Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shrimp Celebration Bisque

For more information and video instructions, check out Shrimp Celebration Bisque!

Shrimp bisque is one of the great graces in life. Creamy, fragrant and just the very essence of shrimp - mmmm. It's divine!
When I get my hands on great seafood, I like to work it for every drop of flavor. In this dish I made shrimp stock (easy) and used just a handful of ingredients to enhance the 'shrimpiness' that I wanted. I kept the broth simple, but it still just pops with flavor. So not only is it delicious, it's easy, and that's makes it Bombshell any day of the week.

The Recipe!

You'll need:

•4 cups shrimp stock

•2 cups heavy cream

•8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

•1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp, cleaned and deveined

•4 Tbl butter

•4 Tbl flour

•1/2 cup sherry

•1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

•kosher salt and pepper to taste

•3-4 Tbl minced chives

1.Over medium heat, bring shrimp stock, cream and cream cheese to a bare simmer.

2.Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until cream cheese has melted and incorporated.

3.In a small bowl, make a buerre manie - that's just French for 'kneaded butter'. Mash the butter and flour together until you have a paste. This allows you to add flour to a hot liquid without getting lumps. Add the buerre manie to the hot stock, stirring well. Make sure you're keeping the stock at a bare simmer. Adjust heat as necessary. Add cayenne pepper.

4.Add the shrimp to the stock, and simmer for about four minutes. Allow the stock to simmer since you need to make sure the flour is fully cooked, and that it has a chance to 'do its thing' for thickening.

5.Remove from heat. To serve, I like to make a little shrimp island in a bowl, then surround it with the silky soup. Top with minced chives - and you're good to go!

How to Make Shrimp Stock

For more information, try How to Clean and Prep Fresh Shrimp.
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh shrimp then you are lucky indeed. Check out How to Clean and Prep Fresh Shrimp, if you aren't sure how to deal with it when it's fresh. But make sure you hang on to the shells. Those shells are going to give you one of the best secrets in the culinary world - a great stock.

Shrimp stock can be used in just about any seafood preparation, although I have to say my favorite is in dishes that also contain shrimp. Use it for chowder, or stew, or a shrimp pot pie - any of these go from delicious to stellar when paired with a stock made of the same flavors as the main ingredient.

The best part of it all is that it is amazingly easy. Throw everything in a pot, and simmer. Not much more to it than that - and the reward is fabulous flavor!

For video instructions, check out How to Make Shrimp Stock.
You'll need:

•The shells (and tails if you have them) from about four pounds of shrimp. A note here - every time you work with shrimp, just toss the shells in a baggie and stash them in the freezer. You can add to it as you get more. Just use them within a couple months.

•1 1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped

•1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

•2 ribs of celery, including leaves roughly chopped. If you have the leafy heart, use that - those leaves have beautifully delicate flavor. Just use a few more since they're smaller.

•2 Tbl butter

•1 large sprig fresh thyme

•1 Tbl olive oil

•2 quarts of water

•1 Tbl kosher salt

1.In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil. Add the shrimp shells, carrot, onion, thyme and celery. Sprinkle with salt.

2.Saute for about five minutes, or until the shrimp shells are pink and the onions begin to show translucency.

3.Add water. There should be just enough to cover the shells and vegetables. Add a touch more if necesary. Bring to a boil.

4.Reduce heat until the pot is at a bare simmer. Simmer the shrimp stock for about 45 minutes to an hour, keeping the heat low, so the surface of the stock is barely moving.

5.Remove from heat and strain. Press the solids to get every drop of juice. If you want the stock absolutely clear, you can strain it through a couple of layers of cheesecloth. I normally simply use a fine wire mesh strainer.

That's all there is to it - you're ready to go. This is an amazing little process - you'll be stunned at the intensity of the flavor. Now - go find some shrimp!

Creamy Cheese Grits Primavera

Growing up in the South, we had grits all the time, and in the Appalachian mountains, most of those were stone-ground. That's simply a heartier, richer version of the traditional white grits most people are used to.

Now my Aunt Bettye makes some rockin' cheese grits - she got her recipe from my great Aunt Betty Bell - and from her mom and so on. Now I won't mess with the Aunts - their version is incredible and stands on it's own. But this is very different - the cream cheese melts, and gives a tiny tang and supurb rich creaminess without overwhelming the fresh veggies. The veggies are pan roasted then lightly braised quickly - and they give their bright crispness to the grits. It is just a little old love fest in a bowl. Completely different and absolutely delicious.

To see the video demo, click here!
You'll need:

•4 cup(s) of chicken broth

•1 cup(s) of stone ground white grits

•2 tsp. of kosher salt

•1 tbsp. of butter

•1 1/2 tsp. of olive oil

•1/4 cup(s) of yellow onion, diced

•1/2 cup(s) of broccolette, broccolini or broccoli florets

•1/4 cup(s) of diced orange bell pepper

•1/4 cup(s) of diced red bell pepper

•1/4 cup(s) of diced cherry tomatoes

•1/4 cup(s) of white wine

•1/4 cup(s) of chicken broth

•1 tsp. of kosher salt

•1 tsp. of cracked black peppper

•4 ounce(s) of cream cheese

1.In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Sprinkle in grits, and reduce to a simmer, whisking well to prevent lumps. Add salt, and allow to simmer for about ten minutes while preparing other ingredients.

2.In a large skillet, melt together the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has become foamy, add onion and broccolette. Saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until onion has started to become translucent, and the vegetables are beginning to become fragrant.

3.Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Add peppers and cherry tomatoes to the skillet, adding another pinch of salt. Saute for another 2-3 minutes.

4.Add chicken broth and white wine to the skillet, scraping up any fond from the bottom of the skillet. Allow to simmer for another 2-3 minutes, reducing by about half.

5.Add cream cheese to the grits, whisking well to incorporate and allow cheese to melt fully. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add approximately half of the vegetable mixture and most of the juices from the skillet to the grits, folding them in gently to incorporate.

6.To serve, place a cup or so of the creamy grits in a bowl, and top with a spoonful or two of the vegetable mixture, and a drizzle of the juices. That is all there is to it!

Tequila Lime Thyme Shrimp

Shrimp is a beautiful thing. It's gorgeously good for you - they're high in calcium and protein both. If cholesterol is an issue, you will need to use some moderation, but it isn't enough to worry about unless you're eating it daily.
Fried shrimp is the most popular preparation in the United States, which immediately crosses it off the menu for many people. Good news though - you can have this little beauty with far less mess, fat and prep time - and still have all the benefits of that beautifully tender seafood. Especially with this awesome little method I outline here.
Now - it's important to remember that there is NO recipe here. This is all about the method - you can take what I show you and go crazy. Try it the first time with one of my flavor combos, then use your own tastes and imagination. You'll fall in love - and I bet that fresh shrimp makes its way onto your table far more often for now on.

The Method!

