Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Stroke of Genius

Ok, whoever the individual is that came up with this idea has my write-in vote for President.  Genius.  Sheer genius.  And I’m mad that it didn’t occur to me earlier.

While this won’t come together in 30 minutes, it’s super simple, and I bet you don’t spend more than 30 minutes actually working on the meal, depending on what you serve with it.  Me, I stuck to some really simple sautéed corn and store bought rolls that I brushed with a little garlic butter.
The beauty of this is you can use your favorite BBQ sauce.  I stuck with my new favorite.
And while O2 is not a big fan of pork, she declared it ‘amazing’.  I’ll take it.

Oh, and while this is ‘Pulled Pork Spaghetti’, I actually used linguini since I had a box open already.

Pulled Pork Spaghetti

1 pork shoulder roast (about 3 lbs)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp ancho chili powder
½ tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cocoa powder
¼ cup apple juice
2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce
Cooked spaghetti

Combine all of the seasonings (salt through cocoa powder).  Rinse and pat the pork roast dry.  Sprinkle all over with seasoning blend and rub in thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté just until they begin to soften.  Add the seasoned pork roast.  Sear on all sides until golden (just a minute or two for each side).  Meanwhile, add the apple juice to a slow cooker and turn on high.  When pork has finished searing, add to slow cooker and cover.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Drain off all but about ½ cup of the liquid, being careful to leave the onions.  Add the barbecue sauce and cook for another 1 to 2 hours.   Shred the meat and add to cooked spaghetti, using a bit more sauce if needed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cushioning for Your Caffeine

I’m not much of a breakfast person.  Never have been.  My main focus in the morning (aside from trying to keep my eyes open) is enjoying my morning espresso, which for me, consists of 3 – 4 shots of espresso over ice.  But without something to act as a buffer between my stomach lining and a 16 oz cup of hard-core java, I’d soon find myself feeling the morning coffee burn.  So to compensate, I make sure I get a little something down the gullet before the main event.  I don’t really have favorites in this category, although more often than not, it consists of a baked good of some sort.

With the show’s opening night looming (You know.  That OTHER thing I do??), I thought I’d put together a batch of biscotti, since I knew there’d be enough to last me the week.  Biscotti are kind of like pizza.  You’re only limited by your imagination.  But I decided to keep things pretty basic here and stuck with some mini chocolate chips and roasted (and salted) almonds.  This recipe will yield tender biscotti, so if you prefer them to be crisper, you might need to lower your oven temp and cook them a bit longer.  But I find that a few minutes in the toaster oven at work yields me something warm and crisp and completely satisfactory.

Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs brandy
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup whole roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
½ cup mini chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and melted butter.  Mix on medium speed until sugar dissolves and the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Add the brandy and extracts, followed by the eggs (add one at a time).  Stir to combine.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix, slowly at first, then increase speed, just until dough comes together.  Stir in almonds and chocolate chips.

Cover and chill for 15 – 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Divide dough in half and form two logs, about 3” wide and 12” long on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 15 minutes, then cut each log across into ¾ inch pieces.  Spread evenly over baking sheet, cut side down, and then return to oven for an additional 20 minutes.  Cool.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Voices in My Head

Allow me to invite you into my head for a bit.  No, it’s ok.  Come closer.


Scared yet?

So, I just thought I’d share a bit of the ‘journey’ I go through in coming up with a recipe.  Or a meal plan.  Whatever.
I’d say by and large my meal planning comes from either a recipe (or recipes) I’ve run across, or by pulling from old standards.  But there are times when I have this vague notion of what I’m looking for, and that’s usually when the voices in my head lead me down a meandering path.

Sunday I decided that I wanted to keep things pretty basic – steak and potatoes.  So there I was, clipping coupons (my Sunday afternoon ritual) and watching The Cooking Channel.
Cue the brain voices:

“So…  steak and potatoes.  But something more exciting than just mashed potatoes.  Maybe a root veggie mash?  Mmm, that would be tasty.  Oh, my gosh.  Is it REALLY almost March?  What the hell happened to FEBRUARY??  St. Patrick’s Day…  maybe a colcannon/root veggie mash?  Kale.  I really need to try kale.  I should make spinach more often.  Only 25¢ off on toilet paper?  Seriously??  Do these idiots have any idea what a package of toilet paper costs these days?  Oooh, what’s in the basket?  I could seriously compete on Chopped.  Well, unless they gave me cow’s tongue.  Not touching that stuff with a ten-foot pole.  Coconut, huh?  Wonder if I have coconut milk?  Hmm…  something a bit spicy in a sauce over steak.  With spinach.  I should try a root veggie mash with coconut milk.  Do I have any sweet potatoes?  I’m sure I don’t.  Ok, rice it is.”
And thus my steak and potatoes became a garlic/ginger marinated steak with sautéed spinach and garlic and a coconut sauce over coconut ginger rice.
The voices made me do it.

