, after it is cooked, cut it in half. I then put half in the fridge (unshredded) in a covered dish with about 1/2 cup of the broth. In a separate bowl, I add the WONDERFUL strained brisket stock, cover, and put it in the fridge to chill. As the broth cools, the fat will rise to the top and solidify. The next day, I use the broth to make gravy. A lot of country cooks use the fat that solidifies on top of the broth to make the gravy. Feel free to do that if you are not getting your cholesterol tested anytime soon. I add the cold brisket to an oven-safe baking dish, cover it with foil, and re-warm it in the oven. I serve the re-warmed brisket with the hot gravy and some mashed potatoes – making a completely different meal using the brisket I cooked the day before. Nobody will know that the brisket is a leftover!

As I mentioned above, I cut the brisket in half after it's braised and put half of the meat (unshredded) in the fridge to use for leftovers with mashed potatoes and gravy. The other half of brisket I use to make barbecue beef following the recipe below. If you decide to only barbecue half of the brisket, don’t forget to cut the sauce recipe in half as well. Remember – the sauce recipe below assumes you are barbecuing the entire 3 pounds of brisket.

The good news is…I remembered to take a picture of it! I was drooling all over the plate as I was setting up the shot. It's so good! It's sweet. It's tangy. It's truly sinful! And because it is done in your oven, you can make it anytime of the year. Enjoy – and happy barbecuing!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Barbecue Beef

(Printable Version)

1 recipe for Braised Beef Brisket

Barbecue Sauce
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 TBSP liquid smoke
Pinch of cayenne or to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. The barbecue sauce needs to be hot and lightly simmering before you add it to the shredded beef so plan your time accordingly.

Put the onion and garlic in a food processer and whiz until liquefied. Add the onion mixture to a saucepan. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, liquid smoke, and cayenne (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer (uncovered). Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to very gently simmer until you are ready to add it to the shredded beef.

Add the shredded brisket to a rimmed sheet pan and pour just enough sauce to cover the top of the meat. In theory, this should be less than half of the sauce. Gently stir the sauce into the meat. Bake 30 minutes. While the barbecue beef is baking, put a lid on the remaining sauce and turn the heat to low to keep warm.

After 30 minutes, stir the meat and ladle some additional sauce on top. Return the sheet pan to the oven and bake 30 minutes longer. Any leftover sauce can be placed in a bowl and passed around at the table. Serve on your favorite hamburger buns.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Braised Brisket

My Venture into Tough Cuts of Beef

Doesn't this brisket look yummy?! It makes you want to go out and braise your own, doesn't it?

When I make barbecued beef, I first start by braising a brisket as described below. Before shredding the beef, I strain the stock and save it to use in another recipe. After shredding the meat, I pour homemade barbecue sauce all over the brisket and bake it another hour. I did just that with this brisket and will post my barbecued beef recipe on Friday. Everything worked great except for one small thing. I forgot to take a picture of it before I added the barbecue sauce! After I pulled the brisket out of oven, the smell was driving me insane. This brisket, even without barbecue sauce, is a killer. In fact, I kept picking off little pieces of brisket while it was cooling. Luckily, I remembered to take pictures of the barbecued version. Because I forgot to take pictures of the braised brisket before I added the barbecue sauce, I decided to post an artistic drawing of what the brisket looked like when I first pulled it out of the oven. Doesn't it look yummy! You're lucky I drew a picture. I had considered posting a video of my doing an interpretative dance wearing nothing but a one-piece, spandex outfit with gold lamé leggings. I decided against it since my big, spandex-covered patootie has been known to frighten young children, small pets, and any mammal with functioning eyes.

Bad drawing aside, this braised brisket is really good. You have to try it even if you don't eventually plan to use it in a barbecue beef recipe. Just whip up some mashed potatoes and gravy and you'll have the perfect Sunday dinner. Enjoy – and happy braising!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Braised Brisket
(Printable Version)

3 lbs trimmed brisket
Liberal amount of salt and pepper
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 head of garlic, cloves roughly chopped
1 cup beef stock
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
1/4 tsp pepper

Step 1: Liberally salt and pepper the brisket (both the top and bottom). Place on a rimmed sheet pan, cover, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Step 2: About 1/2 hour before cooking, take the brisket out of the refrigerator and let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 275F. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil begins to smoke, carefully add the brisket to the dutch oven and sauté for about 7 minutes or until the brisket is deep brown. Flip and repeat. Remove the brisket from the pot and place it on a large plate to rest.

Step 4: Add the onion and carrots to the pot. Allow the veggies to cook for a minute then start scraping up the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. After a couple of minutes, add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the stock, Worcestershire Sauce, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the brisket and any accumulated juices. Allow the broth to return to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and bake for 5 hours – flipping the brisket after 2 1/2 hours.

Step 5: After 5 hours, the brisket should be falling apart. If it isn't, return it to the oven for another 30 to 60 minutes. Allow the brisket to rest in the broth for about 30 minutes before removing.

Step 6: Remove the brisket from the broth and then slice or shred.

Step 7: Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer – using the bottom of a ladle to help coax all of the wonderful juices from the veggies as they are being strained. Discard the vegetable solids. At this point, you can make gravy with the broth or use it for another purpose. The broth freezes well. If freezing, simply strain it into a bowl but do not remove any fat that floats to the surface. The layer of fat will help to protect the broth from freezer burn. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator. The chilled fat on the surface can be easily pulled off and discarded. As with any homemade stock that has been frozen, make sure you bring it to a full boil before eating to kill any microorganisms that might have survived the freezing process.
Related Posts with Thumbnails