 You'll need:
Fresh shrimp - however much you like. If you need a little help cleaning it and getting it ready - check the video.
Aluminum foil
The ingredients for the flavor profile you choose. In the video I demonstrate six different ones. For an example I'll use the Tequila Lime Thyme Shrimp. So for each serving, you'll want
  • about 8 medium shrimp
  • 1-2 tsp good tequila
  • 1 lime, halved - slice one  half, and save the other half to juice
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • a tsp olive oil
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  1. Heat a clean, dry skillet over medium heat. Allow to preheat while you're preparing your shrimp.
  2. Place the cleaned shrimp in the middle of a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle with tequila, top with lime slices. Squeeze the juice from the other half of the lime over the shrimp, and top with the thyme sprig.
  4. Fold the aluminum foil over the shrimp to make a little packet.
  5. Place the packet on the hot skillet and allow it to sit, untouched, for four minutes. If you use large or jumbo shrimp, you'll need about five minutes at most. The beauty of this method though is that it cooks the shrimp completely without over cooking them - which ruins the shrimp.
  6. At four minutes, pull the packet off the skillet. Allow it to rest for about one minute. Open the packet, and gently toss the shrimp in the sauce that has formed in the bottom of the packet. That's it!
I love this - it goes together in seconds, cooks in under five minutes, and the flavor is just amazing. My favorite way to serve it is with some angel hair pasta - or you could go with rice, or couscous - whatever you like. Try BBQ flavors and some southern style creamy grits, or the soy/mirin with a great green salad and Asian dressing. There are endless possibilities here.
Some of the other flavors that I use:
  • Salt, drizzle of oil, BBQ rub
  • Salt, olive oil, black pepper, minced garlic, and sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Salt, butter, capers, lemon and rosemary
  • Onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper, oil or butter
  • Salt, dash of mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil
  • Thai chili paste, sesame oil and soy
  • Salt, oil, coconut milk, lime and fish sauce
  • Salt, oil, diced tomatoes, oregano, minced garlic and a sliver of bay leaf
See? You can do almost anything you want - and adapt this to as many servings as you wish. Use more or fewer shrimp, add or delete flavors - and on top of it all - have nearly no clean up. BOMBSHELL!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salisbury Steak

Forget the frozen stuff that comes in the red box. You'll never want to LOOK at that thing again once you see how easy it is to make this classic American fare at home. Better than that - wait until you taste it! This stuff is out of this world - tender, succulent, and bathed in a fabulous mushroom-onion gravy. It doesn't get better than that - oh wait! It does!

Did I mention that's it's easy? Check the video - from start to finish it takes less than half an hour, and if you remember a couple of tricks which I teach, you'll be Bombshell in no time.
The Method!

You'll need:

•2 pounds lean ground beef or ground sirloin

•1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

•1 egg, lightly beaten

•1-2 tsp kosher salt

•1 tsp garlic powder

•1 tsp onion powder

•1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

•2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce, divided

•1 tsp butter

•1 tsp olive oil
•1/2 tsp ground mustard

•2 cups beef stock (not broth)

•3 Tbl all purpose flour
•8 ounces sliced mushrooms, I prefer crimini mushrooms when I can get them

•1 small diced yellow onion

•salt and pepper to taste

•1 Tbl butter

1.In a large bowl, place ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders, and Worcestershire sauce. Combine gently, but completely, making sure ingredients are well incorporated. Don't over mix though - or your steaks will be tough.

2.Divide mixture into six to eight equal portions. I use eight because I feed children, and they like smaller portions. For adults, I'd make six. Shape each portion into an oblong patty, indenting the top a little. This keeps the patty from becoming a meatball as it cooks.

3.In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Once the butter becomes foamy, add three-four of the steaks. Cook on each side for five-six minutes, until cooked through, but not overdone. As each one finishes, transfer to a platter and set aside. They'll rest, and reheat a little in the sauce in a few minutes.

4.Remove as much of the beef grease from the skillet as possible, retaining the brown fond (fond is French for that brown crusty wonderful stuff) on the bottom of the skillet. Add butter back to the skillet and allow it to melt.

5.Sprinkle flour into the butter, and start whisking well. You want to begin bringing all the fond off the bottom of the skillet, and making sure that the flour has no lumps. You aren't really trying to cook off the flour at this point.

6.As soon as you've whisked in the flour really well, drizzle in the stock and Worcestershire sauce, whisking well the entire time. You should really feel the fond lifting off the skillet at this point.

7.Add the mushrooms and onions to the skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will reduce somewhat, and the onion and mushrooms will soften significantly. Taste for seasoning, and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn heat to low.

8.To serve, slip each steak into the gravy for about two minutes, just to let them warm through. Serve each steak covered with gravy, and if you are seriously in need of comfort, a great big bunch of creamy mashed potatoes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meatloaf Southern Style

Meatloaf - Southern Style

When meatloaf is good - it is heavenly. It consistently ranks in the top ten on comfort foods lists - and a trend in recent years has been for upscale restaurants to add this homey dish to their menus - where it sells like crazy.
Meatloaf isn't always good though. It can be dry or greasy, full of funky bread products or strange vegetables, and maybe worst of all, with a density approaching that of lead. Perhaps aged mahogany. I've even had examples that exhibited ALL of these characteristics.
Recently I was asked for meatloaf - my friend Angel wanted to know if I had a recipe. Well, yes - I actually have a bunch. You can take a basic meatloaf and give it all kinds of culinary twists, many of which are divine. So I'll give you the meatloaf recipe that I adapted from the one I grew up with. However, more than that, I'm going to give y'all the method. The specific ingredients fall into two categories - those with a flavor to give, and those with a function to fulfill. When you know which is which, you know what you can change with abandon. Nice, huh? I LOVE that trick!

The Method!

You can make meatloaf out of almost anything - including tofu, although I'm not so sure about that one. I guess that would be tofuloaf. Veal, chicken, pork, turkey and of course beef all show up in recipes, with the absolute classic being a combination of beef, pork and veal.
What is important to remember here are that there are three factors to consider in the meat. The first is texture - how finely ground, or how the particular protein cooks up. The second is flavor - I'd love to use veal for it's delicate flavor if I could ever find it. Instead I count myself lucky if I can find ground pork - which is delicious. The final factor is fat. All meats will contain some fat, but some such as pork have far more than others - such as ground turkey breast.
With that said - you want to avoid so much fat that you end up with a greasy mess. If the meatloaf on the plate gets that yellowish scum on top that congeals - ew! On the other hand, you need some fat or else you'll have a dry, flavorless bit of jerky. And not even good jerky. So keep that in mind. My personal preference is ground beef with about 7-10% fat, with some ground pork in there as well. Quite often I can't find ground pork, so I usually make an all ground beef meatloaf. If you are able to find other ground meats, or have a grinder - knock yourself out!
The ingredients that go into the meatloaf fall into three categories - binders, flavorings and moisturizers.
  1. Binders are simple. They are the ingredients that hold the meatloaf together - so that you don't have a crumbled mess. You want to use enough to have the meatloaf hold it's shape, but not so much that you taste nothing but binder. In this case I've used eggs, which are pretty common, and oats, which are less so. I like to grind the oats for a better texture (it just occurred to me that if you have a pass from your doctor, oats are all right on a gluten free diet, depending on the condition and the type of oats). You can use just about anything you want - breadcrumbs are the most common. But the type and texture of the breadcrumb can vary all over the place.
  2. Flavorings can often open up a can of worms when discussing meatloaf with die hard proponents. I'm not going to argue - I like all kinds of variations. The recipe I used in the video and which I outline below is very simple, the way my grandmother made it. I like this one - it's quick and easy, and bakes off nicely. It also is basic - the veggies and seasonings enhance the flavor of the meat without competing or overwhelming it. But as long as you're careful with the flavors that double as moisturizers, you can make any substitutions you want.
  3. Moisturizers are the veggies. You have to have a little fat, but not too much, and you need some moisturizers, but not too much. I give amounts below, but you can see in the video I didn't need quite so much for this one. Sometimes I use it all. Sometimes less. It depends on the mixture of meats and their fat contents. The onion and pepper, once ground release a great deal of liquid - which also keeps the breadcrumbs or oatmeal, and therefore the meatloaf, juicy. Swap veggies if you like - again, I grew up with these. You'll also need some liquid. Ketchup is nice, and very traditional, as is tomato sauce or diced tomatoes - you can even use salsa and add cumin or chili powder. Just remember you need something.
  4. The last thing to remember is not to over mix the meat, and not to compress the meatloaf to death. See how I really loosely combine the ingredients in the video, and just pat the meatloaf together. This makes sure the meatloaf is very tender. You can use a loaf pan, but frankly that's fussier than I want to mess with. But if your mama did it that way, you'll think I'm a heretic, so that's all right.
That's it - the big rules. This is incredibly versatile. And yummy.