Garlic and Ginger Marinated Flank Steak
1 flank steak, trimmed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbs canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper

Combine marinade ingredients in a gallon sized freezer bag.  Add steak and turn until covered in marinade.  Close bag and allow to sit in fridge for about an hour.  Remove and allow to come to room temperature.  Cook as desired (I cooked mine on the stove with my cast iron grill pan).  Allow to rest before cutting across the grain into strips.

Spicy Coconut Sauce
1 Tbs canola oil
1 shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced (leave seeds in for extra heat if you’d like)
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp turmeric
1 cup coconut milk (use the rest of the can in your rice)
2 Tbs soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional – found these in the spice aisle)

Heat oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot, garlic and peppers.  Sauté just until shallot and pepper are cooked through.  Add turmeric and continue to cook and stir another minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and allow to cook about 5 to 10 minutes until mixture begins to thicken slightly.  Serve immediately.

* * *
I have a feeling I may have posted this recipe before.  And I swear, every time I make it, it’s like I have an epiphany that says, “Why don’t I make this more often”.  Obviously, it’s crazy good for you, takes almost no time to make, and is delicious.  Color me forgetful.

Garlicky Spinach
1 Tbs canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups fresh baby spinach (I used a 10 oz bag)
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbs soy sauce

Heat oils over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced garlic and sauté just until the garlic turns golden.  Add all of the spinach.  Using a pair of tongs, cook and turn the spinach until it is almost wilted.  Add the soy sauce and season with black pepper.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Garlic Yummy

I spent my Sunday hanging out with The Peanut and still managed to pull off getting some baking done.  Now, if you’ve never had a newborn (well, 3 ½ months now) around, you can’t fully appreciate what little time-suckers they are.  Not that I would trade our lazy Sundays for the world, but sometimes you come to the end of your weekend and say, “Wait.  What in the heck have I been DOING for the last couple of days?”

Anyway, this just so happens to be what I was ‘doing’.  Baking these garlic rolls to go along with a simple shrimp bisque I decided to put together using some leftover shrimp and other various odds and ends hanging around the kitchen.  And, since this is the start of ‘hell week’ – basically a full week of rehearsals leading up to opening night – for the show I’m doing, I figured it was a good sendoff to the week, especially considering that I’ll be lucky if I can just get a bowl of Cheerios scarfed down before having to dash to the theater every night.

These rolls are soft, garlicky and absolutely addictive straight out of the oven, but they also store well.  The first time I made them, I made the mistake of making my strips too long.  The resulting roll, while impressively HUGE, never quite cooked all the way through, and the result was a bit too doughy for my taste.  Also, don’t try to use too much butter here, or you’ll end up with the same result.  If you want to amp up the flavor, add more garlic but keep the butter to a thin layer.


Garlic Butter Rolls

For the dough:
1 packet yeast (I used a Rapid Rise, but regular will work just fine)
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
4 cups bread flour
6 Tbs melted butter
1 cup milk
2 tsp salt

For the garlic butter:

4 Tbs room temperature butter
2 - 3 cloves finely minced garlic
salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (dried also works – about 2 tsp)

Whisk together the yeast, water and 2 Tbs of the sugar in a mixing bowl until the yeast is dissolved. Allow to stand for 2 to 3 minutes until foamy.  Add 2 cups of flour, the rest of the sugar, melted butter, milk, and salt.

Fit mixer with dough hook and process until the dough begins comes together. Add 1 ½ cups more of the flour and continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.  If the mixture is too sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise and double, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.  While the dough is rising, make the garlic butter by mixing all of the ingredients and blending until well combined.  Set aside.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 16 inches by 10 inches, and about ¼ inch in height. Spread the dough evenly and all way to the edges with the garlic butter.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough lengthwise in half.  Then to cut crossways into narrow strips (no more than about an inch wide).  Roll the strips up and put them on a cookie sheet, seam-side down.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Bake the garlic rolls in a preheated 375° oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.