The Recipe!

This makes two regular size meatloaves - I either do them both if my brothers are coming, or wrap one well and freeze it for up to a month. That's my favorite -dinner done and waiting on me!
You can always cut it in half, no big deal. I just hate have something like just a little bit of ground pork or ground beef leftover - they come in 1 lb packages usually. A half recipe leaves not enough for a second application. So I often tweak recipes to come out with no bits of leftover ingredient (veggies like onion don't count since I use those so much), and I did that here to give myself a 'freebie' dinner on a busy night.
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef- I like to use 90-93% lean
  • 1 lb ground pork - not sausage though
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or V-8 juice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked oats
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 of a large yellow onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbl hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbl hot sauce (or less - make it yours!)
  • 1 Tbl honey or brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine everything except the meat and sauce ingredients and pulse well to combine and form a loose paste.
  3. In large bowl, mix the meat with the v-8 mixture, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Don’t over mix the meat, it will make the finished meatloaf too tough.
  4. If you wish, divide the meat mixture in half. Form the mixture into two loaf shapes. At this point I freeze one, or just bake off both depending on how many I'm feeding. One will feed a family of four easily.
  5. If you make two loaves, then simple experience tells me that each takes about 1 1/4 hours. However, the best way is with a thermometer - and an internal temperature of 150-155F. 
  6. About a half an hour into the baking time, pour the sauce on top of the loaf and continue baking. I usually paint goofy messages on top of mine - it makes my children crack up. If you have a baking rack, it works for removing or keeping the fat away from the loaf. A turkey baster works well too - or just pour it off once or twice as it renders.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

There are times when you take a classic and give it an 'update' or 'modern' twist, and times when you keep your hands off and do it the way it was meant to be done. This is absolutely the case with my Granny's Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This is the real deal - Southern to the core, baked in a cast iron skillet and all the way 'scratch'. The really cool thing? It's simple - there just isn't much here to mess up.
This is the way this cake has been done in my family for at least five generations - it was my great-grandmother Frankie's way, and how I'm teaching my children to make it. I LOVE having that kind of connection between generations. I use it to tell stories about these beautiful women that they never met - and to help keep the love they passed on moving on down the line.
I've seen recipes using cake pans, or fresh pineapple and cherries, or a much more delicate cake - and I think it's all extraneous. I've done them that way, and the recipes are good, but not this good. Everything about this homey, country Southern dessert is just right. So do it country Southern dessert is just right. A wonderful crumb on a rich yellow cake, the caramel layer on top with the fruit, the ease of preparation. So do it Granny's way. Period.

The Recipe

  • 6 slices of canned or fresh pineapple
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecan halves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 generous pinch table salt (I like it to bake with because it distributes more evenly through the batter)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 maraschino cherries, drained

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Over low heat, melt butter in an 8 inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, whisking to combine well. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the rest of the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix just until incorporated.
  5. Alternating in three batches, starting with the buttermilk, add the buttermilk and flour mixture. For more information, check out the video. Mix just until each addition is fully incorporated, and scrape the sides of the bowl often.
  6. In the cooled sugar mixture in the skillet, arrange pineapple in a pretty pattern. Place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple slice, and arrange the pecan halves between pineapple slices.
  7. Gently spoon the batter over the top of the pineapple slices in the cast iron skillet.
  8. Bake for about 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Allow the skillet to cool for just about five minutes, then immediately invert onto a serving platter. If you lose a slice or two of pineapple, just pop it back in place. Again - I show this in the video.

Beer Can Chicken

Whoever thought of this the first time needs to be hunted down, and provided some sort of culinary stipend for life for being a true ECG. That's Evil Culinary Genius, and it's because this method combines all that is miraculous about a truly brilliant technique. It's incredibly easy with a few simple tricks, takes very few ingredients and those are probably already in your house (you may have to make a beer run). And it's almost entirely hands off - get the bird ready, and find something else to do for most of the cooking time. But most of all - MOST of all - the result in an incredibly flavored, juicy luscious chicken.

The Method!

All you'll need:
  • A chicken! Mine was about five pounds - that's a hefty bird.
  • Seasoning rub - you can go with just salt and pepper, and it's amazingly delicious. Or you can make a lemon pepper seasoning, or a BBQ rub. I'll list those formulas at the end of this article. Also - brine your bird. For help, see Basic Brine for Poultry.
  • A can of beer or a soft drink. I like the subtle flavors from a lemon-lime used with lemon pepper, and beer with BBQ flavors - but there are no rules. You can use any flavor combinations that appeal to you.
  • That's it. How ridiculous is that for an amazing meal?
  1. Preheat your grill to high - all the way up. For more info on way, see Roast Chicken, but it basically will seal juices in and create a great crispy skin.
  2. Pour off or drink about half the contents of your beer or soft drink. If you wish, you can add strong aromatics like lemon or rosemary to the liquid - just another way to add a layer of flavor. Insert the half filled drink can into the cavity of the bird, and set the thing up on the can and the bird's legs.
  3. If you want some more stability, use a baking rack or metal plate to place the bird on the grill. I always do - see the video for why!
  4. Close the lid of the grill, and immediately reduce the heat to low. Walk away. What you want is for the temperature of the grill to slowly drop to about 300-350F. At that point, insert the probe of a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh - the 'oyster'.
  5. Keeping the lid closed, allow the bird to cook until you reach an internal temperature of 155F. Turn off heat, remove chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for ten minutes before carving. That's it! You're done AND you look good!

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

  • 2 tsp kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp table salt)
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • the zest of a large lemon
  • the juice of half the lemon
Place all ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk well. That's it!

Basic BBQ Rub

  • 1 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • And yes - equal amounts of all ingredients except cayenne - just mix it up!

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary

For step by step photos, visit the full article, and click here!

I'm a relative latecomer to the joy that is lamb. It was almost non-existent in the groceries when I was growing up, although I do remember making lamb burgers when I was about thirteen years old. I remember they were great - but that's it. Our springtime holidays - St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day - were graced by ham.
In more recent years I've begun finding it more sporadically, and because I can't stand not knowing how to work with a particular ingredient, I've gotten as much of it as I can. I can't really compare it to anything, except perhaps to beef, but that falls short. The texture is amazing, the flavor light and delicate - except - if it's overcooked. In that case it turns to a rubbery, gamey mess. I quickly realized the best way to deal with this beautiful little meat was to grill it. No surprise there - I'm still trying to figure out how to grill grits. I know it can be done - just give me time.
There are numerous ways to deal with a leg of lamb, but this is one of my favorites, especially if there's no gale and therefore the grill is accessible. I use many of the classic flavors that pair so well with lamb, but tweaked the techniques a bit to make it simple enough for everyday.

The Recipe!

You'll need:
  • 1 3-4 lb leg of lamb
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig rosemary (a big one)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper, plus a bit more for the meat
  • 1 cup yogurt - plain, unsweetened yogurt! Or Greek yogurt if you can find it.
  • the juice and zest of a large lemon
  1. Place all ingredients except the lamb into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to get a rough paste.
  2. Salt and pepper the outside of the lamb, and place lamb into a gallon size baggie or a bowl large enough for the whole leg of lamb. A large casserole dish works too. Add the yogurt marinade mixture, making sure all side of the lamb are covered.
  3. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours. Frankly, mine went five - just not much longer or the exterior of the roast may get mushy.
  4. Preheat grill to high. If you wish, insert a couple of metal skewers into the leg to help stabilize the meat. You don't have to - you'll just need to be more careful when turning it.
  5. Remove lamb from the marinade, shaking off excess and discarding it.
  6. When the grill is fully heated, place lamb on the grill. Turn heat down to medium low (300-350F). Close the lid, and allow the lamb to cook on the first side until fully caramelized. About 8 minutes did it for mine.
  7. Flip the lamb, and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the lamb. You're looking for an internal temperature of 135-140F. I hate giving cooking times most of the time since I can't calibrate the thermometers on your equipment, but being careful to move the lamb to the 'cool' part of the grill for most of the cooking time, this took about 30 minutes on my grill. Keep the lid closed as much as possible, and don't flip or move it unless you have to. Really, just leave it alone. I promise it'll be all right if your grill isn't too hot.
  8. When you've reached the correct internal temperature, remove to a serving platter and let it rest for at least ten minutes. Carve it thinly across the grain. I personally don't think it needs anything - the marinade gives a great, subtle flavor that enhances the meat without covering it up. The merest sprinkle of kosher salt at the table may be it. This is great with a big bowlful of steamed parslied new potatoes. Yummy.
A couple of quick notes:
  1. If you are in a small town like I am, you often have to make do. In this case, I can only get a leg of lamb when it's been cryovaced (how do you spell that?!?). The nice thing is that they are already boned and really well trimmed. The sometimes nice/sometimes irritating part is that mine are always already wrapped to roast. Which means I can't get flavor to the interior of the roast where it will do so much. So get rid of that funky straight jacket off of it and open it up. You may need to slice the piece at the top where it was deboned. No big deal.
  2. You see that green button? It's supposed to be a thermometer. Is it - but there are issues with it. First, it goes only so far into the meat, so you don't get a true read. Secondly, it will only 'pop' when it hits what I consider to be way, way overdone. And finally, it is simply a hole that lets juice out if you remove it after the meat is cooked. So get rid of it at the beginning, and the exterior will caramelize and seal it for you. My Mama says that the button that comes on roasts and turkeys was like a belly button if you're pregnant. They pop out and you think you're done, but it's all a cruel joke, and it has nothing to do do with the way things work out. Mama is smart.

Lemon Grilled Vegetables

I have to admit - I'll grill in the middle of a blizzard, especially if it means pig. But it isn't until we start getting hints of spring that I go completely insane. I can't think of much that I haven't adapted to the fire - from every kind of protein, side dishes and desserts (yes, even some baking - it CAN be done!).
This has got to be one the simplest, most delicious things you can do to vegetables. They come off beautifully, with a simple dressing of just a touch of oil and some lemon. I figure why get dishes dirty when you don't have to - if the weather is gorgeous, your meals can be as well, and you'll save yourself time away from the stove and dishes. Use that to play outside! Yay veggies and spring!
Very simple here. All you'll need:
any mix of vegetables you like - my favorites:
  • onion - any variety
  • zucchini
  • asparagus
  • bell peppers
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • juice from a lemon or two
  • To serve four people - I used one each pepper, onion, zucchini and a small handful of asparagus. If you want more or less of anything - go for it!
  1. Make sure your grill is preheated to medium - about 350F is great, but you'll want to keep the flames rather low. You want to get grill marks but not complete charring.
  2. Slice all the vegetables into long strips or thick slices. You want them thick enough to not fall through the grates of the grill.  Place your veggies into a shallow casserole dish, and sprinkle them liberally with the salt and pepper. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and squeeze the juice of a lemon over them.
  3. Place the veggies on the grill - careful to position them so that they don't fall through the grates. Close the lid of the grill, but watch for flare-ups. This is where I keep a second lemon in reserve. The olive oil tends to cause flare-ups pretty often - I use a lemon so that I'm not washing off the lovely flavor when I cut the fire back. Keep water of course in case it gets huge, but if you're careful on the temp before you start you should be ok.
  4. Let the veggies have three-four minutes with the lid closed, then check. If you're happy with your grill marks, turn them. Only turn once - this allows for better caramelization - which is when the fire brings out the sugars in the vegetables. If you keep moving them, they won't get that lusciousness you're after.
  5. Grill them on the second side for about three to four more minutes. You want them tender, so that there is still some resistance to the bite, not mushy. If you haven't used your second lemon, do it before you pull them off. Just squeeze it over the veggies right on the grill.
  6. That's it - this is simplicity itself. If you have a garden AND a grill - you're the luckiest person on earth!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Boonie's Mile High Big Chicken Pot Pie

I remember making pot pies when I was still in elementary school. That was long before I really 'got' what some dishes were - and more than a few were disastrous, to say the least. My grandmother took me in hand though, and the results improved exponentially.
If you haven't read it, check out Bechamel, Your Friend and Mine, because a bechamel sauce is at the heart of a good pot pie. If you understand what this easy little trick can do - you're home free. You can do anything in a crust and be Bombshell.
This particular version came about after Thanksgiving. Of course I used turkey. Now I have a kindergartner who decided for some reason that he hated turkey. My twelve year old got a kick out of this, and started calling it Big Chicken. The little one decided he loves Big Chicken, but if we called it turkey, he wouldn't go near it. Go figure that one. I really don't care what you call it! I also use a deep casserole dish, so the pie can be really high on the plate if the bechamel is thick enough. The other cool thing about bechamel is you can add all kinds of veggies in a casserole with it, like this, and the kids eat them anyway.
So you can use Big Chicken or Little Chicken either one, and both are great. I do both. But this is Boonie's Mile High Big Chicken Pot Pie - his favorite food. If you need to jump start, look at Roast Chicken, How to Make an All Butter Pie Crust, and Bacon Pot Pie. The same simple, basic techniques in those recipes are used here. So here we go!

The Recipe!

This looks like it has a thousand ingredients - but it's not much more than dumping them in order into the skillet - so don't be afraid. Don't fear the Big Chicken.
You'll Need:
  • 1 All Butter Pie Crust (you can use the simple one, or the cheddar one - or add your own flavors!). You can also use store bought if you wish, I just like homemade and find it's easier than a trip to the store.
  • 1 Roast Chicken, picked - you can use leftovers, or you can shortcut the same way you do for Southern Chicken and Dumplings, which is what I usually do. You can also use turkey. You'll need at least two cups of cubed chicken or turkey - but three is better.
  • For the rest of the filling, you'll need:
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium potato, diced (use two if you have less chicken)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream, half and half or whole milk (don't go lower in fat than whole milk)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1Tbl frozen petite green peas
  • 2 Tbl cream
  1. Over medium heat in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrot and potato. Saute for about ten minutes, or until vegetables are starting to get tender and are very fragrant.
  2. Add the butter, and stir well to melt and incorporate. Sprinkle flour over the contents of the skillet. Add the thyme.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F.
  4. Add the wine or chicken broth, stirring well. Add the remainder of the chicken broth, continuing to stir. Add the onion and garlic powders. Reduce the heat to very low, and add the cream. Stir in the chicken and peas. Remove from heat. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper. If your mixture is too thick, stir in a little more chicken broth or cream.
  5. Place chicken mixture in a 8x13 casserole dish. Top with pastry crust. Poke a few vent holes in the top, and brush the top of the pie with cream.
  6. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until interior of pie is bubbly, and the crust is golden. Allow the pot pie to 'rest' for about ten minutes before serving.

Maple Butter Glazed Walnut Stuffed Roasted Pears

Early spring makes me crazy. The gorgeous spring veggies are right around the corner - but not here yet! Winter fruits and vegetables not only have gotten somewhat tiresome, but many have actually gotten kind of icky in the stores. Of course out of season stuff is always available, but I love the good, local fresh stuff.
Red Bosc pears - or really any pears, aren't local. But they are fresh right now. I found a great stash the other day. Not quite as sweet or soft as Bartletts, they stand up really well to cooking. Of course we eat them out of hand, but I'm constantly looking for what twist I can give to a food, in order to provide as many options to my kiddos as possible.
I adore stuffing and baking apples with nuts, raisins, cranberries - all kinds of things. And I like to use fruits in savory dishes, again to expose the children to as many flavors, textures and preparations as possible. On top of that it's just flat smack delicious.

The Recipe!

You'll need:
  • Four large pears - I used red Bosc, but Barletts would work, they'll just be softer and sweeter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbl maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts. All you're doing is activating and releasing some of the walnut oil - so just put them in a dry skillet and heat them for 2-3 minutes. Don't let them burn!
  3. Remove the walnuts from the heat, and add the butter, cinnamon and syrup. Stir to combine and set aside.
  4. Wash the pears, cut them in half, and core them. The simplest way is just to use the side of a teaspoon to scoop out the core. This also creates the little spot to put the walnuts.
  5. Place a tsp or so of the walnuts into the center of each pear. If you have extras, divide the extra evenly among the pears - the amount doesn't really matter. Drizzle the syrup/butter over the pears.
  6. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. The exact amount depends on the size of the pears, the ripeness of the fruit and how soft you like them. If you insert a knife into the fruit and it goes in easily - they're done!
Usually firm pears will translate to apple recipes really well. This particular prep is meant to be more of a side dish than a dessert - but my children didn't realize that. It is just sweet enough with the drizzle of maple syrup to get away in either category. So this one rocked all around. The kiddos got double servings of a high quality fresh fruit, the walnuts and their beautiful omega-3 fatty acids, with a touch of the lusciousness of real maple syrup. I don't know of any health benefits of maple syrup, but the real thing sure is good for the soul, which may be just as important.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crispy Vegetable Pancakes

I love the chance to throw vegetables at my kids. Especially when they just plain taste good. In this case carrots and zucchini pair up with a little red onion and potato, and the result is crispy fabulousness. I also love that these are a no brainer. They go together in a flash, cook for about ten minutes, and the kids eat them like crazy. They really are good - crispy like hashbrowns, but with a subtle sweetness from the carrots and crunch from the zucchini. Mmmm.
You'll need:
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 medium potato, grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish
  1. Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. Mix together remaining ingredients, tossing well to combine.
  3. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture into the hot pan. Pat each pancake gently with the back of a spatula to flatten it.
  4. Allow each pancake to cook on the first side for 3-4 minutes - you're looking for the edges to be golden and crispy before you flip them. Turn each one once, and cook on the second side an additional 3-4 minutes. Both sides should be crispy and golden.
  5. Serve immediately. These are great plain, but try a little cream fraiche if you can get it or if not, sour cream is yummy too.

Pan Seared Chicken with Raspberry Balsamic Reduction

Sweet, savory and tangy - three aspects of flavor that blend beautifully. Raspberries bring two elements - sweet and tangy. Balsamic brings sweet and savory. A touch of garlic and shallot bring savory, and a little butter finish gives just enough luscious mouth feel that you'd never guess how nutritious and low calorie-and-fat this dish is.
There are very few ingredients here, so each one has to pack a punch. At the same time this embodies one of my favorite elements of really good food - if each ingredient is treated with respect and care, then simple can be glorious. So this one is Bombshell on all levels - flavorful, luscious, quick, easy, healthy and simple. Winner all around!
You know - despite the fact that my soul mates are butter and bacon, I actually treat both ingredients with a great deal of respect. I believe whole heartedly in using the real thing, but in using it very judiciously. I would rather have just a touch of the real thing than in something imitation. A little can go a very long way if done correctly. There is butter here - real live honest to fat butter. But think about this - there are a total of three tablespoons in this recipe. And one of them is used for the saute and then ditched. Two then go into the sauce - and if you HAVE to, go to just one. So you have 1 to 1/2 tsp of butter per serving - and that's only if you like the sauce out of the pan. Which you might.

You'll need:
  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 shallot or red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 oz raspberry jam or preserves
  • 3 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbl butter
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together.
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Once the butter has begun to foam, add the chicken breasts. Cook the chicken on the first side for about ten minutes, until golden brown. Flip once, and continue to cook on the second side until golden brown on the second side, and there's an internal temp of 155F. If need be, place chicken in a 350F oven while you make the sauce. It's better though to do this stove top, and allow the chicken to rest.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a platter to rest. Tent with foil to keep warm and start the sauce.
  4. Remove all but a teaspoon of the oil/butter from the pan. Add the shallots or red onion and garlic. Cook for about three minutes or until just beginning to become fragrant.
  5. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan, whisking well. Add the raspberry jam and continue to whisk, scraping up all the lovely brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
  6. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer for about five minutes, or until reduced by about half.
  7. Remove from heat. Whisk in the remaining butter. Taste! Adjust for seasoning - including a touch of the balsamic if needed. You want a mix of sweet, tangy and savory.  Drizzle sauce over chicken breasts and dig in!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Red Velvet Molten Lava Cakes

Can we say Happy Accident, mon amis? Some things are destined, and in this case the Food Fairies guided my hand.
I wanted a molten lava cake based on the red velvet so beloved in my Southern homeland - but it just wasn't working out like I wanted. I couldn't really capture the light cocoa flavor and slightly rough texture of the real red velvet, while maintaining the gooey lovely inside.
I had finally had the idea that I was convinced was going to work, and I was happily melting white chocolate at my stove. I reached for the red food coloring to impart that screaming scarlet that must be there, when I realized I had instead put in about a tablespoon of orange extract.
After a few choice words that were not taught in my deportment classes, I realized that since I was that far through I might as well proceed to see if the structure of the dish was what I was after. And a miracle occurred!
Not only were the little cakes heavenly - perfect texture, that red velvet flavor, and a gooey middle - but the orange was actually a phenomenal accent. Think of an elevated orange Tootsie Roll - but far more elegant and subtle. You can certainly leave it out, but I'm taking this little gift with gratitude, and will use it from now on...
For the Recipe, click here!

Lemon Grilled Lamb Chops

I had so many hands trying to snatch bits off the plate that I didn't end up with a decent photographs of these succulent little beauties. I don't mind too much - it lets me know that although I'm not a photographer, the food just rocks.
Lamb is admittedly a little difficult to find in my little town, and good lamb (this is New Zealand lamb) even more hard to find. But it's worth the effort. Right now there is more in the markets - be it the impending arrival of spring with St. Patrick's Day, Easter and Mother's Day, or just good luck - I don't care. When I find it, I'm grabbing it.
Lamb, despite it's delicate taste, takes well to some rather robust flavors. Rosemary, mint and thyme are traditional, and always fabulous. I used those in the Rack of Lamb, Rosemary, Mint and Garlic Crusted Rack of Lamb recipe. Another classic flavor profile for this lovely meat is from the Mediterranean - yogurt, lemon and garlic for a marinade. That's the case in this preparation, and I can't figure out which is better.
I wish the pictures gave justice to the dish - but the lack of them maybe does. They disappeared too fast!

The Recipe!

Most of this recipe is simply the marinade. Allow the marinade to work for 4-6 hours, and the acids in the yogurt and lemon will impart a lovely flavor to the lamb chops. You'll need:
  • 1-2 lbs fresh lamb chops
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt if you have it
  • 3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 5-6 gloves of garlic, smashed really well
  • 1 tsp each kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  1. In a small mixing bowl or a food processor, mix together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper.
  2. Place the lamb chops in a shallow baking dish. Pour yogurt marinade over the chops, turning them to coat. Cover, and refrigerate 6 hours or so, turning once during the marinading process.
  3. Preheat grill to 500. Get it really hot to start out with - then when you put the chops on, reduce heat to medium low. The interior of the grill will stay hot while the direct heat will be low enough not to turn your little chops to charcoal.
  4. Grill on one side for 8 minutes on one side, then turn (only once!) and grill the second side for another 7-8 minutes. This will give you medium chops - my preference for this particular cut of lamb. Increase the cooking time to 10 minutes per side for medium well - what my kids like. And of course decrease to 6 per side for medium rare. That's it! Easy peasy lemon squeezey, huh?

Homemade Apple Pie



More information on this pie, including types of apples and how to work the filling can be found by clicking here!

We're making a 'rustic' pie - right? So relax and have fun with this one. First - you'll need either store bought pie crust for a two crust pie, or two All Butter Pie Crusts. Now - don't be afraid of homemade pie crust. Once you've done a couple, you'll be a pro. Chill and give it a try.
You'll also need:
  • 6 medium cooking apples, Granny Smith or Macintosh are my favorites
  • 2 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbl all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Peel and core the apples - cutting each one into eighths. This gives nice fat slices of apple. You can cut them thinner if you like, but that's getting fussier than I usually do.
  3. As you're cutting the apples, keep them in a large mixing bowl with a little lemon juice in the bottom. For why, see Acids in the Kitchen. Toss them just so all surface get a touch of the lemon juice.
  4. Toss in the sugars and cinnamon. Sprinkle surface of the apples with the pinch of salt and the flour. Toss the whole thing gently - you want it well combined but don't want to bruise the apples. If there's a small lump or two - nobody cares. It'll go away in the oven.
  5. Roll out the bottom crust and put it in the bottom of a nine inch pie plate. Layer the apples on top of the crust, working them in spirals to get as little 'blank' space as possible. If there are juices in the bottom of your mixing bowl, just pour those on top. Top the apples with the butter, broken into little pieces.
  6. Roll out and top the pie with the second crust. Crimp and pinch the edges, trimming the excess. Prick the top with a fork. Granny said it should look like a little bird hopped on it. Isn't that cute?
  7. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  8. Bake for about an hour - or until the pie is bubbly and gorgeously browned.
  9. Allow the pie to cool for at least a couple of hours before serving - so the inside will set. If you don't the apples will still be runny, and will end up all over the plate. Frankly, that's not always a bad thing - but the pie you don't eat will end up being an empty crust next to a lake of apple stuff. 

If you want a dressier pie, slice the apples one more time - sixteen slices per apple. Use a fork or decorative cutters to crimp the edges, and brush with cream, and sprinkle with a scant tablespoon of sanding sugar. But if you want just a big fat slice o'pie - one that leaks a little juicy goodness onto the plate to mingle with the ice cream, try it this way!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


  • Pastram-a-Rama! 
    For more information and the complete article, including step by step photographs, click here!

    I've been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, and one of my favorite places on Earth is New York City. It was there that I discovered wood-fired pizza, creme brulee, and the Jewish Deli. Enraptured, I tried repeatedly to capture the flavors I found in the delicatessens - and couldn't! Woe! Disaster! For years I simply remembered the intense flavors and avoided the pale imitations so as not to cloud the memories.
    Then I stumbled across an antique cookbook with a large section on brining and preserving meats. I was of course familiar with the preservation methods used in my Appalachian South - mainly salting, smoking and canning. Pickling meats I had heard of - but the information had never really percolated. I realized that pickled meats would include the two pinnacles of delicatessen Heaven - Corned Beef and Pastrami. I tried corned beef first - with amazing success. It was so easy! Make a brine, submerge a hunk of cow, turn it once a day and there was lusciousness after a week! I immediately worked out the critical flavors I wanted in Pastrami - with black pepper and juniper at the forefront, but with more to highlight and emphasize.
    Once again I couldn't believe the simplicity of the method. The difference with the pastrami was that I smoked it then roasted it before slicing. The flavor was amazing. Several batches later I've happily tweaked my method, and I'm ready to share it. Take a few minutes to put this together - you'll love me for it.

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 6 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons whole juniper berries
  • 16 cups (or 4 quarts) water
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 beef brisket (about 4 to 5 pounds)
To Finish the brisket:
  • 1 2/3 cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup crushed juniper berries
  1. Find a quart jar or mixing bowl, and combine the peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, garlic and whole juniper berries. I use a food processor to go the garlic work for me.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine water, salt and brown sugar. Turn heat to medium, and heat just until salt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Pour salt/sugar mixture over the spice mixture, and allow it to steep for about an hour or so.
  3. Meanwhile, trim brisket. Place in a large, clean container. Once the 'spice tea' has steeped, pour it over the beef. Add just enough ice or very cold water to completely submerge the beef completely. Cover it. Stash the whole thing in the fridge - you want a temperature no higher than 38F.
  4. Every few days, turn the brisket and stir the brine. Allow the brisket to brine for at least one week. I've read it can go for 3 weeks - but I've never waited that long.
  5. After a week, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse well in cold water. Pat it dry. Discard the brine - but get your container ready for another batch. You're going to want it.
  6. Preheat a smoker or grill with a smoking packet to 200-225F. In a bowl or food processor, process together the black peppercorns and juniper berries. I like mine heavily seasoned, and this does it. Use less for a lighter flavor. Rub the pepper/juniper mixture evenly over both sides of the brined brisket.
  7. Smoke the brisket over low heat for at least an hour, but no more than two. Remove from the smoker. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Place the brisket on a broiler pan over a deep sided baking sheet. Pour several cups of hot water into the baking sheet. Carefully put the whole thing in the oven.
  9. Roast for an hour to an hour and a half (for a large brisket). I usually start sneaking little tastes at this point.
  10. Allow the brisket to rest for at least half an hour before slicing. Slice the pastrami very, very thinly across the grain.
You can serve this however you like - the ultimate pastrami sandwich for me has simply whole grain mustard and wheat or rye bread and is grilled off. I also like it snuck out of the fridge in bites. Mmmmm.  Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Molten Lava Cake

For more information and the complete article, click here!

You'll need:
  • 6 ounces chocolate - unsweet or semi-sweet, chopped
  • 6 Tbl butter, plus 1 Tbl butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  1. In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt together the chocolate and the butter.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F.
  3. Meanwhile, butter 4 ramekins with a Tbl of butter. Butter them well - if you don't you're cakes won't come out of the ramekins when they're done and you'll cry.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs well.
  5. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in the sugar.
  6. Temper the eggs (tempering means you slowly raise the temperature of something) by adding a tablespoon of melted chocolate at at time, beating after each addition, until you've added about 1/4 of the chocolate. At that point you can go ahead and add the remainder of the chocolate to the egg mixture. Don't skip this! You'll get scrambled eggs and that's just nasty.
  7. Mix in the flour, making sure it's well incorporated. Pour the batter equally into the ramekins.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. The exterior will be set - the edges done. But the interior will be 'molten' - a warm gooey yumminess. Invert each ramekin onto a plate and allow it sit for a couple of minutes - this helps insure that the cake comes out completely, and that the edges can set up a little more. Don't skip this - the cake could squish into a puddle if you do. Not always a bad thing - but not very pretty.
Now - if you want to dress it up -flavorings can be added at the last - if you wish you can use orange or mint extracts, or vanilla. If you have vanilla sugar, use it along with the vanilla bean itself - just add it with the sugar.
Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbl Chambord (for raspberry) or Grand Marnier (for orange)
  • 1 Tbl sugar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and beat until soft peaks form. Serve immediately.

For raspberry sauce:
  • 6 oz fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbl light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbl cornstarch
  1. Combine raspberries, sugar and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer, smashing the raspberries down. Simmer for about five minutes, or until the berries have really disintegrated.
  2. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and allow to boil for one minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula to get as much liquid as possible. It's ready!

Beef and Guinness

For more information and the complete recipe, click here!

It's all about method here - so I keep the ingredients simple. What's wonderful in this dish is the results of the beef cooking in the Guinness for a long time over slow heat. Match the other seasonings to the resulting strong flavors and you'll be Bombshell.
So you'll need:
  • 1 lb beef stew meat, trimmed of extra fat
  • 1 cup flour - all purpose is fine
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp onion powder, divided
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, divided
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bottle Guinness
  • 1-2 cups chicken or beef stock (maybe)
  • several tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Traditionally this was made with beef shank, which is a pretty tough cut. Stew beef of course is much more common, so that's what I use. I do however pick it over and trim it of extra fat, and usually cut each piece in half to be a better 'bite' size. About 1 inch pieces are what I look for.
  2. Mix the flour with 1 tsp each of the salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders. Season the flour liberally - taste it. It's just flour - it won't hurt you. The point is, the flour should be savory - if it isn't, season more heavily. This is one of the main flavor bases, so make sure it's done well.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Working in small batches, dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess flour. Brown the beef in the olive oil a little at a time. Don't crowd the pieces in the pan - they'll steam instead of brown. Ick. If you're going to cheat on something, pick something else. Poker maybe. Just be patient - it doesn't take that long and makes a big difference. You will probably need to add a little more oil in between batches. As each batch browns, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Once all the beef is browned off, set it aside. Make sure there is a little oil in the bottom of the pan, adding more if necessary. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot. Cook them for about ten minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the onions and garlic are very fragrant. Stir well to scrape the fond - the brown bits - off the bottom of the pot.
  5. Return the beef to the pot. Add the Guinness, rosemary, thyme, bay and the remaining salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Stir well. The Guinness should just barely cover the contents of the pot. If it doesn't, add enough chicken or beef stock to cover.
  6. Reduce heat to a bare simmer - you want almost no movement in the liquid. Cover, keeping barely at a simmer, for about two hours. The meat should be very tender and the carrots as well. Alternately, you can cook in a very low oven - 250F - for about two hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
You can serve this with anything you like. I like to liberally sprinkle it with fresh parsley, and serve it either next to or over the top of Poundies - fabulous mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to Cook a Sirloin Roast

For more information, and the complete article, click here!

The Recipe!

You'll need:
  • 1 3-5 lb roast
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • several cranks of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbl olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Put all ingredients except the roast into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse several times until finely chopped. You can also chopped them, and whisk together by hand. Don't skimp the salt - the salt will work with the natural juices of the roast to form the crusty exterior.
  3. Rub the garlic/rosemary mixture thoroughly over the surface of the roast, massaging it in. Insert the probe of a meat thermometer into the very center of the roast.
  4. Place in oven, and roast until you reach an internal temperature of 130F for medium rare. For each additional 'step' of doneness, add ten degrees. So medium would be 140, medium well, 150, and well done 160.
  5. Pull from the oven when the thermometer reads 130. Make a tent of foil and loosely cover the roast. You'll see carryover cooking increase the temperature another 5-10 degrees. That's fine - you planned on it.
  6. Carve the roast on a cutting board or large platter to catch the juices. Don't waste those - they are delicious too! Use a spoon to drizzle the jus over the meat when you serve it
A little horseradish sauce is also a very fine thing - as is good Dijon, or a red wine sauce....or nothing! This one is flavorful to go naked! Yay naked!

Rack of Lamb - Rosemary, Garlic and Mint Crusted Lamb

For more information, including the potatoes recipe and the complete article, click here!

This one is very simple - you're simply going to sear off the lamb in a hot skillet, and finish in the oven. For the entire dish you'll need:
For the Lamb:
  • 2 racks of lamb, Frenched
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, stripped
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 4 Tbl olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth, or veal stock if you're fabulously lucky
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbl red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbl butter
  1. Combine all ingredients except the lamb in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds, until the herbs are finely chopped.
  2. Place the racks in a shallow baking or casserole dish. Pour rosemary/mint mixture over racks, and thoroughly rub it in. Cover racks, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F.
  4. In a large skillet with an ovenproof handle over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Sear the racks of lamb on both sides. Place the 'pretty' or rounded side down first. This only takes a few minutes per side, but you do want a nice golden exterior. Once flipped, insert a meat thermometer into the middle of one rack. Insert the probe on the 'bottom' or concave side, so that the pretty side will not be marked. If you're going to slice the racks into chops before serving, don't worry about where you put it - it won't show or matter.
  5. Once both sides have turned golden, put the skillet into the preheated oven. You'll roast for about 20-25 minutes, but the important number is an internal temperature of 145F for medium rare. Pull the lamb at 145F, tent with foil, and allow the racks to rest, untouched for ten minutes. You'll see an additional climb of ten degrees in temperature as it rests - that's perfect.
  6. While the lamb is resting, pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the oil in the pan. Make sure you hang on to the juices - just not the grease. Return the pan to the stove top, and adjust heat to medium high.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the wine, or if you wish to skip the wine, use a little extra chicken broth. Once it comes to a boil, stir well, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom. Add the remainder of the chicken or veal stock and the vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow the mixture to simmer until reduced by half. The sauce should be thickening nicely.
  8. Once reduced, remove from heat. Stir in the butter.
  9. To serve, slice the lamb into individual chops, and drizzle with the buttered jus.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin Chops

For more information and the complete article, click here! 

  • 4 very thick cut pork loin chops
  • 1 cup sauteed mushrooms, or leftover Toasted Mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated very fine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbl fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • additional salt and pepper to taste, freshly cracked pepper is far better
  1. Cut a pocket into each pork chop. Season the interior of the pocket of each chop. Divide the Parmesan cheese into 4 equal portions, and put one portion into the pocket of each chop. Repeat with the Toasted Mushrooms.
  2. Using a couple of toothpicks for each chop, seal the open edge of each pork chop. This works best with a little zig zag motion.
  3. Make a breading station - this just means lay out the elements of the breading so it's easy to use. In one bowl place the flour, and season heavily with salt and pepper. In the second bowl place the two lightly beaten eggs and again, season heavily with salt and pepper. In the third bowl mix together the bread crumbs, fresh parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper.
  4. Bread the pork chops by dipping first into the flour and shaking off the excess. Then dip the floured chop into the egg and allow the extra to dip off. Finally dip each chop into the bread crumb mixture, patting each chop well to adhere as much breading as possible.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. In a large skillet with an ovenproof handle, melt the butter over medium heat. Just as the butter melts and turns foamy, add the pork chops. Be patient at this stage. You want each side to turn golden brown, and you may need to turn the chops on their ends or edges to brown them off as well, if the chops are thick enough.
  7. Once the second side has brown, and the pork chops are golden brown and beautiful all over, slide the pan into the oven to finish cooking. They should need only about 15-20 minutes.
  8. Pull the pan from the oven and set the chops on a platter. Tent with foil to allow them to rest. It is really important that you give your chops ten minutes under the foil to rest. This redistributes the juices throughout the meat, and allows the carryover cooking to finish.
That's it - that's all there is to it. Serve it with just about anything. Think about the flavors that you are using in the meat - be it pork loins like this example, or chicken or beef or even whole fish - and what would be nice with that flavor profile. This particular recipe is really luscious - and you'll adore it if you try it. But the method is what is important here. It works with so much! Try it...right now. Go.  Cook.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mushroom Parmesan Risotto

For more information, additional photos and the complete article, click here!

1 1/2 cups short grain rice
1/4 stick butter
1/4 cup of dry white wine or chicken broth
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
3 cups chicken broth or stock, hot
1 cup sauteed or Toasted Mushrooms
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

  1. Over medium heat in a large saucepan, melt 2 Tbl of the butter. Saute shallot and garlic for about 3 minutes, or until beginning to turn fragrant. Add the thyme to the pot.
  2. Add rice to the pot, and saute for five minutes, or until beginning to turn toasty golden brown.
  3. Add wine or broth, and cook until the pan is nearly dry, stirring well.
  4. With a ladle, dip the hot broth into the rice, and stir well. You want to keep the liquid level of the pan very low - just where the rice looks very wet.
  5. Risotto doesn't have to be completely watched, but don't go get on the phone or mow the lawn. Stir it nearly constantly, and as the liquid is absorbed add more. The total cooking time is just about 20 minutes once you begin to add the chicken broth. When nearing the end of this cooking time and getting to the last of your broth, taste for doneness. You should be just about there.
  6. Once the risotto is at just barely past al dente, remove from the heat, and stir in the Parmesan and Toasted Mushrooms. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Top with fresh parsley, and serve immediately.

Spinach Salad - Classic Bacon Vinaigrette

Fore more information, variations and the complete article, click here!

1 bag of baby spinach, washed and dried
8 strips bacon, diced
1/4 red onion, sliced very thinly
2 hard boiled eggs (I use 10 minute eggs), sliced into eighths
2-4 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbl Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, render the bacon until very crispy over medium low heat. Drain well on paper towels and set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile on a large platter or salad bowl, layer the spinach and red onion. Top with egg slices.
  3. In the skillet, reserve about 1/3 cup of the bacon grease. Return skillet to medium low heat. Add the vinegar and whisk well. Add half the Dijon mustard. Taste - this is critical. There is a huge difference in the sweetness of brands of balsamic vinegar, and in the saltiness of brands of bacon. You may need as much as 1/3 cup of the vinegar. I've made this with half and half, and I've made it with as little as 2 Tbl - all because of different brands. Make sure the dressing is well whisked, and season for salt and pepper. You'll need pepper for sure, but because of the bacon you may need no salt at all. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. To serve, sprinkle the cooled bacon on top of the salad. Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad and sprinkle with several cranks of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately, since the warmth of the dressing will cause the spinach to begin to wilt.

BBQ Pork Spareribs

More more information and links to the spice rub recipe, click here!
Start with making the mop sauce. For that you'll need:
1 cup ketchup
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tbl crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbl brown sugar
Cayenne - if you want real heat. Start with a scant 1/2 tsp - it will concentrate and you'll blow the top of your own head off if you're not careful.
Mix all the mop sauce ingredients together, and put them in something easily dealt with beside the grill. I use a plastic bottle for condiments that I bought at a dollar store for $.49. You'll be able to drizzle the meat with the mop sauce without actually having to deal with the mess of a mop and bowl. Mix up your spice rub ingredients as well.
Preheat your grill to 200-225F. No higher!
Pull the ribs from their packaging and place on the counter on a large baking sheet. Give yourself a generous amount of the spice rub - at least a cup, and rub it well into both sides of the rack. Actually rub it in - pretend your giving them a massage. You want as much of the spice rub as possible to stick to the ribs (ha ha ha) even when you lift it or turn it over.
Stick your ribs on the grill as far away from the source of heat as you can. With a gas grill you just get one burner on low and the ribs all the way on the other end. With charcoal, you'll have to build the bed of coals to one side, and the ribs to the other.Also, make sure that the thinner end of the ribs is furthest away from the heat source.
Every half hour or so, drizzle the ribs with the mop sauce. Give them a half hour at the beginning of cooking to begin releasing their juices and to seal on the spice rub - you don't want to wash off what you got all nicely patted on there. But then carefully drizzle on your mop sauce throughout the cooking time. If you forget for an hour, nobody will care. But try to time out even coatings so that the ribs stay moist.
After two hours, flip the ribs, and repeat the mop saucing. When you turn the ribs, make sure to keep the thinner end still away from the heat source to your best ability. I know some grills are oddly shaped or round or oval or whatever - do your best.
The total grilling time should be about four hours. At the end of this time, carefully wiggle one of the ribs. You should see the meat pulling away, but you don't want the ribs actually 'falling' apart. Texture is critical in good ribs, and the tenderness needs a little more substance.
At this point, if you wish to caramelize the outside, then carefully apply a thin layer of good BBQ sauce to both sides. Turn the heat up, and give the ribs only about ten minutes per side. More than that and the sugars in the sauce will burn, instead of becoming one with the ribs. That's not luscious.
That's done! Allow your ribs to rest for about ten minutes once they come off the grill. They've been through a lot for you - give them that courtesy and you're bombshell!